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ART

H A B E N S C o n t e m p o r a r y

A r t

R e v i e w

BYRON RICH NICOLAS VIONNET BLAZO KOVACEVIC MONIKA SUPE GERD GM BROCKMANN ALEXANDRE DANG SERGEY SOBOLEV DONALD BRACKEN ANNE CECILE SURGA , performance, 2016 a work by

, photo by

ART


ART

H A B E N S C o n t e m p o r a r y

Nicolas Vionnet

Alexandre Dang

Switzerland

France

Vionnet’s preferred medium is acrylic on canvas. His chiefly largescale works play with space and expanse. Although almost always realistic, his paintings have more in common with abstract images than real landscapes.

All over the exhibitions in the world, I can see a very universal response from the audience: people mainly smile and start asking "How is this moving? What does it mean?" And this is for me the most important: bringing people to smile and to think about important contemporary issues. Although the works bring smile and seem easy, realising them is not just a children's game, it is really a lot of work! I have to conceive a first draft, do some pretesting, address the issues, find solutions, do some further tests, find again solutions, finetune etc… Realising a new work takes some months or sometimes some years. It's important to highlight it, as when it is realised, everything seems so easy…

He paints disruptive grey strips across his clouds and allows coloured surfaces to drip down the canvas in accordance with the laws of gravity. Vionnet is fascinated by such irritations: interventions that approach and create a non-hierarchical dialogue with the environment. This dialogue opens up a field of tension, which allows the viewer an intensive glimpse of both these phenomena.

A r t

R e v i e w

Donald Bracken

Ivonne Dippmann

Sergey Sobolev

France

USA

Germany

Russia

I aim at exploring the values inherent to human nature. I am extremely interested in the question of the definition of the self and how much the social context in which we evolve is responsible in shaping our own image. As a woman artist, I am slightly more focused on defining women’s identity. The current consumption society sends out tones of messages to every human, thus influencing how we see ourselves and how we want to define ourselves. I believe there is a psychological triangle between who we really are, what society tells us to be, and the image of ourselves we decide to project onto society. I like to create different levels of interpretation in my works, thus giving keys to the viewer to understand the subject I address without offering one single interpretation of the artwork.

My work explores combinations of painting and sculpture, light and shadow, movement, and earth and other natural materials. The actual process of creation always starts with a specific idea or a particular topic I want to research. Collaboration with the composer is essential prior to implementing the physical elements in the studio. Knowing that I’m able to work with original compositions, which are created to help express my ideas. My view of the power of man as ultimately secondary to the power of nature has informed my art from its beginnings. I think of myself as a painter: the gestural movements of my recent kinetic sculptures have strongly influenced the path of my paintings.

My works generally starts from relatively small-scale drawings. A starting point, because these small formats will later encounter a different situation, an exhibition space, a stage or a book. They will transform themselves in order to adapt to a new room.

Anne Cecine Surga

Nothing remains as it was and if Dippmann uses templates – which were originally used as illustrations for a book – and converts them into large-scale murals combined with colorful yarns

The sculptural art is a precise visual genre. Its shape is its language. The shape has distinct limits, otherwise it is amorphous, shapeless in other words. That's why I put my sculptures into concise shape, polish them up to the state of a sign, and get them rid of unwanted details to avoid anything arbitrary. Optimization is the sculpture's genesis. The significance of meaning is put into the significance of form, as if into the box. The significance of meaning gets covered with a shell of the significant form.


In this issue

Donald Bracken

Anne Cecile Surga Gerd GM Brockmann

Alexandre Dang Sergey Sobolev

Byron Rich Miya Ando

Gerd Brockmann

Annemarieke Van Peppen

USA

Germany

The Netherlands

I work in different participatory projects and countries as contemporary multidisciplinary artist to research with experimental materials getting a better comprehension of fashion and art as communication concept and I found a new visual language for me.Textiles are our constant companions. They offer us a second skin and protection, express what we carry as a mood, serve as a reflection in the daily lives and give us the confidence that we are the person for whom we hold. Because our clothing style, our game with the enveloping our body betrays us and others, which put an individual behind the sewn, textile material.

I think my way of working is pretty intuitive, I don't want to be destracted by technique. I always look for a certain directness and raw-ness. My work researches boundaries between fashion, art and society. I like to bring my models, even if I am the model myself, out of their comfort zone, it often gives a reaction or emotion wich helpes me forming the image and the deve-lopment of my concept. Once I process the images, I like to work with my hands and experiment with materials and shapes. I think rawness and a particular way of repetition it is a common thread in my work.

The installation piece Emptiness The Sky is inspired by a Japanese kanji character, ‘Sora’ which means both ‘emptiness or void’ as well as ‘sky’. Sunyata is another word for this idea. The idea was to create an empty space of reflection, the form is inspired by traditional ‘chashitsu’ or tea houses, a very simple structure which delineates a space separate from the mundane world. The piece is about memory, identity and the notion of ‘home’. The free-standing sculpture is clad on the exterior with a charred wood, called Yaki-sugi or Shou Sugi Ban. This material is used in my neighborhood in

Blazo Kovacevic Monika Supé Nicolas Vionnet

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Special thanks to: Charlotte Seegers, Martin Gantman, Krzysztof Kaczmar, Tracey Snelling, Nicolas Vionnet, Genevieve Favre Petroff, Christopher Marsh, Adam Popli, Marilyn Wylder, Marya Vyrra, Gemma Pepper, Maria Osuna, Hannah Hiaseen and Scarlett Bowman, Yelena York Tonoyan, Edgar Askelovic, Kelsey Sheaffer and Robert Gschwantner.


Donald Bracken Lives and works in West Cornwall, Connecticut

M

y work explores combinations of painting and sculpture, light and shadow, movement, and earth and other natural materials. My view of the power of man as ultimately secondary to the power of nature has informed my art from its beginnings. I think of myself as a painter, but any such designation has become unimportant. The gestural movements of my recent kinetic sculptures have strongly influenced the path of my paintings, and my paintings have made my sculpture painterly; each, in collaboration, complements the other.

Donald Bracken


Vestiges of Occupation, beaver sticks, root, wire, 13x6x3 ft left, Wind Over Water, polymerized clay on canvas on panels ,6.66 x 19.5ft right, Inner Urge, vines, acrylic wood, wire, acrylic, 5x 4.2ft

Marsh pastel 24�x18


ART Habens

Donald Bracken

ART Habens meets

Donald Bracken An interview by Katherine Williams, curator

roll. As much as anything, aside from purely academic pursuits, what going to Berkeley did was free me from the constraints of a religious, politically conservative life. I was involved in political activism and protests against the Vietnam war and the political establishment. And I have to say, it was there that I discovered magical realism as a way of seeing things when I create art. Part of what I learned at Berkeley was freedom to experiment with the boundaries of perception, and because of some of these experiments I began to see nature in a totally different way. So oddly enough, much of the work I do now harks back to my time at Berkeley, during which I started to contemplate the physics of life on a molecular level, and the fact that we’re composed of more space than anything else. And and like in music the most important thing is the space between the notes.

and Josh Ryder, curator landescape@europe.com

Donald Bracken accomplishes the difficult task of establishing an effective synergy between painting and movement, creating an area in which emotional dimension and perceptual reality coexist in a coherent unity. Unlike artists such as Carsten Höller, he does not let the viewers in the foggy area of doubt: his evocative and direct approach invites us to investigate about the relation between reality and the way we perceive it. One of the most convincing aspects of Bracken’s practice is the way he creates an area of intellectual interplay between perception and memory, contingency and immanence, that gently invites the viewers to explore the crossroad between human emotion and Nature’s power: I'm very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production.

At Berkeley I got a very strong background in world art history and gained a great appreciation for Asian art and ancient architecture, which continue to be strong influences on me today. I also greatly admired William Turner for his later pre-modern paintings and his philosophy of Nature as being the all-powerful force on Earth. So during that period of experimentation and observing microcosms, fractals, and repeated patterns in Nature, I largely was drawing on forms in nature as my primary influence and inspiration then, as it is now; because there is no bad form or bad color combinations in nature. I suppose you could say I became a bit of a pantheist.

Hello, Donald, and welcome to LandEscape: To start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts that you received from the prestigious University of California at Berkeley. How did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist, and how does it impact on the way you currently conceive and produce your works?

But I’ve never had any real desire to be part of a particular school of art; I’m more of an opportunistic predator of visual and auditory information, eating what I like and leaving the rest behind. Although I grew up in San Francisco and worked and later spent a great deal of time in

Imagine going from a politically conservative fundamentalist Lutheran family, and ending up at Berkeley during the height of the ’60s counterculture, the Vietnam conflict, war protests, and the era of drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’

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Christopher Reid photo by Kimberly Brandt brandtphotos.com


Land

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Donald Bracken

CONTEMPORARY ART REVIEW

Invasive Species beaver sticks , bittersweet vines,wire, 7x6ft left: Wings Over Water,polymerized clay on canvas on panels 6.66x 4.5ft top:Frozen Moment In Bark, 5x3ft right: Fire Flies In A Grey Field, 5x 4ft 22


Donald Bracken

New York City, I have spent much of the last 35 years living in rural Connecticut on the Housatonic River. I’m not fully aware of what’s going on in the contemporary art world and what other people are doing. The political atmosphere at Berkeley, along with my newfound freedom, made it hard to focus on my studies in a traditional way. In general I worked very hard at what interested me, but I was rebellious and did not paint during painting class because I wanted to free myself from the limitations of rules, so I worked at night instead. I took great pleasure in spraying silhouettes of organic objects on canvas, a process that formed the basis of my desire to incorporate organic elements that I find interesting in my art. I’ve always thought of myself as a painter, so even when I’m doing sculpture I approach it as a threedimensional form of painting. At Berkeley I was probably most influenced by George Miyasaki, a well-known lithographer, who was my lithography teacher. He did his own work at night, too, so we would work together. I tend to paint as though I’m making prints, working with one color at a time in layer upon layer, and to me creating sculpture and mixed-media pieces entails the same process. Back then students were not taught about how to make a career—the word “networking” didn't exist. The best career advice I got from George was to learn how to live cheaply on rice and beans, and just work hard and figure it out. Music and playing guitar also became a vital influence and inspiration to me at that time and has continued to be a source of creative vision. I had Jim Melchert as a conceptual art teacher, and it is curious that at the time I was a bit dubious of its relevance, but as time goes on it has become more and more what my work is about. Now let's focus on your artistic production: I would start from Calligraphy Reclining that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: and I would suggest to our readers to visit http://donbracken.blogspot.com in order to get a wider idea of your artistic production… In the meanwhile, would you like to tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration? I’m a process artist—the art of process is very important to me. One thing leads to another; often

ART Habens

I start with an idea, and as I start to work on it, it evolves into something else and often totally different than my original idea . Calligraphy Reclining emerged from a series of evolutions in my work that I can ultimately trace all the way back to that early fascination with organic forms and materials at Berkeley. More recently, around 2007, after I started painting landscapes using earth from the fields I was painting, there was a natural progression toward incorporating other organic materials. I was particularly drawn to the bittersweet and grape vines that drape local woods with gestural, calligraphic, sometimes suggestively anthropomorphic figures. The first big vine piece I did, Floating Brain, is composed of large swirling synaptic shapes with a suspended brainlike shape floating in the middle. The piece lives on the side of a barn. But when such pieces are removed from their original context and put in another place, such as an enclosed space, they become something different entirely. In 2012 I had a show at New Arts Gallery, a cavernous barn with some ancillary rooms. I filled the space with installations of vine sculptures, beaver sticks, and clay paintings. Will You Still Love Me When I Am Gone, a large hanging vine piece suspended from a swivel that lets it spin in the ambient air currents, was installed in a smallish room. The piece had one association when it was constructed outdoors at my studio, but when put in the room with evocative lighting it spoke to me of my feelings of a dystopian isolation and the disconnection of a doomed long-term relationship. At first I incorporated vines into dirt and clay paintings, then around 2011, I started wanting to work with them as a material unto themselves, in fully three-dimensional form. I started using tetrahedrons made from rebar a few years ago as a means to suspend the vines so they could twist and turn in the air. Last summer I started employing repeated tetrahedrons with the idea that I could make a sculpture as long as I wanted. Calligraphy Reclining in particular is from a series of sculptures that explore what essentially amounts to scribble drawing on a canvas of air. The material itself, an abundant—and, by humans, abundantly unwanted—intruder in the local landscape, also comments on purpose and perception. I should add that the piece is installed

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Donald Bracken

outside my window; I am looking at it as we speak, and one aspect I like about it is how it changes with the light and how new forms are revealed in changing conditions, as when it has snow on it. As time goes on I have been increasingly documenting outdoor installations and the process of their entropic deconstruction as they sustain the effects of varying light, weather, and seasons. Since the tetrahedrons that form the base can conceivably be repeated endlessly and there seems to be no shortage of unwanted vines around where I live, at some point I plan to make a very long Calligraphy piece. A relevant feature of Frozen Moment that has particularly impacted me is the way you highlight the inner bond between Man and Nature: You invite the viewer to appreciate the intrinsic but sometimes disregarded beauty of geometrical patterns, bringing a new level of significance to the idea of landscape itself. In particular, the evolving nature of the installation offers a multilayered experience... Like Jean Tinguely’s generative works, this installation raises a question on the role of the viewers’ perception, forcing us to go beyond the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... I’m personally convinced that some information is hidden, or even “encrypted” in the environment we live in, so we need to decipher it. Maybe one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what’s your take on this? I would agree that one of my roles as an artist is to relate outer Nature to inner nature. In the case of Frozen Moment, from my earliest days of painting I’ve always been fascinated by things floating in the air or flying through the air. I was a pole vaulter in high school and I’ve done free-fall skydiving many times, and I’ve always liked the idea of being able to freeze something as it’s falling. I was making Frozen Moment in winter, so the piece became about death and decay and the renewal of life. The leaves have so many coats of white polymer on them that they are rubbery and look like they are made of clay. The viewer is invited to look at the leaves as they like when they are falling. They jiggle and spin but never fall, so one

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Donald Bracken

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Donald Bracken

Memorial Windows clay and acrylic on canvas on 22 panel 80''x 18'' , 27 x 23 ft

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Donald Bracken

ART Habens

can exam the leaves’ shape, form , texture, contours, without touching it, from all angles, just as we could if we could freeze time and closely examine the world around us. The falling leaves and light perhaps represent death, but they show it as a transient state, embodying the paradox of life within death, because nothing is truly dead or gone as long as it is in our memory. It’s in my tradition of magic realism. Your relationship with the use of materials to create imagery is intrinsically connected to the chance of creating an area of intellectual interplay with the viewers, that are urged to evolve from the condition of a merely passive audience, as in It Takes a Village. In particular, your process of semantic restructuration of a view has reminded me of the ideas behind Thomas Demand’s works, when he stated that “nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead.” While conceiving Art could be considered a purely abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts you explore. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process… Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience? Personal experience can absolutely imperative. The piece Night Music was originally a frozen moment of chaos inspired by Hurricane Sandy. But it became about tripping on a summer night, and by that I don’t mean drugs but rather a total body and mind experience, about being drawn into the safety of the womb of mother, nature at night. It tries to describe the direct experience of lying in the middle of a tree-lined road still warm from the hot sun of the day and watching the fireflies merge with the stars to a jazz symphony of all the night creatures jamming in intricate patterns of rhythm and sound. And for Heaven and Earth, I had the experience of working in the World Trade Center, staring out the windows, eyeing the clouds and the view that no longer

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ART Habens

Donald Bracken

exists from that particular perspective. I walked down ninety-one flights of stairs to the lobby once when there was a storm and the elevators weren’t running, so when I watched firemen on television valiantly going into the building and finding those stairs, I knew exactly where they were. And when the towers fell I really wanted to do a piece that conveyed my direct experience of having my full sense of safety shattered, so I veiled the image of New York City in a shroud of ash and dust. However, we don’t necessarily gain information firsthand, as with certain societal issues or the horror in the Middle East; instead, we gather the information from a variety of sources and then we synthesize and evaluate it according to our individual belief system. Certain pieces of mine have definitely been influenced by this type of reprocessing or, to use your term, semantic restructuration, to become visualizations of that synthesis. I’m not homeless, poor, or disenfranchised, but not having direct experience doesn’t mean I don’t understand how it affects society or is part of a chain of events. When I see something that stimulates me, I am seeing something visually that somehow has a connection to thoughts about the world or society, and while I work on the piece it takes on a meaning, and quite often the form or the kinetic connection will have a symbiosis with the thought I’m trying to express. In the case of Vestiges of Occupation, I was drawing a large root sitting on top of a destroyed beaver hut, first because of its intrinsic value as an image, but as I drew I began to mentally investigate the connection to the meaning outside of just what I was looking at. By the way, I think it's important to remark that It Takes a Village has been conceived and produced in collaboration with artist and educator Denise Minnerly: I do believe that interdisciplinary collaboration such as the one that you have established together is today an ever growing force in Art and that that most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project…could you tell us something about this effective synergy? The artist Peter Tabor once said that “collaboration is working together with another to create something as a synthesis of two practices, that alone one could not?

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Donald Bracken

ART Habens

Frozen Moment leaves , bark , acrylic wire , fishing line, 9x 12x 3 ft

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Donald Bracken

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Donald Bracken

ART Habens

What's your point about this? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between two artists? When my longtime friend and former art dealer, Denise Minnerly, came to my show and we were discussing the pieces Vestiges of Occupation, she started telling me about her concept for It Takes a Village, a community-based project where she went into homeless shelters, mental institutions, and youth groups and had participants shape from clay their concept of what a home is, with these individual clay houses coming together to form a community in the art installation. I was especially drawn to the concept of having homeless people expressing their idea of a home, which they don’t actually have, and I generally found the houses that they created were the most compelling. I thought that if Denise and I combined where we were going with our art, I would add how nature is interconnected with the human community. My idea was to make out of vines a very interconnected structure that had no real beginning or end, a paradoxical structure representing the polarity of nature in that it could be perceived as either possibly malevolent or as a nurturing life force. So the synthesis in this case really encompasses not only the collaboration and communication between two artists, but that of the community participants as well. The piece was first created in 2012, then was presented in a much different manner in 2014, and again very differently in 2015. It is planned to be an ongoing project, going into new communities and having people make houses, and every time it’s installed it will be restructured according to the space and community involvement. Our next goal for this community-participation installation is to take it to a housing project gallery space in New York City. In the photo of It Takes a Village, on the left is Earth Variations, and on the right is Au Privave. Denise knows my work well and we chose those pieces because we wanted to have It Takes a Village flanked by work that used the same materials but in a different form. Earth Variations is also an excellent example of semantic restructuration: It was the first large-scale piece I did, on 12 panels, using polymerized clay, a material that has its own predictably unpredictable personality and that, when I use it, I feel like it speaks and collaborates with me on how the work should progress. Earth Variations, created outside in on warm spring nights to the music of Habib KoitÊ, inspired by the budding trees and the swirling river by

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ART Habens

Donald Bracken

my studio, was conceived as 3 panels high by 4 panels long. In the installation at NCC, the piece became 1 panel high and 12 panels long. Multidisciplinarity is a crucial aspect of your art practice, and besides kinetic installations you also produce stimulating mixed media works, as the interesting Post 9/11. You seem to be in incessant search of an organic, almost intimate symbiosis between several disciplines, taking advantage of the creative and expressive potential of colors as well as of motion: While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different disciplines is the only way to achieve some results, to express some concepts? You know, from an early age I’ve always loved drawing. I’ve always loved painting. There was a point in my artistic career when I just felt the world didn’t need another acrylic landscape painting by me, and so in frustration I picked up a clod of dirt and smeared it on my painting. Then I discovered that I liked the dimension the soil added to the work and so I started using dirt to do landscapes, documenting the disappearing farmlands of Connecticut. I loved the colors of the earth, and I suddenly realized that this made the work not just about the earth but of the earth. It soon became apparent to me that each geographical zone had its own different colors and types of earth that had considerably different characteristics as an artistic medium, and I realized that some earth with high clay content cracked a lot when I made it very thick. I found that there was an interplay between the vision I had for the painting and the nature of the medium, and it felt like I was doing a duet with a jazz musician, because of the medium’s inherent qualities. When I had the desire to do a 9/11 memorial piece, the intrinsic qualities of the clay inspired me to do an aerial portrait of Manhattan because I knew that the clay would give a shattered effect to the image.

Looking East, polymerized clay on canvas on panels, 6.6x 1

collective memory and identity, investigating the psychological nature of the cinematic image: in particular, when I first happened to get to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual information and the presence of a primary element as water to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual rhythm suggested by the work, forgetting my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content: in your work, rather that a conceptual interiority, I can recognize the desire to enable us to establish direct

Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Vestiges of Occupation. In this work you explore the blurry boundary between

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Donald Bracken

ART Habens

3.5ft

relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

sitting on top a destroyed or deconstructed beaver hut. The root interested me, so I dug it out and took it to my studio and suspended it from a high beam. After living with this flying root for a while, I decided I should make a monument to the beaver, which was killed because, although it had created an estuary for birds and fish, it had also plugged up a drainage culvert and chewed on somebody’s tree, which was inconvenient for its human neighbors. So I decided to suspend the sticks from the defunct former hut, using almost invisible fishing line

This quite often is not a conscious process, but it occurs through the process of making art, as in the piece Vestiges of Occupation. I had been collecting beaver sticks for several years because I’ve always been fascinated by beavers—they are amazing engineers and often create beautiful estuaries. The sticks sometimes look like Giacometti sculptures with the little heads and truncated arms. One rainy day I was sitting in my car drawing a large root that was

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Donald Bracken

that makes the sticks become alive with kinetic energy.

works are political in this way, or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach?

I definitively love the way you recontextualize the idea of the environment we live in, as in your World Trade Center series and especially in the interesting mixed media painting Heaven and Earth. Many contemporary landscape artists, such as the photographers Edward Burtynsky or Michael Light, have some form of environmental or political message in their photographs. Do you consider that your

Some of my work is just about beauty and love of life and love of nature, but left-wing politics is definitely part of me and some of my work clearly has a political side to it. For instance, I was involved with the NYC group shows for Art Against Apartheid. At other times I’ve made certain thought connections as a result of attempting to reconcile occurrences I think are out of place—such as while setting up my studio at the World Trade Center, I brought in several

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Donald Bracken

ART Habens

very vulnerable and that there was a real complacency by American institutions considering how many people this country has pissed off. I somewhat share Noam Chomsky’s point of view of the United States’ role in 9/11 as a ramification of its international policies. It appeared to me that there would come a day when an icon of American imperialism would be attacked and a normal means of conveyance would cause the disruption of the World Trade Center. I did two pieces on this theme while I had my studio at the World Trade Center—one was World on Fire, and the other was called Premonition of Disaster. Needless to say, I could not have conceived of the tragedy of 9/11, nor, as a pseudo New Yorker, could I have predicted my sense of loss or that my world would be turned upside down as a result of the events of 9/11, and the chain of events that are taking place as a result of America’s reaction to 9/11. Thanks a lot for this interesting conversation, Donald. Finally, I would like you to tell our readers something about your future projects. Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

carloads of art supplies in boxes and cans. I am white, blue-eyed, and, at that time, was also blond. The mostly Middle Eastern security staff never checked my materials. I did have a photo ID, but it seemed odd that they were so casual in light of the World Trade Center terrorist bombing in 1992. It occurred to me while looking out over the city from this icon of American international financial interests that I could be in the IRA or a blond fundamentalist Muslim, but because of my race I was never checked. It seemed to me that the building was

I’m currently working on a project called Damascus Falling, which is another piece where I’m reframing the Heaven and Earth idea, except instead of having the vision of a city shattered by the traumas of two iconic buildings falling, now it’s become a vision of the total decimation of some of the many cities and regions currently being ravaged by the traumas of war—in some cases much like people lined up to be shot, in an allusion to Goya’s work about the instruments used by the Holy Inquisition, and El Greco’s painting 3rd of May 1808, of Spanish peasants being shot by the French. In the summer I’ll be doing an outdoor installation at Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, New York, and I also have a planned installation of a yet-to-bedefined vine and root piece and exhibition of other work at Five Points Gallery in Torrington, Connecticut, this fall. Denise and I are currently seeking out new venues for It Takes a Village, and I’m looking for an appropriately large venue for Memorial Windows. Thank you for asking me to be in your magazine and for asking such thoughtful insightful questions

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Lives and works in Bern, Switzerland

, 2014, spaghetti, wood fiberboard (40

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Monica Supé

ART Habens

video, 2013

, 2014

0 x 400 x 50 cm)

Installation at „Ortung IX“, Schwabach (Germany), 2015 422 0

spaghetti, wood fiberboard (300Special x 600 x 50Issue cm)


An interview by and

, curator curator

Monika Supé

When I was a pupil all I ever wanted was to be concerned with art. But after school I studied architecture as something congeneric. Afterwards in the job I wanted to link both but architectural

practise doesn’t allow to pursue it from nine to five. While working as an architect and lecturer I hadn’t enough time after work. Indeed designing is an important aspect in practicing, but architectural design isn’t an artistic design because it depends on function. So there wasn’t enough time for art in my life and after working a few years I decided to spend more time on it.

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ART Habens

Monica Supé

Looking back I would say, that an analytic and detailed approach left over from my professional education today induces me to look for alternatives and different viewpoints while working. So I have many ideas on a subject which is on my mind. I always feel the need of drawing in architectural practise – my means of expression is drawing and I am used to thinking “in lines”. Therefore I am looking for new

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ways of using everything that’s linear like wire, elastics, thread or something else.

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Monica Supé

ART Habens

, 2014 Installation at „Landschaft – Campagne“, Lenggries (Germany), 2014 spaghetti, wood fiberboard (300 x 600 x 50 cm)

Certainly professional education and practising influenced me very much, but this didn’t preclude me from being interested in other disciplines. I can only hope that sometimes I am successful in thinking outside of the box. For example I am very interested in perceptual psychology and theory and in theory of cog-

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Monica Supé

nition. And everything I read influences me. In my work – and while working I think of it as an experimental process – I wish to express everything in the right way for just this subject. And this is what I am looking for every time.

I was invited to create an installation for a Franco-German exhibition named „Landschaft – Campagne“ (Landscape). I had plenty of space there so I could plan a tall one. After thinking about the topic I was sure that I wanted to create something which references the synthetic in landscape, because landscape doesn’t mean nature. In German the word “Landschaft” indicates this because the suffix “-schaft” means “created”. Landscape is man-made and it seems that the position of real nature like primeval forests has even kept secrets from us. I named it “Kulturlandschaft” because the concept of “Kultur” is derived from Latin “colere” which means “to cultivate”. Cultivating landscape is a cultural achievement and I wondered if we attest real culture in our dealing with it, when we subordinate nature and landscape to our dictates of using.


Monica Supé

ART Habens

, 2014 Installation at „Landschaft – Campagne“, Lenggries (Germany)

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Monica SupĂŠ

ART Habens

, 2014 spaghetti, wood fiberboard (400 x 400 x 50 cm)

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Monica Supé

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At first I wanted to install steel sticks, but buying about 50 000 of them was very expensive and I looked for a cheaper material, which could represent my idea as well. Using spaghetti summarized everything: noodles are made of grain and their appearance represents grain coincidentally. They are reusable, eatable afterwards and bring the subject to the point: using so many spaghetti not for eating but for art let us reflect about our dealing with our resources.

In German perception is called ”Wahrnehmung”, that means that we take something for true (German “wahr”: real, true, “nehmen”: take). But we can even question if that what we see is really true and existent in exactly the way we see it. This is one of the questions human beings are asking in their search for knowledge.

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Monica Supé

Descartes declared that we exist because we can think. For him thinking but not experience via senses proved our existence. At his time people lost the geocentric model and looking through telescopes showed them that some things were different from what they had expected. Some centuries later the constructivist thinking assumed that we take part in our reality by creating it. What seems to be sure is that our perception is subjective and therefore the results of it are subjective, too. “Reusenhäuser” wants to show that there can be a difference between reality and personal perception. What is to be done then? Probably we can only use the introspection to regulate our behaviour.

hausting and it would have an affect on me in some way. Afterwards the experience is inseparably combined with the relic of this process – the drawings. The experience and the time that have passed are existent inside of them. Today when I look at these drawings, I can remember the particular days and situations much closer than other days I keep in my memory. I think in the end the viewers combine that what they see with their own experiences.

I don’t want to teach anybody, I don’t feel like a master, because this would mean to have answers and solutions, but I want to raise themes. I am interested in subjects like space and time and we can experience these only by human perception. That implies that my basic issue is the human being, its doing and its behaviour. Primarily in my work I am trying to search for explanations, but I am only trying, not necessarily always finding

I can’t imagine creative process without direct experience. In the genesis of “eine Schachtel voll Zeit” the direct experience is integrated in a special way, because I didn’t really make some drawings from memory and after having some experience. When I decided to look into the mirror daily for one year and draw myself, I could only assume that it would be ex-

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, 2014 wire, paper, led-spot, mural (200 x 170 x 150 cm)


Monica SupĂŠ

ART Habens

, 2013 wire (9 x 21 x 14 cm)

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Monica Supé

ART Habens

them. But back to “Kulturlandschaft”. You can look at it as a reference to the problematic nature of economic mechanism. In 2015 I installed it once more and I could get to the heart of it by asking: IN AUREA AETATE? Do we live in the golden age? Probably we can answer that in the future, looking back to the past. Nowadays we live in abundance, the grain price on the world market decreases continuously. Food is disposed of to stabilize prices, meanwhile in other regions people die of hunger. Rich countries pursue land crabbing in order to save the grain and food production for the future but only for their own population. Considering this it’s my aim to ask questions and initiate reflection, though the object I show can still be beautiful. My work shall be thoughtprovoking but things do not have to be shown the hard way.

That’s a difficult subject and it results from the last point. The motivation of the artist doesn’t necessarily need to be related to a functional aspect of art for society and audience. It only has to be discussed if works are shown in the public. But first of all everything I do and produce is its own purpose. I like to experiment and while working I can re-

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Monica Supé

flect, it’s a marvellous state of being even if it is arduous. As I have said, I want to look for explanations too. That’s why I would agree with Gerhard Richter. I wouldn't go so far as to say that explaining is the functional aspect in my work. My functional aspect is founded in asking. I hope to stimulate the viewers to ask themselves and to get into conversation with others. In our age of globalism things are so deeply interwoven so that the main thing is the interchange of ideas.

After having created objects crocheted in wire which are meant as shells or casings, I take pictures of them in use: People slip inside and explore them with their own body. It’s very interesting for me to see what other people check out and how they move. With intend to preserve this process I attempt to “give a visual trace to time” and this trace is drawn by movement. So I have the possibility to conserve something vivid which is passed, it seems like frozen. Each time I look at them I am surprised: I sense that they

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(eine Schachtel voll Zeit), 2009-2010 Installation at Stadtmuseum Penzberg (Germany), 2012 ink pen on paper (respective 13 x 16,5 cm)

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Monica SupĂŠ

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unfreeze. If I only look enough the moving seems to go on. Thank you for your time also and for letting me share my thoughts and artworks. In summer I will focus on something else in Städtische Galerie Schwabach: the relevance of time in working processes. Creating my objects or installations is often time-consuming, for example crocheting big pieces in wire takes much time and other work stages seem boring or stupid like pinning so many spaghetti into boards or drawing the same content every day for one year. But without persevering it doesn’t come to an result. That’s why this way of working that seems like nonsense makes sense for me personally. In 2016 I will have several shows, each with a special theme. At Künstlerhaus I present “Schein und Sein“ (Appearance and Being), different works which are not what they seemed to be. Some of my objects are built of wire which is put into white panels and when they are illuminated the wire pieces throw shadows onto the boards. If you change the angle of lighting the image of the shadows is modified and if you switch off the light the image disappears. I like to irritate. I like to cause amazement and to see moments of surprise. I like it if somebody comes back for looking once more because they don’t believe their eyes. That’s what I am searching for.

I have created and will create objects according to rules I determine before. For example I sewed an endless seam by a machine on paper or canvas. Every time I came upon an already existing seam I had to change the direction in a special way. So design developed not from personal decision but from observing rules. I am curious about what this approach will evoke. I want to challenge our daily working and I wonder how we differentiate basically between sense and nonsense in our working processes.

An interview by and

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Monika Supé

ART ICUL ACTION

C o n t e m p o r a r y

A r t

R e v i e w

Winter 2016


Maya Gelfman Lives and works in Israel

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Maya Gelfman

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ART Habens meets

Maya Gelfman An interview by and

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theoretical and practical basis for art-making, but it's certainly not the only way. It's like a beehive, a structure full of variables and opportunities, that might prove to be dense and even messy at times. Each one takes this challenging experience differently. In that spirit, I must say that I've learned a lot being a student but some invaluable lessons weren't written in the curriculum at all. They had to do with standing my ground and claiming my own voice. I used my time there to absorb and experiment as much as I could. Naturally that approach didn't always pay off, at least immediately. More than once, my experiments ended in grand disasters and getting harsh yet constructive criticism. But It was more important for me to create something meaningful and original than to be praised. I kept pushing myself beyond fear and gradually learned to be confident in my actions. When my final project (thesis), in which I created a massive installation that temporarily changed the architecture of our floor, was selected to exhibit at a huge expo and than directly lead to exhibiting at the TLV Museum of Art the following year, I knew my instincts were spoton and that my determination was rewarded.

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Being an artist in Israel, well... Even though it's a small country it's a very fertile ground for creativity and inspiration. Due to the fact that it encompasses such extreme situations and heterogeneous people. It's a boiling cauldron in which history, cultures, ideals and conflicts are all evident and densely mixed together. It caters a fast current of transformations, geographically, architecturally and socially. In a way, this place always leaves you hungry. No matter how one might look at the situation, in a country that is exhausted by wars and busy

Hello and thank you for having me. Whenever a young student asks for my advice, I say that there are many ways to go about being a professional artist. The academy is definitely a well compressed route to

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Maya Gelfman

surviving art seems to be grasped as a luxury, so dedicating oneself to creating art is not trivial at all. Having said that, Israel is far from being the image that's depicted by the news. So for what it's worth, I think that this is exactly what drives so many people here to search for ever new and alternative ways to express themselves.

The search for symbiosis is apparent in every aspect of my life and even more so in my practice, since it explores, reflects and interprets life. I believe that every process is an ongoing movement between actual experiences and yet unfulfilled intentions. We establish perceptions based on firsthand or inherited impressions and measure that against our dream, thus creating a purpose and a path. This movement can be described as a line unfolding in space. The path between where I came from, where I am and where I wish to be. The works that I create outline this path and my way manifests itself as I go along. So while I'm trying to decipher how and what to do next, I naturally intertwine materials, play with concepts and examine multiple techniques.

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Maya Gelfman

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Maya Gelfman

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Maya Gelfman

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My ideas first come to me as visual fragments and a physical sensation, usually in my hands, of something abstract materializing into tangible form. I start to lay down conceptual and technical premises and then I work my way from there. Funny yet appropriate we should start with the Shell, as this specific piece actually encapsulates exactly that. It's the artistic womb from which I emerged, a metaphysical pocket of creation itself. I started it by lying on the floor in a fetal position and drawing a line around myself, much like a child would draw a line around their palm and fingers. My choice of materials was simultaneously intuitive and cognizant. Introducing different materials layers the works with sub-meanings and shades. It enables me to charge them with the origins of each material while also constituting a new significant synthesis. But I also choose my materials acting upon instincts and what feeling they convey to me. I'm looking to find a material that harbors the essence of an idea rather than the ability to best simulate it. I then continued to construct a "bony" structure around my initial fetus form, using iron net and twisted cloth hangers. I wanted to create a cocoon-like shape, then split it open and turn it into an organism that can sustain a memory of life. For this end I used red wool, a material that has a fuzzy almost biological quality to it. I cut each thread by hand and tied them one by one to the skeleton, so that the insides my empty shell were weaved through and through with red plumage. I ended up using more than 300,000 pieces of yarn, and this stage took 6 months. The long and Sisyphean process served as an embodiment of the meticulous process in which a shell is created in nature, one crisp layer at a time. The Shell was exhibited in a way that frames a particular space which is neither closed nor open. It invited the viewers to go around it but also to

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Maya Gelfman

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step inside, creating a contemplative inner space that allowed the inhabitants to observe themselves and their surroundings. And yet, once inside, the viewer wasn't alone. A present absence was strongly felt, as the work encased an imprint of the first dweller of this

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cell, thus inviting the sensitive resident to share my space.

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Maya Gelfman

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Maya Gelfman

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Maya Gelfman

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I'm attracted to art because it's a two-way mirror, allowing parallel realities to not just co-exist but to enhance one another. Art can and should provide a place of transcendence, beauty, tenderness and even comfort while simultaneously evoking soulsearching, gut-wrenching feelings. When I was four years old, I had a near death experience while having an open heart surgery. That threshold rendezvous left me convinced that opposites are bound together. In my works I strive to encompass and echo this duality. They stem from that simultaneous sense of vertigo and stability. The diffusive exchange that transpires between the inner and outer worlds is at the heart of my workstation installation. The red yarn, egg-like coils are nesting at the foot of a table (it's my actual studio work-table). They symbolize subconscious potential and a source of conception. A single umbilical cord connects them to the workstation, where they are materialized into external forms. In The machine installation, the cord (a single, continuous thread) passes through an assembly of wheels, cogs and metal gears. This time it can be read as the transition of the human factor through the mechanisms of a system. The apparatus represent functions of a body, and so the 'thread of life' is the blood line that drives and revives the machine. It may seem as if the harsh metallic inand-outs might tear it apart, but as the red thread runs full course it marks the passage of time and distance. When it comes out the other side intact, it manifests endurance and becomes a whole heart. Still, I deem that the details in themselves are almost meaningless. My work doesn't revolve around my personal story but rather uses it as a trigger and a catalyst to create objects and

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Maya Gelfman

The image of birds taking to flight is a familiar one. It epitomizes an idea of hope, freedom and movement. It outlines the desire to break free and fly high. The yarn balls act as chains, they demonstrate a powerful tension between the pulling force of the ground and the endless promise of the open sky. That tension refers to inhibitions, restraints and the dissonance between wanting to move on and the things that hold us back whether they are political, geographical, socioeconomic, gender-based or personal. In the late 1990s, I served in the army as a field medic. I was stationed just outside Ramallah, a major Palestinian city. In this position, I had the privilege and obligation to land emergency medical help to both sides.

spaces that encourage deep contemplation. Through them I want to deal with the dichotomy that one reality can reflect many and that there is no one definition. In that spirit I explore how extremities collide and more importantly how this collision ignites a change, thus opening a window of opportunity for something new to occur.

I'm no expert on these matters and don't presume to pass judgment. I have my opinions but am also well aware that things are never black and white. I've encountered so many shades of grey and facets of humanity, and these gave me a better understanding of systems and forces. It was a humbling lesson in both being powerless and about the power that individuals can possess. How seemingly small gestures have a rippling effect and can become the power of many for better or for worse.

What makes a thing personal? What makes it generic? There is no neutral ground. Try as we may, our premises and reactions could never be completely objective and I don't believe they should. By being aware of this inevitable subjectivity I choose to seek a wider point of view, while reminding myself that it'll none-the-less be partial. Making a choice is an active statement and what develops responsive individuality. Black Birds - the one that got away was exhibited in a deserted military base on the Israel/Lebanon border. The hills that are seen from the windows are beyond the borderline, but purely geographically speaking - they are a continuous part of the view. It's the same piece of earth and the borders are man-made. I don't consider myself a political artist, at least not in the traditional sense, but the personal is political and my introspection has a trans-formative intention. I examine things also in the light of the collective conscious, as I try to reconcile conflicts and contradictions, and to ask how gaps can become motivators and the source of strength.

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Maya Gelfman

You said it well, art as a key to find personal interpretations. I perceive myself as a channel. I tap into the creative energy that was here long before me and will flow on long after I'm gone. I really do feel privileged and blessed by this open connection to the marrow of subconsciousness. I perceive my works as a testimony of my experiences, whether first-hand or cultural. In a sense, I believe that a good work of art is much bigger than the artist that makes it. Of course there is a direct reflection of my own expansion in my work, but it's just the beginning of a story and not the whole of it.

mapping my journey and examining the findings, so to make some sense of it all. I started using mixed media again. The red, white and grayish lead were accompanied by black, gold, silver and fluorescent yellow. I used thread with which I meticulously embroidered thin papers, cut outs made with aluminum foil and parchment, and so on. I wanted it to appear as a drawing at first glance but the longer one looked at it, the mixed media, bits and pieces were exposed.

Art changes and evolves. While being "in progress", it's in the artist's territory. But once accomplished, it stands out in its own right and it's up to the work to establish meaningful interactions with its surroundings. I always leave spaces for others to fill. My works are not hermetically sealed. On the contrary - they aim to be extended and amplified.

The series that was created that way is the one I've referred to in the last paragraph. Large, colorful and expressive paintings, made in broad gestures and overlapping layers. In their making I sought to break free from familiar patterns and push beyond my comfort zone. This series has basically two ground rules: . Each work is limited to one continuous session. That is a period of designated time, ranging from one to several days and nights, during which I keep as much as possible within the domain and the mindset of the work. If it doesn't feel finished after a session, I put it aside and move on. . Like meditating, I let all that comes be and become. Automatism and scrutiny I observe, think, feel and sense, but I don't dwell on either. Most importantly, I don't stop painting to give any of them time enough to mature and take over the wheel. Instead, I gather them all onto the paper and continue to work without making order of things. The painting is the one that leads the way as it developes.

So naturally I also don't see it as a conflict relationship between content and form, but rather as an interlaced network in which every movement or intention, both physical and metaphysical, leaves an impression and dictates a certain narrative and atmosphere. I use aesthetics to lure the viewers and sooth first reactions, in order to reveal a deeper meaning that might be perceived as deterring otherwise. But I never aim for shock value just for it's own sake. Acknowledging the complexity is a path to finding catharsis. In my early drawings, which I did in the years after my graduation, the color scheme was naive and minimalist (mind you that as a student I was "all over the place" when it came to colors and materials). At the time I felt that I could make up an entire universe with a pencil and a red pen. And so I did, in a subtle yet disturbing way, I drew figures and situations floating in white space.

I other words, I immerse myself completely in a meditative process of laying out layers, while keeping explicit analysis at a hands reach, just hanging a few inches above the canvas. There is a clear general connection between the new and previous works. The "handwriting" is recognizable

With time, layers appeared and my drawing became increasingly obsessive. The bare color pallet gained some flesh as I struggled to weave together past, present and future. It was a time that I plunged head first into a personal abyss,

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Maya Gelfman

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Maya Gelfman

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as well as the meta issues. However, specifically, every series is linked to a certain frame of mind and is derived from an initial vision. The vision establishes context and distributes components or fractals. In a way, the visions act as 'big bangs': they spatter the initial matter that is later reassembled into various objects.

The first time I put works in public space was in 2009. I was looking for an intimate yet direct way to exhibit drawings and poems from a series called “Red Heart�. It was a spontaneous act, a different, one-time way to engage with art. Or so I thought. I fell in love with the immediacy and with the outspoken contact to people that the streets offered. As I mentioned earlier, I see artworks as having an independent presence. They exist and at the same time they are rebirthed in each dialogue between the artist, the work and the viewer. But as the saying goes, there is a time and a place for everything. Audience reaction is important to me once a work is done and only then. While creating a piece, I don't let external factors distract me. A work must never be influenced by thoughts that are not yet relevant. Will it be accepted, will people understand or appreciate, and for that matter, whether or not it will be sold - these questions can only hinder the flow of a work as it becomes all that it can be. Once a

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Maya Gelfman

work is accomplished, and only then, do I look for a place for it in the world. And when a work is out there, pursuing fulfillment, that is when the viewer's involvement plays an important role.

that there were expectations as to what I'll do, though the gallery owner kindly made sure not to pronounce them. Still I decided to take the word NEW quite literally and surprise myself by creating in a new way. The challenge was set - I wanted to go through this process while inventing a methodical way to flexibility, change and random potential. Since my actions can be monotonous at times (as mentioned earlier, 6 months of weaving strands of wool or puncturing 2000 tiny holes in a single sheet of paper), I had to find a way not to succumb to mechanical actions. I set myself the goal of maintaining a coherent intention without controlling and over-analyzing it. The solution I found to all of the above was to combine simple "body tricks" with "letting go" and embracing serendipity. I used sensory synthesis - I divided my attention between the senses of touch, hearing and sight.

Naturally, when I create site-specific interventions, choosing a visual language that refers to a particular context is indispensable. Audience reception might act as a factor in this case, as long as it's connected to the essential core and function of a work. In a way, street-art works on all of these levels. In public spaces I ask questions regarding awareness and submergence, whether the representation of the personal could ever exist out there, not to mention create a moment of mindfulness for a passerby. That is why I always try to be open and in the moment myself, create with the same intention I wish to convey through the work. A work can take 10 minutes or a year to make. It has to do with precision, intentions and how well these are rooted in the actual context of the work's meaning. What I'm saying is that I strive to practice what I preach and create with the same intention I wish to convey through the work. So if a work is supposed to encourage awareness, I make sure to be open and absorbent in order to reflect the specific atmosphere that was around me at the time of creating the work. And if a work is about assimilation, I'm deliberately getting lost in the urban mess.

Thank you for this thought provoking discourse, it was a pleasure. These days I'm working on an installation for the Israel Museum of Art, that would be exhibited in May. Later on this year and leading to 2017 I'll be embarking on a global social-art project that will generate an exchange of ideas, messages and life lessons between parallel communities in faraway places, beginning with the USA. This project will also include a street-art tour as well as other events. Then, back to Israel in 2017-18, for a planned new solo exhibition at the launching of the renovated Ramat-Gan Museum of Art. As for evolving... It's definitely ongoing as we speak. I'm currently in a trans-formative phase so I can't say for sure where it will take me and how things will unfold, but I'm very much excited and looking forward to find out.

In my TEDx talk I tried to summarize a year-long process of creating a completely new body of works for my fifth solo exhibition. I knew that it was going to be a Sisyphean process and I knew

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An interview by and

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Lives and works in Paris, France

Defeat Your Inner Demon, 2012 Clay, 9 x 11 x 10"

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Anne Cecile Surga

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video, 2013

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Defeat Your Inner Demon, 2012

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Deca Torres

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An interview by and

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Deca Torres

was focused on entering the artworld from the institutional side. I have always been creating on my own for as long as I can remember but I did not consider myself good enough to declare myself an artist publicly. I followed night classes of clay sculpture in France, oil painting in Istanbul and welding and anatomy in New York which helped me a lot in terms of apprehension of the forms and also from a technical point of view. Two years ago I was supported by my

Hello, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak about my work in your magazine. I do have an interesting background for an artist as I did not follow a formal training in visual arts such as BFA or MFA. I went to a business school in France which led me to graduate with an MBA in Management from the Florida Gulf Coast University, and I later enrolled at Christie’s Education New York where I graduated with a Master in Art History. During these times I

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Anne Cecile Surga

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Anne Cecile Surga

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close relations to embrace fully my creativity and to take my artistic practice to a professional level. Over the last eight years I lived in Istanbul, Florida, Singapore, New York and last year I came back in France. Obviously these experiences in countries so different from each other, have shaped my perceptions in terms of aesthetic expression, as well as intellectual and philosophical understanding of the world. From a formal point of view, the exposure to several art worlds and sensibilities both shaped and expanded my mind. I believe the New York City scene had the most influence in terms of freedom of creation in the conception of the work as well as in choice of materials. For my sculptures, I keep in mind what most struck me from these travels: the fact that human beings are pretty much the same in any country of the world regardless of their economy, religion, or cultural heritage. I found that we all long for love, a sense of belonging, a sense of validation, to feel that we are enough. There are multiple outlets to seek this beloved happiness and they are the same worldwide: friendship, love, music, dance, sports, etc. However I also found that this desire to fit in is exacerbated and can make people step into a dark realm when influenced by the media. The feelings of greed, insatisfaction, jealousy, selfdeprecation are rather inflated thus leading to a lack of happiness (or a belief in this lack) and a misunderstanding of who we are and where we stand as human beings. Thus, this assumption became the groundwork for my aesthetic research. It influences intrinsically the choice of the subject, and the way I deal with the subject formally.

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Anne Cecile Surga

For each work, the idea or concept is what always comes first and this will dictate the choice of material to make it. For instance if I want to represent a person on one feet and on a small scale I will not be able to use marble as there will be too much pressure on the small ankle area and therefore the sculpture might break. For such a project I will have to use papier machĂŠ, plaster or metal in order to ensure that the sculpture will be strong enough to bear its own weight. It is quite an instinctive process for me to go from the conceptual idea to the choice of material. I attach importance to the sensation a work can trigger in the viewers or what can emanate from it, which guides the choice of final textures between glossy or matte, rough or smooth for example, and this also determines the choice of a particular material over another. I do not have self-imposed constraints when making an artwork, as each material already places its own: working with marble is a subtractive process while working with papier machĂŠ and plaster is an accumulative one. That is why the material needs to dry after applying each new layer of matter in order to fuse with the material below and to be able to receive additional material or to be workable or polished. Marble on the other hand is heavy, fragile and difficult to find. Also there are internal veins in marble that might not be visible when choosing the block, and which might interfere with the final work. I need to go to quarries (in Carrara or in the Pyrenees) to find the blocks and then to bring them back to the studio

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Anne Cecile Surga

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myself. As I mentioned, the idea always comes first so I choose blocks according to the projects I already have in mind. Because of the limited amount of marble I can carry every time I go to the quarry, some projects have to wait for several months or years before being physically created. I believe my general rule is to listen to the material and to allow it to be itself. Of course I convey my intentions unto the material, but the way it reacts influences the final piece just as much as I do.

The idea behind was to be able to catch the insubstantial aspect of falling in love with someone, which in essence cannot be captured. I was not attracted by the idea of making yet another sculpture of a couple cuddling as we can find already many of those throughout the History of Art. Also in most representations of love in Art, I found that women were often given a bad role, either as temptresses or as submissive victims. I knew my work should not reflect this kind of imagery, but rather show a story where each partner has the same will and power. Finally I wanted people from around the world to be able to project themselves onto the work and to take it over. I established these concepts on the subject and the genesis of the formal idea

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Anne Cecile Surga

the angel Lucifer rebelled against God and lost his place in Heaven after being defeated by Saint Michael. I understand that at one point the personification of evil was part of the “good side,” but he was cast away because of his disobedience. As a metaphor I can understand that Evil is a part of Good, and vice versa. Which leads me to the internal battle everyone is fighting on a daily basis against their own selves: what we perceive as qualities in ourselves can be our major shortcomings, and what we consider as flaws can be our main assets. This is a never-ending battle where we cannot know which side has the upper hand.

worked its way alone into my mind. The minimalist form of the final sculpture allows the viewer to understand the theme of the work, while delivering a sense of playfullness and adventure which corresponds to my view of Love. Despite the fact of being faced with a couple falling, the viewer can still interpret the scuplture in his own terms: is she pushing him? Is she keeping him from falling? Is he leading her? Are they falling together? All interpretations and all personal projections upon the work can be correct. As a child I was pretty impressed by a small devotion sculpture of Archangel Saint Michael Defeating the Demon that my grand-mother had (and still has) on her nightstand. The sculpture is quite graphic and is probably the cause of many childhood nightmares. However I did not develop a feeling of repudiation toward the theme of Saint Michael and the Demon, which is an image quite present in Christian countries. On the contrary, I have a feeling of attachment toward this familiar imagery. The idea behind is for the viewer to understand that we as human are only limited by the constraints we impose on ourselves, not that much by the ones set by others. In other words, we are our own limits: believing we are not enough and thus not pursuing our destiny makes us our own ennemy. Very often people will tend to blame on external causes the reasons for their failures, or their life frustration. I personally tried to fit in a role that did not suit me out of fear (of not being good enough, of the struggles ahead, etc) before embracing my artistic undertaking. I did not force myself to reappropriate the theme of Saint Michael and the Demon to express this specific idea, the imagery somewhat imposed itself. Speaking of metaphors, I like to interpret the founding myths of society on different levels: here

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There is this quote I recently came across by Walter M. Miller “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily” which I think can be a starting point for my answer. One of the questions that is part of my investigation on the notion of identity is whether or not our own formal expression (that is to say, the body we live in) influences the way we define ourself or our identity. I do not have the answer to this question, but it is often in the back of my mind when I am creating a new work. The tension between physicality (in the sense of corporeality) and the psyche and how this relationship shapes our own image is really something that has kept me enthralled for a long time.

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Etude Buste, 2010 Clay, 7 x 11 x 10"


Anne Cecile Surga

ART Habens

I feel like anybody could read me and know my whole life by taking a look at my oeuvre, but the public’s feedback tells otherwise.

Therefore when I am working on a specific idea, I try to reach and explore its deepest meanings, and all of the feelings associated with it in order to find the best formal way to express it.

If I think about it, I guess it is not entirely possible to disconnect the creative process from direct experience. According to science, our personallity - which has a direct influence on the career we opt for and other main life choices - is genetically inherited by 50%. Let’s say that an artist would want to create “pure art” that is not tainted by exterior influences, something that would be pure creation, this is already contradicted by the fact that his very own personallity is already influenced by his personal genetics. So the way he sees the world, how he perceives it, how he expresses himself is already the outcome of his own experience. is The work about personal experience but also about the way we present it to create a super personality for the social media. In this work I was trying to denounce how much social media can distort the perception of the self for oneself and for the others. Selfies, perfect sunsets, filters, all of these play a part in a mise en scene to make us appear better than we actually are on social media. It made me think about the reasons behind why people do these things, the pros and cons of such behaviours. It was very interesting that during the process of creating the 50 self-portraits my reflexion toward the work changed as well. What first begun pretty much as a critique of the selfie matured into a reflection about who I am and which aspects of myself I can or want to display in 50 different ways. It was also quite interesting for me to reappropriate my own physical image, which is something I never really did in the past. The obvious disclaimer behind that work was to state that I am not my physical attributes, which is why the same portrait is printed over and over. I came to realize it was impossible to capture a person by making 50 different

the human figure In has been deformed into its simplest form, and it is standing alone, flabbergasted, with the impossibility to avoid the viewer’s gaze, offering its vulnerability. The figure is not quite straight, its torso is slightly hunched to mark the pain it is feeling. It is shapeless and faceless so the viewer can identify to the figure as well as to the feeling of missing or loosing someone expressed here. The open heart carved out of the stone symbolizes the open wound and the feeling of losing one’s heart when losing a loved one. The simplicity of the work here was chosen purposedly to allow the viewer to create a connexion to the work and to the feelings by getting rid of any visual impurity that could distract him from the subject.

That is a very good and interesting question, but I am not sure I can answer it! To me, my personal experiences have a direct impact on my work and they can also be a direct source of inspiration. Sometimes

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Anne Cecile Surga

representations of her, and I am sure the same would hold true no matter if it were for up to 100 or even 1000 representations.

Thanks a lot for noticing the different levels of interpretation present in my work, and for understanding the way I lead the viewers’ approach to my pieces. As I did not follow a classic training in visual arts, I learnt to use materials through a lot of trials and errors. I keep on experimenting even today with new materials such as plexiglass, wax, or the use of pigments on marble, and that is how I discover new techniques or discard some others. I first began to work with clay as it is a material easily available which did not required a lot of investment for a novice artist. But this material has some requirements that do not suit my approach: it is heavy so it needs a structure to support the material from within, it needs to be stored in a specific environment, there should be no air bubble emprisoned in the material otherwise the sculpture will explode when baked and it is not sturdy enough when raw, etc. These technical demands plus the physical limitations of the material made me looking for more. Now I

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Anne Cecile Surga

ART Habens

Good Girl, Bad Girl 2012 Clay, 7 x 11 x 10"

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Anne Cecile Surga

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Anne Cecile Surga

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use plastiline to create models as it has the same texture of clay but it does not dry, so I can hop on and off a project regardless of time constraint. Two years ago I had the amazing opportunity to be introduced to marble carving by Pablo Atchugarry in his foundation in Punta del Este, Uruguay, which has been a turning point for my work. I finally found a material that was strong enough to hold pretty much any form, and difficult enough to work to keep me captivated. I can work marble for several hours straight without stopping, and I know the machines or my strength will give up before the material ever will. As much as I love to battle with a material that is stronger than me, the ultimate goal is not only about my self-satisfaction in making a particular work. I have to take into account that - in order to be a significant piece - the general feeling emanating from the piece is as important as the form itself. The kind of material I select for a specific piece will play an important part on that sensation. For example, the materiality of marble is very down to earth because marble is in itself a very heavy material. If I want a sculpture to give an aerial sensation, I will have to use another material. I can use the same material entirely raw and let it expresses its essence in one work while taming it in another work. For example I threw plaster on the surface of but I tamed the same material and covered it with a resin varnish in . Thanks to all my trials and errors I now have a larger catalogue of techniques and materials to choose out from in order to select the most appropriate for a new work.

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Charles Ligocky

much as I am trying to point at directions for the reflection and understanding, the piece ceases to belong to me as soon as it is viewed by an external eye. The audience is free to interpret it its own way which is also something I take into account, and I have to admit this is quite fascinating for me to know how people interpret my works.

Yes, now that I have to think about it, I realize I do care about the effects of the piece onto the viewers while creating it in my head. I keep in mind that my job is not to create pieces only for me, or only to express my views. As an artist I aim at reaching toward the audience, I am looking for a dialogue between the piece and the viewer. I feel like there is a clear distinction between the works I was doing before being a professional artist and the works I am doing now. Before my works were a lot more self-centered as I was not really thinking they would find a viewership, so I did not take this dimension into account. Now the reception of the work does influence the formal creation of the work. A simple example is the effect of size: whether the exact same work is the size of your hand or three-meter high, you will perceive it differently. Therefore the message might be understood differently and the whole conversation about the work would consequently be changed. In terms of the symbols I use in my work, these are part of my own personal language as an artist, I do not try to fit in or to include symbols which are not part of my imagery, which I do not own. As I explained earlier, I am trying to make my work understandable to the largest amount of people but I still stay true to myself while doing so. Also what I think is interesting in this dialogue between the piece and the public, is that as

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I believe marble will remain my core material, but I will keep on experimenting with other materials on the side. I think the main expansion of my work will be in terms of size: I have projects for bigger scale sculptures as well as installations. I will also expand the series of square works like as I would like to display these works by the dozen on walls. It will be like a marble panel, almost like a marble canvas! I have two major projects for 2016: I am very excited that my first solo show “Il ne Fallait pas Me Créer Libre” will be taking place in September 2016 in the South of France. This will be a display of my most recent works in marble and in mixed-media. I am very proud to announce I have been selected by curator Julia Rajacic to be part of the International Expanded Media Art Triennial of Belgrade that will take place in December 2016. The triennial will explore the three-way relationship between Freedom, Men, and Women: the achievements, developments, as well as the areas to keep on improving. Thank you very much for allowing me to express my artistic outlook in your magazine. An interview by and

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, curator curator


Buste Estudy 2012 Clay, 9 x 11 x 10"


13 October 2014 – 18 March 2015: At John Jay College, City University of New York, USA


Land

scape

CONTEMPORARY ART REVIEW

25 May 2009: "

"

At the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, Brussels, Belgium


An interview by and

, curator curator

Alexandre Dang

conceive and realise some works integrating technological means notably electronics, mechanics, physics etc.. My scientific background gives me also a sort of reading grid on things that surround us, hence perceiving them from a scientific and technological point of view.

Hello, many thanks for your interest in my work and for asking me questions. To answer this first question, I would say that having a scientific and technological background enables me to

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Alexandre Dang

When viewing my artworks notably the “Dancing Solar Flowers”, public often have a smile: I appreciate this very much, because one aspect of my works is to bring poetry, emotion and in particular smile to people. Everyday's life is difficult enough when viewing all catastrophes and problems that occur just around us and worldwide. Although the works bring smile and seem easy, realising them is not just a children's game, it is really a lot of work! I have to conceive a first draft, do some pre-testing, address the issues (notably technical!), find solutions, do some further tests, find again solutions, finetune etc… Realising a new work takes some months or sometimes some years. It's important to highlight it, as when it is realised, everything seems so easy…

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Alexandre Dang

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Caroline Monnet

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Alexandre Dang

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I just saw the Field of Dancing Solar Flowers my mind! I told some friends about it and they could not understand what I was speaking about. So I realised it! I remember the first Field of Dancing Solar Flowers exhibited in February 2006. It was in Brussels in an international surrounding, with people from all over Europe. I could understand only very few comments as they were speaking lots of different languages like Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Romanian‌ but I saw their expression in their faces and also all the body language‌ Apparently they seemed to appreciate and this was my best reward.

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Alexandre Dang

Yes, I fully agree. When I see the public looking at my works, I always wonder on which side is the work. Is it the work displayed or is it the expression in the face of the viewer hence revealing her/his inner Nature and Beauty!

Direct experience is not only important

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Alexandre Dang

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Alexandre Dang

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Alexandre Dang

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but even key for me and in particular for my creation.

I'm convinced that art can significantly influence the world. In very concrete terms, I organise workshops where participants are first sensitized as regards the potential of renewable sources of energy and issues linked with sustainable development, and then they realise their own “Dancing Solar Flowers” from the edition "Fill in your own pattern!". These workshops were originally devoted to young public: children, teenagers… but we discovered that adults were also very fond of these workshops! These workshops as a prolongation of the works reinforce the impact of the works. I'm also glad, through Solar Solidarity International, to be able for some years

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Alexandre Dang

now to support with my copyrights some solar electrification projects like solar electrification of schools, hospitals, orphanages… in the developing world for instance in India, Togo, Tanzania, Mali, Morocco, Kenya, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nepal, Haiti, Ecuador…

All over the exhibitions in the world, I can see a very universal response from the audience: people mainly smile and start asking "How is this moving? What does it mean?" And this is for me the most important: bringing people to smile and to think about important contemporary issues.

There are plenty of upcoming exhibitions in the coming weeks for instance in Paris, in Boston, at NordArt in the north of Hamburg, in Venice, in Japan, in Singapore… so I would love that the readers have a look at a real installation. In the meantime, it is possible to have a look at some videos in the video section on my website : this can already give some flavour.

I'm often asked about the difference between art and science. For me, there is more a complementarity. In fact, art and sciences are like a pair of eyes that enable to see in 3D!

Many thanks again for your interest in my work and for taking the time to ask these very interesting questions. © Davide Di Saro

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Photographer: FM BECKER Fo

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

ART Habens

video, 2013

tografie FL/Germany /Wood Concept Design & Craft by Korbinian Petzinger

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Summer 2015 Summer 2015

Gerd Brockmann

Photographer: FM BECKER Fotografie 4 03 FL/Germany


An interview by

, curator

and

curator

Gerd Brockmann FM BECKER Fotografie Flensburg/Germany

Head of the Fashion Design & Textiles Department, Prof. Dr. Kemal Can while he gave a lecture about Fiber Art and the development of ephemeral concepts in environmental installations. I fall in Love with it. A short time before I started to work at the border of different disciplines and started to research in between fashion, art, photography projects etc. at Germany. I realized that I found a new way for me and this Professor opened another door to create a new visual language. It was the intense beginning of my new work periods. Between

Hello abens and thank you for the Invitation. Yes, my Studies at the University of Flensburg gave me some basics about the combination of textile, art and visual media concepts and I learned to use my experiences from the early years. In the 90´s I finished an apprenticeship in an old tradition house (since 1899), near Hamburg and I learned a lot of things about fabrics, garment, sewing and all that stuff in a really “old-school” way. Before I decide to study abroad I took a workshop at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University and I meet the

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

ephemeral works, the body as media, textiles as second skin, nature and environment as artistic space. I was able to use my “old-school” experience as well as my science from the university basics at Flensburg´s art and textile departments, to create new works and my new research projects became a short time later reality. In the same year I realized a small project at Istanbul, after I meet the members of a small independent art space at the Contemporary Istanbul Fair while showing my portfolio to the galleries. And step by step my works got an international touch and I started to work between both countries and I love the cultural exchange, the idea to develop a new visual language for me that includes both cultures.

interaction with the work - the artwork itself is performative - it is not really a photograph, nor is it really a sculpture. It is an action, and it is an encounter between two people; one a viewer, and one the performer who is wearing the costume, their body moving slightly with each breath, and shreds of fabric moving with a small breeze. This is such a harmonious amalgamation of costume becoming installation; installation becoming performance; performance becoming sculpture; sculpture becoming a photograph; photograph entering the online sphere. With elements of identity removed; masked faces and wrapped figures, my work seems to have created a repeated motif - a human captured in time and captured (encased, even) within various mediums. It is a tension which exists in the work, and in the characteristics of the mediums used. While fashion is typically used to determine uniqueness and compliment personal identity, I juxtapose this idea by removing facial features and bodily features which would usually be used to characterize us. It´s just possible if there’s a crossing of disciplines. Moreover, I reach with this artistic production a disciplinary exciting audience in many areas.

In the contemporary art world of the modern era it is essential to enter into a symbiotic relationship with other disciplines to develop yourself as an artist and to create a new visual language. Through the networked world of fine arts mutated into a global activity and in this age of globalization it is essential to get new realms by fusing art, fashion, photography, design and craft, to create new perceptions for the observer. My work is characterized as a new form of public in art and at the same department it offers an insight into the geopolitics of the art system of the 21st century. To survive in today's art market, it is necessary to develop critical tools to allow the viewer a glimpse behind the curtain. The multidisciplinary symbiosis as you call it allows me to develop a broad-based oeuvre as an artist and is actually the only way some of my concepts had been realized. For Example, THE SUPLENESS PUCK´S… The artwork to us viewers, is a different experience to my

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I believe that one's personal experience accounts for a huge part of any of my works and

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Naim El Hajj

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ART Habens

Copper Mask/Textile Installation for

Summer 2015

Pic by Artist (G.G.M.Brockmann)


ART Habens

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

ART Habens

the mentioned “Here’s Still Light” concept merges to this experience with the experience of all 20 team members to become a great social sculpture. A separation of the creative process of one's own experience, I think indeed possible, for me however, not desirable. In today's society it´s in my opinion very important that new experience spaces and projects for underestimating groups exists and that we learn to provide and handle socially disadvantaged, to bring them into contact with art and to experience what we can learn from each other. Would I disconnect all from each other, I would deprive myself of my own feelings and the transience, the social or creativity would no longer reach me and I would be separated from the social relevance of my work and would be immune to any resonance. More about the complete concept and the background of the HERE´s STILL LIGHT Project here: http://artprojectbrockmann.com/2014/09/18/here s-still-light/

In my opinion spatial and social exclusion are only a small part of an ever-accelerating society. We all develop different mechanisms to this new society order to come to the company and manage the age affects us all. In my time the

Detail Photographer: FM BECKER Fotografie FL/Germany

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immortal youth in which I found myself up to my twenties I have recognized this instability of society and was helpless at that time and I could do nothing about it. With the maturity of years and the courage to address people if they would work with me on something together I brought this process in motion. It was possible to actively involve art into sociopolitical criticism. The interactive and participatory has long been a part of the art market ... but this “Here´s Still Light” concept is now to be filled with sociocritical content and to find a platform for this artistic social process was the challenge for me. I was very happy to found my team after a two years research and set it up at the Nexus Gallery in Denmark to give this work the worthy setting. Who will assume responsibility for new and innovative ideas in the world of social exclusion ... unless we artists? How can an artist change something in the modern unstable society? I guess, with new and surprising ideas and the hope to change something, and if it happens only in small… it's a start!

through artistic processes, while of course always hints at a view of the inner nature of man. These works of the concept are full of unease and create an unforgettable experience which draws us into an investigation of identity in relation to the use of the body as an artistic object; placed, decorated and load with different hidden meanings in all those different types of work. So..”encrypted”…find out by yourself!

The collaboration with different artists, craftsmen and creative people are very important to me, and as in this case with a fashion designer are very present in my work, because they give them a different depth. The exchange of ideas and technical skills brings me again and again to new possibilities of artistic accomplishment. In works such as “Seven Conspiracies”, “Here's Still Light” or “The Suppleness Puck's” works without cooperation and the synthesis, you talked about, would not at all have been possible. The connection between the inside and outside is certainly a major role of the artist today. The expansion of art to the private room is probably one of the most distinctive features of the artistic practice of the past century. It´s normal that nowadays the everyday things been lifted in the exhibition context and normal places became artistic scenes. As an artist, I do it as my own. Make the place, an object or a person to something separate to create a work of art. This transformation is primarily a new meaning. The interpretation of "Here's Still Light” works can be a speculation, acquired ambiguity and leaves room for interpretation of the viewer. For me it is crucial that the world can develop differently

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There is a very special synthesis between me and my partner and very talented Fashion Designer Nejla Yilmaztürk. The YILMAZTÜRK & BROCKMANN Concept was born in January 2012. After the work for a Gallery in Istanbul, we decided to work as an artist couple between the border of Fashion Design and Fine Art Concepts. The first works were born after a meeting at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University/Istanbul where we both studied at the Fashion Design Department. After the first work experiences we start to work in different projects and countries to research with new materials in the fine art and design business to create contemporary textile

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Naim El Hajj

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Head Close-up

Summer 2015

Photographer: FM BECKER Fotografie FL/Germany


ART Habens

Gerd G.M. Brockmann

installations and fashion design concepts. After this experience, we decided to have a studio per country and planned the main studio at Bursa/Turkey. The dissolution of boundaries, the fusion of concepts from Fashion Design and Fine Arts is at the core of this particular collaboration. This special communication between two artists you asked about is all about passion for your own discipline and the will to share it with another artist for a better, bigger artistic result. We live in a world where it is increasingly to have an elbow thinking to find a better position in the art market and therefore through afflict each competitor. But I think that just the creative collaboration sustains us in the new globalized time where the art market seems unpredictable.

EGO HAS FALLEN has certainly parallels to Boltanski's work “Exit” to pull, since this dimly the likeness of a human being gives and gets a mood of melancholy forth the leaves appear the presence of the past as irretrievably past. The memory work thus becomes a part of the work. This work contributes similar Boltanski's “Exit” not only a media criticism in itself but also an institutional critique that affects society as a whole. The criticism of social conditions and media criticism as well contextuality are a concern to me in my artistic work. To additionally provide on the symbolic strategy, the work with a psychological level I have title and visual impact related to the subject of the individual in a mass society. Decisive for this is the communicative process between the individual and the group and the new media increasingly confusing Terrain of communication in the own EGO never seem to fall, because we always show on the social media only the best side of our lives and it outwards raises towards no shadows.

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

ART Habens

Pic by Artist

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ART Habens

Gerd G.M. Brockmann

Draping/Photographer: Nejla YilmaztĂźrk & Aykut YilmaztĂźrk

is the base of the new artistic creation. The GOLDEN SILVER REIGN and the ONE MOMENT YELLOW SILENCE project be continued and there are first negotiations for further collaborations with media in Brazil / Portugal. The project "GRAND ELIXIR" Secret of Secrets ... is a research project with I want to continue work in the United States and Canada. First meetings with some galleries and Independent Art spaces

Thanks to you and your team. Next month I'm going to move completely to Turkey and track 2 new projects in Istanbul. The new studio in Bursa

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Gerd G.M. Brockmann

in Istanbul, America and Europe lead to new project decisions, which will be the next step. I am open to new collaborations and have some long-term projects which are still in the development phase. The future will be increasingly a mix of art and fashion worth considering and pursuing Ephemeral concepts. My work has been so quickly and impulsively evolved in the last four

ART Habens

years that I want to take the next step now. I love it to capture travel and artistic experience with new cultures. In order to develop a possible international diversified oeuvre, I'm looking for new collaborations with galleries and institutions worldwide to create a new visual language between art and fashion. Another step is “The Sustainability Fashion Army�.

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Lives and works in Baselh, Switzerland

Photo of

Nicolas Vionnet Special Issue

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Fernanda Vizeu

ART Habens

video, 2013

that went viral, taken by the photographer

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Nicolas Vionnet

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ART Habens meets

Nicolas Vionnet , curator

An interview by and

been mainly dealing with painting. Decisive for my current artistic practice was my twoyear stay in Weimar, where I graduated from the Public Art and New Artistic Strategy master’s program.

, curator

During this time I was given the chance to realize my first major interventions in public space. It was an exciting and very intense time where I mainly learned to perceive my environment in a completely different way, to react and to undertake artistic interventions.

The principal approach in nearly all projects is quite similar, but the final work can differ greatly. In the context of an exhibition I often get a proposed specific place or I have the freedom to choose from a range of different locations in public space. My process usually begins with photo tours and walks where I am trying to become familiar with a place. Important questions for me are: how do the citizens use the place, what is its function and what role does it take in everyday life? Are there any

I grew up in the region of Basel, Switzerland, and have completed my education at the University of Art and Design Basel and at the Bauhaus-University Weimar. During the first few years I have

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ART Habens

Nicolas Vionnet

special circumstances or other conspicuous issues? In the next stage I start an exhaustive research, go to the library or the city archive and try to clarify the historical background of the site. During this period I normally have the first clear ideas and I start to do visualizations with Photoshop. If an idea is strong enough and can survive for several days or weeks, I move to the final phase where I start to test and to work with the needed material to finally realize the work.

The first project you mentioned, , was realized together with my friend Wouter Sibum from Rotterdam. We both graduated from the Public Art and New Artistic Strategies program in Weimar and since then, often working together as a duo. For example we realized the work Colour me surprised as part of the III Moscow International Biennale for Young Art in 2012. A New Found Glory was conceived one year later in a closed public toilet known as the M¸llloch (litter-hole) next to the Herdbr¸cke at the Donau in Ulm. For years, this non-place is closed off for the public. It gathers more and more garbage and is overgrown by weeds and wild flowers over the years. We were looking for a funny

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Nicolas Vionnet

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Nicolas Vionnet

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response to the still unresolved problem and decided to install a fountain in the middle of the forbidden zone. A fountain that was only just visible for the passersby, but once looked into the hole reveals to be filling the space completely. Thus, not only surprising the passersby - at the same time also a touch of festivity and glory returned to the old city wall in Ulm. The second work, , was a minimal intervention that I have realized in the project room of WIDMER + THEODORIDIS contemporary in Zurich. The room consisted of a long, dark passage, which finally ended in a courtyard in the heart of the old town of Zurich. On the one hand, I was referring on the exhibition title . On the other hand, the small but noticeable road construction warning light has flashed in unfamiliar red light through this dark alley and had a magnetic effect on passersby. I have to underline that we only know road construction warning lights with yellow appearance in Switzerland. Therefore the red light was irritating and many of the passers-by saw it more like an indication of a red light bar. Furthermore I found the idea of a road construction warning light very charming and narrative: it is clocking-off time; the light is set to red. Come on in!

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Nicolas Vionnet

It is indeed the case that my work tries to sensitize the people for their immediate environment. My works are often restrained, unobtrusive and directly embedded in the landscape – my work would not be readable without a specific surrounding. So it is always about this dialogue, the positioning, interaction and what can come out of these situations. This forces the viewer to perceive the environment from a new perspective. Unimportant and inconspicuous becomes suddenly important and intrusive. Now to your question: Our experiences shape us throughout life. I see this like a simple classical conditioning. Our experiences are a key factor of how we perceive our world and how we behave in certain situations. You thus always have an impact, even if we are not always aware. In this sense, I don’t think that a creative process can be really disconnected from experience.

I must admit in all honesty: Yes, I actually work with synergies, but it was never intended to do so. I very often rely on my gut instinct and just try to bring the work to a coherent state. One advantage of your mentioned interdisciplinary approach is that a work, through the interaction of different techniques, automatically focuses on several aspects and thus can be read on

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Nicolas Vionnet

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Nicolas Vionnet

ART Habens

several levels. However, I am not consciously looking for these multiple layers. In 2011, I have realized the installation in a former Stasi prison in Chemnitz, Germany. The work consisted of a huge mountain of shredded paper, with which I have filled a former interstitial space knee-high. As additional audio-element there were hectic noises of steps and shredding machines. The whole work addressed the last days of the Stasi shortly before the fall oft he wall in 1989. The Stasi tried to destroy as many secret documents as possible. Even today, there are thousands of bags with shredded paper remnants that are now reassembled laboriously by hand. A hilarious story. In this sense you can see my work as a staging of the last hectic hours of the Stasi in 1989.

My work often focuses on the topics of integration and irritation. In other words, I'm trying to integrate something new into the existing environment and thus to irritate at the same time. However, the confusion should be subtle. The phrase "nonhierarchical dialogue with the environment" describes my conviction that the artwork itself may never be dominant. Indeed, there should be no hierarchy. Ideally, there is a balance between work and environment. This balance allows the

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ART Habens

Nicolas Vionnet

viewer to perceive both components simultaneously.

think that's probably one of the most important things. I want that my work can be seen! Art is destined to be shared! It is not that much important to me that I can sell my work, however, I am more interested to exhibit my work in a professional context and on a regular basis. Sales may of course also have a negative influence on the artist's way of working. Many artists argue that they are completely independent - I see that as utterly false. Let's be honest: If you feel a large interest and for example you can sell a complete series of works at once, there is a high probability that you go back to your studio and start working on similar pieces again. I think this is quite normal.

The installation in my view is an oddity among my works. This project was shown in the socalled art box, a typical white cube in the shape of a container that is shown in different locations in the city of Uster. Due to the physical presence oft the box, there was already an existing hierarchy, which I could not prevent. However, I wanted to follow a particular path. Many artists before me have used the box a simple white cube to showcase their existing works. In no case I wanted to do the same. I have decided to give the box a new residential function and to turn it into a retirement home. The whole room was papered, the walls were decorated with old family photos and at the door there was a cloak hanging. In between, the phone rang and you could hear the radio. The people have actually thought that the box is inhabited. By the way: the work's title referred to the same-named book from Georges Steiner, an American literary critic, essayist and philosopher

I would like to thank you for your interest. My work is currently shown at several locations. At the Kulturort Galerie Weiertal (Winterthur, ending on September 7,2014) I present two installation works in a magnificent park (one of the works is the above mentioned ). Furthermore I participate in a group show entitled Small Works at Trestle Gallery (Brooklyn, New York, July 18 – August 22, 2014). There will be a group show entitled Trovato, non veduto at Ausstellungsraum Klingental (Basel, November 1 – 16, 2014). Moreover I am very excited to do another project together with Wouter Sibum (Rotterdam). We will present a major intervention in the sea as part oft he 4th Biennial Aarhus exhibit called Sculpture by the sea. This show will start in June 2016. You are cordially invited to visit my website www.nicolasvionnet.ch, where you can find more information and all exhibition dates.

Absolutely. An artist needs an audience; I

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Sergey Sobolev Lives and works in Moskow, Russia


Sergey So


An interview by and

, curator curator

Child impressions are the strongest and foundational for any person, that's why the fact that my parents were artists decided my future life perspective. It had a significant impact on me and shaped a certain mindset. Later on 12 years of studies at the School of Art first and then at the University of Art laid the significant groundwork for the technical competence as well as for the worldview shaping and aesthetical preferences. We were taught in classical way on the basis of antiquity and renaissance ideals. It formed certain aesthetical principles. They are raised to the rank of philosophy, or even more — to the rank of cult. It is well-known that any false note is horrible to the ear of a musician, and the painters feel the same, but in relation to the colour or shape. But another factor was more influential. The stage of trainings can be compared to bullet acceleration in the gun barrel. It looks as if a person is flying in the intended direction through

Sergey Sobolev

the life, and if they don't meet any invincible obstacles, they don't change this direction for the whole life. It is very important. To deal with any matter it is necessary to focus on it. But it is more important to guess the right direction of this acceleration in the beginning of the life, because if you make a mistake, you may live not your life by inertia. I'm so unfocused by nature and I'm interested in widely different things. And if I didn't have fundamental art education I could be lost in the variety of interests without taking successive steps in definite direction. And I still expand the horizons steadily, and sometimes it

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Sergey Sobolev

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Sergey Sobolev

ART Habens

leads to slowdown. It can be compared to a river — the wider its bed is the slower the stream is. But I don't worry about it, because I haven't a definite professional goal.

As to sculpture and especially to architecture, the technical part is much larger than the creative one here, that's why many projects remain unrealized. But honestly speaking I do not feel sad at this fact, because the most interesting thing is to think up. But I can't relegate the execution to another person in my case, especially when it comes to sculpture, where the shape is critical for conveying the meaning and character. It is very important for me to recognize the concept in all the details, and nobody but I can know it beforehand. A reasonably large project takes half a year and more. Each new project is a small life, which brings you a valuable experience. I believe that the task should always be a bit higher than apparent potentials. In this case it makes you grow and be in progress. Every time I get involved into the project so much, that I do much more than it is required of me. Of course, I do it for myself and my client gets a result as a bonus. To my mind, easy tasks are just time wasters. Simple solutions of difficult tasks are much more interesting. The sculptural art is a precise visual genre. Its shape is its language. The shape has distinct limits, otherwise it is amorphous, shapeless in other words. That's why I put my sculptures into concise shape, polish them up to the state of a sign, and get them rid of unwanted details to avoid anything arbitrary. Optimization is the sculpture's genesis. The significance of meaning is put into the significance of form, as if into the box. Or conversely the significance of meaning gets covered with a shell of the significant form. I theorize more and more over

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Sergey Sobolev

years, and I consider it to be a more productive process. I get more and more absorbed into philosophy, formation of the attitude towards different objects. That's why I will not tell you about the particular process of sculpture creation and other projects, about the technical matters.

It was a project for the certain place, for the private area. It was planned to build children's playing space. At the same time the modern architecture of the house and the forest site layout created a definite image, which I didn't want to ruin. That's why no childishness in the usual sense of the word would have done for me. I took an independent view of the task. What do children need? They need their own world, and the more secret and hidden from the adults' eyes it is the more interesting and attractive it seems to them. I had several ideas and the space spheres were one of them. They looked like enigmatic artifacts, meteorites, or petrified remains, absolutely integrated into the landscape, but inside you could see a different world, as in the ant hill. These are the interconnected spherical spaces with the hole-like passages, and I think it is rather interesting to wander through them.

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Sergey Sobolev

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ART Habens

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Sergey Sobolev

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Sergey Sobolev

ART Habens

Many people are led by stereotypes. The stereotype is a convenient system for communications. It is a ready module, but it is closed. It means that it doesn't intend any development. I can't accept the stereotypes at all. It is not that I struggle against them, I rather ignore them, do not see them just on principle. But sometimes it is difficult. It requires a special state of keeping distance. I try to be open-minded, like a child, and to create my own constructions, as if I build them with toy blocks. Any concept isn't an absolute for me; it is a flexible material for creative work. The artist's role is very wide. It ranges from the balance of irrationality, which is necessary for the inner self of any person in such a pragmatic world, and stimulation of the people's sociability, to breaking stereotypes when they begin to dominate the reason, as the art lives by its own code.

At a certain point I broke from bonds of definitions at last. Everything amalgamated into an integrated stream of creativity for me. Functional and aesthetic aspects are present everywhere. Creativity unites everything I do. Creativity always means discovering something new, inventing something that didn't exist in this world five minutes ago. But sometimes situation calls for definitions, as our brain can work with definitions only, but I try to veil everything. I try to turn architecture and design into art, and endue

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Sergey Sobolev

the art with functionality, if not practical but in any case curative or psychological. All the disciplines I've talked about are directly related to the form and the space. The fact that I'm engaged into various activities is explained not by my efforts to find the appropriate tool for selfexpression, but more by the fact that I have my own perspective, my own point of view, where I see the tings a bit different, and sometimes I want to express it. I have defined this term as "meta-design", it belongs to a different level, and that's why the discipline differences do not play an important role. As for the abstract forms, here we deal with absolute metaphysics.

I noticed that you seem to induce the viewer to abandon himself to his associations, looking at time in spatial terms and I daresay, rethinking the concept of space in such a static way: this seems to remove any historic gaze from the reality you refer to, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a more atemporal form. How do you conceive the rhythm of your works? I deal with supertemporal categories. I'm interested in timeless themes. They unite people regardless of geography or epoch. It is the level where there is no discord, and I try to bring it outside, out of the depth of the unconscious. I want it to get material form and to transform from a theory to a real artifact. To the thing which many people guess, but do not find a real confirmation. This applies especially to sculpture art. It has always been a synonym for immortalization.

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Sergey Sobolev

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Sergey Sobolev

our presence in this world means a close contact between people, that's why it is a bit wrong to retire into shell and to escape from reality to one's own worlds. Visual art is intended for the viewer, because it is a form of communication. That's why I listen to the response, but I'm interested not so much in logical valuation, I'm interested more in emotions, how my objects correct and retune viewer's inner vibrations.

Audience has a determining value, if an artist is socially focused. In fact, it often inspires their creativity, discover new topics for them. The ideas appear in a certain context, and they would never come into mind by themselves. The both of them are interesting, one supplies another. I began to feel more keenly the social role. I think

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Sergey Sobolev

ART Habens

better is your own example. My life, its latest years turn into reconsidering and new life philosophy shaping. Its final meaning is to learn how to live in a right way. The right way is when nobody can dispute it. The right way is when it is very convincing, intelligible, and inspiring.

My creative work plans are deeply connected to common life tasks. As for me, many things in people's lives seem unacceptable in the most essential aspects. It is difficult to notice it from the outside, because I do not waste my power for the struggle. Nothing must be rejected and nothing must be struggled with, before you find an alternative. And if it is really worthy, you won't have to prove anything any more. That's why the best way to change something for the

These are sculptural furniture, where the shape becomes tactile. These are luminous objects, conceptual installations, and sculpture as a process of the shape investigation and its influence on a person, the issues of morphology, form therapy and visual philosophy.

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(in collaboration with John Wenskovitc

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Byron Rich

ART Habens

video, 2013

h and Heather Brand) 422 0

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Byron Rich

4 03 Summer 2015 (in collaboration Summer 2015 with John Wenskovitch and Heather Brand)


An interview by

, curator

and

curator

Many artists from the contemporary scene attempt to establish effective synergies between Technology and Art: but most of them just uses cutting edge techniques to explore concepts: what instead marks out Byron Rich's approach is an incessant investigation about the inner nature of the variety of medium he probes, to unveil the impact of techno-sphere on identity. Rich's multimedia installations reject any conventional classification and could be considered an interface between the ever growing unstable categories of reality and fiction: we are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to his stimulating production. Hello Byron and welcome to ART Habens. To start this interview, would you like to tell us something about your background? You have a solid formal training and after your studies in New Media, you nurtured your education with a MFA of Emerging Practices that you received about two years ago from the University of Buffalo. How have these experiences influenced your evolution as an artist? And in particular, since you currently hold the position of Assistant Professor at the Allegheny College, I would like to ask how does teaching informs the way you nowadays relate yourself to art making: have you ever happened to draw inspiration from the idea of your students?

Byron Rich

There are vast parks with massive Douglas Firs, then wild grasslands juxtaposed against the contemporary office towers that spring up out of seemingly nowhere. I think that juxtaposition was more important than I really could comprehend as a child. In retrospect I always grappled with the idea of reconciling a vast unknowable wild world with the strict geometry and formalism that humanity likes to impart on it.

Sure. I was born in Calgary, Alberta, in western Canada. I grew up there, spending much of my youth riding my bike in the foothills in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It was a pretty idyllic childhood actually. My parents are fairly free-spirited, and there weren’t a ton of restrictions on me as long as I was home by dinner. I was free to just be immersed in this beautiful landscape. The city itself has a weird paradox about it.

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sleeping in a tent in a peanut allergy induced stupor while in New Zealand, never expecting to get in. When I arrived home to Canada, I received my acceptance letter.

When I was twelve I became quite sick, and spent many months in hospital hooked up to myriad life support systems. I think I started to believe I was a bit of a cyborg, artificially sustained via this vast digital/mechanical apparatus. I should mention that my dad and I would always watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, so the Borg was omnipresent in my imagination. Spending so much time alone while sick I somehow felt a strange sense of interconnectedness to something larger than myself. I talked myself out of isolation and into believing that I was just a tiny part of a massively complex system that included digital and mechanical entities. I was a bit intense for someone not even in their teenage years.

After two unbelievably trying, inspiring, and deeply contemplative years, I completed my MFA having had the chance to work with Steve and Paul. They introduced me to integrating science, or at least ideas inspired by science, into my work. They really made me feel as though I had something to say as an artist, and to a lesser degree, a theorist. Grad school was my first taste of being part of a discourse so much bigger than myself, and my personal feeling and beliefs. I felt like a contributor to culture in some small way. And to me, making culture is what artists do. I had some MASSIVE failures in graduate school, and made a few works that I look back on a shake my head in disbelief that I could be so silly. I still have a ton to learn.

I spent my teens grappling with angst, but finding an outlet in an art class that I took every Friday night for 4 or 5 years. The meditative vibe that this class seemed to elicit brought me some peace.

Now that I am the teacher, it is both terrifying, and incredibly satisfying. Paul once told me that “You’ll always feel like a bit of an imposter as a professor.”, and it’s true. That said, no one inspires me to build more knowledge, and become more proficient than my students. They force me to be empathetic, self-reflexive, and curious. I love them. Teaching is the only thing I actually feel good at. There is nothing better than feeling the moment when a student realizes the power that art can hold. When they become aware of its ability to introduce people to new ways of thinking, and the possibility of it as a tool for building compassion and empathy, I feel moved and that I’m contributing to something far larger and more profound. I get that feeling of deep interconnectedness that I mentioned earlier. A feeling that few other experiences can elicit.

Then University. I studied with a wonderful professor, Jean-Rene Leblanc. He really set me free to be as creatively liberated as I desired. In a way, I set up my own classes, and pursued whatever medium I felt best articulated my message, most of the time failing miserably, but I was free. He is the person I credit with much of my ambition. I worked at an artist Run Centre called TRUCK in Calgary, supervised by the director, Renato Vitic. I was a handful still, but he helped me get a better sense of the possibility of being part of a non-commercial art scene. While at Truck, I met a wonderful artist, Jessica Thompson. She was an artist-inresidence with TRUCK. She showed me an art world that I hadn’t realized existed, that being the deeply inspiring and crisis-inducing field of Critical Theory. She forced me to apply to The University at Buffalo where I’d be able to study under two of my greatest influences, Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble, and Paul Vanouse. I scribbled my letter of intent while

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My students have moved me from a sort of selfish mode of making into a place of really wanting to make things that make people reconsider how they interact in the world, whether that world is physical or digital, or

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Naim El Hajj

ART Habens

21 4 06collaboration with John Wenskovitch and Heather Summer 2015 (in Brand)


ART Habens

Byron Rich

23 4 05 Summer 2015 with John Wenskovitch and Heather Brand) (in collaboration


Byron Rich

somewhere in between as the case most often seems. That was a bit of a novel, so I’ll stop.

ART Habens

of Art and Science is where the cultural contributions can be most fully made in my estimation. Science will always be a borderline mystical practice to most people, much in the same way art making is. The performative nature of the lab parallels the performance that occurs in an artist’s studio, at least to those outside the disciplines. When these performances collide, the ethical and philosophical boundaries of technologies, sciences, and the public policy relating to them, can be most deeply explored. The true innovators of this field are people like Paul and Steve, Adam Brown, Julian Oliver, and Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts of SymbioticA. They are asking the most important questions, and contributing to culture in a way that I aspire to. They exist as artists on the boundary of reality and fiction, probably my favorite realm to inhabit.

You are a versatile artist and I have highly appreciated the cross-disciplinary feature that marks out your multifaceted production and I would suggest our readers to visit http://www.byronrich.com in order to get a synoptic view of the variety of your projects. While superimposing concepts and techniques from apparetly opposite spheres, as Art and Science, and consequently crossing the borders of different artistic fields, have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

I am in no way a student of the sciences. I cribbed a phrase from Paul (sorry Paul!), that being “impassioned amateur”. I learn what I need to as I go. Sometimes I play with pseudo-science to point out the lack of scientific criticality and knowledge that seems to permeate contemporary culture, and sometimes I will get a little further into the sciences (still only dipping my toe into the vast expanse that science is). Science is important to me without question. I’m absolutely fascinated by it. I wish I had the mind for it.

I would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from IMMOR(t)AL, an interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once caught my attention of this work is the way it brings to a new level of significance an impressive quantity of data: I think it's important to underline that your process does not forces concepts to relate that would otherwise be unrelated. Rather, you provide them of a stage of semantic amplification that extracts meanings where the viewers could recognize just a huge quantity of data to be deciphered. Would you like to introduce our readers to the genesis of this project? In particular, how did you manage the collaboration with to John Wenskovitch and Heather Brand to developed the initial idea?

I firmly believe that scientists are some of the most creative people that exist. They are asking profound questions in pursuit of some kind of ultimate answer to the ultimate questions about who we are, where we came from, and what is possible in an unimaginably incalculable universe. People like Carl Sagan, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking have made some of these concepts accessible to me. The unselfish pursuit of scientists into answering some of the most complex questions is remarkable to me, so their willingness to articulate some of these massive notions into a form that I can digest is something I am deeply thankful for.

IMMOR(t)AL is a strange project in many ways. It ties together rather disparate ideas and technologies into a semi-coherent form. The basic idea came about when I attended an incubator work shop in Buffalo, NY with Ionat and Oron. It was held at Big Orbit

Artists can come at some of these questions that scientists are asking relatively unburdened by convention. At the intersection

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Byron Rich

Gallery, the same venue where I staged my thesis show. I’ll explain the project some. We are using EEG data to control the conditions inside a custom built and designed incubator and transilluminator. Inside the incubator resides an eGFP HeLa colony. The life of this colony is determined by the data gathered via EEG. On a most basic level it attempts to get viewers to realize that actions produce unseen or intended consequences, not matter how seemingly devoid of intention those actions are. Second, we wanted to delve more deeply into the subjectivity of data analysis and interpretation, and the dangers that exist when data is filtered through bias and presented to the public as fact. The underlying pure data may be objective, but how it is presented is often deeply subjective. To that end we chose to utilize EEG, or electroencephalogram. EEG is a deeply misunderstood technology, one that the public generally has very little understanding of. Anecdotally we noticed that many people seem to believe that somehow EEG is able to read their thoughts, control impulses, etc. In reality EEG data is just a glimpse into what is happening inside the brain as it monitors spontaneous brain activity via minute changes in electrical patterns. It isn’t the witchcraft it is believed to be. Even the placement of electrodes to monitor electrical brain activity is highly subjective, differing from individual to individual. The idea that we are reading peoples minds and that is what is controlling the system is completely wrong. It is a highly subjective system by design. Lastly we wanted to investigate the idea of body sovereignty, and agency, especially those who are part of marginalized sectors of society. We chose the highly contentious and often used HeLa cell as our subject. The

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Byron Rich

ART Habens

(in collaboration with Ian F. Thomas and Alex Derwick)

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ART Habens

Naim El Hajj

(in collaboration with Ian F. Thomas and Alex Derwick)

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Byron Rich

ART Habens

ethics of our use of the HeLa cell is very debatable, and we are open to this criticism as it offers a portal to discussing the ethics of how the HeLa cell came to prominence in the first place. The HeLa cell is important because it was the first recognized immortal cell line, however it was taken without permission from an African America woman, Henrietta Lacks, in the 1950s as she was dying from cervical cancer. From there it became an indispensible research tool, but also a huge money generator, for cultures were commoditized and sold to labs across the world. Her family didn’t know that her cells lived on beyond her death, nor did they receive any kind of monetary compensation. With all that said, IMMOR(t)AL is highly contentious as it delves deeply into institutionalized racism, and issues surrounding self-ownership and governance, especially on the part of marginalized sectors of society. It’s a very sad piece in many ways. Controlling whether these cells live or die via a highly subjective interpretation of brain activity is a bit unsettling. As for how the collaboration came about, it really started as a conversation in my living room. Heather had just finished a very well know book about Henrietta Lacks, and I had just found an EEG setup to play around with. I wondered about controlling an incubator with an EEG, and John said he could make it happen by building custom software, and here we are! John is a brilliant programmer, and Heather find nuance in ideas and concepts that I would never notice. It’s a very healthy collaboration. Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled Autonomous Player Simulation, that probes the capability of a medium to offer constructed realites to whom we relate. While questioning about the disconnect between physical experience and the immateriality of the technological simulation

(in collaboration with Ian F. Thomas and Alex Derwick)

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Byron Rich

of physicality, you seem to suggest the necessity of going beyond symbolic strategies to examinate the relationship between reality and perception, but that we should focus on the medium itself in order to understand the way it offers a translation of reality. Do you agree with this analysis? Moreover, I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion, personal experience is absolutely indispensable as part of the creative process? Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

brought with him an immense knowledge of craft, and an enormous capability for refining the aesthetic into something that could be playful, but terrifying. Ian has a very unique perspective. His thoughts are dark and dystopian often, but tempered by a sense of play a wonder. His mind works like no one else I know. He’s a grown child with a deep understanding of geopolitics, and critical theory. Somehow he hasn’t been weighed down by this often heady knowledge, and it manifests in his work as playful, but often frightening contemplations on contemporary culture.

I do agree with your analysis. I think I should start with the genesis of the project. It came about through conversations with my collaborator Alex Derwick (www.alexderwick.com) about the ways in which science fiction is an incredible catalyst for the creation and development of new technologies. This is not a new notion by any means. Jules Verne in 2001: A Space Odyssey outlined staged rockets for space exploration, Start Trek: TNG envisioned something similar to an iPad, but for us it was Robocop and the autonomous drones that patrolled the city. Alex is a film buff like no other, and he began showing me all these different renditions of similar drones in movies from the mid-late 20th century. Only now the

Alex and Ian really deserve much of the credit for the project. Both share a very unique filter for societal trends and translate them into unexpectedly playful forms with dark subtexts is really remarkable. If I had done this project alone I think it would have been too overt a gesture, imposing and generally quite bleak. Their fun-loving-in-the-face-of-terrible-odds personalities elevated the project. We set out to build APS out of metal, and make it look as militarized as possible, while having a sense of playfulness. We were to present it at ISEA 2014 in Dubai, but then we started to get a series of emails trying to persuade us to limit the militaristic-vibe that we were going for to be more respectful of the culture in the UAE. We debated on whether we were sacrificing artistic integrity is we catered to their desires, ultimately deciding that the discussion that would be possible by pandering to our hosts was ultimately interesting in and of itself, so APS in its current form was born. We programmed it to track skin color. At ISEA it was targeting people with lighter skin tones. I think the meaning is pretty obvious given the context.

science has caught up with the fiction and the possibility of “ethical algorithms” has begun to be realized. We wanted to demonstrate how terrifying it is that amateurs, artists in this case, could develop a simple way to make judgment calls on individuals and perceive their threat level and systematically target them. We laid out sketch after sketch, settling on an aesthetic and scale. The final project was much smaller than what we envisioned, but I’ll touch on that in a minute.

The project was intended to kind of hit you over the head with its message, and give you room to find more nuance if you wanted to search it out. The piece became a terrifying game. People wanted to interact with it, and see how the piece “felt” about them. Some

I met Ian F. Thomas (www.ianfthomas.com) a few months later and told him about the idea. He seemed intrigued, and had a unique vision in how to actually accomplish it. He

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Byron Rich

ART Habens

(in Collaboration with Bobby Gryzynger)

disappointed if it didn’t target them. I think the playful nature of it says much about the disconnect between physicality and immateriality that you mentioned. It brings video game sensibilities into the physical world, allowing people to play with it before realizing how terrifying it actually is that an autonomous system is, to a degree, making judgment calls on their lives. I think the play vs. terror duality is the strength of the piece.

Also important to us was the idea that there always needs to be a designer of any kind of ethical algorithm, and that the programming is highly subjective. The fact that the device targets people seemingly autonomously doesn’t, in my opinion, relinquish the designer from responsibility, however my perception is that a lack of techno and media criticality manifests as a release from responsibility of action from the designer onto the machine.

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ART Habens

Byron Rich

People really believe that the machine is its own entity, and that to us, is more than a bit frightening. We are working (slowly) on ideas for a new iteration that really ups the creepy factor. I’m not going to explain it yet, but hopefully it will happen soon. While engaging with the ongoing debate surrounding copyright restrictions, Paint-ByNumbers also offers an opportunity to rethink about ever growing informationfocused techno-sphere and what actually could be hidden between an apparently ubiquitous determinism. In particular, you seem to highlight the creative potential of aleatory process in the construction of meaning. While walking our readers in performative aspect of this work, would you like to shed a light about the role of randomness in Paint-By-Numbers and in your approach in general? In particular, do you think that chance could play a creative role?

Oh, Paint-by-Numbers. I think it needs a ton of work, and it’s another piece that I’m revisiting and changing quite drastically. I think in its current stage it is barely scratching the surface of its potential. I was walking down a corridor during grad school and saw all this work on the walls, and it all seemed so formulaic, which it was, as it was undergrad work based on strict criteria. I began to ponder whether or not a computer could randomly produce those pieces simply by generating colors and assigning them to pixels. The old thousand monkeys in a room, eventually they’ll write Shakespeare or some such thing. I didn’t know how to approach it, so I asked my studio mate, Bobby Gryzynger, and he threw out some ideas on how it could come about. After a few days he had put together this rather simple processing sketch that became PBN. Like APS, a person fundamentally designs the system and has and it has an enormous

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Byron Rich

ART Habens

(in collaboration with John Wenskovitch)

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ART Habens

Byron Rich

degree of subjectivity built in. That’s what I’m working on removing now. When I ponder whether a computer can play a creative role, I tend to think it can set up parameters for creativity. I’ll give you one of my favorite examples. Charles Bukowski had an old Apple computer. He began using it to write poetry. The simple word processor had some autoformat functionality, and rather than fight against it, Bukowski embraced it. The old Apple became a collaborator of sorts. Was it a conscious creator? Obviously not, but did it play a role in the development and ultimate interpretation of the work? Certainly.

future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

So I guess it becomes more of a philosophical question: Does something need consciousness to be creative? I worry that creativity is over-fetishized by those who want to put humanity on a pedestal. Will a computer ever be able to be unequivocally conscious? I don’t know. I think this stuff with the Neural Networks is an interesting foray into it, however it is still fraught with philosophical questions. And therein lies the power of art: Being a catalyst for brining these enormous questions into the light. I think art, like science, should be probing the ultimate questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? What does it mean to be human? You know, those little things that we all wrestle with to one degree or another while we wait for a bus or clip our nails. I don’t think art can answer these questions the same way that science can, but I believe that art can open intellectual doors to ways of thinking that no other method can. It’s a wildly liberated space if you let it be. I always tell my students to not be held down by the history of a medium. When you respect where you came from, but not allow it to completely rule you, then you can make work that really asks something of its viewer.

I think my work is on the verge of major change. I don’t know what path that will lead me down yet, but with some time I will figure something out. Or not. This summer I have been lucky enough to spend my time in Europe at a couple residencies. Pilotenkueche (www.pilotenkueche.net) in Leipzig, Germany. The second was a bit of a dream come true. It was Ars Bioarctica, in Kilpisjarvi, Finland. Working in these two wildly different environments has produced some interesting outcomes. I’m working on a project called Repatriated, and another called GARRy (GPS Assisted Ragweed Robot). Both are about reintroducing material and immaterial remnants back to their origins. Repatriated is a huge departure for me. I’m excited about it. I’ll be heading home to western Canada in August, and I’m going to do another Repatriation of residue from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

I have no idea. I don’t think of myself as much of a maker. I think I come up with crazy ideas, and utilize whatever I can to make them a reality (or fiction). I think I need to fall in love with a process, something I’ve failed to do. I’ve missed out on jobs and opportunities at every corner because I’m just never in love with a way of producing and too in love with the idea. I think I need to become more knowledgeable. Theoretically and technically I have a lot of work to do in becoming the kind of artist I want to be.

To answer your question more concretely, I need to get a handle on the biological science side of things. That is my goal now. Juggling gaining that intimate knowledge with showing, teaching, and trying to have a life is hard, and will take time. An interview by

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Byron. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your

Summer 2015 Special Issue

and

23 4 05

, curator curator


Naim El Hajj

21 4 06

ART Habens

Summer 2015

ART Habens Art Review // Special Issue  
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