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Mood Ring: Mo Costello

In the second installment of our artist column Mood Ring, Mo Costello offers a lyrical meditation on images of intimacy, tenderness, and loss.

The breadth of Mo Costello’s work encompasses photo, video, and installation. Her recent solo exhibition at Howard’s in Athens, Georgia, includes a selection of gelatin silver prints, each approximately two-by-three inches, from a single roll of film. Depicted is an intimate exchange between Mo and her then partner, Kong Im, in an apartment in Providence, Rhode Island. The time between frames is notably brief. These are exposures made quickly, as the camera moves back and forth between their hands.

The camera, as aperture, is consistently engaged as an extension of the body—an opening motivated less by coherent feedback or formal concision, and more so in response to ordinary longing, to compulsion. Prompted by sound, by touch, by shifting light.

The images function as a fractured and disconnected narrative stream. As if a collection of singular film-stills, traces of an experience are pieced together as an aesthetic reminiscence. Details offer hints of a bigger story and the poignant and unreachable space between pictures.

Mo’s work explores the entanglement of ecstasy and the mundane. In her photographs, this fissure is thin. Objective and subjective experience is intertwined and often indecipherable. Jose Esteban Muñoz describes a similar dialogue between scenes of domestic banality and unspectacular bliss in the poetry of James Schuyler and Elizabeth Bishop—writers whose books, poems, and letters are scattered across Mo’s bedroom studio. Simultaneously, Mo explains, these writers reveal the ways by which a simple gesture signals a bond that somehow interrupts the ubiquity of terror.

— Ridley Howard

Mo continues:

Accumulatively, it may be that the images speak to addiction and to loss. Encountered however in fragments, and as brief passages of time, there is evidence of tenderness and adoration. Of dependence and obligation. Of pleasure and abandon. And of quiet ecstasy.

By way of memory, a moment of reverie. When the rigidity of the past, no longer static, softens.

In a sense, comes undone.

It is this, softening, this quiet opening, that I am after.

non-aggressive
not aggressive
not
non
no
nothing

there is boredom there

can you taste it?

I tremble I shake

forgetful again.

Athens
July 2019



Image captions:

001: Mo Costello, Untitled (Sleep), 2019; gelatin silver print, 5 3/4 by 8 1/2 inches in 11 by 14 inches aluminum artist’s frame.

002: Mo Costello, Untitled (detail), 2019; gelatin silver print, 2 7/10 by 1 4/5 inches in 8 by 10 inches aluminum artist’s frame.

003: Mo Costello, Untitled, 2018; gelatin silver print.

004: Mo Costello, Untitled, 2018; gelatin silver print.

005: Mo Costello, Untitled, 2018; gelatin silver print.

006: Raymond Meeks, Untitled (Mo, Providence), 2014; gelatin silver print.

007: Mo Costello, Untitled (Hand), 2019; gelatin silver print, 2 7/10 by 1 4/5 inches in 8 by 10 inches aluminum artist’s frame.

008: Mo Costello, Detail; Untitled (Hand) (detail), gelatin silver print.

009-012: Mo Costello, Untitled (Evictions), 2016; paper, pencil, gelatin silver prints, plastic, Xerox, self-inking stamp, screw.

013: Mo Costello, No, Rather: The Executioners Taking Off, 2019; gelatin silver print, 5 by 7 inches in 11 by 14 inches aluminum artist’s frame.

014: Mo Costello, Untitled, 2019; gelatin silver print, 2 7/10 by 1 4/5 inches in 8 by 10 inches aluminum artist’s frame.

015: Mo Costello, Untitled, 2019; gelatin silver print, 2 7/10 by 1 4/5 inches in 8 by 10 inches aluminum artist’s frame.


Mo Costello’s solo exhibition is on view at Howard’s Art Gallery in Athens through July 13.

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