“Fiction enables us to grasp reality and at the same time that which is veiled by reality”
– Marcel Broodthaars
The Joseph Boshier project came about because I felt my work looked very different to the work of more conceptual artists who were showing at the time.
The pieces looked as though they had been made in the nineteenthirties by an unknown artist anonymously beavering away in his cellar. Gradually that character turned into Joseph Boshier.
Somewhere along the way he became real to me and I began inventing a life for him. I’m a big fan of James Elroy and the way his books blur fact and fiction, so I started to weave Joseph Boshier’s world into twentieth century history.
Housing and architecture is important in my practise so Boshier became an architect. I have always admired and been influenced by the work of of outsider artists and the ability of art to heal and transform so that became an integral part of the story. He’s called Joseph after the legendary American artist Joseph Cornell and Boshier was my mother’s maiden name. There is an element of gender fluidity in the project, and all the pictures of Joseph are really me superimposed onto a picture of a celebrity from the thirties or forties. I also appear in the film as Boshier. All the players in the film are named after fictional characters in films and books who either don’t exist like George Kaplan in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest or characters who take on another identity like Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley books.
When I explained the idea to film makers Ivano Darra and Walter Graham Reed they were really excited and together we formed the Joseph Boshier Collective and began working toward an exhibition of Boshier’s work and a documentary film about his life.
When we had a script for the film Dr Derval Tubridy joined the team. In real life she is a lecturer at Goldsmith’s College. She would introduce the film and lead us through Boshier’s life. All the other roles were played by actors.
We raised the money to finance the project ourselves. The Joseph Boshier sponsored walk went through south London taking in all the important sites of Joseph’s life. At each one I would give a short talk on the relevant aspects of his life. Many of the participants really believed that he had existed and were moved by his sad life. The Joseph Boshier Collective also presented Joe’s Cafe. An arts cafe that was held in Brixton Housing Co-op’s office on Railton road, Brixton. We served all day breakfasts and vegetarian lunches over a series of weekends, it was a great place for people in our community to meet. (We still do the occasional Joe’s Cafe today, raising money for charity) We also used the BHC offices to hold Comedy Film Night where punters could watch Aldomovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown after eating vegetarian lasagna and salad.
We did crowd funding too. Raising the funds ourselves really helped to cohere our group and we had a lot of fun too.
The project took about two years to complete. We were lucky enough to have the support of Standpoint gallery in Hoxton, London. The exhibition took place in November 2013. I was able to borrow a lot of sold work back so the show looked like a real retrospective. The private view was one of the nicest evenings I’ve ever had. It was really well attended and there was a feeling of great anticipation as we all waited for the documentary film to be shown.
Find out more about Joseph Boshier here.
Lesley Hilling presents
The Enigmatic World of Joseph Boshier