Based in France, Sandrine Wymann is curator and director of La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, and president of the Versant Est contemporary art network in Alsace. She has organized numerous projects, exhibitions, and residences, working with artists such as Franck Bragigand, Noureddine Tilsaghani, Gaëlle Lucas, Catryn Boch, Natacha Paganelli and Thomas Lang, and most recently Younès Rahmoun and Viviane Rabaud. In 2007 and 2008, Wymann participated in Multipistes, a collaborative multimedia arts project for which she curated shows like Foules, fools featuring Stepehen Wilks’s traveling installation Trojadonkey. In years prior, she was in charge of the visual department at the Institut Français de Casablanca in Morocco.
I’ve recently gotten to know Sandrine, who is one of the most approachable people I’ve ever come across in the art world. She is a woman in power in this field, and a superb role model. Her joy and enthusiasm for art remains intact.
Georgia Kotretsos: You are clearly interested in oriental influences on contemporary art, as well as committed to studying the contributions of other cultures to the arts. How did these interests develop?
Sandrine Wymann: I can’t really speak about an oriental influence, or even about any particular interest in oriental art. What attracted me above all was a sense of difference. I am very curious about the unknown. What escapes me attracts me, and I am fascinated by things that touch me but that I do not understand. This was the case for Arab art, so the reasons behind my first connections with Arab art and creation were much more emotional than intellectual.
George Georgakopoulos is an art hub creator based in Athens, Greece. He attended the Deutsche Schule Athen (1976-1982), studied at the School of Fine Arts HBK Braunschweig (1983-1989), and did his postgraduate studies Meisterschueler at the HBK Germany (1989-1990). In 1991, he completed his postgraduate studies at Magister Artium. Georgakopoulos has since built an impressive resume that includes co-curating the traveling exhibition Weihnachtsausstellung at Zentrale Kunst Gallery in Hamburg (1991-1994); and co-founding three cultural organizations in Athens: Cheapart (after which he named the board game he created in 1999), The Art Foundation, and Contemporary Art Meeting Point (aka CAMP). His book Savoir Vivre for Artists was published in 2010. I am very happy to present my interview with Georgakopoulos.
Georgia Kotretsos: You started out as an artist but artist-run initiatives, curatorial projects, and collaborations won you over. What was that first project that sealed the deal for you and paved your career path?
George Georgakopoulos: My practice and research consists of two parts. The first one is the complete approach and dedication to artistic values—to the way they are formed and change daily—whereas the second is a deeper understanding of the function of art in relation to its recipient—the public.
This is undoubtedly the most difficult way to work, taking into account that in such a case the artist is expected to ignore his obvious “ego” and become a creator and recipient at the same time. Once this process is completed a new, vast field opens before us—deprived of competition and any art related anxiety. At that point only inspiration, harmonious coexistence, cooperation, and creation itself are considered of value.
As far as the first part is concerned, studying in early ’80s in Germany, I was influenced by New German Expressionism, focusing my research on purely painting values. With the passage of time and the evolution of the media, a new world was revealed in which what we think and plan is not a path trodden by imaginary people and ghosts. Reality is all around us. Daily issues set our minds into thinking processes. Each project is a comment, each project reflects our mood, and inspiration reflects our mood. Newspaper clippings, slides, expressions of speech, or behaviour constitute a source of inspiration and meditation. I do not hide what I intend to say and illustrate.
Part one of this interview is available here.
Georgia Kotretsos: I find comfort in your work because you insist on studying, researching, and experimenting with the practice of the artist, and in an effort to primarily demonstrate how artists know things and then produce concrete or speculative knowledge on the very subject. Your own practice has evolved to a degree where the conference, the symposium, the summit, the workshop has become what the gallery space is for the average artist. What choices have you made that got you here today?
Adelheid Mers: My main pleasures are reading and grasping the design of what I’ve read, which I find through drawing. I grew up with a subscription to Scientific American with its plethora of diagrams, as well as with contemporary art, music and its visual notation. An early and big moment in my life was when my biology teacher asked us to draw a bacteriophage from description. I was the one who could do it at the board. At 17, I diagrammed Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus from sheer desperation. Not sure it helped, but the impulse was there. At 19 years old, my first “serious” piece in art school was a sculpture based on Benjamin Lee Whorf’s Language, Thought, Reality. Over the next years, I struggled with figure/ground relationships through many media, trying to arrive at a singular mode that eliminated that dichotomy. When I started to teach, diagrams ordered content again. Only in 2000 did I realize explicitly that diagrammatic thinking was at the core of all my efforts, solving the figure/ground dilemma for good. Many figures constitute a ground. I have focused on diagramming since. At the same time, diagram research exploded, much of it centered in Germany, Austria, and Scandinavia. Here is a key statement, expounding how diagrammatic practice is bound to discursive platforms:
Adelheid Mers is a visual artist with a unique, interpretive approach to events and organizations. She creates maps and diagrams as poetic and analytic records of art institutions, exhibitions, public lectures, studio visits, and texts. She has exhibited and lectured widely, curated exhibitions, and received grants from numerous organizations, including the British Council and National Endowment for the Arts. Her teaching experience is expansive, covering curatorial practice, arts administration, arts economies, and grant writing. Mers is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the Arts Administration and Policy program. She also is a field editor for Arts Administration and Museum Studies at caa.reviews, published by the College Art Association.
It is an absolute pleasure to present part one of my discussion with Mers.
Georgia Kotretsos: You’re halfway through your sabbatical–what’s your area of study and where about in the world are you?
Adelheid Mers: I am traveling, and also at home, as I interview artists who are working in different areas–visual artists, musicians, composers, performing artists, and artists who curate, write, and administrate, most of the time doing several of the above. I am asking them to speak about their practice, how it evolved, what their central experiences have been. In addition, I have solicited a few scientists and administrators as a control group of sorts. Conversations are brief, free-form, lasting 60-90 minutes. Based on notes taken during a conversation, I then create a diagram from each. At best, these diagrams depict the “engine” that drives the artist’s idiosyncratic practice as presented at that moment. I am looking for patterns in methods and strategies mentioned in those conversations but also for the range of contexts that are being referenced, including texts, popular beliefs, and market structures. Over the last summer, I spent two months in Vienna and at AIR Krems and for some of that time I was able to use the Gallery of the Vereinigung Bildender Künstlerinnen Österreichs Gallery to invite interview partners. I loved the opportunity to host a venue while being a guest in the city.
This week, I am in Vienna again, where I was able to meet with those I talked to over the summer, show them the diagrams I made, and get feedback on my interpretations. I also conducted two more interviews, one with a musician who is currently pursuing a doctorate in art, and another with an actress who has a PhD in Philosophy.
The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation was founded by the artists Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous. It is a contemporary arts and science center dedicated to research and creativity. It functions as a multidimensional space, organizing and undertaking the production of multifaceted events from the world of theatre, music, dance, cinema, visual arts, letters and sciences. At the same time, its multipurpose spaces are available to individuals, organizations and other agencies for the hosting of events, presentations, seminars, symposia, conferences and scientific or other workshops.
On his own right, Kentonis has studied Engineering, Physics and Fine Arts in the University of South Alabama, USA as well as at the Universidad de Castilla la Mancha, Spain. As a researcher/scientist, he participated in research programs at NASA; the Cyprus University; and the Aegean University. Since 1999, as a scientist, he ran a small research lab for electromagnetic and geomagnetic fields. In 2007 he created the “TechCulture” a knowledge bank site with a weekly newsletter addressed to curious people hunting for unexpected knowledge from around the world. Since 2009, he creates and manipulates electro-acoustic instruments and produces sonic, noise and alternative music performances.
Most recently, in 2010, he created the Urban Hero—a faceless hero who brings change, justice and love to our planet. Via a website, he offers hints, ideas and advices—finally helping us realize we make up the hero.
On the other hand, Papacharalambous has graduated with distinction from the School of Fine Arts in Athens, Greece. She continued her post graduate studies at the Faculdad de Bellas Artes, Universidad Complutence in Madrid and at the Universidad de Castilla la Mancha, Guenca, Spain. She has also completed her studies in Athens National Conservatory.
The last couple of years she focused and studied alternative psychology and healing techniques like life-coaching, theta healing, Reiki in parallel with her diachronic passion which is Philosophy. The result of this ongoing knowledge, which blends Eastern and Western way of thinking, had a direct impact on her work: “Here & tHere” (2010) and “Here & Now Happiness” (2011). Finally, in 2011, she created the socio-artistic movement Reflections/Αναστοχασμοί with activist actions.
It is an absolute pleasure to present to you Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous.
This is Part II of my conversation with Tumelo Mosaka; part 1 posted on the Art21 Blog last Friday. Mosaka is discussing his upcoming co-curatorial project (with Irene V. Small) “Blind Field,” which focuses on twenty Brazilian artists. “Blind Field” will be presented at the Krannert Museum and later, the Broad Museum (June 13).
GK: Let’s talk “Blind Field,” your forthcoming project with Irene V. Small featuring twenty Brazilian artists at the Krannert Museum, which will also be shown at the Broad Museum in June 2013. Tell me about the selection process of the artists, the studio visits, and about the time you spent in Brazil last March.
TM: I’ve been visiting Brazil over the past 6 years and have gotten familiar with the art world. So when the opportunity appeared at the University of Illinois with the establishment of the Lehmann Institute (a Brazilian Studies Center at the University of Illinois), I thought this opportunity would expand the dialogue from commerce to culture, considering the expansion of Brazil’s economy. I’ve developed this project together with Irene Small who has vast knowledge of art in Brazil. Our approach was to first look at artists’ works we were familiar with and then, looked at several exhibitions and catalogues of major shows over the last five years in Brazil. From this experience, we came up with a long list of artists who we thought were of interest. Then there was the challenge of setting up studio visits, and since most artists are based in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janerio, Belo Horizonte, Recife and Goiania, it was difficult to cover such a wide territory as our funds were limited.
Tumelo Mosaka is a South African curator based in Princeton, NJ. He has received a B.A. (1993) in Fine Arts from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and an M.A. (2000) from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in New York.
Mosaka currently serves as the Curator of Contemporary Art at the Krannert Art Museum (KAM) in Champaign, IL; he pursues curatorial projects independently as well. During his tenure at KAM, he has curated the following exhibitions: On Screen: Global Intimacy (2009), Baggage Allowance (2010), The Bikeriders: Danny Lyon (2010), Lida Abdul (2010), OPENSTUDIO (2011), The Kangarok Epic (2011), iona rozeal brown (2011), and Makeba! (2011).
Prior to joining KAM, Mosaka was Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum, where he organized the exhibitions Infinite Islands: Contemporary Caribbean Art (2007) and Passing/Posing: Kehinde Wiley (2004) and co-curated Open House: Working in Brooklyn (2004). In addition, he organized the presentation of Alexis Rockman’s monumental mural Manifest Destiny (2004), Petah Coyne (2008), and co-organized @ Murakami (2008). Previously, he worked for the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, where he co-curated the exhibition Evoking History (2002). Mosaka has organized several national and international exhibitions for other institutions such as the National Center for Afro-American Arts (2004) and the St. Louis Contemporary Art Museum (2003).
It is a true pleasure to present to you Tumelo Mosaka, a low-key force who is making a long-term investment in art by setting his priorities, wants and ambitions straight.
Shannon Fitzgerald is the executive director of the Rochester Art Center in Rochester, MN, as of last month. The Rochester Art Center is a non-collecting contemporary art center focusing on regional, national, and international artists. The Rochester Art Center organizes solo exhibitions often involving the production of new work and new scholarship, along with timely group exhibitions. Formely, Fitzgerald was chief curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM), where she oversaw the exhibition and publications programs. During her tenure, she developed education and community-focused outreach initiatives, planned public lectures and symposia, oversaw a national visiting curator and critic series, and created an international and national artist-in-residence program.
Before joining CAM in St. Louis, Fitzgerald held a curatorial appointment at the Institute of Visual Arts (Inova), at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she participated in its ambitious and groundbreaking international Kunsthalle-style programming.
Additionally, Fitzgerald has generated new scholarship, commissioned critical essays from leading scholars, and edited numerous museum publications. She has published many essays on the work of contemporary artists and has contributed to the art journals ART PAPERS, Boot Print, Review Magazine, as well as the Art21 Blog. She is also the Lead Mentor for the Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellowship, a program she co-developed for the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition in Oklahoma City that works to advance critical art writing and contemporary curatorial practice in the region.
On a more personal note, Fitzgerald’s inaugural exhibition, A Fiction of Authenticity: Contemporary Africa Abroad, held at CAM in 2003 motivated me to work my artistic inquiries into critical questions – thus being the subject of my inaugural interview as well. Ever since, on many occasions I’ve stopped to watch her practice closely, to learn from her ability to create allies in the art world and to create strong bonds with artists. Strangely enough, Fitzgerald’s deus ex machina traits are invaluable: she appears to artists when they need guidance the most, she is immensely sensitive to their creative needs and is willing to step forward to take risks with them–to trust their vision. And artists, don’t forget that. I do not forget that, and with this post I would like to wish her an exciting new beginning at the Rochester Art Center.
It is an absolute joy to present to you, Shannon Fitzgerald.
Georgia Kotretsos: Perhaps Asian Contemporary Art Week, (ACAW) and The Taste of Others are the two projects that spell out your name in caps. You create projects that may conclude organically when they have to, and in the meantime you sustain them with great dedication. Is this a personal or a professional commitment?
Leeza Ahmady: Public education is a key component for both projects. It begins with self-education, which for me is a process of unlearning or making sense of all the “dead information” that one accumulates through conventional study. The task of maturity is to navigate through that jungle and that is what some people call “The School of Life.” I am not interested in positioning expertise, rather in creating both a personal and professional platform for inquiry and ways of confronting inertia and ignorance about very compelling, unexplored subjects in contemporary art practice and art history.
At the end of each ACAW edition, essentially a biennial event involving interaction with hundreds of artists and dozens of arts institutions, I vow never to do it again. Yet the very intense exercise in scoping, identifying, listening, framing, and channeling of artistic activity, which ACAW entails is a marathon I love to run. It is both exhausting and invigorating with many stones still left unturned. History, people, communities, creativity, conflict, entropy, and psychological and philosophical exploration are ongoing dimensions in the world. Which is why there seems to be no end to the projects. With every round, I arrive to new beginnings and approaches.
Carol Becker has been Dean of Columbia University School of the Arts since 2007. Before this she was Dean of Faculty and Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Prior to that appointment she served as the Chair of the Graduate Division at SAIC and as its Associate Dean of Faculty.
Becker joined the School of the Art Institute of Chicago nearly three decades ago as an English and Philosophy professor. Up to that point she had taught at the University of California, San Diego; San Diego State University; Northeastern Illinois University; and the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece. She earned her B.A. from State University of New York at Buffalo and her Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of California, San Diego.
She is the author of The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change; and Zones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions, Gender and Anxiety. She is also the editor of Surpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art; and Artist in Society: Rights, Roles, and Responsibilities. Her most recent collection of essays is Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production.
I first became acquainted with Carol Becker at the time of the publication of Surpassing the Spectacle. That was ten years ago. With that book, through words, images, emotions and impressions, she connected artists to history and to the world at a time when most of us were still unaware of what she called (in the subtitle of that book)Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art. Since then, many equally revelatory moments have followed when Becker communicated the world to us. She’s a mediator–connecting the creative world to the material one and vice versa–while challenging both.
Carol Becker is a sage; she is nurturing and unusually attentive to all aspects of life and the world. She has a sharp sense of humor. And, in the middle of a conversation, I always await expectantly for her to pull out her Lilliputian notebook from her handbag to record what is being said–something important to her that may appear in an essay to come.
It is an absolute privilege to present to you Carol Becker, Inside the Artist’s Studio.
Georgia Kotretsos: You’ve given many years to building schools of art–first at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now at Columbia University in New York. What has motivated you to do this?