“Hold the installations! What’s an L.A. born, creative industry chameleon doing as Multimedia Specialist at one of Qatar’s most celebrated cultural institutions, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art? More importantly, what does that kind of role entail for an industry that has seemingly stood at the forefront of national growth, attention and spending? To find out, I touched base with one of the peninsula’s most charismatic personalities, the quirk in Mathaf’s cultural-based product, Nyk Schmalz.”
Lay the groundwork and tell us about yourself.
Well – little known fact – I wasn’t born in L.A. I was born in the small-town Garden City, Kansas, but moved when I was 2 months old and have never been back. I’ve lived in L.A., N.Y.C., D.C., Saint Louis, Utah, West Virginia, Ohio, and now Qatar. I think all of the moving during my life really influenced how I view the world, and maybe separated me enough from growing strong roots in a location or culture, and instead focused the growth internally. I think I view the world and people around me in a more observant way, and express myself as truly as I can to what I feel, rather than what could have happened if I grew up in within a single culture or single location.
I <3 Qatar. “No speed limit?”* And my incredible sponsor, employer Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art / Qatar Museums Authority. It’s nice to feel security, especially as a creative person where things are less stable than most professions, especially when the economy is a mess in most other locations. I like the culture. I like the language. I like the positivity, opportunities and artistic boom happening. Is it too early to call it a renaissance? I think Qatar is the future. That is why I am here. I made the choice to leave LA for Qatar. And I feel it was the right choice.
So, what does a Multimedia Specialist actually do?
I am working to strengthen a burgeoning brand through multimedia, which entails producing, directing, shooting, editing, critiquing, networking – usually all at the same time. I think to narrow down what actually happens would be to say that the work consists of quick decision-making. The decision-making that happens all comes from instinct.
For example, if I am in the editing studio and a video frame comes up that I don’t like, I can feel it immediately. Likewise, when I see an image that I like, instinctually the image will pull my focus to the screen, and most importantly, I won’t feel any doubt about it. I try to listen to myself and notice when that happens. The art directs me. However, even though I think I have the best view on something, it might not match the mission of the museum. So I constantly have to negotiate between my creative interpretation of a project with the guidelines and strategic objectives of our museum. Collaboration within the team helps in the process.
What’s something you’ve worked on for Mathaf recently?
I have been doing a lot of exciting multimedia that will support the upcoming exhibitions at Mathaf (which are going to be amazing). I have also been making a few videos that we (Mathaf) are showcasing at Ferjaan Qatar week in Tokyo this September. This cultural event is being organized by the Qatar Museums Authority to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between Qatar and Japan in 2012. We are also documenting Mathaf’s pop-up event at the Mori Art Museum (MAM), “Same-Same But Different: The Role of the Artist in the Arab World and Japan,” a weekend of talks as part of the programming for the MAM exhibition “Arab Express: The Latest Art from the Arab World.”
And as if that weren’t enough, personally I am always working on projects and collaborations. Next week I begin work in Amsterdam on a new project with pianist Vincent Corver, whom I must congratulate on his recent pre-nomination for this year’s Grammy Awards.
You’ve been very busy. Acting, modeling, music, film, multimedia… what drives you?
Ambition… and failure. An example of what I viewed as one failure for a long time was Eminem’s Music Video “Not Afraid.” I was in this video, or at least cast in the shoot. During filming the director didn’t really care who was where, other than Eminem. I had the opportunity to place myself in a good filming location, but I was laid back and let the direction just happen, nonchalant. Long story short I had the opportunity to be seen in the video and by not speaking up or taking the chance/risk, I didn’t make it into the edit. I will always feel I had the chance and didn’t take it.
On a more positive driving force, creativity drives me. I have ideas and inspirations and they keep me from resting. Sometimes I wish I could relax but there is an urgency I feel with ideas that overtakes me. I know my best work is always the work I haven’t done yet.
Alexander Mozorov. Explain.
It is funny that you ask about Alexander. I met Alexander, a very talented photographer, at a mutual friend’s annual Easter weekend in ‘the country’ of Virginia filled with horse races, great food, drinks, and company. In addition to the party I went to film and he had the same idea. It was nice to have another person carrying a camera around the entire time so we developed a good friendship. Collaboration is one of the most important things to be aware of as a positive.
Your favourite collaborations thus far?
Celebrity photographer Douglas Sonders was my favorite photographer to collaborate with. After a video shoot and a photo shoot we decided to shoot for fun and worked out a first class flight from DC to LA to shoot in the desert. We did this just for the love of the collaboration and work and it is one of my favorite pictures of my work. Carl Menninger is a director, author and Head of Theatre at American University who became my mentor in college and still helps guide me through the psychological demands of life as an artist. His book “Minding the Edge” was a great resource. Italy based Interior Designer Francesca Oriolo opened my mind to design, art, form, beauty, more than anyone else. I still view the lessons I learned from collaborating with her as some of the most important in my development as an artist and I still use these today, everyday. There is a lot of debt owed, so perhaps I drive forward for these people.
Kanye West. G.O.O.D Music. DONDA. Real artists, real people, real art. Mr. West was a huge influence on me growing up, especially during High School in St. Louis, and is still an inspiration to me. If anyone knows somebody who knows somebody, you must connect us.
Finally, why is it Nyk with a y?
Typo that stuck.
WORDS: REEM SHADDAD