Ali Hossaini



"For me the first stage of inspiration comes through adventure. My fundamental drive is curiosity – I’ve always wanted to know everything. I love reading, and I might have been very bookish, but (fortunately for my love life) that intellectual drive is matched by a robust physical and emotional urge to see the world. So I’m constantly exploring, whether through mind or body, then reflecting on what I’ve learned. In the course of this process one naturally makes connections. Some of these connections are straightforward, following established rules of analysis or synthesis. And some are poetic: associative with resonances that are more generative than conclusive.

It is through the latter process that I produce something people call “art”, though for me it’s more precisely called “poetry”. I like calling myself a visual poet because the term relates to poiesis, which for the Greeks was very specific kind of creative process.

Also the words “art” and “artist” today imply a lot of things I find horrible. For me poetry arises from a process of disintegration in the fullest sense of that process: the coherence of things breaks down, and previously unrelated structures start bumping against one another, adhering and forming new structures which may or may not make immediate sense.

When I’d started trying to express myself I had a lot of trouble coming up with ideas. And I was unconfident about them. Creativity is a natural secretion of consciousness, and, now that I’ve had a lot more experience, new projects flow faster than I can realize them. One way I think about the creative process is alchemy, the transmutation of dross into gold, an image I love. (This is silly, but I secretly think of the need for artistic expression as a full bladder—you just gotta do it.) In Hindu culture the transcendence of creativity is represented by the lotus, a beautiful flower that rises from muck.

Years of reading and travel has enriched my daily experience. When I look at things, I see the thing in front of me, for sure, but it’s in the center of a vibrant, fluctuating, utterly delightful web of connections – historical, scientific, aesthetic, emotional, literary, social and philosophical.

My rich inner life contrasts with my Spartan approach to possessions. I live very simply because I have a lot of trouble with stuff. Material possessions make my heart sag and distract my thinking, so I find living plants and organic forms to be the best environment for creativity.

Aesthetics and craft are very important to me, so I work hard to make experiences that are beautiful. Beauty has been badly considered in art for some years, with the justification being that aesthetic criteria have less validity than concepts. I take the diametrically opposite view, as I don’t think artists have much to contribute in the way of original concepts. What the artist can offer is a rigorous craft based on trained manual skills and aesthetic principles. The mandate of art is to create something beautiful – this doesn’t mean that it can’t be critical, provocative or idea-based, but those qualities emanate from the relationship of art to disciplines better equipped to handle them.

Some might say I am depreciate art, but to me beauty relies on processes that are far more sophisticated than the verbal ability required to appreciate the irony, cynicism and self-referentiality of conceptual artworks. Beauty arises from the innate mathematical abilities of our mind. While our verbal brain lumbers along with kludged linear processes, our visual faculties contain dedicated neural circuits that instantly analyze multidimensional fields. To say concepts are more sophisticated than beauty ignores the fundamentals of cognition, and it also disrupts the organic connection between our intuitions, life processes and the physical world."

Excerpt from the interview "Reality is Psychedelic" conducted by Andrew Rosinski in May 2010.


Ali Hossaini is an American artist, born in 1962 in West Virginia.

His work combines many disciplines: philosophy, biochemistry and poetry among others.

Exhibitions (selection)


 - V.I.E. V.ideo I.mage E.volution, Galerie W, Paris 


-  Ouroboros, video installation, Click Festival, Helsingor, Denmark

-  Why It's Kicking Off Anywhere, video director, Young Vic, London, UK


-  Ouroboros, video installation, Art for Tomorrow, Doha, Qatar


-  Epiphany, video installation & live performance, BAM, New York


-  Oceanic Verses, video installation & live performance, Dillon Gallery, New York


-  Oceanic Verses, video installation & live performance, The Barbican, London, UK


-  Illusory Production, video installation, CAFA Museum, Beijing, China

-  Epiphany, video installation, Mediations Biennale, Poznan, Poland

-  Ouroboros, video installation, Clews Foundation, Denver, Colorado

-  Oceanic Verses, video installation & live performance, The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC

-  Ouroboros, video installation, Clews Foundation, Denver, Colorado

-  Oceanic Verses, video installation & live performance, River to River Festival, New York City

-  Ouroboros, video installation, Clews Foundation, Denver, Colorado

-  Hermetica, video screening, Electronic Art Intermix, New York City

-  Divine Machines, Museum of Optography, Sharjah


-  Fabric of Life, solo show of prints & video, Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York City

-  Executive Privilege, video installation, White Box, New York City

-  Fading Civilizations, video triptych, SoundRes Festival, Lecce, Italy

-  The Aging Magician, musical theater, The Kitchen, New York City

-  Fading Civilizations, video triptych, The Kitchen, New York City

-  Ouroboros, video installation, Museum of Outdoor Art, Denver, Colorado

-  Memory Begins, video installation, SudLab, Naples, Italy


-  Memory Begins, video installation, White Box, New York City

-  Ouroboros, video installation, Ise Cultural Foundation, New York City

-  Oceanic Verses, operatic video, New York City Opera

-  Caro Ben Mio, live video, Galapagos Art Space, New York City


-  Baghdad Transcendental, sculpture & photography installation, The Drop, New York City

-  Epiphany: Prints, The Kaufman Arcade, New York City

-  Epiphany: Volcano, Gallery 8, New York City


-  Divine Machines, film, The Hackney Empire, London, UK

-  Epiphany, video installation, American Museum of the Moving Image, New York City

-  Noumema, Time is the Moving Image & The Same River, short plays, Water Mill Center for the Arts

-  Installation of productions from LAB, American Museum of the Moving Image, New York City

-  Curated selection of LAB productions, Scope Art Fair, New York City

-  Unperception Now, film, Montreal Festival of Film on Art, Montreal, Canada


-  Living Voom, curated selection of LAB productions, Scanners Film Festival, The Lincoln Center

-  Curated selection of LAB productions, Borderlines Festival, Beijing, China

-  Unperception Now, Janos Gat Gallery, New York City

-  Curated selection of LAB productions, SF Cinemateque, San Francisco

-  Curated selection of LAB productions, Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California

-  Curated selection of LAB productions, Orchard 47, New York City

-  Jeanne Moreau & Isabelle Huppert Video Portraits, Couvent des Cordeliers, Paris



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