Multiple Os

Art makes life more interesting than art with Joshua Sofaer

April 13, 2021 Oriana Fox and guest, Joshua Sofaer Season 1 Episode 3
Multiple Os
Art makes life more interesting than art with Joshua Sofaer
Show Notes Transcript

In this interview with the artist Joshua Sofaer, Oriana asks for his help in finding her purpose, her why. He is, after all, a socially engaged artist who is deeply invested in turning life into art because art makes life more interesting than art. And, he's also a relational dynamics coach and Oriana pays for his services from time to time. They also discuss the possibility of breaking into the mainstream simply by imitating the trappings of fame. But that is not all! Tune in to get the scoop on self-help, self-exposure, doubt and boilerplate definitions.

Dr Oriana Fox is an artist with a PhD in self-disclosure. She puts her expertise to work as the host of the talk show performance piece The O Show .

Joshua Sofaer is an artist who is centrally concerned with modes of collaboration and participation, which he explores through social sculpture, performance, installation, exhibition and publication. Equally as comfortable in the clean white gallery, the dramatic  stage of the opera house, the carefully positioned vitrine of the museum, the shared areas of public space, and the domestic personalised rooms of private homes, what draws Sofaer’s diverse practices together is a concern with how audiences engage with the world as a place of potentiality.

“Art is what makes life more interesting than art” is a quote from the Fluxus artist Robert Filliou, which he gave originally in French as, “L’art est ce qui rend la vie plus intéressante que l’art”.

  • The O Show "Business or Pleasure?" episode discussed on this podcast is available to watch on Oriana's website and youtube channel.
  • Artists mentioned in this podcast: Shobana Jeyasingh, Gavin Turk, Robert Filliou, Stacy Makishi, Hamja Ahsan, Jeremy Deller, Miranda July and Lois Weaver [FYI: Lois will be interviewed on an upcoming episode of this very podcast series]
  • Cultural figures who have become famous and made a lot of money after doing TED talks mentioned in this podcast: Brené Brown, Simon Sinek and Ruby Wax (well, she was famous before her TED talk, to be fair)


  • Hosted, edited and produced by Oriana Fox
  • Post-production mixing by Stacey Harvey
  • Themesong written and performed by Paulette Humanbeing
  • Special thanks to Katie Beeson, Janak Patel, Sven Olivier Van Damme and the Foxes and Hayeses. 

Would you like to see your name in the above credits list? In a couple of short steps you can make that happen by supporting this podcast via Patreon:

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[Theme music]

Oriana Fox:  Hello, I'm Oriana Fox. Thank you for tuning in to Multiple Os, the spin-off podcast for my talk show The O Show. The O Show is a live performance piece that mines the conventions of daytime TV talk shows for all that they’re worth. It features artists and other experts who have little to no difficulty ’spilling the beans’ about their lives and opinions especially when they define norms and conventions. So if you’re interested in candid confessions non-conformity creativity and mental health you come to the right place!

[Theme music]

OF: Hello, hello. Today I'm joined by the artist. Oh, that's the thing. Joshua. I have no idea how you actually say your last name. The way I've been saying it for years is probably not how it's said.

Joshua Sofaer: How’ve you been saying it?

OF: I’ve been saying it like it's spelled Sofa-er.

JS: But that is how it's spelled.

OF: I know, I say it sofa, like the couch, er.

JS: No. Probably, originally it was… Anyway. Sofaer. So fair.

OF: Sofaer. Oh, great. Okay, that's much easier to say. Okay, great. Okay. So today, I'm joined by the artist Joshua Sofaer, a London-based artist who happens to have escaped the endless lockdowns here by fleeing to Taiwan. I shouldn't say fleeing. He's there for work, doing a project to predict audience members' futures. Much of Sofaer’s [mispronounced] work… Sorry, I did it again. Much of Sofaer’s work is audience-centred, relational or, as we call it in the business, socially engaged. Much of his early work was solo performance and entailed the kind of thing that the vast majority of guests on this talk show do, that is self-disclosure. Indeed, many of those early works had him wearing a bare buttocks suit. I mean, it looked like a normal suit with blazer, trousers, shirt and tie. But there was a neat little window cut out to reveal his rear end, and outfit that did the work of disclosing. For one of his early performances he tried to see if he could be embarrassed, while literally having a bare ass. Similarly to me, he did a PhD exploring autobiographical performance. And also like me, he's done a lot of work about and or with his family. One of his early works use autobiographical performance to contest the commonly held notion that such performances are necessarily narcissistic. But as his work has matured, and his focus has turned outward, as I said, to working with communities, he in many ways, supports them to turn their lives, often their belongings too into art. And I'm kind of in a similar line of work. Perhaps more importantly, or certainly related to that, Joshua has been the source of genuine encouragement for me, that I've paid for. He's an accredited relational dynamics coach, and I see him a few times a year, usually for career-related advice, which often means he ends up telling me his opinions, instead of doing the kind of coaching he's trained to do. So I'm really excited to have him with me today, because he's offered to do this interview free of charge. 

Joshua: [Laughs]

Oriana: At the start of every session, he says, I must inform you that what is said in these sessions will remain completely confidential. You may speak about it with whoever you wish, but I will not be speaking about it, etc, etc. So here we are. One of the topics that Joshua and I have discussed is success. I spoke to him when I was developing The O Show episode called “Business or pleasure?”, which explores success, money and shame. I may appear to my audience to have success as an artist. But it is something I pay for rather than be paid for most of the time. This makes me feel ashamed, and not like a success at all. Anyway, welcome to Multiple Os, Joshua. Thank you for being here.

JS: Thank you for having me Oriana and for that generous introduction.

OF: I was gonna say, what did you think of that introduction? Too much about me?

JS: I loved it. No, not at all. I watched the “Business or Pleasure?” podcast, the “Business or pleasure?” videos, what do you call them? 

OF: Video episodes.

JS:  Video episodes, and I love to you in them. I mean, I loved the episodes, but the real thing was that I loved you in them.

OF: Thank you. I’m learning to take compliments without qualifying them.

JS: Yeah, do that. So I've been quite excited about speaking to you today.

OF: I've had a really strong coffee and I'm like completely jittery right now. Okay, I'm excited to speak to you as well. So we, I forgot to say the topic we plan to discuss is ‘why not go mainstream?’, which is something you and I have also discussed in relation to a different episode. And you got really excited about the possibility of us doing a session on it. So here we are. And I'm we're going to discuss why not go mainstream, as if that's a possibility for either of us. Well, maybe it’s, I don't know, why not go mainstream? Do you feel? I mean, I feel like your work is relatively mainstream, you work with kind of big institutions…

JS: Well, I suppose I need to start by qualifying mainstream before we decide whether or not we are it or we're aiming for it. I think probably mainstream is something that means different things in different contexts for different people. But I suppose underlying the question about whether or not we go mainstream is a desire or a question about the audience, the work and how large that audience is, and I suppose also remuneration we are receiving for our work. And how I suppose, you know, the, the amount of people that that see that work relative to the amount of time spent on it, and the amount of money spent on it, so how much butt for your dollar, as it were, how many how many bums on seats, not that we're doing bums on seats, but you know, how much time you put into this podcast and how many people will listen to it? Mmm, I remember the Arts Council at at one stage where, I mean, they've gone through different, you know, positions on audience numbers and stuff. But I remember once talking to the, I mean, I don't know if she's mainstream or not, but very successful choreographer, Shobana Jeyasingh, and she was really getting upset about the requirements of the collecting of data about audiences as they came to her work. And we had a joke that she could weigh the audience, so she would be able to give the Arts Council the exact weight of the audience because the kind of information that was required was just becoming more and more complex, so that they could kind of make the case for the amounts. So we had this joke that maybe they should they should weigh the audience, too.

OF: Yeah. And how do you, also, I mean… I was talking about this with Hamja [Ahsan], after we stopped recording, and he was saying that a friend of his had this idea that we shouldn't think about if we're only, if our work is only touching a handful of people, and that we shouldn't measure our success negatively. But rather think of us, think about the, about doctors and prostitutes and therapists, they see people one on one, and they and their work is highly valued and remunerated. And they're only you know, one on one. So maybe if I only help a few people in a given day, that, that I should value that and even if I'm not being paid on level of a prostitute or, or, or a doctor or a therapist. But yeah, that that somehow, I don't know, hearing him say that was kind of therapeutic, I think for me. Yeah. So trying to value something that isn't, doesn't have those mainstream audiences. That was one potential tactic.

JS: The other thing that occurs to me about mainstream, about being mainstream and not being mainstream for my, I mean, you describe this turn, in my oeuvre, such as it is, where I kind of went from making kind of autobiographical work to literally a kind of 180 degree turn, whereby I started to think about other people's autobiographies. I mean, in a way, it's the same thing. It's just it's no longer me, I think I just became exhausted with myself in regard to that. You described it as my work maturing in the introduction, which I kinda thought there was some kind of veiled critique. 

OF: I don't think, no I didn't see it that way. I literally saw it as you start out doing one thing and you end up doing something different. I don't think it was a critique it. I think you're being self critical.

JS: I’m being pernickety. But for my MA show for my MA graduation show at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design, when I was in my 20s, I, I produced an autobiography of Joshua Sofaer, sorry, a biography of Joshua Sofaer by a fictional writer called Margaret Turner. And I printed this very thick tome and launched it at Books, etc. on Charing Cross road.

OF: I’ve come across that book in the library at Goldsmiths…

JS: Okay, well,

OF: I think, or Live art Development Agency somewhere, but yes, go on.

JS: Well, then, you already know the joke is that it's blank. Anyway, I remember there was a critique, you know, we will critiquing as you do in the MA, about, you know, what you've produced, and one of my colleagues, fellow students was, like, really confused by this work. And he said, so Joshua, do you want to be famous or what? And your PhD supervisor Gavin Butt, who was at the time, my MA supervisor, just quickly before I could respond, said, “you're missing the point, he already is”. 

OF: Oh [laughs]

JS: And so in terms of thinking about mainstream, and I mean, how does fame operate, you know, fame operates in, in a kind of, in display, in some sense. Fame only operates in the mind of those people that are in the world witnessing that display. And in fact, afterwards, because I made this ridiculous over the top window display of the book in St. Martin’s, and I know several people, you know, that had known me years before were like, oh, my god, you're doing so well, you know, that kind of thing. And it was, it was all just a simulacrum. It was all that was the point that I suppose so. I wonder, I suppose I'm wondering if there's any, I can't say this word, corolla, corolla…, isn't that right?

OF: Corollary is the American pronunciation corollary. Corollary?

JS: Well, I can't, I can't say that. I don't know why I can't say the word. Anyway. I think correlation, correlation, corroborate the correlation between that idea, that metaphor of already being famous, because you have to have the trappings, for want of a better word of fame, and the idea of mainstream. So if one thinks about mainstream, like the limit of, you know, what is what is mainstream? Like, what, how do you enter the mainstream? I don't know. I don't think it's so far removed in a way. Like, you could say, you could say doing a podcast was a mainstream thing. I mean, it's hardly, you know, the radical avant-garde to make a podcast, and yet, you don't feel a part of the mainstream making this podcast, but it's a very mainstream thing to do.

OF: I guess so. 

JS: No?

OF: Yeah. Well, it's become more and more mainstream since the whole COVID thing. But I wanted to do the podcast way before that, but now it seems like it's just another COVID. Anyway, but no, what you're saying really relates to like, Gavin Turk, another Gavin. So Gavin Turk, being a guest on The O Show: Business or pleasure?, and obviously, his whole career is based on that same, similar gesture of pronouncing himself as someone famous, whilst doing his MA, with the blue plaque that says “Gavin Turk, sculptor worked here”. Blah, blah, blah. So it's kind of interesting. I hadn't connected your work to his prior to that. So that's kind of an interesting intersection there, but he is a very mainstream…

JS: I passed my MA, he didn’t. But look where he is now. Moral of the story.

OF: Right, that’s the difference. [laughs] But he went on to be a blue-chip artist…

JS: Yeah, yeah and I did not.

OF: …one of the career paths I would have chosen had I not become the talk show host you know and love. But seriously, would you? I mean, would, what were the, what are the career paths you would take if you weren't able to succeed in what you're doing now? Like, what are your fallbacks?

JS: Well, there's several ways of answering that. I mean, you're talking about realistically or in a fantasy world, or?

OF: When you think, Oh, my God, I can't get like, what if I can't get another commission or I can't keep just going? What will I do to pay the rent? Or, I, but I want to know both answers. I want the fantasy of like, when you were an art student doing that MA, what were you hoping to go on to achieve? But also, when you, when you think about, like, you know, the precarity of one's life as an artist, and you think what is going to be my fallback? What, what are those things? Both of those things? It’s a two part question.

JS: There's so many ways to answer it. I'm trying to think of something that's helpful. I remember at school. I don't know if you had this. You're a bit younger than me. I think. How old are you?

OF: 43, I just turned 43.

JS: Okay, yeah. So you're five years younger than me. So maybe the technology had moved on. Also, you're in the States so maybe you're advanced, I don't know. Anyway, we, in the careers advice, there was a careers advice office in the school, and you filled in like a tick box, it was literally you had to tick in the box because literally it was like a hole punch thing that they then put through some kind of early form of computer and about your propensity, your interests. And the thing about that test is it couldn't tell about your aptitude. So it wasn't about whether you're not you are any good, or whether or not you are intelligent, and then it teared the job suggestions into three categories, which are basically like, if you're bright, you might try doing this. If you're average, you might try doing this and if you're a dunce, you might try doing this. And I don't remember what the bright or the average one were. But I do remember what the dunce one was. And I was horrified, I was absolutely horrified. And it was window dresser. And I think now all I've done really in my career has been a window dresser in a kind of way. Like what I've done is to try and entice people in somehow.

OF: Well you’re right up there with Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, like that was their day job.

JS: I mean the comparison doesn't bare much interrogation. But I mean, I do think that, I mean, I do I, since then, at the same time as being horrified, I am, I'm totally into displaying stuff. And so I do have an alternative fantasy quite, like close to real, that, you know, I would have some kind of business or shop. I don't want to deal with, actually, I don't want to deal with customers. But I would like to be the person that just decided how, you know, be the buyer, like be a rug buyer, is something that I'd be quite interested in. Like, you could travel the world at, like buying rugs meeting people of different you know. Because it still has to be more, to get a really good rug, it has to be done on a loom and it has to be done, like you know, in a small scale craft way. It's an artwork, but it's a craft. It's got practicality, it kind of changes a room radically. Rugs can be totally disgusting, or they can be really lovely. So I can't I can't imagine being in that

OF: My dad kind of dabbles in that. Anyway…

JS:. Your dad’s a rug buyer?

OF: Well, he he, he Yeah, kind of as like a hobby.

JS: Wow. Because actually, I do have a friend who's an opera singer, and her dad is a rug trader. And I said, I'm really interested in like, I was kind of genuinely interested in kind of trying to shadow him or something. And she's like, looking at me like I was a lunatic. But yeah, so rug, rug.

OF: Ok.

JS: I don't mean that in a facetious way, I think, you know, but I mean, how would I get into rug buying? Anyway, what were your alternative career options, if you weren't the chat host that we know and love, the chat show host that we know and love?

OF: Well, like I said, on the show, there are these various avenues that the guests represent. Blue chip gallery represented artists, socially engaged artists, which I dabble in, and art historian and prostitute. I am an art historian that because as I was writing the introduction, I said that being an artist, something I pay for, rather than be paid for, I thought, well, I also get paid to teach, but I'm actually paid to teach as an art historian and not as an artist. So again, like the statement was true. I didn't have to qualify it. Well, actually, I'm a teacher, because I used to be a studio teacher. So I could say I was paid to be an artist in that role. But now my current role, I'm definitely paid to be an art historian rather than an art artist. But yeah, I mean, in terms of like, day job alternatives, psychologist, or psychotherapist is definitely one that I have in mind. And I always think, is now the moment I should start training for that? Clearly, three years ago, is the moment because everyone's needing therapy now. Like, I, myself included.

JS: More like seven years ago, three years ago wouldn't have been long enough, not for psychotherapy, I don't think,

OF: Yeah, you can do it in three years, full time. I mean, I think so you can do, I think. Let’s not get sidetracked with that. I have other questions. But I also want to know, so you said you enjoyed watching me, tell me more. Tell me more about that.

JS: Tell me more about why I liked it. I mean, I think, yeah, you have to be careful what you tell somebody because if you tell them it's like when you tell a lover, you know, I love the way that you kiss my neck. And then it's never the same again, you have to be really careful. If you tell, you know what you say and what you don't say. So. So let me find a way of putting it. Have you ever seen Yoko Ono's Cut piece like the original, the film from pretty much the original one that she did? There's something about that, that so before a turn in, a historical moment before a kind of before a kind of knowingness of a performer. Where, like that, you know, it's only, that was ’60… Was it? 67 or something? Yeah,

OF: 68 I think, yeah, like really early,

JS: …something. And then if you look like, I don't know, ten years later at what Abramović is doing in that ten years, there's been this kind of centring of attention in a certain way that makes the performer’s body a performer’s body. And it's really hard for us culturally, to unlearn that sense of being on stage in some way. And if you look at Yoko Ono in that piece, she's just kind of herself. She's a bit awkward. She’s, she's holding the space, but it's like, it's the fragility is not one that is held through a kind of performance. It's like an unlearned something, there's some unlearning happening there. And it's a quite a rare quality to find. And it makes people feel a little bit nervous. Like when you're with a performer that has that kind of very centred presence, you feel you feel like it's safe. It's, it's like the environment is safe, because they're in control. And when I was watching the video of you, the, what do you call them again?

OF: Video episodes of The O Show.

JS: Video episodes of The O Show, when I was watching the video episodes of The O Show, and there was something about that, like, especially Gavin Turk, he was quite nervous sitting there, like, he was like, kind of like, you know, he didn't know, he couldn't understand what was… He didn't know whether there was something about it, like, Is this good? Is this bad? What is this? And I love that. I love that space. And it's a very hard space to create. So your presentation physically is pretty flawless, like, you look like the American chat show host that we know and love and yet your kind of performance of the of the role oscillates between a kind of getting it and just like not really caring about it. And I love that. And what happens is it unsettles the atmosphere. And it means that you're watching kind of that, was it Houdini that said, everybody goes to perform live performance because they're waiting for death? I think it might have been. They're waiting to see a dead, they're waiting to see an accident, they're waiting to see something go wrong. They go right in not in the hope, but in the, in the…

OF: knowledge that that could happen

JS: that could be, they might not get through it. And there's something of that in your performance. 

OF: Yeah, there's even…

JS: Both in a knowing way and and not knowing way, like you choose to keep in the edit, you choose to keep in Oh, wait a minute, that's a continuity mistake. But you choose to keep those things in. So it's knowing, but it's also kind of not.

OF: There was a moment in that opening speech where I almost cry. I don’t, can you tell that I'm like? I feel like it was so obvious to me as it was happening, but I wasn't expecting that to happen, and I couldn’t… Then watching it over afterward, I thought no one can tell. But could you tell that I almost cried in the middle?

JS: I mean, now that you say that I feel that I can, but I'd have to go back and watch it and say was it here? to be sure.

OF: Yeah, that's what I mean. It's like it felt like oh, my God, I'm about to burst into tears, and everyone can see this. But actually, they could they probably couldn't tell anyway.

JS: It might have been great if you did.

OF: Maybe I should have let myself go. But it was the moment when I was talking about not getting the, or yeah, I was defensively saying my art was for me, when I was when I was faced with this question during an interview for for a full scholarship to university, I was faced with that question of, you know, what's art’s role in the community. And I was like, I don't know. Because art was, my art was for me. And that was the moment where I almost cry. And it's weird, though, because, like a few months later, I came upon these diaries I used to keep in high school. And I noticed that actually, that's a lie. My motivation wasn't always, I was doing this for me. I also really wanted to impress people. That's what I realised from reading these old journals, like, oh, I thought of my art as something that could impress others that they would think I was talented or whatever. So I was like, oh my god, it wasn't just for me. But that sounds really vain. Like, I'm doing art to impress people, to make them wowed with my talent and yeah, anyway, so. But yeah, you use the word potentiality a lot on your website and you just used it a moment ago. So I'm using as a segue to my next question.

JS: Go for it.

OF: Your practice is so varied, but It also feels like there's a thread going through it. And on your website it says, “what draws Sofaer’s diverse practices together is a concern with how audiences engage with the world as a place of potentiality?” And, yeah, so I feel like it's, it's, it's actually Well, it's more, it's more to do with what we were saying earlier, it's like, instead of doing your own autobiography, you're helping the audience to turn theirs into art in some way or to, yeah, to engage with their own lives in a meaningful way. And if you could, if you if you could summarise that in a kind of statement of your purpose, like why I do what I do, what would that statement be?

JS: Oh, God, I mean, people, people spend hours and hours and hours thinking of what their statements should be. I suppose. I mean, I think I do do it for myself. I mean, it's not that it can't be applicable to other people. But personally, I think that this thing of like working in the community as being selfless for that community is a load of bollocks. I mean, if I go to an autobiographical performance, like that could be deeply solipsistic, I mean, I love looking at that work, I would get a lot out of it. I love looking at people talking about their own stories, and, you know, sharing what's going on for them. I love, love, love watching that work. And in a way, that's what I'm trying to facilitate, in different ways with some sometimes non artists, because that's what I like, you know, it's not because, it's not because I've suddenly become selfless. I just got bored of my own story. I love stories. And so I think that they're versions of the same thing I had, I had a lot of trouble, kind of understanding my own career path from making that kind of work personally, to then, like not really wanting to get up and perform in that way. I mean, I still quite like public speaking, but that's a different thing. And, but actually, it's just part of the same thing. It's just about what we're all trying to do here. There's this guy, do you know Robert Filliou, the French Fluxus artist? 

OF: No.

JS: He is a really interesting guy. He was a guy that, he had a museum on his head, and he kept it under a hat. And so he just kind of go around and he'd like, lift up his hat, and then all the sculptures would be on his head and he’d put his hat back on…

OF: That’s very you. 

JS: Yes. He invented art's birthday, he designated the 17th of January as art’s birthday. So that's coming up at the end of this week, since we're recording this on the 11th of January. So yeah, 

OF: That’s so great. I'll have to start celebrating that.

JS: Yeah, please do.

OF: It's actually and it's right between my birthday and my daughter's birthday. So why not add another birthday? More cake in January!

JS: Anyway, Robert Filliou said, art is what makes life more interesting than art, and I think that that's true. So it's not a question of art for art's sake or art as an instrumentalist thing. It's just simply that art is what makes life more interesting than art. And that's a little bit of a problem about mainstream and success and money. Because in a way, that paradigm, the blue chip paradigm is one where art no longer makes life more interesting than art except in what it can provide financially for those people that can benefit from it because it's, it's not circulating. It’s not it's just, it's not, it's not circulating in public discourse. It's just circulating as an investment, it has a different kind of, its value is producing something differently, doesn't mean it's not good. But if no one's seeing it, and it's just in someone safe or whatever, then it doesn't have that effect directly. 

OF: Yeah. 

JS: But certainly arts practice, itself, the permission that arts practice affords, and I think that that's the thing that is really wonderful about art, and there are many problematic things about art. But the wonderful thing about art is that it's hard to define so therefore it's permissible it's a permissible, a permissive space. And that permission can at best afford us a better life. And by us, I mean, those people doing and engaging with art.

OF: Art improves your life. Sounds very ‘self helpy’.

JS: Well, so ‘self helpy’ as a term sounds very pejorative, but what would be wrong? Yeah, I mean, you know, it's, it's, it takes years to get out of that mindset that. You know, that's why I am quite interested in what's happening in the royal family. Let's move into something important here at the moment. I mean, I'm not a royalist by any means. But the fact that, you know, the heir to the throne order is, not the heir to the throne is not William, he's the second heir or whatever… 

OF: Yeah. 

JS: …is, you know, openly talking about mental health, like every given opportunity, I think it's pretty extraordinary actually. Because, I mean, when we were growing up, it was just like, it was a threat, it was a violent threat. When one parent said to the other, you need to go to psychotherapy! It was something that, you know, you were seen as a lunatic. 

OF: Not in my family. 

JS: Alright, well, that that is a difference between, a cultural difference. That is a cultural difference.

OF: But that reminds me of another kind of dream profession is that maybe I like I've recently started reading Brené Brown. I mean, I watched her TED Talk, you know, Brené Brown. She's like…

JS: …kind of mainstream. Stacy has recommended this to me.


Yes it’s because Stacy Makishi, I’ve now done two workshops of hers based on Brené Brown, which I've had, I mean, nothing negative about Stacy, but they've been difficult. Well, the second one was very difficult, [I] was depressed for two weeks afterwards, from engaging with my shame in a really negative way, which I'm sure was not the intention of the… Anyway. So I started reading Brené Brown, because yeah, maybe that's another aspiration I have is like to be someone like Brené Brown, obviously, The O Show is, you know, being someone like Oprah. But Brené Brown is, is now my new. I wish I was Brené Brown, or Brené Brown’s doing what I want to be doing, except I'm doing it in the context of art. Yeah, it's like, engaging with shame, so that we can live a better life or something. But I can only do the cheesiness as a kind of joke, even though I sincerely believe in the thing she's talking about.

JS: Anyway, that's interesting. I mean, that's all interesting. And it's very interesting to me. And also, Stacy [Makishi] is interesting to me in this in this whole map, because Stacy is also trying to work towards in a different way. And in a way that's kind of like full of loving-kindness and that kind of on, you know, not in a cheesy way. But it strikes me that there is there are very interesting threads here. And the other person that I was really, and it's interesting that the three of you are all American women. The other person that I think's interesting in relation to this, who is in the mainstream, absolutely in the mainstream, is Ruby Wax. 

OF: Yeah. 

JS: Because Ruby Wax, I mean, Ruby Wax is now on this kind of camp, it's like somehow, by exposing her own, I mean, it really does kind of bring together some of the threads we've talked about, because, in a way, by exposing her own autobiographical story, in relation to a kind of public discourse, she is, in some sense, not in some sense, she is enabling others to find their own way out of kind of mental trauma, for want of a better way of putting it. And she comes from a kind of position of the kind of rhetorical play the, you know, the, not quite the chat show host but but very close to. And in the 80s when I was kind of growing up, she did the series of documentaries that I thought were fascinating and, you know, highly political. She's quite sneering about them now, but there was one I remember on Imelda Marcos, who was the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, who embezzled millions from the people of the Philippines and was basically a murderous dictator. This was his wife who was famous for having 45,000 pairs of shoes or whatever it was. And the kind of, the goal of the documentary is to find the shoes, but on the way she’s kind of telling this story about Imelda Marcos. Anyway, that in itself was quite interesting. But there's this moment in that where it just so happens that Ruby Wax at the time was on the cover of Hello magazine. And Imelda Marcos kind of subscribes to Hello. So when they turned up to shoot, you know, Ruby Wax, like says, Oh, I didn't plant this here. But look, this is me on the cover of Hello magazine, introducing my baby. And Imelda Marcos is just absolutely gobsmacked because for her being on the cover of Hello is like the zenith of, you know, looks like a Lifetime Achievement Award. What's happening and what's happening in that moment is something very interesting culturally, because Ruby Wax is critiquing the thing she also aspires to. And that's a little bit like what you're doing critiquing the thing that you also aspire to. And somehow that's also what Stacy's doing, critiquing the thing that she's also aspiring to, and that it's in that space that I think something kind of interesting or intriguing is happening. And that relies on both referencing and being part of, being close to the mainstream, and also rejecting it. Ultimately, and maybe that's why Ruby Wax, you know, she was sacked, ultimately, she was sacked. I don't know.

OF: Yeah. And she hates Louie through because he went and did like, basically redid her life's work and documentaries. And I listened to her “Grounded” interview, I assume you have as well. That was depressing. I found it very depressing and saddening to hear it because it was like, here's this person who's super successful, and yet she still feels this, like resentment towards this person, that is, you know, obviously painful. And it's like, you can't, it's like it felt like there's no hope. Like, even if I became as successful as Ruby Wax, I'd feel jealous of  somebody else for having something else that I wanted, or that came after me or something or came before me or it's like never-ending the…

JS: I think it's more nuanced than that. I think it's more nuanced than that because she'd never even watched, that was interesting, she never even watched a Louis Theroux documentary until that day. Louis Theroux was a projection of her own failure. It was some, it's nothing to do with Louis Theroux, they could probably very easily get on. Yeah, it was that he represented something to her, which was about herself. And we all have that. We all have that. You know, I've had that, I really terribly in my life, that thing or feeling that and it's about people that I knew that have made the mainstream, I'm not going to actually name names, but there was one particular person that I studied with, at university that that has become very, very, very successful, like national treasure level.

OF: A peer of yours, or someone who you study who was a teacher?

JS: A peer.. And I used to wake up, I used to, like, really have chronic insomnia, about the difference between our levels of ability to enter the mainstream and the life that I perceived we had as a result of that. But in fact, I think that that was something I mean, you say this in, in, in “Business or pleasure” podcast, video thingy. You taught me twice what it is. You talk about the learned behaviour, you know, that, that when you were a child, and you were watching those films, you'll learned that there was this learned behaviour that you should value, essentially, success, fame. Fame was in itself rewarding or, or success was what was wrapped into that. And the mainstream is necessary for that because that's where you get the most number of people adulating you or whatever. And it's quite something to have to unlearn that paradigm. One way that I do it is I just think about who the most important people are in my life. And they're not famous people, you know, the most the people that I want to model myself on, they're not like, famous people. You know you look towards those people, you look towards the mainstream for a kind of vision at something or a kind of aspirants towards a kind of notion of success. But if you think about who's been important to you. I mean, of course, there are artists that might be important for you or musicians that might be important for you or whatever. But it's, it's the product, it's not them. But who's been, like, you know, if I think about a notion of… um, what’s the word? Sorry, I've had a mental blank, but if you love unconditional, not a difficult word, the notion of unconditional love that I could feel from my grandmother, for example, like really the learning from that notion of, you know, she’s not an easy person necessarily or anything like that. It's just that that notion of unconditional love and how much learning there is in that. So, yeah, sorry, I'm blathering. 

OF:  Yeah. And it kind of brings me back to thinking about Stacy Makishi. I, after this shame workshop, which left me in the kind of depression for a couple of weeks, because it kind of encouraged me somehow to berate myself for something that happened in the past in an extended way that I normally would not allow myself to do out of self-protection. But then I saw that she was doing phone performances. So I signed up to receive a phone performance. So I felt like the person who put me in this agony now has a solution, because part of the performance was to stare at yourself in the mirror, and picture, the people in your life that love you unconditionally, like you're talking about with your grandmother. And that was like, oh, that's the solution, isn't it, it's like, you have to remember that these people value you. And they're not worried about this deep flaw you perceive in yourself or that was exhibited in some way, or wasn't even exhibited, it was just something happened that gave you an excuse to indulge in those thoughts or whatever. But if you imagine those people that love you, unconditionally, then you kind of can get past that. But I don't know that that's the same thing you're talking about learning from?

JS: I think it absolutely could be, I think. I think that's interesting. I think it's all so interesting. I think you're, I think that's, I think that's there's a lot of learning and what you've just said in relation to how you go back to the source of not, Stacy is not, is not the source of your problem. She was, Stacy's, you know, Stacy's encouraged you to stir, she herself has described to me as like, there is shit in the bottom of the glass. The water looks clear, but to get that shit out, you have to stir the glass, that means everything becomes shitty. And then you've got to try and scoop out the shit. It’s like involved. It's a process. And, you know, you can push that shit to the bottom of the glass, and the water will seem clear, but the shit’s still there. And if you sink to the bottom of the glass, you're in the shit. So if you want to get the shit out, you have to stir up the glass. So yeah, I mean, of course, it's a process. But I think what I wanted to say about that, is that you, you know, going back to that, going to that performance, recognising that that might be a place where there would be an answer for you. I think it's a very clever thing to have done.

OF: I didn't do it. I just, she did it.

JS: Yeah, but you had to sign up, correct?

OF: Yes, but I didn’t know that's gonna be the answer. I just signed up thinking, oh, I'll see what this is about. Anyway. But yeah. I was like, oh, she caused the problem. And then she gave me the solution. It was a nice kind of a bookended experience. But what was I? There's I feel like there's many questions. So one of the things about this, this question of asking you well, what's the what's the why that brings it all together, these varied practices that you do, what is that? Have you seen this guy Simon Sinek? Have you seen his TED talk about finding your why or the why at the heart of great leaders? Simon Sinek?

JS: No. 

OF: Anyway, he does this TED Talk. And it’s, he really emphasises that at the heart of everything you love, or like, you know, a business that you love, or a person you admire is because they have a very powerful why statement that gets communicated through their how’s, through what they do. And, as well, as a kind of consumer, or are a citizen, or person you ‘buy into’ that why statement. If they don't have a good why, you're less interested, like Apple being the example of a company that has a good at the heart of it, a why that people buy into, people will buy products from them, that are new, that no one's ever heard of, because of that why that's at the heart. I can't remember what the why of Apple is, but anyway, and like Martin Luther King Jr. has a, you know, a certain why. So I'm like, oh, I've got to find my why. Because maybe then I will be able to be more like Hamja Ahsan who I spoke to, because he was saying how shyness if you want to create shyness in someone just ask them why they're here, what their purpose is, what are you doing here, you can kind of induce a kind of ontological self-doubt, or shyness or whatever. And because I was saying, because he's very, as a shy person, very out there in the world, always posting on Facebook. And I'm, I'm terrified of being on Facebook. Like I find Facebook to be weird, or social media in general to be a weird space of like, I don't know where the line between professional me and friend me and family me is and I find it very difficult to know, to negotiate that space and know what to say, what not to say. And I want to appeal to everyone. And it brings out all those kinds of insecurities and desires to please and be loved and whatever. So but as he is a shy person, but very, very vocal in those spaces. And I know it's because he has his why, like he knows he has his purpose, like to, it's to do with human rights and it has to do with his past activism for his brother. So that helped him to kind of stop being an armchair activist or whatever. So I feel like I'm very fully, if I'm an activist, I'm definitely chair one. Like I, I want to be political, but I'm, I'm not really I mean, I am in the kind of ‘personal is the political’ sense, but like, I'm not out there being an activist in the world or whatever, because I think I don't have like, maybe I don't know my why. But then I part of me wants to critique the guy, Simon Sinek because after all, he's speaking to people who run businesses. Like I bought one of his books, and it's clearly not for me, like it's clearly for, I feel like I want to say it's for men who work in corporations to find what's going to be the why behind their business. And the why can't be to make money, it has to be something more meaningful than that. Because people don't buy into “this guy wants to make money”. It's not something that gets people to open their wallets. Anyway, so yeah, I feel like this book is not for me. It's much more kind of capitalistic than it may seem, somehow, I'm not quite sure how to put it. Anyway, so that's why I was asking you about your why, but you haven't heard of Simon Sinek or any of this, so maybe it's kind of not a good path to go down…

JS: Well, so first of all, can I respond to any of that?

OF: Yes, please.

JS: So yes, it would be a lot simpler for you if you had a clearly identifiable why. And yet, I wonder in your case, and of course, like, obviously, if we were in a kind of coaching frame, I always say this isn't coaching. But this definitely isn't coaching. I wonder if your why is the struggle to find the why. That is the why, you know, your why is the struggle to find the why, the questioning the continual questioning, and not putting up with the reduction to Apple’s Why, or whatever it is. So and I remember, have you ever been to the museum of Jurassic technology in, in Culver City in Los Angeles? Do you know about it?

OF: I think I've heard of it.

JS: I mean, it's like a cult museum. It's it started by this founder, director, David Wilson. It's very difficult to describe what it is, but it's set up like a kind of slightly bonkers museum. But I suppose the point is that all the exhibits in it, raise doubt. It's very unclear what is going on? Are they real? Are they unreal, is the story that's told about them right or wrong? In a way, it's a kind of paean, like a song to doubt. Anyway, I had the opportunity to go and speak to David Wilson, who's the founder-director of it and interview him for a project that I was working on. And like, I did that thing of starting off by like saying, who I was, giving my credentials, and he said, look, you know, we all have these boiler plate… This was his words, boilerplate definition of who we are, we have to have like, the boiler has to have a plate on it that says, you know, how much gas is running through it and what you have to do if it breaks down and whatever. You need boilerplate definitions in life, but they, for people they’re not accurate representations of what's happening inside. You can't have a boilerplate definition for a person. So having a Why is simpler, but having the struggle to find the Why is probably more honest, truthful.

OF: Oh, that's a relief. Yeah. There's a certain structure the why has to follow too. It has to be, it has to be written in this format: “to blank, so that blank. So Simon's Why is “to inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that together we can change the world”. But I feel like we've touched upon what might be my why, but I think it's very, because I think it's your why as well. It's something to do with I think it's something to do with like to explore art as life to make living better. Like, that sounds so cheesy. But I like that sort of a, I don't know, a version of what you said earlier in his format that sounds sort of right. But I think the way I put it in the maybe in opening speech or just certainly elsewhere I've written that I'm good at taking, I’m getting good at or better at taking care of myself so that I can help other people to take care of themselves.

JS: Nice. But I mean, that's only as good as it is, you know, I mean, it sounds great. It sounds like, I can see the logo. You know, it sounds great. But…

OF: Would you pay for that?

JS: [laughs] We need these things. We need these things. But they, you know, they're only as good as they are in the moment that they're useful, which is, you know. There’s no kind of abstract truth to them. That's what I mean.

OF: What does that mean? 

JS: They’re only, like, tell me the thing again?

OF: The second one, or the first one?

JS: Like, the first one, the one that you sometimes say, I'm trying to get better, so that I can help other one.

OF: The second one, it was, I'm getting better help at helping myself so that I can help others to help themselves, or take care of. Like, I'm getting better at taking care of myself, so that I can help other people to take care of themselves.

JS: I mean, yeah, it’s great, it’s like…

OF: It’s applicable in all areas of life in a way, in like family, as a mother, as a teacher, as an artist, like, it kind of, it could be applied in all the spheres, as a friend.

JS: Sure, but probably more for less every person in the world as well.

OF: I know. 

JS: Have you ever played? That’s when they become meaningless. Have you ever played that game where you take somebody else's biography, you know, that they write, like when they're doing a show, and just insert your own name in it? And it's amazing how many you can just get away with, like, take somebody else's biography, and like, just add your own name in. And when I was looking to write my own for, I did this is years ago, and I thought, well, what do I say about my work? I literally, this is a terrible thing to admit, I've changed it subsequently, it just went to Jeremy Deller’s biography and just put Joshua Sofaer where it said Jeremy Deller, and it just sounded absolutely fine. Like, I'm not, I'm not as mainstream or as famous, obviously, as Jeremy Deller, but…

OF: [laughs] But maybe that’s the secret to it? [Laughs]

JS: What?

OF: Maybe that’s why he’s so successful because he's written a statement that everyone feels like, yes, I could put my name in there. Wouldn't it be great to put my name there?

JS: [Laughs] But, the point is, he didn't write it. You know, some curator or some other wrote it. 

OF: That’s what you think.

JS: That is what I think.

OF: But yeah, maybe he told the curator, can I just sign your name on this? And they were like, go on Jeremy. So you heard that as a critique when I talked about the change in your work over time.

JS: I was only teasing you.

OF: Okay. Well, it can be that it just follows a kind of developmental path as human beings, we, you know, we, we are dependents and we then we have to, you know, learn to be individuals, separate ourselves from our family. And we’re very very self conscious as adolescents. And then as we, as we mature, we become more focused on others. I think it's kind of a developmental thing. But at the same time, it could be like we've talked about as a continuum. It's like, are you said, you got bored with yourself. Maybe, you already answered this question. But you were you were adamant that it wasn't narcissistic to begin with. Can you say more about that? Like the early work where you're saying, where you asserted that, you know, that kind of self disclosing autobiography, autobiographical performance art wasn't narcissistic, it was something else. So what was that?

JS: What was that old? I don't believe I said it wasn't narcissistic. But I mean, I don't know…

OF: on the website about one of your pieces it says that it's contesting this, this long held, widely held notion…

JS: Yes, that's probably true. I probably do believe that. And, but I believe that not just about that early work that I made, but people that are putting their bodies out front and centre of their work or their own biographical story. I mean, I think it can be solipsistic. I think it can be, and, but I mean, you know, I think Facebook is I mean, just now like, before we spoke I was reading somebody's absolute total twaddle Facebook post about them turning you know, a certain age on their birthday. And I just I felt that was, not the, I didn't think it was generous or like giving or well-formed or so… I think, I think the fact that you put your body up or your story up front and centre could, would be a pile of bollocks, or it could be brilliant. But it's not dependent on the fact that one way or the other that the fact that it's your story and you're putting yourself forward. And, you know, I think watching other people take pleasure in themselves is a wonderful thing. You know, I don't think that it’s… I don't think, like, if somebody is enjoying themselves ‘on stage’, I don't think, you know, and I use onstage in inverted commas. I don't I don't think that that's, I don't want to watch that because they're enjoying themselves too much. That would be ridiculous, what kind of misanthrope, or kind of, you know, would have that attitude? And I love going to that work, as I say, and I learn a lot from it. So I think that whole supposed critique of the commonsensical assumptions, like bonkers commonsensical assumption that somebody that is telling their own story or enjoying themselves on stage is a narcissist, is nonsense. I think a narcissist is a is an actual mental condition where people cannot empathise, they, you know, they don't, they can't relate to other people. They make themselves the centre of the world. When I think of a narcissist, I think of Trump, I don't think of you know, somebody pulling a scroll from the vaginal canal or whatever. I mean, the opposite. 

OF: Yeah. 

JS: So I think that, yeah, I think… So what was the question? Sorry.

OF: continuum versus development.

JS: I suppose that it was a rite of passage for me to make that work. And I think it is for a lot of people what happens often…

OF:  Yes, it seems to be like a training thing, like, you have to do that, you have to get your kit off, or you have to, I mean, it's a cliché, you have to reveal something…

JS: Almost. But I think that it has a value, I do think it has a value. But I think what I was at, so I think a lot of artists then drop off, that make that work, they become something else, they stop. It's not that they stop being artists in and of themselves, because I think that's something that you just kind of are, but they stopped making work, maybe. And they become a teacher, or they become, you know, in a related field or whatever, and they use that learning in their work. And some people, you know, turn those skills to others, and that's what I feel I've done. But there are some rare, older performance makers that are still making that work. And that is extraordinarily exciting. You know, it's very exciting for me…

OF: Who are you thinking of?

JS: Well, for example, Lois Weaver would be an example of that, somebody that's still making autobiographical performance or related autobiographical performance. You know, I mean, I don't actually know how old she is, but if she's not already in her. I mean I don’t actually know how old she is. I was gonna say if she's not already 70…

OF: She’s like my mom’s age, or maybe a little younger than my mom. [NB: She’s actually seven years younger than my mom.]

JS: Yeah. I think that's so so exciting to me to watch that work. And there's something about that body and that experience being brought into that context, which is incredibly watchable. But they are rare. Because, well, for all kinds of reasons.

OF: When we were talking about “Business or pleasure?” before it was filmed, you told me a metaphor about which is to do with bouldering. Could you repeat that to me, because I don't remember the details, but it sounded good.

JS: So the common way that you think about success in terms of a career is in terms of a ladder. That's how in the West, I don't know really about the east. But you know, you think of career progression, start at the bottom rung, you work your way up from the shop floor to the director's boardroom, whatever, that's the metaphor is a ladder. And in our practice, it's a really, as an artist, it's a really, really unhelpful metaphor because there is no ladder. And I mean, then they that you could consider our ladder in terms of money if you wanted to. But even that money ladders are just useless. Because, you know, the more money it's there's only one richest person in the world. So only one person can be at the top of that ladder, and even then it's precarious. So the metaphor of bouldering is… Bouldering is, that is, when a climber meets the rock, and they can walk around that rock, the rock is in front of them. And what they're doing is they're exploring it, that's what bouldering is. So they might at one point be standing on top of it, they might at another point kind of work their way up, pick up a different way trying to get different handled holds on it, they might go back to a place, review that bit of the rock, they might sometimes be on the ground looking at the rock, the point is that they're exploring the rock from different angles, all the time, sometimes feeling safe, sometimes feeling unsafe, sometimes learning sometimes facing challenge. But the the, the metaphor, in terms of how that relates to career is not one which is linear. It's rather, spherical, sort of, it's about exploring surfaces rather than climbing up ladders.

OF: Great.

JS: [Laughs]

OF: [Laughs] And the other one was that you often say to me, Don't doubt the endpoint, doubt along the way. And I know I've asked you before to clarify this. But I still feel I need to, I need clarification on it. Because I no idea how to actually practice that.

JS: We all face a lot of doubts, you know, doubt. And doubt is not necessarily a bad thing. Doubt can be a productive thing in the right context. So but if you doubt… So if you if you're working on a project, let's say you're working on a podcast series, and let's say you doubt whether or not you should be working on a podcast series, you're not going to get very far in the podcast series. So if you doubt the outcome, if you're constantly doubting the outcome, you have to decide if you want to do a podcast series or not. So there has to be some doubt at some stage. But if in the process, you are doubting whether or not you should do a podcast series, you never move forward, because it’s constant, just like, is this right? Is this right? Whereas, if on the way to like forming your podcast series, you doubt whether you should ask Stacy Makishi or Joshua Sofaer, you’re doubting which one would be the right one to ask for your thing, then that's a productive sense, because you're making a selection or a choice. So doubt there functions in a productive way. So you don’t, that's what I mean, by don't doubt the outcome, but doubt along the process. Yeah. 

OF: Great. 

JS: I think also, you know, one of those things, I mean, one of the things that I've faced working in socially engaged practice is that you're working with commissioners that have certain kinds of outcomes that they want. And if the outcomes are too defined, then I switch off, not because I don't believe in those outcomes, often I would. But in arts practice, my feeling is you can kind of know the continent that you're getting to, how you're going to get there. And the journey has to be more fluid because it has to be responsive in some way. So in the same way that doubt is productive during the journey. I think, also, in terms of kind of working institutionally, you have to allow for doubt. So doubt is not just something that you can get over. But it's something that is actually productive and useful. And if you consider it in that way, it becomes less of a burden to you. It's also like the difference between nervousness and excitement. I don't know whether we've talked about NLP before. 

OF: Yeah. No, no, sorry. No, I don't think so. 

JS: But you know, about neuro-linguistic programming.

OF: No, I don’t know.

JS: You've never heard of NLP?

OF: Should I know?

JS: Yes, I think I think you would.

OF: Maybe I have heard of it. I don't know.

JS: Anyway, it doesn't matter really what it is, but and one of the things in NLP is to create triggers. And this is not the same kind of trigger as in, you know, telling you something that reminds you of a trauma. It's, it's like an anchor point on your body where you can try to, to create a new state. So a common one is in people that are nervous in public speaking, they'll grab their finger or something and that will allow them to slow down or something. So it's about having an anchor point on the body. Now I have an anchor point. At the back of my neck, it's a switch that changes nervousness to excitement. So generally speaking, before I do, public speaking things, I'm fine. I'm genuinely 90% of the time, I'm excited about it. But sometimes I'm nervous and I’m, I can't understand where the nerves are coming from, it's just some physiological thing, because normally I don't feel it. So when I feel it, I get quite discombobulated. So I will just press this switch on the back of my neck. And I can reconfigure that nervousness to become excitement. And it's almost always works really, really well. But I can't think of an instance where it hasn't actually worked flicking that switch. So perceptually, something's happening in that. And the same thing is true of doubt, doubt can be absolutely clogging. It can be a real fog that stops you doing anything, a real impasse, or it can just be understood as a process of decision making. That is helpful, because you then are moving on, you've got rid of that decision, then you're moving on.

OF: Yeah, in the context of coaching, I think you once pointed out to me that I often get deflated by doubt. Instead of being excited, like, sometimes things are genuinely exciting. And I'm neglecting to feel that. So I do sometimes, actually, I don't have a physical thing, but I think of you saying that to me. And I think, I'm getting deflated, I have to transform this into being excited about this thing. And thinking more positively or whatever it is. Yeah. So I do have that kind of it's like a little, not quite a mantra, but kind of treat as cognitive trigger, I guess to…

JS: Great. I mean, you don't have to. You said, I have to change. You don't have to change.

OF: Right, I don't have to. I'm flexible. It would be better for me if, it would be preferable…

JS: If that's what you decide.

OF: If that's what I decide, well, but who wants to be deflated?

JS: Yeah, well, maybe some people do.

OF: Last question. The other last question. Oh, yeah. So I know you use your training as a coach to in your work as an artist. And I'm wondering about the timeline of, did you work with people in your art before you did the coaching training? or How?

JS: I did. I definitely did.

OF: How did it change?

JS: Yeah, it did change it drastically, you just become aware of the language that you're much more aware of the language that you use. And what you are doing with language and how, you know, carrying on from [J.L.] Austin and the notion of the “performative utterance”, how speech acts enact change, that language is not just reflective, it is active. And to be really just super aware of that. That's the main difference that that training of relational dynamics gave me.

OF: Interesting. Oh, yeah. So you wanted to talk about this topic of going mainstream? Was there? Is there anything that you wanted to talk about about it that we haven't touched upon today?


Well, we haven't really talked about it at all. And I don't remember ever asking to talk fast. Anyway, I'm sure you're right. I'm sure I did.

OF: So I think it's time to draw our discussion to a close. Where can people find you?

JS: [Laughs] They can just get to my website, which is my name dot com [].

JS: I remember being asked that question. I've been asked that question directly once in my life, and I was like 18, 19. And I got the opportunity to go to New York. And I can't, I think it was my aunt had a free ticket or something. Anyway, I stayed with like my cousins, cousins, not blood cousins in New York. And at that time, I was like, really ridiculous. I just started university. I was wearing cream flannel trousers and like trying to, I had like floppy hair and I was trying to look like something from…What were those romantic films like with Helena Bonham Carter and all that…

What were they? What were those?

OF: I can’t, I know what you're talking about.

JS: Anyway, I thought I was in one of those films and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was in New York and I was 18. And I felt really unattractive. But I suppose I was giving off something like trying to be something. And this woman just stopped me in New York. I mean, it was a massive cultural moment, and she said, Oh, my God, where can I see you? And I was like, Oh, my, I was like, very confused. And I said, I said, Oh, well, I'm just visiting. And she said, Oh, my God, your English! Like, it was really intensely full on. So maybe that was the, maybe that's a good place to end talking about mainstream because in that moment, somehow, for that woman, for that woman in New York, I was mainstream. Sorry for my bad American accent.

OF: It's fine. It's just as bad as my British one. [Laughs] Okay, so thank you very much.

JS: Thank you, Oriana.

[ding sound]

OF: That was my comprehensive but hopefully still comprehensible edit of my interview with Joshua Sofaer. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I’m gonna go out now and see if I can find some artist biographies that I can insert my name into. Top tip there from Joshua Sofaer! It just reminds me of the fact that one time I was invited to give a talk at an American university and they said they asked me because Miranda July said no. [Laughs] So maybe that’s a good one to try? Anyway…

[Music: “next week on Multiple Os]

OF: Next week I’m excited to be sharing with you a discussion I had with Charlotte Cooper who is an artist, a para-academic and a fat activist as well as the founder of the band Homosexual Death Drive. You won’t wanna miss it! If you’re enjoying the podcast series so far, please do go out and tell all your friends about it. Thanks again for listening. Until next time be sure to accept yourselves and others unconditionally. We’re all just fallible human beings. 

[Theme music]