Clark Kanemi Mizono grew up in San Francisco. He became interested in photography as a teenager, which, to his guidance counselor’s surprise, allowed him to attend UCLA as a photography student in The School of the Arts and Architecture. He graduated without honors in 2008 at the height of “The Great Recession” (“Thanks George,” he adds), and was promptly hired as a cashier at Nijiya Market on Sawtelle in West L.A.

After a couple years as a cashier, he moved to Philadelphia and became a waiter, and after a few more years he moved to New York City, where he currently works part-time as a photo technician at both The Fashion Institute of Technology and The International Center of Photography. He has been making his own work, when not at work, throughout.

Clark takes photographs in the street and the studio, generally of objects or spaces and not of people. He is drawn to physical traces or evidence of human activity, rather than the activity, the individual or the action itself. Like composer Steve Reich and philosopher Jacques Derrida, Clark emphasizes time over form, the trace over the object. In fact, his subject is the object deprived of itself, made abject by use. When a thing has finished being a thing, what is it?

He’s also interested in how objects age in public space. Not iconic or grand objects like statues, but everyday objects. Objects that show signs of wear and of use can serve as anonymous and arbitrary markers of the passage of time, and photographing them is a means of collecting and preserving them. Whereas ‘street photography’ a la Cartier-Bresson as an aesthetic is generally concerned with capturing the decisive moment (the magic of the present), he is interested in the past tense. He thinks this has the effect of boring a lot of people, but boring has been an open strategy of fine art since the mid-1960s and is no longer controversial. In fact, as Sianne Ngai argues, boredom is the last frontier of human innovation, the fountain of youth, the aesthetic portal into time herself.

Q: Who are some of your favorite photographers?

A: Paul Outerbridge, John Baldessari, Gabriel Orozco, Thomas Demand, this guy on IG named GANGCULTURE

Q: What is art/not art? What makes something art or not art?

A: At this point it is an accepted fact that capital “A” Art can be anything and exist anywhere, but allowing for an expansive definition of Art does not mean that any given artwork is worthwhile, or interesting. As long as there has been Art there has been Bad Art, so pointing at something and declaring it Art is not a value judgement. Is Kim Kardashian a performance artist? Somebody who drinks too much coffee is probably writing that think piece right now, but trying to define art by drawing a line in the sand is a hopeless endeavor. Rafael Rozendaal makes websites, and they are definitely Art (Great Art). But I don’t remember websites coming up very often in Art History.

Q: In composition, do you find yourself thinking most about color, light, or form? Has this changed over the course of your career?

A: All of the above? That’s a horrible answer. It depends on the project, and the subject matter I guess. But generally I think my photographs have gotten more formally rigid as a whole. I guess stiffening up is just part of getting old.

Q: There is a category called “Poop Art” that has Pop qualities but sacralizes profane and mundane things. Do you like being pigeonholed into an aesthetic movement? Do you have a name for your aesthetic(s)?

A: I’ve never heard of the term “Poop Art.” I remember Piss Christ from a few years back. I’m definitely not at risk of getting pigeonholed into any aesthetic movement — getting pigeonholed would be an honor. There are a lot of contemporary photographers I follow whose work is great and motivational, people like Thomas Albdorf, Chris Wiley, David Zilber (Recidivism), or Jason Nocito and his Puds. Not sure if they would agree, but I think they all very successfully employ a measured, formal aesthetic sensibility to document the mundane, overlooked, so-everyday-that-they’re-almost-invisible surface details of the city — any city. This seemingly misguided combination of unremarkable subject matter with professional technique is one source of their works expressive and political power.

Q: When you see something (say, the poster of the depressed men’s haircuts)–what makes you choose it as a subject?

A: It’s always funny when stock photography attempts to be deadpan and neutral, and fails. When a blank expression becomes something more sinister or more sad, it confirms the suspicion that there is a great sadness just beneath the manicured advertising surface. (Related – I made this youtube video for a Black Flag song with friend and artist Matthew Palladino. The image is taken from a SkyMall advertisement for dandruff shampoo.) If advertisements work to convince potential consumers that there is fulfillment and happiness in the ownership of this or that thing, the unspoken inverse is that there is despair in unmet desire. But if even the guy with the fresh fade is deeply unfulfilled, then there is truly no hope for us at all.

I also think part of the humor in this case comes from the aesthetic similarities between the barbershop posters and the equally deadpan work of the New Topographics movement. It also gets back to your question about what is and is not art, because part of the appeal of the poster is that it is a functional, not decorative object (aka Not Art) that nevertheless echoes the aesthetics of what are very serious, very valuable, and very important works of Art. I am interested in this disruption of my own expectations, and the way meaning gets perverted as a result.

Q: Do you appreciate the Yankees and/or the Mets as much as the Giants?

A: Absolutely not — but right now it’s all about these Warriors. I was actually watching at the bar when they beat the Knicks last night. It’s incredible that Steve Kerr was almost the head coach of the rapidly sinking ship that is the 2015 New York Knicks. Life is crazy.

Follow Clark on Instagram, Tumblr and the web.

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