Category Archives: Curator Talk

JEALOUS GUY

Blog discovery: The Jealous Curator

If you haven´t already met the Jealous Curator — it´s about a time.

There is one moment, in the first few seconds, when you look at a piece of art and know that you love it. It’s the moment when, if you’re an artist yourself, you look at it and feel a rush of uplifting inspiration… and total soul-crushing jealousy all at the same time. It’s when you walk away thinking, “Damn, I wish I thought of that.”

The Jealous Curator

As a daily visitor to her inspirational blog — I asked the active blogger for a favor. To name her favorite emerging artists of today — as an artists monitor and a noted aesthete. Her choses were the following:

Ben Skinner (Canada)

“Let´s pretend tomorrow night never happened” by Ben Skinner. White ink on black Alunpanel (2011). Image/Ben Skinner

Anne Lindberg (USA)

“Parallel 25 yellow” by Anne Lindberg. Graphite and colored pencil on cotton mat board (2011). Image/Anne Lindberg

Maurizio Anzeri (Italy)

“Giovanni” by Maurizio Anzeri.  Photographic print with embroidery (2009). Image/Maurizio Anzeri.

Deidre But-Husaim (Australia)

“Beauty Marks” (Bare) by Deidre But-Husaim. Oil on linen (2008). Image/Deidre But-Husaim

Anthony Zinonos (UK)

“Pillhead” by Anthony Zinonos. Collage.

The blogger explanation for the use of the “jealousy” term, which many people relate to a negative emotion, is:

I once heard someone say that when jealousy is kept inside it becomes toxic, but as soon as it’s said out loud, it transforms into admiration.

— The Jealous Curator

I  couldn´t agree more with her. Official jealousy can namely be a successful tool when it comes to appreciation and a sense of humor.

Blog: The Jealous Curator

Artists: Ben Skinner (Canada), Anne Lindberg (USA), Maurizio Anzeri (Italy), Deidre But-Husaim (Australia) and Anthony Zinonos (UK)

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Filed under Art, Collage/Clip Art, Curator, Curator Talk, Digital Art, Drawings, Fine Art, Multimedia, Net stroll, Photography, Print, Textile Art, Visual Art

“I LIKE ALL KIND OF TUBES. THE YOUTUBE AND THE WHITE CUBE”

– Interview with Jacopo Saltarelli (Norway)

When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background?

I was born in Firenze in 1459. I know this may sound strange, but it all makes perfect sense. You see, I started out as an apprentice goldsmith. Soon, however, I found that prostitution was something I felt comfortable with, and liberated by. Through my work, I befriended Leonardo da Vinci, and became a model for many of his masterpieces. At the age of seventeen, they payed to sodomize me in public, and I spent two month in jail together with da Vinci and three of his friends.This became a turning point for me. After we were released, I discovered a paradox in the space-time continuum, contained in Leonardo’s asshole. I traveled through it, and was catapulted forward in time to a small cabin by the Norwegian coastline. Some young artists from the city of Oslo happened to find me, and after a bit of small-talk, they invited me to be the curator of a new gallery space. So here I am, back from the past to talk about the future.

What is the artistic field of your curatorial practice?

This is a question of specifying some form of limit to curatorial practice, something which I believe contradicts the basic non-meaning of the term. If you’re a curator who only curates video art, or collage for that matter, you’re already a stuck up, pretentious kind of guy, who seeks artists who adapt to his or hers designated niché one way or the other, and the exhibitions you create will end up fetishistic at best.

I like to curate artists which relate to some of my personal perspectives. Including, but not exclusive to, sexuality, scientific negation, blasphemy, perfection, beauty, rebelliousness, time, space and immortality. And also, things. You could say I’m a bit of a fetishist myself.

Saltarelli Salong

Is there a difference in curating different field of arts, etc. paintings, videos, interactive works or a piece of net art?

There is no reason why we should separate these fields and exhibit them as different practices. This is artes vulgares thinking at its most anal, and I dont think the material should be considered superior to the idea and context of a given artwork. In my youth the church was the only place to rock. Today, I find strict categorization close to impossible with the new, transmutational practices in this android age.

What kind of qualities do you think a curator should have?

Sadly, a curators traits is of an obnoxious charater. Public relation and sale, contextualization through media, projections of personal insecurities and so on. Overly charismatic and slick. A demigod wannabe. I think the curator is something which has emerged through the artists need to be collaborative, while still standing like a lone ranger on an heroic cliff. The lonely artistic genius is exactly that, a lonely arrogant man. Nothing gives us a greater thrill than satisfying our sense of exhaustion and ennui by polishing the bars of our prison cell. As jail, the museum leads to isolation.

Do you think that new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why?

BWPWAP? Yes, for me, I prefer keyboards over sloppy handwriting. It’s a way of immortalizing our own monologues. #YOLO

Work by Frido Evers / Saltarelli Salong

In times of “You Tube” and the Internet, do you think a curator is still needed?

I like all kind of tubes.The YouTube and the White Cube. One doesn’t necessarily exclude the other.

What are your curatorial plans for the future? What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives in curating?

Exploring the depths and caveats of art through Saltarelli Salong I also wish to materialize myself in a 3D hologram, exhibit works in a church, and travel back to Italy to see the social change of the last 500 years and feel the salt of the earth once more. The intestinal wormhole of da Vinci has taught me that money is a means to and end, the end being death.

“The Man and the Tree” / In SALT’s latest exhibition, Geir Backe Altern plants an illegal tree outside of the gallery

Photographs belong to Saltarelli Salong

What is the future of professional curating from your point of view?

Why so serious? That is my biggest concern. Art should not be dull or afraid of its shortcomings. Let’s leave behind this slick, slimy, unreasonably complex sociolect which contemporary art personifies to the point of neurosis. Contemporary art as presented today is the tragedy of perfection. The curator is often blamed as the legitimatizing force for commoditizing an ostensibly unapproachable field of useless innovation. But this is of course not the curators fault.

SALT (Saltarelli Salong) operate through weekend exhibitions, happenings, screenings, concerts and workshops mainly focsed on exhibiting young artists based in Oslo.

SALT is named after Jacobo Saltarelli, an apprentice goldsmith and notorious male prostitute who lived in Firenze during the renaissance. In 1476 Leonardo Da Vinci was arrested, spending two months in jail, along with several young companions, on the charge of sodomy with the then 17-years-old Jacopo.

Jacopo Saltarelli is now the founder, curator and gallerist of SALT. He was in his own time accused of being ‘party to many wretched affairs and consents to please those persons who request such wickedness of him. SALT believes this to be much the same service delivered by the majority of contemporary art.

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Filed under Art, Curator, Curator Talk, Konsthopp, Oslo, Performance, Political Art, Visual Art

“ART IS AN AMAZING WAY TO DEAL WITH LIFE”

– Interview with Tessa Praun (Sweden)

When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background and curatorial experience?

Curator Tessa Praun with Ai Wei Wei at his ateljé in 2010/ Photo by Magasin 3

 I started curating for real on my current job, the private art foundation Magasin 3 Stockholm Konsthall. My background is in the Humanities Study Program and Art History at Stockholm University. I did my final internship at IASPIS (International Artists Studio Program in Sweden), an artist in residency program that really got me interested in contemporary art. From there I moved on to shorter experiences at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and as assistant curator at Kunstverein München, amongst others. In 2004 I started as assistant curator at Magasin 3 and became curator two years later. Since then I have curated exhibitions with artists such as Miroslav Tichy, Christian Boltanski, Annika von Hausswolff, Marijke van Warmerdam, Ai Weiwei, etc. and have done collaborative projects with other art institutions in Europe and been working with Magasin 3:s own collection.

What is your personal relationship with Ai Wei Wei and his work? How did it come about that you got to curate his show at Magasin 3?

I was very taken by Ai Weiwei’s project “Fairytale” that he did for Documenta XII, this impressive idea to invite 1001 Chinese people to come with him to Kassel in Germany in the summer of 2007. It is a fantastic social multi layered project that lives on through stories that are being told as well as through physical remaining parts with an amazing visual strength. Experiencing this work in Kassel made me read more about Ai Weiwei and follow the work he did after.

In 2010 I was in China and had the chance to visit Ai Weiwei in his combined home and studio in Beijing. This was in a time when he was already very pressed by the Chinese authorities and he had just been under a three days house arrest when we met. Meeting him in his own environment and under these pressing circumstances effected me strongly and coming back to Stockholm I invited him to have the exhibition here at Magasin 3 this spring.

Fairytale (dormitory) by Ai Wei Wei 

Tell us more about the Ai Wei Wei exhibition. What has been your main role as a curator of the show?

From the beginning I knew that I did not want to make a retrospective exhibition, instead I wanted a selection of works that focuses on China as synonymous to mass production and Ai Weiwei’s concern for the individual as a necessary part of the big mass. Ai Weiwei did the first selection of works that he and I then discussed and added to. Only a few months into working together, in the beginning of April 2011, he suddenly was arrested and kept detained on no legal grounds in an undisclosed location. Not knowing what was going to happen, if and when he would be released, me and my colleagues had to decide how to move on. Together with Ai Weiwei’s assistants we came to the conclusion that the best thing that we could do in that situation was to continue the preparations of the exhibition, it felt even more so important to show his work and make his voice heard. Despite my deep concerns for Ai Weiwei’s situation I had to focus as much as I could on completing the exhibition and do so in the most respectful way.

World Map by Ai Wei Wei

Can you explain the importance of the reading room being a part of the Ai Wei Wei exhibition? Why emphasize on all that information?

At the point when Ai Weiwei was detained and couldn’t be part of the preparations of the exhibition anymore, I felt it was important to give our visitors a deeper insight into Ai Weiwei’s situation, why he is on a collision course with the regime and consequently has become so known also outside the art world. So I developed a reading room. A physical one in the actual exhibition space, side by side with the artworks. It includes reading material, a sound archive where various people contributed with their stories and reflections on Ai Weiwei, interviews and documentaries on and by Ai Weiwei. But also a digital one, a special homepage gathering articles, documentaries, the sound archive, filmed documentation of all panel discussions that we have arranged in connection to the exhibition etc. in order for people to explore his work both as an artist, activist, blogger, architect. He himself does not really distinguish these roles. I found it interesting to bring this up through the reading room. Both the physical and digital reading room have proven very useful and much appreciated.

Video work by Ai Wei Wei 

Do you think new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why.

Well yes, I think since these new media are part of society today it is only a natural development that also artists explore them and art institutions adapt them in communicating with the audience. In some cases art can be brought closer to the viewer through various new media and attract those who are hard to reach in a more traditional manner. In our part of the world we live in a time with a tremendous fast pace. It is important that art can both adapt to these new circumstances but also offer a brake from just that. The content has to be the driving force otherwise the experience will be lost completely. It is a challenge for both artist and curator to find the right balance.

Stool by Ai Wei Wei

Photographs by Konsthopp

What qualities do you think a good curator should have?  

A good curator knows how to both support and challenge an artist, is curious and open minded, dedicated to the project and flexible to deal with different characters and situations under time pressure : )

From your point of view, how does the future of professional curating look like? What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives on your future curatorial plans?

My main motivation for being a curator is to learn more about life. Being close to art is an amazing way to deal with life, to explore notions of the present, history and future, to be inspired to thoughts and feelings. If I can transmit this also to other people then I think I am doing something good.

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Filed under Ceramic Art, Conversation, Curator, Curator Talk, Documentary, Fine Art, Installation, Political Art, Sculptures, Sociopolitical art, Stockholm, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Video Art, Visual Art

THE HIGH SPIRITS OF COLLABORATING

— Interview with Jonatan Habib Engqvist (Sweden)

Photograph taken from OCA

Photograph taken from OCA

Reykjavík Arts Festival 2012 had its kick off at Harpa (Reykjavík Concert and Conference Hall) on Friday night. Since 2004 the festival has been held annually in the capital city of Iceland, each year concentrating specifically on different fields of arts. Last year it was music — this year it’s visual arts. As we mentioned in the post (I)ndependent People, the large-scale exhibition is a collaborative visual arts project that involves many of Reykjavík’s various exhibition spaces during the festival and throughout the summer. Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet up with the curator of (I)ndependent people, Jonatan Habib Engqvist, in his time-intervals between answering e-mails and preparing last-minute actions. Over a long cup of coffee Jonatan told me all about the exhibition, his personal speculations about the project and his own role as a curator.

From the opening at Harpa Friday night

ONE BIG EXPERIMENT

The idea of (I)ndependent people came after a seminar called Alternative North that was hold in Reykjavík in 2011, concerning the economical crises and artists initiatives. The last two biennial formats at Reykjavík Arts Festival (curated by Jessica Morgan in 2005 & Ólafur Elíasson in 2008) were some “big deals” with big budgets. In between there were the financial crisis — and now it’s Jonatan’s turn to curate a biennale with artist-run initiatives.

“The brief I got from Reykajvík Arts Festival (Alternative power station of the North) was strong, even though it seemed like a quite job with compound co-operation between different institutions. But there was something exciting about it in terms of curating and I thought that maybe this complex co-operation might be an interesting focus for the whole biennale.”

Jonatan tells me genuinely how he never thought it would actually work out. He already had his job and gave a radical counter-proposal to the organizers of the festival.

“I thought that maybe this could be the concept itself — the collaboration — to make the biennale to an experiment and see if it holds. I received 100% support. When they said yes to the unbelievable there was no going back. And this whole support makes it a pretty radical exhibition in terms of an international biennale. The conglomerate of art galleries, artist-driven initiatives and artists groups (and their will to co-operate) is what will make this possible. You could say that the entire exhibition is like a one big experiment. Why? Cause it’s fun!”

A SINGLE SIMPLE RULE

“I have received so much support, incredibly much freedom — the organizers are satisfied as long as I keep the budget. Which is incredible and actually pretty cool.”

And from there — the collaboration — the idea starts growing. Jonatan tells me about the idea and how he really wants to take it as far as it goes. There are no solo artists, only groups and collaborations between artists — which is something opposite to the whole biennale logic.

“Normally biennales are based on superstars. And for me the curatorial process is exciting, even though I’ve had to say no to artists that are “big” and which work I like. But I have been very tough — holding hard to a one simple rule. NO solo artists. This is what the whole thing is based on. Everyone work on the same terms, there are no solo exhibitions and beside that there has to be a genuine exchange between partners, a negotiation and artwork that influences the theme.”

HOW MANY CURATORS TO SCREW A LIGHT BULB?

We discuss further the collaboration and I ask Jonatan about his role as a curator. He throws me an insider joke and asks me if I know how many curators I need to screw a light bulb?

“It depends on the budget! Everything will work out (or as they say in Iceland “þetta reddast”) as long as you keep budget. Do it yourself if you can’t afford it … So what I am trying to do is just to take some of the on-going happenings and gather them at one place. That’s what you do as a curator. To gather stuff and see what happens if you put this stuff in the same room. I see one thing there and another thing there — and wander what happens if I put them together. It’s not really that complicated.”

But I’m not sure I can buy that from him. The whole process seems complicated — a hard work. Having a dialogue, sharing visual perspectives, finding the artists right places in the context of the whole …

LIKE A HOUSE OF CARDS

… the whole of which is the collaboration. That is — NO SOLOS. And for Jonatan, being the only curator, makes it a bit bissare.

“It is an exhibition of collaboration, but I’m the only curator — which might create some sort of hirarki. But there is a dialogue, support and a concept that holds and helps working it all out. Still I’m there at the top. But maybe that’s ok. I think that there must be someone in charge, so if there is a disaster they can blame it on me. I might be the one that builds the infrastructure and context but I absolutely see the process as collective. It’s impossible otherwise. But it’s an experiment — bit like a house of cards — and if one cards falls it’s important to have someone who can point out and remind, as a part of the experiment.”

WHERE IS THE ART?

An experiment which is really exciting!The whole concept seems to be a lot about structures, experiments and dialoges — but will there be any art?

“Of course that’s a question that’s popped up in my mind. Working with group of artists is incredibly fun and interesting yet also complicated. The concept of infrastructures, research and experiments is a big part of the exhibition — but at the same time we just want to express art. It’s a framework for the art which is exhibited but not a scale of what you like and what you see. It’s challenging to let the art stand on its own — to see if it holds — and bring to the point both the visual as well as its intuition.”

Photographs taken from Reykjavík Arts Festival facebook page

And that might be an experiment on its own. Be sure to experience you own (I)ndependent people, which was opened yesterday. And if you’re not in Reykjavík, follow the festival with us, we’ll be reporting as much as we can!

xox

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Filed under Art festival, Curator, Curator Talk, Konsthopp, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Stockholm, Uncategorized, Visual Art

CURATING IS AN INTUITIVE & MAGICAL PROCESS

— Interview with Thale Fastvold and Tanja Thorjussen, LOCUS (Norway)

When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background?

LOCUS: We met while studying curating at Telemark University College in 2006, and seeing as we both are artists, we discovered that we had a many common denominators in our views on curating as well. Thale is trained in photography/text from Rome and Oslo, and Tanja in drawing/painting from Bergen and New York. We decided to work together, and founded LOCUS art and curator group. The first thing we curated was a series of video art events in Oslo and Trondheim. Since then we have curated and collaborated on smaller and bigger art shows in Oslo, Voss, Nissedal and New York. We work as curators, artists, art consultants (for KORO/Public Art Norway) and writers. In 2009 LOCUS published the book “Kurator?” an anthology of interviews with, and texts by curators working in Norway.

What is the artistic field of your curatorial practice?

LOCUS: The most important aspect of curating is threefold, 1) the theme 2) the artwork and 3) how it is conveyed/contextualized within the given space.

We normally have a clear vision and focus regarding the theme of the exhibitions. Often it has been inspired by political, scientific or spiritual events. Developing a theme, we work very intuitively, and in some respects almost scientifically. We do a lot of research on the topic; we attempt to explore and excavate the theme, and we do not have all the answers until the exhibition/project is over. For example, in our book project “Kurator?”, we investigated how curators work in Norway today, and we didn’t know from the outset what we were going to find. When we curate, we invite artists we believe will respond to, and create an interesting dialogue based on the given theme. We look at a lot of artists and follow their work, so when we invite somebody to participate in a project we trust them and their process of working.

How an artwork or the theme is conveyed is also an important part of our work. For instance, for the video art events we curated, we decided to make the screening of the videos a “one time only”-event, over the course of one evening. Our intention was that the audience should view the entire work in a focused setting, not see the work broken up in parts, which often happen when video is showed in a loop and you walk in on a work in progress.

As to the artistic field of curating, we will always bring with us our background as artists. When we work with art projects, whether the outcome is a curated show, our own exhibition, or a book, the process will always be colored by our background/experience.

Yonder” in Galleri 69, Oslo (2008)

Yonder” in Galleri 69, Oslo (2008)

Is there a difference in curating different field of arts, etc. paintings, videos, interactive works or a piece of net art?

LOCUS: Yes, and no! We started curating video art since the media is easy to transport, and we could easily make pop up video art exhibitions in borrowed spaces.

It requires much more preparation organizing a bigger exhibition space with large paintings and installations, and it can be more expensive to produce, but in essence the process is the same. We are a nomadic curator group, we do not have our own gallery space and we never know in advance if we will get public funding for a project, so we are used to finding creative solutions to different obstacles. Other elements in preparing a show – the planning, applying for funding, writing project outlines, press releases, shipping and installation – are not very different from show to show, everything needs to be done. After 6 years of collaboration we have experienced that being two does not just double our capacity, it quadruples it and often makes us more efficient than working solo. We discuss, plan and organize, and the project never suffers since one of us can always fill in and back up if the other is preoccupied. We trust each other, communicate easily and are very much in unison with the projects we work on.

What kind of qualities do you think a curator should have?

Thale: A curator needs to be open minded, flexible and good with editing, both when it comes to artworks and text!

Tanja: And be a good mediator and have a functional toolbox.

Blackening.” Galleri 69, Oslo (2008)

Blackening.” Galleri 69, Oslo (2008)

Do you think that new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why?

LOCUS: It has opened up a wider area in which to explore and experience art. Artists always question the status quo, and now digital media is just that. But it is important to create the best way to present an artwork, as everything surrounding the work has a context, now video has established the black box, painting the white cube etc. so it will be interesting to see how digital media art will best be conveyed. Experiencing artwork is really very private, it is you and the work, and so is our interaction with our computer. It is especially interesting with the new Google art project, which makes museums and art available to the public through the computer, but for a curator it is also a great tool for studying curatorial decisions.

In times of “You Tube” and the Internet, do you think a curator is still needed?

LOCUS: Yes, definitely. The curator is often the conveyor of meaning, the translator and the person who can help both audience and artists in forming a closer and better relationship with one another. The curator is also of great help to the artists; many artists want to focus solely on creating the work and don’t always wish to spend valuable time conveying their art to the audience.

What are your curatorial plans for the future? What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives in curating?

LOCUS: Right now we are working on a show presenting our own work at the project space at Tegneforbundet in Oslo (which opens Sept. 27, 2012) where we through drawing, photo and installation investigate what happens to the soul after death, before next life cycle. We are very conscious about the space, lighting, sound etc, and want to create a very specific mood in the room. When we create a show with our own art we can be freer or more immediate in how we alter the room. When we work with presenting other people’s art, we have to work with the artist to find out what they want to achieve, and how the essence in their artwork can be most adeptly expressed. Placing meaningful objects like art in a room is very hands-on and instinctual, and as curators we try to be true to the artworks.

It is easy to discuss curating in an academic way, but it is very much an intuitive process, and a magical process, and we hope that these aspects of curating will be explored further in the future.

Thale: I started a window box gallery in Oslo last year, within the Pushwagner gallery, where each month I curate smaller shows with emerging artists, and I will continue that project. When I curate shows or work as an art consultant, I aim at including 50% male and female artists, and I also wish to showcase younger artists. Of course, the most important thing for me is to curate interesting shows, which to me are shows that arouse something in its viewers, and give the audience a new perspective, whether this is on society, contemporary art or both.

Tanja: Through art projects and curatorial projects alike I explore something I don’t know, but which stirs my interest.

Now I am working on a Performance Laboratorium (co-curated with Gudrun Flatebø), which will be held at the cultural space Galleri 69 & Kafe MIR at Lufthavna in Oslo this fall. Initially I thought it would be interesting to create a performance lab because I did not know much about performance, I did not think I fully understood the history of performance and what performance is, it is a very mysterious art form as it is so hard to define.

Kurator?” A book by Thale Fastvold and Tanja Thorjussen / LOCUS (2009)

PHOTOGRAPHS BELONG TO LOCUS

What is the future of professional curating from your point of view?

LOCUS: In 2004 two curatorial study programs were established in Norway, and since then we have seen an escalating professionalization of the Norwegian curator. Before there where mostly artists or art historians who did this job. Last year the Norwegian Association of Curators was founded, which is an important step in professionalization, and we think the society and the art world in particular is increasingly starting to see the value of the curator. There is a great interest in contemporary art, but with conceptualism, postmodernism and all the other —isms of the last 40 years, the audience sometimes depends on someone to convey the art. Curators can have this and many other functions. There are so many ways of curating and so many venues of discussing curating, like Konsthopp, so we think the future of curating is very positive and exciting!

LOCUS is an art and curator group established in 2006 by Thale Fastvold and Tanja Thorjussen.Both educated as artists and curators we have exhibited in New York, Oslo, Trondheim, Reykjavik and Zurich. LOCUS have curated video-art events, exhibitions and are collaborators on various art projects in Norway and abroad.

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Filed under Art, Artist books, Curator, Curator Talk, Konsthopp, Oslo, Uncategorized, Video Art, Visual Art

“CURATOR WILL ALWAYS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE”

— Interview with Alexander Jean Edvard le Sage de Fontenay (Iceland)

When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background?

During my last couple of years in highschool (Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð) I attended numerous of art history classes and art classes. I had an especially inspirational art teacher that year, Louise Hazell A Harris, and I believe I am lucky that she has taught me. The first art show were I was directly involved in the planning, was held on my graduating year. It was an exhibition of her student’s works from one of her classes, which I went to as well. At her request, I helped the teacher promote it in my school, gather art pieces and I even made a flyer.

For me, the ball actually only started rolling for me quite recently. After I began studying Art History at The University of Iceland I got involved in a number of things. I started writing for the school paper (Stúdentablaðið), helped plan events for students studying art history and last but not least, opened a gallery with a few of my fellow students, called Artíma gallery. The reason we went into doing this was in our opinion a lack of practical courses which are available for art history students. This way we get to exercise our curatorial skills.

Our first exhibition opened in October last year (2011). I have been involved in two shows so far. The first one being a group exhibition of works by 14 artists from The Iceland Academy Of Arts. The second exhibition was called S/H/91-93 and was also a group exhibition of ten black & white works by ten artists who all study primary art education.

What is the artistic field of your curatorial practice?

I enjoy making art myself. I guess the artistic field of my curatorial practice is having a say in what art pieces are ultimately selected by the artists, arranging the pieces to ensure that the right mood is achieved in the exhibition space and also helping the artist find the best suitable way for his works to be presented.

Is there a difference in curating different field of arts, etc. paintings, videos, interactive works or a piece of net art?

Of course. Each medium has a mind of it’s own. The best exhibitions in my opinion, are those that include works of different mediums. And where the art pieces are arranged according to the nature of each exhibition space. In S/H/91-93 I had a few installations and a number of wall based works. I nurtured the artists needs while also filling the space accordingly, to create diversity. I tried to create a contrast with the wall-based art and used the installations in between to maintain balance.

From S/H/91-93. #1. “Án titils” by Magnús Ingvar Ágústsson #2. “Út fyrir rammann” by Krista Alexandersdóttir #3. “Undir smásjá” by Sólveig Eir Steward #4. “Eðlislega óeðlislægt” by Kristín Þorláksdóttir

What kind of qualities do you think a curator should have?

I think a curator should be personable and friendly. It is important for him to have a good relationship with the artist (or artists). He should be able to keep cool at all times. He should do little things like bring a pizza when those finishing touches are being added the night before opening a show.  While he should be friendly he should have leader skills and determination. A lot of things may be riding on a show. But regardless if the show is a success or not, the artist (or artists) should have confidence in the curator.

Do you think that new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why?

Internet art has been around since the mid 1990s. Since then it has evolved and so has, obviously, all technology. There was a “revolution” in digital video, making it easier for more artists to work with video. So that’s a definite: Yes.

In times of “You Tube” and the Internet, do you think a curator is still needed?

Yes. I think the curator will always play an important role in the art world. Websites such as Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Deviant art, Tumblr to name a few, have made it a lot easier for artists to promote themselves. It has also helped a lot of people find what they’re looking for and to discover new things. This does not make a curator less needed. I believe that just like people won’t stop talking to their friends in real life (offline) they won’t stop going to galleries and museums. Because seeing a work of art online is never the same thing as seeing it face-to-face as a part of an exhibition. Period.

What are your curatorial plans for the future? What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives in curating?

In April I will be curating an art show in Artíma gallery. It’s going to be the collected works of a couple of vivacious girls. They have shown a lot of potential. One of them is studying fine arts at The Iceland Academy of Arts and the other is in Reykjavik School of Visual Art. It is going to be collaborative work and some independent work from both of them. Video art, a few sculptures and I’m pretty sure there will be some wall-based art as well. I’m excited about that. In June there will hopefully be a big group exhibition to welcome the summer. There has been a discussion of collaborating with another student gallery, run by the fine arts department at The Iceland Academy of Arts. I would like to be part of that.

My wish is that future art galleries that are in similar scale as Artíma won’t have a hard time gathering funding. Unfortunately, today it is quite a task for galleries (even bigger ones than Artíma) to do this. Me and many of my fellow students are in agreement that for art to flourish “the little guys” have to be given some air to breathe.

Curators should be able to work completely hand-in-hand with artists. This is THEIR world. Artists are not supposed to be scared of consulting or collaborating with artist and vice versa.

What is the future of professional curating from your point of view?

Art history as we know it began in the 19th century. The University Of Iceland began offering art history courses less than a decade ago. In just that time a lot has happened. Curators have gotten more attention in Iceland. I believe things will only get better. In times of lessened funds towards the strengthening of artistic practice, I think interest in art and art history will thrive. As long as people keep working hard for what they believe in and others keep showing their support. Lengi lifi listfræðin! (e. long live art history).

From S/H/91-93. #1. “Triptych” by Valdemar Árni Guðmundsson #2. “Femme Individuelle” by Dýrfinna Benita Garðarsdóttir #3. “Lord Donald is a Pale Horse” by Eysteinn Þórðarson #4. “Undir smásjá” by Sólveig Eir Steward

Photographs by Fritz Hendrik Berndsen IV

Alexander Jean Edvard le Sage de Fontenay (1991) is an art history student at University of Iceland. Despite young age, Alexander is already taking his first steps as a curator. He is a member of Artíma gallerí, a curator run gallery in Reykajvik, managed by students of The University of Iceland. Alexander has been involved in two exhibition in the gallery so far, but Konsthopp first met him at the “S/H/91-93” where he curated ten black & white works by equally many artists. He will next be curating an exhibition at the gallery in April. We are already looking forward to keep an eye on this fireball in the future.

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Filed under Curator, Curator Talk, Digital Art, Drawings, Group exhibit, Installation, Konsthopp, Multimedia, Uncategorized, Video Art, Young Art

“CURATORS CREATE ARGUMENTS”

— Interview with Ellen Blumenstein (Germany)

When did you start curating? Tell us something about your educational background?

When I started working in the field of exhibition making in 1997 for document X in Kassel, there was hardly any curatorial education. I studied literature, film and theater and did my masters on experimental theater in Germany in the 1960s, so my curatorial knowledge comes exclusively from learning by doing and reading and discussing my concerns with peers. I worked for KW Institute for Contemporary Art between 1998 and 2005, starting from being an assistant to the artistic director and co-curated the controversial show “Regarding Terror: The RAF-exhibition” on German left-wing terrorism there together with Klaus Biesenbach and Felix Ensslin as a last project.

Is there a difference in curating different field of arts, etc. paintings, videos, interactive works or a piece of net art?

My curatorial practice is based on my interests, not on artistic genres. I am intrigued by an artwork when it finds convincing, touching, surprising relations between form and content – whichever they are. Starting from this moment of exposure to my own affect towards one or several works, I enter a dialogue with the artist and in case of a solo project I work with him or her on a compelling conception and setup and a specific spatial translation of their work. If working on a thematic exhibition, I intend to conceive the essence of a piece and integrate it into the show’s argument properly.

What kind of qualities do you think a curator should have?

A curator should try to free him- or herself from conventions of looking and thinking time and again, get rid of resentments of how things supposedly are, and open one’s mind to push subjective and idiosyncratic perspectives on art and its presentation to a point where it translates for audiences, as well.

Do you think that new and digital media used in contemporary art has brought new aspects to arts and curating? Yes or no, explain why?

Each era produces its own mindset, awareness, aesthetics which determine what can be thought, done, and seen. Therefore, of course they change the forms and contents of art, as well of curating. But I don’t think this happens on the plane of the ‘end-product’, but they are the precondition for what we do. It is impossible to imagine what we would be able to do if our world had a different shape than it has.

“Blow up my town” / The Knot. An evening with films about the individual’s relation to public, political, social, and economic space selected by Ellen Blumenstein (2010).

“Under deconstruction” by Ólafur Ólafsson and Libia Castro at the opening of the Pavilion of Iceland at the 54th International Art Exhibition, Venice (2011). Ellen Blumenstein curated the exhibition.

In times of “You Tube” and the Internet, do you think a curator is still needed?

Why wouldn’t s/he? In which way do you think they would replace the work of a curator? The internet is an intelligent, decentralized, collective and productive force, but curators create arguments and they work with and within spaces. I neither see how the virtual space could replace the physical confrontation with objects in space, nor how creating these spaces could be de-individualized.

What are your personal wishes, hopes and perspectives in curating? And what is the future of professional curating from your point of view?

I believe the museum and the academy will move together. The challenge for the next decade is to shape art institutions which defend the political, because freely accessible and negotiable space that the museum represents in Western societies and to offer a laboratory and home for the art community. They have to find appropriate formats to communicate the artistic propositions dealing with fundamental questions of the present to the broader public. Curators take their share in this responsibility.

“Bye bye utopia.” An event curated by Ellen Blumenstein whitch selected a series of films that deal in different ways with the construction of reality and its variability (2010).

Ellen Blumenstein (1976) is an independent curator, based in Berlin. She is a member of the curatorial collective The office, founded in 2009, with Katharina Fichtner, Maribel Lopez, Kathrin Meyer and runs the project SALON POPULAIRE, with Fiona Geuß and Ulrike Bernard. From 1998 to 2005 Blumenstein worked as a curator for KW – Institute for Contemporary Art and curated the exhibitions ‘Between Two Deaths’ at ZKM in Karlsruhe with Felix Ensslin in 2007 and the summer academy ‘Agulhas Negras – On the Necessity to Discuss Social Functions of Contemporary Art’ in São Paulo/Campos do Jordão in Brazil the year after.  She has been involved in several ground-breaking shows, such as The Human Stain at CGAC in Santiago de Compostela (Spain), 2009, and the Graduate Show at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam in 2011.

Photograph 1&2 belong to Ellen Blumenstein. The other photographs are taken from The office webpage and Google image

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Filed under Art, Curator, Curator Talk, Germany