Q&A with Joel Adler
Artist and Industrial Designer
Graduation year: 2017
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself - e.g. your family background, interests and career aspirations.
Most of my childhood involved finding things in my parent’s house and taking them apart to see how they worked. Growing up, I always imagined that the items in our world (buses, buildings, cameras, humans...etc) had transparent outer casings, and I think about how the parts all fit together to make them function. The driving force for me in creating sculptures and installations is to push others to see their world differently. The starting question for me is always ‘What do I want to change in the experience of the viewer?’. From there it is a matter of problem-solving to achieve the intended function.
Q. Looking back, what advice would you give to your first-year self?
“You are not good yet!” Trust that driving voice inside you but also remember that you don’t know anything about anything yet. Remember the quote ‘don’t be scared to kill your darling’. Your great idea might need to be killed to make way for an even better idea and every time you get feedback, don’t ignore it.
Travel the world (when it’s legal), ask questions of everyone and listen to every answer.
Q. In your own words, tell us about your first-time experience designing and exhibiting Viewfinder at 2019 Sculpture by the Sea?
It was the first time in my life where I wholeheartedly wanted something to happen and that drove me to work non-stop on the project from the moment I got the call to when the crane finally lowered the sculpture onto the cliff’s edge. I was really lucky to meet some great artists and also some very supportive people who helped me to make it all happen. It was awesome.
Q. Did you anticipate how your artwork would be received by audiences? (Or can you tell us if the reception was different than expected?)
I had thought a lot about how an individual might interact with the work, like appropriate viewing angles, placement within the site and also how it might look on a phone camera. But the way that people actually interacted with the work especially on social media blew me away.
Q. Now a year on, tell us about the Clitheroe Foundation mentorship, what have you been up to since?
The Clitheroe Foundation mentorship connected me with local artist Chris Fox, allowing me to meet with him regularly and see how he and his team operate. Chris has been an inspiration and great mentor for me over the last year. He really pushed me to focus on the conceptual side of my practice, which I would say is mostly subconscious until now.
I’ve been working on a series of sculptures to exhibit at this year’s Sculpture by the Sea. They’ll each face in a different cardinal direction (North, South, East, West) and ‘reflect’ the environment.
Q. Can you give us a sneak-peek into new projects you are working on?
I’ve been focusing on works that feel ‘site-specific’ but can also be moved anywhere. That's the nice thing about reflection, it relies completely on having something to reflect.
Q. What is the most valuable thing you took away from your time at UNSW?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. Without deadlines or due dates I am immobile. It’s something I’ve carried with me since uni and even though I pull a lot less all-nighters than I did back in the BE lab, the pressure from knowing something needs to be done by a certain date is what drives me to stay organised and on top of things.
Q. Do you have any advice for current or future UNSW School of Built Environment students?
No one knows what they are doing. It’s more about doing a lot of things until some of them feel right. I think being able to say yes as often as possible goes a long way.