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

Leaving Soon, 2013 a work by Myriam Dalal

A r t

R e v i e w


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

A r t

R e v i e w

Myriam Dalal

James Paddock

Tara Tate

Johanis Tsoumas

H.S. El Azzabi

Ilse Schrottenbach

Lebanon

United Kingdom

United Kingdom/Cyprus

Greece

United Kingdom

Austria

The cross over between the Abstract and Realism is my method of putting a serious message across, yet being gentle at the same time. We can be sensitive creatures and I do want all sorts of people to understand my Political and Artistic approach. I want my work to be appreciated and to touch people no matter what their background. My art usually works on several levels so hopefully there is something for everyone in it.

My work stems from explorations encompassing the seemingly innocuous aspects existent within everyday experiences. My focus is the ergonomic and entropic realism and reflexivity within the purveying digital screen, rituals of consumption and the commodities that populate and punctuate the landscape of our 竏ベistence. I inflate, dissect and muddle the narrati-ves and tropes that frame the human condition and interaction with the fluctuating world, in order to question ideas of perception, urban lifestyle, mortality, and all other existent binaries.

Using a variety of materials Johan-nis creates a col-lage that refers to the visualization of an imaginary world. Focusing on the concepts of gears and people he seeks to land-scape a world both nightmarish and beautiful. Sometimes by a symbolic and sometimes by an eloquently visual, but not academic way, he highlights the anguish of man, who has always been a member of an industrialized, sovereign and otherworldly society.

In my work I try to regain control over the tyranny of image which drowns the truth in a sea of references and fragments our perception of the world. Ironically it all started with my generation. We have become the victims of overconsumption of data. But at the same time we are responsible for this overproduction of images that floods all communication platforms and contributes to make our world opaque and superficial.

Ilse Schrottenbach addresses the ideas of uncertainty, changeability and finiteness. She tries to conceive the notions of option and dilemma, and to capture nonsharpness with a tangible language. In her recent works, she links different elements and layers in terms of time, context and media, and lets them play PingPong. All her work is somehow about recurrently asking questions and processing the few things we are sometimes able to catch.


In this issue

Myriam Dalal

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Lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon Mixed media, Installation

Tara Tate Lives and works in London, UK and Cyprus Mixed media, Installation, Video

Ilse Schrottenbach Lives and works in the Vienna, Austria Mixed media, Installation

Theresa Devine Lives and works in Tempe, Arizona, USA Mixed media

Johannis Tsoumas Lives and works in London and Athens Mixed media, Painting

James Paddock Lives and works in London, UK Painting, Mixed media Joana Patrão

Theresa Devine

Anna-Maria Amato

Portugal

USA

United Kingdom

The research that I’ve been developing is based upon an interest in the experience of landscape and the recognition of its complexity as motivator of the creation. To frame this I’ve been doing an investigation on the historical category of the landscape in the contemporary con-text. I have an interest in transient conditions of the landscape, the ontological capacity of the elements that makes possible to think on the landscape as a stage of projective relations.

Ce n'est pas un jouet: This is not a toy. Why do we forget to play when we grow up? Why do we hurt each other? Everywhere I look I see distrust, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. This is followed with greed, selfishness, and pain. How can play help us to understand each other? Can play transform us and our world? Play is how we learn and gain trust from each other, so can play liberate us from the cycle of hurting each other?

My work is a constant attempt to create relationship between human (industry) and nature. The slightest show of nature, serves as an escape to human vanity, even if only as a counterpoint. Sometimes serves to denounce the disregard of human beings to nature, after all that "She" gave him. Directly or indirectly my job search or attempt to find this counterpoint. The human being is nature, but not everything that it also creates is.

Anna-Maria Amato Lives and works in London, UK Photography, Mixed media

Hanna S El Azzabi Lives and works in London, UK Mixed media, Painting

Joana Patrão Lives and works in Portugal Mixed media, Video, Installation

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Special thanks to: Charlotte Seeges, 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.

Study after Velázquez, Francis Bacon & Sergej Eisenstein. Pope Innocent X


Myriam Dalal Dalal Refining and redefining memory, death and the notion of material presence through my work, was initially triggered by a personal experience from which I started depicting the anxiety of existing, keeping a trace and the duality of living and dying that human beings still fail to abide to. In the book “the possible life of Christian Boltanski”, Catherine Grenier asked Boltanski whether he thinks art’s main purpose is to retain something from childhood, the artist replied saying that art is an attempt to prevent death and the flight of time. He then added that art is always a sort of defeat, a struggle one can’t win: “Starting a portrait of your brother from scratch every day, you’re not going to make him immortal: he’s going to age, he’s going to change and the portrait will never be him.” Similar to Boltanski, I might, after all, be trying to prevent death, while seeking to add to discussions of personal and collective memory within the context of society and its narratives: from the culture of commemoration, the grieve, the aftermath of conflict and the many personal mourning agonies. Being both emotionally and conceptually engaged in the topic, my work seeks to develop and communicate the experience through various visual perceptions. Myriam Dalal Special Issue

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Myriam Dalal

An interview with An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Myriam Dalal's works accomplishes a multilayered exploration of the notions of memory, death and material presence, drawing the viewers into a liminal area in which subcounscious and conscious level cohexist in a consistent unity. Her projects trigger the viewers' perceptual parameter to raise questions about the elusive relationship between universal imagery and the way we relate ourselves to the realm of experience, creating an unconventional and captivating narrative. One of the most convincing aspect of Dalal's approach is the way it condenses the non-sharpness quality of memory with a tangible language, walking the viewers into an area of intellectual interplay that urges them to explore unstability in the contemporary age: we are very pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted artistic production. Hello Myriam 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 having earned BA in Fine Arts you nurtured your education joining the Masters in fine Arts program at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux Arts in Beirut, where you eventually degreed with distinction about five years ago, with specialization in Artistic photography. How have these experiences influenced your evolution as an artist? And in particular, how does your Lebanese cultural substratum inform the way you relate yourself to art making and to the aesthetic problem in general?

Myriam Dalal

appreciation I always received when I showed them the sketches. Putting my three year old reasoning into Hegel’s philosophy on arts and aesthetics, I think what I wanted was to visually communicate with a broader audience, in an attempt to restore my existence.

I’ve always wanted to be a “painter”. I was three and my parents started noticing the very little –arguable- “talent” that I had. Honestly, I don’t think it was because of my remarkable doodles, but what got me hooked up, practicing ever since, was the

My academic background played a fundamental role in rooting the research, and versatility of both medium and concept in my work. As for the connection between

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Leaving Soon, 2013

Leaving Soon, 2013

the social context of being Lebanese and my work, I’d like to say that, as a human and an artist, my universal being is deeply and undeniably affected by my merged memories and experiences in this sociocultural environment.

to elaborate about your production, would you like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? In particular, have you ever happened to realize that a synergy between several viewpoints is the only way to express of the ideas you explore?

The distinctive feature that marks out your multifaceted production is a successful attempt to condemn into a consistent unity the notions of memory, death and material presence: your approach reveals an incessant search of an organic balance between the emotional sphere and an autonomous conceptualism. Before starting

The fascination I have for death is every series’ trigger. (I think I share this fascination with every human being.) From that point on, I question every facet of a subcategorized death panel. I question but I also feel the anxiety of my concept. The combination of both easy to connect to,

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Leaving Soon, 2013

Leaving Soon, 2013

personal and emotionally elaborative thoughts, with the universal and conceptual nature of the visual work that I present isn’t the only way I found to express the ideas I explore, but rather the only way I chose. I’m not interested in elitist approaches to contemporary art.

elusive relationships between memory and the way it is triggered by sense: when walking your readers through the genesis of this captivating project, would you tell us something about the role of memory in your work and why you have centered a relevant part of your practice on it?

We would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from leaving soon, an interesting multimedia installation that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. This project challenges the viewers' perceptual parameters to rethink the

When losing a loved one, memory works in the most repetitive pattern, unlike the saying that time heals wounds. Those now burdening wounds keep surfacing even when they’re mostly unwelcome. The human senses are scientifically blamed of the involuntarily triggering of these

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Myriam Dalal

memories and must be hypothetically shut to escape to forgetfulness. “Leaving soon” exemplified my personal anguish which transitioned to a nationwide scale, by losing collectively as victims of suicide bombings in Lebanon since 2013. I used all five senses in my installation to emotionally trigger the viewer’s memory. Other than in “leaving soon”, memory’s responsibility in parallel to death has taken a significant part of my practice because of its abstract nature and the absurdity of its involvement in death and its reasoning both individually and collectively. After all, everyone wants to leave something behind in their quest to immortality and memory ends up being their medium. Leaving soon has been recently exhibited at the Ayyam Gallery that has been transformed into a site-specific installation: how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space?

When curator Rania Monzer from Ayyam Gallery Beirut suggested we disregard the gallery’s space and build a dark room in which the installation fits, “leaving soon” surpassed its initial impact solely because this meant that any given viewer is not asked to step into a gallery to interact with the work, but rather enter a neutral space, free to maximize the experience with all five senses. In my opinion, and as I previously explained, the more people I can connect to, the closer I am to being an artist and in that sense, the public sphere and the integration of viewers in the work itself is crucial when no space limits are forced. Another interesting work from your recent production that has particularly impacted on us ad on which we'll be pleased to spend some words is entitled Consuming Memory in which you have accomplished a

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Consuming Memory, 2015

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compelling investigation about the idea of consumption, that pervades our contemporary societies and especially the Lebanese one, that is caused by the constant fear of being held back towards history. We have been impressed with multilayered feature of this work, which gives permanence to the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the notion of memory. So we 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?

Genuine is a virtue of art. In “Consuming Memory” I tried to convey a personal theory in which I connected consumerism to collective memory in an attempt to visually translate and question the pattern of Lebanese collective memory. I wouldn’t call it direct experience but rather personal interest and approach submersed in a sociocultural background. For instance, in my series “Souvenir”, I visualized the feeling of suicidal patients whose memory is generally diagnosed with selective impairment. The creative process here wasn’t triggered by direct experience but still lies under the socio-cultural context of the subject itself which was elicited after reading in a recent research conducted by a local NGO, that one Lebanese citizen commits suicide every three days. Consuming Memory has impressed us also for the way it raises questions about our contemporary societies, often subverting the perceptual parameters that affect the unstable sensibility: many artists from the contemporary scene, as Judy Chicago or more recently Jennifer Linton, use to include socio-political criticism in their works. It is not unusual that an artist, rather than urging the viewer to take a personal position on a subject, tries to convey his personal take about the major issues that affect contemporary age. Do you

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consider that your works could be political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? And in particular, what could be in your opinion the role that an artist could play in the contemporary society?

I don’t look for answers, I’m not a scientist and I don’t make judgments because I’m in no position of favoring doctrines that end up serving as propaganda. My work was never about making statements that favor or criticize a socio-political matter; it rather raises questions. It’s neither up to artists to increase awareness, given the fact that campaigns do that efficiently; nor irritate the world with their political statements. Artist Mona Hatoum doesn’t portray the Israeli regime’s atrocities committed in Palestine in “Present Tense” for instance; she rather succeeds in incorporating the viewer in thoughtful questions of identity, heritage, borders and history. Artists shouldn’t play any role in contemporary society other than maintaining an authentically true and genuine approach to their world. We definitely love the way Ra’is El Teiboot questions the abstract feature of images, unveiling the visual feature of information you developed through an effective non linear narrative. In particular, playing with the evocative power of parts of human body, Ra’is El Teiboot, establishes direct relations with the viewers: German photographer and sculptor Thomas Demand once stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead". What is your opinion about it? And in particular how do you conceive the narrative for your works?

Consuming Memory, 2015

the purpose of a DIY self explanatory photo book which is supposed to teach the reader how to perform the culturally familiar middle eastern coffin dance in eight different steps, as performed by the dancers, actors and performers chosen to take part in this catalogue. Several art movements argued over whether art should hold symbols, tell stories or question psychological connotations, whether in film making, photography or

“Ra’is El Teiboot” which translates into “How to Make the Coffin Dance” was based on a non linear narrative form because it served

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Absence. Presence, 2012


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Myriam Dalal

of art. In my work, I always try to communicate on different levels and layers with the viewers, because I want to articulate my thoughts to the widest range of people, which ends up playing a major role in the shaping process of my series. I want people to feel the work and engage with it no matter how little knowledge/interest they might have in art. The deeper their interest and understanding is of the subject/concept or the medium itself, the more layers they’ll manage to extract out of the work.

literature. But I think the approach that serves most in communicating the subject, should determine the technical means to it. The performative nature Ra’is El Teiboot of triggers primordial parameters concerning our relation with physicality: as Gerhard Richter once remarked, "my concern is never art, but always what art can be used for": what is your opinion about the functional aspect of Art in the contemporary age?

Both the book and the YouTube video projection presented in the installation of the photo series “Ra’is El Teiboot” (how to make the coffin dance) integrate the viewer in the work physically, because I thrive to make the most of this interaction with the viewers while articulating my visual thought. Richter’s remark on communicating art, explains better his use of the verb “used for” in the quote you just presented: “Art serves to establish community. It links us with others and with the things around us.” Only in that sense, I think that the “functional” aspect of art can be implicated.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Myriam. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I’m currently working on two new series: the first “Contemporary Memorial Portraits” in which I explore how time and technology led to the popularization of a sadomasochistic performance, that of taking pictures of dead bodies right after accidents’; and how this once practiced sign of fearless remembrance of the dead -by taking the corpse’s last portrait photograph during the Victorian erahas now shifted to “democratically” exposing pictures of anonymous dead bodies to all.

Over your career you have exhibited€internationally, showcasing your work in several occasions, including your recent solo exhibition at the Ayyam Gallery, Beirut. One of the hallmarks of your practice is the capability to create a direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

The second series “Days in Qana” explores the time and space repetitive feature and memory’s relevance and registration mechanism on nearly 106 civilians who lost their lives in the small southern town of Qana in Lebanon after an Israeli airstrike in 1996. I can’t visualize the progress of my work yet, but I hope I get enough time and exposure to see it evolve.

Art and communication of the thought go hand in hand in my opinion, and in that context, I find that the audience’s reception of the work itself is crucial to the realization

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An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

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Ra’is El Teiboot, 2015


Tara Tate I am a London-based artist who recently completed my MFA in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Fine Art in 2014. My work uses a wide range of media from video & photography, performance & intervention, sculpture & installation and printmaking in order to explore socio-political, economic and cultural ingredients of everyday life realized through quotidian languages, phenomenology and semiology, and often tiptoeing a fine line toward a satirical/slapstick potential. My work stems from theoretical ‘rawmaterials’ such as the individualbody/’corpus’ (the page-hit), the corporation and the simulation/reproduction of reality and fiction defined by: the unitary capitalisation and reification of abstract bi-products of lifestyles (commodities), modes or rituals of consumption stemming from socialmedia brand identities (consumerism), and the open, shape-changing and ouroboric system of commerce/commercialism (capitalism). I am also interested in the binaries between reality and fiction, and the physical and immaterial, explored through the guise and parameters of the purveying digital screen, and the ergonomic and everyday political implications these divided realities can engender within the entropic lifestyles of urban sprawl and therein the seemingly innocuous everyday acts one has to commit in order to exist (disambiguation). Tara Tate Special Issue

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Tara Tate

An interview with An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Many artists from the contemporary scene explore a variety of themes in a wider variety of media: young London based artist Tara Tate's works goes beyond the expressive potential of the media she wisely combines together to investigate socio-political issues that affects the unstable contemporary age. Rejecting an explanatory strategy, she plays with our universal imagery and subverts the relationship between our perceptual parameters, accomplishing the difficult task of providing the viewers with an Ariadne's thread capable of guiding them towards ubiquitous points of convergence between language and experience. Another one of the most convincing aspects of Tate's practice is the way she establishes an area of intellectual interplay between physical and immaterial, inviting the viewers to explore the unstable relationship between human intervention and freedom in the contemporary age. We are very pleased to introduce our readers to her refined artistic production. Hello Tara and welcome to ART Habens. To start this interview, I would like to pose a couple of questions about your background: you have a solid formal training and you hold a MFA in Fine Art Media that you recently received from the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art. How has this experience influenced your evolution as an artist? In particular, living in a multicultural and vivacious place such as London provides your everyday life with a wide variety of cultural ingredients, that merge with your Cypriot roots: how does it inform the way you conceive and produce your works?

Tara Tate

thrown by new ones when first embarking on the art school trip which seemed to offer a wider scope of ideas, experiments and possibilities; and in the more real sense rooted in the actual techniques and critiques one accumulates throughout the experience and journey of studying art practically and academically. Also now, with the arts in education being under financial attack, to obtain an arts degree has become more expensive than ever and in turn, arguably an even more valuable commodity of sorts

In terms of addressing the idea of formal training, I do see how much influence it has had on me: in the Romantic sense - where my whole notion and idea of art was over-

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to possess. However, there is also a type of Romanticism I associate with artists who have not ploughed that same old field - formal training that is. I think it can be so refreshing to hear someone talk about work, their own work or otherwise, using something alternative to the usual jargon and buzz terms thrown around left, right and centre. I believe my art education has honed in my critical eye but has also crippled me in some respects, diluting my perspective on certain issues in connection to art as opposed to further opening it up. Being born and raised in a small, communal environment such as the island of Cyprus makes living in a complex, chaotic global epicentre such as London all the more inspiring and frightening. I feel like my lack of immunity to a lot of the stimuli that surrounds me in this urban environment means that I can draw from the multicultural fabric in a variety of ways, and observe certain things that I might have otherwise overlooked had this always been the landscape of my existence. Your approach is marked out with a deep multidisciplinary synergy between several disciplines: the way you combine traditional media as photography and sculpture to performance and video provide your works with a dynamic life, and I suggest our readers visit http://taratate.com in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While superimposing concepts and images, crossing the borders of different artistic fields, have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints and practices is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

and in fact a contradiction in terms of what I am trying to achieve in the act of merging these ‘borders’, as you so aptly termed it. It becomes a paradox of sorts. I prefer to try and adopt an experimental approach that places the priority on investigative research

I believe the synergy and fusing of elements definitely accounts for one strong methodology and process, and one that I certainly enjoy traversing; however to say it is the only way to achieve specific results or concepts would be too reductive a statement -

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and conceptual theory, and allows those facets to guide what comes next in terms of the medium and visual aspect, as well as the content. This approach can be tricky because it can rely on the audience to do a lot of the work, particularly because the visual

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can often be limited to being one core facet of an overall work and experience. For example a performance work I create will always start from writing and research, it will then graduate and become something to be generated live incorporating digital media

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as well as objects and sculpture or props and details to be used in the visual aspect. When it is finally performed and delivered to the audience, it is through the medium of my own body and via the channel of my own voice; therefore one is able to see just from

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this mapped out series of processes, disciplinary precincts and techniques that a concept will cross and overlap, just how diverse its journey from A to B can be. The same process can occur when making a video work, or indeed with almost any inception of

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ganic process of recording performative experiences and navigating through public spaces, so I myself am always a disc jockey and presenter of my own signifiers and ‘show’, so to speak. I would like to start to focus on your artistic production beginning from Indulge and Devour, an interesting project featured in the introductory pages of this article: when I first happened to get to know it I received the same sensations as Shahar Marcus' performances. Your insightful investigation about the idea of consumption highlights the entropic feature of the contemporary age and what has caught my attention is the way you wisely mix functional analysis and autonomous aesthetics. Do you conceive this in an instinctive way or rather do you structure your process in order to reach the right balance? Would you like to walk our readers through the evolution of this project?

I believe my process and conception can be a combination of both instinctive decisions and a premeditated, thought-out strategy. An idea will usually start out instinctively, sparked by a specific interest or line of enquiry, or quite literally from an experiment in the studio. I will then research and play around with the concept, crafting it to evolve into something; though I have always thought it best to allow oneself not to know what the end result will be like, and to just arrive there naturally if one can. ‘Indulge and Devour’ (2014) for example, simply began as a piece of writing using similar literary devices of alliteration, anthropomorphism and slam-poetry spokenword style, to a piece of writing I had formed for another project previously. When I began making work about food, consumption, the food industry and the politics of eating, I decided to riff off those literary techniques and combine them with satirical

an idea and artwork - though in the case of a video, its two-dimensionality can almost flatten the labour and visual detail that can go into constructing it which has a whole different set of politics, I believe. Also my own videos tend to be generated through an or-

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Tara Tate

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Reality TV – you want to look away but you are curious, and perhaps you can’t. My character’s costume was a bizarre blend of Carmen Miranda and a Roman elite banqueter. I physically attached myself to the table laid with the food I would be eating, by doubling the tablecloth as my bib and toga. I also fashioned a fruit hat from plastic Japanese-style realistic, fake food including sushi, cupcakes, bourbon/digestive cookies, cheesecake, baked beans, m&m’s and popcorn. This performance also had aims of being similar to the recent Korean fad of gastronomic voyeurism known as ‘Moek-Bang’ meaning ‘broadcast eating’, dubbed by many as a type of ‘food porn’.

writing inspired by all the research on food I had acquired and accumulated via a multitude of sources including recipe books, Food & Culture television programmes, advertisements, food articles, restaurant reviews, online food blogs and social media memes/uploads/comments; as well as intimate video interviews, conversations and interventions I had performed with people in communal food locations. I had also been experimenting with video work and the idea of ‘foodporn’: what this term means to online and offline society as a whole, as well as to the individual. I myself had become fascinated with observational filming and photography, capturing people eating. I have always enjoyed the blend of sensations that this subject seems to invoke and arouse, since it tiptoes that line between disgust and desire. It was at this time I decided that combining the act of eating with oratory might prove an interesting challenge, and endurance act that can be manipulated through performance. The first time I performed this work in 2013 was a much simpler version than its later incantations, and it was from this original performance that I was able to highlight that the visual impact wasn’t how I ideally wanted it. I wanted to construct a much more visually hyperreal situation.

Also, to add insult to injury, the broadcast was delivered to the same audience that were watching me eat and perform live, and included a live-feed, large-scale projection of a macro-lens capture of my mouth - indirectly referencing Samuel Beckett’s Not I. The food choices within the banquet I consume were instinctively informed, based on my own personal desires about food. I also wanted the food that makes up the banquet to be an element of the work, which can be viewed as a kind of organic sculpture and installation. It was generated anew everyday based on several different contingent factors including my ability to eat, the perishable nature of the food, and lastly by what I would replace of the previous day’s food, determined by the availability at the market and supermarket. Lastly, in the delivery of the work, I fully adopt an almost slam-poetry impetus, one could say, containing alliterations as a way for the artist to play with the phonetics of the oratory of the text; using the words contained like ingredients, sucking them in and spitting them out again at the audience, like a bulimic appetite process.

I decided to enact an alter-ego – the character of ‘the glutton’ - with the intention of it being the embodiment and coexistence within one body of all cultural stigmas and desires around indulgence, in order to signify society’s perpetual appetite for any consumable currency. Through this character I would be able to stimulate conversation that engages in the ethical and socio-political debate of what it means to eat, feed, excrete and repeat; an unwelcome reminder of our humanity and mortality and a proponent that is rarely present within the face-filling ritual that separates the mind and body. A personality that pays tribute to the idea of

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Tara Tate

I like the way the psycho-geographical nature of your investigations create a point of convergence between an aseptic, almost scientific point of view on formalism and a severe gaze on today's reality. This combination this combination reminds me of the idea behind Thomas Demand’s works, when he stated that "nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead". While the conception of Art could be considered an abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a sense of permanence, going beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of those concepts you explore. So 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?

I believe there are definitely forms of art that are disconnected and are generated formulaically, even if inherently visual and said to be seeking an emotive response. However, I always set out to make work that has me quite directly in it. What I mean by this is, there needs to be a certain level of one’s own vulnerability as the artist within the work somewhere, otherwise it can quickly just be seen as exploitative, especially when dealing with sicio-political issues. I always try to implicate, or one could even say ‘embarrass’ myself, in order to open up a platform and space for questioning. By drawing from my own experiences in a sometimes almost autobiographical way, with my psycho-geographical, in-situ filming to confessional styles used in my script writing, I feel I am ‘probing’, to borrow Demand’s word, from within, and then utilising my format and delivery as the more ‘aseptic’, formal or critical distance to the subject matter and content. Therefore, this latter phase, in turn, becomes the psychoanalyti-

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cal narrative and/or investigation of the subject matter. My two films ‘Apples’ and ‘Oranges’ (2014) to be viewed in that order - are a perfect example of my attempts to negotiate a bal-

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ance between myself and the world I observe around me, united by the pronoun ‘we’: the individual versus the collective. ‘Apples’ begins as a personal account of early formative childhood experiences with

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food, and leads up to more recent musings on the quirks and ethics of our choices and societal approach to food within the practicalities and realities of daily experience. The text is recorded in my own voice and is edit-

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ed in relation to the visual aspect of the video, that consists of a combination of haphazard and cinematic filming styles, captured in psycho-geographical explorations of three different cities in different parts of the

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world. ‘Oranges’ acts as the sequel and is a response film, scripted and voiced by my partner, recounting his reactions and responses to some of the statements I make in ‘Apples’, as well as drawing out compari-

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Tara Tate

ART Habens

wholly different visual style, taking its trope or template from demonstrative online video tutorials found on Youtube and similar websites. It is a single screen capture of a desktop mouse cursor navigating through the internet in perfectly timed synchronisation to the voice-over, and performs as a type of animation of the text, becoming a recorded, live performance of sorts. Within my work I am forever interested in the tensions that exist in particular binaries, such as: reality/fiction, corpus (single body)/corporation, simulation/reification and physical/immaterial. My work can be tangential, though I like to think it also comes full circle, like a computer waiting cursor or the symbol of Ouroboros (the snake earing itself), which I believe signifies a type of reflexivity or ‘entropy’ as previously mentioned - something very much present in late-Capitalist society, with the immense proliferation of imagery and information. I am interested in the particularities of the purveying, god-like digital screen – its content and surface, as well as our public/private experiences of it. I believe that this ‘sense of permanence’ you mention, within my own artist activity, tends to come from the cultural ingredients, semiology and signifiers that I deal with in my work; and I believe that it is the artist’s (precarious) labour to find stimuli, however metaphorical or literal, for these ideas in order to deliver it to their audience. Many interesting contemporary artists, such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Michael Light, include socio-political criticism and sometimes even explicit messages in their work that often go beyond a mere descriptive point of view on the issues they face. It is not unusual that an artist, rather than urging the viewer to take a personal position on a subject, tries to convey his/her personal take on the major issues that affect contemporary age. In such a

sons to his own experiences and relationship to food, having grown up in an entirely different setting to me. The two films are meant to be in conversation with one another (like lovers), though Oranges possesses a

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ART Habens

Tara Tate

grey area, a particular care should be paid - since Art may even stop being an independent tool to interpret and relate with and instead becomes a dedicated vehicle, which lies in the liminal area in which criticism blends with propaganda…Do you consider your works to be political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach?

Firstly I would say that I believe every gesture can be considered political in the context of art. This ‘liminality’ you describe, is exactly the type of environment I am trying to navigate within most of my work. Instead of taking a direct position, I usually prefer to create contentious relationships between things that may re-programme peoples’ assumptions on certain issues or even reaffirm certain things, by breaking it down to bare basics. I would by no means say I am neutral myself in my politics, themes and questions behind the work, or that I am seeking neutral results, but the distinction is that I am never seeking one, single political line of thinking – I am not a preacher or proselytizer. Every decision I make as part of the work is never arbitrary or random, but rather comes from some kind of consistency and uniformity, even if rooted in a pattern of contingency I have laid out. To illustrate this point, I will take the example of my film ‘Quotidian Displacement’ which silently traces a day in the life of a working man as he goes about his banal, daily routine. The film generates a fictional universe and standard of its own, with the seemingly solitary existence of this male character devoid of human interaction, coupled with absurdist product placement of mismatched brands, such as Marlboro toothpaste. These hidden comical punctuations explore the dialectics of brand-association by displacement of familiar signifiers and recognisable branding semiology, and consequently create an environment where

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there is a fusion between fact and fiction. The silent, suspenseful stretched-out scenes in the film compel the audience to consider protagonist-x and the hypnotic cycle and imprisonment of everyday responsibility to

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life that the suit of the ‘sucker’ consumer wears heavily. The mantra of “buy this car to drive to work, drive to work to pay for this car”, becomes the ‘dedicated vehicle’ you speak of, and the brands I use within

ART Habens

the film become the finite, closed system in that they all reference each other and operate as an autonomous, relatable tool in this ostensibly post-digital, inefficient world. This cyclicality is meant to be synonymous to an

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Tara Tate

By the way, although I'm aware that the following assumption might sound a bit naive, I'm convinced that nowadays Art can play an active role not only in exposing and interpreting sociopolitical issues, but also

age of constant mechanical and digital reproduction, as well as repetition of labour and consumption.

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the variery of issues that affect our contemporary unstable societies?

I’ve never been a big believer in the solving of truths and unifying, hippy-dippy aspects of art – although I’d love to be in an ideal world. I believe everyone ultimately does take something different from a work of art, and most of the time it is the viewer themself who will offer up a solution. The artwork itself, as the cliché would dictate, only poses and paraphrases the questions. Since the advent of new socio-political platforms such as the internet and social media, I believe this technological thread running through the art world, definitely offers up new devices and hacktivist avenues and/or stratagems to navigate, interpret and expose socio-political issues. It has in fact created a new social, public space where there is a great arena of liminality between public and private, the virtual and the fleshy reality or “appendage” to borrow Marx’s term. In other words, it allows for what we deem as the nature of established boundaries to be blurred and smudged, and that is when artists or artworks come in, as if to say ‘Hey, isn’t that beautiful?’ or ‘Isn’t this worth taking a (second) look at?’, and in that way offer up a ‘move’. Perhaps art has become the so sorely needed therapy to Deleuze and Guattari’s Schitzophrenic late-Capitalist society. Another interesting work of yours that has had a particular impact on me and which I would like to spend some time talking about, is your work entitled Quotidian Displacement that can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/77414062 - in particular, your exploration of the liminal area between seriality and infinity. At first, I was urged to relate all the visual information to a single analytic point of view, but I soon realized that I myself had to fit into the visual unity suggested by the work and forget my need for a univocal understanding of its symbolic content.

and especially in offering us an unexpected way to solve them... What's your point about this? And in particular, how can an artist give a move to

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ART Habens

Tara Tate

Your work contains a conceptual interiority, and I can recognize the desire to enable us, the audience, to establish direct relations… Would you say that this is more of an intuitive or systematic process?

I believe you describe a condition of almost every artwork that has ever been created, and not just my own ‘paradigms’. The seriality/infinity aspects and premises that I so identify with, inform the subject matters I choose to tap into and toy with, for example the never-ending cycle of consumption has always been a subject I engage with strongly. However, once embarking on the development of a specific project, I will sculpt its landscape and fabric to have its own set of rules and to be a structure of its own, such as how I previously described with my film ‘Quotidian Displacement’. I’m sure any artist will agree with me when I say one uses a pinch of intuition here and a dollop of systemic reasoning and conceptualization there, but many subjects can be universal. The univocal and unequivocal understanding of its symbolic content is an open system that anyone can slot themself into within its interiority, if they wish to, or at least that is always my hope for the work. When I choose to utilise certain elements such as a specific brand, I hope that my audience will be able to understand that reference similarly to how I do myself, no matter where in the world they are. For example, for the most part we all know what CocaCola red is, and Heineken green is, but in this way I will often try and adopt a systematic visual approach that is unhindered by a locality, as I believe that if the visual references are not carefully considered, they can heavily murk the waters and imply all manner of other layers and politics within the work that were never intended to be there. Obviously it should also be mentioned that I must work within my relative means and with what is immediately available, respond-

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Tara Tate

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ing to my environment, which becomes more intuitive process. I couldn't do without mentioning In Pursuit of Language, a stimulating transdisciplinary project in which you show the twofold nature of the concept of word, unveiling its elusive but ubiquitous physicality. What I find most remarkable about the way you investigate the dichotomy between physicality and immateriality, highlighting the fact that words are our commodities, is the fact that your process stimulates the viewer’s psyche both at a conscious level, with references to a fruible set of symbols that comes from universal imagery, and on a limbic, almost primordial one. Inviting the viewers to an unconventional process of recontextualization and subversion, you urge us to challenge the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... your reflection about the multilayered nature of language suggests the idea that informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" as microscopic grains of sand in the way we transform concepts in language, so we need to decipher them. Maybe one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature... what's your point about this?

As with most of my work, the dichotomy is essential. In the context of my video work ‘In Pursuit of Language’, the dichotomy exists manifold: within the cerebral, physicality of language and within the abstract, psychological and perceptual rationale we use. My own discernment of these references and dialectics become the conduit by which I convey the idea I am trying to get across: the twofold nature of the word and how they operate as linguistic commodities. Therefore, I see my role as the author being that, I am translating and deciphering them as they appear to me. Under this duality of physicality/immateriality that I map out, I am also trying to highlight another, existing

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ART Habens

Tara Tate

dualism of language, as seen through the objective world and through the virtual, digital world. This video work was originally exhibited alongside a performance of mine consisting of a text I recite as a type of live voice-over in real-time synchronisation to the imagery, reminiscent of some of my previous works and performances. Again, drawing attention to and forging a conjunctive bridge between the corporeal and the implicit, the intangible or nonconcrete. ‘We’ are always pursuing language because it is not a stagnated force but rather a universal mode that is constantly in a state of flux and evolvement. Thus within this work, I set out to reveal to my audience the parameters of their own struggle to own or to mediate language(s), in the ongoing quest and quandary of communication and relatability. Your work is strictly connected to the chance of establishing a direct involvement with the viewers, who are called to evolve from a mere spectatorship to conscious participants on an intellectual level, so before leaving this conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

This feels like that time-old, philosophical thought experiment, the question "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Can an artwork be deemed as such if it is not experienced if the viewer is not there to complete the transaction between artwork and audience? Can a hammer really be called a ‘hammer’ if it is not performing its hammering duties? I guess this also becomes a question of performativity; a question of how much ‘work’ a

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viewer is willing to do; and how much of themselves they willing to give over. I do not believe my work directly looks to audience participation and interaction, but I do believe in many ways, it only activates itself when someone engages with it, as it is not of the purely aesthetic variety of art. It does not seek to improve the world by device of

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its visual qualities, and therefore, arguably, almost cannot exist without the spectator however that does not mean to say that it doesn’t. I feel like I might be repeating myself, but I’ll reiterate that my decisions almost always come from my personal perception and viewpoint, after all, I cannot presume to speak for anyone else’s experiences and sensibilities.

ART Habens

I will always impeach myself first and foremost, and I then invite you to agree or disagree with my vision and visualisation, as my audience member. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Tara. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about

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Tara Tate

your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

young man, are meant to compel the audience to consider this protagonist-x and the hypnotic cycle and imprisonment of the everyday responsibility to life, that he carries heavily in the suit of the ‘sucker’ consumer. “Buy this car to drive to work, Drive to work to pay for this car” seems to be the mantra that he exists by, with a void of human-interaction, or anything not hyper-real and part of his seemingly inefficient postdigital, neo-liberalist world.€ However, this repetitive and self-reflexive cycle is synonymous to the age of mechanical reproduction and now digital reproduction: serial repetition, infinity, constantly deriving something new out of recreating/regenerating itself - Ouroboros an ethos I try to use within my work.

Well I have a couple of London-based exhibitions coming up in the nearby future, and have a few gigs already set for 2016. I really just want to get back to this idea of ‘infinity’ in the studio and make more work: where do ideas go to die? Waste and death is something I’m very much interested in, and how those concepts can continue to coexist with the actuality of here-and-now; coping mechanisms on navigating the everyday versus mortality, the idea of deriving something new out of recreating and regenerating itself, examining the cyclical tendencies of everyday life from an anthropocentrist, and sometimes even neo-materialist, post-internet and speculative realist approach and perspective. I want to explore some of these ideas more materially and through the notion of object permanence, which is the idea that an object continues to exist even when it cannot be observed (seen, heard, touched, smelled or sensed in any way). I am always striving to explore this through a manner of ways: via the 2-dimensional surface of the screen, through the body and through how the body relates to the 3-dimensional world, and the landscape of the everyday. I am always working my way through the 5 C’s: Capitalism -> Corporation -> Commodification -> Commercialism -> Consumerism, and then I go back to the start again. I am not making plans, I am just connecting the dots and seeing what picture I end up with.

The concept of the film is the day in the life of a young working man who silently goes about his banal, daily routine He appears to be living a completely solitary and lonely existence and there are long pauses where the audience is forced to consider his story and perhaps create their own bespoke narrative for his life/his story that has led him up to this day that we (the audience), are witnessing. The twist is that all the objects he is interacting with silently throughout the day, whether at work or at home are all mismatched. So for example he'll be using Marlboro toothpaste, and smoking Apple cigarettes and eating Carlsberg cereal the list goes on. These moments are hidden inside what seems like a relatively somber film in terms of its overall tone, almost like hidden comical punctuations or jokes questioning our loyalties to these brands: how far that ‘standard’ extends and moreover how far it can be stretched in terms of its absurdity, kind of tiptoeing a fine line between utopian and dystopian.

This short film explores the dialectics of brand-association by displacement of familiar and recognisable branding semiology and product-placement, with a nod towards absurdity - a fusion between fact and fiction. The tense, silently suspenseful and stretched-out scenes encompassing the day-in-the-work & leisure life of this

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Ilse Schrottenbach

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Ilse Schrottenbach

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Ilse Schrottenbach

video, 2013

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Ilse Schrottenbach

An interview with

introduce our readers to her multifaceted artistic production. Hello Ilse 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 few years after having earned a Master of Economic Sciences you started your studies in sculpture with Markus Heinsdorff. You later had the chance to establish interesting collaboration with collectives as International Drawing & Cognition Research and e:collective, both in the United Kingdom: how have these experiences influenced your evolution as an artist? And in particular, does your cultural substratum due to your studies in Economics inform the way you relate yourself to art making and to the aesthetic problem in general?

Well, I think, that all these experiences have influenced my personal evolution and, in that, they have influenced my evolution as an artist. Somehow, I have always been interested in better understanding complex systems and working in open and interdisciplinary contexts. I enjoy the idea of open, non-deterministic systems. I am really convinced that only open systems can survive. Yet the concept of open system implies uncertainty. So, I would say, it is not so much my studies of economics, which have influenced my evolution as an artist. I would say both my artistic production and my interest in socio-economic problems come from the same source.

Ilse Schrottenbach

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

My studies of economics have focussed on environmental and resource problems, and so I came very early in connection with the very basic questions of entropy and the concept of the arrow of time. This consequently led me to the problems of irreversibility and finiteness. I have to admit, that I am still trying to understand these questions and that I am again and again rereading the book by Peter Coverney and Roger Highfield titled the “Arrow of Time�.

Multidisciplinary artist Ilse Schrottenbach explores the notions of uncertainty and finiteness that affect our ever changing contemporary reality. Her projects triggers the viewers' limbic perceptual parameter to question the point of convergence between abstraction and physicality as well as the dichotomy between perceptual and cognizable. One of the most convincing aspect of Schrottenbach's practice is the way it captures the notions of non sharpness with a tangible language, walking the viewers into an area of intellectual interplay that urges them to explore unstability in the contemporary age: we are very pleased to

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It is perhaps an on going search, an approach, an approximation – it is also an on-going search for the appropriate tools, for the appropriate language, the appropriate practice, and the appropriate space, where you find the

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Signposts, 2014 Unedited photography Tree moss; photography taken on a hike in the rainforest in Thailand Dimension diameter size of moss signs approximately between 5 and 10 cm


ART Habens

Ilse Schrottenbach

freedom to express, articulate and share your thoughts. So of course, this relates to the aesthetic problem in general, too. And yes, this has a lot to do with my chance to establish the very interesting collaboration with collectives as International Drawing & Cognition Research and e:collective - let me start with the latter: the collaboration started with a call for artist by the School of Art and the Institute of Sustainability at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, in 2013. From the beginning, the project has been an outstanding opportunity to learn and to exchange standpoints and approaches in a scientific and artistic context, and at the same time, to further develop the artistic language. In the meanwhile, we see ourselves as fluid, nomadic and anti-hierarchical organism that explores the ways contemporary practices€hint at and actualise a€wider€definition€of ecology through a series of artists’ residencies, participatory art projects and publications. By the way, it was in Cambridge when I found out about the International Drawing & Cognition Research, and yes, I was most of all very happy to be able to share and further develop my approach towards art and drawing as an inherent and integral part of education and communication. Many years ago, I was lucky to get to know and work with Edith Kramer. She completely has changed my perception of art therapy – it might sound strange – for me it is not so much about therapy, but more about regaining the joy and the ability to create something, to experience setting marks and interventions, to play with possibilities and identities, to extend space, to blossom. Your approach sums up into a coherent unity different media that, to quote your own words, you leave play Ping-Pong: the channel of communication that you establish between different practice reveals an incessant search of an organic symbiosis between a variety of viewpoints you convey into a consistent harmony. Before starting to elaborate about your production, we would suggest to our readers to visit http://schrottenbach.at in order to get a synoptic view of your work: in the meanwhile, would you

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AT WORK / DREIECK, 2008 Larvikite (Labradorite, Norway) Dimensions approx. 180 x 240 x 110 cm / 5,5 t

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Ilse Schrottenbach

TILT TIP TURN FALL FOLD CUT SNOW, 2010 The sculpture relates to the idea of the “tipping point”. The drawings “protocol” the cuts, which translate the idea into its form. “Snow” points to the texture of the nonpolished marble. Media Marble (Laas/Italy), Graphite Pencil on Paper Dimension Sculpture 27 x 19 x 27 cm; Drawings each 14,7 x 21 cm

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Ilse Schrottenbach

ART Habens

like to tell to our readers something about your process and set up? In particular, have you ever happened to realize that such synergy is the only way to snatch the spirit of the ideas you explore?

Let me answer the question on from a personal and from a more general point of artistic view, and in the first case, I will talk about the artistic production process, too. As for now and as it applies for me, this variety of viewpoints is essential for my – as you call it, and as I like it to be called - incessant search - whereas I have to admit, I am not so much thinking of harmony. First, as I said, I assume that life is multidimensional, simultaneously proceeding, uncertain, volatile and finite. Thus, I like changing the levels, from where I take a look at me, somewhat, as if I were my own observer. It is like stepping out, and looking at a pattern of perceived occurrences, evolved over time - "thought mending" somehow. It is a possibility to be traceable and as clear and tangible as possible. My “extended dry points” produce concentrated text and graphic work. They are comments and reflections, flashbacks, and fragments of dreams, or else, thoughts derived from a law of math or physics. Sometimes, they also relate to an inserted story, which was perhaps put aside once, or to an embedded sketch or drawing. WOHING BLEIBEN/WHITHER TO STAY relates to a dream, printed out with laser-printer. The embedded story behind the dream might sound weird, whereas language and print are very clear and factual. The drawings were created around the dream. The dry points in the work reflect both the incorporated dream and the drawings – from a distance of several years. I AM DONE WITH STONES and the work SOMETIMES THAT IT US are showing further examples of changing and linking the levels and, by that different life-worlds beyond, within one work. Second, as for the drawings related to the sculptures, drawing helps me reflecting and exploring my sculptures.

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Ilse Schrottenbach

It is like understanding an algorithm in mathematics, to feel free enough to work and juggle with it, and again, it helps to understand, what you are actually doing. The work TILT TIP TURN FALL FOLD CUT SNOW literally picks up that aspect. The drawings “protocol” the cuts, which translate the idea into its form. The title list the verbs related to the notion and the rhythm of the work. SNOW points to the texture of the non-polished marble.

most intense experiences when looking at a work that helps us to understand our experience of the world now: while conceiving Art could be considered an abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a permanence that goes beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of the concepts we relate with. So we would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

I also wish to speak about a third concept connected with the use of different sets of materials, tools and practices, which I find important and really wonderful for us artists – and it has a lot to do with the your initial questions: in the arts, we are the ones, who can use intuition and rational skills, we can be clear in showing what is unclear. In the arts, we have the freedom to show what we perceive - we never have to pretend that anything is without contradictions, conflict or dilemma. We do not have to pretend that we are sure. We can unfold and show ambiguities, seemingly contradictory options and choices. In an artwork, you can exclude the laws of time and space, you can show simultaneity and by that, you can extend our thinking. You can consciously and joyfully play with the options given by uncertainty. Yet, we need to be aware that we are all the time only figuring out models, visions – or, talking about myself - my view.

Before addressing that question, I would like to come back to the concept of the tipping point: as you point out, TILP TIP TURN FALL FOLD CUT SNOW relates to that concept, reflecting what I also like to call “stable instability”. AT WORK / DREIECK also shows the idea of the tilt, the sculpture yet being a five-ton rock. I have also added a photograph of a small and fragile work, TAKE A WALK ON THE TIGHTROPE as an example of the same idea, or sensation. Now let me try to answer your question whether personal or direct experience is an absolutely indispensable part of a creative process in my opinion.

So, juggling like this, if you wish, gives me perhaps the most important different channels of communication. It hopefully helps me to outline multiformity, polymorphism and polyphony - literally and in a figurative sense.

For me, personal concern is deeply linked to my artistic works - this can happen on very different levels and in very different terms. I am interested and curious about a wide rage of things. Yet, I have to say, that the topics, which I am addressing in my works, have stayed very view and basically the same over time. I hope it does not sound conceited, if I called them elementary. And in that, there is always personal experience connected with them of course.

We would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from TILT TIP TURN FALL FOLD CUT SNOW, an interesting sculpture that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. This project is an investigation about the idea of tipping point, a concept elaborated by Malcolm Gladwell and that refers to a variety of sociological changes that marks everyday life: as viewers, we often receive the richest and

You produce both indoor and outdoor sculptures, and we have appreciated the subtle dialogue that your pieces establish with the surrounding environment. In particular, we love the way your work Remainders encapsulates the notion of memory: what at a first glance could seem an elegant juxtaposition reveals its elusive and unconventional harmony, that suggest how information & ideas could be considered "encrypted" in the envi-

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I AM DONE WITH STONES, 2014 Dry Point Etching, embedded drawings (left-overs), handmade paper 21 Dimension Sheet 38 x 19 cm, Plates 15 x 20Issue cm 0 4 6 Special


ART Habens

Ilse Schrottenbach

WOHIN BLEIBEN / WHITHER TO STAY, 2014 Dry Point Etching, inserted text (dream), handmade paper Dimension 4 23 0 5 Special IssueSheet 58 x 30 cm, Plates 20 x 30 cm


Ilse Schrottenbach

ART Habens

OPTIONS I, 2013 Media Digital Photomontage based on a photo showing the basalt sculpture BANDION MOODS, 2010, partly covered with snow. Dimension 1920 x 1200px, 300 dpi

The basalt remainders, which you can see in this work, are leftovers, kept over time, during the creation of sculptures over several years. I have collected and carefully piled them on two wooden trestles, and somehow they subsisted, summers and winters, snow and storms. Somehow those mounds of stones survived, like untouchables. Somehow, those leftovers became a wonderful artwork, retransferred into nature. At some point, I had to decide what to do, as one of the wooden trestles broke. I decided to choose a completely clean, white neutral space as set up for a black and white photography. I thought, the only possibility to preserve the natural rawness of the rock pieces with their encrypted story would be to not repeat their aesthetics, but to alter them completely.

ronment we inhabit, so we need to decipher them. When addressing us to process the few things we are sometimes able to catch you seem to suggest that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature: what's your point about this?

You are right – I am often referring to the phrase the few things we are sometimes able to catch – just like before, when talking about the creative process. So, yes, I suggest that one of the roles of an artist is literally to see and to make things seen – with the practices and skills and languages that are the very best in a very moment or context. So I am really delighted that you noticed the information and the “hidden – or - if you wish to call it - encrypted text” beyond that work REMAINDERS – let me tell you about that work now.

Now, that we talk about the basalts remainders, I thought of introducing works around the

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OPTIONS III, 2013 Gesso, Oxide on canvas Dimension 110 x 155 cm


ART Habens

Ilse Schrottenbach

This will be a mound of ups and downs, backs and forths, rounds and rounds, blacks and whites in the corner of a large room, 2014 Dry Point Etching, embedded drawing (left-over), handmade paper Dimension: Sheet 20 x 25 cm, Plates 10 x 15 cm

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Ilse Schrottenbach

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related sculptures, which also touch the unexpected sides of nature and leads back to the issue of simultaneity and uncertainty, option and dilemma. OPTIONS III shows a digital photomontage, in which I several times duplicated a photograph of a basalt sculpture covered with snow. I was fascinated how the snow lined out the virtual inner movement of the sculpture, drawing this wonderful figure-eight-loop. Then I arranged the duplicates in the structure of a probability tree. OPTIONS I is a painting of the same object, with pure oxides and gesso on canvas. PAPILLION also plays with seemingly simultaneities, the subtitle being Flies away. Stays. Takes off. Lands. Flies. Or not. It has been part of an installation entitled THIS WILL BE A MOUND OF UPS AND DOWNS, BACKS AND FORTHS, ROUNDS AND ROUNDS, BLACKS AND WHITES IN THE CORNER OF A LARGE ROOM, referred to in an dry point. By the way, how do you see the relationship between public sphere and the role of art in public space?

In the last years, I got more and more interested in the arts being involved in public space in terms of interventions and socio-political actions and co-operations. Art is a wonderful tool to understand and mobilize the potentials of differences, and by that, to create vivid social spaces and to advance sustainable democracies. I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE is a piece that has impacted on us for the way it challenges the abstract feature of language and the physicality of written language: although it might sound a bit na誰f, what has at soon caught our eyes is the sequence of at signs that on a concrete wall seems to claim a tactile nature to words. When merging together this opposite aspects of language you create unpredictable effects to the viewers: how important is the role of chance in your process?

It is! In my own creative process, I proceed from assuming that I do not invent, but I am sometimes able to see or catch or find out something,

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PAPILLON, 2010 Basalt (Waldviertel) Dimension approx. 52-x 34 x 18 cm


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Ilse Schrottenbach

TAKE A WALK ON THE TIGHTROPE, 2008 Steatite (Chine), Japan Paper, Sunlight Dimension 5 x 10 x 5 cm

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Ilse Schrottenbach

ART Habens

by search or by accident and yes, by chance. This would be related to a personal or intellectual experience or encounter. It might be an understanding of something, of which I get aware of, which “has always been there�, but I had not been able to catch or perceive it before. More than by being pushed or driven, it sometimes happens to me by some unpredicted and unexpected mismatch in my mind-map - then I stumble and I wonder and I start to ask questions. Now let me come back to the at-sign please and thank you again for noticing that! I did spend a long time thinking about the questions of how to link the set of possible answers in the work, which I was about to suggest to the audience. Why the at-sign? It refers to the tactile world, which has a playful and compliant dimension by nature - in the sense of not judging, and not valuing. I find it part of human nature, that we sometimes have contradictory feelings or beliefs on issues, and that we have them at the same time, at the same place, in our same mind. I found it helpful to use the at-sign as a non-judging link for this. At second thought, I also liked the idea to use a standardized e-world sign midst in the handwriting text, done with charcoal pencil on the concrete wall. Another interesting work from your recent production that has particularly impacted on us ad on which we'll be pleased to spend some words is entitled TO DO OR NOT TO DO and it's a very complex and at the same time captivating piece: when we first happened to get to know it we tried to relate all the information to a single meaning. But we soon realized that your investigation about the visual feature of information requests to fit into the visual unity suggested by its effective non linear narrative, forgetting our need for a univocal understanding of its content. In TO DO OR NOT TO DO, we can recognize a successful attempt to to probe psychological narrative elements, enabling the viewer to establish direct relations: would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process? And in particular, how did you develope the

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I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE (I), 2013 Produced for and exhibited at Cambridge Sustainability Residency Show (CSR I) Text/Wall Writing, willow charcoal pencil Dimension approximately 150 x 100 cm, and 300 x 60 cm


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SOMETIMES THAT’S US, 2014 Dry Point Etching, original practice test examples embedded, handmade paper Dimension Sheet 38 x 38 cm, Plate 20 x 30 cm

quite systematic process itself. I had seen a very good production of Shakespeare`s Hamlet and I reread the piece both in modern and in old English.

main idea behind this multilayered project?

TO DO OR NOT TO DO was developed in a quite systematic way and the work itself follows a

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REMAINDERS, 2013 Basalt remainders collected during the creation of sculptures over several years and reordered on the floor 21 0 4 6 Special Installation approximately 200 x 40cm, average diameter of basalt piecesIssue 15cm


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I started to research it with having the sociopolitical concerns of sustainability on my mind. I realized that it is a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of drama about the drama – that is, about art. It utilizes a variety of practices. Most of all, I got aware about the function of the plays-within-plays, role-playing€within roles, literary/real life references, self-reference, perception, dealing with side scenes and vested interests whilst neglecting the existential common concern.

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that raise questions about our ever changing and unstable societies, often subverting the perceptual parameters that affect the unstable contemporary sensibility: many artists from the contemporary scene, as Judy Chicago or more recently Jennifer Linton, use to include socio-political criticism in their works. It is not unusual that an artist, rather than urging the viewer to take a personal position on a subject, tries to convey his personal take about the major issues that affect contemporary age. Do you consider that your works could be political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? And in particular, what could be in your opinion the role that an artist could play in the contemporary society?

While I was reading Hamlet, which was in the end of 2013, the National Archives relieved the protocols on the proceeding around the initial meetings between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev which consecutively – as I dare to say - lead to the fall of the so called fall of the Iron-Curtain in 1989.

I think, my art has always been socio-political in that it addresses a view, that we only have preliminary knowledge of an existing truth. For me, this is political in a deep sense, as it refuses all types of totalitarian or dogmatic systems. As I said in the beginning of our talk, I have always been interested in the concept of open, non-deterministic systems – which includes open societies. In the last years, with being a member of the e:collective in Cambridge, my works directly address the challenging field of socio-political sustainability.

So I had the idea to search for protocols in the Internet, which were utmost relevant in the sustainability context. I found the original transcripts of phone meetings involving United States (U.S.) Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) headquarters on the occasion of the Fukushima nuclear disaster 3/2011, which had been officially released on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Interestingly, the protocols themselves contained multi-layered information, like a protocol of a CNN interview with the former Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary – it was like disclosing a Matroschka doll. Yet, some text passages were blacked out.

With my work with KinderUniKunst and the collaboration with International Drawing & Cognition Research my interest in Art as an inherent part of education gets deeper and deeper, as we have also discussed in the beginning. I share the opinion with Louis Menand, who recently published the article Learn By Painting in the The New Yorker where he wrote about Black Mountain College. What made it different from other colleges was that the centre of the curriculum was art making. The goal was not to produce painters, poets, and architects. It was to produce citizens, taking ownership of their choices, to put it short. So this could be most of all the role of art in contemporary societies.

I decided to insert quotations from WILLIAM SPEAKESPEARE’S HAMLET, where text passages have been blacked out in the original NRC transcript or else suggest having a hidden text in a figurative sense. Nothing else was changed - the content and the form of the original pdf-file of the NRC transcripts have not been edited except for the quoted selection of page ranges, the quotations inserted and the embedment into a video to let the text slowly scroll for the viewer in an endless loop.

Playing with the evokative power of natural elements and hinted shapes, your works are pervaded with a subtle but effective narrative

Your deep interest in the notions of uncertainty and finiteness leads you to conceive works

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consider the issue of audience reception in my decision-making process depending on the context. Let me tell you more about that.

and could be considered as tactile biographies that accomplish the difficult task of capturing non-sharpness with an universal language, capable of establishing direct relations with the viewers: language is our dominant mode of communication. Is challenging this kind of hierarchy in communication processes important to you?

I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE was produced in an academic context by asking questions to scientists and experts on problems of sustainability. The challenge was: How to transform them into a language, which would make people look at deep problems with curiosity? How to invite them to get involved? How to not blame them and still make them reflect on their habits? And how could I stay consistent in my own choice of language and practice as an artist and as a human being to reflect sustainability?

Let me briefly talk about a recent work I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE II which addresses the topic of communication itself within a collaborative art project and at the same time, it looks at the way, how this process of communication is communicated to an audience. Out of the different channels of on-line communication with the off-site residency participants, I decided to focus on e-mail only. Within this communication channel, I decided to focus on two specific topics, and in the course of the two residency weeks, I recognized, that I was only able to focus on two people. The work literally protocols and comments the communication and the process steps within the work. Then I made this little drawing of the two persons and pinned it on the bulk of mails. And I wrote a little poetic text, which you would find next to the mails on the wall.

I was so happy to remember that lovely exiting children’s play and chose it as a title. I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE is familiar to all of us, and most of us played it when we were small. That was, when we invited each other to discover the world together. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Ilse. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

Thank you so much, too, I really did enjoy to dive into your questions and into the way, that you do perceive my work.

Over your career you have exhibited€internationally, showcasing your work in several occasions, including your recent participation in the RAW CATALYST SHOW Cambridge this summer. One of the hallmark of your practice is the capability to create a direct involvement with the viewers, who are urged to evolve from a condition of mere spectatorship. So before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

Well, my next project is actually going to start with the beginning of December. It is an Artist Residency in the rain forests in South Thailand. I have been to Thailand last winter already and I look forward a lot to come back in the frame of the ART ECO Residency, which addresses both sustainability and the work with children, as it is embedded in the Thai Child Foundation. I am very delighted and curious about it. It is a further step for me, to foster art as an integral part and language of education and socio-political processes.

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator

I think we already touched this issue several times, also in the last question. But most of all, the at-sign in I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE I, was a perfect example of how I am trying to

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and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

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Theresa Devine Devine Ce n'est pas un jouet: This is not a toy. Why do we forget to play when we grow up? Why do we hurt each other? Everywhere I look I see distrust, miscommunication, and misunderstanding. This is followed with greed, selfishness, and pain. How can play help us to understand each other? Can play transform us and our world? Play is how we learn and gain trust from each other, so can play liberate us from the cycle of hurting each other? Through toys and games, I explore the intersection between adversity and play. Play is a serious venture and as the title says, it is not a toy. I invoke Magritte with this title because his work showed us that possibilities are only limited by our imagination. I believe that through play we release ourselves from adversity and open the door to new possibilities. Unspoken: A series of noisemaker blow toys explores the thoughts that we don't say to each other. The toys measure approximately 5 inches x 2 inches x 1 inch and can be played with in the same manner as party blow toys. There are 21 in the series. 2012 In Pursuit of a Happy Middle: A series of dice games explore the chances we take in relationships and how we gamble our lives on these relationships. Each game is an assemblage of readymade and handmade objects. These games range in size from 1.5 in x 5.5 in x 2.25 in to 4.25 in x 8 in x 4.25 in. There are 10 in the series. 2013 The Enemy Within: A series of Xbox 360 Video Games that explore the intersection between games, the spiritual, and the struggle against invisible foes. These games are coded in C# and XNA without a game engine. The graphics are digitally created in Photoshop from traditionally drawn, painted and printed charcoal drawings, acrylic paintings and etchings. There are 4 in the series. 2007-2014 http://theresadevine.com

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video, 2013

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An interview with

Theresa Devine Sigmund Freud once stated “The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real": over these years we had the chance to interview lots of multidisciplinary artists, but most of the time their works were intrinsically connected to a particular feature of the media they used to accomplish a translation of the notions they investigated about. What marks out Theresa Devine's practice is instead is an absolute freedom that, while keeping the concepts fruible to her audience, at the same time unveils the

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inner nature of the theme of play, that she urges us to discover and recontextualize. One of the most convincing aspect of Devine's work is the way her exploration establishes direct relations with the viewers going beyond any artificial dichotomy between the materialization of a work and the moment we relate to the ideas behind it. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her stimulating and multifaceted production. Hello Theresa and welcome to ART Habens. To start this interview, I would pose you a couple of

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described to me as a prospective student I was told that the pedagogical philosophy was a "liberal arts approach to studio art." The faculty in the art department delivered on this promise and I was exposed to every studio practice available at the time. These practices included painting, printmaking, drawing, color theory, graphic design, sculpture, and ceramics. I have used every skill they taught me and built on this foundation over the years. This openness to modes of making art afforded me the mindset to also include coding, photography, digital art, installation, interactive art, game design, and toy design. I get the viewpoint that every medium is viable and free to use from my undergraduate experience. In graduate school I was challenged intellectually and conceptually. The professors had very high standards and I was pushed, sometimes relentlessly, to focus, verbalize, and deliver a very polished body of work. I became adept at reorganizing the formal and conceptual elements of a piece to shift audience perception. They taught that sometimes the smallest formal change can make a big conceptual difference. I feel compelled to list the names of these amazing professors here: Karl Umlauf, Bruno Andrade, Mark Anderson, Barbara Riley, Greg Reuter, Carey Rote, Gael Stack, Rachel Hecker, David Jacobs, Rodney Nevitt, Malinda Beeman, Patricia Gonzalez, and Derek Boshier. Moreover, you currently hold the position of Assistant Professor in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, so I would like to take this occasion to ask how does teaching inform the way you nowadays relate yourself to art making: have you ever happened to draw inspiration from the ideas of your students?

introductory questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a BFA in Painting and Printmaking that you received from Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi and a MFA in Painting from University of Houston: how did these experiences influence your evolution as an artist?

I never draw inspiration from the ideas of my students. I would consider it unethical to practice in that manner. The premise of the body of work and each piece stems from life experiences that make me uncomfortable. I make a piece to satisfy that uneasiness and to have hope that what ever is bothering me can

I am extremely grateful for the education that I received from Texas A & M - CC and University of Houston. When the program at TAMU-CC was

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be transformed. My studio practice informs my pedagogy. I teach my students that their own premise is the compass for art produced in any medium, that entertainment and conceptual depth are not mutually exclusive, and that art can change the world. I cultivate self awareness and help them become familiar with their creative identity. The students are asked to examine their own views and perceptions of how a piece should be made and why. The development of premise becomes the springboard for learning technical and hand skills. Every art student I have taught has had a moment of brilliance when they revealed to me the germ of their greatness. I spend considerable time pointing out their personal contribution and creative identity so that they begin to see themselves in a new light. One student states in an evaluation comment, “I was initially confused on what to do as it was about self discovery at the beginning of the semester. Later, it made sense, and helped me complete the class with great understanding of myself and the subject matter.” Another art student comments, “This class was very unique and went over a lot of interesting information about art, such as cliché, which I never really thought about. …I reflected a lot about what I would like to do with my art and what I want to accomplish with it.” When my students discover their own creative identity and are empowered to create their own unique vision, I am inspired to return to my studio. More information on my research lab and teaching is found here: http://studio4gaminginnovation.com Your approach is marked out with a stimu-lating synergy between several practices and viewpoints, a feature that provides your works of dynamic life and autonomous aesthetics.

Thank you. I do what the work tells me it needs. The body of work is driven conceptually and there is no way to predict how it will physically manifest. I would suggest our readers to visit http://www.theresadevine.com in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production.

Again thank you for recognizing that there is a dialogue across the different series that point to a larger point of view. I deeply appreciate the interest in the entire body of work: Ce n'est pas un jouet: This is not a toy. While superimposing concepts and images, cros-

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sing the borders of different artistic fields as painting and installation, have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

Yes. For example, "The Enemy Within" pieces all have titles that begin with the prefix "un." I am choosing these titles because I want the series cross pollinate abstractly with the "Unspoken" series to introduce the idea to the viewer that not only are there things we don't say to each other, but also there are things we don't see and that both of these situations introduce elements we can't control in our lives. Another strategy that I use is to reuse titles from series to series. As a case in point, I have reused "Because I'm Pretty Sure I'm Right." This particular piece as an "Unspoken" introduced the idea that having to be right is a ridiculous proposition. When the toy is played with it is very difficult for the blowout to extend and to get a sound out of this piece. It is very stubborn. As a dice game in the "In Pursuit of a Happy Middle" series the game mechanics of the piece make the viewer complicit in order to feel the ridiculousness of the proposition of having to be right. Everyone who plays this game seems to channel the childhood experience of playing "King of the Hill," but then, realizes during the course of the play session that perhaps this is a game that really shouldn't be played. It is interesting that this game is always considered to be a fun experience by the players. I would like to emphasize here that each piece has content that is only apparent to the viewer when it is played with. Each piece has its own personality and the transcendent moment is only visible, completely, through play. Another example would be the "Unspoken" titled "What's In It For Me?" This piece is about motivations for marrying and it was a nice accident that this piece hits the player in the face when it is played with. There are wonderful little moments like the ones I have described found during play throughout the body of work. I would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from In Pursuit of a Happy Middle, an interesting project featured

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in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed me about this project is the way you have created an effective point of convergence between the sense of reality suggested by an effective assemblage of found objects and a subtle reference to the imaginative dimension that restructures the relationship between exterior world and our inner sphere. This way you establish an unexpected equilibrium between apparently opposite concepts. Do you conceive it in an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

I strive for a balance between the exterior and interior worlds. There are parts of my process that are instinctive and during this time I juxtapose and meditate on found objects. Intuitively, I was drawn to the boxes that I use in the "In Search of a Happy Middle" series. I found them at a container store and they seemed to be so perfect all by themselves. All lined up on the store shelf, it was as if they were sarcophagi crossed with Donald Judd's sculpture. I loved how they referred to an existential state and yet reminded me of metaphysical minimalism and a world beyond. Just as in Judd's work each one was the same and yet if you look closely there are differences. These differences set each box apart from the next one and asserted its individuality. It was a bonus that the boxes were mass produced objects. This fit perfectly with the concept behind the dice game series of how individuals gamble on each other and how these relationships form a larger fabric of interconnectedness. When I wrote the rules to the games I was working in a more structured way. For example, "I Am Inviting You To Join Me On the Bandwagon Of My Own Uncertainty" and "Avoid Public Displays Of Affluence" use psycho-social aspects of wealth distribution as subject matter and are both examples of economic interdependence that often gets ignored. Then during the playtest of each game I watched for the transcendent moment of sharing and reciprocity that I tried to orchestrate. During this phase of the creative process I tweaked the rules to strengthen both the struggle and transcendent moment. In general, it was my goal that the players learn that when we fail to recognize our affect on another's life it does not make the effect nonexistent. The player experience follows my creation path. They begin with the closed box

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unsure of what it might have inside. Perhaps, as I did, they enjoy and consider the box for itself. The box is opened, a game is revealed, and the structured experience of learning the rules and playing begins. The players involvement culminates in the transcendent moment. I lead them to share a specific juncture with me within the game mechanics. In this way skeptical realism meets transcendentalism, or if you will, external materiality meets internal enlightenment in this work. As you have remarked in your artist's statement, you explore the intersection between adversity and play, I daresay, in such way that challenges the elusive but ubiquitous dichotomy between experience and memory, reminding me of the idea behind Thomas Demand's approach, when he highlighted that "nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead. " While the conception of Art could be considered an abstract activity, there is always a way of giving it a sense of permanence, going beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of those concepts you explore. So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion, personal experience is absolutely indispensable as part of the creative process?

You have some separate ideas in this question. When I read it I feel I need to break it down to address all of the facets of your thoughts. My thoughts on the "dichotomy between experience and memory" in my work are: There are experiences that I find that persist. I usually refer to these as "napalm exposures." They are episodes that stick and burn in memory and become the impetus for my work. The thought that "[Art] has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium" is true in my case but it might not be true for other artists. The medium of play, as activated by toys and games, has psychological and narrative formal elements built in to it which allow for unveiling larger perspectives, as you put it, the "intrinsic ephemeral nature of those concepts." These larger perspectives are what I wish to become permanent. The objects that I create only need to last as long as is needed for the seed of the idea to become planted in our collective value system. I

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am making the objects as archival as possible because I think that it will take some time for my perspective to be heard. This is an idea rooted in Edward O. Wilson's theory of "group selection." I wish to influence how our species evolves and have an input on what values are retained for future generations. For me "personal experience is absolutely indispensable as part of the creative process," period. There are as many ways to create art as there stars in the sky and I would not presume to think that the way I make art is the way that others make it. Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

Yes of course. I imagine that there is work to be made that is about that type of disconnection. This work would be, as Arthur Danto would say, the "contradictory predicate" of what I do. Moreover, what is the role of memory in your process?

I have already addressed this but I will amend here that I think that my experiences and memories are typical. I am living a life filled with the same challenges as anyone else alive today. I see myself as a specimen in the petri dish of the world and when others connect to my work I believe that they are joining me in the dialogue I propose because they have had similar experiences which burn in their memory. Another interesting body of work of yours that has particularly impacted me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled The Enemy Within and I have to admit it's one of my favourite work of yours: what mostly appeals me of this project is the way you accomplish the difficult task of investigating about the ephemeral and at the same time elusive nature of the concept of game and especially the way we relate to the intrinsic atemporal feature that marks out the idea of video games... when I first happened to get to know with this work I tried to relate all the visual information to a single meaning. I later realized I had to fit into the visual unity 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

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to enabling us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

The short answer to this question is: Yes. The long answer is: This particular series came from a personal desire to be able to "play" a painting. I had a deep wish to dispel the confusion that this type of art work engenders and to create a direct bridge to the viewer through play. I wished for my communication to go beyond words. My early work explored abstract expressionism and I wanted these games to reveal the intuitive concepts found within this genre. Painting resides in the plastic arts and my desire at its inception flew in the face of an accepted view that the plastic arts are trapped by their own physicality. Johan Huizinga explains this divide like this, "The very fact of their [the plastic arts] being bound to matter and to the limitations of form inherent in it, is enough to forbid them absolutely free play and deny them that flight into the ethereal spaces open to music and poetry." It was my thought that the introduction of play into an experience of a painting would finally free it from its trap and form a connection between the maker and the viewer in the course of the play experience. While some of my games have stated goals, none of them have a stated win condition, and so invite the player to create their own conditions to win. This vagueness toys with the concepts of paidic and ludic games. Graham H. Jensen explains these concepts, "In paidic games, players can still 'win' as a direct result of conformance to implicit, culturally influenced goals; and in ludic games, goals can be established by the player, even if they do not help the player 'win' or progress in a way intended by the developers of the game." Leaving interpretation of rules and win conditions open connects to the player and builds on a reflection from Clement Greenberg that "Content is to be dissolved so completely into form that the work of art cannot be reduced in whole or in part to anything not itself." According to Ian Bogost, in video games, dissolving the content into the form "resides in the gap between rule-based representation and

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player subjectivity" and this thought parallels the current ontological position of painting, that is to be caught somewhere between the eye and the mind as and/or between interpretation and consciousness.

nowadays came out on the top has dramatically revolutionized the idea of Art itself: in a certain sense, we are forced to rethink about the intimate aspect of the materiality of an artwork itself, since just few years ago it was a tactile materialization of an idea.

I have studied painting and play to the point where this information has been internalized. I don't think about it while I am making the work. I knew intuitively that I needed to use invisible protagonists and/or enemies in these games in order to make that point that it is not what you can see that is most important; it is what you can't see that is driving these games. I also knew that this decision would infuse the work with systemic issues of gestalt that the viewer/player would be invited to cognitively reconcile during the course of playing the games.

I believe that how something becomes manifest is merely a byproduct of the exploration of the artist which is further interpreted by the viewer/interactor. A work of art is just like a person, in that it is not only what it looks like, but also the life that resides within. That it has a physical presence of any kind is only so we know it exists, after which, we can begin to engage and attempt to understand. I'm sort of convinced that new media will definitely fill the apparent dichotomy between art and technology and I will dare to say that Art and Technology are going to assimilate one

The impetuous way modern technology has

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to each other... what's your point about this?

You use the word "dichotomy" which seems to imply that there is a split between Art and Technology. I don't see it that way. Painting is very technical and has its set of rules just as programming does. Each medium, whether it be painting, programming, printmaking, sculpture, or play, affords different conceptual implicators and all reside on the same palette. I use all of these because the work needs them. The interplay bet-ween media is what is important to my work. This is an influence on a conceptual level from Josef Albers' Interaction of Color. I am using his lessons on the difference between factual and actual facts, transference, afterimage, boundaries, and plastic action. As Sigmund Freud once stated “The opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real": in Unspoken you juxtapose a toy that belongs to universal imagery and that evokes - I would go as far as to state - such a joyful childish dimension, with characters that shows clear remonders to adult's sphere. I can recognize a subtle but effective sociopolitical criticism in it: many artists from the contemporary scene, as Thomas Hirschhorn or Michael Light, use to include sociopolitical criticism in their works, that often goes beyond a mere descriptive point of view on the issues they face: do you consider that your works are political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach?

First, thank you for including my work with Thomas Hirschhorn and Michael Light. These are artists that I have admired in the past. To answer your question, yes I have an agenda. I have a message that wishes to promote tolerance, altruism, sharing, and cooperation. This is not a neutral position. These are the values that I wish for our species to embrace and foster for future generations. This is the reality that I wish to invoke through play. Your practice 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. So, before leaving this conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience.

We are in this together. My struggles are yours and yours are mine. That is my relationship with the world and with the audience.

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Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

I show my work as often as possible so I do wish for there to be some type of reception that is positive

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and hopeful. I strive to be entertaining. I love it when the work is funny. I am asking the world to play with me. Through play we can have a dialogue, form trust, and maybe even solve a few problems. Choosing "what type of language" has been a double edged sword for me. I have a

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tendency to "shoot from the hip" as the saying goes. I often choose words that are direct and cut to the heart of the matter. This sometimes creates conflict and sometimes it builds bridges. This depends on who is listening. That I have viewers who engage with the work shows that

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series started. It is difficult to know which ones will mature and become manifest. I think the ones that will come to fruition next are (1) a casual video game series titled "For The Life Of Me" about pain management and recovery, (2) a series of ceramic table top games that shouldn't be played, titled "Breakable," and (3) a series of remote controlled toy power wheelchairs titled "I Don't Want A Wheelchair As A Part Of My Persona" which is about the perception of wheelchair users as societal embarrassment.

there are some who are not only listening but also entering into the discourse that I propose. This is the goal that I have in mind when I am making my creative decisions. On the subject of "language ... used in a particular context," I think that it is impossible to predict every context that the work can find itself in. I imagine the work in a gallery where English is spoken and I play with the multiple meanings of words in the language. An example of this is found in the "Unspoken" titled "I Just Want To Play." This piece has a pair of construction workers paired with this phrase. I expected that the viewer would enjoy the double entendre found within the context that the word "play" found itself. A toy in a gallery that you are not allowed to touch is inviting you to play. Like-wise the characters in the piece are trapped by the work that they must do and perhaps if they could they would put down the box and run and play. This is not possible because the characters' feet are stuck in the piece, making escape impossible.

An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Theresa. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

You're welcome. I have enjoyed having the opportunity to share my work. I am very grateful for your time and interest. It is an honor to be included in Art Habens. I have started to mass produce some of my games. These versions of the games are much cheaper and this stems from a thought that art is for everyone and not just for the elite. I want to have at least some of my work priced so that anyone can afford it. I also have my toys available for sale at the Saatchi Online Gallery. I have links to these online shops posted on Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/tdevinegames/ I see selling the work not only as a means to share it with the world, but also as a way to fund future work. The video games are not yet available publicly and I am considering my options. The endpoint of my work is not known to me. I intend to follow the exploration that I have defined for myself to see where it goes. I have several new

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Johannis Tsoumas Using a variety of materials such as inks, acrylic paints, ceramic metal-plated items together with pieces of newspaper and magazines, Johannis creates a collage that refers to the visualization of an imaginary world. Focusing on the concepts of gears and people he seeks to landscape a world both nightmarish and beautiful. Sometimes by a symbolic and sometimes by an eloquently visual, but not academic way, he highlights the anguish of man, who has always been a member of an industrialized, sovereign and otherworldly society. His source of inspiration is the purity of industrial landscapes, machines, gears, chains, belts, pulleys, smokestacks and factories into one, however, dynamic and conflictual relationship with employees and bosses. In an imaginative way the artist harmonizes the contrast that characterizes the concepts of the animate and the inanimate, the strong and the weak, the signifier and the signified.

Career Factory, mixed technique on canvas, 50x60 cm

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Human Issue Factory 70x90 cm, mixed technique on canvas Special

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An interview with An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Johannis Tsoumas accomplishes a critical investigation about the elusive relationship between the human sphere and the inanimate dimension, centering his attention on the visualization of an imaginary world. The multifaceted nature of his background allows him to incorporate a wide variety of materials to produce collages that convey both aesthetics and a compelling analysis on the anguish that pervades our unstable contemporary age. One of the most convincing aspects of Tsoumas' approach is the way he urges the viewers to relate themselves to variety of themes in an uncoventional way, walking them into an area of intellectual interplay between imagination and perception. We are very pleased to introduce our readers to his stimulating artistic production. Hello Johannis and welcome to ART Habens. To start this interview, I would like to pose you a couple of questions about your rich background: you have a solid formal training both in the field of Fine Arts and the History of Art and Design and you have studied in Greece, your native country as well as the United Kingdom. How have these different experiences influenced your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does the relationship between your Greek cultural substratum and having lived in a multicultural place as London inform the way you relate youself to art making and to aesthetics?

Johannis Tsoumas

which kept me ‘apart’ from the rushing art scene of this wonderful city. By the time, when I opened myself to the world and by admitting being an artist, which means being ‘an inhabitant of a universal land’, I was able to take advantage of all the cultural privileges that this country has to offer. At the same time though, I was not just an artist: I was also a Design Historian and later, when I got my Ph. D. from the Aristotle University in Greece an Art Historian. My multifaceted way in the field of art both in theory and practice helped me to balance

Though I had a rather difficult time during the first years of my studies in Great Britain, mainly because of this particular difference between the two “clashy” cultures, British and Greek, later I reckon this situation just turned on my favour. Being initially a rather introvert, culturally, Greek young man, I found several obstacles in understanding the universality of London and consequently all its positive (and negative) connotations,

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between these two rather unconventional roles and try to find ways to reconciliate my cultural, political and social ideology and sometimes utopic activism with my desire to depict my subjective, phenomenal need for “contructiveness” through the power of the machines.

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effective and possibly mind stimulating result. This is basically the actual ‘hallmark’, as you previously stated, that characterizes my work and make it stand out for its conceptual and technical personality. We would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from Human Factory, and World War II a couple of interesting works that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at soon caught our eyes of these works is the way your investigation about the relationship between memory and imagination: we have particularly appreciated the way you have highlighted the role of cultural substratum, accomplishing at the same time an autonomous aesthetics. Do you conceive this in an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

A hallmark of your style that has impressed us is the way you combine together a wide variety of materials, ranging from inks and acrylic paints to ceramic metal-plated as well as pieces of newspaper and magazines: this feature provides your work of a manifold, almost kaleidoscopic mark and we would suggest our readers to visit http://www.saatchiart.com/ioak in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While crossing the borders of different artistic techniques have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between opposite viewpoints as well as different disciplines is the only way to express and convey the idea you explore?

Leaving the field of media and techniques and opening the ‘chapter’ of themes, concepts and symbols, I am particularly happy to see that you have focused your attention on these two works which are also my favorite. Well, yes I am trying to deal with differnet concepts and themes which at the same time have something in common: the adoration of machines in many aspects of course, that is from a social, political, historical and cultural point of view. The Human Factory work is dominated by the depiction of a huge, unreal but effective machine part which symbolizes the power of the machine era over humanity and seems to dominate people for centuries. Its name is rather ambiguous as viewers may think that it is mainly a Factory that produces..people. However, it is rather the opposite: a scene of an industrial ambiance which uses the human strength, health and soul in order to produce more and more products, to make the wealthy, wealthier and the poor, poorer. On the other hand the work titled World War II has severe political and

I have always liked exploring and conradicting. I believe these two very ambiguous but productive concepts fuel my fantasy and build my aspirations in terms of my art in a rather fascinating way. Of course in both fields I have always been using different techniques, many of which were even unknown to me in the beginning, and different media which in many cases do not ‘match’ each other. For instance I dare to mix inks with dry pastels and sometimes watercolours and acrylics with oil paints, that is some kinds of media that are classically incompatible. On the other hand I enjoy using materials that many people would ignore such as pieces of magazines paper, poly-bags, plastic, rusty metals, newspaper, even ceramics, trying to incorporate them to my work by imposing them to start a rather fruitful dialogue with the other media I use. From my point of view I am trying to put together two totally ‘absonant’ worlds in terms of materials and techniques, the ‘breeding’ of which may produce a quite

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World War II, 60x70 cm, mixed technique on canvas.

historical connotations as it symbolizes through two extremely powerful figures (Benitto Moussolini and Joseph Stalin) the destructive effectiveness of machines during the Second World War, and especially the triumphant power of steam engine via the most popular means of mass transport of that era: the train.

in a rather ambivalent way: the distant version in which the train is depicted to cross a long, roman aquarium-like arched bridge, a symbol of the Roman Empire, and a closer version according to which the people that it carries are depicted in a “wrong” perspective, which also implies the “wrong” direction of humanity during wars. The technique of collage is strongly used in these two pieces

At the same time the train itself is depicted

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Children at work, collage, inks and acrylic paint on canvas, 40x60 cm


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Demonstration, mixed technique on canvas, 40x60 cm

Your exploration of the conflictual

of work as I believe it enhances the valuable sense of historical memory.

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relationship between employees and bosses

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Factory suggest a subtle but effective socio political criticism: many artists from the contemporary scene, ranging from Michael Light and Ai Weiwei to more recently more recently Jennifer Linton and David Černý, use to include socio-political criticism in their works. It is not unusual that an artist, rather than urging the viewer to take a personal position on a subject, tries to convey his personal take about the major issues that affect contemporary age. Do you consider that your works are political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? And in particular, what could be in your opinion the role that an artist could play in the contemporary society?

Yes, I reckon that socio-political criticism constitutes a really important part of today’s art as it gives access to the variety of problems that arise in everyday life and haunt the achievements of the wesetrn civilisation in one way or another. I believe in the power of the image, especially of painting as it can influence not simply a group of viewers but mainly a whole part of society (we have several examples in the European and American history of Art). Art can be a means of protest, reaction to any kind of regime, a public voice in short that can waken the masses. In my opinion, modern art is far from contributing to beauty and balance, to harmony and elegance. It is rather a weapon to fight against injustice, to comment on the bad points of a system, to keep collective memory alive. Demonstartion is a strongly protestive work and this is quite obvious. On the contrary the Career Factory contains hints of anger, irony and possibly mockery on the new capitalistic status quo that has emerged in western economies represented effectively by the ‘golden boys’. Another rather sharp comment on the effects of industrialism and consequent capitalism in society is stated through my work Children at work which talks directly to everybody’s hearts by narrating them about the children

in hierarchical societies that we can recognize in Demonstration and in Career

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exploitation in any form of industry and in any historical period from the Industrial Revolution onwards. As you can see then, my art, except from the historical, social and cultural symbolisms that contains is strongly political. Don’t forget that all these elements constitute nothing less than the political backbone of a nation. Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on me and on which I would like to spend some words is entitled THE DRAFT, which we have to admit is one of our favourite piece from your recent production: this captivating work eloquently sums up your artist's statement and the both nightmarish and beautiful world you walk the viewer to, brings a new level of significance to the dichotomy between human dimension and the inanimate sphere. So we would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

The Draft is a really unique work as it implies several situations and seems to bridge past historical events with current ones that happen in Europe and especially in Greece. As you can see it is Lenin, the past Soviet leader, who seems to navigate this rather unfortunate draft which is not only full of hopeless people but also is sailing with no captain and direction. This symbolic work signifies the current situation in Greece and in Europe in general through the refugees problem. The figure of Lenin symbolizes the Greek left government which handles with care this so serious and delicate matter that has to do with the lives and the future of the Syrian people. Here, in Greece we have all witnessed the martyrdom of these proud people and we all pray for them. So I would say, yes, I believe that not only my personal experience but also my views about life and politics played an important role in the

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The Draft, 70x100 cm, mixed technique on canvas.

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creation of this work. In my opinion, creative process is always inextricably woven with direct experience as it gets much influenced by it. Contrary to most of your recent works, Soul Extruder seems to reject a direct explanatory strategy: it rather builds on a refined symbolism, that we have appreciated also in Crucifixion, that works both on a subconscious and a conscious level. When addressing the viewers to relate themselves with the notion of the anguish of mankind in a personal way, your work shows an effective combination between experience and imagination. Thomas Demand once stated that: "nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". What is your opinion about this? And in particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

I never denied that my work is symbolic and I am particularly happy with this. It is also anthropocentric even though, in many cases, the human figure is not present, but it is strongly implied. This is the case of the work Soul Extruder which implies in a rather subconscious level the tortures of mankind in the altar of industrialism profit. On the other hand there are works that slightly touch the religious issue. The sign of the cross, represented in its simplest form by a crossing of two lines at right angles, greatly antedates, in both the East and the West, the introduction of Christianity. It goes back to a very remote period of human civilization. In fact, some have sought to attach to the widespread use of this sign, a real ethnographic importance. It is no coincidence that the cross symbol from initially expressing the Roman enforcement of the order, became a symbol of opposition of that authority, by being given a new meaning as the ultimate symbol of Christianity. My ‘cross’ in the Crucifixion work is possibly something more than the above:

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Souls in Tubes and Gears, 50x60 cm, mixed technique on canvas

it signifies the sense of sacrifice of humanity in the multileveled cross of industrialism. Both works narrate in their own way new stories about the initially religious stereotyped concepts of sacrifice, martyrdom, torture and crucifixion as all these divine features belong to humans themselves and not to any kind of God. My narrative symbolisms do not constitute any kind of strategy as they have no intentions: they merely try to decode the secrets of the

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human unhappiness which has always been well hidden behind the mechanized global development. This is my answer! We have appreciate the investigative feature of your investigation about emerging visual contexts: like many art disciplines, collage can borrow elements to create new art: in your opinion are there limits to what can or should be used to create collages? In particular are there any constraints or rules that you follow when conceiving and

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'The Soul Extruder', 25x35 cm, μικτή τεχνική σε καμβά.


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'Industrial Body', mixed technique on wood 40 x 1,50 cm.

creating your works?

work is everything but new. However, I believe that it is the way artists use the media they choose to work with, not just the media themselves. Personally I don’t think there are any restrictions in its use, the more you use the more imaginative the work you produce. However, in my case I have to be particularly selective as my work is not of decorative or embellishing nature. The collage parts I incorporate to the main body of any of my paintings have to be compatible both with the theme I have chosen to work on and on

As collage is a rather ancient technique (it was discovered in China thousands years ago), it was Braque who actually reinvented and brought back again in the twentieth century art scene. He just purchased a roll of simulated oak-grain wallpaper and began cutting out pieces of the paper and attaching them to his charcoal drawings. Picasso immediately began to make his own experiments in the new medium. So the technique of collage that I have incorporated in my

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challenge the viewers' perception in order to going beyond the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but the way we relate to it... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a way- to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

the whole “ambiance� I am trying to create in a work in order to produce the conceptual and metaphoric effects I am aiming at every single time. As you have remarked once, your source of inspiration is the purity of industrial landscapes and we dare say that one of the most convincing aspects of your approach materializes a kind of unconventional harmony, while most of the time we use to recognize such a contrast. In a certain sense, we could even state that your works

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I am happy that you are trying to reveal through this question the concept of decoding in my work. I strongly believe that a rather enchanting and interesting part of my paintings is the fact that the viewers need to get into the process of transforming information from a difficult to understand stored symbols format to one that can be understood more easily. As you can see this is the viewers’ job. My own job is to employ the term of encoding which means that I always try to find ways especially through unconventional, tough and sometimes contradicting forms, shapes, landscapes, figures, ever written texts and pagan symbols, to stimulate the viewers’ perception, taste, memory, patience, curiosity, class, experiences and even family background. In this way I am trying to introduce them to my own mind world which I reckon is quite challenging and at the same time exciting, too. People first look at and then think, comment on, judge, estimate, accept, swear at, reject, welcome, adore or even hate my work, but they never ignore it! People find hard to have revealed what they have so far accepted as Nature but in a nastier, or worse, in a less ‘physiological’ way. People are afraid of experiencing lives without playing any kind of roles. We love the thoughtful nuance of red that you used in Polymichanon: the dialogue established by sometimes delicate, sometimes intense nuances of tones that pervade your pieces is a very important aspect of your style, that is capable of summing up a combination of thoughts and emotions. How much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones you decide to use in a piece and in particular, how do you develop a painting’s texture? Moreover, any comments on your choice of "palette" and how it has changed over time?

Though I think that colors are of a rather lesser value in my work (forms and shapes are prevalent), I like playing with the tones

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Polimichanon, 40x60 cm, mixed technique on canvas.

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Crucifixion, mixed technique on canvas, 50x60 cm

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and the relevant palette of colors that actually complement the main one I have chosen to use for a piece of work. Polymichanon (a Greek word that stands for someone or something clever, cunning and capable of conceiving great ideas) is a characteristic piece of work that encompasses a wide spectrum of the techniques I employ and the color experiments I may try from time to time. This bold use of red in contrast to the stiffness and rigidness of the utopic machine parts invite the viewers to discover another side of my work which basically completes its complicated but rather interesting puzzle. Of course my psychological make-up plays a particularly important role to all these, but at the end I reckon that the use of color is more or less controllable on my work as everything has to do with the total outcome of every single piece. Over these years had numerous group and solo exhibitions in many art galleries both in Greece and abroad: your work is strictly connected to the chance to establish a deep involvement with the viewer, that are invited to a multilayered experience: so before leaving this conversation I would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship of your art with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process, in terms of what type of language is used in a particular context?

This a particularly interesting question: as you may have already found out I like stimulating my audience’s interest in many ways. The relationship we develop is ambiguous but strong and in many ways constructive and efficient. What I really aim at is to catch my audience’s interest in many ways. I don’t care if people like or detest my work: I just don’t want them to be indifferent in front of it. I count as a personal achievement the fact that people usually do not passby my work, but stay in front of

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every single piece trying to understand what is going on there. Many times, when they are not lonely viewers, start talking among them about it, commenting on its techniques, style and symbolisms, they argue about its interpretation and scope. This is a rather interesting ‘game’ in which I enjoy taking part by listening to their views. However, I always give the freedom to the audience to ‘decode’ my work in the way they want, I never interfere into this. No, I never take decisions about my work which are based on the audience’s reactions or even desires. I don’t think many artists do that. I simply try to find people who can “understand and speak my own art language”. Believe me there are many. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Johannis. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

My work will possibly move forward but to the same direction. This means that I will definitely keep the techniques, style, and symbolic characteristics that actually constitute the ‘hallmark’ of my ‘artistic signature’, but I may move towards a less complicated thematography which will mainly deal with the aesthetics and the values of the urban environment and of objects of everyday use. I am not sure if I am about to incorporate explicitly the uhman figure into it or leave a hint of it in my new works. I will see by the time what to do exactly. In the meantime I am planning to participate in different but also interesting, though quite different among themselves, group painting exhibitions in Greece and Bulgaria. I am also very much interested in the German and the Scandinavian markets and I would be extremely happy if I had the chance to present my work in these countries some time in the future.

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The Truth Machine, 32X52 cm, mixed technique on canvas

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James Paddock Paddock I like to draw people into my work, for my work to be loved. Hence, the friendly organic shapes and catchy slogans in my art. Yet, there is seriousness about my work and my pain expressed as a member of the mass population in England. I have such an urge to get my message across and speak about the unspoken and that is an underlying intensity that comes into my work. So, I do not like to be restricted politically or Artistically, I am trying to do my own thing and I think suffering from Mental illness has enabled me to think outside the box. Using narratives is important to me, to tell a story about contemporary life. I sometimes write a text narrative to support artwork that also has a narrative. The subject matter is mostly taken from my own personal experience or what I witnessed. I am influenced by the eye catching imagery we have all around us and I use sign based materials in my work. I utilise what is around us, which can be transformed into artworks. I use laser cut acrylic and with vinyl backing at present mostly. These materials enable me to cross the boundaries of the abstract and realism both aesthetically and in the content of my work. The cross over between the Abstract and Realism is my method of putting a serious message across, yet being gentle at the same time. We can be sensitive creatures and I do want all sorts of people to understand my Political and Artistic approach. I want my work to be appreciated and to touch people no matter what their background. My art usually works on several levels so hopefully there is something for everyone in it. However, my work could be difficult to digest for some, as it is not what I would call mainstream left, right or centre ground. I would say that my observations are linked to my experiences as a Human being, as well for a moment or articulating a snap shot of our everyday lives. I suppose I speak about issues within my work that are usually is not spoken about.

Soap opera on a summer's evening, 2015 52cm x 8.5cm x 3cm

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An interview with An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Barbara Scott, curator arthabens@mail.com

British artist James Paddock accomplishes a compelling investigation about a variety of themes that affects our contemporary unstable reality, with a particular focus on the notions of identity. One of the most convincing aspects of Paddock's practice is the way he gently draws the viewers to relate themselves to the aesthetic problem in an unconventional ad at the same time compelling way, walking them into an area of intellectual interplay between memory, experience and perception. We are very pleased to introduce our readers to his refined artistic production. Hello James 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 you studied Art at the college: how has this experience influenced your evolution as an artist? In particular, how do they inform the way you relate yourself to art making and to aesthetics in general?

I basically began studying from scratch at the age twenty three and totally seazed the opportunity to further my studies at the Cardiff School of Art and Design and had some fantastic lecturers, who I owe so much. I think I felt understood for the first time in my life at Art School and I must admit, I had to navigate my way through the British education system, as I suffer from Mental illness and was a little ruff around the edges, some of the Lecturers were 100% for me and others were not.

Deca Torres

provide your works of a manifold aspect, and I would suggest our readers to visit http://www.axisweb.org/p/jamespaddock/ in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While crossing the borders of different artistic fields have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between opposite viewpoints is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

Your approach is marked out with a deep multidisciplinary synergy between several practices, that you sometimes combine to

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Soap opera on a summer's evening, 2015 52cm x 8.5cm x 3cm

if you combine lots of influences you will create something new. However, you have to resist a mono type train of thought in order to do that. Suffering from mental illness, I believe has given me the ability to think outside the box.

It is a very fast and a direct process, I hate to say it; but I don’t spend an awfull lot of time with my scetch books. I do work on the different perspectives and layers within my scetching, Playing with ideas and how things might come together. I don’t use scetch books how an Artist should. I tend to go with an image in my mind, then once I have the materials in front of me I complete the artwork. I utilize what we have available to us as Artists from our World. An exceptance of mixed media artworks is a God send for me. Yes,

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We would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from Soap opera on a summer's evening, an interesting work that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What most impressed us of

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this project is the way it unveils a point of convergence between a functional analysis and a refined kind of autonomous aesthetics. Do you conceive this in an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

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to me. So, I’m working for the whole and probulary unconciously bringing things together. There’s something about being open to all infuences. I’ve recently learnt a little about Hegel and he has a theory around learning from your enemy. The creative process is very quick for me and yes it’s very much an instictive way of production and a refinement towards the end of the process when producing a work. I worked with the Photographer Rob Luckins on this piece and I knew exactly

I’ve been interested in fusions of many different types to create a whole for sometime now. However, I no longer think;” I’ll combine those factors to create an art object”, it’s now just second nature

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what I wanted as a final result, but Rob’s technical abilities and experience refined the work as well. So we brought more to it than I originally envisaged and also the Actors Sam and Jessica added by their involvement to the piece. I wanted to use Actors rather than models, as the end result is a soap opera stills kind of effect. And in particular, do you try to achieve a faithful visual translation of your feelings?

I am very focused and usually only work on one piece at a time, I usually have a vision of how the artwork will look at the end. but enjoy collaberation and playing with an artwork to achieve a final result also. Providing the viewers of a multilayered experience your work also carries out a subtle exploration of a variety of sociopolitical issues that affect our unstable contemporary age, and we have particularly appreciated your gentle but effective critique about soap opera stereotypical character in Soap opera on a summer's evening. More and more artists, ranging from John Heartfield to Thomas Hirschhorn often use art as a powerful tool to express their personal takes about the major issues that affect contemporary age. As I have been said once, Art could have a therapeutical effect on society and it should become the vehicle for change: while setting free Art's communicative potential, do you consider that your works are political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? By the way, what should be in your opinion the role of an artist in our societies, and in particular in the country you live in?

Heartfield or Hirschhorn’s work, yet on another level it’s very political, but from

I think my work is visually friendlier than

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my own objective, observatonal viewpiont. However, I think there is an importance to

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lets say the Avant guard approach that has a specific agenda and is working

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Stuck!!! 2014–2015 90cm x 150cm


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society and that’s why my imagery is easy on the eye and to catch the attention of the viewer and then tell a particular viewpoint of mine. Yes and for example now you mention it, I feel that unconciously I am trying to heal the hurt that others and myself have felt from living in a Bedsit as a youth, which is the main subject matter of the piece, Stuck!!!. Artists have a wonderfull tool at their disposal and we can help to point out positives and negatives of our world. So, for example ‘soap’ is a feminist piece in some ways,asking if, we should be spending so much of our time watching soap operas , when there’s so much to learn about our world in a lifetime. In Britain , I think the traditional working class have difficulties being heard as a social/cultural group within are Society, so a motivation is to represent that viewpoint in my art in someway. But, I wouldn’t again restrict myself to just that veiwpoint. You often refer to universal imagery to invite the spectatorship to elaborate personal associations and your work shows a stimulating relationship between realism ad abstraction, that we can recognize in Who would have thought it?: how would you describe the nature of this effective combination?

Stuck!!! 2014–2015 90cm x 150cm

As the world gets smaller I think, we are starting to have more in common as world citizens. Yet, I would say that there is also a British feel to my work that might be appreciated oversees as an insight into British Culture. Or maybe, British culture has spread into the the psychie of most people around the world if that be real or not.’Who would have thought it’, is a reponse mainly to the negatve/ naivety of some parts of political correctness and the

closley with or as a Political force. But, that’s not me, I like to take a neutral stance and believe there are benefits to that.I don’t like to use too forcefull or violent an image to get an observational message across. So, yes, Your right, art does have a therapeutical effect on

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James Paddock

sacrifice of the traditional working class within that. With this piece I would like to leave some working out for the veiwer, But as far as realism and abstaction goes, it’s the reality of today where the left and right are neglecting the traditional working class cultural group. In the work we can see Prime Ministers Blair and Thatcher sharing the same flat (apartment) or in bed together.It’s also about anyone being a rascist from any walk of life for example. Then there is a ‘what if’ scenario or myself fantasizing about something I haven’t experienced; communism. There is also my disapiontments about communism, where a Doctor would live in the same block as a cleaner for example. There’s a sadness that it didn’t work out and reality that people naturally rise to the top in Societies. So again, with the Abstraction, it’s a warm way on one level of attracting viewers and comforting the viewer in a way. The realism is magnifying aspects of life that are needed to be talked about. There are ideas that I’ve thought about myself and others might think the same, which would be nice; that my thoughts are not in isolation. Because remember, within our societies Political correctness has now stiffled free speech in a way and we are silenced in some areas, which currently is overwheling its positives.

Taken out, 2015 48 x 55 x 3 cm

So, there seems to be an overall outcome in my work, which is an Artwork as a whole and yes, it also points to imagery we have around us, as the world population. Signage and primary colours, that we’ve become used to in our lives. Maybe what we feel comfortable with,what’s familiar and for most people it’s what they know. So, within that I tell a message that’s a little more insightfull or challenging.

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Your work is marked with an effective universal quality that allows the viewers to relate themselves to the ideas you explore in such an absolute way, that goes beyond their cultural substratum: while exploring the liminal area in which perceptual parameters blends with symbolism, you draw a lot from reality: both as concerning the themes you questions and regarding the imagery you refer to, as in the stimulating Stuck!!!.

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Taken out, 2015 48 x 55 x 3 cm


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James Paddock

container ship copy axis

Such combination reminds us of the idea behind Thomas Demand's works, when he states that "nowadays art can no longer rely so much on symbolic strategies and

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has to probe psychological, narrative elements within the medium instead". While the conception of Art could be considered an abstract activity, there is

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James Paddock

always a way of giving it a sense of permanence, going beyond the intrinsic ephemeral nature of those concepts you explore. So 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?

ART Habens

coast in Southampton and sometimes watch the cruise ships and container ships coming and going. But, the piece stems from looking out over the Solent and Southampton water at the sea one day and thinking; this is fluid, liquid, what a substance, it was a bit of a spacey experience at that moment. We all know the qualities of water and I might continue investigating this theme further. But, it is remarkable how man invented such collussal ships that float on water, also the water skimmer is a wonder and if Jesus walked on water, well that’s remarkable. So, this piece is really about juxtaposition.

Firstly, thank you for introducing me to Thomas Demand and his work and I’m sure I will be looking at his work in the future a great deal. Yes, what I’ve witnessed in life up to now does contribute and usually is the starting point to my work. The original concept when i start a piece is an issue I feel strongly about and is a reality. However, I have a tool at my disposal which is my Mental illness, which means my mind produces abstact Ideas and I have an have insight into the deeper parts of the brains abstract way of thinking, if you like. However, throughout the creative process, I work hard on the concepts , but there is a natural flow of ideas. Yes, I think there has to be a starting point and that is based on reality and then you work from there.

Your installations are often pervaded with a subtle but effective narrative, as the interesting Blindfolded and sent from heaven, which is a reflection about the masses not being utilized these days: what has lead you to conceive such compelling mix between concepts and materials? In particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

Very quick process again, from beginning to end. My concern is that the our Leaders are disconnected from the People in the UK. At the same time, people do not decide what strater of society they are born into and I believe it’s what you do on the planet whilst your here is what’s important. So, a harsh violent image would be unfair.All my work is welcoming and although working on different levels, there is a common thread running through my artworks. But it is a very direct and compact work I would say.

The ambience you created by On water , inviting to reflect about seems to suggest that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a way- to decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impacted on us and on which we would like to spend some words is entitled Taken out. While exhibiting an

On Water is a departure from Politics and about what I see locally. I live near the

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explanatory strategy that comes from the way you draw from universal imagery, it is open to various interpretations: in particular, it communicates us a process of deconstruction, recontextualization and assemblage both on a semantic and on a formal aspect, as concern the notion of identity. What is it specifically about the concept of identity which fascinates you and make you want to center a part of your work around it?

are so many cultures within Britain, that the media or society itself can’t define them all and again it’s neglect of the traditional working class culture/social group again in my country. Your hybrid approach 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. So, before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

I wasn’t concious about pervious approaches in art, but might have been influenced sub conciously by others artworks. I really think it’s the way my brain works, where i’m making two meanings from one situation. The reference to the south of France being like a theme park to the boy, is auto biographical and very real, but appears to be fantasy, because of the subject matter. It points to the thrill of seeing the white horses of the Camarge, climbing to the top of the amphitheatre in Nimes, the spectacuar sights, culture, food. This is the boys theme park, the South of France.It’s also refering to a lad who has been rejected by the state school education system, yet has a curious mind and appreciates Culture. So yes, it is to do with recontextualisation and semantics.

Yes, It’s about making my art appealing to an high art audience and I would also like to engage the masses aswell in Britain. Yet, i’m very pleased that you mentioned about the universatalty in my work and I would like to engage audiences oversees and attract audiences from every background and yes that’s important to me as an Artist. Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, James. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

In terms of identidy, I feel that we have to define identidy for young boys and girls who might be simulular to the character in ‘Taken out’. As I said earlier British culture and invention is everywhere in the world; from Pop music, clothes, film, The Computer/internet , literature to television and so much more. So, I would say that our culture is so wide spead and a normality around the world, that in some way it’s hard to pin down and say to our youth, this is your Culture. Of course there

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Rob Luckins and I are in discusion about producing a gallery video piece together, which I’m exited about. However, I do have some ideas that I’m keeping under my hat for now. The Readers can view ‘Taken out’ At NN Contemporary Art, Northampton, England, UK from December 10th – 28 February at their Open exhibition.

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Blindfolded and sent from heaven, 2015 112 x 98 x 3 cm


Anna-Maria Anna-Maria Amato Anna-Maria Amato graduated in Fine Art from Loughborough University where she explored the emotion and connection with a person through the process of letter writing - developing the illustrations of myth and fantasy in relationship to ones personal imagination. Many things other than artwork are described as a canvas to be worked on. The base for beauty can be varied and almost like a skeleton, holding great importance. Amato finds the working surface important when it comes to applying the idea, using the grain in the wood in some pieces and also spraying a subtle metallic sheen or a dusty black to bring intensify the contrast of the bright colours. The pieces connect to narratives deriving from Amato's imagination, revolving around the soul, its development and journey. There are references to fairy tales such as Alice In The Looking Glass. She admires pop surrealism and aims to compound ideas in an elegant way with relation to these influences. In 2012 Anna-Maria Amato joined a collective to curate an exhibition, named 'Unspoken Ceremonies', about the realities in people's lives and the rituals and patterns of behaviour which contribute to ones self. As part of the 'Alterantive Art College' she also ran a workshop at an event at Goldsmiths, 'Education as an Experiment'. The workshop was about methods of collaboration which revolved around some kind of system such as the Fibonacci sequence in maths, of language grammar tables. Having written art reviews 'The Flanneur' Amato extended her passion for the arts to music and creative writing and contributed pieces on both. Having been involved in the research of assisting recovery of those with long term health problems and having found it exceptionally rewarding to think of creative ways to inspire positivity her aim for the work is to be a direct consequence of the truth from her mind and the analysis required to accept and learn about herself. Her experience of art therapy has lead her to believe that catering for an individuals creativity is the most effective way of progressing in the area. She has found that dialogue can take the form of art in a way which confronts the problem in a way which connects to emotion rather than logic. Amato was born and brought up in South East London. Going out with nothing but a notebook in her pocket she discovered the gems of the South East - the artists in arches, artists in houses, artists on stalls. She would like to introduce artists in trees, looking down, looking up and hopefully looking ahead. Deca Torres

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An interview with An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Anna-Maria Amato's work is a successful attempt to capture the subtle but ubiquitous relationship between imagination and experience, highlighting elusive quality of perceptual processes. The multifaceted nature of her approach rejects any conventional classification and goes beyond the usual dichotomy between representation and abstraction and is capable of providing the viewers of the chance to lead them in the liminal area in which memory blends with imagination. One of the most convincing aspect of Amato's approach is the way it materializes the permanent flow of associations in the realm of experience and memory: we are really pleased to introduce our readers to her stimulating artistic production. Hello Anna-Maria and a warm 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 you hold a BA of Fine Art, that you received from Loughborough University: how has this experience influenced your evolution as an artist and how does it inform the way you currently conceive your works? By the way, do you think that living in a multicultural place as in South East London could have informed the way you relate youself to art making?

Anna-Maria Amato

when i graduated, the speaker at the ceremony said that education is something that cannot be taken away from you. i didn’t think she meant the degree, i believe she meant what we have learnt, how we have developed. ironically i miss-placed the certificate itself half an hour later, it was found by the end of the day but this reinstated what she had said. education, the process and the results of it, the ability to apply what we have learnt will always be with us. the question is what did i learn and how did i myself evolve with the training? well i learnt i am ever changing as an artist and that i evolve through

inspiration. the inspiration at university was the fellow artists the environment of a new home, the expertise of the lecturers and the access to journals and books in all specialisms i could imagine. i think coming from a multi cultural area in London and keeping my finger on the pulse of the art scene and local artists made me aware of the variety of backgrounds of artists, how this informed their work and how my own differences, experiences of life could be reflected in my work and triggered a decisiveness to define myself as an artist

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For this special issue of ART Habens we have

leading to the conclusion that the definition of my art is myself .

selected The Lady and the Unicorn, that our readers have already started to get to know in

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about the relationship between perception and imagination accomplishes the difficult task of creating an autonomous aesthetics. Do you conceive it in an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

my process at the time of the production was streaming my thoughts in spider diagrams and other forms of note taking, connecting key words and phrases i like to form types of poetry and visual conclusions in my mind. these ideas would create the basis for the selection of subject matter. searching source material would direct my composition of the subject matter. the style of technique will be quite instinctive and is the personal therapeutic side to my work. an example i can give of this process is when i was noting different magical beings i had come across, their attributes and those attributes in relation to humans and how we hold similar qualities to the magical beings. i then researched animals which i could translate one attribute for each and painted them posing as these beings. the piece includes a dragon fly as a fairy, a sea lion as a mermaid, an anteater as a leprechaun. We we would like to suggest to our readers to visit http://annamariaamato.weebly.com in order to get a wider idea of your artistic production, which resists to immediate classification in terms of its subject matter and shows that Art is a vehicle not only to express feelings and concepts, but to also dissect them, grapple with them, and integrate them. Your approach seems to stimulate the viewer’s psyche and consequently works on both a subconscious and a conscious level. How did you decide to explore this form of expression? In particular, we would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience? the introductory pages of this article. What has at soon caught our eyes of this stimulating work is the way your investigation

When considering what sort of artist i would like to be, I felt I needed to consider what I have to offer a background, an education, a

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collection of life experiences provide a body of ideas to express, explore and share. as much as the world around us affects our consciousness and seeps into our unconscious, goings on in psyche seem to take on a world of our own and can detach from external sources.

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getting in touch with outside sources is the struggle rather than the other way around. What particularly appeals to us of your works is the way you explore the aesthetic problem in such compelling way. Your approach seems to urge us to question the common way we

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perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... By the way, I'm sort of convinced that some informations & ideas are hidden, or even "encrypted" in the environment we live in, so we need -in a wayto decipher them. Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to reveal unexpected

ART Habens

sides of Nature, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

i believe being in the moment is the most revealing practice when it comes to understanding the physical presence of the entities which exist in space in our world.

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and geometric representation, as in the interesting ones from your And Then There Were series. The recurrent reference to an emotional but at the same time universal imagery seems to remove any historic reference from the reality you refer to, and I daresay that this aspect allows you to go

understanding our own nature is fed by the arts opening doors of possible thought processes, ideas. What we notice most about your paintings is that there is a dichotomy between fluid lines

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beyond any dichotomy between Tradition and Contemporariness, and that establishes a stimulating dialogue between references from contingent era and an absolute approach to Art: do you recognize any contrast between Tradition and

ART Habens

Contemporariness? And in particular, what is the role of memory in your process?

i truly believe we are fed by the processes developed historically creating the basis of our schooling and beginning the domino effect

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leading to new ideas. in my piece ‘the kiss’ i have taken the traditional piece ‘the kiss’ by rodin and studied the contemporary artist cornielia parker’s version where she has bound the couples embrace with string describing her take on relationships being constraining. i

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have reversed back to my feeling of the original piece and have painted wings and the sea giving the embrace a sense of freedom. the geometry perceived comes from the way i look at my source material and dissect the

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Anna-Maria Amato

ART Habens

catering for an individuals creativity is the most effective way of progressing in Art. More and more artists from the contemporary scene, ranging from John Heartfield to Thomas Hirschhorn often use art as a powerful tool to express their personal takes about the major issues that affect

colours and less obvious shapes finding pattern and structural aspects to the forms. Over these years you have been involved into art therapy, an extremely stimulating experience has lead you to believe that

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contemporary age: Art has a therapeutical effect on society and it should become the vehicle for change: while setting free Art's communicative potential, do you consider that your works are political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? By the

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way, what should be in your opinion the role of an artist in our societies?

i see my artwork as neutral. i find that persuading an audience of ones opinion unless it is possible to describe the issue in its entirety

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communication. expression though art as communication, whether it be on a larger scale or understanding ones self through the expression is healthy and therapeutic. While exhibiting a captivating vibrancy, your pieces seem to reject an explicit explanatory strategy: rather, you seem to offer to the viewer a key to find personal interpretations to the feelings that you convey into your paintings... this quality marks out a considerable part of your production, that are in a certain sense representative of the relationship between emotion and memory. What is the role of memory in your process? And in particular, do you try to achieve a faithful visual translation of your feelings?

is a flawed method of expressing political views. i believe art can share information of experiences which can be relevant to an issue, especially if it is first hand experience. we must behave like historians when deciphering our world and understanding situations, being aware of the method of the communication of facts and differentiating between that and opinion. i believe the role of an artist in our societies is, fundamentally to communicate. some of the biggest problems in our society are down to mis-communication or a lack of

i find when painting that the transfer of an idea in mind and the expression of it with the painting medium is translating it into another language. words can exist in the mind and on paper but the imagery is another language which can be translated from the words.

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Anna-Maria Amato

feeling however are another language scientist and we as people are attempting to translate into a vocabulary which is more easily understood and controlled. to communicate a feeling through a painting is definitely a skill i hope to be able to achieve. i know that my subconscious appears in my paintings for example i will be using a photograph from a magazine of a person i have never met and the piece i create looks very familiar to people i know because it ends up looking like a member of the family. i suppose when someone is close to you and you subconsciously study their face and internalise their features in an image bank of memory it reveals itself.

Over these years you have had the chance to exhibit your works in several occasions and you have recently curated the Forbidden show at the Guerilla Galleries. Your paintings investigate about the ambiguous relationship with Experience and Perception and are open to a wide variety of interpretations: in particular, your approach 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. So, before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

Another interesting series of yours that has particularly impressed us and on which we would like to spend some words is entitled I Am Magic. The dialogue established by colors and texture is a crucial part of your style: in particular, the effective combination between intense nuances of tones sums up the mixture of thoughts and emotions. How much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones you decide to use in a piece and in particular, how do you develop a painting’s texture? Moreover, any comments on your choice of "palette" and how it has changed over time?

appealing to an audience is a big question. tastes are so very varied that creating a response and relationship with the audience is an dilemma of unpredictability. one person may be drawn to the very same element which repels someone else. interactive art, and successful curation can involved the audience in a way which communicates the meaning clearly and directs the audience to use the art as a spring board for thought, a trigger to consider the themes and ideas. this is definitely key in my idea of an exhibition and of a collection of artwork.

i find that when carrying out a drawing study the elements i see: the shapes, colours and textures should all be represented in the final piece. i found texture the hardest to convey and so decided to use a surface which had a texture. when i was growing up i was very drawn to sequins and sparkly beads from a bead shop in convent garden which existed at the time. it was very expensive to buy just a few beads, so, now, beads and sequins being readily available to me i wondered them the perfect addition to my texture. my palatte has changed from using a bright multi coloured palette on a black back ground to using more pastel shades of multicolour on a light background or covering the entire canvas. i have more recently used brilliant green as a base to paint parrots. i found this very exciting and intend to try other bases.

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Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Anna-Maria. Finally, would you like to tell our readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I wish to explore imagery of dancers, in particular ballet dancers. i believe the atmosphere of elegance, the theatricality, the sense of movement will be a huge and wonderful challenge.

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Hanna Solena Solena El Azz Each generation has its own inner library of images fed by one influent media in particular. Like a few generations before, mine was moulded by the world of moving images, but with one substantial change : for the first time ever video recorders and then computers have enabled us to control the flood of images, to replay, fragment, and keep track of it, to interfere with this implacable logic of movement. In a nutshell, I was one of thousands of little pioneers of home-made video editing. It has become part of my artwork today. First I deconstruct and then rebuild, using images which, taken out of their context are no longer sacred but mundane. I always start by collecting bits of materials from video games, movies, and the news to create a new composition inspired by an imaginary picture issuing from popular culture and that I keep in mind throughout the whole process. This obsessive picture had struck me at some time in the past and now it fits in well with the new context I have chosen for it. To me, everything begins and ends with popular imagery, this great nebula which has shaped us and that we then contribute to shape in our life time. In my work I try to regain control over the tyranny of image which drowns the truth in a sea of references and fragments our perception of the world. Ironically it all started with my generation. We have become the victims of overconsumption of data. But at the same time we are responsible for this overproduction of images that floods all communication platforms and contributes to make our world opaque and superficial. As an artist, I try not to be a passive part of this system. Then I tinker and shape composite images. I mix mediums and references. I reconstruct meaning through fragmentation at the borderline between the real and the imaginary. Hanna Solena El Azzabi

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10050 Cielo Drive, CA project / ÂŤ Autopsy graphic re 021 4


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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

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10050 Cielo Drive, CA project / ÂŤ Re-enactment of the crime scene Âť 03 4 2012 - installation, mixed media

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H. S. El Azzabi

An interview with An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Enhancing the expressive potential of juxtaposition and manipulating ideas and figures from collective imagery, Hanna Solena El Azzabi invites the viewers to a captivating multilayered experience: in her works she investigates about the elusive nature between reality and virtual dimension, recontextualizing a wide variety of concepts and unveiling the intimate connections between our perceptual processes and the ambiguous dimension of our inner world. What mostly impresses of El Azzabi's approach is the way she accomplishes the difficult task of creating a concrete aesthetic that engages viewers, while conveying emotional and rational approaches into a consistent, coherent unity. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to her multifaceted artistic production. Hello Hanna, and welcome to ART Habens: to start this interview we would pose you a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training : you hold a BA Visual Arts with a specialization in Film studies and BA in Psychology, a BA in Fine arts with a specialization in Drawing at La Cambre. Moreover, you you did your first year of Master degree in Cinematographic studies and aesthetics while you were doing your BA in La Cambre: how have these cross disciplinary experiences informed the way you currently conceive and produce your works? In particular, do you think that working with non-profit organizations could have impacted on the way you currently relate yourself to art making?

Hanna Solena El Azzabi

another. I have always thought that diversifying my experience, studying double degrees - first in Psychology and Visual arts and later Fine Arts with Cinema at Master level - as well as working as a volunteer, undertaking all kind of random jobs would open up more prospects and renew my artistic practice while broadening my mind. Hence the hybrid nature of my work and my ongoing need to experiment new issues. Managing several projects at once also helps.

My background reflects the way I think art and see life generally. The Media, fields of research and phenomena do not exist independently of each other. On the contrary, they form a coherent whole, interacting with and influencing one

My BA in Visual arts (La Cambre, Brussels) and my Master in Film studies, have played

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an essential part in my current creation process. In both, I experienced a great conceptual and formal creative freedom. I asserted myself as a colorist and experimented in collage in the drawing department. I also had the opportunity to join the Dominoaktion : 20 Jahre Mauerfall project in partnership with the European Commission, marking the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Carrying out Visual art and research at the same time was really rewarding but also a challenge. For me, combining theory and plastic experimentation remains the best way to achieve this crucial balance between form and content. I have retained today this passion for archiving, for research, for theory that comes from years of academic study. A passion that shows itself in the permanent need to write short stories, to develop narrative projects such as videos or illustrating books for children. It also manifests itself in the need to synthesize current events, to always take up my writer’s pen before handling my «€drawingpencil€». This need for rationalization and theory that deeply impacts my artistic work may come from another requirement : that of making my imagination and material reality coexist. In my daily life I try to deal with the cold facts and a sometimes ruthless reality of the world we live in. That is the reason why I carry on doing social work. It helps me to remain connected to the real world, to keep my feet on the ground. How easy it is for an artist to isolate herself, especially when imagination is given prominence. Beyond personal benefit and human contact, taking care of vulnerable people with severe disabilities enables me to focus on what is essential, and cut out what is futile. Synthesizing is the basis of all artistic practice. Social work is therefore very useful. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected an interesting project from your artistic production entitled E.T.

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« Sexual offence » - 2014 - 10,6w x 7,7h" - collage, mixed medi

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ÂŤ Government still denies Âť - 2014 10,6w x 7,7h" - collage, mixed media on paper

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Landings that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article: what has at soon caught our eyes of this series is the way you have shed a light on the subtle but ubiquitous connection between reality and fiction. Would you like to tell us something about the genesis of this interesting project? What was your initial inspiration?

The Northrop B-2 Spirit bomber (see Government still denies) and American topsecret weapons programmes. It all started from a feeling I have had for a few years about how western media can be fuzzy and confusing : the essential is drowned in superfluous matter, seriousness sits next to the frivolous, the trivial takes precedence over an affair of State, and the lay person rejects expert opinion. This cultural mishmash means we no longer make any difference between what matters and what doesn’t, between truth or falsehood, between fiction and reality. In this respect the United States are proven masters in the art of making folk culture for the masses out of serious scientific theories. What better way to cloud the issue, drown the fish so to speak than mockery and derision ? To my mind, through cinema, science fiction and literature, we have been conditioned to laugh at anything referring to little green men, flying saucers and other encounters of the third kind. All these years while we were fed with disbelief, the United States had started developing advanced military technologies such as the Ajax project, MHD, or stealth technology. If some scientists are to be believed, this research may have been guided by an outside inspiration. To find answers, I can only turn to popular imagery in hopes of finding some sort of pretense of truth, some secret buried beneath a commonly shared scepticism, entirely created by the magic of Hollywood.

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A particularly interesting aspect of your approach comes from the way you organize your materials, urging the viewers to unveil the bond between the past of the images and their new life: you seem to speak of a kind an abstract beauty that starts from a mundane imagery but that brings a new, unexpected level of significance to images. In this sense your work challenges the viewers' perception in order to going beyond the common way to perceive not only the outside world, but the way we relate to it... As you have stated once, the truth lies elsewhere... Maybe that one of the roles of an artist could be to decrypt unexpected sides of the world we inhabit, especially of our inner Nature... what's your point about this?

When I look around, I can only see conditioning and acquired automatisms, two variables of our well-regulated world which haunt my art practice. In my work 16-BIT : The Fourth generation, I refer to the time of old arcade games when the player was plunged into a very limited and controlled universe and enjoyed this temporary immersion in some kind of ersatz world. Today’s games give the illusion of infinity like never before, due to the beauty of ultra realistic graphics and the wide range of potential actions to choose from, but they still remain the result of coding done by computer programmers. In the real world, I sometimes feel that man enjoys being coerced by society, having his actions and behaviours determined by a coding process implemented by the system. When he thinks he has found a loophole to escape his condition, he immerses himself into a fake universe shaped by predetermined patterns that leaves no room for chance. This matrix invites us not to reflect on the world we inhabit but be content with coding and make-believe. To me, an artist is a craftsman who gives shape to reality and translates the world

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

ART Habens

ÂŤ Alien head Âť - 2014 - 10,6w x 7,7h" - collage, mixed media on paper

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

ÂŤ Area 51 Âť - 2014 - 9,8w x 6,9h" - collage, mixed media on paper

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

ART Habens

around him in a different way, going beyond appearances. He then becomes an alternating bridge connecting the real world with individual subjectivities. When giving life to my own subjectivity, I expect to reach out to other subjectivities, to bring about a meeting. Art is a means of communication through sensibility. Working with pre existing images, I make use of references we all know which are part of collective memory ; I use it as a base material which may produce a new meaning that will hopefully make sense to the viewer. In the process I hope his or her subjectivity will encounter mine. To carry out the project of 10050 Cielo Drive I used photographs of Sharon Tate’s crime scene as a material to express violence. Not so much the obvious violence of the act itself, but that indirectly exercised on my subconscious by the massive and obscene diffusion of those pictures. Both the individual and the collective subconscious mind, shaken and troubled, then tries to rebuild itself using the means and resources its culture affords. This is probably what makes that work look like controlled chaos : it emerges from my inner nature, altered by cultural patterns. Your approach is marked out with a deep multidisciplinary feature: the fruitful synergy that you established between several practices, that are combined to provide your works of dynamism and autonomous life. I would suggest our readers to visit http://hannasolenaelazzabi.fr in order to get a wider idea of your multifaceted artistic production. While superimposing concepts and images, crossing the borders of different artistic fields, have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints and practices is the only way to achieve some results, to express specific concepts?

For the 10050 Cielo Drive project, I highlighted a number of different

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ÂŤ US 375, Nevada Âť - 2014 - 6,9w x 9,8h" - collage, mixed media on paper


Hanna Solena El Azzabi

ART Habens

intertwines. In my work, I try to stick to contemporaneity and make use of interbreeding to convey the polysemous character of the world I live in.

viewpoints and used various mediums to dissect that well-known news item. Combining drawings, sculpture, installation and various materials including wood, polypropylene, cable, plaster, etc., I picked the short bits and pieces of information available online, and then imagined and rebuilt a life-size crime scene, thus materializing the event. Viewers were invited to browse from one viewpoint to another and share their own thoughts. Mixing both mediums and viewpoints enables the artist and the viewer to consider a single issue in its various aspects by providing several perspectives for analysis. In general, it allows a sharper and more realistic appreciation of a complex phenomenon.

Using everyday life material that could not be necessarily perceived as ‘beautiful’ you establish an effective symbiosis between Memory and Experience, that takes an intense participatory line with the viewers. While establishing such intimate involvement, you remove the initial historic gaze from the reality you draw from, offering to the viewers the chance to perceive in a kind of absolute, almost atemporal way. 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?

When I was doing cinematographic research and experimenting in fine arts, I was constantly feeding off concepts and theories. It strengthened my conceptual approach to art and helped me develop my practice of aesthetic. Conversely, my research work has become far more intuitive and performing over the years thanks to the influence of the visual arts. I have opened up my research to a wide range of other disciplines and axes of analysis, focusing on theory but also photography, contemporary dance, martial arts, military music and opera, I was able to capture the hybrid specificity of cinema and Claire Denis’s work in particular. It’s often said than the seventh art is the synthesis of all others, therefore making it multi- and interdisciplinary at times. Claire Denis manages to exploit what cinema is all about : heterogeneity and I really identify with her work. The contemporary object is inherently composite and complex, the likeness of our world, shaped by technological progress that offers ever more means of communication and diffusion where everything mixes and

Obviously not. I think that direct experience is the more or less visible basis of any artist’s work. Regarding my own, I am very mindful of the world I live in. But even though direct experience tends to confirm me in my initial view of our civilization, I prefer to move away from it to base my work on a reality which has already gone through the prism of culture. What interests me most is a nebula of references which are not of my own making : images, texts, movies created by others. At the very heart of my research I place an object with abstract contours but with relevant and concrete effects, nevertheless, that can be detected via social behaviours. I rarely represent the world around either in a direct or realistic way, I prefer to let my subjectivity take charge of a reality that has already been interpreted by someone else. Over your manifold production you have also explored sociopolitical issues: Dominoaktion : 20 jahre Mauerfall that celebrates a peaceful revolution reunifying Berlin. Many contemporary artists, as

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

« Flesh & steel I » - 2015

« Flesh & steel II » - 2015

17w x 25h" - graphite pencil

17w x 25h" - graphite pencil

Thomas Hirschhorn and Michael Light, use to include socio-political and sometimes even convey explicit messages in their works. Do you consider that your works could be considered political in this way or do you seek to maintain a neutral approach? In particular, what should be in your opinion the role of an artist in the unstable contemporary age?

as much at an aesthetic or technical level, as regarding ideas. In other words, an artist can more than ever give visual voice to political concerns without having to meet aesthetic requirements. As far as I’m concerned, I think I have always had demands to make but I haven’t always found suitable resources and ways to deal with political issues in my work. The news and the unstable world we live in sometimes lead us to adopt a stance and develop personal projects inspired by current issues. Some of mine were driven by a will to question very topical issues of the moment such as transhumanism. This may not look like much, but it can be said it all started with reconstructive surgery, the

Everybody doesn’t share the same definition of politics, or the same level of commitment in it. However I don’t think a contemporary artist can leave it completely aside. It can be considered to some extent that one of the missions of an artist is to raise questions about the world. Contemporary art can cope with anything,

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« Flesh & steel III » - 2015 17w x 25h" - graphite pencil


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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

use of prostheses and implants. Couldn’t they be used some day to serve other purposes ? The Androids series of portraits comes from a need to think about the direction of progress and about the future of modern man. I wanted those faces to reflect sadness and nostalgia for what has been lost, for the sorrow of lost identity. From another perspective, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Dominoaktion project developed for it were the opportunity to think about the meaning of the Wall of Shame from an economic and political point of view. The wall embodied a geopolitical battle of interests at the end of which the western economic model prevailed. Turning my domino into a high-rise building was to me the best expression of this hegemony. It was also the best way to describe the popular fascination with this model where major world powers have been building towers rising ever higher as a symbol of their world domination. Another interesting project of yours that has particularly impressed us and on which we would like to spend some words is entitled Androids: in this stimulating series you have once again investigated about the connection between reality and the virtual features of future societies: like Alexander Calder's works, it raises a question on the role of the viewers' perception, forcing us to going beyond the common way we perceive not only the outside world, but our inner dimension... In particular, your androids encapsulate a freedom of form with abstract features that reminds an oniric dimension. Did you conceive these composition on an instinctive way or do you rather structure your process in order to reach the right balance?

I always set myself a well-defined framework though allowing for some

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ART Habens

ÂŤ Okinawa sky Âť - 2014 10,6w x 7,7h" - collage, mixed media on paper

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

ÂŤ Green and red, few months later Âť - 2014 - 23,4w x 23,4h" - crayons

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elusive relationship reality and fiction in the images that belongs to collective imagery, as you did in the interesting 10050 Cielo Drive, Ca / Autopsy Graphic report. Your exploration has reminded us a quote of Thomas Demand 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". What's your point about this? And in particular, how much do you explicitly think of a narrative for your works?

freedom. I leave considerable room to chance because the unforeseen and unintended open new prospects on my work. The Androids project was born out of a desire to make two diametrically opposed dimensions coexist : on the one side the flesh, the living, humanity in its most elevated and sensitive expression ; and on the other the mechanics, the lifeless, the implantation of an external object, the specificity of the machine in its otherness. In other words, I wanted to express by way of the portrait the desire acknowledged by some to use robotics to improve on the most perfectly formed machine ever created, the human body.

This ambiguous relationship between reality and fiction comes from a very old passion from childhood for movies and stories. I’m still captivated today by the figurative representation of characters, of their adventures. Abstraction is present in my work but not an end in itself. It is the acute expression of the imaginary associated with reality as in Anthropophagia II : the removal of flesh and the fragmentation of bodies tend towards abstraction in the formal sense.

The research for Androids sometimes took on a pragmatic yet monstrous dimension, when the machine, in its formal dimension, had already obliterated all trace of humanity ; at other times, abstraction asserted itself, within a controlled framework. Abstraction in terms of time and probability, increasing the likelihood for the human being to become the living host of mechanical transplants in a near future. A future we have to watch out for, because it may very well come about. The imaginary becomes the means of making that universe exist while we only yet know its premises. We can feel the machine beneath the flesh, a hazy background with blurred outlines. Elements of machinery show underneath the skin, some wiring can be seen, otherness emerges from the face which may has already yielded some of its humanity. Perhaps it is ready for this change ; it may have already renounced and surrendered its true self. This ambiguity required in the Androids project lies in the co-existence of both dimensions.

Narrative is inherent in my work and, to my mind, it takes two different forms : either by representing several viewpoints of a same event, with what I call «€miniature stages€», like in 10050 Cielo Drive/ Autopsy graphic report. Or by the use of a formal pattern generating a chronology and a sensation of continuity. E.T. Landings ties in perfectly with this approach involving the choice of small format and quite a number of drawings : the impression of a news item is underlined and a short history of Aliens is outlined. In Anthropophagia I, as the drawings follow on we see the symbolic representation of human contact with modern civilization leading to cannibalism : modernity fails in its mission to civilize mankind. Somehow, my drawings always tell a story. If we agree that symbolic strategies give

We have truly appreciated your investigation about the ever growing

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Hanna Solena El Azzabi

understood by others. All means are not appropriate or effective to provide sense to any given ideas. Obviously, this resulting encounter between different subjectivities is full of unexpected surprises. Sometimes I fail, everybody doesn’t see things the same way, people have their own references, their own vision of the world to share. You can’t control everything and there lies the interest.

shape to the imaginary world of ideas though concrete images inspired by mythology or legends, and directly speak to subjectivity, then I can identify with that. However perhaps, narrative more accurately reflects our present day obsession with fiction and scripts and in a manner more suited to prevailing attitudes where spirituality has no part. Your hybrid approach 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. So, before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decision-making process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

Thanks a lot for this interesting conversation, Hanna. Finally, I would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects. Anything coming up for you professionally that you would like readers to be aware of?

I am full of plans, as always. At the moment I’m still working on my portraits of androids. I’m also starting a new series using collage and mixed media ; desolate landscapes which have fallen victim to our consumer society and the depletion of resources. I also hope to start other projects soon that consider notions of viewpoint and critical distance, and highlight the fact that appearances can be deceptive.

I don’t consider art as a self-sufficient practice even if I work alone. An artist cannot ignore and exclude the public composed not only of specialists but also of lay people, either curious or indifferent about art. Out of respect for them, I do my best to make my work not nebulous but on the contrary accessible. I am aware that some works of art can be rejected by viewers who totally fail to grasp the artist’s point of view. A piece of art can often remain elusive, refusing to reveal itself to the viewer.

Many thanks for your interest in my work and for your sound and exciting questions. And for allowing me a generous amount of space to express my vision.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator

When I start working on a project, I always consider the way my work can be received and how it can be understood by others, especially because imagination plays an important part in it. I try to make sure that part of the ideas I want to submit and share will find their way in the viewer’s mind. Then I wonder what medium to use, which viewpoint to adopt, how to give my ideas a coherent representation that may be

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and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

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ÂŤ Post mortem Âť - 2014 - 23,4w x 23,4h" - crayons

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Joana Patrão Patrão The research that I’ve been developing is based upon an interest in the experience of landscape and the recognition of its complexity as motivator of the creation. To frame this I’ve been doing a theoretical and practical investigation on the historical category of the landscape and its possibilities of exploration in the contemporary context. I have a particular interest in transient conditions of the landscape, the ontological capacity of the elements that makes possible to think on the landscape as a stage of projective relations. The water comes in this regard in its metaphorical capacity: a surface that reflects the outside world and acts as a barrier to the inner world (Viola, 1995). Along with this, the investigation has a phenomenological experience of the landscape on its basis. The creative process comprises strategies of registration, appropriation and analysis of the natural considering embodied experiences of nature and its creative power. The landscape appears also as a way to rethink the relationship with the natural space, the first scenery of our existence. Phenomenology understands the vision as an act of the body, criticizing the Cartesian conception of vision in a body/mind separation. The relation between vision, body and creation is central in my work as I try to understand the landscape potential in this regard.

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video, 2013

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Joana Patrão

An interview with An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

Walking the viewers through a journey in the liminal area in which perceptual reality blends with a subtle but effective symbolism, Joana Patrão accomplishes the difficult taks of drawing into a new relational space. When rethinking to water as a metaphor of the human condition, her recent Untitled series that we'll be discussing in the following pages, explores the transformative capacity of painting, as an independent entity, conveying rigorous formality as well as autonomous aesthetics. One of the most convincing aspect of Patrão's work is the way she invites us to investigate about transitory conditions of landscape urging us to question about the act of perceiving: we are very pleased to introduce our readers to her stimulating artistic production. Hello Joana 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 having graduated in Fine Arts – Painting from the FBAUP you joined the Visual Culture and Contemporary art Master's programme at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture: How do these experiences influence your evolution as an artist? And in particular, how does the relationship between your cultural substratum as an Portuguese artist inform the way you relate yourself to art making?

Joana Patrão

First of all I would like to thank you for the invitation, I’m really glad to be here. About my background I could start with my experience in FBAUP - the Faculty of Fine arts in Porto University. Being a former Academy, there is, as you said, a solid formal training, especially on drawing and painting. I think it was great to have this practicality in the first years because when I got to the project work I had a deeper understanding of the mediums I was dealing with. At this point I got really interested in exploring the languages of the mediums, how to use their processes in a more essential way.

ontology of the mediums and on trying to understand how they provide perceptive experiences differently. This practical knowledge along with some theoretical and art history courses provided me a great and broad basis to work with at the same time that the discussions with teachers and with my colleagues challenged me conceptually. Even though, at the end of my bachelor studies I had a feeling that I still needed to develop my project so I enrolled in the Painting master in the same faculty. As the courses were more oriented to the development of personal work I had the time and the place to sediment my work.

I had also the possibility to do some elective studies in other areas as printmaking, video and photography. And I kept this interest in the

It might be important to say that through this years

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I had always landscape and natural experiences as reference. The fluidity and the transformative conditions of natural processes could provide me analogies to the creative processes. So when I was searching possibilities of doing exchange studies I came to know a programme that matched those interests - the ViCCa (Visual Culture and Contemporary art) program at Aalto University in Helsinki. This master is structured in modules that offer a combination between environmental art in a symbiosis with others beings and nature, the exploration of relational and immersive experiences and site-specificity and an approach to the theory as something embedded within artworks. Besides the university I’m also realizing the Finnish peculiar relation with nature, and I think Finnish landscapes are starting to have an effect on my work. And of course the great thing on studying is that you have a possibility to exchange knowledge and experiences with the fellow students. In the ViCCa program that is quite interesting because more than half of the students are from different nationalities from all over the world. So cultural particularities are often a theme of conversation. Perhaps during this time I’ll get closer to understand how my Portuguese cultural substractum influences my work. Even though I can think on how portuguese artists have been quite influential in my development. Particularly Fernando Calhau and Alberto Carneiro’s work as they blend nature and a poetical approach with the consideration of the body. I would like to invite our readers to visit http://cargocollective.com/joanapatrao in order to get a wide idea of your recent artistic production: a crucial feature that marks your approach is a stimulating multidisciplinarity that leads you to range from drawing to printmaking, from photography to video. Over your journey through different techniques have you ever happened to realize that a symbiosis between different viewpoints is the only way to explore the ideas you investigate about?

I think the multidisciplinarity that you refer was the way that I found to explore different ways of experiencing, different viewpoints implying with that different ways of being present in the landscape. … And as I said before I came to be quite fascinated with the exploration of each medium separately, by the possibility of understanding which questions

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Joana Patrão

were intrinsic to it and how they could provide me distinct translations of an experience. I had some projects that dealt with that. The project void can be an example of this. It’s a two channel video projection were I’m using still images of footage to construct movement. I thought about the fluidity of water and how this relates with the fluidity of video. I wanted to point out how this fluidity is actually a succession of still images at the same time that I was interested in accessing the still, hidden images that are part of the continuous flow of water. These still images of water footage are particularly intriguing because they were images in-between, there was a sense of movement in them and at the same time a strange ambiguity that resembled other landscapes. This could be an example of what I was saying before about merging the landscape and the medium discourse. The symbiosis here is a metaphorical one. I agree with you on the importance of a symbiosis. Being this either conceptual or an actual exchange with nature. And I can even recognize that the symbiotic relation has always been present in my work and that I’ve been using this along with other natural concepts. So to answer your question I wouldn’t assure that this is the only way to work with this ideas but is certainly something that I found stimulating for my work. Understanding the landscape as a procedure rather than a referent had enabled me to work with the ideas of a continuous flux, the construction/destruction and the nature as origin, a principle of constitution of forms. Some of my recent works go further with this ideas using the actual nature as creative force, works as Natural Drawings (natura naturans), Sea imprints and Sea of salt are a result of a close “collaboration” with the landscape.

when you conceive a body of works?

I might say it’s important but not a fundamental issue. Most of the times the aesthetics are a result of a system of analogies or a specific process than unveils images of nature. I’m thinking of the Natural drawings (natura naturans). These ‘drawings’ are made by placing a sheet of paper on the earth. During the time and by the action of the rain the natural movement of the earth produces an image – the earth being the pigment and the water the brush. So in this case I cannot control the aesthetic result because I’m transferring it to the nature. Of course that in works as Perpétua Alternância this

We would start to focus on your artistic production beginning from Perpétua Alternância (Perpetual Alternation), an interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. While accomplishing an insightful investigation about the concept of landscape, this work shows an autonomous aesthetics that invite the viewer to elaborate personal interpretations and associations with environmenal elements. How important is the aesthetic problem for you

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appears differently. This project is a presentation of different fluidities or continuities in water and deals with the projective power of nature. It can be related this with the void video that spoke before.

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Viola and how he states that once we accept the mystery of images we can open up to something else, go beyond the visible. You draw a lot from reality and what makes your exploration so compelling is the way you unveil the relationship between objective worlds and our perceptual process: as you have stated once, Perpétua Alternância could be considered a reflection about how we experience images: rather than accomplishing a process of recontextualization, you focus on the evokative power of the frame, urging us to rethink about the way we relate ourselves to the outside sphere. Thomas Demand's once stated:

In both of them the possibility of having “beautiful” images that are somehow are hidden in nature it is quite important. In this case I’m dealing with the poetic idea of revealing images from nature or with establishing a connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm. So here the importance of having beautiful, ambiguous images is the evocative power they can convey by not being descriptive. The sort of enchantment that can be associated with this aesthetics reminds me of Bill

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Joana Patr達o

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"nowadays art can no longer rely much on symbolic strategies and has to probe psychological narrative elements within the medium instead". So I would take this occasion to ask you if in your opinion personal experience is an absolutely indespensable part of a creative process... Do you think that a creative process could be disconnected from direct experience?

From your question I can already think of three different ways I associate the creative process with the direct experience. As you started to point out the experience of drawing from reality I’ll go on with that. This repeated experience made me think on how being present in the local affects the drawings. Maurice Blanchot talks about this idea of touching with the eye, a contact at distance. This is quite evident in contour line drawing, how I have the sense of touching the things that I’m drawing. So by the “creative act” of drawing I’m actually engaging differently with the landscape. Another approach is made in Perpétua Alternância. I’ve been interested in the use of video because it is a way of assuring a connection with reality, the referent has to be present in order to be recorded. In the same way I have to be present. This implies that the footage I make is simultaneously a document of the landscape and a document of the way I looked at it or related with it in that specific moment. When I said this project was a reflection on the way we experience images I was thinking about the relation between the image that is seen and the construction that is produced by associations. How they reverberate differently regarding our previous experiences. So the construction that I made with the montage was just a way of stating the ontological capacity of water in an association between the flow of time, of water and the transformations of being. Both on this and on the void project there is a will to think on the way the spectator can experience this images, how should he position or how he perceives the distension between microcosm and macrocosm. So these videos are meant to be presented in constructed, immersive spaces, were the viewers can have a sensory, spacial experience. Here the direct experience can be though also in the way the viewer is immersed in this space. Lately I’ve been thinking of my body as medium of

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Joana Patrão

establishing relations with the world, with the nature and my work as a way of making them evident: either through gestures like drawing or with actual movement in the landscape. This interest in embodied experiences can be related with the philosophical current of phenomenology. Briefly explaining this current is concerned with the way the phenomena appear to our senses and opposes rational explanations and the Cartesian body/mind separation. In this way is by having direct experiences of the landscape, by rendering myself vulnerable to it that I can be able to have different perceptive experiences and use them in the creative act. And I think my work is slowly progressing to the blending between the creative process and the direct experience of the landscape. In the sense that my presence in the landscape can create the conditions for an image to arise. If I think about the Sea imprints project the creative process and the direct experience are one and the same thing. This project is the result of my immersion in the sea while carrying a plate/sheet of paper with a plain layer of ink. With this movement the waves imprint an image on the plate. So what I have in the end are images of the creative process of nature that appear as a result of my direct experience of it. Eterno Retorno (Eternal Return) is a successful attempt to establish analogies between pictorial and natural processes, and it reminds us of a multilayered investigation that concerns both the way to reveal unexpected sides of the world we inhabit, as well as of our inner landscape: rather that a conceptual interiority, we can recognize the desire to enabling us to establish direct relations... Would you say that it's more of an intuitive or a systematic process?

I might say that is both. I’m really interested in intuitive processes in the sense they represent a natural manifestation, an instinctive connection. And at the same time intuition has something to do with self-reflection. Once I read in Spinoza that all intuitive knowledge is speculative from the latin speculum that means mirror. The idea of projection and identification with the “inner landscape” can be related to this. On the other hand, a systematic process can help to organize this manifestations. So in this series I define simple principles like a rigid horizontal line maintained at the same height or the repetition of

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an elemental gesture. The horizontal line works both as a remission landscape through the horizon and as a definition of a field of action. So within that field of action there is a mixture of intuitive and systematic gestures. I start with horizontal strokes that define a rhythm and the imperfections that result from my organic nature are like undulations in the surface. The process of erasing and adding layers that

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comes after that is a result of an intuitive dialogue with the painting and is an attempt to embody this natural processes. Another way that I use systematicity is to organize the nature’s intervention on the creation of a certain work. I can give you an example. It starts by using the same process I described in the Sea imprints but replacing the sheet of paper/plate with a sheet of glass. So when the water from the waves

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removes the ink it opens the transparency of the glass allowing the light to go through the image created. Then I put photographic paper beneath this glass and the sun imprints a positive of the same wave. In this way I have an image that is

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produced by different natural elements. The sea gives me the matrix and the sun the reproductions. I liked particularly of this association between the sea, the origin of beings with the matrix as origin of images (and the light as growth).

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Joana Patr達o

In my work there are times where the systematic processes appear as a way organizing phenomena in an almost scientific way, like writing down the dates and the hours of drawings or experiences

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with nature. They can be conceived in this way as data to be analysed. But I think it is the combination between poetic and scientific approaches that has been interesting to me. Is the

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oscillation, the indefinition between those two that I find compelling.

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Memory appears in different levels in my projects. It can be related with an actual experience or with an archetypal idea or landscape. It can be also corporal.

Eterno Retorno exhibits a palette marked out with a variety of neutral tones: the dialogue established by the thoughtful nuances you combine together is a crucial and quite recurrent aspect of your style, that is capable of summing up a mix of thoughts, but never forces the viewers to a specific interpretation. How much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones you decide to use in a piece and in particular, how do you develop a texture? Moreover, any comments on your choice of palette and how it has changed over time?

In the series that you refer it appears as an embodied memory. Meaning that the line and the patterns that are drawn are the result of the gestural memory acquired while drawing in the landscape. In another sense the exercise of drawing is both an act of remembrance and an exercise of discovery. By repeating certain movements or by trying to map aleatory manifestations there are new images and thoughts that arise. The use of the line can be associated with writing so this drawings might appear to work almost as translations of subtle interior changes. Although is quite difficult to define what could be a “faithful translation” of something as subjective and mutable as feelings, this exercises as intuitive methods might get closer to that. Perhaps part of the reason why I am so fascinated with water is that it makes possible to relate with the fluidity of being, the oscillation between permanent and impermanent states.

It’s interesting that you ask that because the palette that is present in those works is a result of an exploration of specific ink. It’s iron gall ink, a really sensitive ink that although originally black can acquire the variety of tones that you see in those paintings. Having different shades of blue when dissolved it can get greenish and ultimately orange tones when the iron that compounds it rusts. So different quantities of water used influence the tones appearing. I was using this ink for a long time because, knowing this principles I could just work with simple gestures leaving the complexity of tones to be made by nature reactions, by water itself. And I was interested in this idea of using water both as referent and as a medium that its representation.

We have appreciate the investigative feature of the way you explore emerging visual contexts: process of deconstruction and assemblage both on a semantic and on a formal aspect. What is it specifically about deconstruction which fascinates you and make you want to center your style around it?

Another remarkable feature of this ink is its ephemerality. Due to its instability his paintings are changing with time even if I don’t touch them anymore. So the time is changing my palette but I’m not having a role on it.

I wouldn’t say that I center my work around it. Maybe I use a deconstruction of the concept of landscape in order to understand it, by exploring it historically conceptually, experientially. But the will at last is to provide a holistic sense of it… of a natural relation. Regarding the process of making the works I use sometimes processes of construction/destruction as a way of creating analogies with natural processes. Thinking a mountain (or a rock) you can sense the constructive forces that built it and the eroding forces that shaped it. But both forces constitute the mountain as such. So I might say I’m not as interested in deconstruction as fragmentation but in the way it participates in the constitution of something.

While communicating a captivating vibrancy your pieces, and I think especially to the ones from your Sem título (Untitled) series, you seem to reject an explicit explanatory strategy: rather, you seem to offer to the viewer a key to find personal interpretations to the concepts you question... this quality marks out a considerable part of your production, that are in a certain sense representative of the relationship between memory and a rigorous formality, in a truly engaging way. What is the role of memory in your process? And in particular, do you try to achieve a faithful visual translation of your feelings?

Over these years your works have been

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ART Habens

Joana Patrão

exhibited in several occasions, including sem, Galeria Painel, ISPUP, Porto. Colaboration with the artist Maria da Graça Fernando. Your style is strictly connected to the chance to establish a deep intellectual invovement with the viewers, that seem to to delete the frontiers between the artist and the viewers. So, before taking leave from this interesting conversation I would like to pose a a question about the nature of the relation with your audience: in particular, do you consider the issue of audience reception as being a crucial component of your decisionmaking process in terms of what type of language for a particular context?

way the viewers could access or reconstruct the experience of the making. This is one way I consider the audience reception: by showing part of the process or the narratives behind the works. Certainly this consideration changes with the context and with the works. If I’m talking about the videos the context of reception is thought differently because the idea might be to play with the immersive features of the darkness, the sound and the projections. I can say, though, that is always difficult to project the relations or the participation of the viewers. So I consider that while leaving the work open for different interpretations. And after an exhibition it might actually change or take another format.

The exhibition that you mention is a quite interesting case. Before I go through the relation with the public I would like to talk about the collaborative feature of it. This project was an invitation of a group of artists (Tiago Madaleno, José Costa, Luís Vicente, Catarina Real) that are doing a curatorial project on Galeria Painel. Each exhibition is based on a proposal within which four persons work around the same word. In my case I worked in collaboration with the artist Maria da Graça Fernando, Alexandra João Martins did the text, Daniel Martins the poster. Our word was sem which means without associated also with void or emptiness. At first we were thinking how could we combine our processes and then on how to work with the word that was given to us. Graça works with an accumulation of rigid structures while I use mostly organic ones.

Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Joana. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

Thank you for your thoughtful questions. About my future projects… I’m working on my Master’s thesis to present next year. In December I’ll finish my exchange studies in Aalto and I’ll focus mostly on that. Although as it is a practice-based research I will continue to produce work so I might have some exhibitions during that time. Thinking about my personal work I can recognize an evolution towards an involvement with the nature. To the consideration of the nature as a creative force and the developing of ways of creating natural images. This will most likely imply performative, embodied relations. I’m starting to work also with instructions as ways of involving the viewer, turning them into participants or as in Yoko Ono instructions a explore the imaginative power of them.

Thinking on this opposite ideas we thought about how they could work together to create a void. So in cumulative process Graça would give me a basic rigid orthogonal structure that I would try to complete with freehand drawn lines and I would give the drawing back to her. And this long cyclical process would end when the sheets of paper were black. At final we would achieve a representation of emptiness through a cumulative process. So during this process we were facing the question of how to convey the sense of time and construction that was implied in the works (and that was fundamental to them) when the final result would be just black sheets of paper. The solution we came up with was to create an archive of all the phases of the process, by printing the states in between. At the exhibition this archive of images was shown alongside with the drawings. In this particular case the participation of the public was though in the

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Aside of the symbolic features this could be also ways of stating a respect for nature and possibly a way of raising awareness on environmental issues. In a further future I see also the possibility of establishing collaborations with other artists. I had some experiences like that in artist residences and the one that I was describing a moment ago. I’m surrounded by great and stimulating artists and I think that collaborative projects are really important because they might have an impact that doesn’t happen with individual ones. An interview by Dario Rutigliano, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens@mail.com

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