Mexico City - Interviews

Food, Time Consumption and Transformation: an Interview with Raul Ortega Ayala

7 hours ago

During our visit to Zona Maco 2017 in Mexico City, we interviewed artist Raul Ortega Ayala who is presenting the results of his anthropological studies with a solo show at Proyectos Monclova, titled “Food for Thought” running at the gallery from May 4 to June 10, 2017.

Mara Sartore: Can you tell me about the origin of Babel Fat Tower?

Raul Ortega Ayala: A few years ago I conducted a research focused on what food is beyond bodily sustenance. The focus was on its political content, on the effects that it has on individual and collective identity, its religious connotations, on the added values that are given to it by the food industry and on its cycles and patterns of consumption. At some point during this investigation I found a strange pamphlet by Otto F. Fleiss titled “Art Made of Fat”, in which he narrates how butchers made sculptures with fat to decorate their shop display windows. He even talks about competitions they had for this ‘art’ during that period. I decided to try then this technique to make a work for this series and that’s how “Babel Fat Tower” came to be.

MS: One aspect of this piece that I am very interested in is that it has no definitive moment, much less a conclusion. It’s as valid when it’s built, as when it collapses. It oscillates between optimism and pessimism, with neither of the two moments being more important than the other, its reason for being is in constant flux.  When did you begin to work on this project?

ROA: The food project began in 2009. Normally I do research for long periods of time within a particular world and theme and based on my experience in this immersion I develop each project. The period of investigation for the series about food is already over, and almost all of the works have been produced although a few remain unrealized for lack of funds or time to produce them. Right now I am working on another project focusing on the concept of Social Amnesia and the detritus of history.

MS: I know that you were taking cooking classes…can you tell me a bit more about that experience?

ROA: Part of the strategy that I use to involve myself further into the context that I’m researching is to look for ways to physically involve myself within that world. In this case I used the anthropological methods of “participant observation” and what is called “embodiment of knowledge”. In this instance that translated to working within the restaurant industry, and to taking cooking and butchering classes.

MS: Have you been left with anything from this experience? Have you become an incredible chef? Do you still have this passion?

ROA: Yes, for me an effective immersion is the one in which I leave different than how I entered. In the case of the food [project] I obtained different abilities that I still use and developed interests and passions that I continue to cultivate even though the development of the series is now concluded.

MS: Do you have any other pieces that have anything to do with food?

ROA: Yes, in total there are about 30 to 40 elements in the series that include work and field notes that I accumulate during the research process. For example, I made a piece that is a two-screen video installation. On one side there is a projection of a video that documents La Tomatina in Spain, in which thousands of people throw 5 tons of tomatoes at one another for one hour, and on the other side of the screen there is a video that shows a competitive eater ingesting 40 hotdogs in 10 minutes. This is a piece that explores a few of the multiple excesses of our time in relation to food through the juxtaposition of these two real-life examples.

MS: Your interest in cooking was not so much gastronomic as political, a way of exploring society.

ROA:  Yes, I think that there are sufficient extraordinary chefs in the world that explore this part of food and I’m not interested in competing with or exploring that side of food. I was more interested in what happens around food, its aura, if you want to call it that, and there are a few pieces in the series that work with this aggregated value. For example, I made a piece that every time I make it the title changes because it is titled after a woman who gives me some of her breast milk to make cheese which I then serve during the opening of the exhibition. This piece tries to literally put on the table a food that for many has a strongly symbolism that goes beyond its mere function. Another example is a piece that is titled “Melting Pots that examines the cycle that some of the residue of the structure of the Twin Towers was subject to after the September 11 attack. This material was discretely sold to companies in various parts of the world; some of them used this material to make utensils for cooking. I serve a buffet on trays and with utensils made in the area where the companies that purchased the material [from Ground Zero] were. This meal is based on a found image of a buffet served in the iconic restaurant Windows on the World, which was on the top floor of the Twin Towers.

MS:  Do you cook any specific dishes?

ROA: Every time that this work is realized I work with a local chef to make the menu for the buffet based on the image that I found. Every chef has the liberty to interpret the dishes based on what they see in the image and/or investigate what was served at the restaurant and from that they propose what to serve on each tray.

MS:  Where has this happening/installation been enacted?

ROA: This piece has been presented in three places: in Holland twice and in London once, but this is the fist time that this work has been presented in Mexico and in this continent.

MS: This is my first time in Mexico and I am fascinated by Mexican food and also the relationship between the people and the food in this country. I would like to know how you have been involved in the cooking process as well as your relationship with Mexican cooking – if you do have a specific relationship with Mexican cooking – and if this was part of your reflection or not?

ROA: You can learn a lot about a culture through its stomach and food in my personal life and in Mexican culture is very important, but this in a way is tangential to the project. What I was interested in was in looking at food from another point of view, and to not focus on taste or sustenance, but rather to examine what could be called its “transubstantiation” which is a term used by the Catholic church to explain how bread can be transformed into the body of Christ and the wine into his blood. In a similar way, food suffers every day some sort of transubstantiation into something sacred, into culture, into some sort of identity, or in a utopia.

Mara Sartore

  • Gloucester, United Kingdon, 2015, photo Roberto Rubalcava Gloucester, United Kingdon, 2015, photo Roberto Rubalcava
  • Tomatina-Tim, From the series Food for Thought 2010 - 2013, 2016, Film still Tomatina-Tim, From the series Food for Thought 2010 - 2013, 2016, Film still
  • Tomatina-Tim, From the series Food for Thought 2010 - 2013, 2016, Film still Tomatina-Tim, From the series Food for Thought 2010 - 2013, 2016, Film still
  • Babel Fat Tower, From the series Food for Thought, 2010 – 2013 2010, Photo: Roberto Rubalcava Babel Fat Tower, From the series Food for Thought, 2010 – 2013 2010, Photo: Roberto Rubalcava
Venice - Interviews

Giorgio Andreotta Calò: Venice through an Artist’s Perspective

1 day ago

Mara and Teresa Sartore: The title of the Italian Pavilion “The Magic World” is inspired by the anthropological work of Ernesto de Martino. Can you tell us how it came about? Which came first, the title or the selection of the artists?

Giorgio Andreotta Calò: I think that Cecilia Alemani recognised, in the practice of a few artists, a reference to a way of investigating reality inspired by the dimension of magic. Here, “magic” has a deeper and more complex anthropological reference with respect to what we have grown used to in everyday language. Magic is a way of recognising the world that surrounds us, or at the very least, it is a way to rationalise it where the tools of scientific investigation can’t give us an explanation.

MTS: After finding out that you were selected to represent Italy at the Biennale, how did the idea of the work that you will present come about?

GAC: The work began with a trip in September 2016 to l’Aquila because I was interested in studying scaffolding…

MTS: Why were you interested in studying scaffolding?

GAC: I needed to see some architectural structures like scaffolding. From l’Aquila we then went to Amatrice, where the earthquake had hit a week earlier and the road to get there was completely empty; there were only Civil Defence supply vehicles that were on their way out, there was a very strong sense of anguish. When we got there I didn’t recognise my town: it seemed like a war was going on, there had just been a catastrophe, houses had completely collapsed. It was a very hard sight to see, very distressing. In front of such a strong image I wondered: “what can we do to exorcize it?” The seed of my work is contained in this question. Inside of us we need to resort to something stronger than an explanation, at times the tools that we have are not enough to face something like this, for that we need to move in another dimension, otherwise we succumb.

MTS: It’s a way to survive reality…

GAC: It is magic that manages to take us back to the rational dimension via other routes. De Martino’s work is interesting in this sense because it delivers a rational “historical” explanation to what would otherwise have been relegated to a folkloristic fact or mere “belief.” The studies that he carried out in Lucania gave a voice to populations that otherwise would have lived in complete oblivion and isolation from history because they would not have been understood.
Magic is the manner by which even whole communities are founded and on which political life is also structured; it is the way in which a single individual succeeds in finding their own physical and spiritual integrity, whereas in a moment of crisis this is less so. De Martino was involved by believing that the aspect of magic should be investigated on a sociological and political level, finding it within the practices of several artists. Personally, I find that in a moment of crisis such as this, the call to magic isn’t intended as a way out or a way to escape the reality that surrounds us, but on the contrary, it’s a different way of investigating it and to be able to give back a rational vision of what is happening, since this rational vision is, by now, lost and gropes around in the dark.

MTS: On your journey, what has been your relationship with magic, if there has been one?

GAC: There hasn’t been one directly, but I have realised that through some works this aspect has indeed been investigated, even if only unintentionally. The inspiration and form of a work are something that you can’t always completely control. Only when the work is finished can you look at it and to try to understand its genesis. In the moment in which it is in progress some mechanisms are almost unconscious, of course you start with an idea and you want to make it happen, but in the middle there is that creative journey of constructing the work that can end with different results. When it is finished you can think about it, look at it, revisit it. At this stage you can also find some answers or ask yourself some new questions.

MTS: So, to face this theme in a “conscious” way was also an opportunity to look at your work in a different way?

GAC: Absolutely, in some works it is very obvious that there is a call to the magic dimension, however, let me repeat, always understood in its deeper, anthropological meaning. I have studied different works by De Martino and “La fine del mondo” (The end of the world) particularly, I found very interesting. All of his work has given me ideas to work with.

MTS: A year ago you returned to Venice with your family to begin this work. In the past you have described this city as a mother’s womb, an amniotic fluid that envelops… What has it been like to come back here to live? Will you remain here or will you leave? Have you found it changed, does it still manage to surprise you?

GAC: What I have felt most strongly in Venice this year is the climbing movement of the tide, which has followed me with both great fullness and great emptiness. Also, the form that my work takes is connected to the possible sceneries of this city, where, I feel there are strong warning signs and signals that must be heeded and that also tell us how to treat this place, how it must be preserved, and that speak of its biorhythms and of the dynamics that govern it, and that we are climbing over with both feet, that recount its identity and all that has made it possible.

MTS: Indeed, this has been a very peculiar year for the tide. It has been very small, reaching some historic lows. There were some days when there was almost no water in the canals…

GAC: This too is worrisome… I believe that to feel this city means to become part of its organic life, of its operation. This year I really felt it a lot: I have perhaps been too in sync with Venice, I have become Venice. I think this can be dangerous because it means that you also absorb all the tragic and unhealthy aspects of an overloaded and exploited city that is so neglected. Here there is a continuous passage, as the tide enters also flows and masses of people enter, like the oysters attached to the canals that swarm everywhere like the plague. This type of tourism is so damaging. I came back in April 2016 and the massive waves caused by the cruise ships immediately began. I found the streets completely changed, the area where my parents live has changed, new economies have sprung up, a use of spaces that is also surely connected to money laundering.
There are also some positive aspects: Venice is a place where you can still measure modernity, even if, paradoxically, it seems stuck in this past from which it doesn’t look like it can escape.

MTS: For us, Venice is the city of the future…

GAC: Venice condenses the present, it can be seen in all its worse aspects, but also in its best ones.

MTS: What are the best aspects of Venice for you?

GAC: The best aspects I find where only a few manage to go. The night is a moment in which Venice / cadaver is left to the cockroaches. I remember an image: one night I was walking Arturo, my dachshund, next to Piazza San Marco and from the stairway of a church I saw loads of cockroaches, the whole staircase was black and moving, but suddenly they disappeared, returning to the cracks from which they came. The masses of people that invade Venice are like those cockroaches, it is as if they make their way to a carcass to eat it then all of a sudden they disappear into the folds of the city; like the water that fills up and then empties. At night, until dawn, Venice is calm, emptied, silent, you can still see it: the city stratified by time and shapes loses itself behind a mask.

MS: When they told you that you had been selected as one of the artists for the Italian Pavilion, did you already have an idea of what you would have brought with you before moving here? If yes, how has that changed thanks to the tide and the influence of Venice?

GAC: I had thought a little about what I would have done if they had called me one day. I wondered how I could approach the physical space that, for a few years now, has been fixed at the Arsenale, but for a long time was at the Gardens and then was also empty. They are difficult spaces because they are oversized. For me, it was interesting to make a strong, simple and symbolic gesture because even when I had taken part in the International Show in Carlo Scarpa’s Garden of Sculptures, I was interested in finding a simple dimension that had a layered reading, but at the same time, also one that everyone could understand.

MTS: Have you given a title to the work that you will present?

GAC: No, it doesn’t have a title. In reality, I have one but I don’t know yet if it will be the one I use because I must see the finished work. It’s like when a daughter is born, you have a thousand names in your head but you must see her first before you decide.

MTS: I imagine it’s difficult right now to think about what happens after, but when the work is there and you will step back from it, do you think that you will stay in Venice?

GAC: Definitely, when the Biennale ends I won’t stay in Venice and I don’t know if I will go back to Amsterdam. I would have liked to stay, also because I made a big effort to return here and to get used to it again, to find my own space here again. You can live in Venice, but not as a Venetian. Venetians don’t exist anymore.

MTS: I would like to ask you if there is something that you feel you could wholeheartedly recommend to the people who will come to Venice for the Biennale?

GAC: If it were possible, I would say to stay for fifteen days, one month, more time, not the usual two days… To try to live the city. It’s a suggestion that I would give in general, but here it becomes a necessity. An image of Venice has been created to easily sell to the herds that come here to graze, a business that facilitates the commodification of this image. This isn’t the true Venice, it is something else, but in order to see it you have to look for it, it is not found quickly, it isn’t easily caught, luckily.

MS: Is there a place in particular that you love? Is there a place where you find yourself most at home?

GAC: In the lagoon there are different places, when it’s hotter I like to be in the shallows. They are submerged places that emerge at certain times and you can walk there, like in the rice paddies, to collect clams. They are places that, luckily, can only be reached if you have a boat and if you know where to go. I think that the most beautiful places are the less accessible ones and with less accessible I mean everything that is within reach but that you don’t see because it has been disguised, like Venice.

Learn more about the Italian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Mara Sartore

  • Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Photo credits: Nuvola Ravera Giorgio Andreotta Calò, Photo credits: Nuvola Ravera
  • Untitled (Laguna Sud), Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2007, Laguna Sud, Venice, Italy Untitled (Laguna Sud), Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2007, Laguna Sud, Venice, Italy
  • Monument to the fallen, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2010, Comune di Bologna, Italy Monument to the fallen, Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2010, Comune di Bologna, Italy
  • Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 22nd july 1911 -22nd july 2011, Teatro Margherita, Bari, Italy Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 22nd july 1911 -22nd july 2011, Teatro Margherita, Bari, Italy
  • From Sunset to Sunrise ,Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2006, intervento luminoso, Torre del Parlamento,17° piano, 13/11/2005, Sarajevo, Bosnia ed Erzegovina From Sunset to Sunrise ,Giorgio Andreotta Calò, 2006, intervento luminoso, Torre del Parlamento,17° piano, 13/11/2005, Sarajevo, Bosnia ed Erzegovina
Cologne - Interviews

Art Cologne 2017: an Interview with Fair Director Daniel Hug

2 weeks ago

On the occasion of the opening of the 51st edition of Art Cologne, we interviewed fair director Daniel Hug to share with us the news of this year edition and to tell us about the German art scene and market. This year 200 globally renowned galleries will show works by around 2,000 artists.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Let’s start from the origins. How did everything begin? How was the art scene in the city by that time and how did it evolve from there?

Daniel Hug: Art Cologne was started by two galleries – Hein Stünke from Galerie Der Spiegel and Rudolf Zwirner from his namesake gallery. Stünke and Zwirner took their Inspiration from the 1966 Dokumenta, and figured why shouldn’t they organize a huge exhibition on this scale, but with the purpose of selling Art. And so the first Kunstmarkt Köln as it was called then opened in 1967 in the Guerzenich Festival Hall. From this moment on the whole art market changed as we know it. Today there are hundreds of art fairs worldwide.

C.I.: What about your role as fair director? The event is under your direction since 2008. How do you manage the overall organization?

D.H.: I have a great team like Birgitt Schnitzius and Claudia Wendel who are in charge of gallery relations, also Bettina Vonderreck and Claudia Born who are in charge of our visitors program.‎ Most importantly Benjamin Agert, our fair manager, who basically ensures that the fair comes together smoothly, gets built on time, and many others I cannot all list here.

C.I: Which are the moments that marked the fair’s more recent history?

D.H.: When my predecessor introduced the sector “Open Space” and in 2007 when he recreated the famous Kounellis Installation “12 Horses”, with twelve live Horses inside the fair.‎ In 2010, the solo show of the Belgian artist Panamarenko, our collaboration with New York’s New Art Dealers Alliance which began in 2010 and lasted until 2015, the ” Bookmarks” exhibition of Hungarian Avant Garde to post-conceptual Art from 1967 to Today in 2015, the coming cooperation and founding of the new Art Berlin fair this coming September.

C.I:. This year Art Cologne is enriched by a a young contemporary art section “Neumarkt”. Could you tell us about the new concept of this edition?

D.H.: Until last year, we have had a sector for young galleries called New Contemporaries, and a sector for curated and joint gallery projects called Collaborations, and we wanted to offer a third option to young galleries to present a solo artist presentation in slightly smaller booths, to create a new name for this new sector would have made everything much more confusing, so we decided to rebrand the entire third floor of the fair, and have all these various sectors in one hall under this new name “Neumarkt”.‎ Neumarkt will offer every possible options, combinations and configurations of booths for young galleries, it will make it possible for galleries to really customize their booths, taylor the booths to their specific needs.

C.I: This year, the fair is taking place in concomitance to the Gallery Weekend Berlin. Berlin is also inaugurating the new Art Berlin fair this September and the city has a strong influence in the art scene. Do you think that this may affect the fair’s audience attendance or damage the market in some way?

D.H.: That Art Cologne and Gallery Weekend Berlin overlap two days has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, it has attracted a lot more visitors from abroad to Germany to see the two most important events concerning the German art market. The new Art Berlin is being organized by us, Art Cologne, and the organizers of the Gallery Weekend and will improve the preexisting abc fair, into a more substantial art fair in fall for Germany. This will only strengthen both Cologne and Berlin’s roles as Germany’s most important art centers.

C.I: Opening its 51st edition, Art Cologne is the oldest international art fair and has a strong background. How does the fair changed during the years and how differs from the other fairs? What are your hopes and expectations after this edition?

D.H.: Nine years ago, when I started in Cologne, the Art Cologne was an undefined white elephant, important galleries were missing, and it was spread out over four halls, everything was mixed together, it was hard to navigate. As inspiration, I looked at what Art Cologne was like in the decade from 1985 to 1995, the highpoint of Art Cologne when it was the most important fair for contemporary art world wide. The fair you see today, is very much like it was in this important time: A dynamic mix of established and young galleries, International and German covering art of the 20th and 21st century. All other art fairs are based on this model established in Cologne in 1967, so my job was really just to refine the quality, reduce the size, move into a more suitable hall reminiscent to the old halls from that time. Art Cologne is really the classic and original model Art Fair. We do not need to reinvent this, but continue in this tradition.

Daniel Hug is the leading director of Art Cologne since 2008. Born in 1968, has Swiss-American dual citizenship and has lived most recently in Los Angeles. Notably, he is the grandson of the famous Hungarian constructivist and Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy. Having studied art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he curated a number of exhibitions between 1998 and 2001 in project rooms and art venues. During this period, he took part as a gallery director in events including Liste Basel, Art Forum Berlin and Art Chicago.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Time Drifts Cologne © Philipp Geist / VG Bildkunst 2016 Time Drifts Cologne © Philipp Geist / VG Bildkunst 2016
  • Daniel Hug, Art Cologne Fair Director Daniel Hug, Art Cologne Fair Director
Mexico City - Interviews

“Life in the Folds”: Carlos Amorales Unveils his Project for the Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

1 month ago

On the occasion of our trip to Mexico City to attend Zona Maco 2017, we interviewed Mexican artist Carlos Amorales to give us a preview of the project he will present for the Mexican Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Carlos Amorales was born in Mexico City in 1970 and in 1992 moved to Amsterdam to attend the Gerrit, then at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (1996–97). Amorales’s practice encompasses animation, drawing, installation, video, and performance; he also collaborates with professional animators, composers, designers, musicians—and even wrestlers. Having matured under the influence of both Mexican and European cultures, Amorales frequently explores the commonalities and disparities of the two milieus by juxtaposing their distinctive vocabularies. His work is also deeply personal—reflective of emotional introversion and at times obscure, it journeys into a dark world of fantasy, blurring the line between the real and the imagined.

Mara Sartore: Obviously, we would love you to talk to us about what you are preparing for the Venice Biennale, but before we get to that, let’s take a moment to talk about your artistic journey, how you began, and what your relationship with your parents was like, in this respect…

Carlos Amorales: My name is a stage name, it is the joining of the “A” of Aguirre, my father’s name, with “Morales”, my mother’s last name. This is because, otherwise, I would have had exactly the same name as my father, Carlos Aguirre. And so, being the “second” forced me to look for another name. It took some time to achieve, it was a long process of searching for an identity, then one day I thought if I put an “A” in front of Morales… And so we have Amorales… During this time of “separation” from my father I also left Mexico. At the beginning of the nineties I went to Holland to study at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and then at the Rijksakademie where I finished up in 1998. I have always had a great interest in pictures, graphics, performance and music, but what gave me the push at the beginning was to create this character called Amorales, a character through which I have been able to find my uniqueness, my distinctness. From this starting point I have begun working on different themes…
One of the central themes of my work has always been the mask. Not so much as an object in itself, but more as an object that hides and reveals at the same time. A membrane between public and private. I know that art happens in the public space, but what is behind it and what pushes its creation are almost always private matters. The masks I initially dealt with were very simple, snapshots of my daily life, of my relationships with people, then slowly I started creating other types of worlds, more artistic and imaginative ones.
When my first child was born, the pregnancy was a very intense moment for me. I took photos of his mother and these images become characters that then reappeared in my animation. I slowly started to become more interested in both the written word and in music. It was almost as if they were signs or tools that allowed me to interact with the real world.
The images became representations not so much of a fantastic or realistic world, as much as scores that had to be interpreted musically or performatively in relationship to new situations.

M.S.: What happens to the life of an artist when he discovers he has been selected to represent his country at the Venice Biennale?

C.A.: Life becomes very chaotic… hahaha… In reality, it is the second time that I have been involved in the Biennale exhibition in a national pavilion. The first time was in 2003 in the Netherlands Pavilion, as part of a collective…

M.S.: Yes, but the Netherlands is not your country…

C.A.: It’s true, this time it is very different. I am alone and in the Mexican Pavilion. I knew about the contest to participate in the selection two weeks before it closed. I had to present a project, I worked on the texts and on the prototypes to present to the commission and then I waited for a week to find out the result. As soon as I found out that I was selected, we left for Venice and started working.

M.S.:  I heard that they gave you the opportunity to choose Pablo León de la Barra as curator. Is that true?

C.A.: Yes, this time that’s how it turned out. It’s usually the curator who chooses the artists. However, there was a lot of discussion in Mexico about the fact that it had to be a curatorial or artistic project that was chosen and so, this year, that’s how it worked out. And this has given me a lot more possibilities as an artist, more liberty on how I could present my work. In Venice I will present a formal piece that I am working on, starting with paper clippings, which in the past I have developed a lot of things with: the first was a series of abstract images, an alphabet, a font, this is what I have worked on in the past few years, it was the next step after “l’archivio liquido” (the liquid archive), that was very figurative. I wanted to work on something more abstract and more typographic. Each form represents a letter. Last year I suggested this to a Mexican institution called Casa del Lago (Lake House) so that they would use it for three months, they replaced the font that they normally used, in all their programmes, with this new illegible font…

M.S.: For some time you have focused on the theme of censorship… is inventing a new language a way to take this reflection to the extreme?

C.A.: It is a way to codify content in order to be able to preserve it… a way that allows you to look after content, to preserve it and to maintain this type of freedom of expression, despite it being transformed, like when I was speaking to you about the mask: it’s as if, at times, there’s a censorship of the truth, but truth must be maintained, it must be spoken, it must be preserved, because it is important – and so ways can be found to disguise it, to preserve it… Right now, in Mexico, we are going through a difficult time, societally, and it is very hard to find a way to talk about this moment because every time you speak about it, you ignore, you accept, you don’t assume your responsibility to speak about it… Today we are experiencing a moment in time in which representations of reality are in crisis, our entire language has evolved into “over” informatin and what I am reflecting on is exactly how to find new forms to say things and to preserve them. What I want to show, in the pavilion, is actually how, through these forms, it’s possible to say something about what I feel is happening. It has been like a process of transformation of language, these elements are like the tools that are needed to make music, to depict poetry or a text. It is as an exercise of abstraction through which I have created a world, that is a figurative world of characters, trees and houses in which I tell a story…

M.S.: Will you also record a video of it? An animation?

C.A.: Yes, it is halfway between animation and film, a theatre of puppets in which I’m very interested in how the puppeteer and the musicians are shown and I like the idea; it is a story that is told by real people who bring it alive and make it work. It is not a stop-motion animation, that exists by itself, but the objects are made in the same way: if she speaks, she speaks in this language and if he responds, he responds in the same language. It is like a totally encrypted world… I really like how art can change according to where it’s on show and how people respond to it and how the culture of the people seeing it transform it.

M.S.: What is the story you are telling?

C.A.: It’s the story of a lynching – when a whole country encircles someone and lynches him – it is the story of a family of immigrants that arrive in a country and everyone starts speaking badly about them and they lynch them… This is an example of what I believe is happening here: it is a moment in which the State is becoming so weak that institutions are losing their role. This transformation that we are seeing, I don’t think it’s just a Mexican problem, it’s a global problem.

M.S.: In Europe, fear is seen as being embodied in the foreigner. In Mexico it seems to me that it’s different…

C.A.: Here it is very tied up with economic problems, or rather, what has happened here is that when Mexico was liberalised, it went back to being a factory producer that makes car parts. This has completely changed the economy and the country has begun to depopulate, creating a lot of migration of Mexicans towards the United States, the same people Trump is now building a wall to keep out. At the same time, in Mexico, an enormous, illegal industry of drug trafficking began to grow. The legal and the illegal began to mix along with the corrupt and the honest, and I believe this has produced a lot of psychoses, and I have the feeling that it will grow… for example: the price of gasoline has increased by 20%… a self-defence tactic, people create their own military groups and take the law into their own hands and go out and fight – they are not guerrillas, because they are not ideological. In Europe you have other problems but at the end of the day they are all economic and political problems.

M.S.: In Europe, a sort of psychosis is developing, a refusal of the “other”, the incapacity to live together, a loss of, but at the same time, a seeking out of a sense of community… Beginning with the manipulation of news by the media, the importance of reappropriating one’s own expressive means is more important than ever. At the heart of this there is obviously language, the primary connection with one’s own country of origin, creating a new “language” is, first of all, creating a new identity.

C.A.: Yes, what seemed interesting to me in my creative process is how, starting from a formal game, simple clippings of paper, nothing sophisticated, a universe can be created that can somehow tell a coherent story. A reaction to what is happening with the media, there is a lot of confusion: you open Facebook and you don’t understand what is true and what is not, you feel that everything is quite biased, and you see everything but only within the limits of your own political taste and this is a tendency that eliminates critical thinking at the root, that makes you see only what you want to see, because it is already preselected for you, it prevents you from seeing the other side… Therefore, I have wondered if proposing a new simple language could help to clarify…
In the end, these shapes are just forms, it depends on how you feel about them, it’s perhaps more a work about suggestion rather than assertion. I’m telling a story about a family, they could be Mexicans, they could be Africans, they could be Chinese. By using a mythical structure, you can have more universal empathy. I am not hoping that the audience sees the problem of Mexicans but perhaps a representation where everybody can feel more identified. In the discussion we had with Pablo it was clear that we didn’t want to become nationalistic. What scares me about nationalism is this tendency to look at the past, and most of these ideas are modern, they are not truly traditional. In Mexico our identity was created, for the most part, after the revolution.

M.S.: In Mexico there has been a kind of break between the revolution and contemporary Mexico… I don’t know today how much of those ideals remain. I was really struck by a piece I saw – “La Basura Social” by Orozco – a 1923 painting with the swastika already in the garbage 10 years before Hitler even climbed to power… For us Europeans, it is amazing to see that a Mexican was already seeing clearly, when, for many of us, unfortunately, it was clear only 20 years later…

C.A.: What I feel is that we must build something new. I read something recently that said that since Mexico has been part of the free trade agreement, and imports a lot of North American food, obesity has skyrocketed here. So much so that we are now the country with the second highest obesity rate in the world, after the United States. So, now that they perhaps want to put restrictions on free trade there will also be some advantages…

M.S.: Yes, I also thought about that! In Europe, we are reflecting a lot on a possible return to community, to the dimension of the polis, we are looking for ways to resolve local problems. Even if the world, by now, has become so small, in reality it is still a place of vast comparison where points of reference are easily lost, where the news of distant places affects our daily life, in which confusion between fiction and reality is growing, everything is present at the same time but generalised, globalised, and, in this context, people increasingly feel the need to return to what they can see with their own eyes, to what they can feel and touch, to concrete issues and actions…

C.A.: Yes, as an artist I also have this feeling. When I studied in Holland I was defined as an International artist and, at that time, I had the feeling that either I was an International artist, and therefore worthy of respect, or I was merely a “local” artist… Therefore, the most important thing was to see the world, to travel… But lately my needs have changed. I don’t feel the need to be considered an International artist anymore, nor to travel. I’m tired. I feel like relating to the reality that surrounds me, to my community. There are big changes happening now, we need to pay more attention, to stop and look at things more closely. For this reason I have called the show in the Pavilion “La vida en los pliegues“, a title that comes from a book of poetry by Henri Michaux. I liked this title because it represents the feeling of change that I feel. We must understand ideologies and reconsider them, call into question our way of life. We can’t stay on the path that we have traced up to now. These days everything is theatre, representation, it is almost impossible to find pragmatism and substance here nowadays…

Carlos Amorales – “Life in the Folds”
Mexican Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale

Venue: Arsenale, Sala d’Armi, Tesa B
Dates: 13 May – 26 November 2017
Opening: Thu 11 May, 11.30am
Performance: from 9 to 13 May 2017, 10am -7pm

Mara Sartore

  • Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore
  • Mara Sartore interviewing Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore Mara Sartore interviewing Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore
  • Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore Carlos Amorales in his studio. Photo by: Teresa Sartore
  • Carlos Amorales, Works for the Venice Biennale Project, Photo by: Teresa Sartore Carlos Amorales, Works for the Venice Biennale Project, Photo by: Teresa Sartore
  • Carlos Amorales, Works for the Venice Biennale Project, Photo by: Teresa Sartore Carlos Amorales, Works for the Venice Biennale Project, Photo by: Teresa Sartore
  • Carlos Amorales, The Cursed Village, 2017 (still). Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto Carlos Amorales, The Cursed Village, 2017 (still). Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto
São Paulo - Interviews

Drawing the (Hi)story: an Interview with Pilar Quinteros

1 month ago

On the occasion of our Special Issue on SP-Arte 2017, we interviewed artist Pilar Quinteros to discuss her participation to the art week and the project she’s presenting at Galeria Leme.
Chilean artist, Pilar’s practice is based on drawing as a starting point for developing actions that reconfigure public spaces and landscapes through interventions. The artist turns her attention to abandoned or destroyed places in order to promote restorations, reconstruction, replacement, or to intervene in the architectural elements of public buildings. She also looks to debris and ruins as elements of live content linked to the present.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Could you tell us about the artworks you’re showcasing for the exhibition? Which is the creative process behind this work?

Pilar Quinteros:  The work I’m presenting at Galeria Leme is titled “Amigos del Movimiento Perpetuo” (Friends of Perpetual Movement). It was developed in collaboration with curator Bruno de Almeida, for the project SITU, and produced in São Paulo, during March. It is a volumetric interpretation of the ‘Luz Railway Station’s clock tower, nine meters long, built with foam and a wooden structure and installed horizontally on the gallery’s rooftop, widely visible from the street. The work is an exercise in relating and putting together two different buildings that were, in one way or another, someplace else. Firstly, Luz Station, built at the end of the XIX century in England, was imported to Brazil by ship, supposedly after been chosen for São Paulo from an English catalog of pre-fabricated pieces; and second, Galeria Leme, first constructed two blocks away from its current location and, after being demolished and reconstructed, it is now housed in an identical building from its original one (except for an expansion in its second version).
Since the beginning of the work’s development I was very interested in the shared aspects of the history of both buildings. But at the same time, the longer I spent working on this project the more I got interested in the Station’s clock tower as a symbol. The Luz Station is one of the most emblematic buildings in São Paulo but paradoxically it has an European origin. I believe this metaphorically represents the history of our continent. And this idea becomes even more evident if we consider the clock tower as symbolically implementing a sort of global order in the form of the ‘Standard-time’ and of the time-zones system, also originated in Europe. I’m thinking all this while I’m still producing the piece, so it is a work-in-progress analysis

C.I.: Drawing is your point of departure and one of your favorite tool of exploration. Could you tell us about you practice in general? Where do you take inspiration from?

P.Q.:  As you say, my main working tool is drawing. It is the media through which I think visually, analyze and further understand a lot of things. In my videos you can see some drawings, but that’s only a fraction of my production. There are more personal drawings that represent an unknown part of my practice, but for me they are also very important because they form a sort of personal diary of my mental processes.
About my practice in general, I have recently been working after several invitations to think and see different cities that I don’t know as well as Santiago (Chile), the city I live in. That has been fun, because after a bit of research something always comes up which amazes me. Images appear and I just need to construct them. Only then I discovered what I want to do, something that is impossible to define before I have a feeling of the place. So it is always an exciting process and it ultimately becomes something urgent to do. That’s one of the main reasons why I am fully involved in the making of all my projects, even if that means I will not sleep or eat much. I always count on other people’s help though, right now at Leme with the structural construction of the piece. But generally I don’t like asking for help because I believe that whoever will help me won’t be feeling the same excitement, or the have the same urgency and dedication as myself. In the end, all of my project are very personal and give me powerful life experiences from which I learn a lot.

C.I.:  Your art mainly deals with historical issues, past and memory and you look at narrative as a powerful media through which creating new possibilities. I’m thinking to “Smoke Signals” (2016), the project you presented at the Sao Paulo Biennial. Could you tell us a bit about your concept of art and how you translate it into your work?

P.Q.:  I don’t know if I would call “translation” the exercise of thinking something and produce a work after that. It has to do with the previous question. Art for me is a way of living. It means discovering new things and shape the dimension we live in. I think History is that: an exercise in giving shape. That’s why issues related to History regularly appear in my work. History is constantly moving and changing and that flexibility is very rich. You can interpret and alter it, for better or for worst. It is another material to manipulate. “Smoke Signals” is about that, I think; it is based on a historic fact but it is simultaneously a fictional and documentary movie.

C.I.:  How is your typical day as an artist? Do you have an open studio which can be visited?

P.Q.:  This year it will be difficult to have typical days because I have a lot of travels scheduled. But I try to keep a working routine despite of that. It is hard for me to start the day, I work way better at the afternoon and during the evening, so in the mornings I do ‘mechanical work’, like answering emails, having meetings, going to the bank, stuff like that. When I’m in Santiago and Sebastián is too (my husband, also an artist), we like to cook and have lunch together before spending the afternoon working in our personal projects. We have small studios on opposites sides of our apartment. While Seba is listening to music out loud I generally work in silence, because the noise from the street already is enough distraction. In the evening I go out with Seba or we just eat junk food at home, ahaha. I ride my bike every day.
About studio visit, yes, sometimes people come to our apartment. They have to give me prior notice otherwise they could get me on my pijamas!

C.I.: Having participated to the Sao Paulo Biennial, you might have been engaged to the city art scene. Which is your impression of the contemporary art scene? Do you think it is a stimulating place for an artist to live?

P.Q.:  As far as I have seen, the art scene here is very diverse and active. There are a lot of artists working, as well as a lot of galleries and exhibition spaces. I feel there is a powerful will to invent and produce new projects. It is very stimulating. I hope I can return to São Paulo for a longer period of time.

C.I.: Any new project you’re working on so far?

P.Q.: I have several projects for this year. Next week I will travel to Newport Beach, California to produce a video for the California-Pacific Triennial. Then I will work in two other videos in Chile and on a solo show in Santiago. There is also a trip to Ireland in between.

Pilar Quinteros was born in 1988 in Santiago, Chile. She holds a BA from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (2011), where she has worked over the past few years as a teaching assistant and started exhibiting in 2010. The artist received the 2012 Jean Claude Reynal Scholarship from the Fondation de France and the Fine Arts Museum of Bordeaux. She also participated to the 32nd Sao Paulo Biennial with the project “Smoke Signal”.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Pilar Quinteros, Oopart, 2016. Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Oopart, 2016. Courtesy of the artist
  • Pilar Quinteros, Lago Bulo, 2016. Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Lago Bulo, 2016. Courtesy of the artist
  • Pilar Quinteros, Smoke Signals, 2016. Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Smoke Signals, 2016. Courtesy of the artist
  • Pilar Quinteros, Cathedral of Freedom, 2015. Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Cathedral of Freedom, 2015. Courtesy of the artist
  • Pilar Quinteros, Work in Progress, Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Work in Progress, Courtesy of the artist
  • Pilar Quinteros, Work in Progress, Courtesy of the artist Pilar Quinteros, Work in Progress, Courtesy of the artist
Athens - Interviews

Athens from an Artist’s Perspective: an Interview with Angelo Plessas

1 month ago

On the occasion of our Special Issue dedicated to documenta14 in Athens, we interviewed artist Angelo Plessas (born in 1974, based in Athens) to share with our readers his perspective on the city’s art scene.

Angelo is one of the participating artists of this edition of documenta and is having two group shows in the city: “Si Sedes Non Is” at The Breeder and “Deste Prize: An Anniversary Exhibition 1999-2015” at the Museum of Cycladic Arts.
A self-taught artist and a college drop out, Angelo’s main body of work consists of websites. He is the founder and curator of The Eternal Internet Brotherhood, a collaborative annual residency/ summit/ project realised in different parts of the world (Anafi, 2012, Xilitla, 2013, Dead Sea, 2014).

The artist is also exhibiting at the 57th Venice Biennale within the HyperPavilion, a large-scale contemporary art exhibition situated on the Northern side of the Arsenale di Venezia in three historical warehouses, amounting to 3000m2.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Let’s start with your participation in documenta 14. Could you tell us a bit about the project you will be presenting on this occasion?

Angelo Plessas: First, I am organising two residency programmes which both happen before the official openings of Athens and Kassel. Then, when documenta 14 opens, I will have post-experiences of these two residencies inside the venues: the Fine Art School of Athens and the Workshop factory in Kassel.
The Athens part of the project is a residency called Experimental Education Protocol  and it has already happened in Delphi with people I invited and shortlisted students from the Athens Fine Art School. This residency is an alternative educational model taking place each time in a different place and is structured around experiential and communal learning. Each time it refers to a specific case study which is combined with a person and a place to generate different educational scenarios. The case study for the Delphi edition was my neighbor and friend Maria Zamanou-Mickelson who recently confided in me she was a World War II spy. Ms. Mickelson was “reading” aircrafts during the German occupation and was giving answers for wars  to the Allied Forces in the same manner that Pythia of Delphi was reading the movement of birds and giving omens and predictions.
The second residency programme is called the Eternal Internet Brotherhood/Sisterhood  which will happen at the end of April/beginning of May. I have been doing this residency independently since 2012. My guests and I will be hosted in a commune outside of Kassel in a Paleolithic setting in nature. This residency is about the liberating potential of technology and presents different scenarios of labour and leisure, from post-capitalist dreams of universal communalism to local particularisms of all kinds. For this edition, I am inspired by Hercules park in Kassel, as well, which is all based on Greek mythology.
In both installations, I will show material from both programmes including my case studies, the persons and the places using archival material, interviews, self-published books all produced for the occasion. In addition, I will also include other participants’ work and collaborations involving 5 local communes of Kassel that have been invited. I want both installations to act like promotional stands but also nostalgic memoirs from each case study, journey and experience.

C.I: On this occasion you are also having a group exhibition with The Breeder gallery. Which artworks are on show? Could you tell us about the creative process behind these works?

A.P.: I am doing a series of Malismans as neon sculptures for the show, which is curated by Milovan Farronato. I have made thirteen symbols that should be considered both sacred and powerful, the same way talismans are. They resemble something between unicode and early Cycladic and Mesopotamian symbols. These Malismans are curses to save mankind as obviously our civilisation is moving towards dark times. We are governed by the wrong structures and people who are leading us into total chaos. These Malismans intend to reverse energies backwards to the exterior  and are “dedicated” to those who wish to do bad things and create the following: 1. Extinction 2. Oppression 3. Recession 4. Segregation 5. Εxhaustion 6. Corruption 7. Aggression 8. Desperation 9. Degradation 10. Rejection 11. Destitution 12. Intimidation 13. Depression. Come and stare at them and a metaphysical action can happen to your enemy.

C.I: Your art deals with concepts of freedom and identity within the context of social media and the internet. Could you tell us more about this idea and how you translate it in your artwork?

A.P.:  My work goes way beyond the context of the Internet and not just how the Internet has changed each one of us or how we express ourselves nowadays. It’s more about structural alternatives as we are wrestling with the implications of all of the above. Does our current post-technological life shift our perceptions, weaken or strengthen our attachments, stimulate or restrict our participation? The ever-evolving Internet is “constructively entangled” within our society? Through an exploration of these questions, my goal is to create more participatory, direct and inclusive art ranging from websites, residency programmes, written statements, self-produced publications, happenings and performances.

C.I: This year, documenta is taking over two different locations, Kassel and Athens, the city you belong to. What are your hopes and expectation as an artist for the city?

A.P.: Although deeply atmospheric opposites, Kassel and Athens are interesting and risky interactions. I don’t know if there is any “prescription” about the future though. I don’t know if Athenians expect some sort of Marshal plan, although d14 has been generous both financially and creatively  to the artists and also to the local institutions. We already had an amazingly rich cultural dissemination of queer, feminist and direct democracy issues through the Public Programmes of Paul Preciado and his team. I think we Athenians are winning by having documenta 14 shared with Kassel because we will enrich our experience of creating art in critical contexts in a society that, until recently, was diffused with a big sense of failure and inferiority.

C.I.: This is a special year for you as you’re also participating in the Venice Biennale with an intervention within the HyperPavilion at Arsenale Nord. Could you tell us something about the project you’re developing?

A.P.: I am showing a piece called MonumentGenerator.com which is all based on the idea that we live in a time when the memory of significant events expires in a few days, at most weeks. We are Paris, we are Berlin, then suddenly we love Zaha. Gone are the days of physical monuments commemorating temporalities, gone is any kind of long term memory, today it’s hashtags and profile pic filters that get boring really quickly. MonumentGenerator.com, click and a monument is there, click again and it’s replaced by the next.

C.I: Could you tell us about your relationship with the city? What do you think about the contemporary art scene in Athens? Do you think it is a stimulating place for an artist to live?

A.P.: Yes, if you don’t expect financial gains here, it’s definitely the most interesting place for cultural practitioners. There is plenty of inspiration, space, it’s cheap. It’s more human and fun, with great food, plenty of things to discover. I think the mental sanity of the artist is very important. I don’t know how artists can live in places like New York, London or even Berlin these days. And, of course, everybody prefers the mild winter of Athens to the freezing temperatures of other European cities. The remaining contemporary art scene is ok, it is starting to realise that it didn’t make a mistake by not moving out, because the idea was to move out, which I found totally wrong from the beginning. Some people are getting a bit mad about the influx of new artists in town but I just find it great. I advise people who want to move here to come here and work, hang out in the sun and help the Greek economy.

C.I: Could you tell us 5 five places you would suggest to someone who loves art and to those coming to Athens for the exhibition?

A.P.: Apart from the documenta venues I would suggest taking a walk to Mount Lycabettus to get an idea of the scale of the city. From there, take a walk towards the Deste Prize retrospective exhibition at the Cycladic Art Museum – a show with all the previous Deste Prize winners. The museum itself has an amazing permanent collection of Ancient Cycladic Art. Of course head to The Breeder which is one of the few remaining commercial galleries with an international activity Although we are in difficult times it still exists and offers an International perspective on Greek artists. Then I would suggest the artist-run space 3 137 in Eksarheia that always has something interesting and then head towards the beach and let yourself discover the chaotic Athenian urban sprawl.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Angelo Plessas © Stathis Mamalakis Angelo Plessas © Stathis Mamalakis
  • Angelo Plessas, Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood: (1-3), installation view at Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Deste Prize, 2015, Athens Angelo Plessas, Eternal Internet Brother/Sisterhood: (1-3), installation view at Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art, Deste Prize, 2015, Athens
  • Angelo Plessas, Mirage Machines, installation view at The Breeder, Athens, 2015 Angelo Plessas, Mirage Machines, installation view at The Breeder, Athens, 2015
  • Angelo Plessas, Mirage Machines, installation view at The Breeder, Athens, 2015 Angelo Plessas, Mirage Machines, installation view at The Breeder, Athens, 2015
  • Angelo Plessas, Fauna Magica, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and The Breeder Angelo Plessas, Fauna Magica, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and The Breeder
Milan - Interviews

Francesco Vezzoli: Milan from an Artist’s Perspective

2 months ago

On the occasion of our Special Issue dedicated to miart and Milan Art and Design weeks, we interviewed artist Francesco Vezzoli. Living and working in Milan, the artist shares with us his perspective on the contemporary art scene of the city and guide us through its main cultural attractions. The artist has just presented his new exhibition with Fondazione Prada “TV70: Francesco Vezzoli guarda la Rai“, on view from May 9 until 24 September 2017.

Francesco Vezzoli’s work explores power of contemporary popular culture. By closely emulating formats of various media, such as advertising and film, he addresses ongoing preoccupations with the fundamental ambiguity of truth, the seductive power of language, and the instability of the human persona. These include a trailer for a remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula” (2005), starring Vidal himself, Helen Mirren, and Courtney Love; an advertising campaign directed by Roman Polanski for “Greed”, a fictitious perfume; and elaborate, site–specific performances inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luigi Pirandello, and Salvador Dalí that have featured superstars like Catherine Deneuve, Cate Blanchett, and Lady Gaga. Though Vezzoli employs a diverse and varying array of media, needlepoint as remained a signature technique from the outset of his career. Initially emulating famous actors who practiced needlepoint on and off–screen—from Vicente Minelli to Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, and Greta Garbo—as time went on, it became a more profound and contemplative activity which he referred to as a world of feelings, crises, obsessions and depressions historically unified with the craft.

Mara Sartore: During the presentation of TV70 exhibition, one of the questions you were posed was “what does your artwork consist of” and your reply was: “it is the dialectic between the Prada Foundation and the Rai.” Could you explain what this means exactly?

Francesco Vezzoli: Behind this answer lies an ambitious attempt to get involved in some real politics, by comparing two realities that are structurally different and trying to ensure that one enriches the other. It’s obvious that the Prada Foundation and the Rai are two different entities. To get them to start talking has been and still is an ambitious undertaking. In addition, I find this matter more interesting than discussing the meaning of a work by a specific artist, as art historians do: I don’t make that my focus because I am neither a curator nor an art historian; rather, I define myself as a crazy visionary who wants to try to do new things.

M.S: I find it quite common now that many artists curate shows, do you think there is a crisis of the role of the curator or that it’s important to show a different, more personal point of view?

F.V: I believe that, in reality, it is the contrary, or rather, that the curator retains a lot of power, just like the art market does, to the disadvantage of the artist, who is crushed between these two entities.

M.S: Cinema has played a fundamental role in your artistic career. What does the relationship between cinema and art mean to you? Recently you said that you don’t feel like dealing with film divas anymore, but that you would rather deal with the ones in the art world like Yoko Ono or Marina Abramovic. A new star system has been created in the realm of contemporary art…

F.V: Yes, by now it is clear that a lot of artists, from a commercial point of view, are very successful and they often earn almost more than actors. There is an enormous financial system around art. Sadly, art and cinema tend to resemble each other in their reliance on this “never ending red carpet” atmosphere.

M.S: In a recent interview you declared that one of the greatest challenges for an artist is comparing oneself to history and here I return to the “TV70” show, for which I imagine you will have watched hours and hours of old archival material. What is the most radical change that you have seen between the Italy of the 1970s and the Italy of today?

F.V: I find that rather than being poor, our nation is depressed, a condition that isn’t always necessarily to economics. A strong feeling of discouragement is in the air, while in years that were objectively worse, there was optimism, a greater power of ideas. We certainly can’t say that this is the worst moment in Italy’s history, despite the media declaring this very idea almost every day. I don’t think that anybody can argue with me that 2017 is not the worst historical moment that Italy has seen. Without needing to return to the era of fascism, all it takes is to think about the civil war of the 1970s… there is no comparison, we had a separated nation, made up of violence, abductions, conflicting ideologies. But there was courage, there was energy. Today I find that, at times, this energy is somehow missing, without obviously meaning to disrespect anybody who is facing real financial hardship.

M.S: Do you think that the country’s situation is also reflected in Milan?

F.V: I’ll talk to you about Milan in my own way: I believe that Milan is one of the most interesting cities in the world, first of all because it is a metaphoric city. I mean to say that the best Italy that we have to offer is the Italy of fashion, of design, of creativeness and Milan is the city where Italy shows off her absolute values and where the industry of these values is forged. Young professionals come to study, to work and to show off their work in Milan. Milan is the only city that becomes a central hub in two specific times of the year: this happens during fashion week and during design week, when the creative industries attract professionals from all sectors to the city from all over the world. A city that lives solely on creative industries is really special, almost miraculous. In the last 20 years I have lived in a lot of cities, among them London, where I studied, Paris, New York, Los Angeles because I thought that these places could enrich me. In the past 3 or 4 years I have re-established myself here, because today I believe that Milan serves this purpose for me. I want to enrich myself by also studying my roots.

M.S: A personal note: are there some places in Milan where you like to go and that you would want to recommend?

F.V: I would recommend art spaces because in Milan, with a quick ride with uber, in a taxi, on a streetcar or by bike, you can see Museo del Novecento, Fondazione Prada, Hangar Bicocca, Fondazione Prada Osservatorio, Villa Necchi, Casa Boschi… Milan is still a livable city, it’s not just how many museums a city has that makes it special but also the distance between them. Today, with high speed trains, in a few hours it’s possible to visit the artistic treasures of Venice – Milan – Turin that far outnumber the museums in America.

M.S: A last personal suggestion to people visiting Milan, what should they absolutely not miss?

F.V: A visit to the roof of the Duomo.

Mara Sartore

  • Francesco Vezzoli. Photo credits: Matthias Vriens Francesco Vezzoli. Photo credits: Matthias Vriens
  • Artwork on show at TV70. Gianni Pettena, Applausi, 1968. Courtesy of the artist Artwork on show at TV70. Gianni Pettena, Applausi, 1968. Courtesy of the artist
  • Artwork on show at TV70. Libera MazzoleniLuca, 2-49, 1977, Photo: Claudia Cataldi, Prato. Courtesy Frittelli Arte Contemporanea, Firenze Artwork on show at TV70. Libera MazzoleniLuca, 2-49, 1977, Photo: Claudia Cataldi, Prato. Courtesy Frittelli Arte Contemporanea, Firenze
  • Raffaella Carrà, Canzonissima, 1970. Courtesy Rai Teche Raffaella Carrà, Canzonissima, 1970. Courtesy Rai Teche
  • Francesco Vezzoli, Museo Museion, Bolzano, 2016 Francesco Vezzoli, Museo Museion, Bolzano, 2016
Hong Kong - Interviews

Samson Young: Hong Kong From an Artist’s Perspective

2 months ago

Samson Young (b.1979) is an artist and composer based in Hong Kong. Young’s diverse practice draws from the avant-garde compositional traditions of aleatoric music, musique concrète, and graphic notation. Behind each project is an extensive process of research, involving a mapping of the process through a series of ‘sound sketches’ and audio recordings. His drawing, radio broadcasting, performance and composition touch upon the recurring topics of conflict, war and political frontiers.
Young was the inaugural winner of the BMW Art Journey Award at Art Basel Hong Kong 2015. His recent solo projects include Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (2015); Team Gallery, New York (2015); Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); Experimenter, India (2016); and Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (2016).
As a practising musician, Young is the member of multiple bands and has collaborated with ensembles and orchestras worldwide. He has participated in international music and performing art festivals including Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt; Fusebox Festival, Austin; New York Electronic Art Festival, New York; Tonlagen Festival, Dresden; Transart Festival, Bolzano; and MONA FOMA Festival of Music and Art.

Claudia Malfitano: Could you tell us about your relationship with Hong Kong and what does it mean for an artist to live here?

Samson Young: Hong Kong is where I was born and raised. My attachment to the city is a natural one. I enjoy Hong Kong as a base to work out of. Everyone complains about the rent, but food is still relatively affordable. And fabrication costs are lower in this part of the world.

C.M.: Your education revolves around music and sound, how is your practice evolving now in regards to sound and music?

S.Y.: It has been an organic process. I started out as a straight-down-the-centre composer. Before leaving for the US to attend Graduate School I came back to Hong Kong to work for a couple of years. I met some artists from other disciplines and we formed an artist collective called “Emergency Lab”. We made a lot of multidisciplinary work together, but when I left the city for Graduate School, I lost these collaborators. I figured that it was easier to learn to do things myself than to find new collaborators. My practice sort of just branched out from there.

C.M.: Who are your favorite artists of all time? Are there any contemporary colleagues you look at with particular admiration?

S.Y.: There really isn’t a favourite but I am naturally drawn to artists who are also musicians or who started out as musicians, like for example Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, and John Cage of course.

One day in Hong Kong with Samson Young.

To explore Hong Kong start from the Southern District. Here you will be able to find many of interesting galleries mainly in Aberdeen like Empty Gallery, Spring Workshop and Floating Projects and some artist studios (South Island Artists Studio Visits). Although it’s being gentrified really quickly. For this reason I’m suggesting you explore this area before all the interesting spaces move away.
For lunch I would move back to Causeway Bay, in this area there are plenty of nice restaurants, I would just drop by Tsui Wah. It sounds incredibly basic but I actually really like going there. After lunch I would move to the eastern part of the Island towards Quarry Bay where you should visit Para/site first, then in North Point area don’t miss Oi!  art space.
After this your next stop should be Foo Tak building in Wanchai, where you will find many artist studios and creative spaces. It’s best to start with Art and Culture Outreach (ACO) on level 14. Speak to the friendly staff at the bookstore there – they should be able to give you suggestions for which studios to check out.
By now it should already be dinner time, there is a place I would recommend, it’s Lei Garden. There are several Lei Garden Restaurants in Hong Kong, but the one in Tsim Sha Tsui East is the best by far (be careful though there’s another one in Tsim Sha Tsui, make sure you go to the right one). It’s quite hard to find – it’s in the basement of a super quiet mall that nobody really goes to, and the decor is super 1990s.
After dinner, there is a kind of obvious place to go where a lot of artists like to hang out, Club 71 in Central. It’s tucked away in a back street and next to a small public rest area. It’s really hard to find, and super down to earth. No loud music. It’s the default meeting place for a lot of creative types.

Learn more about Samson Young through our interviews with the artists:

For Whom the Bell Tolls, an interview with Samson Young

If this rings any bell to you: an interview with Samson Young

Claudia Malfitano

  • Samson Young, Portrait. Photo credits: Dennis Man Wing Leung. Courtesy of the artist Samson Young, Portrait. Photo credits: Dennis Man Wing Leung. Courtesy of the artist
  • Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist
  • Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist
  • Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist Samson Young, A Dark Theme Keeps me here. I'll make a Broken Music. Exhibition view at Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, Photo Credits: Simon Vogel. Courtesy of the artist
Dubai & Sharjah - Interviews

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi: Dubai and Sharjah through a Collector’s Perspective

2 months ago

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a United Arab Emirates-based columnist whose articles have appeared in many international magazines like: The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, as well as other notable publications.
Sultan is also a prominent commentator on Arab affairs on Twitter. Rising in prominence during the Arab Spring, his tweets became a major news source, rivaling the major news networks at the time, until TIME magazine listed him in the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.” Sultan is an MIT Media Labs Director’s Fellow, and also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative established to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region.
In the first quarter of 2017 Barjeel Art Foundation will inaugurate exhibitions at the Institut du monde arabe in Paris, Yale University Art Gallery in the US and the National Gallery of Jordan in Amman.

Mara Sartore: What was the inspiration to start collect modern/contemporary art?

Sooud Al Qassemi: I had studied in Paris where I visited numerous exhibitions, some of which were drawn from private collectors. I wanted to replicate that experience for visitors to the UAE and to expand knowledge of Arab art.

M.S.: You collect different artists and media, who do you think are the most promising artists from the UAE today?

S. A-Q: There are plenty including Jumairy and Alia Lootah who are Emirati but also non-citizen artists like Saif Mhaisen and Lantian Xie, Sara Al Haddad and Vikram Divecha, the latter three are representing the UAE at Venice this year.

M.S.: Works from your collection have been on display at the Whitechapel gallery in London for a while now, how is Middle Eastern art perceived in Europe?

S. A-Q: “Imperfect Chronology” was a super hit of a show, it lasted over 16 months and it attracted more than 300,000 visitors. There was immense interest, it might be one of the most impactful exhibitions we ever put up.

M.S.: Do you think that the UAE and other countries in the Gulf will keep growing in terms of presence and importance in the contemporary art world?

S. A-Q: Yes all countries in the Gulf have recognised the importance the of culture and its impact on the economy including in luring tourists. We now have Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait building major museums along side their sister Gulf states.

M.S.: You have a strong presence on social media platforms, what do you think is the role of social media in the discovery of new artists?

S. A-Q: Instagram and Facebook have become indispensable tools in discovering new artists. Because of potential censorship or sensitivity of artistic themes many artists choose to show their work on social media rather than sell to galleries due to sensitivity of the topic.

M.S.: What’s in the radar of the Barjeel Art Foundation for the future?

S. A-Q: We have three exhibitions coming up in the US, at Yale University Art Gallery, the Hessel Museum of Bard College and the American University in Washington DC art gallery. We also have exhibitions coming up at the Institut du Monde arabe in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Amman, Jordan and in our Sharjah space. We are in discussion with a number of museums around the world for future shows.

One day in Sharjah with Sultan Al Qassemi.
Sooud has designed for us an artistic itinerary around the main cultural art space in Sharjah.

In Sharjah one should visit Sharjah Art Foundation Spaces. The Maraya Art Center and Barjeel Art Foundation  are on two floors in the same building in Al Qasba. A visit to the Flying Saucer Building is also very interesting. You can start at Al Qasba and go to Maraya and Barjeel Art Foundation, followed by a bite to eat at Shababeek restaurant for lunch. Alternatively, one can have lunch at Al Maskoof Restaurant  on Mareija Street, which serves great grilled fish from Iraq, after which they can take a 10 minute walk to Sharjah Art Foundation Spaces.
Ratios cafe at Souq Al Shanasiyah is a nice place to enjoy a good cup of coffee before moving on to the next place. Al Majaz Waterfront is a great place to have dinner, as the area also has art installations by Maraya Art Center. Design 1971 on Flag Island is worth a visit. Jones the Grocer  recently opened there as well, if one fancied some good coffee and food.
Sharjah is wonderful to drive around in at night, the city comes alive with people from all walks, along with Sharjah’s unique mix of old and new architecture.

 

Mara Sartore

  • Sooud Al Qassemi Sooud Al Qassemi
  • Sharjah Art Museum. Photo Credits: Christina Dimitrova Sharjah Art Museum. Photo Credits: Christina Dimitrova
  • Sharjah Art Museum Sharjah Art Museum
  • Sharjah Foundation Sharjah Foundation
Madrid - Interviews

More than Human: an Interview with Tomás Saraceno

3 months ago

On the occasion of our Focus on ARCOmadrid we interviewed artist Tomas Saraceno.
Tomás Saraceno was born in 1973 in Tucumán, Argentina and he lives and works in Berlin. Tomás Saraceno’s oeuvre is an ongoing research, a mixture of studies of art, architecture, natural sciences, astrophysics and engineering; his floating sculptures, community projects and interactive installations propose and explore new, sustainable ways of inhabiting and sensing the environment.

In 2015, Saraceno achieved the world record for the first and longest certified fully-solar manned flight. During the past decade, he has initiated collaborations with renowned scientific institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Max Planck Institute, the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, and the Natural History Museum London.  He was the first person to scan, reconstruct and reimagine spiders’ weaved spatial habitats, and possesses the only three-dimensional spider web collection to existence. 

Carla Ingrasciotta: Your oeuvre is a mix of the worlds of architecture, natural sciences, astrophysics and engineering. How did you end into art? Could you tell us a bit about your background?

Tomás Saraceno: In my practice I enjoy merging things coming from different realities engage to enlarge the community linked to contemporary art. I try to explore unknown territories to find possible new way of understanding our futures.

C.I.:  “Cloud Cities” is one of your biggest project and it is strongly related to the sustainable development of the human living environment. Could you tell us about the process of creation of this artwork and about your practice in general?

T.S.: In my artwork I always take into consideration not only the human environment but also the surrounding environments which are related to us. It’s a matter of being aware of this strict relationship: I think that there is a specific interaction between human and nature and we should start to be aware about the relationship and explore how we interact with different realities, how we influence each other in our relation with the sun, the earth, the cosmos, the spiders, the heat, the cosmic dust. We need to enlarge our perspective of human and “more than human” worlds. We need to discover the links among these realties, observe. compose and build.

C.I.: Could you explain how did you create the artwork?

The artwork we are going to present during ARCO will be the perfect example of how we work and perform. We are showcasing the process of creation of spider webs, we will give space to spiders to work. We will show that and make people look at the spider webs. We have been working on this project for years. We move a hybrid spider web into some sort of fog, a cloud of cosmic dust, to discover and see how this structure is made.

In this specific project for ARCO, we will showcase the result of a collaboration between two different species, investigating the factors that inform the way of building these incredible structures, such as dust, air and other natural elements.

C.I.: This year, ARCO Madrid is giving to the art scene of Argentina a special platform and you’ve been selected as one of the representative artists. Could you tell us about your participation to the fair and the project you will be presenting?

T.S.: Among others, the project also deals with “Cloud Cities”, through which we are exploring the idea of floating in the space, traveling to different places. We are trying to enlarge the understanding of the world from different point of view including perspectives coming from biology, engineering, astrophysics … It’s really important to understand the world from different points of view: from archeology, philosophy, to informatics and technology (see my collaboration with MIT). This is the way to reimagine how many links connect each other.

C.I.: And what about your engagement within the Argentinian art scene?

T.S.: We are having a new exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires in Argentina and I’m very keen on going back and collaborate with different artists, and with the people we have been working together. I’m curious and happy to be back home and see how we could reinforce certain aspects within the Argentinian contemporary art scene.

C.I.: How is it like working with such a big team as yours? Could you tell us about your life in the studio? How is your typical daily routine?

T.S.: We all have different backgrounds and our stories overlap one another. It’s really nice to see how differently we see and perceive each other’s pieces. We often merge our works and sometimes incredible artworks come up with unexpected and surprising results. Some of these objects are kind of magical…sometimes we just let things happen inside our community

C.I.: Do you feel more like an artist, a dreamer or a scientific researcher? Do you think that these roles can coexist?

T.S.: Yes, I think so and this happens many times. Art has the power to extend our way of feeling the world. You never know what is really an artwork. To me, anything that evokes something we are engaged to, can be considered an artwork. There are many possibilities to enter a conversation and freely choose what is art for them. Anybody can be an artist, anyone who is part of an artistic discourse. That’s why we should redefine what art is: it’s not just a matter of curators, museums, galleries …is more a matter of diversity.

C.I.: Could you tell us about the new themes you are going to explore in the future?

T.S.: The project I will be presenting at MAMBA is particularly fascinating: we are investigating on the cosmic dust, the multitude of particles that compose the planet Earth.We will give this element a voice, we will play music according to its movement within the exhibition space, we will investigate on the visitors’ experience of breathing it,touching and feeling it.The movement of the particles will produce different sounds depending on the visitors interaction with them: sometimes it will come up as a cacophony, sometimes as a jam session. It’s interesting to see the various results produced. Visitors will become composers, part of the installations itself. Each user will create a complex relationship with this artwork. This is a compassionate way of engaging the artwork and it will be a new way of understanding and be aware of how much we are part of an ecosystem. And since I’m an artist, I’m trying to do artistic practice in an ecological way, but considering not only environmental, but also social and mental ecologies.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Tomas Saraceno © Alfred Weidinger, 2015 Tomas Saraceno © Alfred Weidinger, 2015
  • Tomás Saraceno, The Endless Series, 2006. The photographs were taken at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia with the support of Barbican Art Gallery. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2006 Tomás Saraceno, The Endless Series, 2006. The photographs were taken at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia with the support of Barbican Art Gallery. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2006
  • Tomás Saraceno Aerocene, launches in White Sands (NM, United States), 2015. Courtesy the artist; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Tanya Bonakdar, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2015 Tomás Saraceno Aerocene, launches in White Sands (NM, United States), 2015. Courtesy the artist; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Tanya Bonakdar, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2015
  • Tomás Saraceno Aerocene, 2015 During the oceanographic expedition to Solomon Islands upon the invitation of TBA21 Academy. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno and TBA21, 2015 Tomás Saraceno Aerocene, 2015 During the oceanographic expedition to Solomon Islands upon the invitation of TBA21 Academy. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno and TBA21, 2015
  • Tomás Saraceno 32SW/Stay green/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, 2007 Installation view, Lyon Biennale. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2007 Tomás Saraceno 32SW/Stay green/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, 2007 Installation view, Lyon Biennale. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, 2007
  • Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene 10.4 & 15.3, 2015. Installation view, Grand Palais, Paris. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2015 Tomás Saraceno, Aerocene 10.4 & 15.3, 2015. Installation view, Grand Palais, Paris. Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen; Pinksummer contemporary art, Genoa; Esther Schipper, Berlin. © Photography by Tomás Saraceno, 2015