Milan - Interviews

Please, Jump on it!: an Interview with Jeremy Deller and Massimiliano Gioni

3 days ago

During the somewhat soggy opening of Jeremy Deller’s Sacrilege, a bouncy-castle Stonehenge, at CityLife sculpture park in Milan, we interviewed both the British artist and curator Massimiliano Gioni to find out more about the installation and the collaboration with Fondazione Trussardi. 

The installation will be erect until Sunday, April 15th.

With Sacrilege, Deller brings to the heart of  Milan a life-size inflatable reconstruction of the archeological site of Stonehenge – an icon of British culture and heritage, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986.

Deller believes in the devaluation of artistic ego through the involvement of other people in the creative process and this gentle approach of his was evident throughout our interview with him as he hastily encouraged all passers; the young, the old, two legs or four to get involved, jump and play on the inflatable.

Meeting the artist: a rainy interview with Jeremy Deller

Lara Morrell: Well in true British style let’s start by talking about the weather, how perfectly apt it is? (It has been pouring with rain in Milan for the last few days)

Jeremy Deller: I know, brilliant isn’t it?! I’m soaking and we’ve spent the whole morning mopping and trying to empty the thing of water, you should jump on and have a go! (Jeremy interrupts our talk to usher a passerby and her dog onto the inflatable Stonehenge). Sorry, but the whole point is that people interact and play on it, thats what its all about, for people to enjoy it. 

L.M.: Could you tell us a little about the title – why Sacrilege? Is it perhaps a way of covering your back?

J.D.: Perhaps yes, but that’s what I called it back in 2012 and that’s how it stayed, people seem to like it. At the time I thought people may think turning a pre-historic site in to a bouncy castle sacrilege, so to ward off any criticism I called it just that.

L.M.:  ‘A week or so ago you handed out posters to commuters in stations in London and Liverpool with instructions on how to delete their Facebook profiles. Now in the light of yesterday’s Mark Zuckerburg hearing could you tell us some more about this intervention?

J.D.: Back in January I made a red t-shirt with a six step instruction on how to delete your Facebook account for an opening party at Kettle’s Yard, this was before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, then in its wake I was commissioned by the Rapid Response Unit News to make posters, they were printed on pink paper and handed out in Liverpool and London and also on the walls of the Facebook’s London headquarters.

The Rapid Response Unit is a Liverpool based cultural experiment which encourages artist to respond creatively to global events, believing in public engagement and free distribution.

L.M.: My Art Guides is based in Venice, you represented Britain in the British Pavilion for the Biennale in 2013 with English Magic, how has your vision of Britain and it’s ever weirder status changed since then, regarding Brexit for example? What was your experience of Venice like?

J.D.: Wow, that’s a big question and I need more time to think about it, but the show would be a lot different today, the country is ever more divided and bizarre. However in one of the rooms in the pavilion there is a reference to our relationship to Russia, with William Morris throwing a luxury yacht belonging to Roman Abramovich into the Venetian lagoon. I had a great time in Venice and the show was a great success, people reacted really well to it.

L.M.: On the topic of Brexit have you heard about the Brexiters proposal for the ‘Museum of Sovereignty’  a museum of Brexit leading to galleries displaying a selection of your old school friend Nigel Farage’s tweed jackets.

J.D.: No I haven’t heard about it, but I think its a brilliant idea, it will demonstrate just how absurd they all are!

 

From the curator’s perspective: a few questions for Massimiliano Gioni

Lara Morrell: How did the collaboration with Jeremy come about? When did you two start working together?

Massimiliano Gioni: Jeremy and I go back a long way, we started working together for the first time in 2004 in San Sebastian when he organised one of his first parades and then we collaborated in 2006 at the Berlin biennale and in 2009 at New Museum. We met again at the Venice Biennale in 2013 where he was not in the international show but in the British pavilion which was even greater, its a friendship and long-lasting collaboration and we wanted to bring the piece to Milan since he installing it in Glasgow and London. It took some time to make it happen on a practical level because the city has strict regulations that prohibit the erection of any sort of structure in public green spaces. So we finally found a way to do it because this park technically doesn’t belong to the city yet as it’s in transition between private ownership (those who built CityLife) and the city. So it was because of this transition period it was possible to have access, it’s a technicality but it also demonstrates the patience Jeremy has when realising a project and it worked out well as its a strange and interesting context and it happens to be near miart.

L.M.: Why this specifically this piece of his? Is there any kind of underling message to the piece in this context?

MG: I don’t even know if he had this in mind in 2012, but certainly this piece sadly becomes more relevant today when certain ideas of nationalism and populism appropriate these types of symbols with xenophobic or nationalistic messages, that was what I read in his piece but I don’t know if this was what he had in mind. In Italy this type of imagery is very much associated with the myth of origins, which are regarded with suspicion, even in England as well. We had this occasion to work together in Milan and we took it and we’ll most probably work together again in the future. Typically with the foundation during Miart we hold smaller projects like this, not it terms of scale, but smaller in ambition, one-off unique projects.

L.M: Any Milan highlights to suggest for the visitors of Milan Art Week?

M.G: This is the kind of thing you do not want to disclose to the press! Ok, let me think…This is not meant to be self serving but what I do love about the Trussardi Foundation is that in a sense it has become a compass for the hidden history of the city tracing the different places where we have held exhibitions, for example two years ago in an abandoned art deco public bath near Porta Venezia we held a show by Sarah Lucas, Albergo Diurno – that’s a really amazing space but can be accessed during special openings only ( currently it is closed).

Lara Morrell

  • Jeremy Deller at the opening of Sacrilege, City Life Park Jeremy Deller at the opening of Sacrilege, City Life Park
  • Sacrilege, Installation views, City Life Park Sacrilege, Installation views, City Life Park
  • Beatrice Trussardi, Jeremy Deller and Massimiliano Gioni Beatrice Trussardi, Jeremy Deller and Massimiliano Gioni
  • Jeremy Deller Jeremy Deller
Milan - Interviews

“The Feeling of Things”: an Interview with Matt Mullican

4 days ago

Pirelli HangarBicocca presents a spectacular exhibition of over 40 years of work by Matt Mullican. Curated by Roberta Tenconi, the exhibition occupies a 5500 metres square space, presenting the artist’s prolific production in a variety of different materials including glass, stone, metal, posters, neons, photographs, paintings, videos, performances, lightboxes and computer-based projects as well as virtual reality and a large selection of iconography.

The exhibition takes us on a journey through the space and the artists’ five worlds which are split into five areas of different colours which represent the iconic cosmologies of the artist. We’ve interviewed Matt Mullican at the preview of his exhibition to talk about “The Feeling of Things“, about Glass and about his old friend Glenn..

Lara Morrell: May I firstly congratulate you on this colossal and cosmic exhibition, from what I gather this is your first major retrospective in Italy, what has it been like putting all your work together and seeing it here in a space such as Hangar Bicocca?

Matt Mullican: It is a responsibility to have a space like this, it is not an easy thing but I had lots of time and that was the key, its a space with such a tremendous ego, from a point of view which is undeniable. I didn’t want to make it into theatre which is one of the devices which other artists have used in order to to handle it. I wanted the whole thing lit and deal with it in its own terms and use it for what it can do, which for me by itself is spectacular. We always had a enough time to actually do what we wanted and the staff here have been tremendous. Everything was perfect but I have to say it was like dressing a whale, it is complicated and a chore. I have in actual fact done many retrospectives but not one in which I could build the actual museum itself, I used the low walls to create the vista. Like that scene from Citizen Kane with all the crates, you know what I mean? That shot is a feeling and gives you the scale and thats what gets you feeling. People go to the Gran Canyon not to see it but to feel it, when you see it you breath goes away and thats what this space is. You feel the scale, its so huge.

L.M.: Seeing all you work from the last 45 years together in this way, has it helped you in your quest to explain and order the world around you?

M.M.: You know the quest for what I am deciphering, what ever it is I am deciphering, I am smart enough to know that I am not going to get there and I knew this a while ago. The pieces that I guarantee that will be in shows are the pieces from 45 years ago. The pinching a dead mans arm, and the birth to death list both from 1973 are works that I can show forever, then of course there’s the hypnosis, The Meaning of Things which is the most important recent work I have done and the most important pieces are still seldom, they don’t happen all the time and I am really excited when I am onto one. I think the most important thing about this shows are the walls and the structure. Actually seeing the work here, it became my studio space, my studio is wherever I am and this is the best studio I have ever had. It lights the work up in such a particular way, I learned from the work. I got vertigo from looking up at my pictures at this scale, I have never seen them like this before.

L.M: May I ask you a more pernickety question? Our studio is based in Venice, I’ve noticed a prominence in the use of glass throughout the exhibition, what is it about glass? What does this material represent for you?

M.M: I love glass, glass has a perfection about it, it reflects us, you see through it also solid and its old and its been around for a long time. I like working through materials, I’ve worked in granite, glass, stain glass, tapestry, many different material and I am really interested in how those materials are read. There are artists in materials. In the early 80s I made the decision to go through the crafts, because I was interested in the context of the sign and I had done posters and flags and all that and then I wanted to go onto the crafts.

L.M.: Where did you blow the glass, in Murano?

M.M.: No unfortunately not, the first blown glass pieces were done in New York, where I was living at the time and in Germany and Austria. Glass has a huge place in my work, as you can see, I just love its perfection, its transparence. It plays a huge role in this exhibition and perhaps its one of the factors which makes it so perfect, although its not, at least we have an element which represents it, we feel that representation and thats again what I was interested in, when you see the sign in these different areas, and different materials and you change the sign, you change the adjectives, the adjectives are feelings and the feeling of things is vital. I’ve broken the world down into feelings not senses. What is the sense of the body? Its physicality? There is a sense, what is that? I think its mental, its the feeling of presence, its the sixth sense, the feeling of your physical body. This is the next thing I am interested in because our feeling is the nervous system, this is something I am really interested in. I am alway gravitated towards the most fun!

L.M.: On from glass to your old friend Glenn, could you tell me more about him and how he is getting on?

M.M: Glenn is the stick figure, I gave him a name to give him the image of identity like Donald Duck or Bugs Bunny so I could have a relationship with him beyond so it wasn’t just a picture it was actually a person I could have a relationship with, I was interested in the avatar-ishness of him, like a friend from the other side. Glen has a studio where he works, Glenn is there, he is always there.

L.M.: Does he stay the same or does he evolve, grow and change?

M.M.: In his essence he stays the same, in the Meaning of Things, that piece which you absolutely must read at the beginning of the show, in the first corridor on your left, you begin with The Man and His symbols which is Carl Jung and then The Meaning of Things begins, read the text and look at the pictures, thats the most important new piece of all the work and its a killer because Glenn is not Glenn anymore. You’ll see how Glenn functions.

Lara Morrell

  • Matt Mullican. Courtesy of Pirelli HangarBicocca Matt Mullican. Courtesy of Pirelli HangarBicocca
  • Matt Mullican, Matt Mullican, "The Feeling of Things", Exhibition view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, 2018
  • Matt Mullican, Matt Mullican, "The Feeling of Things", Exhibition view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, 2018
  • Matt Mullican, Matt Mullican, "The Feeling of Things", Exhibition view, Pirelli HangarBicocca, 2018
Milan - Interviews

“Conceptual Contraband and the Migration of Art and Ideas”: an Interview with Sara Raza

5 days ago

On the occasion of the presentation of the Guggenheim UBS MAP exhibition at GAM Milano “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise” I had the chance to ask Sara Raza about the conceptual origin of the show.

Mara Sartore: We’re at the last chapter of this UBS journey which started in New York. I would like to start by asking you to tell us a bit more about the concept and the story of the title of the exhibition “But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise”.

Sara Raza: The title is derived from the writing of the German Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin, part of the Frankfurt school and his impact on my own thinking: particularly his story was very pertinent. He was trying to escape Nazi persecution of occupied France and he travelled thought the Pyrenees to Spain, he had a visa for the USA and his intention was to arrive in neutral Portugal and from there he would cross the Atlantic to USA. However when he reached the boarder they told him that all visa would be revoked and everybody would be sent back. He subsequently committed suicide. One of his possessions was a Paul Klee painting of an angel, referred to as the ‘Angel of History’ and about which he writes very poetically. Benjamin refers to it as the angel trying to save mankind but there’s debris piling up and there’s a storm blowing from paradise which doesn’t allow him to move. There was this kind of reckoning between that essay and his life and how it all came together in terms of the project, this is because we’re facing the largest migratory footprint since World War II with the Syrian crisis in Europe, so it was really important for me to bring all this together within this exhibition. It has been also a collection-building exercise and at the same time I had to think about a curatorial project that would leave a mark, a very contemporary one.

MS: During the press conference you said that there are some invisible elements to the naked eye in this exhibition, could you tell us a bit more about the elements you where referring to?

SR: One of the curatorial strategies in this exhibitions was to look at conceptual contraband, and by contraband I mean trading of goods and ideas and particularly the black market. Contraband it’s like an alternative economy and I was interested in some of the strategies the artists employed. You will notice that there’s no provocation in the art works, they’re not provocative for the sake of provocation, but this doesn’t mean that they are not political. Actually they are indeed political, but they’re using several layered meanings that work in the same way a smuggler operates. As smugglers are able to cross borders, to go from country to country, without necessarily ever being caught or questioned, I think that’s what I was interested in when I was thinking about hidden meaning and providing value to some of those ideas that go unnoticed.

MS: I’ve noticed that not all the artists included in the exhibition come from what we conventionally think as the Middle East, for example there is Lida Abdul who was born in Afganistan and lives between Los Angeles and Kabul.

SR: Middle East is a construct. For 400 years before colonialism and the Ottoman Empire it existed as a constellation of cities and people were moving, but after the Ottoman Empire collapsed, British and Europeans really divided the region up and it became no longer a constellation but North of Africa and West of Asia is what the Middle East is understood as. You’re right in pointing out that Afghanistan is not part of that. Afghanistan is in central Asia, but Afghanistan historically has always been a buffer between East and West and in this exhibition I never ever reference directly to Syria or to the Syrian crisis, but it was really on top of my mind when I was working for the Guggenheim. I always had on my mind Syria when I was soliciting and looking for artworks to acquire for the institution, when I was enquiring about them, when I was building the curatorial concept because this is also a collection, not just an exhibition.

MS: Among the art works in the exhibition there is one in particular I would like to ask you to talk about “In Transit” by Lida Abdul.

SR: Lida’s piece is a very poetic analysis on places of post devastation, a space that has been ravished by war. She’s an artist that I have been working with for more than 10 years, I have written the Venice Biennale catalogue for her, I have written several books and essays and curated her work in several occasions. Lida is somebody who really provides a non prosaic analysis and particularly this work deals with the idea of rebuilding, a kind of reformation of a country that cannot rebuild itself, that has had decades of being ravaged by war and conflict and also internal struggles. The children in the video are able to be resilient, they’re able to move forward, when perhaps adults are not, so there’s hope. The action, beautifully portrayed, draws from Iranian cinema, from Armenian filmakers’ practice and really incapsulates what I am trying to achieve with this exhibition.

Mara Sartore

  • Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa Photograph by David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York Sara Raza, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Middle East and North Africa Photograph by David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York
  • Lida Abdul, In Transit, 2008. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP © Lida Abdul Lida Abdul, In Transit, 2008. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP © Lida Abdul
  • Installation view: But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, GAM, Milan © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018 Photo: Carlotta Coppo Installation view: But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, GAM, Milan © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2018 Photo: Carlotta Coppo
Rome - Interviews

“From Screen to Nature and Back Again”: an Interview with NEEN founder Miltos Manetas

6 days ago

On the occasion of Miltos Manetas’ solo show at MAXXI, Rome we interviewed the artist to learn more about his art and practice, mostly related to social networks, selfie, fashion and the imaginary of the contemporary age.

For his solo show, Miltos (Athens, 1964) brings together with large canvases a world populated by selfies, a reality observed by Facebook, pornographic images next to fashion, the streets of the whole world he recorded by Google. A painter, conceptual and theoretical artist, recognized at international level for his internet-based works and for having founded in 2009 the first Internet Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Miltos tells about the emotions and the imaginary of our contemporary era.

Mara Sartore: In 2000 you founded NEEN (the first art movement of the 21st century) which investigates the Post-Internet Art. How have the things changed during the time? Which is your relationship with the internet and social media today?

Miltos Manetas: Around 2001 “The Post Internet Society” was born. I remember buying a little box that year, it was a wireless modem that you could connect to your laptop and have internet everywhere! To test it, I drove to very remote places in California until I finally reached the deserts of the Death Valley. The thing always worked! But a week later, the company that was producing it cancelled it’s service, returned the money to those who had bought it and closed down it’s business, literally disappeared! Not one journalist wrote a single word about that disappearance and never again such an internet-anywhere device came back in the market. The oligarchy of phone companies – the stars of our days – was re-established. Still, it was evident that this planet had now a new atmosphere and that was internet. What we call Western Society, quickly start re-organising in that environment: to live without internet connection, would now mean loneliness and it would have a great cost to your life and profession. After 2003 already, it would take lots of guts to stay an “Unconnected”.
I think it was there, on the depths of the Dead Valley, in a location full of gigantic mosquitos where stones are rumored to move around when nobody is watching, that I experienced for the first time the frenzy of Existential Computing. Suddenly, it was as if my presence in that particular spot, the presence of the car that brought me there, all my instruments, my clothes etc, were adding ones and zeros, computing. That same year, I met John Perry Barlow and we became friends. Life for Barlow was all about “frenzy” but of another kind: getting together with people, all kind of human souls, geniuses, assholes, losers and unbearable winners of the Silicon Valley type, neo-drug addicts, meta-politicians, shy sex-exploiters, you name it.. What really Barlow was doing with us, was building up a society network – not a social one, there’s a big difference.

MS: In your work you proceed in two directions: on one hand you employ a traditional and more “classic” technique, the oil painting, on the other you experiment the web and the virtual universe. It is fascinating this dialogue between the tactile, material and physical aspects of your practice and the notions of virtuality and abstraction of your main interest. Could you tell us more about your practice?

MM: I will respond to this question with Newpressionism’s slogan: “From Screen to Nature and back again”

MS: You’ve stated: “The landscape of the screen is for us as nature was for the Impressionists. We live in contact with the landscape of the screen, so it makes sense to paint it”. Could you tell us about your concept of art and your relationship with the internet society?

MM: Yes, nature was a new thing for me, I discovered it late in 2010 when I went to sleep on a tree in the middle of the Amazonian forest. From then on I start thinking at Nature not in terms of how Nature it is called but as an attempt to naturalize a side of the creatures around us. The Indios, for example, call animals and trees “people”, there’s no division between us and nature. So when I say that computers and digital objects are nature is because they are part of the abstraction that we consider nature and they become more and more nature.
I don’t have a concept of art nor even of myself as an artist. I feel as an operator who is searching in the dark. I find myself in a sentence by Eraclitus which states: “Man in the dark lights a candle for himself when the light from his brain is over”. This is best way in which I can describe myself when I do art.
As for internet, this is a landscape that I’m floating in it, I search in every corner of it trying to find some light. What I know about it, my relationship with it is a tactile and digital feeling, it has to do with my fingers.

MS: During the Venice Biennale 2009 you launched the Internet Pavilion. On this occasion as well as in 2013 with the project curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, your interest was addressed mainly to the “unconnected”, to those who do not use the internet. Do you think it is still possible for people to live without internet?

MM: Yes, there are people who live without internet. It is an unprivileged condition, proper of those people who cannot afford internet. This could sound strange but this happen because there’s a huge separation between us and them. Nowadays we cannot imagine people without connection, mobile phones, ecc… These figures become more and more significant today as they are becoming for us holy figures. This was my intention when I launched the Internet pavilion in 2009. In that context I was looking for unprivileged people among the privileged ones, because people engaged in the art are privileged. And I found them, there were unconnected, even artists that were acting without internet. These are holy figures, at least for me

MS: Could you tell us about your works from the series “Internet Paintings”, on view at MAXXI? Which is the creative process behind these artworks?

MM: I started in 2002 and it is an ongoing project. During these years, I started thinking at the possibility of existential computing. I don’t know the exact meaning of this but it was a concept that come in my brain on a rainy day in London and which I lost during the same day when I was doing a video.
According to the multiverse theory, for example, how shall we live our life now that we know that the universe is not unique but maybe it’s part of a larger system? I don’t think there are other universes around us but we are changing our vision of the reality thanks to the progress of technologies, the scientific and physic theories. If we take in consideration this possibility of multi-universes we shall think every time at the act we do or don’t do. For example, we are thirsty while working on a desk: my brain wants me to get up and have a glass of water but my body doesn’t move. What should we think? Which is the real act we did? Which is our relationship with the things around us? This is existential computing for me. I decided that I should use this exhibitions to experiment and construct quantum computer or at least test them. The idea of the exhibition was to use paintings as computational objects, as codes and databases. The space is full of codes and is still under constructions. In this context, I see myself as an operating system, a software that interrelate with the works and the environment. The most interesting thing is what we left out of our projection. What will be happing if we start making computations?

MS: You were born in Greece, lived in Italy, LA, London and now you are currently based in Bogotá. Could you tell us about this nomadic life stile and your perspective on the cultural scene of the city where you live now?

MM: I moved to Italy as Greeks didn’t want me to be an artist. In Greece my professors at school told me that I had no talent. Actually they were right as you don’t need to have talent to be an artist. To be an artist you need wisdom. In my life I moved slightly to the West because we are western people and we are used to move a little bit to the west and a little bit to the North. I first arrived in Rome, then in Milan and there I was stuck. Western and powerful cities are like blackholes, like packmen, they grab you, they eat you and they keep you there for sometimes. I stayed in Milan for 10 years. Then I arrived in New York and in this city I was stuck again. In the US I moved horizontally as this is the structure of the country. So I arrived in Los Angeles where I was grabbed by another kind of hole, the hole of a billiard play table. After that, I was bounced back to the East, as I cannot further to the West. The West ends in Los Angles. So I started coming back to the East, to New York, and then to Paris and London. I started living in a triangle, by moving frequently in these cities. In this way I become an important Western artist until I found a moment when I wanted to die.
At that point I met the South. I met São Paulo and Bogotá, in Colombia where I discover nature, and fatherhood. Here a lot of things changed into me. I had a sort of modification which affected my operating system. It happened something that obliged me to change as if a windows operating system is installed into a Mac computer. I discovered locations of the South and this brought me back to where I start, to Greece and Italy, Sabina close to Rome.This is my Google map story.
The cultural scene of the city is something I detest. Every city of our Empire world is the same. In terms of visual art there is a remaking of the 90s aesthetics. But there are peculiar and interesting situations where artists are doing completely different things which attract me. That’s why I want to collaborated with these people which I invited in the exhibition as well. So I will see them and paint them, as I am nothing more than a painter.

Mara Sartore

  • Miltos Manetas, The Italian Painting, 2000. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI Miltos Manetas, The Italian Painting, 2000. Courtesy Fondazione MAXXI
  • Miltos Manetas, Courtesy of Fondazione MAXXI, Rome Miltos Manetas, Courtesy of Fondazione MAXXI, Rome
  • Miltos Manetas, Courtesy of Fondazione MAXXI, Rome Miltos Manetas, Courtesy of Fondazione MAXXI, Rome
  • Miltos Manetas, Internet Painting, 2000. Courtesy the artist Miltos Manetas, Internet Painting, 2000. Courtesy the artist
  • Miltos Manetas, Courtesy the artist Miltos Manetas, Courtesy the artist
Hong Kong - Interviews

“Standing on the Edge of the World”: Sean Scully in Conversation with Alfredo Cramerotti

2 weeks ago

On the occasion of the solo show by Sean Scully at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, which inaugurated during Art Basel Hong Kong, we asked the artist and the curator to have a conversation to learn more about the exhibition, the artist’s practice and his personal attitude.

Alfredo Cramerotti: Sean, could you tell me what brought you to investigate abstraction as a form of physical experience? The two terms are almost contradictory, yet your work seems to merge precisely this.

Sean Scully: I wanted to bring abstraction into the world of living things, of living matter. I felt it had shifted away from being able to communicate. So I gave it a kind of physical agency mediums.

AC: The exhibition presents a cross-media selection of works. I’d like to know from you how you approach the media differently, if so. Is there a different attitude or working methodology between canvas, metal, photography, paper?

SS: Paper is delicate. Pastel and watercolour require a great sense of sensitivity, and of course with watercolour one is always trying to release the height ‘within’ the paper. Pastel requires layers that are ruffed into the paper, fried again and again. The difference between canvases and metal is significant. Metal is hard and it pushes back registering everything you do without loss of energy. Canvas is soften and requires more building of layers.

AC: You’re showing in HK for the first time. What has mainland China given to you so far, and what do you expect from HK?

SS: I don’t send my work to HK to get something. I send it to give something: since it is already made when I send it. I have a profound relationship with China, almost intimate. And I love to deepen this.

AC: ‘Standing on the edge’ is the underlying theme of the show. I have my angle on it, as a curator; but what about your take? How did you feel about when I first mentioned this to you?

SS: My work is dealing with the subject of the edge. That is the metaphor. How the plates and bodies (political and geographical) push against each other.

AC: It strikes me that your attitude towards life is powerful, direct, head-on, yet – I think – sensitive in many ways. We all have ‘secret’ aspects. For instance, what I sense is that you are a generous person, and one who takes care of people. Is there something you don’t show of yourself at first?

SS: I think at the end, I am a nurse. When I was a child, I had an animal hospital in my house, for wild injured animals. I have always been like this. And now I support this and that, and attract friends, who are on hard tries. Most people see at first that I am direct. That is also true.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
  • Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
  • Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano Sean Scully, Exhibition view, 2018, Hong Kong Arts Centre © Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Milan - Interviews

Milan from an Artist’s Perspective: an Interview with Nathalie Du Pasquier

3 weeks ago

On the occasion of miart art week, we asked Milan based artist Nathalie Du Pasquier to tell us about her art and practice and to share with our readers her perspective on the city art scene.

Nathalie Du Pasquier (Bordeaux, 1957) is represented by Apalazzo gallery, Brescia where she is currently working on her upcoming solo show.

Mara Sartore: You career as a painter, after having worked as a designer with the Memphis Group in early 1980s, started in the late 1980s with your interest in still life and surrealist landscapes. Then your work has gradually moved towards more abstract compositions. How did you get to this shift in your practice?

Nathalie Du Pasquier: Life is full of possibilities…I don’t know how it happened, we cannot explain everything, most of what we do has a mysterious origin. Anyway at one point I took a studio on my own, and being left alone with myself, naturally turned to painting. Then from the paintings of everyday objects I started to build “abstract objects”. A few years later I lost the need to have a model in front of me and now I paint my compositions directly on the canvas, I think I can say I paint abstract compositions. I don’t know what might happen in a few month or even tomorrow…

MS: Which or who are the main things that inspire and influence your work?

NDP: My work is inspired by my life: by what I see, by the people I meet, by what I read. Pompei paintings, Casorati, late Roman mosaics, Persian miniatures, Ingres, Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Indian temples, Sanchez Cotan, Sottass, El Lissitzky,  Morandi, Giorgio de Chirico and Savinio, French Medieval miniatures, Le Corbusier, the shape of flowers, the colours of exotic fishes, the beauty of animal life, Japanese prints, the albums of Tintin et Milou. Plus many more things.

MS: Which are the projects you are working on and the upcoming ones we could look forward to see?

NDP: At the moment I am preparing an exhibition together with George Sowden, it will be called “Materialism” and will present new furniture, carpets and ceramics in the Memphis/ postdesign showroom in Largo Treves during the salone. I am also preparing an exhibition for Apalazzo in Brescia that will be called “Uscita d’Insicurezza”: it is very interesting to show my work in such a beautiful place for the second time. This time I will show, apart from paintings, 3 big dimensional things, I am very curious to see how they will be perceived in that space. Every exhibition brings a new experience, something that will inspire the next show.

MS: You first arrived in Milan in 1979. How was Milan over that time? Was it a stimulating place for an artist to live?

NDP: I was not an artist when I arrived in Milan, not even a designer, just a young girl, but Milan gave me for the first time in my life a desire to participate in the modernity of my time. I immediately liked Milan for its architecture, because it was not too beautiful and because I met people I admired.

MS: How do you perceive the city in its cultural attitude today comparing it with the first times you came here? In terms of artists engagement, do you think that artists groups or art movement still exist and influence the society?

NDP: I don’t know, I never think about these things. But if a butterfly movement of wings has an influence on how the world goes, so maybe also artists…

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

NDP: Take a walk in the city without any specific destination is always the best. If you don’t have a lot of time but want to see some beautiful place go to Sant Ambrogio for the atmosphere, Sant Eustorgio is also beautiful for the paintings inside.I warmly recommend to people visiting Milan in this period to go and see the exhibition at Fondazione Prada which is absolutely fantastic! Take 4 hours and go there!

Mara Sartore

  • Nathalie Du Pasquier © Ilvio Gallo Nathalie Du Pasquier © Ilvio Gallo
  • Nathalie Du Pasquier, Nathalie Du Pasquier, "BRR 5", 2016. Courtesy of APalazzo Gallery
  • Nathalie Du Pasquier, Nathalie Du Pasquier, "BRR 17", 2016. Courtesy of APalazzo Gallery
Hong Kong - Interviews

Kingsley Ng: Hong Kong Through an Artist’s Perspective

1 month ago

On the occasion of our special issue on Art Basel Hong Kong and the art week, we asked artist Kingsley Ng to draw up a special artistic itinerary around Hong Kong.

Ng explores unusual urban settings as art sites. Recent projects include “Twenty-Five Minutes Older, a commission by Art Basel last year which takes the audience on a moving tram, and “After the Deluge”, presented earlier this year in an underground storm-water tank the size of 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
In March 2018, he is exhibiting in an abandoned primary school in Chuen Lung Village at Tai Mo Shan, and directing an immersive installation for night-time experiential journeys in the former Victoria Barracks (hksecretgarden.com). Ng’s works have been featured in notable exhibitions and international venues. Examples include the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Rome Italy, Guangzhou Triennial in China, Land Art Biennial in Mongolia, Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial in Japan, and IRCAM – Centre Pompidou in France. He is currently Assistant Professor at the Academy of Visual Arts of Hong Kong Baptist University.

An Artist’s Itinerary by Kingsley Ng

“When planning a one-day art itinerary in Hong Kong, you should consider that there are many areas to explore: many commercial galleries are located in Central and Mid-Levels. But because of high rent, bigger loft spaces tend to be tucked in post-industrial areas such as in Kwun Tong, Fo Tan, Chai Wan and the Southern District.
Another unusual area to explore is under the Lion Rock in Kowloon. There are dozens of studios at JCCAC (Shek Kip Mei MTR), and other specialised artistic research facilities such as the City University’s School of Creative Media and HKBU Academy of Visual Arts (Kowloon Tong MTR). I suggest starting from the Asia Art Archive in Sheung Wan. The staff are very knowledgeable and can give good recommendations for what’s on in the city relating to the arts. If it’s already time for lunch, while you are in Sheung Wan, you can eat like a local at an air-conditioned Dai Pai Dong inside the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre, right above the wet market. Or there are many excellent Chiu Chow restaurants such as Shung Hing in the area. After lunch, you can take the MTR to the east side of the island, which used to be an entertainment district with cinemas, theme parks, swimming pavilions and a yacht club. Much of that has now faded away, but you can still discover some traces, such as the Oi! Street Art Space which was the former Royal Yacht Club, and is now converted into a centre of contemporary art. The State Theatre is like a labyrinth. It has recently received Grade I historic building status after public outcry over (now suspended) demolition. You may also peek into Connecting Spaces, where they will be rehearsing for a concert with Alvin Lucier & the Ever Present Orchestra, to be held on the evening of Mar 27. Next head to Para Site, the longest running independent art space in the city. Finally, make your way to ArtisTree, an art space run by Swire Properties.
While you are in Taikoo Place, you can have a drink on the 37th-floor Sky Lobby of One Island East, with the panoramic view of the city, then head to the Kowloon side by ferry. You may take a ferry from North Point to Kowloon City, and visit Cattle Depot Artist Village. Alternatively, you can take a small boat from Sai Wan Ho to Sam Ka Tsuen (Lei Yue Mun), which used to be a fishing and mining village. It is a great place to watch the sunset.
If you end up in Kowloon and want a quick escape from the urban jungle, you can have vegetarian dinner under a waterfall at the Tang Dynasty-style Nan Lian Garden (Diamond Hill MTR), or to So-Boring, an vegetarian restaurant where you can pay as much or as little, on Tak Cheong Lane (Yau Ma Tei MTR).
After dinner, if you have any energies left, you can pub crawl around Central, starting from the Duddell’s, all the way to Sense 99, or get a few dozen drinks from 7-11 and occupy the rooftop of the IFC Mall. Before you go back to your hotel, definitely take a latenight tram ride, sit on the upper deck. Allow yourself to get lost in the city”.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Kingsley Ng, Courtesy of the artist Kingsley Ng, Courtesy of the artist
  • Kingsley Ng, After the Deluge, 2018. Courtesy of the artist Kingsley Ng, After the Deluge, 2018. Courtesy of the artist
  • Kingsley Ng, 'Twenty-Five Minutes Older', 2017 Kingsley Ng, 'Twenty-Five Minutes Older', 2017
New York - Interviews

“Art is an Exercise on Freedom”: an Interview with Tania Bruguera

1 month ago

Visitors attending the Armory show week in New York, are having the chance to visit the installation “Untitled (Havana, 2000)” at MoMA until March 11th.
On the occasion of her exhibition and the announcement of being the winner of Tate Modern commission for the Turbine Hall, we interviewed Tania Bruguera to learn more about her practice and involvement in the art and politics of Cuba, her country of birth.

Mara Sartore: In your early career you were mainly influenced by the work of Ana Mendieta within the practice of intimate performance. You later developed large-scale interactive situations, creating what you describe “productive moments”. How did you get to this shift?

Tania Bruguera: When I understood that Art could enter spaces where one could rehearse future realities.

MS: In your practice, you always focus on how to “activate” the public you interact with. In your participatory events you aim to provoke viewers to consider the political realities masked by government propaganda and mass-media interpretation. This is also linked to the “behavior art”— a practice aimed at “not representing the political but provoking the political”. Could you tell us about your practice? Which project or performance do you feel most attached to?

TB: Art is an exercise on freedom, whether by liberating yourself of your everyday burdens or by letting you define your surroundings. For far too long the first option became light fun or decoration and the audience has been trained to be entertained by the institutions which provide their comfort. Instead my work is using Art as a way to navigate the uncomfortable and works with institutions as political and civic spaces where one can discuss difficult ideas in a protected environment. I call “Arte de Conducta” (conduct or behavior art) precisely to the process where the audience completes the artwork with their reactions with their intervention on the situation that is presented, one they will encounter one day in real life. When I say not representing the political but to provoke the political is because I try to use art as a way to generate a political situation people have to define themselves in, because I’m trying art to go beyond art itself and be incorporated in our political life as an instrument of processing ideas and thinking differently when situations seems unescapable.

MS: Born and grown up in Cuba, you moved to Queens, New York. Here you initiated the “Immigrant Movement International” (2010–15), a five-year project about the living conditions of immigrants in Corona, Queens, New York. Could you tell us about this project? How did you get to it?

TB: The project is still running and doing a lot of amazing things for the community. In 2014 I proposed to the museum and the community that it was time for the project to be completely defined and ran by the members of the community. If you want to talk about empowering a community do not talk for them, give them your platform and go into the background making sure they have that platform and their agency for as long as possible. I think Immigrant Movement International is best explained when people come and join them.

MS: Raul Castro will step down as Cuba’s president on April 2018. You proposed yourself as a candidate in the upcoming Cuban Presidential Election in a video called “#YoMePropongo en Cuba”. Once again, your interest was to create a participatory event and disclose what your audience would do, if they were elected president. How this social experiment has been performing?

TB: We wanted to present the possibility for any citizen to propose themselves instead of the government candidates. I collaborated with two civic organizations “Candidates for change” and “Another 18” unfortunately the Cuban Government focused on all of these initiatives in such a disproportionate way that put in jail and created legal impediments (once you have an open legal case you cannot run) to most of the 100 plus candidates and boycotted the ones who they could not imprisoned because of their visibility (as it was my case). Even then we had two candidates who won, and the government claimed it was a mistake and went door to door to ‘explain’ to the voters why they should not vote for our candidates on the second round. Even with such pressing situation our candidates lose for less than 10 votes so everyone knows that they were rigged elections so they do not respect the elected ones. In any case this was an exercise we knew impossible because even if they were elected once you go into the municipal level the government decides who run on those elections. But the idea is to keep trying and trying and trying until people understand what democracy is and the government understand that they exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

MS: You have been just announced winner of the Tate Modern commission for the Turbine Hall. How do your feel about it? Could you give us a preview of what to expect from the project you’re conceiving?

TB: It is a great honor to join such list of artists. I can say… that it will be open this Fall and hope to see you there!

Mara Sartore

  • Tania Bruguera © Claudio Fuentes Tania Bruguera © Claudio Fuentes
  • Tania Bruguera, Untitled (Havana, 2000), installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York Tania Bruguera, Untitled (Havana, 2000), installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Tania Bruguera, Untitled (Havana, 2000), installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York Tania Bruguera, Untitled (Havana, 2000), installation view, The Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2018 The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

Alserkal Programming Commission: Hale Tenger in Conversation with Mari Spirito

1 month ago

Alserkal Programming has appointed Hale Tenger for a commissioned public intervention guest curated by Mari Spirito, to be launched at Alserkal Avenue during Dubai Art Week in March 2018. Spirito is Founder and Curator of Protocinema, a non-profit organisation based between Istanbul and New York, and is the first guest curator to be invited to work on Alserkal Programming’s artist commissions.

Mari Spirito: Your installation at Alserkal Avenue is experiential, like so many of your works. Tell us more about the reasons behind this.

Hale Tenger: I’m moved by artworks that rely on the experience of the viewer and are open ended in such a way. These fabricated environments push ajar the door of one’s imagination. It is as if the artwork constitutes a stage for the viewer, each viewer is there to experience 
the work with his/her own imagination and individual agenda at that moment. Just like we construct the world of novels in our minds when reading, installations like “Under” operate with the qualities of mood, sound, and texture and are opening up potential spaces for the viewer to contemplate, to dwell upon. I also admire works that generate such experiences and stay with you for a long time, for example after watching a movie, reading a novel, a poem or encountering an artwork.

MS: Could you tell me a little more about your relationship with Dubai?

HT: My first time in Dubai was in 2011. I had an exhibition at Green Art Gallery. Yasmin Atassi contacted me for a solo show and that’s how it all started. “Balloons on the Sea was presented initially at Green Art Gallery and both Yasmin and I were very happy about the process and the outcome. Since then we have continued collaborating together. So, I was very excited when you asked me if I’d be interested in the Alserkal Programming commission and I’m very much looking forward to presenting an outdoor piece in The Yard in Alserkal Avenue. We had to postpone a solo show we intended to do at Green Art Gallery last year and this came at the ideal time.

MS: The audio component of this work is subtle yet quite dynamic. Why did you add sound and how was it created?

HT:  I have been incorporating sound or music into my works since 1993. Audio is often integrated into my works either in video installations or through environments that I create. I have been collaborating with Serdar Ateşer, a musician friend of mine, for a long time. When I use audio, I see it as a crucial element of the piece, so it’s not being added later at all, or used as a background component. It comes in at the very beginning when the idea springs up. In some works, audio comes in as an archival recording, in some as an audio effect like a strong wind sound etc., or as a musical piece composed especially for the piece or as a re-arrangement of an existing one. With this work here at Alserkal Avenue, I wanted to deliver a story I came across in a political essay I once read somewhere long ago. I couldn’t trace it back though, it is unknown to me whether it is fiction or not. In any case, I realised afterwards it was not important to confirm if it was a fact or not. I just wanted to write text incorporating this story into the work, and to do it in a such way that it reads like a verse or lyrics narrated by a woman. I also intended to include an effect as if there were birds flying right above your head and an audio ambience into the work to deepen the impact of the story narrated. So, Serdar came into it, to create the audio in building up the atmosphere that I was seeking.

MS: How do you see the global political situation in relation to what is going on currently in Turkey?

HT: Cold war has never ended and Turkey has always been in the hotspot. And because democracy has always failed now the situation is even worse, I don’t think we will see the light in the tunnel soon. Besides, the world politics is in such a stage that governments are increasingly focused mainly on local politics. In general, the stance is towards salvaging the day, unfortunately.

MS: The animal kingdom has a reoccurring presence in your practice. Could you tell me about your relationship to birds?

HT:  I’m attracted to birds, I love them as they are, in their way of being, like other animals. I’ve found myself a few times helping semiconscious birds, usually after they have crashed into windows. You cannot believe how heartwarming it is to hold a tiny bird in your palm, even if just for a short time, and to see how they can relax after a while and even drink water from your hands until they are ready to fly off. I used parrots in an earlier video work titled “Dream H(a)unter back in 2002. It was based on the state of emergency rule being in effect in the Kurdish cities in the southeast of Turkey for 22 years. The coup d’état was back in 1980 and it was lifted in all other regions except in the southeast. Parrots started showing up in the city for the first time at the beginning of the 80s. We didn’t have parrots in Istanbul out in nature until then. It was rumoured that an illegal transport pack was caught at Ataturk Airport and state officials set them free. We have colonies of them now. The story narrated by a vicious fictive character in the video, in an ironic manner, reflected upon the injustices delivered onto people as ordered by the authorities and how she had nightmares about losing her job if she was told to stop doing so. Now, I see parrots all around and in my garden every day. Oddly enough, we now have been living under a state of emergency since July 20, 2016 up until this day as I’m writing these lines.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Hale Tenger. Photo by Ali Erdemci Hale Tenger. Photo by Ali Erdemci
  • Mari Spirito © M. Shirez, 2017 Mari Spirito © M. Shirez, 2017
  • Hale Tenger, Under, 2018, mixed media installation. Audio: Serdar Ateşer, Electro/acoustic consultant: Hakan Kurşun, Dubbing artist: Ceren Türkmenoğlu. Commissioned by Alserkal Programming. Hale Tenger, Under, 2018, mixed media installation. Audio: Serdar Ateşer, Electro/acoustic consultant: Hakan Kurşun, Dubbing artist: Ceren Türkmenoğlu. Commissioned by Alserkal Programming.
  • Hale Tenger, Balloons on the Sea, 2011. Seven-channel video installation with audio by Serdar Ateşer, installation. Photo credit: Ali Endemic. Courtesy: Hale Tenger, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, Galeri Nev, Istanbul Hale Tenger, Balloons on the Sea, 2011. Seven-channel video installation with audio by Serdar Ateşer, installation. Photo credit: Ali Endemic. Courtesy: Hale Tenger, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, Galeri Nev, Istanbul
Dubai/Sharjah/Abu Dhabi - Interviews

“The Process of Translation”: Farah Al Qasimi in Conversation with Karim Sultan

1 month ago

On the occasion of the Art Week running in Dubai from March 19th to 24th, we asked curator and director of Baarjel Art Foundation, Karim Sultan, to have a conversation with artist Farah Al Qasimi to learn more about her practice and involvement in the exhibition “Ishara: Signs, Symbols and Shared Languages“, on view at Concrete, Alserkal Avenue and presented  by Alserkal Programming and UAE Unlimited.

Karim Sultan: Some characterise translation as either an inherently failed exercised – impossibility due to the vast spaces between languages and the experiences they embody. Others characterise it as a joyous and intriguing venture that is inherently productive. Where would you fall in between these two opposing views?

Farah Al Qasimi: Translation is a painful process, often borne from necessity – particularly in a world where so many people are being rapidly displaced. At the same time, it’s impossible to do it right. So many languages have words that are completely untranslatable. I’m in the middle. I’m not the best Arabic speaker, but I do have an appreciation for the economy of our words. One syllable can pack a lot of information (including gender – because, like many other languages, Arabic assigns genders to inanimate objects).

KS: Can you tell us the journey of the work produced for Ishara (its conception, development during the Delfina residency, the production in the UAE)?

FAQ: I saw a Jim Henson exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, and completely fell for the puppets, even in their slumped-over, inactive states. I started making little hand-puppets at Delfina, sewing them in my room with fabric and crafts I found at Shepherd’s Bush Market while watching old Muppets episodes. It was kind of funny to think of my puppets as multicultural or bilingual because the materials they’re made up of are sourced from such different places. I had fabric from Korea, India, the USA… so I started thinking about the puppets as abstract forms or surrogates for humans with complex cultural backgrounds. I first wanted to make a traditional TV puppet show with a linear narrative, but became totally engrossed in the translation books I was using for the text. I loved the places where these textbooks faltered, and imagined a world where language is a material that can be abstracted instead of refined.

KS: The puppets present in your work seem to represent different aspects of the process of translation from one language to the next, with the dictionary character mediating (or attempting to mediate) between them. Are these characters embodiments of actual characters or kind of abstractions for the process (and the difficulties it poses) itself?

FAQ: I see them as both. While they embody different stages of the process of translation, they also express patience, frustration, and curiosity. There’s a moment where one character is trying to learn phonetically Arabic sounds through English spelling, and he gets confused by the familiarity of the English words.

KS: Music plays a role in this work. What is the relationship between music and your visual arts practice – are they largely separate?

FAQ: They started off as separate but are increasingly intersecting. A lot of my performances use the format of a song or a musical, and are concerned with the task of imbuing inanimate objects with their own power relationships and internal emotional dialogues. When I was in grad school, people often asked me whether my work belonged in a gallery or a music venue, and I don’t think it matters. I’m much more interested in art that is unclassifiable, or removed from the commercial art world’s genre lexicon. People like Throbbing Gristle and Wendy O Williams, whose work is musical and performative, but also very visual, defy that classification in a way I find inspiring. This project is the first time I’ve tried to write a song that a child might like. I don’t know if I got it right! I showed it to some kids I know and their response was, “OK, but when does it end?” I still have some work to do.

KS: Did the local context in which the work would be exhibited figure into the development of the work?

FAQ: Yes, but I’d like to think it would still be legible elsewhere. The Emirates has a relationship with language that I find fascinating and puzzling. For example: there are multiple highway signs for the same neighborhood. I’ve seen the following iterations on different signs: “Dubai Marina” in English, “Marsa Dubai” (which is the translation of Dubai Marina) in English, “Marsa Dubai” in Arabic, and the transliterated Arabic version of “Doo-bai Ma-ree-na”. Who makes these decisions? Who decides which meaning of the word to prioritize? What is a Marina, anyway? Is it the place where people park their boats or the name of that one neighborhood?

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Karim Sultan Karim Sultan
  • Farah Al Qasimi Farah Al Qasimi
  • Farah Al Qasimi, Farah Al Qasimi, "It's Not Easy Being Seen", 2016. Courtesy of the artist and The Third Line