Turin - Interviews

Anri Sala on AS YOU GO and The Spaces in Between

21 hours ago

We interviewed artist Anri Sala (Tirana, 1974) on the occasion of the exhibition AS YOU GO, designed for the spaces on the third floor of  Castello di Rivoli, the project presents three interwoven film works: Ravel, Ravel (2013), Take Over (2017) and If and only if (2018). The films unfold in the form of a “parade,” with a flow of moving images and multiple narratives which create a unique and gigantic sculpture in movement.

Lara Morrell: The title of the exhibition AS YOU GO alludes to something in motion. By composing separate works one after another, like you have in this show, how are they transformed? 

Anri Sala: I see the exhibition as a parade of sorts, merging aspects of a walkway with qualities of a conveyor belt. The visitor may choose to either stick to one place and let the exhibition pass by in front of them or to walk along with the pace of the work or to go faster or by going with or against the flow. I was also interested that it induce a feeling of Déjà vu against a feeling of ubiquity and omnipresence in time, as well as a feeling of repetition, but also that of progress.

In terms of the relationship between the distinct works; I did not edit the films as such but installed them so that they move along each other, I was interested in how they approach or catch up with one other and how one film leaves behind another film. In the case of Ravel Ravel, which stages the films of two different pianists (Louis Lortie and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet) playing the Concerto in D for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel, you have one pianist pass by behind the lead of the other pianist and then leave the room until it reappears again. The whole piece is about a shifting interval and temporal lag between the two pianists but this space of difference, once temporal, translates into a spacial interval, as the distance between the two films increases before it decreases again. The exhibition in general is very much about making the intervals visible, by inducing the impression of an echo.

LM: Visitors are welcomed with the piece Bridges in the Doldrums (2016), which definition of the word Doldrum does this title refer to? The equatorial area of the Atlantic Ocean where direction is suspended or a state of depression? Regarding Bridges what is it about this specific transition period in a song that you were drawn to?

AS: I’m referring to the definition of Doldrums in terms of the weather condition, the state of stagnation that usually recedes a climatic depression, the moment when things are still and it is uncertain when a change will come. Bridges on the other hand refers to the transitional part of song, when nearing its end, just after the verse and just before the last chorus, leading to the coda. I find this interesting musically, because usually it creates a moment of alienation and suspense, for example if the songs slow usually the bridge is twice as fast or if the song is fast the bridge is usually twice as slow, producing a moment of alienation which makes the listener more aware of what has been heard before, making him more present in the song, attracting ones attention whilst also suspending ones expectation. You think you have a sense of a song but then the bridge arrives and leads you in another direction before bringing you home in the end, back to the chorus and to a sense of familiarity. I find this moment of suspension very daring, it is very difficult to write a bridge for a song and as such they are a species in extinction nowadays.

        For this piece I worked together with a friend of mine Andre Vida, we selected around 75 songs coming from very different genres, epochs and geographies. They have been arranged one after the other according to their BPM, so there is an ever increasing sense of speed and pace in the installation and music, the fact that one of these bridges do not lead us to the chorus of their own songs but to the bridge of another song leaves one in a state of never-ending alienation. Some of these bridges come from unknown or lesser known songs whilst others come from very well known songs. In the case of the bridges from well known songs, for instance a bridge that comes from a Beatles, David Bowie orMadonna song, by the fact that they are well known and are followed by lesser known songs , they consequently become like a chorus because all of a sudden one recognises them and this produces a sense of anchorage, an escape from this ever transitional space.

LM: Could you tell me more about the interactions between the two Anthems, the Marseillaise and the Internationale in Take Over and their connotations? Also the machine versus human agency dichotomy? 

AS: They have a common political and cultural history, for 17 years the lyrics of the Internationale, when they were written in 1871, were set to the tune of the Marseillaise, until 1888 when its original music was composed. So for 17 years one sang the Internationale with the melody of the Marseillaise, which means that when the music of the Internationale was finally composed, the melody of the Marseillaise was already engraved in people’s memory.

The starting point that interested me most was how both anthems have drifted on the political landscape, floating across history with an ever changing symbolic significance and an evolving identity. Feelings towards them depends very much on the subjectivity of the listener and the viewer.

In regards to the machine versus human agency, there are two elements; the human pianist alongside a self playing piano. So the piano becomes the playing field where some notes are played by the piano itself and sometimes they are played by the hands of the Pianist, so there is a dichotomy between Marseillaise and the Internationale and human player versus the self playing machine. 

LM: Both in Take Over and Ravel Ravel the keyboard is the central visual player, what does the visual architecture of the keyboard represent to you?

AS: The length of piano keyboard represents at 360 degrees the Western imagination of musical sound, it represents its whole horizon, in terms of classical music it is encapsulated there. The piano is the architecture par excellence of the western imagination of musical sound, but when it comes to Take Over there is a whole part where the piano is playing by itself, before one becomes aware that there is a human presence, there are a couple of minutes where all the notes of the keyboard play at once in a cluster, then eventually some of them start playing in blocks, then singularly, then clusters that start to break down and you see some of these blocks moving up and down, alluding to a city skyline or a landscape of peaks and valleys; the architecture of the keyboard.

LM: If and Only seems to focus on the collaboration between human and non-human and the transformation of music as an outcome. What does the role of the Snail emphasise in the music?

I don’t think it emphasise anything particularly in the music, the music is the matter in the making and in the becoming. The very presence of the snail and its weight (which appears to be non existent) makes a difference to the playing of the music, before it can even be seen as a metaphor it is a real thing, its presence is there in the music. To me this a lot like a road movie, a film about a journey, not only that of the snail but that of the listener as it listens to the music of the Elegy. The Elegy of the snail helps elongate the Elegy so it becomes a tangible part of the musical composition, the snail’s location and pace compel the viola player to compose with it, resulting in a tactile interaction between the violist Gérard Caussé and the snail. Caussé encourages it to pause or change the relation between certain notes so that all the notes are such as they were written on Stravinsky’s score but the spaces between them change, thanks to the elasticity that the snail brings. It essentially stretches the music which originally lasts 5 and a half minutes yet it takes 8 minutes for the snail to cross the full length of the viola bow.

LM: Where did the idea of snail come from?

AS: At first it was simply the idea of a snail on a bow, whether a viola or a violin and its only later the idea came to me of The Elegy, it was the snail that prompted the idea, I knew I wanted to make a road movie along the length of a bow and then speaking with friends I became aware of Stravinsky’s Elegy for Viola, a slow piece so that the snail could withstand the journey, the Elegy by nature being a slow piece made it possible for the snail to be part of it. 

LM: Your primary medium is video, are there any particular directors who have been of influence at any point in your career?

AS: I must say that my moments of inspiration or influence are mostly extra-artistic, meaning they come from territories that come from outside the ‘art world’, having said that cinema is an art which interests me. I made a piece  inspired by one of Michelangelo Antonioni’s unfilmed scripts for which he only wrote a couple of very short dialogues.

Then in another project of mine ‘Why The Lion Roars (2009)’ I selected around 57 feature films from different genres and countries according to the feeling of temperature that it conveyed for every Celsius degree from minus 11°C to 45°C, I picked these either by scientific means, by subjective feelings or because someone had told me thats how it was during the shooting. It was a single channel screen connected to a thermometer measuring the outside weather that simultaneously edits the film programme which changes in correspondence to the actual outdoor temperature by one degree, the films cut into each other with the slightest temperature change, so in the end the evolving story is dictated by the temperature of that day.

LM: You represented France in the 55th Art Biennale, you are part of a group show Luogo e Segni at Punta Della Dogana opening next month. Our studio is based in Venice, could you tell us a little more about your experiences there.

AS: I have indeed been to Venice a number of times, the longest time I stayed there was when I was preparing my project for the French Pavilion, both in terms of the installation of the exhibition but also the final mixing for Ravel Ravel, onsite with my sound designer Olivier Goinard. There is something synaesthetic about it when you are in these intervals which do not correspond to save-the-date moments, I like the moments of ‘the low tides’, in terms of tourists and also in terms of events, it is then that one starts developing their own daily rituals, there is something very magic about these low tides in Venice. Then the high tides might lead to “aqua alta” but there is something nice about that too. Regarding ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’ I think its a very interesting title, but I once I see the exhibition is when I’ll start thinking about it.

LM: What are you working on at the moment?

AS: I am currently preparing two exhibitions, one in October in Luxembourg at Mudam and then in November, another solo exhibition, in Santander at Centro Botin. Right now I am working more on the putting together aspect.

Lara Morrell

  • Still from Take Over Still from Take Over
  • Still from Ravel Ravel Still from Ravel Ravel
  • Still from If and Only Still from If and Only
  • Bridges in the Doldrums Bridges in the Doldrums
  • Anri Sala. Photograph courtesy of Kaldor Public Art Projects Anri Sala. Photograph courtesy of Kaldor Public Art Projects
Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

Art Dubai 2019: An Interview with Artistic Director Pablo del Val

1 day ago

Mara Sartore: Among the main highlights of this edition, the fair is inaugurating the new section “Bawwaba”. Could you tell briefly introduce the news of this upcoming fair’s edition?

Pablo del Val: Sure. We’re really excited about Bawwaba (Arabic for gateway), which is the fair’s new gallery section aiming to give visitors a curated reading of current artistic developments, via ten solo shows from artists either living in, from, or focused on ‘the Global South’. By this geographically we mean the Middle East, Africa, Central and South Asia, and Latin America and our intention is for Bawwaba to present a cross-section of the Global South, addressing themes of global migration, socioeconomic structures and identity. These themes are globally relevant and in many ways this new gallery section is an extension of what has always been in the DNA of the fair: an interest in exploring art and cultural exchange from all parts of the world, not just from the major arts markets. This interest in community building, inclusivity and promoting new and alternative perspectives is reflected throughout the fair’s programme: from the Bawwaba gallery section just mentioned to Art Dubai Residents, which this year allows 12 artists from Latin America to ‘deep dive’ into the UAE’s culture and art scene, and another new section of the fair, UAE NOW which will showcase the country’s emerging independent local artist-run collectives and community groups, from artistic collective Bait 15 based in an old villa in downtown Abu Dhabi to Banat Collective a creative community formed in to bring to the fore discussions about womanhood in the Middle East and North Africa region. Our performance programme, this year developed by contemporary art institution, Kunsthalle Lissabon, also reflects this and explores the unifying aspects of communal celebrations – through dance, processions and festivities – as powerful tools to think about the world around us.
At the same time, Art Dubai has always provided a platform for emerging artists too. You may remember the launch edition of Marker back in 2011, an exhibition curated by Nav Haq as point of cross-cultural exchange and discovery at the fair. Artistic collective Ruangrupa from Jakarta who were invited to exhibit back then was recently announced as the artistic directors of Documenta 2020. Art Dubai as an international platform has been a formative part of the journey for many early-career artists and collectives.

MS: Before undertaking your role at Art Dubai, you were Artistic Director of Zona Maco from 2012 to 2015; while previously you were the founding director of ‘La Conservera’ Center of Contemporary Art in Murcia, Spain. What do these positions mean to you and how do these experiences infiltrate into your current role?

PDV: That’s a great question but I think it starts further back too! I come from a family with a long tradition with the arts. My grandparents were old master collectors and my grandmother, Maria Luisa Caturla, was the main expert on Francisco de Zurbaran and a member of several museum boards like the Prado Museum. I studied in Madrid and London and have worked in most of the different facets of the art world. I’ve directed several galleries, had my own art consulting firm, directed two art fairs in Mexico and was the founder-director and curator of La Conservera, an art centre in Murcia, Spain.
All these experiences combined means I have a wide international network to draw from. This year’s Latin American theme for Residents, for example, is very much influenced by my years in Latin America and strong ties to the arts communities there. Trust must always be earned, mustn’t it? And, after working for over two decades in the industry, I have earned the trust of many commercial galleries, museums and institutions, and private and public collectors. This makes it possible for me to pour my energies into being Artistic Director of Art Dubai.

MS: What do you think about Dubai art scene and how has it changed since your arrival here?

PDV: Dubai is a city that moves at such fast speed. Since I first started working in the UAE, major developments have been the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the recent opening Jameel Arts Centre and the re-opening of Qasr Al Hosn. These of course have been well-publicised and currently Dubai’s art scene is extremely international. You can see exhibitions in galleries from a range of artists such as German artist André Butzer (at Carbon 12) or Brazilian Ana Mazzei (Green Art Gallery), for example.
But parallel to this has been the quieter organic development and growth in community and making spaces like Warehouse 421 and Tashkeel and self-organised grassroots groups and artistic collectives. This is both fascinating and vital in equal measure. Vital because these collectives and community groups offer a crucial counterpoint to the public and commercial sectors and add an essential layer to the local contemporary art ecosystem. At Art Dubai this year we offer visitors the chance to explore some of these platforms through segment UAE Now; as well as the artistic outcome of Campus Art Dubai, our intensive six-month seminar and residency programme providing Emirati and UAE-based artists with the opportunity to develop their practices under the mentorship

MS: My Art Guides likes to recommend to its readers unique places to visit in each destination, not necessarily connected to contemporary art. In your opinion, what are the absolutely unmissable places, landmarks and spots in Dubai? And could you recommend something that shouldn’t be missed during Art Week?

PDV: For an altogether different pace of life head to water. Whether on a simple wooden Abra on the Creek or something more upscale close to the beaches of Jumeirah or the Palm, Dubai explored by water is such a different experience to my usual work routine spent whizzing up and down the city’s arterial roads for meetings. I love viewing Dubai’s many different architectural styles from a different perspective and often discover incredible buildings that I’ve not seen before. During Art Week, I’ll always make time to explore SIKKA Art Fair in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. In the evening it’s particularly magical with live music, strings of lighting between the restored buildings and the sense of anticipation before you walk into one of them to discover the art within.

Mara Sartore

  • Pablo del Val, Artistic Director of Art Dubai © Amirah Tajdin Pablo del Val, Artistic Director of Art Dubai © Amirah Tajdin
  • Art Dubai 2019 Art Dubai 2019
Hong Kong - Interviews

Multidimensional Thinking to Practice a New Ecology: An Interview with Shirley Tse

4 days ago

Claudia Malfitano: Your sculpture, installation and photography explore the mutability of material, in particular plastics and their relationship to contemporary artistic, political and environmental concerns. Where does it all start? How do you develop a piece? Can you walk us through your creative process?

Shirley Tse: It started with Styrofoam packaging in dumpsters over 20 years ago- to a young artist’s eyes surveying the daily landscape of the late 20th century, it was brand-new trash, the forgotten place-in-between that was full of paradoxes: temporal in use and permanent in substance, ubiquitous but otherworldly, utopian and dystopian at the same time. It was the prime signifier of 20th century’s movement- both goods and people, as in trading and migration. I started researching plastic, or synthetic polymer, and I discovered that it is a portal to American industrial history, military history, modern medicine, synthetic garments, industrial design, material science, aerospace technology, environmental pollution, waste management, geopolitics and a myriad of other things. It is quite amazing that a single substance can span such heterogeneous fields and forms so many connections. One day it dawned on me that plastic is not even a substance – it’s a formula, a code or a syntax. Chemists were able to coax small organic molecules, mostly carbon, to form enormous chains. What makes “plastic” plastic is its structure and organisation. In recent years I have been moving away from using plastics themselves to explore the concept of “plasticity” and the “synthetic” using a combination of materials.

CM: How do you approach environmental issues and ecology? What do you mean when you talk about “negotiation”?

ST: Environmental issues often arise when people are only able to see one side of things. The study of ecosystems is a practice of multi-dimensional thinking, which is the guiding principle of my sculptural practice. While “negotiation” is a term we often hear used in business and politics, I use it in a more general sense. It applies to everyday actions. It is a philosophical understanding of how differences come together as a dynamic event, where actions bear consequences upon each other. Ecology is indeed a good example of seeing the interdependence of what seems to be separate entities and how they are in constant negotiation with each other. In terms of materials, a wide range of biodegradable synthetic materials are available now. However, I believe the true
culprit to pollution is our mode of consumption – single use, disposability, our culture of convenience. This kind of usage is clearly not sustainable, natural or synthetic.

CM: As a sculptor and a teacher, which artists do you look to for inspiration?

ST: There are just too many to list, past and present. I learn different things from different artists. I might not be fond of an artist’s work but I might learn something by hearing how they reason it for themselves.

CM: You will represent Hong Kong at the upcoming Venice Art Biennale; what does this mean to you?

ST: It is an honor to represent Hong Kong, especially being the first woman artist mounting a solo show at the Hong Kong venue. I have been developing a new body of work utilising a lathe (old-school tool) and a 3D printer (latest technology). I feel very fortunate to receive the funds to support my experiment and venture into new grounds.

CM: Where do you live and work and what is your relationship with Hong Kong like?

ST: I live in Southern California and I often fly to Hong Kong to visit my four siblings and their families. I have sought out opportunities to exhibit in Hong Kong whenever possible. ParaSite, Osage and Fotan Gatherings are some of the places where my work has been seen. The logistics of shipping large- scale sculptures is often a hurdle though.

CM: What are your favourite spots and places you would recommend to our readers?

ST: The Kwai Chung Container Terminal! There you can contemplate the sublime and horror of our contemporary lives. If that is too much, I would take a ferry to any of the outlying islands, or check out any of the hiking trails in Sai Kung. Chi- Lin Nunnery or the Victoria Peak (the actual peak, not the Peak Tram Terminal) are nice too.

Shirley Tse will be the artist representing Hong Kong at the 58th Venice Biennale with the Official Collateral Event “Stakeholders” promoted by M+ and Hong Kong Arts Development Council. Tse is the first female artist to take on this prestigious role and her project will run in Venice in Campo della Tana from 11 May to 24 November, 2019.

Claudia Malfitano

  • Shirley Tse © Image Courtesy WKCDA Shirley Tse © Image Courtesy WKCDA
  • Shirley Tse, Plastic Brain, 2012 Shirley Tse, Plastic Brain, 2012
New York - Interviews

On Valuing Art and Not its Value: An Interview with Sean Kelly

1 week ago

For the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Armory Show, we interviewed Sean Kelly, both our 2019 editorial committee member and the English man in the New York art world, par excellence. We took him aside at the preview of the fair to discuss living in New York, what it means to be a collector today and his “Collect Wisely” campaign.

Lara Morrell: Having just landed in New York and as a fellow Brit, may I ask you what originally brought you here?

Sean Kelly: I moved here 30 years ago this year, I used to be a museum curator and director and I was really interested in giving the commercial sector a go, so I moved here for a job but that didn’t work so I stayed on and opened by own gallery. I love being here in New York, I really do.

LM: Would you ever consider moving back to London?

SK: No, I know London has changed a lot, but I think there is a great deal to be said for being outside your own culture, I am an insider but remain an outsider at the same time, which provides a unique opportunity and perspective.
When I first moved here someone (who was English) said to me ‘something will happen to you within 3 years of you being here and it will determine whether you stay or not’, if you stay you’ll be here forever and you’ll become a New Yorker and if you don’t you’ll go back and it won’t work. That was exactly what happened almost exactly after three years and I had figured out by then that I was determined to stay. You can’t just wander into to New York, you’ve got to be really determined to be here and almost everybody I knew who came went back within three years. I do think there is a funny energy to it.

LM: Could you tell me about Collect Wisely?

SK: Collect wisely came out of a general dissatisfaction around the fact that the only conversations that anybody seemed to be having in the art world seemed to be about value and finical remuneration. This is fine, its part of what we do, but I didn’t want it to be the only thing I thought about or did and I don’t think collects do either and frankly there were a lot of people getting quite distressed and turned off by it. So collect wisely was an idea that we cooked up as a positive way to respond to that weight and moving the conversation back to ideas of collecting and around value, but not just financial value, so we are essentially talking to collectors who are extremely passionate about why they collect. Its been an incredibly fun and emotionally restorative thing to do, with a huge amount of positive response.

LM: What is involved?

SK: It literally just involves the identification of a number of collectors to talk to, we sit down and talk to them, we don’t talk to them about the gallery, that was the precept from the beginning, I did not want to talk to them about what we did, I wasn’t trying to promote the gallery. I wanted to talk to them about why they are passionate about collecting. So far we’ve done 13 public episodes and we’ve got another 8 or ten in the can, we’re going to do at least one hundred, there is also an exhibition and book in the works.

LM: What is the nature of collecting in the 21st century? How does a collector make a meaningful investment?

SK: Collecting in the 21st Century is I think pretty much the same as what it has always been, yet as we sit here in the middle of an art fair, there is a much larger gene pool of collectors so its a far more valent activity than ever before, just like museum visiting. There are a lot more people going to museums and that’s a wonderful thing as well as the number of artists being supported, likewise wonderful. I think that the essentials of collecting remain the same, human nature is pretty consistent and I think it very much about what you care about, what you love and what you passionate about.

With people spending the kind of money they are spending on art there are always going to considerations about whether  or not it is being spent wisely, whether they are protecting their investment, so to say, but I don’t think anybody should think about art as an investment category, they should simply think about it as something they love and something they are passionate about. Across the life span of a collection, certain things will become very valuable, certain things will go up, things won’t, things will be fashionable or unfashionable in probably several different phases of ones collecting career and that’s natural and how it should be. I defy anybody that can tell me who the most successful artists of 19th century Victorian artist was ,because it was an illustrator, not somebody we would know now, but they were the most wealthy artists of their time, I think history takes care of those issues for us and you should just buy what you love. 

LM: How does one learn to educate their eye and get inside an artists sensibility?

SK: You have educate your own eye, you have to spend a lot of time looking and doing your homework. If you listen to collect wisely, you’ll hear every collector saying repeatedly that you have to do you homework, you have to get out there, you have to read, you have to pay attention and you have to come to your own opinion about things, if you listen you won’t learn very much and you’ll end up making a lot of mistakes, you’ve got to look! There is no shortcut, there is no better form of education than spending time educating your eye.

LM: With the ever increasing number of art fairs worldwide, what is your criteria for art fairs to take part in?

SK: There is an art fair somewhere in the world every week, if not almost every day and I think that one has to make very careful decisions which to target in terms of financial gain, but also geopolitically, if you are going to pay attention to a region then you have to pay attention to that market and I think you also have to honour and be responsible to it, for instance we do a lot in Latin America, so we do a fair in Latin America, we do a lot in Asia so we do a fair in Asia and so forth. I think it really is in response to the opportunities that present themselves in the region and what collectors you are working with.

LM: We are based in Venice, with the upcoming 58th Venice Biennale are you representing any artists taking part? 

SK: We’ve got a number of artists taking part, we’ve got Marina Abramović and Julião Sarmento in a three person show with Carsten Höller, Julian Charrière is doing something there, Alejandro Campins is doing the Cuban Pavilion and I know a number of the other artists are doing different events. It’s opening early again this year, so it splits the market a little, because a lot of people will go either before or after Basel. I myself won’t get there until after Basel, but I honestly don’t mind that, I don’t go for the parties I go for the art, In fact I prefer being in Venice either before of after when its all about the art and its quieter.

LM: What do you think of the title it carries this year, ‘May you Live in Interesting Times’?

SK: Well we do, don’t we?! So I think its quite an appropriate title, in fact I cannot remember in my lifetime a more challenging, demanding and complex time. Whether it is the idiocy of Donald Trump or the patheticness of the Republican Party and whats occurring to America or the absurdity of Brexit, or many of the other political challenges that many countries are facing, France being held ransom by the Yellow Jackets. There are challenges left, right and centre, there are challenges in Asia, Brazil and Venezuela.

We live in very challenging times, it feels like a world over geopolitical meltdown and the art world is a burgeoning environment, so I do think it is a very apt title and I hope the exhibition reflects that, because if it will, it will do its job.

Lara Morrell

  • Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
  • ANTONY GORMLEYSTATION XI, 20145 mm mild steel plate and 5 mm square section mild steel bar76 3/4 x 19 1/16 x 13 9/16 inches (195 x 48.5 x 34.5 cm)© Antony GormleyCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New York ANTONY GORMLEY STATION XI, 20145 mm mild steel plate and 5 mm square section mild steel bar76 3/4 x 19 1/16 x 13 9/16 inches (195 x 48.5 x 34.5 cm)© Antony GormleyCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
  • Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
  • ©Janaina TschäpeCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New YorkKEHINDE WILEYPortrait of Marcus Stokes, 2019oil on canvaspainting: 84 x 58 1/8 x1 7/16 inches (213.4 x 147.6 x 3.7 cm)framed: 91 5/16 x 69 3/8 x 3 7/8 inches (231.9 x 176.2 x 9.8 cm)© Kehinde WileyCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New York ©Janaina TschäpeCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New YorkKEHINDE WILEYPortrait of Marcus Stokes, 2019oil on canvaspainting: 84 x 58 1/8 x1 7/16 inches (213.4 x 147.6 x 3.7 cm)framed: 91 5/16 x 69 3/8 x 3 7/8 inches (231.9 x 176.2 x 9.8 cm)© Kehinde WileyCourtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
  • Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York Sean Kelly at The Armory Show 2019 March 7 – 10, 2019, Pier 94, Booth 501 Photography: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
  • Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery Courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery
Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

“Leaving the Echo Chamber”: Sharjah Biennial 14 Through the Eyes of the Curators

3 weeks ago

Curators Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons, who have collaboratively conceived the SB14 theme, present three distinct exhibitions bringing together a range of experiences and works—including major commissions, large-scale public installations, performances and film—to create a series of provocations about how one might re-negotiate the shape, form, and function of contemporary life’s “echo chamber”. Here they have shared with us their experience as curator of the biennial.

Carla Ingrasciotta: How are you each responding to the biennial’s theme “Leaving the Echo Chamber”? How have you interpreted this concept?

Claire Tancons: “Look for Me All Around You interprets the echo chamber less as a contemporary media concept and a metaphor for a feedback loop society as it attempts to chart perceptual and sensorial experiences that might manipulate or mitigate its effects. Whether life-streamed (Caline Aoun’s “Time Travel), sun-based (Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla’s “Specters of Noon or Hannah Black and Ebba Fransén Waldhör’s “Suntitled), intermodular (Jace Clayton’s 🌊🔊🤷🏽) or algorithmic, (Annie Dorsen’s “Infinite Sun), time-based works in “Look for Me All Around You variably engage with old and new digital and analogic formats and the entanglement thereof while others bring to emergence no less complex natural phenomena of perception such as the rainbow in Aline Baiana’s “Alliance for a Sunny World or The Rainbow Serpent Flows in Free Water & Janna Dam or The Second Murder of Adonis”) or the heliostats in Nikolaus Gansterer’s “Sympoeisis Observatory.) So that the notion of diasporization which can manifest as alternatively dispossessive or repossessive, although rooted in a specific reference which gave the platform its title (a sentence from a well-known speech by Marcus Garvey almost a century old), migrates from the political and the social to the conceptual and the aesthetic with untested artistic potency. In its very poetic expression, “Look for Me All Around You conjoins at once the traces of diaspora, the specters of surveillance, the distance between “ me” and “you”—a multiplicity of rebounds, returns and echoes.

Zoe Butt: Leaving the Echo Chamber” is both a statement and a question. It proposes that our dominant chamber of consciousness – a global-politic economically intertwined yet governmentally divisive – is often culturally stymied by traditional custom, insidiously lined with authoritarianism, popularly motivated by a culture of ‘like’, and blindly participating in an algorithmic world determining quantity for meaning. For me, it is the stories of artists (their artworks, their voices, their actions) that provide necessary alternate readings of humanity and its condition. Their artistic practices have opened my mind to the restrictions placed on the capacity and visibility of our echo due to the chamber in which it predominantly resides.

Omar Kholeif: Well we collectively devised the concept, so we’re not responding to it (which suggests that someone else has decided on that theme) but rather we are developing, nuancing, further evaluating what it means to consider a world that exists outside out of the homogenised political loop that is the Echo Chamber. What does it mean to exist outside of the bounds and confines of surveillance capitalism -the pervading state of consciousness of today. What does it mean to demand one’s own images, one’s own right to see through history – to make time for new ways of seeing. 

Carla Ingrasciotta: Could you briefly introduce your individual exhibition projects to be presented at the biennial?

Claire Tancons: “Look for Me All Around You is an attempt at charting a global history taking the Americas and the Emirates as seemingly distant yet surprisingly proximate coordinates taking modes of migration, development and labor as departure points to examine, experience and possibly affect processes of perception, cognition and reflection around other spatio-temporal coordinates of the contemporary.Look for Me All Around You is host to twenty-seven entirely newly commissioned works that evade visual prehension, resist stable physical materialization and embrace fluid perceptual modes—the aural, the ephemeral, the intangible—forming an open platform of migrant images and fugitive forms. Further, spanning the East and West coasts of the Arabian peninsular across two Emirates, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, and two cities, Sharjah City and Kalba in myriad non-museological spaces,Look for Me All Around You attempts to contrast gallery-based and object-centered museological developments in the region, and offer instead more intangible means of perceiving and presenting an artistic experience.

Zoe Butt: “Journey Beyond the Arrow” argues that the way forward to increase the echo (the human rituals, language, cultural practices and beliefs) within the chamber of contemporary life is by acknowledging (thus not assuming) the cause and effect of human action – to not focus on the destination of the arrow but rather at the bow which launches its existence. Thus much of the art presented here encompasses artistic provocations of History, challenging its (written) context with interjections of lived experience, re-presenting fact as fiction (and fiction as fact), arguing (and thus celebrating) the necessary, innovative movement of mind and matter and method across the globe. 

Omar Kholeif:  “Making New Time” is one of the three constituent platforms of the 14th Sharjah Biennial and has been devised to question a number of things. 1) What is material culture and how do we relate to it today? 2) How is this material culture judged or justified in an age of heightened acceleration or speed? 3) Have societies burnt out under the current conditions of existence? 4) and how history structures and layers time – becomes a question! This last point made me start to consider sediments that slowly move and weave through time – works that deal with issues of reincarnation, political resistance, the body, mother/daughter relationships to name but a few examples. 

Carla Ingrasciotta:  How did you select the artists involved in the exhibition?

Claire Tancons:  My selection process is the outcome of both a long-standing interest in the work of artists whose development I have been following for years, and discoveries from travels and research at once guided and intuitive, motivated and free. I purposefully chose to work predominantly with artists with whom I didn’t have a prior relationship to start a fresh dialogue around what the intersection between their artistic practice, my curatorial practice, the context of the UAE and the space of Sharjah could produce, as discourse, experience, form. My interest in practices of performance and presence and the manifestation of essence, leading into the consideration of people, bodies and matter as agents, became at once informed and nuanced by conceptual practices operating according to non-linear time-based parameters.

Zoe Butt: “Journey Beyond the Arrow” was a rare opportunity for me to bring together artistic practices that have long pre-occupied my curatorial research (while also bringing new minds to the fore as a delightful consequence of research travel afforded by SB14). My passion for the re-writing and conceiving of what a ‘history’ can be has long been informed by the enquiries of artists, particularly across what I call the ‘globalizing souths’ (the peoples who endured colonial occupation), drawn to their commonalities, differences and contradictions. Many of the artists here have been of significant impact on my practice for quite some time, their storytelling a rich reserve of comparative information and methodology. So artists and artwork were selected largely based on a) engaging paradigms of (colonial) history that re-determines dominant (hegemonic) narrative; b) reveals the necessary movement of humanity and its positive and negative impact, historically; c) engages these subjects within media that demonstrates artistic and conceptual skill (often re-working traditional/disciplinary materials and techniques).

Omar Kholeif:  The idea in fact emerged from the art practices. I always begin my exhibitions and draw their themes by looking at the themes of the works of the artists who I think are making the most urgent work of our time. I then I decide on specific works based on how they dialogue and inter-relate with each other; how they create a layer cake of stories that weave through time and enrich the experience for the viewer. 

Carla Ingrasciotta: How does your idea create a dialogue with the other curatorial projects?

Claire Tancons:  The three projects in Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber intersect in ways natural and open, as they developed out of a common generational grounding in the post-colonial, with at once diverting and overlapping focuses on either or both performance and rituals, new media and the digital, the (non-)narrative and the (non-)representational. Predominantly time-based projects in “Look for Me All Around You set different clocks for “Making New Time while large non-representational and non-figurative segments of my platform offer contrasting aesthetic trajectories to “Journey Beyond the Arrow.

Zoe Butt:  Questions of time and its shaping of potential (as curated by Omar Kholeif) resonates for example, with my preoccupation with empathy and the need to give time in the shaping of human cause and effect with its embrace (evidenced in such work by Lee Mingwei, 31st Century Museum of Contemporary Spirit and Nalini Malani); while the provocation of the senses as not privileging sight (as curated by Claire Tancons) resonates for example, with my preoccupation with music and the need to understand its history as critical reflections of social injustice and human migration (evidenced in such work by Mark Salvatus and Neo Muyanga).

Omar Kholeif: I see all of the works as being constituent elements of one greater whole -one macro narrative about Leaving the Echo Chamber – all three propositions are strongly bound by a political discourse that urges the viewer to look beyond the confines of the status quo, in order to discover new lines of sight. 

Carla Ingrasciotta: How has it been working together for the biennial? Was this your first experience in the UAE?

Claire Tancons: My first encounter with the UAE was with Sharjah. I started to engage with Sharjah back in 2013 when I was invited by Sharjah Art Foundation to visit Yoko Hasegawa’s Sharjah Biennial 11. I started to research the history of the region at that time and became specially interested in the possibility of a contemporary infrastructural reading of special zones in city state-like polities based on the (contested) history of pirate enclaves in the Arabian / Persian Gulf. This ongoing interest in what some have termed the piracy paradigm has continued to inform my current engagement with Sharjah and proposition for Sharjah Biennial 14 in ways both overt and covert.

Zoe Butt:  I’ve learned SO much from working with the Sharjah Art Foundation and I’m forever grateful for this chance to bring all these wonderful people and artwork together. The UAE is my first experience of working in the Middle East and I hope to have another chance to explore again soon. 

Omar Kholeif: The process was very independent, but we shared ideas, crossovers, layered interchanges. This wasn’t my first experience in working in the UAE. The UAE has long been a site of conversation and collaboration for me. I have served for the past couple of years as guest curator for Abu Dhabi Art and have regularly lectured and presented in Sharjah and Dubai from the Global Art Forum to the March Meetings. I have also curated the Abraaj Group Art Prize. And of course the region’s galleries, not for profits, fairs, etc have served as a source of inspiration, conversation and collaboration for years. 

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Claire Tancons, photo by Nicola Bustreo Claire Tancons, photo by Nicola Bustreo
  • Zoe Butt, 2018. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation Zoe Butt, 2018. Image courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation
  • Omar Kholeif, photo by Eric T. White Omar Kholeif, photo by Eric T. White
  • Caecilia Tripp, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Film Still New Commission, 2019, Courtesy of the artist Caecilia Tripp, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Film Still New Commission, 2019, Courtesy of the artist
  • Astrid Klein, Untitled, (What are you fighting for), 1988/93. From 'White paintings, 1988, Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers. © Astrid Klein Astrid Klein, Untitled, (What are you fighting for), 1988/93. From 'White paintings, 1988, Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers. © Astrid Klein
  • Rohini Devasher, Spheres, 2017. Installation view: Dr Bhau Daji, Lad City Museum, Mumbai. Courtesy of Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, Mumbai © Anil Rane Rohini Devasher, Spheres, 2017. Installation view: Dr Bhau Daji, Lad City Museum, Mumbai. Courtesy of Dr Bhau Daji Lad City Museum, Mumbai © Anil Rane
London - Interviews

Kader Attia on Re-appropriating The Field of Emotion and Modernity’s Fantasy of Repair

3 weeks ago

We interviewed the artist Kader Attia on the occasion of his first major exhibition in the United Kingdom ‘The Museum of Emotion’ at The Hayward Gallery in London. The international artist, who has been named by The Hayward Gallery director Ralph Rugoff as “One of the most interesting and cogent artists practising today”, spoke to us about the Field of Emotion, La Colonie, the Gilets Jaunes, his notion of Repair  and his experience at the 57th Venice Biennale. 

Lara Morrell: It seems to me that your art is a form of catharsis in the face of social and geopolitical frustrations, is this an apt observation and could you tell me more about the title of this exhibition the ‘Museum of Emotion’?

Kader Attia: Yes, that is true. It is important to be aware that we have been neglecting emotion, not only in art, but in politics too. Let me use France as an example: At the beginning of the 80’s, the left gained power with François Mitterrand, after two decades of a right-wing government following ’68 and the Algerian War. However the 80’s brought about the rise of neoliberalism, of a new right and what is even worse, the fall of the left. As a consequence the left became snobbish, what we call ‘Gauche Caviar’, in fact they began to neglect the ‘roughness of life’. In the cultural field they started to render the colours, smells, noise, museums and their exhibitions emotionally and intellectually dark and obscure, with the primary incentive of seducing the market. So the 80’s had become the moment when the Left abandoned the field of emotion. The 90’s were the depoliticised decade, and this is the very when Neoliberalism in France began to emerge and to seep into politics via its very own tool, the media.

LM: What would you say is the most interesting example of this?

KA: Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi owned two channels in France, La Cinq and another channel, whichgradually became very famous. As in Italy, he became the figure of a neoliberal promise and people began to believe that he was right. The connection between neoliberalism, economy and politics became more and more obvious through people like him.  Berlusconi was very much using the field of emotion by provoking catharsis within the people: their desire to be healed, to be cured; but by condemning and blaming the other. For instance the blame for the decline of French economy was put on the Left, the choices they had taken, and it was denounced as total ‘nonsense’. By 1995 Berlusconi had become very famous in France and had began to build his own political party Forza Italia. Here we can see a clear illustration of media as a tool to gain power and control. If you look at what has happened afterwards, in France and also other countries, the direction of the political agenda had started to run parallel with the rhythm of the media and the news. By hijacking the attention of the political and media landscape, by creating scandal to gain attention, Berlusconi, like Trump, played with the ambivalence of emotion.

LM: Could you explain what you mean by the ambivalence of emotion? In your opinion do emotions have the potential power to heal or they solely create conflict? Can you tell us some more about ‘The Field of Emotion’ ? (An installation in the exhibition, where the artist has juxtaposed images of politicians with singers known for their powerful, affective delivery)

KA: Why do I think that emotion is ambivalent? If you look at a seminal context in history of the 21st Century, the way that populism brought fascists to power in the 1930’s, you clearly observe that only culture and artists can compete with politics on that ground. In my wall installation The Field of Emotion, I juxtapose people with very powerful voices – very charismatic singers like Maria Callas, people who really galvanised and magnetised crowds – with figures such as Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler and Fidel Castro. All these political leaders, also females such as Fidel Castro’s sister Juanita Castro or Mao’s wife Jiang Qing who was in charge of the Cultural Revolution, were totally homophobic. They were responsible for the imprisoning and deaths of a vast number of gay people. The Field of Emotion shows the way that most politicians, especially fascists with a radical agenda, hijack intellectuals and art in order to use them as a tool to control the crowds.  You just need to watch Hitler’s or Goebbel’s speeches, convincing the audience just by their passion.

Also Donald Trump is a comparable figure and not all of the crowd are immune to him. One could state that it was a big mistake by the US Left (if one can speak of a Left there at all) to let Hillary Clinton win against Bernie Sanders. Sanders was aware of the field of emotion but there were snobbish democrats who had been convinced they were going to win over the plebs. They continued the way in which the Left in France or Italy had neglected the field of emotion, and as a consequence we woke up in a nightmare. I think we are witnessing a crucial moment of re-appropriation of the field of emotion. I do believe that the filed of emotion today is in the hands of the far right: with people like Salvini in power or with the Brexit.

LM: Could you tell me about your space, the space you opened in 2016 in Paris which encourages cross cultural critical thinking and what is your view on the Gilets Jaunes movement?

KA: Also the Gilet Jaunes protests are connected to the field of emotion. Recently we had Toni Negri for a discussion about the Gilet Jaunes movement. Afterwards I asked Toni Negri if we could connect the Gilets Jaunes to the Forconi movement in Sicily which gave birth to The Five Star movement. He explained that the uprising of the Gilet Jaunes were more complex and that many movements in Europe were the origin of the new far Right, so we now needed to be aware of such a risk.

I absolutely agree with him and Ètienne Balibar who pointed out during our discussion that the Left and the cultural institutions are demonising the Gilet Jaunes, claiming that they were Fascists. But they are just reproducing the words of the neoliberal Right and now that the media has demonised them with one agenda they really have become a Fascist movement in the eye of the public. I think this is a crucial moment; we must reinvent a way re-appropriating the field of emotion, which is held not only by politicians but also by another power: the mass media, the tabloids, the media linked to the neoliberal, and do not allowing any deviation but following the narrative of liberalism. To cope with this we need either to create spaces, small niches or to create art that the audience such as my project on 23rd February. I invited all artists, curators and critics and anyone else who wanted to support the Gilet Jaunes and to state in a public forum that the movement is becoming bigger. Re-appropriatinf the field of emotion has become an emergency today. Over the last 20 years Italy already has been witnessing this evolution towards Fascism.

*On the 23rd of February the artist hosted at his space in Paris – La Colonie a day dedicated to Gilets Jaunes activism, where artists, intellectuals and critics gathered to exchange thoughts and ideas on how to explain and engage in the Gilets Jaunes movement see link to event here

LM: The vast installation ‘The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures’ is filled with African Masks and Paraphernalia from the First World War, could you expand on your notion of Repair in relation to these seemingly contrary objects.

KA: My idea of Repair has developed bit by bit through my research of the past, especially when researching storage spaces of ethnological museums. I observed that throughout history isolated societies which had not been in touch with Western thought or modernity before colonial times, used to apply practices of repair which have absolutely nothing in common with Western concepts of repair: they repaired broken objects while keeping the wound visible, so a broken calabash for instance would be repaired with visible stitches or staples. This is not only the case in Africa, but also in Japan where the fissure of a broken ceramic pot was painted in gold after mending it. This is called ‘Kintsugi’ and it is a very delicate artistic form of taking care of the injury. With the rise of technological developments and modernity, the West started to be obsessed with an idea of repair that equals the necessity to control and to erase the injury and to make the object look like it did at the beginning. This is the total fantasy of modernity. If you consider this very obvious, yet deep-rooted contradiction you begin to realise the different concepts of injury from the westernand from the traditional point of view. For me the most significant moment of a shift of Western modernity, and perhaps the beginning of its end, was the First World War. It lasted 4 years, millions died, and it was the macabre theatre of the many inventions of Modernity. At this very point in time, the injured and wounded bodies were the incarnations of progress. What I find extremely interesting is the way people then tried to fix the injuries. At the beginning of WW1, in 1915 or so, people repaired injured faces and bodies on the battle field. The armies were simply overwhelmed with what was happening as they had not foreseen such slaughter. So they had to rely on young women, young nurses.

 

There is one famous French woman who after the war became a very important plastic surgeon, her name is Suzanne Noël, and she described repairing the faces of the injured in the middle of the battle field with bombs exploding above her head. In my research I found that those very early repairs looked much alike broken African mask objects that had been repaired. As the war proceeded, by 1918 the repairs became more ‘perfect’ in the sense that resin prosthetics were invented; doctors would dry the skin to fill it with resin. Pictures were taken to prove that science can repair the injury. This you can see in the slide show in the installation.

The approach towards repair is very different in the Western and non-Western world, in terms of both physical and psychological injury.

*In the slide show which forms part of the installation ‘The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures’ Attia pairs images of soldiers treated to early, rudimentary plastic surgery with African masks and objects bearing signs of physical repair, a series of juxtapositions challenging our conventional ideas about wholeness, injury beauty and otherness.

LM: On the topic of psychology could you tell me more about the installation Shifting Borders (three separate videos and a series of uncanny sculptural elements) and your focus on Mental Health Southeast Asia?

KA: The work Shifting Borders includes interviews I did in South Korea and Vietnam, and it is about the way these two countries have been dealing with their traumatic history by applying techniques from  psychology and by using of traditional healing. I have been working a lot on the way that psychotherapeutical methods have been used in societies where traditional beliefs and rites have always existed.

In South East Asia I discovered something extremely interesting,  because, for instance, it was really difficult to find Shamans in South Korea. Most people would say they don’t have Shamans any more. South Korea is a  society which has been faced with forced capitalism, it is so neoliberal, it is so tough, you are nothing if you are not brilliant, beautiful and competitive, it is a scary society so the few people who are ‘normal’ like us are trying to fight against this.

Vietnam, on the other contrary, is a country that embraces communism and despite the fact that communism opposes superstition, Vietnam has protected animism.* The work looks into a different form of healing and highlights the therapeutic role played by shamanistic practices in non-Western societies.

*In one of the interviews with mental health professionals, academics and traditional healers, a Vietnamese spiritualist describes holding a ceremony for the spirit of an American solider who had possessed her brother-in-law.

LM: Lastly, you exhibited in Venice for the 57th Art Biennale, we are based there, how was your experience on our home turf?

KA: It was great, I participated with a sound piece ‘Narrative Vibrations’, which was slightly hidden away in the Arsenale. I intergrated voices of female singers, and the sounds were transformed by a software we had developed in order to move grains on plates by sound waves. This was based on the discovery by a German physicist Ernst Chladni (1756-1827). He observed that solids transmit sounds and that some frequencies produce patterns that also exist elsewhere in nature. I applied this to an apparatus I invented with a couple of French engineers: we had ten plates in the space that were connected to the screens showing the singers, and I had poured couscous on each plate. The semola grains moved through electromagnetic waves provoked by the sounds in correspondence with the voices of musicians; Arab singers in fact from the postcolonial golden age, singers I grew up listening to. It produced some quite stunning abstract sounds and visually it was absolutely astonishing and effective.

Lara Morrell

  • Installation view of Shifting Borders, Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo_ Linda Nylind .jpg Installation view of Shifting Borders, Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo_ Linda Nylind .jpg
  • Installation view of Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019.jpeg Installation view of Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019.jpeg
  • Installation view of The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures, Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo_ Linda Nylind.jpg Installation view of The Repair from Occident to Extra-Occidental Cultures, Kader Attia_ The Museum of Emotion at Hayward Gallery. Copyright the artist, courtesy Hayward Gallery 2019. Photo_ Linda Nylind.jpg
  • Kadia Attia with Ralph Rugoff Kadia Attia with Ralph Rugoff
New York - Interviews

The All-embracing Nature of Nature: An Interview with Kiki Smith

4 weeks ago

For the occasion of her solo show at Palazzo Pitti, Florence and her upcoming exhibition at Pace Gallery, New York, we’ve interviewed artist Kiki Smith.

Lara Morrell: Could you tell us about the title ‘What I Saw on The Road’ for your exhibition at Palazzo Pitti in Florence?

Kiki Smith: I live on a road and I see everything on this road when I walk or drive down it and a lot of it simply inspired me to make things and the exhibition is primarily of the tapestries which were made since I moved to living on this road. So it’s just about that, about being at home in what would be technically down state New York but to a New York City person it would be upstate New York on the CAT scale. This exhibition is primarily Tapestries because the Uffici has a tremendous collection of Tapestries and I think that was the initial starting point. The Tapestries are made by Magnolia editions in Oakland California and woven on traditional Jacquard looms which are several of hundred years old. There are also some small sculptures.

LM: How should Feminism be understood?

KS: You know I think Feminism is not really my primary concern, my primary concern is being an artist but my other concern is certainly to be a human being and feminism is about part of the liberation of human feelings and I believe that we should honour living beings in all their formations, females, males, non specifics, mixed genders, any living being is worthy or our honour and respect, so Feminisim is part of that movement.

LM: Would you be correct to say that nature is your greatest source of inspiration? Where do you think your fascination with the body and bodily fluids derives from?

KS: Yes certainly nature is my source, as it is all there is, there is living nature and inert nature and our nature. Everything on this planet is natural, so yes it’s my source for sure! About the body and bodily fluid, I had a boyfriend and he gave me a book called Grey’s Anatomy which is a very famous anatomy book, he worked in a bookstore and bought me home this book one day and then I worked for five or six years just from that book.

LM: You use varied range of media, combining traditional techniques with more recent technology, is your use of material for different subject matter an intuitive decision or is it integral to the concept behind a piece?

KS: No, I just choose what fits and often I make the same pieces in many different materials, I often also make the same images over and over again.

LM: We are based in Venice, you have exhibited a number of times for the Venice Biennale. Do you think during your various times spent in Venice, the Serenissima has influenced your work in anyway?

KS: Well it certainly influenced all the work I did for Homespun Tales for Querini Stampalia, as it was all directly related to Querini Stampalia. But perhaps Venice has inspired me in life more than anything, because I believe the Venetians and generally all Italians take great pleasure in their lives, in a sensuous way and that is a lesson I think everyone can learn from.

LM: You live and work in New York, we are now putting our guide together for the occasion of the Armory Show, could you divulge a few insider tips of where to go and what to see off the beaten track?

KS: I like things like the Natural History Museum or if I may put in a little plug for myself (which I rarely do!) I made a very nice window for the Eldridge Street Synagogue (a stained glass window with stars against a fragmented landscape of blue) created by myself with architect Deborah Gans, that’s beautiful and that’s downtown. The MET is the best! There are many places, but I think generally people just like walking around, like Venice its a city to discover by walking around.

LM: Could you tell us a little something about your exhibition at Pace Gallery ‘Murmur’ at the beginning of March?

KS: It’s mostly sculptures I have been working on over the last few years, with prints, etchings and cyanotypes and contact photographic prints.

LM:Which artists did you look up to earlier on in your career?

KS: Frida Kahlo, Eva Hesse, Chagall… all different artists… Nancy Spero and her husband Leon Golub.

Lara Morrell

  • Kiki Smith, Courtesy of the artist Kiki Smith, Courtesy of the artist
  • Kiki Smith, Europa, 2000-2006, Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery Kiki Smith, Europa, 2000-2006, Courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery
  • Kiki Smith, Harbor, 2015 Kiki Smith, Harbor, 2015
Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

When Tradition Meets Modernity: An Interview with Nujoom Alghanem

4 weeks ago

Claudia Malfitano: Your work as a poet and as a film director is deeply connected to your Emirati roots and womanhood is a recurring theme. Can you tell us a bit more about your practice and your creative process? Where does it all begin?

Nujoom Alghanem: My creative practice began when I was young. I read and drew a lot which eventually led me to writing. I started with the classical form and my Arabic teachers recognised that I had potential and encouraged me. Then I started experimenting with different poetic styles. In the late seventies and early eighties, I dabbled in Nabati (vernacular poetry in the Arabian Peninsula) because it was very popular, and when you’re young, you want to fit in and be accepted. I also tried the Arabic metric poetry style for the same reason. Of course, the literary tide of the Arab modern movement was recognised in our region and helped us get connect with what was going on in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and North Africa by then. The Eighties was an eye opening period for me, I found myself drawn to free verse form. I was mostly influenced by European, American and Latin American modern poets, artists, and philosophers. This changed my whole perspective about poetry and eventually influenced my personal choices. My poetry is interconnected with my work as a filmmaker and artist. I consider literary resources – poetry, novels or drama – really great sources of inspiration, but the most important one is people. People greatly inspire me: their world, stories, frustrations, confusion, sadness, happiness, pain, passion.

CM: You will represent the UAE at the upcoming Venice Art Biennale; what does this mean to you? What do you think of the Biennale’s theme: “May You Live in Interesting Times”?

NA: I am truly excited and honoured to be representing the UAE in collaboration with curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, following my first participation in 2017. The National Pavilion UAE tells our story on a global stage to the international arts community, and carries our values of fostering understanding and promoting cultural dialogue. The theme of the Biennale underscores my practice within the context of a rapidly transforming society. The interesting passage of time is deeply embedded in my work as an artist where I am always trying to resolve the tension between the traditional and the modern. However, I consider myself quite drawn to the now and the city, and our contemporary world.

CM: You were born and raised in Dubai. What is your relationship with this city and its fast pace and ever-changing nature? How do you feel the local traditions are coping with this super-fast modernisation?

NA: As a child, I remember sitting on the rooftop of my grandparents’ house in Bur Dubai after school, watching huge ships sail slowly, silently down the Creek, which made me always think of traveling and exploring other lands. Today, Dubai is a very busy city. It has different faces and paces; fast and hectic during the day, dynamic and loud at night, beautiful but noisy, light sometimes, grimy other times, elusive but welcoming, playful yet tough, sophisticated but easy to know, strange yet friendly, hard even though it has a tender heart. It’s the city where I was born and where I learned how to love and wait for things to take shape so I would understand them better. The city has grown up along with me. Although I think I know it, it overwhelms me sometimes. I am grateful, however, to have grown up in Dubai, which is a fantastic city and my love for it underlies all my work.

CM: What is your perspective on the city’s art scene?

NA: The art scene in Dubai is diverse and thriving, and after many years of development, it has matured greatly and it would be interesting to see what the next years will bring; I think the milestones of the past few years, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi and Art Jameel have been a testament to that. Artists from across the region and the world are coming here to find inspiration, participate in dialogue and discover their creative voices. At the same time as these artists are exploring here today, I am pleased to see that there is an increasing recognition of the history and tradition of Emirati contemporary art, and of the ways in which our leading artistic figures, such as Hassan Sharif, have influenced and shaped UAE art today.

CM: My Art Guides likes to recommend to its readers unique places to visit in each destination, not necessarily connected to contemporary art. In your opinion, what are the absolutely unmissable places, landmarks and spots in Dubai? And could you recommend something that shouldn’t be missed during Art Week?

NA: Dubai as a whole is very seductive and captivating. With all the expansion and sophistication, I always go back to the beach, a spot in the Jumeirah area that keeps calling me and inspiring me. Another place is the Dubai Public Library, which is located in Khor Dubai – Dubai Creek’s shores on the Bur Deira’s side. It used to be the main cultural hub for many activities including lectures and poetry readings besides its basic function as a place for reading and borrowing books. I consider it one of the earliest literary and cultural initiatives in Dubai.

Claudia Malfitano

  • Nujoom Alghanem. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia Nujoom Alghanem. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE - La Biennale di Venezia
Bologna - Interviews

“Hic et Nunc”: Flavio Favelli Tells us About his “No Vip Lounge” Welcoming Visitors to Arte Fiera 2019

2 months ago

Among the five main projects of Arte Fiera 2019 one has been conceived to greet visitors: “Hic et Nunc” is a lounge created by Flavio Favelli in the central plaza of the fair’s entrance. To discover more about this project, we interviewed the artist who revealed details of his installation to be disclosed on the preview day, January 31, 2019.

My Art Guides: This year you will be a main player at the fair with the piece”Hic et Nunc”, a lounge created to welcome visitors to Arte Fiera. Could you tell us a little more about this project?

Flavio Favelli: Simone Menegoi invited me to rethink the Vip Lounge, but then, for various reasons, we thought of a “No Vip Lounge”, as we have called it in these months of work, a large living room where you can stop at the entrance, which is a kind of large covered square before arriving at the pavilions where the gallery booths are. “Hic et Nunc is essentially a large roofless room with about thirty small armchairs; it will be sign posted with two found luminous signs which have been restored, one with a clock and the other with the original letters of the old Nannucci record shop, famous throughout Italy, which I found years ago. The fair is a place of visual hubbub and I have tried to create an environment where we can bring a halt to this, together with the idea of a problematic, obsolete and seductive place at the same time. The two signs attempt to give the sense of a city, an empty city. Like other environments, when I think of them I see them without any presence. After all, creating an art environment is to create a work of art and this always has a different relationship to reality. You can certainly live in the art environment and sit down in one too, but it is more of a virtual possibility, I would say a kind of excuse; even the armchairs are designed objects, I don’t think I’ve ever sat down on them.

MYAG: Florentine by birth, you studied in Bologna where you lived for 30 years in your home in Via Guerrazzi, another location of  one of your installations for the occasion of Art City Bologna 2018. Over the years you have seen the city evolve. How do you feel the current art scene compares to when you first arrived in the city?

FF: I think the problem is the city, not the art scene. The current art is always perceived as a form of leisure, then there is the great interlude of Arte Fiera. There are companies that do events only during Arte Fiera, as if they needed an excuse to support and disseminate the arts.
Over the years the Prime Minister has come to Bologna twice for the presentation of FICO and the new Lamborghini SUV: in both cases no art projects took place, yet always talking about our tradition and our past. In the history of this country – from Rome to Fascism – the art of the times has always accompanied the great events of society and, with rare exceptions, this tradition has never stopped. The only hint of this came with Street Art, which however became a popular and moralist form of creativity too soon.

MYAGCurrently you live and work in Savigno, a small town in the Bolognese Apennines. How does this place influence your artistic research?

FFSavigno is a “white”* area compared to the “red” Emilia (if it is still). It is a closed, hard village, where food lately seems to be the only salvation. In the end the important thing is silence, both at home and in the studio there is a lot of silence, conducive to the echo of my images, of my poetic questions.
*colour which indicates the historic Christian Democratic Party, opposite to the “red”, which is linked to the Communist Party

MYAG: In you opinion what are the most interesting artistic realities that Bologna has to offer? What are your favourite places?

FF: For about last 15 years I haven’t really frequented the artistic scene, especially after the end of the Link Project and now living in Savigno I do not go into town very often. I do not even go to particular bars, let’s say that lately I am more driven by politics, as both an interest and somehow as a commitment. The current situation is really critical. Today, Wednesday 23 January 2019, the “Libero” newspaper on the web has a front page title that reads: “The turnover and GDP is falling but the number of gays rise”. All this is repulsive, slowly Italian people are rediscovering its roots, probably its true vocation against culture.

MYAG: What are the projects are you currently working on?

FF: I’m working on an artist’s book with the publisher Corraini. It will be called “Bologna La Rossa” (Bologna the Red”) a series of unpublished drawings on my personal memories in relation to the tragedies that have taken place in the city and that I still have in mind. Then a project in the Ca ‘Rezzonico museum in Venice for next May. In one of the rooms I will put together and assemble the floor panels that covered the steps of the Accademia bridge for months, with the yellow bands that mark the steps, frayed by pedestrians. A kind of continuous and daily abrasion with signs and shadows, both nuanced and fading.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Flavio Favelli © Giovanni De Angelis Flavio Favelli © Giovanni De Angelis
  • Flavio Favelli, Flavio Favelli, "Hic et Nunc", Installation view, Arte Fiera 2019. Courtesy of the artist
  • Flavio Favelli, Flavio Favelli, "Hic et Nunc", Installation view, Arte Fiera 2019. Courtesy of the artist
Bologna - Interviews

Highlights from Upcoming Bologna Art Week: an Interview with Lorenzo Balbi

2 months ago

For the occasion of our focus on Arte Fiera and Bologna Art Week, we interviewed Lorenzo Balbi, Artistic Director of MAMbo – Museum of Modern Art in Bologna and ART CITY Bologna 2019.

My Art Guides: A year and a half on from your appointment as artistic director of MAMbo, how do you regard Bologna’s cultural scene today? What has changed for the better?

Lorenzo Balbi: The impressions that have over time matured from previously visiting the city now and again have been confirmed after working for a year and a half in Bologna. Culturally speaking the city offers a lot but what strikes me most is the public’s attitude to attending cultural events. Even those considered more “difficult” or experimental have a great public following, certainly the result of an attitude cultivated over time and thanks to decades of high-level artistic endeavours in the city.
Recently things have certainly changed: from the new artistic direction of MAMbo and Arte Fiera, to the opening of new cultural spaces such as the Cirulli Foundation or Voxel, as well as new programmes, festivals and artists that have arrived in the city. I like to think that, even in this climate of change, it is the spirit of openness and interest in experimentation that has always set the city apart in this regard.

MYAG: Looking towards the upcoming exhibitions opening at MAMbo and Villa della Rose. Mika Rottenberg and Goran Trbuljak. Could you tell us about these two projects? How did the collaborations with these artists come about?

LB: For both artists they are the first solo exhibitions in an Italian museum. I have been following the work of Mika Rottenberg for some time and when I was appointed artistic director of MAMbo she was the first artist I thought of for the Sala delle Ciminiere. Her installations on industrial production processes may assume even deeper meanings set up in a context like this.
The Goran Trbuljak exhibition at Villa delle Rose is instead the result of an international collaboration between MAMbo and Center d’Art Contemporain Genève where the exhibition was presented in 2018. The project, co-curated with Andrea Bellini, was not only opportunity to set up the most complete retrospective of the Croatian artist in Italy ever before, but also to publish the first monograph completely dedicated to his work.

MYAG: The exhibitions by Rottenberg and Trbuljak are part of the ART CITY Bologna programme, which you have curated for the second year, what changes have been made this year?

LB: The structure of ART CITY Bologna is the same as 2018 with a special event (the performance Anthropometry by the collective les gens d’Uterpan at the Pavilion de l’Esprit Nouveau curated by Sabrina Samorì) and a series of major events (from 10 last year to 17 in 2019). In addition to the main programme, ART CITY Bologna 2019 has brought together over 100 other events in the city, put forward by art galleries throughout the city and by the Bologna Cineteca Foundation.
If the 2018 edition seemed like a big show spread throughout different venues in the city, ART CITY 2019 Bologna will present itself as a fully fledged art festival bringing together the most important institutions and realities that occupy contemporary culture in the city. Thanks to the shared commitment, it has succeeded in the presentation of a rich programme with more than 10 consecutive days of events, inaugurations, performances, initiatives and meetings.

MYAG: You have been one of Simone Menegoi supporters since the beginning, in your opinion what are the benefits of your collaboration for the city of Bologna?

LB: I am convinced that Simone Menegoi’s professional profile, combined with his experience in the sector, is perfect for carrying out the repositioning and relaunch project that the BolognaFiere management has designed for Arte Fiera. The first five months of work by Menegoi and his deputy director, Gloria Bartoli, demonstrated the extent of the commitment and the depth of their line of action. The presence in the city of interlocutors of this calibre is for me an important opportunity for exchange and in-depth analysis.
An attractive fair is important for the museum and a purposeful museum is important for the fair. With this in mind we are building upon shared projects that can only increase and refine what Bologna has to offer culturally speaking. In particular, the development of shared lines of research, combined with a general communion of intentions, can lead to the intercepting of funds and attracting attention in turn capable of increasing the possibilities of the two institutions.

MYAG: What are the most interesting artistic realities in Bologna for you? What are your favourite places?

LB: Bologna is seen from the outside as a city with an important variety of artistic proposals, in particular with regard to the different expressions of the contemporary. Historically, this has made the city the point of reference for artistic experimentation in terms of cultural production in Italy.
It is very difficult to put together a hypothetical map of these places that, just to name a few, are institutions (such as MAMbo, MAST, Opificio Golinelli, Bologna Cineteca), independent spaces (Xing / Raum, Voxel, Tripla, Localedue, Gelateria Sogni di Ghiaccio, Adjacency), centres of art experimentation (Ateliersì, Spazio Labò, Locomotiv Club, Cassero, Collegio Venturoli), art galleries (P420, Gallleriapiù, Car Drde, Enrico Astuni, de ‘Foscherari, Forni, Otto Gallery) as well as artist’s studios, laboratories, residences and training institutes. A special mention to the many festivals, the protagonists in the cultural programming of the city (Live Arts Week, BilBOlBul, roBOt, Gender Bender, Biografilm, Future Film Festival).

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Lorenzo Balbi, Direttore artistico ART CITY Bologna 2019, Responsabile Area Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Istituzione Bologna Musei © Caterina Marcelli Lorenzo Balbi, Direttore artistico ART CITY Bologna 2019, Responsabile Area Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Istituzione Bologna Musei © Caterina Marcelli
  • Mika Rottenberg, Untitled Ceiling Projection (video still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Goldsmiths CCA, Londra, MAMbo – Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Kunsthaus Bregenz Mika Rottenberg, Untitled Ceiling Projection (video still), 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Goldsmiths CCA, Londra, MAMbo – Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Kunsthaus Bregenz
  • Goran Trbuljak, Self portrait, 1996 Courtesy Collezione Enea Righi © Dario Lasagni Goran Trbuljak, Self portrait, 1996 Courtesy Collezione Enea Righi © Dario Lasagni
  • MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna © Anna Rossi MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna © Anna Rossi
  • MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna © Matteo Monti MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna © Matteo Monti