Ali Hossaini works at the cutting edge of art, technology and business. The New York Times calls him “a biochemist turned philosopher turned television producer turned visual poet” and his work has been exhibited in venues around the world. He is also CEO of Cinema Arts Network, a consortium of the UK’s leading independent cinemas and mixed art centres.
If there was one piece of art you could feature in, which would it be and why?
Rembrandt's The Night Watch
Who inspires you and why? an artist, a family member, someone current or historical?
I’m fascinated by traditional and historic cultures, and I will go almost anywhere at any time to experience something unique – especially if it’s under threat by global contamination. And, believe me, I know my urges lie somewhere between irony and hypocrisy. Perhaps I can become a vessel for the delicate cultures I can experience.
What are your cultural aspirations? what do you still want to see, do and achieve?
There’s so much left to see - Ethiopian churches, Tamil temples, the whole stretch of indigenous cultures between Laos and southern China. I’d like to conduct an aural tour, too - the 'Congotronics', home-made electric instruments used in Kinshasa, Ghanian drumming and griot, the Qawwali of Pakistan. And I’d very much like to spend time among the Aboriginals of Australia, absorbing their language, stories, and visual perception. There is so much left for me to achieve, too. I’ve written a cultural archaeology, Vision of the Gods, that traces information technology from ancient Sumer to the present. It has yet to be published. I’m obsessed with the Tate Turbine Hall and Battersea power plant, and I’ve created an immersive video installation that would work well in either location.
What are your favourite cultural cities in the world and why?
San Antonio was a major crossroads for centuries. During the 20th century, it became introspective, and its many influences from place like Germany, the UK, continental Mexico and aboriginal Americans began to blend into something new. It’s re-entering the global scene with a lot of youthful energy and homegrown culture that’s frightfully exciting. Think mariachis meet cyberwarriors. It also has an artisanal tradition, and an architectural base of restored pre-War buildings, that you can’t find anywhere else.
What are you up to at the moment and where can we find it?
During the day I work on the Cinema Arts Network, a consortium of arts venues that asked me to build a national broadband network for the arts and culture. In the past 6 months we’ve delivered over 2,000 films and shorts to our members. All of that would have gone in a delivery truck before: www.cinema-arts.net At night I work on my art. VIA Records just released a DVD of Oceanic Verses, which contains a one hour video triptych that I finished in August: www.visionintoartrecords.bandcamp.com Now I’m working on Epiphany, a video cycle that’s been commissioned by a major arts festival (but I can’t say which one!) : www.artlab.tv We’ll have a 40 person choir and over 200 feet of 3D video walls, so it’s exciting. I also wrote the strategic plan for an arts festival, Luminaria, and it drew almost 300,000 people in November, so I’m very happy about that:www.luminaria.us November 2014.