Turin - Interviews

The rise of Emerging Galleries at Artissima 2019: Tommaso Tisot and Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti on the New Entries Fair Fund

4 days ago

Launching its 2nd edition, the New Entries Fair Fund is a fund created to encourage the participation of young galleries, supported by Professional Trust Company in collaboration with Artissima. Every year three candidate galleries in the New Entries section, selected for the quality of their research, receive a contribution of 4,000 euros each to finance their participation at Artissima, which is moving forward with its mission of providing a platform for young creativity by investing in the galleries of the future.

On the occasion, we interviewed Tommaso Tisot, chairman of the board of Professional Trust Company, who selected the three winning galleries (Öktem Aykut, Istanbul, with a project on Can Altay and Ihsan Oturmak; Emalin, London, with a project on Athena Papadopoulos; Vin Vin, Vienna, with a project on Myles Starr) and curator Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti who joined the New Entries sector as curatorial consultant.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Can you talk about the initiative promoted by the Professional Trust Company?

Tommaso Tisot: The project began two years ago, based on my philosophy as a pure collector willing to stay close to artists, especially up and coming talents, supporting them in their career. It is also the result of exchanges of thoughts and opinions with the director of Artissima, Ilaria Bonacossa. The art system – both for artists and for the galleries that nurture them – is complicated, and it is hard to stand out. Thanks to the New Entries Fair Fund, three galleries can take part in the fair and gain international visibility for their work and that of their artists.
Professional Trust Company is a team of young professionals with a passion for contemporary art, which since last year has focused on the most important art fair in Italy in order to promote a project of patronage regarding galleries and artists. What has been created is an attempt to graft a small “patronage ecosystem” onto the art system, precisely what is often said to be lacking in Italy.

CI: How did you go about the selection process? What were the criteria and elements of evaluation you took into account?

TT: First of all, there is a committee of experts of the fair, which together with the curator Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti makes an initial selection of galleries that have applied to take part in Artissima, particularly in the New Entries section. This section of Artissima is for the most interesting young galleries, with less than 5 years of activity, participating for the first time in the fair.
So, first of all, these are the fundamental criteria we take into consideration, because our mission is to support the younger galleries and artists who are at the start of their career in the art market. We then get involved in the choice of the three winning galleries, after this initial selection process, carefully evaluating the proposals of those we feel are doing interesting work in terms of research and talent scouting. In particular, we examine the artists and projects presented, and we study the work the galleries are doing in general. We pay close attention to new markets and to galleries that put an accent on experimentation.

CI: Could you tell us a little something about the 3 winning galleries chosen by Professional Trust Company? (Öktem Aykut, Istanbul with a project by Can Altay and Ihsan Oturmak; Emalin, London with a project by Athena Papadopoulos; Vin Vin, Vienna with a project by Myles Starr).

TT: Öktem Aykut is a very interesting Turkish gallery, recently very much on the rise. It does very interesting work in a territory that is presently at the centre of strong contrasts, above all on a political level. The gallery and its artists are in a border zone between Europe and the Middle East, a very special situation that is giving rise to extremely stimulating artistic practices. What intrigued us, then, was the gallery’s ability to take an inclusive approach to the various creative communities of Istanbul, acting as a young gallery in such a particular country.
The gallery will bring two Turkish artists, Can Altay (b.1975 ) and Ihsan Oturmak (b. 1987), who share a strong interest in the rapid transformation of the Turkish society and in the viewpoints of their counterparts.
Can Altay points to the ways in which legal and conventional borders are transgressed. Through politics of space, he elaborates on the conflict between the traditional and the subjective.
İhsan Oturmak has come to develop an authentic figurative language in his paintings, in which he treats vital societal issues with an ontological and phenomenological approach. In his own words, “’the togetherness of the body and soul relates to the being, the togetherness of thinking and technique relates to the character of the work”. Oturmak’s technique stands out for its use of light and the way it represents human bodies.

Emalin, a gallery based in London, was founded by two brilliant very young galleries, who before opening a permanent space in Shoreditch in 2016 operated in the art world with a programme of traveling exhibitions, and a project space for two years. The two young gallerists have specialized training that makes them true professionals in this sector, and conduct interesting research, as is also demonstrated by the fact that they represent artists from five different countries, with a focus on emerging multi-disciplinary and experimental practices.
The gallerists are working with Athena Papadopoulos (b.1988), a recent finalist for the Max Mara Art Prize.
Throughout Papadopoulos’ practice, dense collages incorporate chemically transferred images of female archetypes from personal archives – drawings, text, photographs – sewn alongside images from popular culture and art history. The compositional gesture of sampling and recombining imagery – destroying and reconstituting – proposes a way of thinking about the slippages of identity construction and the unfixity of female subjectivity.

Vin Vin is a very young gallery based in Vienna that works with international artists. The programme is heterogeneous in terms of media and aesthetics. It is oriented towards abstraction, an anti-decorative approach and the pursuit of art that sets out to raise questions, philosophical speculation that opens new paths, rather than dogmatic assertion.
The gallery brings Miles Star, an artist born in New York in 1987, residing in Vienna, with a body of work that reflects the total breakout of sex and sexuality, completely free at this point and no longer connected to a dynamic of intimacy. The artist has chosen the refrigerator and the bathroom as the places of a new, rediscovered intimacy.

Carla Ingrasciotta: You’ve been reappointed as curator of the New Entries section for this year’s edition of Artissima. What lessons will you bring forth from your previous experience at the fair and what new stimuli have since arisen?

Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti: The yearly panorama of emerging galleries is ever-changing and sometimes hard to foresee. Furthermore, the rules of Artissima are very strict: galleries have to be younger than 5 years to apply, and they can be accepted in the New Entries section only once.
This two-years experience taught me that, given these conditions, a great amount of time needs to be invested in the research process, in order to intercept newborn and less known initiatives. This year I focused especially on this, trying to look into less obvious research channels and to catalyze information about new projects from artists I trust. I think that looking at the galleries through the filter of the artists’ eyes can be a good way to find interesting and challenging new initiatives and invite them to apply.

CI: Do you think that the Artissima collector base is oriented towards emerging galleries? Or how do you think these young galleries can establish themselves in the international market?

LCV: Artissima has always been known by collectors, professionals and the wider audience for displaying galleries characterised by a curatorial and experimental approach, and, coincidentally, this is the approach often brought forward by emerging galleries. For this reason, I think Artissima is the ideal fair for younger initiatives, especially if their programme presents a bold curatorial perspective. Moreover, Artissima gathers every year collectors and gallerists but also curators, museum directors, critics, and artists. It is one of the few projects that owes its commercial strength to the specificity of its artistic and curatorial quality, and I think that, for an emerging gallery, it is particularly valuable to establish itself in the international scene and market through such a compelling and culturally respected context.

CI: Your curatorial practice investigates the concept of research and how this can be aesthetically translated into an exhibition. How much of this interest of yours is present in your collaboration with Artissima?

This year Artissima invited me and Guido Costa to curate together the collateral exhibition of the fair, that takes place at JANA, in the city center. When the Director Ilaria Bonacossa asked us to reflect on the concept of “desire” through the exhibition, Guido and I decided to position our research under the loose question “how can desire can be considered as an emancipatory force today?”. We researched the practice of artists engaged with the heritage of post-structuralist, post-humanist, queer and feminist thought, and developed a narration that we entitled Abstract Sex. We don’t have any clothes, only equipment. When confronted with the necessity to share our in-depth research with the wider audience, we decided to condensate the main thematic areas of the exhibition in three historical anecdotes from different epochs, that suggest unexpected alliances between bodies, objects, organisms, machinery and concepts, in order to disarm traditional representations of desire. For instance, in the Seventies a group of lesbians armed with sausages attacked Professor Jérôme Lejeune during an anti-abortion lecture. The event marked the birth of the “Commando Saucisson” (Sausage Commando), around which the Front Homosexuel d’Action Révolutionnaire later gravitated. In the protest, sausages became a parody of the traditional instruments of politics at the time, namely police truncheons and patriarchal penises. In this case, our research was crystalised in the narration of an event that emblematically shows how the re-connotation of a symbolic object can become an emancipatory strategy against patriarchal powers.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Tommaso Tisot, Professional Trust Company Tommaso Tisot, Professional Trust Company
  • Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti, co-curator of Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti, co-curator of "Abstract Sex. We don’t have any clothes, only equipment" Photo Credits: Shinji Otani
  • Dealmeida Esilva, Untitled, 2019, Courtesy Balcony Gallery Dealmeida Esilva, Untitled, 2019, Courtesy Balcony Gallery
  • Anna Zacharoff, Shrimp in person, 2019, Courtesy Issues Anna Zacharoff, Shrimp in person, 2019, Courtesy Issues
  • Marta Mancini, Untitled, 2018, Courtesy Matèria and the artist © Sebastiano Luciano Marta Mancini, Untitled, 2018, Courtesy Matèria and the artist © Sebastiano Luciano
Venice - Interviews

Delfina Foundation’s Interviews Series: Bo Zheng

2 weeks ago

Episode 4 of Delfina Foundation’s Interviews series features artist Bo Zheng.

Aaron Cezar: As well as conducting your own socially-engaged projects, you have also spent many years researching the history of these types of practice in China as well as teaching about it. Could you tell us about this work and its importance to you?

Bo Zheng: As an artist, I started making relational works in the early 2000s, with Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong and the queer community in Beijing. Soon I realized that I needed to read more on social theory. In 2007 I enrolled in the Visual & Cultural Studies program at University of Rochester, and studied with Douglas Crimp for a PhD. I never planned to teach, but was recruited by China Academy of Art in 2012 when a new School of Intermedia Art was set up. I started teaching socially engaged art there. Although I could find a lot of information on social practice in Europe and North America, there is hardly anything on China. There are many Chinese artists doing social practice, but there is just no one documenting this field. So I decided to build an online archive, seachina.net. Now I use it for teaching; so do many colleagues in China and abroad. It’s useful. None of this – art, teaching, research – was planned. I just did it because there was a clear need for it. These days I always tell people (and plants) that I want to be useful.

AC: In recent years your practice also engaged with ecology, with a number of projects involving community gardens and transplantations. Could you tell us about a few of these and what interests you about such spaces?

BZ: Since 2013, my practice has expanded to working not only with people but also with plants. My first project, “Plants Living in Shanghai”, included two components: we saved a beautiful patch of weeds in an area that was going through rapid transformation and set up the area as a found botanical garden; we – seven scholars and me – created an online course on the relationship between plants and the city of Shanghai. We examined this relationship from multiple perspectives: ecology, urban planning, history, literature, and Chinese medicine.
Since then I have transplanted weeds into elevators at Ming Contemporary Art Museum in Shanghai, onto the roof of Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing, and into a gallery at Times Museum in Guangzhou. I love weeds. They are humble, tough, and collaborative. I’m also passionate about their marginality. Our mainstream culture remains hostile to anything on the margins, people and plants. The political system in China is obsessed with control and uniformity. Weeds tenaciously subvert this mindset. We humans are arrogant and fragile. There is a lot we can learn from weeds.

AC: Your most recent project “Pteridophilia” is a move away from a series of site-specific installations. What brought about this expansion?

BZ: I was working in Taiwan in 2016 and became fascinated by ferns – visually, biologically and historically. Taiwan is a hotspot for ferns. But neither the Japanese colonialists who occupied Taiwan in the first half of the twentieth century nor the Nationalists who ruled Taiwan in the second half paid much attention to ferns. Only indigenous people are intimate with ferns. As a Mainland Chinese, I wanted to connect to Taiwan – its land, ecology, and history – and ferns offered me a path. Then the question was: how can I become intimate with ferns? The idea of making an erotic film, between men and ferns, dawned on me. I shot the first part of this film in 2016, and have been going back to the same forest to make part 2, 3 and 4 over the last three years. It’s an ongoing project. I love going to the forest and making this work slowly, because I needed time to grow, to become more ecologically sensitive.

AC: “Pteridophilia” encourages solidarity and intimacy between the human and the non-human – in this work, between queer men and ferns. Can you explain more about why you depicted this relationship?

BZ: In 2016 when I started making this film, I didn’t realize that this project would expand my understanding of queerness. You see, ferns’ sexuality is very complex – one generation produces sperms and eggs and the next generation produces spores. In other words, one generation has binary sexuality and the next has singular sexuality. It was not me who planned everything and made this connection between ferns and queer men. Perhaps it’s the ferns who helped me to learn.
Twelve queer men in Taiwan have participated in this project. I’m very grateful to them. In that beautiful forest, it was very natural to be naked, to caress the plants, to kiss them. Today many of us are fully aware of the climate emergency and ecological meltdown, and are trying to address it by writing, teaching, and protesting. In addition to all these, it’s very important that we develop truly intimate relations with other species. For me, it’s ferns. For others, it could fungi, insects, or microbes.

AC: Finally, please tell us about what you will be presenting in Venice in November.

BZ: I’ll be presenting a “Plant Sex Workshop”. I’ll share what I have learned recently, that eroticism between species is nothing new. Some bees and orchids have been having sex for a long time. And Japanese artists in the 19th century created a large portfolio of prints depicting, and imagining, humans and various species entangled sexually. The workshop will be hands-on, all puns indented.

Bo Zheng’s participation in the performance programme of the 58th Venice Biennale of Art is supported by Delfina Foundation’s Network of Asia-Pacific Patrons. The programme is commissioned by Arts Council England and co-produced by Delfina Foundation and the Biennale as part of Meetings on Art.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Bo Zheng, Kindred, 2017. Installation at Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation Bo Zheng, Kindred, 2017. Installation at Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation
  • Bo Zheng, Pteridophilia, 2018, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation Bo Zheng, Pteridophilia, 2018, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation
  • Bo Zheng, Pteridophilia, 2018, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation Bo Zheng, Pteridophilia, 2018, Courtesy of Delfina Foundation
  • Bo Zheng, Courtesy of the artist and Delfina Foundation Bo Zheng, Courtesy of the artist and Delfina Foundation
Turin - Interviews

Insights on Artissima 2019: Q&A with Ilaria Bonacossa

3 weeks ago

Claudia Malfitano: The theme of this’s years edition of Artissima is “desire/censorship”. Can you tell us a bit about it? Why did you choose this peculiar combination?

Ilaria Bonacossa: The “desire/censorship” dichotomy arose in response to a sensation of a challenge to freedom, of a world in which boundaries are imposed on us every day and at the same time the dizzying speed of its transformations. Desire seemed like a liberating, revolutionary ‘line of escape’, capable of confronting the status quo and of opening the way to artists’ unpredictable visions. Today meters of border walls between countries are being erected, and these physical barriers are reinforced by digital ones, which control the flow of information and images. Anyone who uses social media is ‘controlled’ by algorithms, which supervise images and words in order to ‘protect the public’. I wanted a theme that would stimulate heterogeneous reflections on contemporary ambitions and utopias, and on the complex relationship that exists in contemporary society between images and their control, and how art should come to terms with these polarities.

CM: What would you say are the highlights of this edition of the fair? Lead us through the 2019 edition.

IB: Artissima is a vital ecosystem composed of galleries that take part in the fair, and the partners with whom we activate various special projects, some during the week of the fair and others on the successive days of the year, offering a variegated programme for art world professionals and a wider audience. I am particularly pleased with the 2019 edition for the quality of the galleries selected and for having been able to bring back to Torino some whose work and research I respect very much, such as Sadie Coles, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Giò Marconi, Campoli Presti, Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler.
On the other hand, also this year the fair expands into the city with original, innovative projects. Among others, “Abstract Sex: We don’t have any clothes, only equipment” occupying the spaces of Jana, a historic boutique in Turin. Poised between an act of piracy and an exhibition, the project will offer a selection of works focused on the theme of desire curated by Lucrezia Calabrò Visconti and Guido Costa. “Artissima Telephone”, the second off-site project created for and with the OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, is a response to the obsessive relationship we all have with our mobile devices. The exhibition proposes an overview of the telephone as a means of artistic expression, presenting works selected, with Vittoria Martini, from the works of the galleries taking part in the fair. In town, during the fair, the large performative and sculptural installation “…ma l’amor mio non muore” by artist Marcello Maloberti will be hosted in the Salone delle Feste, the magical ballroom of 5-star hotel Principi di Piemonte di UNA Esperienze.

CM: You have been reconfirmed as director for the next two years. What are your plans for the future editions of Artissima? what is your vision?

IB: Artissima is not only for collectors but for art lovers in general, offering a cultural proposal inside and outside the context of the fair. Since my appointment in 2017 I have tried to emphasize this 360-degree approach, focusing on one hand on the curatorial and experimental character of the event, and on the other broadening its practice through specific projects developed with our partners and with emergent and established artists involved in the production of new artworks, with the goal of widening the audience for contemporary art. I am unquestionably pleased with what has been accomplished with my fantastic team this far, but there are other projects in the works. In collaboration with our partners, we will imagine new modes of experimentation, open to the surprising possibilities triggered by the intermingling of different worlds. We will offer the public cross-disciplinary projects capable of informing and amazing, all at the same time. Artissima will continue to discover and promote contemporary art, encouraging galleries that conduct research and invest in artists who can help us to imagine the future. We will further develop our educational projects such as “Artissima Junior”, powered by Juventus, this year featuring the young Italian duo Ornaghi & Prestinari; and “Artissima Experimental Academy Vol. III” in collaboration with Combo and Alserkal, with the Iranian artist Setareh Shahbazi. Among other projects, after “Hub Middle East”, the new focus of the fair launched this year, in 2020 we are planning to concentrate on Africa presenting “Hub Africa”, a focus on artists, galleries and institutions of this incredibly powerful and evocative geographical area.

Claudia Malfitano

  • Ilaria Bonacossa, Director Artissima Fair, 2019 © Giorgio Perottino Ilaria Bonacossa, Director Artissima Fair, 2019 © Giorgio Perottino
  • Jacopo Miliani, Deserto, 2018 Video, 6’ 09’' Courtesy the artist and Rosa Santos, Valencia Jacopo Miliani, Deserto, 2018 Video, 6’ 09’' Courtesy the artist and Rosa Santos, Valencia
  • Marcello Maloberti, Marcello Maloberti, "...ma l'amor mio non muore", Courtesy_ Marcello Maloberti studio e galleria Raffaella Cortese Milano
Venice - Interviews

Delfina Foundation’s Interviews Series: Invernomuto

3 weeks ago

Episode 3 of Delfina Foundation’s Interviews series features artist duo Invernomuto.

Aaron Cezar: You two have been working together as Invernomuto since 2003. How did this collaboration arise?

Invernomuto: We come from the same area, the countryside, about an hour south of Milan. We got to know each other better during our studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, in the art and new media department. Having backgrounds in punk/hc and hip hop, it was natural for us to work together, in the same way, you start a band or a zine. We created a unit that was something in-between a graphic design studio, an experimental audiovisual collective, and a visual art duo. Our first project was a magazine called ffwd_mag, which we curated and designed. We then started to work with moving images and sound, slowly progressing to more complex installations and performances. Working as a duo is about removing ego, and at the same time building something truly solid: it’s the result of constant negotiations and discussions.

AC: Many of your projects take their starting point from a particular ‘cultural reference’ – a tv show, a piece of music, a site, or an object. Can you talk about your process for exploring histories, myths, and meanings through them?

IM: For many years the starting points for our research were observations of our native landscapes, obsessively documenting the architecture and the soundscape – digging in a liminal countryside with not much to offer. We somehow developed an alchemical attitude, trying to transform banality into something more valuable. These microscopic obsessions took us along many unexpected paths. The landscape is a witness, in our case, a silent one; it was our mission to make it audible, to let it scream. Live role-playing games, medieval reenactments, oral histories, folk sculptures and architecture, to us these are all ways of performing the landscape and transforming history.

AC: In recent years many of your projects have explored lines of inquiry that around Italy’s links to global cultural production and political contexts. Can you share examples of this?

IM:  Again, that exploration of our familiar landscape leads us to discover – or better rediscover, particular elements that could reverberate bigger narrations.
For instance, in our area, the term “Negus” – which gave name to one of our most ambitious projects – was used as a denigratory term to describe unusual looking people, some sort of clownesque or messy character. This term originated from the aggressive Fascist propaganda developed during the occupation of Ethiopia. In Amharic Negus, instead, means emperor. This was a little epiphany: a slang word was testifying one of the biggest amnesia and crimes in the Italian history of the XX century, the fascist attempt to colonize Ethiopia.
Talking to old people like Trabucchi’s grandfather, we discovered that in 1936, to celebrate the return of a wounded soldier, the community organized a macabre celebration in the main square of our hometown: they burned a puppet depicting Haile Selassie I, the last Negus of Ethiopia.
We observed this story through the lens of Rastafari, floating on the bass frequencies of reggae, dub and dancehall. A local expression took us to Addis Ababa and Kingston; we invited the dub legend Lee “Scratch” Perry to lead a counter-ritual in the same square where the effigy of Haile Selassie burnt almost a century ago.

AC: This leads us on to Black Med, a work first initiated for Manifesta 12 (2018). You describe this project as a “platform,” what do you mean by this?

IM: The term “platform” refers mostly to this project’s online presence. At Manifesta Black Med started as a bi-weekly broadcast of commissioned mixes, presented together with video loops. The idea was to open the conversation about the Mediterranean to musicians, scholars, and djs we felt connected to this ongoing research. Platform, for us, is also a definition that serves the purpose of conceiving the work as an open entity.
We are planning to evolve the online platform into a real interface where users worldwide can actively engage the conversation about sound and the Mediterranean. The main output of the project, though, is a series of performances in the form of listening session. Those are based on a live performed musical selection supported by projected slides containing theoretical texts and backstories referring to the musical pieces, grouped by elegiac themes. The first 3 sessions – conceived for Manifesta 12 – explored different journeys of sound movement throughout the Mediterranean, touching topics such as alternate use of technology, migrations, peripheries, and interspecies.

AC: Finally could you tell us what we might expect from your performance in Venice?

IM: In Venice we will premiere the 4th chapter of the Black Med listening sessions. The closing weekend of the Biennale occurs in the middle of a two-months residency we’ll soon commence at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai. We will expand our research around sound crossing the Mediterranean towards eastern routes, to include a detour in the Gulf area. In this session we will explore different ideas of futurism, but we will also undertake unexpected trajectories between Europe and the Middle East, trying to deconstruct older tropes of Orientalist gaze.

Invernomuto’s participation in the performance programme of the 58th Venice Biennale of Art is supported by Alserkal Avenue. The programme is commissioned by Arts Council England and co-produced by Delfina Foundation and the Biennale as part of Meetings on Art.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Invernomuto, Invernomuto, "Black med", 2018, video still. Courtesy of the artists and Pinksummer Genova
  • Invernomuto, Invernomuto, "Black med", Performance view at Dansem Festival, Marseille 2018
  • Invernomuto, Invernomuto, "Negus", 2016 © Moira Ricci
  • Invernomuto, Performance at Marselleria, MIlan 2014 in collaboration with Muna Mussie and Hendris Hassen © Giulio Boem Invernomuto, Performance at Marselleria, MIlan 2014 in collaboration with Muna Mussie and Hendris Hassen © Giulio Boem
  • Invernomuto, 2018 © Jim C. Nedd Invernomuto, 2018 © Jim C. Nedd
London - Interviews

The Human in Material, a Fleeting Encounter with Rayyane Tabet

3 weeks ago

We had a quick chat with Rayyane Tabet at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art on his first major solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, with eight works from the past 13 years installed together for the first time, curated by Ziba Ardalan. Tabet’s works offers alternative perceptions of political and personal events within the parameters of sculpture and found objects. He unearths hidden narratives in experiences and materials, narratives with layered dimensions that go beyond the purely factual and teeter on the emotional.

Lara Morrell: The show begins with the piece ‘The Sea Hates a Coward’, hung oars belonging to a boat once rented by your father in 1987 when trying to escape the Lebanese Civil War, this boat was then re-found twenty-five years later. The piece appears to oscillate between collective and personal experience, could you tell me what sort of feelings came to the surface upon re-finding these objects?

Rayyane Tabet: When we found the boat during a family meal on the coast in Jbeil, this was the first time my father ever told us the story of the attempted escape. At the time we were young and until then I had always thought of it as a fun sea adventure. When we were told what had actually happened, this memory was completely transformed. So upon encountering this object and being able to re-appropriate and re-purpose it, it was a way of transforming and thinking about the memory of the object itself, a memory similar to ours, that had also witnessed that event. The object had been through the same and the object could stand in and be re-purposed for that moment. It came at a time when I was becoming more and more interested in the idea that objects telling an alternative version of history that is not only subjective, history happens to things, not only to people.

Lara Morrell: Yes, your work tends to make things/materials more human, highlighting the personal and emotional, transforming the material through the role of storytelling. Where did this approach come from?

Rayyane Tabet: I think it started with the first encounter with The New York Times piece (‘Friday, September 1, 2006’*) which ends up being one of the first works in the show. I stole the copy from a coffee shop on Third Avenue and 7th Street in Manhattan, shortly after having to evacuate Lebanon back in 2006. The front page showed an image of these trucks full of rubble going to dump their content to the sea, the rubble a result of the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon. So much of that war had been described through the experience of people, yet in that image I was looking at the material remains of that act of destruction. That image opened my eyes and transformed my way of looking at things, so I think it was then that I started refocussing the attention to finding the personal and the emotional within material.

*Friday, September 1, 2006 is a framed copy of the New York Times newspaper from that day. The front page depicts a line of loaded dump trucks that stretch to the sea, signaling the end of the military conflict between Lebanon and Israel earlier that summer. 

Lara Morrell: In Colosse Aux Pieds D’Argile‘*, the large-scale installation across the entire first-floor gallery, emphasis is place on thinking through the past in relation to our present by bringing together two different materials spanning a 100 year history – what is the significance in bringing these two histories together?

Rayyane Tabet: This work came about from the discovery of a nineteenth-century house that had been destroyed in Beirut in order to be replaced by a concrete skyscraper. The house was owned by a large family where not all members agreed to sell the property to the developers. In order to accelerate the sale, the developer hired workers to break the columns of the house so that the roof would fall in and they would be forced to sell the property. So I bought back those columns and then got in touch with the developer and asked if I could buy the sky scraper’s concrete core samples (used to ensure they abide by the structural rules). So I started accumulating these columns in my studio and suddenly I was confronted with these two materials, from the same place, across one hundred years of history and belonging to two different logics, but what is interesting is that they have a lot of very similar formal qualities. This project starts confronting these two materials in a very organised grid, the idea borrowed from the language of ruins or archeological grids, but also graveyards or minefields. I have always felt that the discourse around urban environment has been caught between preservation and development and I think maybe there is a space in between where these moments have more in common that one might expect.

*Colosse Aux Pieds D’Argile is a large-scale sculptural installation composed of reclaimed marble columns and concrete cylinders that transforms the gallery into a field. 

Lara Morrell: Could you tell me about the title of the show – Encounters – to unexpectedly be faced with or experience (something hostile or difficult)? Also when was your first encounter with Parasol unit and Ziba Ardalan?

Rayyane Tabet:  A lot of the works in this show were entirely generated by accidents, like the encounter with the boat – something I didn’t have any idea about until we went to have dinner with my parents, or finding these columns while helping a friend look for old tiles. Many of these encounters have shaped my way of thinking through, I don’t sit in my studio and say to myself ‘today we are going to start making work with marble columns’, the studio is my world and it’s about finding those moments to look out for and listen to, sometimes it takes years before anything happens with them. I stole that New York Times copy in 2006 and I am showing it here for the first time 13 years later. It’s about making twists in these encounters.

My first encounter with Ziba was in 2016 in Berlin, when I was doing a residency there and this is actually my very first time in London!

Lara Morrell

  • Rayyane Tabet, Douglas Friedman Rayyane Tabet, Douglas Friedman
  • Colosse Aux Pieds d'Argiles, 2015 Colosse Aux Pieds d'Argiles, 2015
  • Detail from 'The Sea Hates a Coward' 2015 Detail from 'The Sea Hates a Coward' 2015
  • Three Logos, 2013 Three Logos, 2013
Venice - Interviews

Delfina Foundation’s Interviews Series: Cooking Sections

3 weeks ago

Episode 2 of Delfina Foundation’s Interviews series features artist duo Cooking Sections.

Aaron Cezar: Your projects as Cooking Sections are highly research-driven. While they differ in outcomes, you seem to consistently take a similar approach to them. Can you speak about your methodology and the influences behind it?

Cooking Sections: Cooking Sections was born to use food to understand how space is built. This is perhaps the common thread that cuts across our projects, trying to explore the different environmental or geopolitical frictions that determine the ways humans and more-than-humans inhabit the planet. Our practice is indeed highly research-driven and the conversations, interviews, and readings shape our working methodology and approach in each project we undertake. In that sense, the methodology has to be shaped and created for each context we work in. When developing a project on watering systems in Sicily or a project on ocean pollution from salmon farms each demand a specific approach and language. 

AC: Your work has increasingly centered on subjects related to the environment, often appearing to be trying to challenge dominant narratives, perceptions or approaches in this regard. What drew you to this area of interest?

CS: From the beginning of Cooking Sections, questions around the environment have been a fundamental concern for us. It underlies all of our early work for The Empire Remains Shop but perhaps in recent years, it has become more apparent. There is a parallel line to draw here for the sense of a climate emergency that is looming above us at the moment. It is something that the planet has been experiencing for decades but while marginalised communities have always been the ones most affected by pollution and extreme weather events, now it is something that is only starting to reach everyone. For the past years, we have been working on a project titled Offsetted, which culminated last spring with an exhibition at Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, GSAPP, Columbia University in New York. The project explored and displayed 40 tree specimens that portrayed the ways trees have been valued in New York over the past centuries. At a wider level, it critically explored the mechanisms that enable the global north to offset its carbon emissions and pollution counting on the obligation of the global south to cleanse the atmosphere through its forests. Working in collaboration with the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund, we wrote an amendment for the New York City Legal Code to grant rights for trees not to be used as carbon offsets so that we deal with our environmental guilt at the source of the problem. In that sense all our work tries to understand and challenge contemporary concepts around ecology and the environment that in many cases just promote the further circulation of capital, rather than rethink and change our actions and practices. 

AC: I want to ask you about two of your long-term projects which has gained a lot of critical acclaim:  The Empire Remains project, which partly came out of your residency at Delfina Foundation and CLIMAVORE. These projects appear opened ended and ever-evolving with wide-ranging outcomes, including installations, exhibitions, books, workshops, performance, lecture-performances. Can you talk about your sustained approaches to projects and your differing presentational forms?

CS: Over the years two main things have become very important for our practice one is a question around impact, what is the project doing? The second is what is a project’s legacy? We are all aware that the art world has also entered a space that demands constant production. That has great advantages as we are surrounded by ever increasing perspectives, stories, and experiences from all over our planet and beyond; yet at the same time, we question from an environmental point of view what happens to all of these ideas, materials, and projects when exhibitions close or performances end. CLIMAVORE is one of our long term projects that questions how we eat as humans change the climate. Since 2016 we have been creating a series of installations, interventions, workshops, and discussions on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, to challenge intensive salmon aquaculture and the dead zones it is creating; instead, we are developing alternatives CLIMAVORE aqua-cultures for the island. The project investigates how to shift a cultural ecology and economy and how do we also work with cultural institutions, corporations, businesses, and people to change their practice over time. It is a lengthly process that requires continuous work. 

The Empire Remains Shop is a platform that we initiated in order to speculate on the possibility of selling the remains of the British Empire back to London. It was modeled after Empire Shops that were envisioned to sell products of Empire across the UK in the 1920s and never opened. The project ran for 3 months in a building on Baker Street where we invited 40 contributors to create installations, performances, lectures and dinners to respond to remains of Empire today and it was a culmination of a 3 year research process that indeed started at Delfina Foundation with The Empire Remains Christmas Pudding. 

AC: In addition to the outcomes you yourselves present, you also on occasions relinquish control and allow others to take them forward. With the Empire Remains Shop you have invited franchises, for example. Can you explain why this has become an important element in your work? 

CS: When The Empire Remain Shop came to a close in London we were questioning the legacy of the project and how it could continue to live and evolve on its own. Working with various models we became quite fascinated by the franchise model and its origins, especially Marth Matilda Harper and her hair salons that were intended to enfranchise women by making them independent business owners in the late 19th century. Of course, today franchises are mostly about disenfranchisement, places where workers’ rights are controlled by multiple subsidiary companies and multinational brands are removed from caring for any workers’ rights. When we published the book about the project we developed with Guest Work Agency legal consultancy a franchise agreement that wraps the book and makes it an invitation for institutions, collectives, and individuals to open their own franchise and question the remains of Empire today in their own geography. The first franchise opened in May 2019 by Grand Union in Birmingham and there are more to come! We are quite interested to see how other voices and forces take our projects, work through them and give them a new life. We suppose it’s another way of environmental thinking. 

AC: Finally, could you describe for us what you will be presenting as part of the performance programme during the final week of the Venice Biennale?

CS: For the performance programme at the Venice Biennale we will be presenting a performance lecture about the CLIMAVORE project in Skye. It traces the history of the construction of salmon as a colour and a fish and how it has become dominant in the waters around Skye but also on land and at sea

Cooking Sections’ performance at the 58th Venice Biennale of Art is part of the programme commissioned by Arts Council England and co-produced by Delfina Foundation and the Biennale as part of Meetings on Art.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Cooking Sections © Paul Plews Cooking Sections © Paul Plews
  • Cooking Sections, Cooking Sections, "Offsetted", 2019. Exhibition at Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, Columbia GSAPP, New York © James Ewing
  • Cooking Sections, Cooking Sections, "CLIMAVORE On Tidal Zones", 2017. Photo Cooking Sections
  • Cooking Sections, Cooking Sections, "The Empire Remains Shop", 2016 © Tim Bowditch
Palermo - Interviews

BAM-Mediterranean Archipelago Biennial: an Interview with Beatrice Merz

4 weeks ago

On Thursday, 26 of September the second edition of the BAM-Mediterranean Archipelago Biennial, which will take place in Palermo from November 6th to December 8th 2019, was presented at the Foreign Press Room in Rome.
Titled “Übermauer”, the exhibition is organized Fondazione Merz, European Alternatives and BAM – Palermo.

On occasion, we interviewed Beatrice Merz to learn more about the initiative.

Mara Sartore : Today ÜberMauer, the second edition of the BAM-Mediterranean Archipelago Biennial, which will take place in Palermo from November 6th to December 8th 2019, was presented, this city seem to be increasingly more firmly rooted, what does this mean to you?

Beatrice Merz: “Palermo is something far beyond a city. In actual fact it is like a person: with a true and strong personality. It is a dynamiser of humanity, an accelerator of cultural process. Full of contrasts it is in many ways a paradox, set as it is in the midst of this great Mediterranean lake that has no north or south shores but only a single, endless and jagged coast, full of narratives and peoples.
In recent years it has been almost natural to breathe the air of these places, and bit by bit, I can really say now that I feel “at home”.

Mara Sartore: Can you tell us a little more about ÜberMauer?

Beatrice Merz: ÜberMauer through the walls of a plural city like Palermo, brings together, often dramatically, testimonies of the passage of humanity, offers the possibility of dynamizing poetic concepts and material towards continuous change and inclusion. The artists find themselves with a city that has been able to make reception and integration the centre of its administrative and cultural journey. ÜberMauer will be a widespread exhibition in the city of Palermo that brings together historical and unpublished works by artists such as Francesco Arena, Claire Fontaine, Claudia Di Gangi, Patrizio Di Massimo, Stefania Galegati, Shilpa Gupta, Alfredo Jaar, Emily Jacir, Zena el Khalil, Giuseppe Lana, Gili Lavy, Andrea Masu, Ignazio Mortellaro, Shirin Neshat, Damian Ortega, Michal Rovner Michele Tiberio and Driant Zeneli: all ‘invited’ to take on the project together.

Mara Sartore: In this case can art once again be an “instrument” of democracy and inclusion, beyond any limits, barriers, a viaticum of freedom?

Beatrice Merz: Among the various shores of the world, beyond the walls of indifference or short-sighted nationalism, art plays a conscious and, in some ways, still revolutionary role. It offers a change of perspective, reverses and subverts the perception of the experience and projects it forward. The protagonists of BAM’s image, the international artists who accepted the invitation for ÜberMauer have embraced the role of idea builders, the fishermen of relationships, ambassadors not of strange and distant countries but of the good practices of Palermo and its island that proudly finds its true nature as a port, laboratory and home. The same enthusiasm that sees the confrontation of several generations and backgrounds of artists and allowed an articulated and widespread exhibition between kalsa and càssaro, has for years led the presence of the Foundation in Palermo, where relations and projects seem to become more authentic and promising. “

Mara Sartore

  • Beatrice Merz. Fondazione Merz. Photo by Andrea Guermani Beatrice Merz. Fondazione Merz. Photo by Andrea Guermani
  • Convento della Magione, Palermo Convento della Magione, Palermo
  • Chiesa Santa Maria dello Spasimo © Vincenzo Russo Chiesa Santa Maria dello Spasimo © Vincenzo Russo
Venice - Interviews

Delfina Foundation’s Interviews Series: Vivian Caccuri

4 weeks ago

During the lead up to this second installment of the Venice Biennale Performance Programme, we will release a series of conversations between Aaron Cezar (Delfina Foundation) and the participating artists.

The first episode is featured by artist Vivian Caccuri.

Aaron Cezar: Your practice focuses on sound, taking specific references and investigating the meanings with which they are imbued and the responses we have to them. How did you arrive at your interest in sound and this particular approach to it?

Vivian Caccuri: I come from a family of musicians and I have always been fascinated by music performance and how it creates different dynamics between people, be it body or attention-wise. At the same time, I was very strong in my drawing passion as a child and teenager, but the nature of this expression was not exactly cathartic or liberating enough for me. That’s why music expression and electronic music became my way out of a rigid Christian education. When I turned thirteen I started faking my IDs and running away from home to go to the rave parties of the late 90s/ early 2000s and to drum’n’bass nightclubs. It was a whole new world for me, and somehow similar to the Catholic experience because it brought so much visuality, spatiality and ecstasy together, but the only clear rules were freedom, innovation and a positivity/optimism for the digital world or the internet could heal the world. So I was a Napster / Audio Galaxy / Soulseek kid for a couple of years until I learned how to program own sounds using MAX / MSP, an amazing coding platform for music, sound and noise.

AC: During your residency at Delfina Foundation in 2018 you developed an interest in the sounds emitted by mosquitos. This led you to embark on a wide-ranging research endeavour. Could you talk about the directions this took you in and your process in this regard?

VC: As soon as I became more aware of the history of the Americas, my heritage and the peculiarities of tropical nature (the kind of nature that surrounds me in Brazil), I started to develop a stronger sense of self in a global context. I believe that those experiences deeply impact the way we listen and feel the world, and they can definitely be a path to a very unique perceptual knowledge. That’s why I was so puzzled by the distress around mosquito noise. I was looking for other reasons why people hate that sound so much other than the obvious – they are an epidemy, they bring misery or they are simply and absolutely annoying. To go below the surface, I started researching the history of the mosquito-related diseases, as well as the aesthetics of the campaigns, the treatments, the hospitals. The Wellcome Collection had so much about this theme that it was almost easy to imagine that the fear of mosquitoes and the distress around their sound have roots in the colonial movements of the sixteen hundreds.

AC: An outcome of the research, “Mosquitos Also Cry“, was presented last year as part of Frieze Projects London in the form of a lecture-performance stemming from your Delfina residency. It combined the sounds of the insects, a visual montage of materials from a range of sources including scientific, archival, popular culture relating to the mosquito, along with a narrative delivered by yourself. This script wove these disparate areas together into often quite speculative, provocative theses. However, it was also playful. The audience were burst into laughter numerous times. What function does play and humour perform in your work?

VC: I believe mosquitoes are quite charismatic. Every time I tell people I am working with mosquitoes they don’t react disgusted but quite the opposite, they respond positively like “wow, so interesting”. I believe it has something to do with how they are related to human skin and to how mosquitoes are democratic, although they might prefer some people over others. Everyone has at least one mosquito story to tell. I guess people laugh at my jokes because they access their own memories and I am actually aiming right at them.

AC: Since the Frieze performance I know you have continued to work on this project. What other outcomes have there been and what do you think has been gained from this sustained interest?

VC: Mosquitos are a very broad theme and it was inevitable I would treat it quite densely, in a sense that every aspect they raise opens up a new door to explore. I have been very interested in the “come back” of yellow fever. This is a very old disease that used to haunt South American and Caribbean coasts, and it somehow survived inside the forests and inside the bodies of sabethes mosquitoes and monkeys. It is a very ironic fact that a great number of yellow fever cases happened right during the rise of a Brazilian alt-right movement that has yellow as their main color. I turned my attention to the hallucination that is typical of this disease to also talk about politics and courage, to the intricacies of the body and the self in a larger social fabric. This was my inspiration for the work “A Soul Transplant” that is a large sound installation that has a composition made by me and Italian-Slovenian pianist Sven Lidén on a high-end Swedish organ at Luleå University of Technology. There I mixed the harmonies of Brazilian mestizo flutes to the sounds of mosquitos, some even processed as a choir.

AC: Broadly, you explore how socio-political contexts impact our reception to noises. Given you have presented works relating to mosquitos in a number of different places now, and to many audiences, do you have any interesting observations as to how the work has been differently received?

VC: In a very short period of time, I have shown these works both in India and in Sweden and I could see how different the meaning of mosquitoes is in both places. In Sweden, mosquitoes are hibernating most of the year and they are not everywhere. Although they can be extremely aggressive when summer comes, there are no disease-carrying mosquitoes there, so this fact definitely changes everything when it comes to their socio-political meaning and how government and society behave towards them. Even though mosquitoes mean something else in Sweden, “A Soul Transplant” was one of my favorite productions of my career as an artist and the audience response was magical. In India, I could feel it was quite similar to what I had in Brazil, the structural issues, the temperature, the diseases, the colonialism heritage… I felt completely understood and the Indian audience was simply amazing… very interactive and curious.

AC: Could you reveal a bit about the work you will be presenting at during the final weekend of the Venice Biennale?

VC:  “The New World Syrup & The Fever Hand” is another work about yellow fever, similar to “Mosquitos also Cry“, a performance lecture where I dive into the yellow fever hallucination to raise aesthetic hypothesis for its come back. I look at the Portuguese colonial world and the ritualistic life of the Kayapo people, that has many aspects that involve “yellow” elements.  I then tell a fictional story of how Yellow is a revengeful entity that was making justice for the enslavement of indigenous people in the form a disease: yellow fever.

AC: Finally, I wonder if you have any particular thoughts about bringing the work to Venice – a city where mosquitoes are prevalent in the summer months and which has its own history in relation to them?

VC: It is very relevant to look at Venice’s role in the sugar trade and its prior importance in European commerce, one of the main distribution hubs of colonial products. Sugar plantations and the harbors that were exporting raw sugar were the best environments for feeding mosquitoes, therefore, they brew yellow fever epidemics. Mosquitoes from Africa made to America in slave ships. Mosquitoes from America and Africa went to Europe in slave and sugar ships. The fascination around sugar, the need for a sugar high provoked a human disaster and completely changed not only the Tropics’ environment but also the European. I really admire the wisdom behind the popular saying:  “Sweetness always comes at someone’s cost.”

Vivian Caccuri’s participation in the performance programme of the 58th Venice Biennale of Art is supported by Frances Reynolds/Inclusartiz Institute. The programme is commissioned by Arts Council England and co-produced by Delfina Foundation and the Biennale as part of Meetings on Art.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Vivian Caccuri, Mosquitos Also Cry, 2018. Performance at Frieze London. © Linda Nylind Vivian Caccuri, Mosquitos Also Cry, 2018. Performance at Frieze London. © Linda Nylind
  • Vivian Caccuri, A Soul Transplant, 2019. Röda Sten Konsthall. Photo Hendrik Zeitler Vivian Caccuri, A Soul Transplant, 2019. Röda Sten Konsthall. Photo Hendrik Zeitler
  • Vivian Caccuri, Mosquito Shrine, 2018. Courtesy Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 Vivian Caccuri, Mosquito Shrine, 2018. Courtesy Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018
  • Vivian Caccuri, Mosquito Shrine, 2018. Courtesy Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018. Vivian Caccuri, Mosquito Shrine, 2018. Courtesy Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018.
London - Interviews

Antony Gormley, the Sergeant of Sentinels.

1 month ago

Born and bred in London, Antony Gormley is the best-known British sculptor working today. His ‘sentinels’ appear all over the world, investigating the relationship of the human body to space. We spoke to the artist about London today, our cyber-society and his show, currently on at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Lara Morrell: As a born Londoner how have you identified and developed a relationship with the city and how does this materialise in your work?

Antony Gormley: When Vicken and I first married we lived in Peckham for 10 years, built a studio there and had all our children there. Then for school reasons we moved back north. For 14 years I crossed the Thames over Waterloo Bridge or Blackfriars Bridge twice a day on my way from Camden Town to my studio in Peckham, what a way to connect to the river and London’s ever-changing skyline. In 2007, I made EVENT HORIZON on that same skyline around the same two bridges as a meditation on the city. Now the studio is in back in King’s Cross where I started. I love this city. For all its difficulties, it is comfortable, friendly, diverse and seemingly ever-welcoming to each new wave of people that arrives here. In 2009, I made ONE & OTHER for London’s Fourth Plinth, with 2,400 participants from all over the country celebrating our diversity and openness.

Lara Morrell: Your early years were spent squatting in Kings Cross, the face of which has had a dramatic overhaul in recent years (as well the affordability of the area). Do these drastic changes and forces in the urban and social landscape of London bother you?

Antony Gormley: 
London has put itself up for sale. We have had a sequence of real estate bids for the heart of London. The commodification of property can knock out feelings of community and neighbourhood, and of course that worries me. Mass tourism also worries me. This is not a London-specific problem but a bigger, global problem – that we are all eagerly travelling to and looking at other people’s places rather than living in our own.

Lara Morrell: The brand new purpose-built Central Saint Martin’s building situated in Kings Cross in the Granary building designed by Stanton Williams (where I studied a few years back), is considerably different to the content, context and overall feel of the CSM you attended. How do you think art education in the UK has evolved since your days as an art student? What are your thoughts on the accessibility/affordability of art education in the UK today?

Antony Gormley: Art schools seem to have been taken over by middle management and that’s a real tragedy. Back in the 1970s, it was normal that artists making their name nationally and internationally gained a kind of life-support from teaching. This made art school very exciting because you were in direct contact with a wide range of very different sensibilities – artists out there making shows, changing the artistic landscape, were talking to you about their work and about your work. Now that just isn’t true. On the whole, when I was at art school, students were often people who weren’t going to fit ordinary career paths and were interested in a wide range of things. It seems like we are now so dependent on a large proportion of the student intake coming from abroad, paying top tier fees. The system has become completely addicted to and reliant on that cash flow. I think that this shift has resulted in a dilution of  an inheritance from the post-war years, the legacy of Maynard Keynes and Albertopolis: the belief that a rich society had to have a making/thinking relationship and that the crafts and the arts should be supported in the centre of our cities by serious institutions giving the widest possible education to the widest variety of people. Art schools are very different places and I regret that the tradition of international and national artists teaching in art schools has not survived.

Lara Morrell: Your sculptures often outline alienated and solitary figures dwelling upon the abyss before them. How do you view the average London city dweller today? As the city evolves, do you find that it is becoming a lonelier place, evermore difficult to project oneself upon?

Antony Gormley: Cybersociety, the way in which we are all in touch with each other through our external brain machines, has had the most devastating effect on feelings of collective community. We are addled by an overload of reported fact that we can do nothing about, but everyone is aware of this problem and is working against it through friendship. Every kind of interest group seems to be flourishing, from running and yoga to all kinds of making and growing, we are all on a journey to reformulate our society in a time of mass information. My work’s singularity isn’t a manifestation of alienation and loneliness: the attitude of the work is alert, aware and awake. When placed against the sky the sculptures are often looking towards a horizon that we cannot see. I think of them as sentinels, aware of a wider picture, inviting a form of awareness to do with the future, the planet, space.

Lara Morrell: Your works are usually made and thrive in direct response to the locations in which they are installed, have you come across any challenges in grouping your works together for this retrospective at the Royal Academy? How does this re-location/de-contextualisation change the reading of the work and the way the viewer engages with it?

Antony Gormley: I think that every exhibition that I make is also an invitation to investigate the body of the building in which it is shown. I did that with the Hayward Gallery in 2007 and now again with the Royal Academy. The RA comes with a lot of baggage. The architecture itself is pseudo-renaissance, informed by Alberti’s orders. The RA is one of seven learned societies coming out of the Enlightenment and the belief that civilised rationality was the basis of humanity’s future. I do not particularly want to contradict those values but complement them with materials associated with our industrial age. Two works came into being in the Royal Academy, they came in bits and were constructed for the first time in gallery 3 and gallery 8, MATRIX and CAVE. They are conversations between shattered orthogonal structures, the grid and classical order. The thresholds of each room are an important part of this architectural dialogue. The three times lifesize doorways are either blocked or opened, barred or obscured and lead to light or to darkness. In gallery 8, where we enter into CAVE, there is a great marble doorway now blocked with tumbled steel boxes that offer the visitor only a small passage by which to enter the work’s dark bodyform. To do so you have to bend down and I like that juxtaposition of the grandeur of renaissance magnificence with the mode of entering a traditional long house where you have to bow down in a gesture of submission.

Lara Morrell: You work with a wide-ranging use of organic, industrial and elemental materials, could you tell me a little about the choice of material when approaching a new sculpture – the relationship between the chosen material, the subject matter and location.

Antony Gormley: All matter comes with a preordained feel and connection with things that already exist, either systems, or values, or location in landscape. I want to respect matter. When I use iron, for example, I am thinking of the iron core of our planet that gives us our magnetic field and keeps us on our cosmic course. When I use bread, I think about bread as the staff of life, the agent of transformation of matter into mind. Material is already a subject in its own right, there is no need to use it to make a picture. Simply by displacing something we can develop a new relationship with it, with ourselves and with the rest of the world. I feel the same way about context. As I have said, the RA building itself becomes part of the raw material and emergent subject of the show. I have thought hard about the materials that I have brought into my exhibition at the RA. They are all familiar, they are all everyday things, they are all out of our current lives whether food, earth or industrial material.

Lara Morrell: Art fairs, could perhaps be compared to the London property market, an important space where one needs to understand why people are building/making and buying, My Art Guide London is produced for the occasion of Frieze Week in London (with a focus on all that is going on simultaneously elsewhere in the city) how do you view the commodification of art?

Antony Gormley: I would contest the assertion that the art fair is an important space of understanding! You make an intriguing comparison with the London property market, a system of exchange through which the basic human need for shelter is transformed into something like style choice. Art has fallen into this commodification trap without fully recognising the consequences. There’s no doubt that art fairs allow artists an important opportunity to support their work, but I wish we could somehow use the net to exchange product, time and skill directly, without markets. For the moment we live in a world that is ruled by a late capitalism which cannot cure its own evils. Art fairs often undermine the integrity of the art they seek to support.  

Lara Morrell: Could you disclose to our readers, a few of your favourite, off-the-beaten track London hang outs?

Antony Gormley: Well, I love two Sichuan restaurants. One is called Silk Road on Camberwell Church Street and the other is Xi’an opposite Emirates Stadium. I love my local pub, The Lord Stanley, it serves fantastic food. Precious to me is Postman’s Park where George Frederic Watts’s memorial celebrates ordinary, unsung heroes and The Hardy Tree in St Pancras Churchyard, close to John Soane’s tomb, where the young Thomas Hardy arranged tombstones within the roots of a plane tree, hiding their names one against the other. And of course, there’s Hampstead Heath. What an amazing joy to find there, as I did yesterday, a heron preening itself, sitting on a floating buoy in the pond above the Men’s Pond and to be able to delight in the range of trees, American Pin Oaks, low crowned Holme Oaks, fantastic, ancient sweet chestnuts.


Lara Morrell

  • Photograph by Stephen White, London Photograph by Stephen White, London
Venice - Interviews

The Madagascar Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019: An Interview with Joël Andrianomearisoa

1 month ago

This year Madagascar takes part in the 58th edition of La Biennale di Venezia International Exhibition with its own pavilion for the first time in its history. Titled “I have forgotten the night“, the exhibition is curated by Rina Ralay-Ranaivo and Emmanuel Daydé.

Mara Sartore: What was your reaction when you received the news of being selected to represent Madagascar at the Venice Biennale 2019?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: When the Madagascar government invited me to represent my country at the Venice Biennale I actually had two reactions: my curator, my friends and people around me suggested that I look at ways to represent my country. To me, it seemed very complicated, I wandered “How can I represent Madagascar in this space and with my work which is not only related to my country?”. So the first main goal was to find a title which is “I have forgotten the night”. In a way, I tried to forget Madagascar to remember this country in a better way, to discover different emotions and I selected the temporality of the night which is a time of the day I like the most, it’s more emotional, mysterious and it also gives me more inspiration. Physically there was another important point: to not touch the walls which I decided to keep white and clean as they were, so the piece is suspended. It’s a way to give an international breath to the work, I mean, we are in the Madagascar pavilion, in its own space, but the work reflects my international attitude. I am based between Paris and Antananarivo but I belong to the world, so this idea of nationality sometimes it heavy. In Venice and within the Venice Biennale we as artists are related to a country but as humans, we are just artists of the world, not necessarily related to our country of origin.

In regards to the piece itself, the initial inspiration for my work was, of course, Madagascar and specific elements of my country: the architecture, for example, I was inspired by certain buildings from the18th century that were built by our Kingdom; also literature inspired me: a very important author who has inspired me is Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo, a melancholic poet who was the first in my country to write in English and French at the same time, he had a short life because he committed suicide when he was 33 years old. Marguerite Duras and her reflections upon colonisation is another international reference to me.

The piece is a metaphor but it is also a forgotten book: I tried to disperse different emotions and elements which can be read by the viewer, it’s a paper collage, a floating piece where the pages are moving – it’s not a written book but more of a book seeped in an emotion. I also wanted to simply engage with the public and allow the audience to go on a journey into Madagascar so I decided to include a sound piece in the pavilion. I invited a famous singer from Madagascar to sing a poem which is called “I have to ask” where there’s a constant idea of duality. The singer doesn’t sing in the proper Madagascar language, in a way, she transforms the poem into an international song, which was my intent.

Mara Sartore: Where did you realise the piece for the pavilion, was it in Paris?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: No, as you know, I have one studio in Antananarivo, one in Paris and a third one in the countryside, in France. It’s in this very big one that I built the piece.

Mara Sartore: What will happen to the piece when the biennale is over?

Joël Andrianomearisoa: The artwork is going on tour, the first stop will be in March at the Domaine de Chaumont in the South West of Paris. The castle is a museum with a section dedicated to contemporary art. Every year they invite an artist to exhibit a major piece, and they also have a wonderful garden where they a big flower festival on the occasion of which they invite prestigious garden designers. So this main artwork and other pieces will be shown from March 2020 and will probably then travel to another place, but let’s see.

Lear more about the Madagascar Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale.
The Madagascar Pavilion is located at the Arsenale Artiglierie among the first national pavilions following the international exhibition.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Joël Andrianomearisoa © Christian Sanna Joël Andrianomearisoa © Christian Sanna
  • Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale
  • Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale
  • Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale Madagascar Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019, Arsenale