“Technology is just gonna get better and better and better and better. And it’s gonna get easier and easier, and more and more convenient, and more and more pleasurable, to be alone with images on a screen, given to us by people who do not love us but want our money. Which is all right. In low doses, right? But if that’s the basic main staple of your diet, you’re gonna die. In a meaningful way, you’re going to die.”
David Foster Wallace, in an interview with David Lipsky, in 1996.
Dream Date is as much about dreams as it is about dates. Costa’s highly constructed photographs picture his anxieties and desires as he reconciles a longing for symbols from his youth with the more pervasive images that now occupy his field of view. The resulting works—part autobiographical, part fiction—are a materialization of memories and fantasies warped not only by the passage of time but also by a steady consumption of commercial media.
Costa’s interest in the visual language of desire is rooted in his early memories growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh in the late ’90s. His first influences were shiny pop culture images from television, fashion magazines, and advertisements. For the generation who grew up straddling the digital divide, before the ubiquity of the internet, this was a shared experience. Mainstream commercial culture, as well as album art, M.T.V., and graphic novels, seemed to offer a path to transcendence and out of the suburbs. Not equipped to unpack the messages we were receiving, these images informed our sense of self and understanding of the world. Since then, technology has advanced, weakening, and dulling our imaginations, which are now filled with on-demand images on the multitude of screens surrounding us.
Costa’s work is indebted to fellow Pittsburgh-native Andy Warhol, who challenged the concept of a unique work of art and explored the idea that making art was a form of consumer production. Costa’s own exhaustive studio practice includes staging and photographing scenes, making prints, and re-photographing these prints until they begin to collapse on each other like blurred memories. His final works are printed on aluminum and displayed in an upright stack. The background image—a colored gradient resembling a sunset—is visible through graphic symbols and shapes laser-cut in the foreground image. The resulting hyper-stylized and machine- made aesthetic of the work questions the illusions of autonomy offered by consumerism while embracing its trappings. By mixing multiple-exposures with seductive images of beauty and luxury, he is both reclaiming memories and accepting the world around him. Dream Date is a visual exploration of how the forces of technology and commerce shape our desires, perceptions, and, ultimately our imaginations.
Joseph Desler Costa is an American / Italian artist working in photography, video and new media. Costa’s practice explores consumerist dreams, pop culture, nostalgia and desire. Employing multiple exposure, re-photography, as well as laser-cut, layered prints, Costa produces almost machine-made looking photographs and films that question and embrace the offerings and origins of commercial culture.
Costa currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York and Pisa, Italy. He holds an advanced degree from Bard College (MFA) and attended the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión (EICTV) in Cuba. Exhibitions include Dream Date, ClampArt, New York, Them!, Transformer Station, Cleveland, USA; The Drowned, Alabama Contemporary, AL , USA; Thread Count, Unseen Photo Fair, Amsterdam, NL; Photography is Magic, Aperture Foundation, NY, USA; Eden, Metronom Gallery, Modena, IT, USA; and Expanded Geographies, Lianzhou Foto, Lanzhou, China.
Photographic works are included in the permanent collections of the Leonard Lauder Collection, the Cleveland Clinic Art Collection, BNY Mellon Collection, the Bidwell Collection, the Rockaway Hotel Collection, and the collection of the International Center of Photography.
Costa has curated and organized a number of exhibitions, books and zines including group shows at Baxter St. Camera Club of NY and Foley Gallery. In 2014, Costa founded the imprint Silent Face Projects. Costa is currently a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts in New York and The International Center of Photography’s Creative Practices program.