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ART

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

WILL COLES CAROLINE DANTHENY PHILIP HOPPER VIVIANE SILVERA WASIM ZAID HABASHNEH ALLAN GORMAN MARCEL SCHWITTLICK SHERYL LUXENBURG AARON HIGGINS installation by

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R e v i e w

ART


ART

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

A r t

R e v i e w

Aaron Higgins

Viviane Silvera

Wasim Zaid Habashneh

Allan Gorman

Caroline Dantheny

Sheryl Luxenburg

USA

USA

Jordan

USA

France

Canada

Investigating timebased media as an artform through lens-based capture methods, digital compositing techniques, and interactivity, I explore abstracting source material into aesthetic expressions that focus more on experience than representation.

My work explores memory as the building block of identity; how we create the story of who we are through a mingling of our experiences, our imaginations and the absorption of other peoples stories - and how all of it falls under the label "memory".

Coming from an architectural background I’ve always had great admiration for art and the conceptual thinking processes involved in it.

Caroline Dantheny studied art and fashion technique and launched women’s fashion collections under her own name, before moving on to create costumes and unique pieces.

Luxenburg’s drafting and painting methods are grounded in classical formulae.

This body of work is composited together from photos and video taken in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve of the Osage, in Oklahoma.

I look at the beauty of this magical and complex process, as well as the suffering that can happen when memory is lost or goes awry.

I’ve always found something mysterious, romantic and nostalgic about the power of machines and industry, and find myself drawn to the hidden abstract patterns, random shapes and aesthetic tensions I see in manufactured objects — particularly within the confines of industrial struc-tures, machinery, and vehicles. I define my works as abstract compositions nested in the guise of realism, and I use this notion to inform my choices of what to present.

An important aspect that influenced me was the multicultural background I’ve developed over the years while living abroad which enriched my cultural dosage and led me to create my own fusion of those cultures. As I always say: “an artist is a prisoner to his imagination, jail with no chains”.

Her work is the result of a complex and contradictory creative process. To get a result the artist engages in a constant wrestling with her piece, swinging “ad infinitum“ between satisfaction and disillusion; a passionate and frustrating exercise.

She works in dry brush style using a dappled technique of lying different coloured marks of paint side by side and by glazing with thin translucent layers of single colour one on top of the other. In all compositions, she strives for tight details and precision on the main subject elements and uses an airbrush when suggesting the background.


In this issue

Aaron Higgins

Sheryl Luxenburg

Marcel Schwittlick Allan Gorman

Wasim Zaid Habashneh Philip Hopper Marcel Schwittlick

Will Coles

Philip Hopper

Germany

USA

USA

Marcel Schwittlick is an artist living and working in Berlin, Germany. With his work he is examining cybernetic aspects of generative systems and modern technology. He is interested in digital culture, it’s influence on society and chances for alternative kinds of communication. He is working in strong connection to various practices, forging a connection between physical and digital media, traditional and modern approaches.

Will Coles is best known for his artworks that bring together pop and conceptual aesthetics. These familiar yet unsettling works surprise and delight people in cities across the world as they go about their day. By embedding dissonant words and sentences into his concrete casts of seemingly banal objects, his work uses dark humour to provide a commentary on modern society, taking on issues like consumerism or environmental destruction.

The Specimens project has always been about making the unseen or the difficult to see visible. The transformation of natural forms, especially at the beginning and end of life is also a theme. Seedpods and egg casings hold nascent plants and animals. Wildflowers dry and leave skeletal structures. Finally the project is a kind of eulogy for latent image analog photography where negatives and positives were the key to reproduction.

Caroline Dantheny Will Coles

32 52 84 106 128 150 184

Viviane Silvera

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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.

On the cover:

Whilst a lot of his

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lives and works in Tulsa, OK (USA)

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Aaron Higgins

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video, 2013

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Erika Barillari Davel

4 03 dickcissel, HD 1080p (square) interactive video animation, stereo sound Special Issue


An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Aaron and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would like to start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training: after having earned your Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, you nurtured your education with a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Art, that you received from The Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Art, Indiana University: how did those years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Aaron Higgins: Hello. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you and share this project. Like many artists, I was interested in the arts at a young age and was always drawing as a kid. My parents were involved in the performing and creative arts, my mother was a ballet teacher and my father a scenic designer for Indiana University Opera. I ended up helping my father quite a bit, as I grew up, painting sets and with various projects around the house. Working with my dad was very significant in forming my sense of aesthetic and design. And, being volunteered by my mother to play a mouse or soldier in performances of the Nutcracker was also very significant, as I learned I did not like performing on the stage.

Aaron Higgins

teachers were fun, but the curriculum was more craft oriented. I was told I had talent, I practiced drawing a lot, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I started thinking about my art more seriously. My undergraduate and graduate years at Indiana University were very influential and formative in my evolution as an artist. I started out with a concentration in Graphic Design but later transitioned to Painting. I wasn’t accepted into the BFA program when I first applied, but persevered and was accepted the

I also was fascinated by birds and always drawing from Audubon books. I enjoyed comic books, too, and would try and come up with my own superheroes. K-12 art classes and

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Aaron Higgins

Tallgrass: An Osage Reverie, generative soundscape by Norbert Herber, installation view, CICA Museum, 2018

second time around. There was a lot of turmoil in that period of my life. My parents’ divorce, and other personal life events had dramatically affected me. I was very distracted, making bad decisions, and was in and out of school a lot.

education and get things back on track. I was taking art education courses to earn a teaching certificate with the goal of teaching art at the high school level. I also took some studio electives and was introduced to Digital Art. I was curious, I really didn’t know what Digital Art was, it didn’t exist as an area of study within the school in undergrad. After

Eventually, things calmed down and I decided to return to IU as a graduate to continue my

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learning more about this exciting field, I was hooked, my trajectory changed again and I was recruited into the MFA program in Digital Art. Once in the program, I was able to work with amazing professors that widened my perspective of what art is and could be. In particular, working with Arthur Liou, and having the opportunity to collaborate with

ART Habens

him on some of his work, was very significant as I began to shape my practice as a studio artist working with time-based and digital media. Because of my Painting background, it seemed natural for me to carry over similar ideas as I began developing my process and practice

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with digital-media. When thinking of Painting, I was interested in ideas of perception and observation. I liked to work en plein air, and from observation in my studio. In many ways, how the paint touched the canvas superseded the subject. It was this idea that interested me when first approaching digital and time-based media. I began building libraries of images and video clips to use as source files and assets in my production process. I wasn’t really recording any specific subject, but mostly collecting visual textures sourced from my surroundings. Working intuitively, I thought of these clips and images like colors on a painter’s palette or pieces in assembling collage. I tried to keep things open in early stages of the process, and let the work precipitate from experimentation, a lot of trial and error, and play. The creative process, like the life experience, is an extremely rewarding one, even when it involves failure. The work grew more personal, and I found myself focusing on abstract notions of change, and control. We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.aaronhiggins.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if there is a central idea that connects all your works? Aaron Higgins: Most of my work is derived from personal experience and my surroundings. There are autobiographical aspects to my work, as well as macro ideas that transcend identity. Control and affect are recurring themes that emerge in my work and

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Aaron Higgins

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northern bobwhite (1), HD 1080p (circle) interactive video animation, stereo sound 21 4 11

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dickcissel, HD 1080p (square) interactive video animation, stereo sound Special Issue

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are mirrored in my process. By nature of digital media, the hand is removed from the process, even a tablet and stylus do not have a true 1:1 analog relationship between hand and physical media. So, I think about control, how the “mark” of the hand is mediated by the “digital”, and play with this notion a lot in my work. I do a lot of experimentation with images as I start my process. I enjoy mixing and layering clips, blending together images over time, creating meditative experiences through my work. The creative process manifests itself in surprising ways that are a mystery, to me. I see the creative process as metaphor for life on a host of levels that illuminate and unveil certain truths about our existence, the human condition, and the universe itself. Decisions made in the act of creating bring about an exchange of cause and effect relationships. Formal elements serendipitously emerge in the work, narratives form around a free association of ideas as the process itself seems to play a role in collaborating. This has led me to contemplate more deeply the relationship between artwork and viewer. I have often used live video feeds in my work as both source and sensor, allowing another layer of serendipity. This is further attempt to relinquish control and allow room for the work to evolve and take its own direction, to remove “the hand”, so to speak, and permit outside stimuli to play a more important role affecting the creative process. I believe much of my work expresses a general sensitivity to this dialog and collaboration as well as a searching for spiritual awareness. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected Tallgrass: An Osage Reverie, an

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hummingbirds on bull thistle, HD 1080p (32:9) interactive video animation, stereo sound


ART Habens

Aaron Higgins

interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. We have particularly appreciated the way it provides the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience. When walking our readers through the genesis of this captivating artwork, would you tell us how did you develop the initial idea? Aaron Higgins: With the Tallgrass project, I am very much interested in the relationship between humans and nature. There is a spiritual connection I believe we all share with nature. The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve (TGP) is not far from my current home, in Tulsa, OK, and I have developed a profound connection with its landscape. The work is also inspired by the book, Talking to the Moon, by John Joseph Mathews. I was interested in recreating the experience of the landscape in the Tallgrass Prairie as a sort of daydream or memory, a reverie. Visiting the Prairie, and reading the book, served as ways for me to connect to Oklahoma and my surroundings. I’ve felt somewhat isolated here, disconnected, and wanted to have the sense of belonging to a place, of being connected to nature. I feel most alive in nature. The Prairie also represents an iconic part of the American consciousness and identity, as well as a reminder of what has been lost. The preserve acts like a living, breathing memory of what once was, and a symbol of how humans assert their control over nature. Tragically, less than 10% of the prairie ecosystem remains today. Most of what is left is only possible thanks to efforts of organizations like The Nature Conservancy. But it’s not as simple as just setting aside land and letting nature take over,

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cliff swallows at sunset, HD 1080p interactive video ani

the bison were reintroduced, the herd is managed and vaccinated against diseases, as well as culled for optimal health and diversity. Invasive plant species are actively removed,

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mation, stereo sound

ecosystem. The landscaped is curated, in effect, to preserve a moment in ecological time. In recent years, I have been more interested in

while native grasses and range plants are restored. Prescribed burns are performed on the prairie to help regulate and promote the health of the

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Aaron Higgins

moonrise with scissor-tailed flycatchers, HD 1080p interactive video animation, stereo sound

ideas of memory, visions, and dreams, thinking of ways to approach these subjects in my work. I began to think of Tallgrass, not only as a physical place, but a place in time; however,

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not a specific place or time, but an idealized notion of the two, like in a dream. I wanted to explore my relationship with nature and this place through the idea of a reverie.

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Aaron Higgins

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locations and how did this affect your shooting process? The prairie presents certain challenges when trying to express its character and nature. I wanted to capture open spaces, majestic skies, and as much of the amazing wildlife as I could. A number of approaches were used, including drone footage, still photography, a range of focal length lenses, as well as 4k footage that could be cropped for full HD output. I wanted to choose locations with interesting features, but often locations were chosen by where the wildlife happened to be that day. In several of the works, the landscape, as it is seen, does not exist. They are composited together from several sources to create a more idealized, romantic vision of the prairie. Although this served formal purposes in composing the work, it helps to support the concept of the “ideal” and is meant to be a subtle reference to human intervention in the landscape. It is easy to believe the illusion of “pristine nature”, but it is a façade. With this in mind, I felt some freedom, in post-production, to embellish or enhance what was there. In other words, if I wasn’t able to capture the perfect shot, I created it. The combination between sound and visual plays a crucial aspect in your work and we have particularly appreciated the way the generative soundscape created by Norbert Herber provides the imagery in your works with such an ethereal atmosphere: according to Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan there is a 'sense bias' that affects Western societies favoring visual logic, a shift that occurred with the advent of modern alphabet as the eye became more essential than ear. When discussing the genesis of this

Tallgrass: An Osage Reverie has drawn heavily from the specifics of its locations: the ambience doesn't play the mere role of a simple background: how did you select the

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Aaron Higgins

prairie reverie, HD 1080p video animation, 14:00 loop, accompanied by generative soundscape by Norbert Herber

stimulating soundscape, we would like to know how you consider the role of sound within your artistic research.

Norbert is. The combination of audio and visual in this series of works is crucial in creating the viewer experience of the landscape. The generative “mother track�, as Norbert and I call it, weaves a rich tapestry of natural sounds and ethereal passages that bring together the disparate pieces of this

Aaron Higgins: Sound plays an enormous role in this project, I cannot overstate the significance the soundscape created by

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body of work into a cohesive whole. I wouldn’t want to comment on the eye or the ear being more essential than the other, but they are greater in concert.

Sound and vision influence each other in fascinating ways, and I certainly see sound playing an increasingly integral role in my work and process going forward.

There is a beautiful gestalt to our senses that allow us to perceive the world around us.

I have invited Norbert to offer his perspective on this question, as well‌

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Aaron Higgins

northern bobwhite (2), HD 1080p (circle) interactive video animation, stereo sound

Norbert Herber: One of the reasons I was drawn to work with Aaron on this project was his profound connection to Tallgrass. He had spent so much time shooting, hiking, and

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camping there. He shared the most detailed stories about the environment and wildlife. And though I have never visited the preserve, through Aaron I felt a connection to this place.

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Aaron Higgins

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, sound artist Norbert Herber is a musician and sound artist. His work explores the relationship between people and sound within mediated environments—spaces created by software, sensors, speakers, and other mediating technologies. In his early career, Norbert worked as a jazz saxophonist and arranger, playing and writing for groups of all sizes in a variety of styles. Years later, with the introduction of so-called multimedia technology and individual interactive media experiences on CD-ROM, Norbert’s focus shifted to composition. He worked as a composer and sound designer, and contributed to a number of awardwinning educational games. His background as an improvising musician made work as a games and interaction composer a natural and compelling musical challenge. But as his engagement with this work grew so did his curiosity about its theoretical implications. Once again his focus shifted; this time to research. Under the supervision of Roy Ascott and Brian Eno, Norbert developed Amergent Music, a systemsoriented approach to music and mediated interaction that combines the emergent dynamics of complex systems with generative and experimental music, sound design, scoring, sound art, and techniques of game audio. Currently Norbert composes musical systems that leverage the processing capabilities of contemporary technology and make music specific to a place and time. His works have been performed and exhibited in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, and the United States. He is also a Senior Lecturer and Unit Director of Media Arts & Production in the Media School at Indiana University. In recent years my sound work has been preoccupied with the construction of mediated worlds. These worlds have been primarily conceptual in nature, exploring the ways that a process or an idea could be conceived as a place. Tallgrass is the first work in which I seek to connect an actual, geographic location with sound and music.

It is an interesting coincidence that an engagement of my work with an actual place would involve the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, for it also, in many ways, is a mediated environment. Reclamation and preservation of native flora and fauna is an ongoing and deliberate act, carefully managed by conservation experts to recreate the prairie as it existed until the mid-1800s. What one hears in this installation is complementary to Aaron Higgins’ video re-composition of the Tallgrass Prairie landscape. Sounds of birds, bison, and insects are heavily edited and processed to remove the "hand" of audio recording technology. Musical elements are composed as a song and played on instruments designed to act as a patina to the natural field recordings. These elements are systemically bound to a variable form and structure that preserves its initial character and stretches infinitely into time. René Magritte wrote, "Ceci n’est pas une pipe." Similarly, this is not Tallgrass Prairie. But in sound, video, and interaction, we have made Tallgrass Prairie.

When we first talked about the installation, he used the word reverie to describe the experience he wanted to create. For me, that was such a productive point-of-departure.

The “reverie” I created was always at least one step removed from the actual place. The music and its interactions with field recordings was filtered through my imagination of

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Aaron Higgins

hummingbirds on bull thistle, HD 1080p (32:9) interactive video animation, stereo sound

demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines?

Tallgrass, which was ignited via Aaron’s stories, images, video, and location audio. In many ways, I believe that NOT having visited the preserve allowed me to better embrace the idea of a reverie because I was working from a collection of impressions rather than first-hand experience.

Aaron Higgins: This is a very interesting question. I believe collaboration is a great way to grow as an artist and I am definitely open to collaborating with artists in the future. This has been a great experience and I have learned a lot. Norbert, without a doubt, brought unique perspectives and expertise to this process, and it was amazing working with him on Tallgrass.

It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you and Norbert Herber have established together are today ever-growing forces in Contemporary Art, and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Can you explain how your work

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Norbert and I spoke several times about the project, what my ideas were, the sort of environment or atmosphere that might best fit the work and communicate the idea of a

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Aaron Higgins

ART Habens

along the way. It is very interesting, the relationship between image and sound, what we hear has so much to do with our understanding of what we see. There is a beautiful symbiosis in the way audio and visual work together in this series, and I enjoy the dialogue they share.

reverie. Most of the audio was recorded at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. It was important to me, that as much as possible be sourced from the landscape at the TGP. Additional audio of specific bird calls was also sourced from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Norbert was able to take this audio and blend it into a cohesive soundscape that complements the visual aspects of the work wonderfully.

I have asked Norbert to comment on this question, to offer more context…

Collaborating requires a lot of trust, and I completely trusted Norbert to produce the soundscape with little guidance or input from me other than I wanted it to feel “open”, “natural”, and “ethereal”. We shared our progress throughout the creative process, and everything seemed to develop in tandem

Norbert Herber: In addition to Aaron’s stories about Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, I was also drawn to the techniques he was using and the ways in which his work mirrored the ongoing management and conservancy efforts at the nature preserve. Aaron put a lot of effort into

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Aaron Higgins

white-tailed deer, HD 1080p (32:9) interactive video animation, stereo sound

the post production process in “recreating” the landscape, his thoughtful editing and compositing offers a version of reality that draws you in—an invitation to commune with the prairie and its inhabitants.

something else altogether. Game audio and sound/installation art are not equivalent, but I find it helpful to have experience in one while working on the other (yes, this goes both ways!) In the end, the priorities for environment and interaction are what matter most in my work. In the early stages of Tallgrass, these were aspects of the overall experience that Aaron said were important to him as well.

I don’t work in a visual medium and don’t have the vision to create moving images and immersive visual environments. But sound as a medium to create an inhabitable, mediated space? That has been a focus for years. I started in the world of (video) game audio and use many of the same techniques behind the music and sound design of contemporary games. Many games depend on audio to complete a player’s experience, whether it’s driven by narrative, action, strategy, or

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This is where collaboration begins. When respective parties offer something the other cannot, genuine collaboration can take place. Combine the notion of complementary skills with a shared aesthetic and the collaborative potential is even greater. As a composer and

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sound artist, collaboration is at least half of my current output. I find that when a project can begin with these two ingredients— complementary artistic praxes and resonant aesthetics—everything, including the final artwork, is elevated.

ART Habens

The tracks include Reverie, a direct translation of what people would experience at the installation. Soundscape is a minimally edited and minimally processed layered composition of field recordings made by Aaron while shooting. The final track, Process, is a reworked version of the music I composed for the installation that takes the concept of reverie in a new direction.

In addition: I have made an EP release based on my sound work from this project. The recording will be released via Bandcamp on March 3, 2019: https://norbertherber.bandcamp.com/album/tallgrass-prairie (this link will be live in the near future once the music has run through the final mastering stage)

As you remarked in your director's statement, your artistic research is centered on the exploration of abstracting source material into aesthetic expressions that focus more on experience than representation. We have been highly fascinated with the poetic quality of the images that you captured, combining

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realism and dreamlike atmosphere to explore the interstitial point between our inner landscape and outside reality: in this sense, we daresay that your artistic practice seems to aim to look inside of what appears to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is it for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal interpretations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Aaron Higgins: Yes, the question is beautifully phrased. I acknowledge that viewers assume a certain amount of control over the work as they contribute their own reflections, experiences, and interpretations. For the most part, I am very open to this and give it a fair amount of consideration during the creative process. As we’ve talked about, this relationship between viewer and art interests me very much and has led me to investigate subtle ways of incorporating the viewer directly into the work. In my interactive works, viewers become part of the process, and in some ways the subject of the work. It is fascinating how a work of art takes on new forms and meaning in the minds of those that perceive it.

prairie reverie, HD 1080p video animation, 14:00 loop, acc

your process in order to achieve such brilliant results? Aaron Higgins: That’s a wonderful quote. I can definitely see connections with Angela Bulloch’s work and the splitting time series.

Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Your splitting time series seems to reflect these words, achieving such a powerful narrative drive, and bringing the relationship between the work and the viewer to a new level of significance: how did you structure

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It was really this body of work where I started contemplating the relationship between artwork and viewer, and how I might develop this idea further. I began experimenting with capturing and incorporating the viewer into the composition using webcams. The desire was to create a sense of harmony via the interaction between viewer and artwork. live

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Aaron Higgins

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ompanied by generative soundscape by Norbert Herber

mosaics of time, but also as portraits of the viewer.

camera feeds were abstracted into simple geometric forms of repetitive systems. Experimenting more with the webcam as a sensor, I began using viewers’ movement to create color interactions and affect the compositions. Color is sourced and abstracted from the viewer and their surroundings and divorced from objective context to become the subject itself.

I write in my statement for the series, “I have become more aware of how I perceive and process time. I perceive time as a measurement of change, a collection of tiny moments in sequence. Time can be represented as an object moving through space, or a shifting color of a pixel in a video screen. We tend to record time according to the repetition and flow of events, dividing it up into small manageable blocks. But life is more than just the sum of its parts, it’s how the moments connect and those we connect

I started to think of each frame of the video feed as a cross section of a moment, and each pixel or XY coordinate as specific locations within that moment that could be split apart and recomposed. I thought of these works as

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Aaron Higgins

Tallgrass: An Osage Reverie, generative soundscape by Norbert Herber, installation view, CICA Museum, 2018

with draw the narrative throughout the chapters of our journey�.

predetermined arrangement, meaning, or narrative embedded within the work.

Subsequent works moved away from the pure abstraction of camera feeds to abstracting previously sourced imagery. I started collaging live feeds more directly in combination with pre-recorded video clips and images, enabling more of a free association of ideas.

Over the years your artworks have been showcased in several occasions, and Tallgrass: An Osage Reverie was recently exhibited at the CICA Museum in Gimpo, South Korea: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

Viewers’ movement triggers events within these works, and chance plays more of a role in the placement and combination of formal elements within compositions. Imagery is randomly placed and collaged with no strict

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Aaron Higgins: The audience, or viewer, is essential to the work. Obviously, the work is meant to be seen, I want the viewer

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ART Habens

that the work really has meaning for me and feels complete. Exhibiting and sharing the work with an audience gives that to me, and I enjoy hearing feedback from those who have seen and experienced my work. We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Aaron. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Aaron Higgins: Thanks again for having me, it’s been a real pleasure speaking with you and your audience about my work and this project. You have asked some really wonderful, thoughtful questions. I am interested in making future work that revolves around family history and memory (generational memory, memory, and trauma, etc.) and am in the process of researching new production methods. I have been collecting as many resources as I can to start production this year. I don’t want to reveal too much about the narrative behind the work, right now, but technically, I am interested in virtual and augmented reality playing a role in future works, as well as facial recognition, motion capture, and tracking software. As I mentioned earlier, I would also like to find more direct ways of incorporating Painting and “the hand” back into my practice.

experience to be rich and look for ways to engage the work with the audience. Tallgrass, in particular, through subtle, passive, interactive events, connects with the viewer. I guess that’s what I want people to take away from my work, some sort of connection that relates to their own experience. I want the work to create space for viewers to contemplate and reflect on how they are connected to, affect, and are affected by the work. Seeing the work installed and how viewers interact with it in a space, and how a work interacts with its surroundings is very exciting and rewarding. It is at these moments

Stay tuned! An interview by and

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, curator curator

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Lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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Sheryl Luxenburg

ART Habens

video, 2013

The Dark Side in progress to intentionally reveal a flattened depiction of space, acrylic on linen, 36x30in 422 0 Special Issue


ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

Confrontation acrylic on linen, 23x28in.2019

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a place to begin and erase the day, a place for time out and to rejuvenate, a place to cry and pray, a place to think and make life decisions.

An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Sheryl and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your works we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.sherylluxenburg.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production and we will start this interview with a couple of questions about your background? Thank you so much for inviting me to this interview. How did your formative years influence your evolution as an artist? I have not taken a straight route to become a painter. After post secondary school in Montreal, Canada I received two graduate degrees in clinical psychology at McGill University and The University of Ottawa. I spent a couple of decades working as a licensed clinical psychotherapist in Ottawa, Canada. It was highly rewarding and hopefully I helped many people, but then I became ill and was diagnosed with Collagen Vascular Disease,

Sheryl Luxenburg

namely Systemic Lupus. I needed to retire from this profession as my illness produced many debilitating symptoms that drained me of the energy necessary to work with people so intensively. I’ve been painting since I was a young child, and in fact I went to some rather serious art

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ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

schools, so I decided to devote whatever energy remained to focus on painting. My maternal grandfather was a hobbyist painter using a pointillist method in the Cubist style and he taught me how to mix pigment from scratch and how to compose the major elements for a successful painting. My formal fine art education was completed at The Children’s Program at The School of Art and Design at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montreal, three summer studio painting residency programs at The Banff Centre For The Arts, Banff, Alberta and at Keene State College, New Hampshire, USA. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected The Shower series, an interesting project that our readers will have already been introduced in the pages of this article. I would like to share my artist statement for my ‘In The Shower’ Series. a place to begin and erase the day a place for time out and to rejuvenate a place to cry and pray a place to think and make life decisions At first glance, your artworks look like photographs. Our readers may scroll over your hand painted work thinking they are photographs. When walking our readers through the genesis of this stimulating body of works, can you tell us how you came to focus on this style of painting? Over 40 years ago, I had the privilege of being a student of the first generation American photorealist Tom Blackwell at Keene State College. At that time the Photorealism

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Sheryl Luxenburg

ART Habens

Beginning, acrylic on linen, 36x30in 21 4 06

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ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

Forest From Trees, acrylic on linen,36x30in., 2017 Special Issue

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Sheryl Luxenburg

ART Habens

movement, initially coined by New York art dealer Louis Meisel in 1969 was gaining strength, and I became passionate about trying to emulate this style. Since this time I have remained focussed on perfecting the discipline, attention span and techniques necessary to achieve this. The style accentuates the objectivity of subjects, taking advantage of illusionistic depth and emphasizing with paint a flattened depiction of space. Despite the tediousness of painting directly from primary source material, my drafting and painting methods are grounded in traditional techniques. I work in dry brush style, striving for tight details and precision and use an airbrush to glaze surfaces or for backgrounds. I have developed a facility in working with acrylic glazes and mediums to promote spatial depth in imagery. When thin translucent layers of paint are placed one on top of the other onto a canvas, the underneath layers are readily revealed and this promotes a much sought after delicate layering effect. All the series I create are my vision. I take my own photographs and use them as a primary source material for reference. For any given painting I can take hundreds of photos. I cut and paste and take from many different photos to compose one painting. Because I am transferring photographic designed images into hand drawn and hand painted images, the flattened depiction of space is already present in the photo. In regular realism, the 3D contouring/shading is 360 degrees, and darkly shaded towards the rear of the object. In a

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Blindsided, acrylic on linen,60x30in., 2017


ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

flattened depiction of space, the contouring ends at 180 degrees and more abruptly with lighter values towards the rear.

Since this time I have moved onto capturing people who are unfortunately in compromised situations. The very compassionate psychotherapist in me felt that figurative subject material was a better fit for my personality. I find it energizing and relaxing to paint the emotions of the human condition. I am also a realist and paint people as they really are. I never glamourize my subject’s skin tones. I paint flesh tones with rashes, blemishes and imperfections. I believe my commitment to this visual reality emphasizes what you refer to as tension and exaggeration.

Over forty years ago I would have been considered a realist painter, but as the decades wore on, I became more of a photorealist, which transformed into being a hyperrealist. Hyperrealism, although photographic in essence, entails a softer focus on the subject depicted, presenting it as a living, tangible object. The subjects here are meticulously detailed to create the illusion of a reality not seen in the original photo. Textures, lighting effects and shadows appear more highlighted than in the reference material.

Your series are deeply influenced by the psychological phases relating to the challenging periods in your life. How does your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallized moments in the everyday?

Hyperrealism is not the strict rendition of photographs, but rather the use of visual elements to create the illusion of a reality which in fact never existed. As my figurative subject matter has become more exclusive, I consider myself an expressionistic hyperreal painter.

When I reflect back to my life prior to my diagnosis of Lupus, I felt blessed that my life was full. I was happily married, I had a wonderful daughter and a fabulous career.

This kind of hyperrealism seems to create an emotional impact on the viewers and we par- ticularly appreciate the way your flesh tones create tension? How does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances here?

That all ended when I had to retire from the psychotherapy field. I had to reinvent myself and figure out what I was going to intellectually focus on for the rest of my life. Equally, if not more important, was how I was going to cope with severe chronic pain and a variety of other debilitating medical symptoms. I struggled for many years until my illness moved

In the 1970s through to the late 1990s I painted the streets of places, not really knowing what subject matter I wanted to focus on. This work was readily accepted by viewers, but the subject matter although charming, felt impersonal.

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The High Road, acrylic on linen, 24x36in,2018


Prayer acrylic and gouache on linen, 24x36 in, 2015


Sheryl Luxenburg

ART Habens

Darkness in progress to intentionally reveal a flattened depiction of space, acrylic on linen, 24x24in

more towards some remission. As I moved through each stage, I realized my paintings

were mirroring the stage of adjustment I was in.

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ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

Hindsight acrylic on linen,36x30in., 2018

Being able to express myself in this way facilitated a cathartic release; expressing myself through my art meant expressing this hardship. To this day, I still continue to use my work to express a multitude of life’s stressors. I hire models in which through them, I can

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project my own journey by creating a highly specific environment and story line. When I worked as a psychotherapist I validated the patients’ experience, now I am validating my own. You see, I believe what makes a successful

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Erase The Day acrylic and gouache on linen, 24x36in, 2015


Privacy acrylic and gouache on linen, 24x36in, 2015


Sheryl Luxenburg

ART Habens

Room To Breathe

Dread

acrylic and gouache on linen, 24x36in, 2015

acrylic and gouache on linen, 24x36 in, 2015

portrait is the dialogue between the artist and the model, although it is always the artist that projects onto the canvas what they themselves are feeling and not necessarily at all what the model intended. In this way, every portrait painted is a selfportrait of the artist.

Rich with symbolic references, such as condensation on glass and water on the body, your artworks could be considered allegories of the emotional state reflected in your figures. How do you consider the role of symbols and metaphor in order to achieve the brilliant results that mark out the storytelling of your series?

My challenge is not to capture the essence of the model, but to capture the essence of myself. I paint to project visual representations of my life’s journey.

Metaphor and symbolism are the salient underpinnings in my work. I struggle with chronic physical joint pain, which often

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ART Habens

Sheryl Luxenburg

limits my mobility in life, and my subject matter projects this angst.

between their personal histories and the feeling that they convey when represented in your artworks?

I also struggle with feelings of isolation, being kept separate and apart from the psy- chotherapy profession and the life I once knew. I paint the transparent shower glass as a metaphor for a container in which I am isolated from the world. I paint the water as a method of shedding tears, and a process of cleansing and healing.

I have a life long relationship with all my models. I have a close relationship to their parents. I trust my models to enact the nonverbal gestures I ask of them. Their personal history is irrelevant to me when we are working, outside of the love and respect I have for them.

How important is it for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meanings? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? You are an established artist and your work can be found in private, corporate, and museum collections in Canada, the U.S.A. and Europe. How do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience takes away from your artworks?

Meticulously composed, your artwork is marked out with exceptionally precise attention to details. Could you comment about the importance of details? The hyperreal style is all about the meticulous preoccupation with detail. We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Sheryl. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

In the past decade, I have received considerable feedback from the public, that when they hear my story, they become even more interested in my paintings. As a psychotherapist, I hope to invite viewers to think about their psyche and stories. I hope they can identify with the challenge of struggle, and that we are all one people united under the human condition.

I am currently working on the most complicated work in my life. The subject matter celebrates my upcoming 65th birthday and is a story of my survivorship.

You have once described your models as the vessels who carry your projected emotions. How do you select your models and how do you consider the relationship

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, curator

An interview by and

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curator


A Night Cap a night cap, acrylic and gouache on linen


Neurodynamics, style transfer projection diptych, Na

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

video, 2013

tional Museum Yogyakarta, Indonesia 422 0

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

Composition #37 Digital Motion, multi-media installation, Special Issue Herzberge, Berlin, Germany Museum Kesselhaus

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Marcel and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a Bachelo of Science in Media Computing, that you received from the prestigious HTW Berlin: how did those formative years influence your evolution as an artist and direct you to explore our relationship with the technology? In particular, how does you multifaceted cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Of course a lot. Though I think it like, the studies that I undertook, the years of technical education in the DNA of digital media was supporting the interest that I was pursuing naturally. Before I decided to dive into these studies, I spent my youth with the computer, later the internet. Repairing computers, building websites, etc was the business I started when I was about 14. Obviously, I didn't know what I was going for, but later I started collecting data, sharing videos, images, music online, building up a pirate infrastructure.

Marcel Schwittlick

not a recognized and supported art form like drawing or writing. There was no education, no perspective that I knew of. Only later on I learned about the arts, this free field of exploration and

This influenced the decision to study digital media from a technical perspective, and thus this changed my work as an artist later on. As you can imagine, doing these things was

contextualization. You are a versatile artist and your practice includes film, painting, and installation:

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit https://schwittlick.net in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production: would you tell us what does address you to such captivating multidisciplinary approach? How do you select an artistic discipline in order to explore a particular aspect of your artistic inquiry? This might be a mistake to say, but since I value honesty the most, I will stick with it here. I lack a traditional education in the arts. This is a twofold situation for me. On the one hand, I am liberated from the frames and disciplines that young artists are put into when they study. On the other hand, I have no structure to come back to. Really, I just use the medium that I need to apply for a particular idea. Primarily I am working conceptually, I really don't care about the medium in the first place. Though I have found to appreciate the characteristics of specific media and come back to them. Very naturally to me is the digital, virtual, conceptual. That's where every single work I have ever started and/or finished is coming from. Since the ideas are coming from a nonphysical medium, but I want to bring them to life, they have no limitation. No context in the physical world. In the end, I don't plan a lot, I make the most natural decisions, for me.

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

Composition #37 Digital Motion, multi-media installation, Museum Kesselhaus Herzberge, Berlin, Germany 21 4 06

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

Neurodynamics style transfer projection diptych, National Museum Yogyakarta, Indonesia Special Issue

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected Neurodynamics, an interesting generative projection-triptych, that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/249611594. What has at once impressed us of this captivating artwork is the way it fills the apparent gap between technology and aesthetics, challenging the audience's perceptual parameters. When walking our readers through the genesis of Neurodynamics, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Having a usual setup and process would be so liberating and productive. Thanks for reminding me of looking into productive ways of creation. Once I have found a workflow of production, I abandon it. I get bored. With Neurodynamics it was extreme since I worked on it for more than two years, which is quite a lot for a video loop of fewer than two minutes. For Neurodynamics I have developed my own video sequencing software. That includes a style transfer pipeline, to combine graphical videos with the style of stylistic images. It's a digitally produced images, though all data are recordings, cursor movements and photography combined. A lot of code, only self-written software was used in the process. After the timeline of the piece was sketched out and finished, I got

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

So Intimate #249, digital collage, print, 140x140 cm

bored with this kind of process, because it's extremely slow and I know that Adobe and the like are slowly working on a plugin for their software to smoothen this process. I

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am happy to have finished this project, I almost abandoned it. It's important to remark that

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

So Intimate #41, digital collage, print, 140x140 cm

Neurodynamics is generated from graphical elements and movements recorded from the physical world: accordingly, although artist had very

limited control over the outcome, the aesthetic results are not disconnected from perceptual reality. How do you consider the relationship between technology and

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

artistic production in order to achieve the difficult task of providing a work of art with such a multilayered quality and the viewers with such an immersive visual experience? I appreciate that you call this work in particular multilayered because a lot of the feedback that has been brought to me was related to the lack of sound. Which could be described as just a single layer of media, through the process and the metainformation of the work is layered. Adding another layer of sound would make the work lose some of its concreteness. The art world and technology world are forever intertwined and connected. I think they have always been and will still be, these are not disconnected entities that influence each other via long-distance calls. They are one. Scientists and engineers are developing tools that are created for mostly financial reasons. Artists and the art world are following these developments, play with them, contextualize the value of these tools for social and cultural means. They play with these media and materials, put them into context, tell stories. If you ask me, this construct will most likely not change, not looking at the few technical developments that are envisioned by independent artists and end up as a commodity. As a programmer and artist, I think that the technological world is within the art world,

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

Woven Highlights #2, Acryl on canvas, 100x150 cm 21 4 12

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

Woven Highlights #3, Acryl on canvas, 100x150 cm Special Issue

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

part of it. I like to think everything is art, I follow Jonathan Meese in this regard. We have particularly appreciated the way Neurodynamics offers an opportunity to rethink in such an unconventional way the debate about the ever growing information centered technosphere and what could be apparently hidden by determinism. In particular, The Dying Rotring highlights the enormus creative potential of aleatory processes in the construction of meaning and aesthetics: how do you consider the role of randomness and chance playing within your artistic research? In my work aleatory processes are essential, one of the point I am playing with. In a lot of the art that is influenced by digital media, chance is introduced by simple mathematical functions like noise and chance, pseudo-random values. Work that is coming from the creative coding scene, generative graphics and projects that are created using openFrameworks or Processing apply a combination of these signals. Signals that yield no sign. One could call them 'blind' signals (compare to lorem impsum for text), for creating abstract animations and compositions. Information aesthetically speaking, I like high entropy, unpredictability. Noise is predictable from a visual and semiotic standpoint, though they have high

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

foundation for exchange, reference, and critique.

mathematical entropy. What I mean is that maths and simulation and the artificial lacks character. I am using cursor lines as a material for my work. Generally speaking recorded data of human movement. I am using them interchangeably, without judgment and as a statement for diversity. The same as every recorded line is beautiful in its uniqueness, the same applies to every human being on this planet.

You used cutting edge technology as machine learning algorithms. Multidisciplinary artist Angela Bulloch once remarked, "that works of arts often continue to evolve after they have been realised, simply by the fact that they are conceived with an element of change, or an inherent potential for some kind of shift to occur". Technology can be used to create innovative artworks, but innovation means not only to create pieces of art that haven't been before, but especially to recontextualize what already exists: do you think that one of the roles of contemporary artists has changed these days with the new global communications and the new sensibility created by new media?

Inquiring into the relationship between the real and the digital, Neurodynamics and The Dying Rotring seem to invite the viewers to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal interpretations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

I totally agree technology is not the answer. And not a solution. It's a problem. That's the mindset I expect from my fellow artists, disregarding their media. Whatever we create is a snapshot of the time it's produced in. It would be ignorant to think we are not living in a particular time right now.

I want to be understood by everybody. Any interpretation is welcome, any context and association that people create are fantastic. Different levels of symbols can be seen in my work. Very figurative and abstract ones. I personally like the abstract ones, the infrastructural perspectives, though I can just really have one view. I want to hear about all the different connections that people can draw. I see my work as a

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The circumstances that surround us are that the internet that is changing, the climate that is changing, our relationships are changing. These things are all connected and not only

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Electronic Chaos Oracle #1 interactive installation, Spektrum, Berlin, Germany


Electronic Chaos Oracle #4 multi-media installation, Spektrum, Berlin, German


ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

new media has the responsibility to reflect upon that. Another body work that we would like to introduce ot our readers is your The Electronic Chaos Oracle, a project that you have developed in collaboration with Ramin Soleymani. Centered on the possibility to fill the philosophical gap of computationally generating new ideas and thoughts, your work brings to a new level of significance the relationship with the audience: when walking us through the development of the initial idea, as an artist particularly involved in the creation of immersive works, we would ask you how will in your opinion technology help artist to expand their chances to create a kind of involvement that will break the usual exibition spaces' barriers. The Electronic Chaos Oracle is primarily an artificial intelligence chatbot. We are combining millions of lines of text taken from books and combine the sentences into new ideas and stories. This is an ongoing project that we regularly exhibit. Every time we modify it so massively that it really deserves another title really. It was sometimes interactive, for the visitor to explore and talk to. Sometimes we created fixed stories ourselves with the system we created. The very first idea came about shortly after we founded our artist space Lacuna Lab in Berlin Kreuzberg back in 2015. The initial

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

Composition #37 Pigment drawing on paper, 36x48cm, Fahrbereitschaft Haubrock, Berlin, Germany 21 4 18

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

The Process Object, Lacuna Lab, Berlin, Germany Special Issue

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Marcel Schwittlick

ART Habens

group consisted of 15 artists from different disciplines. For the first edition of ECO, we used all the email and chat conversations our group sent around in the process of founding the space. Additionally, I have asked all members for some personal writings like diary entries that went anonymously into the intelligence of the installation as well. For our opening exhibition, visitors could talk through the installation to the whole unified group of artists at the same time. I think this installation is playing with the utopian idea of what technology can bring to the world, how it can open up new dimensions of communication. Generally speaking, I favor human-to-human interaction over human-tomachine interaction. I like humans over machines, and I enjoy being conscious of the interactions I have and create. Developing these interfaces holds enormous responsibilities, and this installation hopefully reminds us about that a bit. Do you know about the Critical Engineer Manifesto? Possibly it's time to stretch the field a bit as I believe it applies to artists as well. It's no doubt that collaborations as the one that you and Ramin Soleymani have established together are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields of practice meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of

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ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

2D21D #6, Print

2D21D #8, Print

your work? Can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between artists from different disciplines?

partnership quiet strong, we are one stream, there are no compromises and not much to negotiate conceptually. We agree on a lot and can support and understand even the most absurd idea one of us has.

Funnily, the collaboration between Ramin and me is not a collaboration of different disciplines. We have both experienced the same classical technical education of information technology. This makes our

Summer 2015 Special Issue

We are working together on projects that involve terabytes of data, be it text, image or other media. Usually, large teams

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Composition #37 173 Pigment drawing on paper, 36x48cm, Private collection, Berlin, Germany


Composition #37 432 Pigment drawing on paper, 36x48cm, Private collection, Berlin, Germany


Composition #37 88 Pigment drawing on paper, 36x48cm Private collection, Berlin, Germany


Marcel Schwittlick

supported by wealthy industry work in this realm. Even small experiments can be very time costly when using machine learning and artificial intelligence. Especially since we are waiting for serendipity. We are building machines in a non-deterministic way. We make the computer produce something we want to be surprised by. It's not possible to evaluate the outcomes of the machine when you don't expect anything concrete. We are working very intuitive, on a quantum level. Developing a feeling for data. And since the feeling of having a lot of good data is great, we share this with our art.

ART Habens

some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? I am working on a lot of new things and a lot of old ideas. One project involved sending drawings to friends, curators, and colleagues all over the world. (Attaching images) I merely wanted to make a personal exhibition; I tried to materialize things again in these digital times, send actual artworks. I liked about the process that it took quite a lot of time and work, to produce 50 unique drawings in A3. Me doing this the first time had to figure out a lot about the presentation of the work that friends, artists, curators and collectors have received. The packaging, a personal note, the story behind. I believe that it for good artworks, it matters how much time you spend on it, make tiny modifications and additions. I know from myself, and fellow artists that you want to quickly progress to the next work, paying the appropriate amount of energy, effort onto one project is key.

Over the years your artworks have been showcased in several occasions and Neurodynamics was recently exhibited at the Jogja National Museum, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and at the Mohsen Gallery, in Tehran: before leaving this conversation we would like to ask you a question about the nature of the relationship with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

One of the requests, starting points for an exchange that I wrote on a note that I included in every single drawing I sent was that I asked for a picture of the drawing in its new surrounding. Also, I have received great images, that I can show here.

There is nothing, in particular, I want my audience to take away except consciousness. And I like surprising feedback. Thanks for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Marcel. What projects are you currently working on, and what are

Some packages even came back. The communication was not successful. This

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Composition #37 344 Pigment drawing on paper, 36x48cm Private collection, Berlin, German


ART Habens

Marcel Schwittlick

Berlin Calling, LED facade video loop, 2:11min, ICC Tower, Hong Kong, China

endeavor is very personal, still quite large, this

the communication with more than 50 people.

made it quite tricky and exciting. It was worth

Realizing this project was an attempt to open

to take the effort because I was able to make a

this up, give the opportunity for direct

direct interpersonal connection, contact with

exchange. Speaking in retrospect, it was a very

50 people. Even in a large exhibition one

fruitful and successful project that spark new

usually is not able to make contact or continue

projects and ideas.

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Marcel Schwittlick

I will announce upcoming exhibitions and new projects on my website. And, something unrelated, in case you have something to say about my work, don't hesitate to write a mail. In case you want more information, or you want to help, please do write to me.

ART Habens

Thanks for the questions, I appreciate the effort.

An interview by and

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, curator curator

Special Issue


Lives in West Orange, NJ and works in Kearny, NJ

Pigeon on a Rusty Girder 2018 Oil on Linen 42 x 51 inches

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

video, 2013

422 0

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ART Habens

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SteamPunk 2014 Oil on Linen 102 x 72 inches

Allan Gorman

4 03


An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Allan and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City, however, you are basically a self-taught oil painter: are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum due to your previous career direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Hello, and thanks again for inviting me to ART Habens. By way of background, in the 1970s and 80s I worked as a creative at a large NYC advertising agency and had a part-time adjunct job at SVA teaching advertising concepts. A benefit to the instructors was that you could take free courses, and I studied film making and black and white photography. My wife suggested that I take a painting class. Ack!!!?? I had never painted in my life! But I agreed to try it and enrolled in a Saturday morning introduction to oil painting. One day, I saw a black and white movie still that I thought might make a nice painting. It depicted four men in front of a swimming pool flexing their muscles. One of the men was holding a can of beer (made me smile). That became my first finished painting. I wanted to do more and started rummaging through my old family photos for reference material and did paintings of my dad, my brothers, mom and her sister, etc. I would make large photostats of the images and then work out the colors on tracing paper as a guide. I developed a nice style, and the paintings looked like handtinted black and white photos. I painted that way for three or four years, often doing commissions for others.

and design company and decided to put all my energies into that. My job involved solving communications problems. It was more creative, more fun, and paid a lot more, so I stopped painting. But, every so often the lure of making my own art - just for me - would come back to haunt me.

In the interim, we moved to a new house, had a new baby boy, and bills. I also started my own ad

Finally, in 2008, after staying away for 25 years, I picked up the brushes again and haven’t looked

Allan Gorman

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ART Habens

Allan Gorman

back since. In 2013, I started painting full time and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life. We all have our own path to follow, and I think the way mine unfolded helped me bring a maturity and professional discipline to my art practice that I might not have if I had gone to art school and pursued fine art career from the beginning. We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry explores the ubiquitous connection between real and the imagined: we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.allangorman.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you what does fascinate you to investigate the abstract possibilities of industrial realism. At heart, I’m a designer and art director, and find joy in the dance of shapes, colors, shades, and moods I see around me... and that I can create visually. When I started painting again in 2008 I knew I didn’t want to do what I was doing before, but wasn’t quite sure about what I did want to do. One day, while driving in the rain, I was stuck behind a couple of big-rig trucks that kept splashing rain on my windshield. I couldn’t pass them and couldn’t see around them, and it made me feel quite claustrophobic. I thought I might try to evoke that feeling in a painting. As it was done strictly from sense memory, it was a pretty terrible painting that I wouldn’t show it to anyone. But that led to exploring the truck as a topic. I started doing paintings with trucks in them, and running around to truck stops to find photographic reference. This led to a fascination with the intricacies and designs found in the details - the light assemblies, grilles, air cleaners, etc. The exploration of details led to paintings exploring the designs made by the gears and fittings inside

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

Great Notch 2018 Oil on Linen 58 x 88 inches 21 4 06

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ART Habens

Whirlwind 2018 Oil on Linen 59 x 47 inches Special Issue

Allan Gorman

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

The Tallest Train Station in NYC 2017 Oil on Panel 30 x 30 inches

old pocket watches, then engines, architecture and structures, up to where I am currently - and this is certainly not the end of my journey.

couple of interesting artworks that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once impressed us of your paintings is their unique combination between rigourous sense of geometry and captivating abstract feeling: do you

For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected Steampunk and Pigeon on a Rusty Girder, a

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ART Habens

Allan Gorman

Obtuse and Acute 2017 Oil on Linen 30 x 30 inches

conceive you artworks instinctively or do you methodically elaborate their geometric structure? In particular, how importance does spontaneity play in your artistic practice?

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I think it’s most important for my work to make a connection - I often find perfectly rendered hyperrealism cold and unemotional, so I consciously and instinctively try to avoid that. Still,

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

Z Line Zs 2016 Oil on Linen 64 x 52 inches 21 4 10

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ART Habens

Allan Gorman

Shadows on a Steel Door 2018 Oil on Linen 48 x 42 inches

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

Yellow Column/Blue Lobby 2018 Oil on Linen on Wood Panel 20 x 20 cm

I tend to be drawn to the detail and do work methodically - and as carefully and best as I can - to elaborate the geometric structures.

place. But, since my work is informed by my photos, the spontaneity is generally driven by my choice of what to shoot, how to crop it, what to emphasize, etc. That’s done with the assistance of the computer and a print-out held in my hand to give me information as I work.

I would love to bring more spontaneity to my practice of painting and throw paint all over the

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ART Habens

Allan Gorman

A Night at the PAC 2018 Oil on Linen 48 x 48 inches

Penn show that vivacious tones are not strictly indespensable to create tension and dynamics. How did you come about settling on your color palette? And how much does your own

Your colors are often bold and saturated, however, we have appreciated the vibrancy of thoughtful nuances of your canvas, and we like the way Rusty Girders on a Sunny Afternoon and Witt

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

Shadows on the Lobby Wall 2018 Oil on Linen 57 x 47.5 inches 21 4 14

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Allan Gorman

WittPenn 2018 Oil Pastels on Raw Linen 49 x 46 inches

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Allan Gorman

ART Habens

Rusty Girders on a Sunny Afternoon 2018 Oil Pastels on Raw Linen 48 x 48 inches

psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in an artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture?

ways to transcend just copying and making an illustration. Rusty Girders and WittPenn are Oil Pastels on Raw Linen. I used the pastels like giant crayons, hoping

I’m always trying to challenge myself and explore

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ART Habens

Allan Gorman

Holding up the Sky 2018 Oil Pastels on Raw Linen 46 x 42 inches

to color outside the lines a bit. The texture is intentional.

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In my source photos, I use Photoshop to push and saturate colors beyond reality.

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Crazy Scary Staircase 2018 Graphite Pencil on Linen 58 x 44 inches


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Prenez les Escalier sur la Gauche SIL Vous Plait 2016 Oil on Aluminum Panel 72 x 48 inches


Allan Gorman

That helps me decide on the palette and mood.

ART Habens

particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work?

I’m not trying to exactly replicate reality, but rather share what it felt like when I was there taking the photo.

That’s a tough question. And I’m finding it’s also a tough task I’ve set for myself to try to balance the abstraction with the reality without making it forced and corny. It’s something I’m struggling with and very much want to achieve. I think I was able to do it well with Great Notch, but have yet to find a way to bring that to my work consistently. It’s a design challenge really, and I’m excited about finding a way to create a good body of work around this idea. You’ll just have to stay tuned. (LOL).

But as I move forward, I will continue to experiment with mediums, substrates, materials and alternative ways of making marks. I want to make art that’s interesting and that I and others won’t get tired of. Your paintings walk the viewers to such an hybrid dimension: drawing inspiration from industrial structures and machines, you walk the viewers to capture the elusive aesthetic tension conveyed in contemporary design: in this sense, your artistic practice seems to invite the viewers to question the idea of perception look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, urging the spectatorship to see beyond the surface of the work of art. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meanings? And in particular, how open would you like your artworks to be understood?

As you have remarked once, the “Under the El” paintings started as a happy discovery and you ve been systematically making photo safaris to all the elevated lines in New York City. A work of art can be considered a combination between understanding reality and hinting at the unknown: how does everyday life's experience and your surroundings fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallised moments in the everyday?

How someone responds to what I’ve presented is out of my control. All I can do is say: “Hey, look at this”, with the hope they they might find it as enjoyable and fascinating as I do. Part of the joy for me is the excitement of finding more and more information as I’m making the work. A lot of these works are very complex and you can see something new every time you look at it. In making choices of what to paint I’m cognizant of that, and try to present something new each time.

I think all my work is about finding those hidden moments and sharing them. As I move forward, my eye... and my mind... have become more attuned to being open to them. But this has been true for artists throughout history I think. The best of them - in every age - were able to find and share those little moments of magic that stand out from the mundane. You underlined once that Steampunk was a cathartic painting for you and the creation of this painting was joyous and lots of fun: how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the ideas that you investigate and the phsychological aspect involved in your daily practice as an artist?

Marked out with a powerful narrative drive on the visual aspect, your recent body of works pushes the envelope of abstraction even more you have before. By combining large geometric blocks of color with photorealistically rendered architectural shapes, you challenge the viewers' perceptual parameters, in order to encourage them to react first to the design and composition: how do you consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In

Human beings are curious by nature - always looking for new information. That’s the fuel that drives me. I’m exploring my world - from without

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Allan Gorman

and within - to find and share new aesthetics and information. When I’m on to something it excites me. And then the actual making of the art grounds me. It’s therapeutic... gives me more courage to be me. Sounds cornball, but I’m on a mission now - trying to be the best me I can be. Your work is held in many private and public collections , both in the United States and in Europe, and over the years your paintings have been exhibited in several occasions, including your recent show Men of Steel, at the Nicole Longnecker Gallery, in Houston: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks? Well, my work is in some collections, I wouldn't say many at this point. But I certainly would love to be included in more, so thanks for the plug. ;-) I consider myself very blessed to have the opportunity and luxury to explore my own talent and truths, and to be able to share myself with others. I genuinely like people, and consider my shows a dialogue and a chance to entertain them. As I grow in my art practice, I find it more and more important to raise the bar for myself to make work that’s unique and that I’m especially proud of - i want to give it my all, for as long as I possibly can. I hope in doing that it might mean something to somebody. When someone wants a piece of my work we’ve made a lifelong connection. Knowing that I will bring joy to them everyday makes me want to go make more for more people.

Solo exhibition installation photo

We have appreciated the originality of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Allan. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

On deck are a couple of visually complicated new paintings - one depicting a lot of fire escape railings and shadows, and the other exploring multiple reflections in architectural windows. Moving forward, I want to expand on the works that combine formal geometric shapes with reality and

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Allan Gorman

explore the use of alternative materials. I feel like something is on the horizon that will move me more out of my comfort zone and I’m both excited, and a little intimidated to see what that might be. Thank you so much again for inviting me for the interview and including me in your

ART Habens

beautiful publication. I’m very flattered and honored. An interview by and

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, curator curator

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Lives and works in Amman, Jordan

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

ART Habens

video, 2013

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Wasim and welcome to ART Habens: we would start this interview with a couple of introductory questions. You have a solid formal training and you hold a Bachelor of Science in Architecture that you received from the Applied Science University, in Amman, Jordan: how did those formative years influence your evolution as an artist and help you to develop your attitude to experiment with different media? Moreover, how does your multicultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Thank you for having me, Architecture is a part of art as we all know, however, during my architectural studies I was magnetized to conceptual thinking process as it fascinated me and intrigued my brain to dig deeper to create a mass that has a meaning, going through the formation phases to look the way it does eventually. I can surely say that the architecture school pushed me to create artworks that can be easily viewed and linked with the viewers in variety of levels, not just aesthetically. In addition, it oriented me to explore the limitations of materials and use it in new methods and techniques.

Wasim Zaid Habashneh

A multi-cultural background is an advantage in so many levels, personally it grew my interest in other cultures, not the superficial elements, but the way people behave, live and interact with each other’s which effected my way of perceiving my surroundings and creating an art piece that

discusses those behaviors such as the sand particles resembling the necessity of the humankind in any ongoing process. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would like to invite our readers to visit

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ART Habens

Wasim Zaid Habashneh

https://www.wasimzaid.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production. What has at once captured our attention of your unconventional style it's the way it allows you to condense in a single work of art such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics: when walking our readers through your usual workflow and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works. The one main idea that connect all my work is that all of it revolves around a solid and clear concepts that can’t be denied or ignored by the viewer, I am not aiming to produce any work just for the aesthetic appeal of it, and I rather connect with my audience in a deeper level. Aesthetical standards changes with time, but ideas evolve. And I would prefer to hear “your work made me think...” instead “your work looks nice…” For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected FluoreSAND, an interesting project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. Would you tell us something about the genesis of FluoreSAND? In particular, how did you develop this project on the technical aspect, in order to achieve such brilliant results? The story began with a maintenance team changing the damaged fluorescent lights in our offices, I remember myself asking them if I can take the tubes instead of throwing them away, I was thinking that I can make them shine again in different means.

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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The process itself is long and requires a lot of patience, first I collect the discarded fluorescent tubes wherever I can find them, then I disassemble each one to get the glass tube to its initial status by removing all the painted chemicals and treat both ends of the tube. The pattern or layers are determined according to the message I want to focus on in each work, such as the local inspired pattern in Egotistic Misrule piece, or the layers of positioned sand in Critical Mass piece. In addition to 3600 laser cut wood pieces to create 1517 pixels in Egotistic misrule, finishing it with a beach wood piece at each end of the tube. A work of art can be considered a combination between understanding reality and hinting at the unknown: how does every day life's experience and your surroundings fuel your creative process? Our personalities are formulated from our experiences and so is our artwork, I don’t have to surf the internet looking for new ideas as many are doing nowadays, I look at my surroundings and it’s sufficient to inspire me or anyone who’s willing to pay attention for those details we see, smell or pass by every day. We don’t need to go too far to create ideas! But we surely can make our ideas go far. Simple Generosity installation as an example was inspired by the simple act of offering a cup of tea in any house you visit in Jordan as warm welcoming gesture, then

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

I start building on that till I completed the message am conveying.

ART Habens

My heritage is my starting point as it grants a certain authentic character to my work distinguishing me from others, and my culture had a great lot to offer.

You are a versatile artist and in FluoreSAND you sapiently combined the traditional sand art practiced in Jordan to fill discarded fluorescent tubes with pixelated patterns: how do you consider the relationship between traditional heritage and contemporary practice?

I think that many of the contemporary art practices are extensions to a traditional heritage, and those kind of pieces are more rich, inspiring and meaningful to me. It’s not mandatory to use heritage inspired ideas

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

but I highly encourage artists to explore the past more and it will get them to the future. Photographer and sculptor Zoe Leonard once stated, "the objects that we leave behind hold the marks and the sign of our use: like archeological findings, they reveal so much about us". We’d love to ask you about the qualities of the materials that you include in your artworks, with a particular focus on your current artistic production: as an artist working with diverse media, how do you select them and what does you address to combine found materials? I don’t believe that I select my materials as much as I find myself interested in this particular material over a specific period of time. I think that each material can stimulate a part of me and urges me to do something with it and the dialog a material can spark in my mind always leads me for something unpredictable. In my perspective, an art work is a result of combined experiences and the way I select those materials might also be as a result of those experiences infused to produce an artwork. Using the right materials to convey the message is crucial to the work credibility. Marked out with a powerful narrative drive, your work focuses on local material that can be utilized to display a meaningful idea where people can relate to and build stories upon: in this sense, your artistic practice seems to invite the viewers to question the idea of perception look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, urging the spectatorship to see beyond the surface of the work of art. How

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning? And in particular, how open would you like your artworks to be understood? It’s important to be able to connect with my audience through my work and I hope my work can evoke feelings and awaken memories in the viewer’s mind just the way a song might do. I am grateful to hear how people perceive my artwork, I try to deliver a strong and focused message of the prevailing social elements at this turbulent time and leave it to the viewers to decide on what side they want to position themselves and their personal experiences. Rich of metaphorical contents, your artworks also invite the viewers to question the issue of innovation in a social system, as well as the struggle between individuality and society at large. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once remarked that "artists’ role differs depending on which part of the world they’re in. It depends on the political system they are living under": how do you consider the role of artists in our globalized and media driven contemporary age? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallized moments in the everyday? Art is an important way to document every unique period of time we as humans create or pass by whether it’s benevolent or vicious. I consider art as a powerful documentation tool as important as books, movies, documentaries etc… In FluoreSAND case, my work describes a

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

phase or a phenomena a group of people are experiencing, the pieces portraits an abnormal struggle at the internal and external aspects, it shows you what are we becoming on a personal level and what we believe we are trying to achieve as a group while questioning the process itself. We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a three-dimensional, physical, artefact: how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your daily practice as an artist? My aim is to create conceptual yet tangible artworks, It means that I want my audience to see what I am trying to display not just hear about it. I am a practicing architect, therefore art and architecture are parallel to each other in my daily life. I try to incorporate more art into my architectural practice by using different methods of design and relaying on having a solid concept initially as a starting point. FluoreSAND recently got nominated for the BLOOOM Award 2018, in Germany and over the past year your artworks have been gaining international attention. Including your recent participation to DARAT AL FUNUN (Khalid Shoman Foundation): how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks? I think I’ve built a special connection with my audience over a short period of time,

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

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Wasim Zaid Habashneh

ART Habens

and I can sense that through the interaction over the social media platforms. I appreciate their support and I am thankful for their attention and trust. I know they are expecting great things from me and I hope I don’t disappoint them as I consider them a central element to my success and motivation. I genuinely hope that they understand the messages behind my work and also provoke them to think and act around the message. We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Wasim. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Aiming to create tangible yet conceptual artwork, my future pieces are sure going to evolve around that core while keep on representing myself and my culture in the best means possible. Currently I am researching few topics, possibilities and exploring new unconventional materials which I’d like to utilize in my next pieces. Overall my work focuses on simple material that can be utilized in any form or shape to display a meaningful idea where people can relate to and build stories upon. , curator

An interview by and

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curator

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Lives and works in Cedar Falls Iowa, Brooklyn New York and in the West Bank city of Ramallah

Channeled Welk - Busycotypus canaliculatus - Egg Casings,

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

video, 2013

positive and negative 422 0

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ART Habens

Cantaloupe - Cucumis melo, positive Special Issue

Philip Hopper

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Philip and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you hold a M.F.A., that you received from San Francisco Art Institute: how did those formative years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? At the Art Institute I was lucky to have George Kuchar as a teacher and advisor. George taught me about the importance of humor, hard work and healthy skepticism. This has developed into part of my practice as a teacher. I believe that the most difficult and important thing we can teach students in the arts is that to do good work, no matter what the medium, a sense of creative play needs to be balanced with hard work and discipline.

Philip Hopper

visit https://www.philiprahnhopper.net in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works.

We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to

I am fascinated by the ways people

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ART Habens

Philip Hopper

Dried Queen Anne's Lace - Daucus carota - Flowers, negative

create and use documentary or archival materials. My mother created detailed

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scrapbooks that now inform her memory of people and places long

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

Dried Queen Anne's Lace - Daucus carota - Flowers, positive

sciences for example formal archives may help create and maintain

gone or lost to time. At another end of the documentary spectrum in the

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ART Habens

Philip Hopper

institutional memories. My own practice is subjective and has more to do with shapes and forms that attract me though I think it exists somewhere on a continuum of the human urge to document. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected The Specimens project, an interesting body of work that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. What has at once captured our attention of your successful attempt to invite the viewers to question the boundary between the visible and the unseen, is the way it establishes direct relations with the viewers: when walking our readers through the genesis of The Specimens project, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? For the Specimens project, I select familiar items mostly from the natural world. Channeled Welk egg casings routinely wash up on a small rocky beach where I used to swim as a child. Then my job as an artist was to think of a way these somewhat grotesque artifacts could be made interesting or attractive. I scan objects like this at a very high resolution on a flatbed scanner, experimenting with positive and negative space until an interesting composition emerges.

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

Silver Maple - Acer saccharum - seeds, negative 21 4 08

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Philip Hopper

Silver Maple - Acer saccharum - seeds, positive

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

We like the way you artworks convey such a stimulating combination between figurative elements and captivating abstract feeling: how would you consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In particular, how does representation and a tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work? The question reflects the central paradox of unity and duality in all of our lives. In a way seedpods and skeletal remains are both gestures. One indicates life and the other death, which can be all too real or figurative and then at the same time abstractions or mysteries. Rich of references to natural world, as wildflowers dry and leave skeletal structures, we daresay that The Specimens project seems to aim to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning? The act of creating documentary materials is always about somehow revealing structures or relationships. The way a Queen Anne’s Lace flower appears when the flower itself is gone or the similarities of how two Locust

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Locust Tree - Gleditsia triacanthos- Seed Pods, negative and positive


ART Habens

Philip Hopper

Tree seedpods curve. Of course an emotional response or “personal meaning” is always the goal. It is important to remark that you have been in and out of the West Bank for over a decade and that during that time you had the chance to document the lives of Palestinians and the effects of the on-going occupation: how did this experience fuel your artistic research? Social justice has always been, broadly speaking, a concern. Close contact with the effects of an illegal military occupation that is now over sixty years old has only strengthened that concern. My project, Images of Conflict in the Public Sphere, is one result. Another interesting project that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled The Images of Conflict in the Public Sphere, a long-term photojournalism project that explores the linkages between public vernacular or popular image making and conflict. Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "artists roles differ depending on which part of the world they’re in. It depends on the political system they are living under": do you think that your artistic practice could be considered political? In particular, how do you consider the role of artists in our media A student from nearby Al-Quds University overlooks a buil

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

ding demolition and the Israeli separation barrier. The old city of Jerusalem is visible on the horizon to the left. January 2014 21 4 12

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Philip Hopper

Handprints, an ancient symbol of human presence, on the separation barrier in Abu Dis near Al-Quds University. June 2006

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Philip Hopper

ART Habens

driven and globalised contemporary age? One goal of my documentary work in this area is to bring the work of local muralist and graffiti artists to an international audience. “Images of Conflict” also looks at these images in the West Bank and Northern Ireland as part of a cross-cultural comparison. What I have found is that dominant cultures tend to be very prescriptive in their image making. In other words there is a predictable and very limited range of images produced. On the other hand subordinated cultures tend to experiment and be willing to produce images outside of the realm of “good taste”. For example, Palestinians are much more likely to show graphic images of the shaheed or the martyrs. Another finding is that political murals and graffiti can produce a profound sense of secondary witnessing. One may not be a witness to the actual event or atrocity but confronted with a representation of the event in paint on a wall one may experience a similar strong emotional response. Bobby Sands mural on the side of a Sinn Fein office on Falls Road in Belfast is one example. Ghassan Kanafani’s mural (Figure 16) at an entrance to the Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp just south of Bethlehem is another. We like the powerful narrative drive

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ART Habens

Philip Hopper

A traditional woman walks past a mural of Ghassan Kanafani in the Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp. Kanafani, a writer who worked with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was assassinated in 1972. June 2007

that marks out LEILAH'S GARDEN, — we would like to invite our readers to visit

alternates images of an interior beauty and an exterior oppression, to illustrate life under occupation: how did you conceive such a suggestive

https://www.philiprahnhopper.net/leilah-s-garden

— and we really appreciate the way it

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A boy, Badran Abedrabbu, pauses in front of a mural in Dheisheh. The graffiti behind him is a recreation of Palestinian political cartoonist Nat al-Ali’s work. The text in it reads ‘If my weapon comes out I will not hesitate to use it”. In this case the weapon is a paintbrush or conductor’s baton. Al-Ali was assassinated in 1987. July 2009


A mural in Belfast, Northern Ireland by Republican artist Danny Devenny depicts the Israeli separation barrier. July 2008


A young woman in Dheisheh reacts to her younger siblings antics out of frame. The street is decorated for Ramadan in June 2009.


Philip Hopper

combination of images? In particular, do you think that the way Leilah's Garden could be considered a metaphor of the disconnect between interior beauty and an exterior oppression?

ART Habens

specifics and universal nature of the natural world. This project is really a counter-balance for me to the nature of documenting conflict. The “Images of Conflict” project is really about bringing to light visual responses to local conflicts and involves a certain degree of stress. Working with natural found objects is a relief. Again, there is the central paradox in our lives of unity and duality.

I lived in an apartment within Leilah’s garden for two years. It was an experience that will affect me for the rest of my life. On a daily basis the beauty of life in that quiet beautiful space was contrasted with an exterior reality of checkpoints, concrete walls, heavily armed military personnel and police. The juxtaposition in my lived reality, and the daily reality of so many others, was the inspiration for the Leilah’s Garden photo-essay. I suspect we all deal with the disconnect you mention in ways that are both banal and profound.

We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Philip. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? I will continue to explore the visualization of conflict and conflict resolution in the future. My intent is to expand this study and look at the southern border of the United States. I will also continue to gather and make images of “Specimens” as an antidote to the emotional residue of the “Images of Conflict” project. Another long-term goal is to create an on-line archive of Israeli and Palestinian family snapshots.

Over the years your artworks have been showcased in a number of occasions and the Specimens project was recently juried in to the Metamorphosis show at the Darkroom Gallery in Burlington, Vermont: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience takes away from your artworks?

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator

In regard to the Specimens Project my hope is that viewers take away a deeper appreciation of both the

and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator arthabens.biennale@europe.com

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Windsor, the cat in front of Vulcano, 2016, 19 Special Issue

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Caroline Dantheny

ART Habens

video, 2013

8 x 306cm - Diptych / 2 panels 198 x 153 cm, Mixed media on canvas 14251

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Caroline Dantheny

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Caroline and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.carolinedantheny.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production, and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your multifaceted background. You studied art and fashion technique and after having launched women’s fashion collections under your own name, you moved on to create costumes and unique pieces and then you devoted yourself to painting: how did those years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does your cultural substratum as well as your collaboration with the master of embroidery JeanFrançois Lesage and the atelier Vastrakala direct the trajectory of your current artistic research?

Caroline Dantheny Photo : C.Brami

As you said, I first was involve in fashion and creation of unique pieces certainly because It was quite natural for me; My mother was in fashion business and I grew up in couture ateliers amound fabrics, materials, textiles, treads and so etc … and I enjoy it. I had the chance to win prices with a small collection I design and at the age of 25 I started to create my owns collections.

When I was a child, visiting churches and sacred places, I thought that the painter was directly connected with the gods. He was the only one who have the permission to represent them. So, as far as I remember, I wanted to be a painter… I think that most of the abstract painters has something to do with spirituality, we all try to reach something bigger and higher than us.

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« L’oiseau bleu », 2015/2017, 198 x 306cm - Diptych / 2 panels 198 x 153 cm, Mixed media on canvas, Painting : pigments and acrylic painting, Embroidery : Coton treads, garnet, glass beads, feather (cock, crow, emu, peacok, ostrich, parakeet, pheasant, turkey), metallic and plastic sequins, zari.


ART Habens

Caroline Dantheny

« L’oiseau bleu », details

I reconnect with the painting in 2006 and it was a revival; Nothing could stop me anymore so I quit fashion, advertising and unique pieces to be completly involve in.

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For sure, my past influence my work just because it was a long part of my life and, since a while, I aspired to connect my painting with my past in fashion and I knew

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Sir Mahesh at work on « L’oiseau bleu ». Photo : C.Dantheny


ART Habens

Caroline Dantheny

C.Dantheny and J.F.Lesage

that somehow one day these two universes would collide. When the idea of embroidery came (through a conversation with a

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dearest friend also painter), I just pick up my phone and call the most famous name of the embroidery : Lesage. I first met Mr

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Caroline Dantheny

Lesage, in 2010, in my studio in Paris. We, immediately, knew we wanted to work together. I thought our collaboration will last 2 months but I was wrong… I move to Chennai for 4 to 6 months during the 5 past years !! Most of all, it was a human experience, a joyful aventure living for months in Tamil Nadu, sharing my daily life with the local people, the embroiderers and Mr Lesage. We were all so enthusiastic at work !

ART Habens

painting « grow » in you before the act of painting); So, I discover the relation between my painting and the embroidery: The showdown between the big (my wide gesture with the brushes ) and the small ( the small embroidery stitch), the relation between an intuitive work and an elaborate work, mastery and disorder, the precious ( the materials we used : gold threads, semi-precious stones, feathers etc…) and my rough instinctive gesture , the moment of the painting (it can take one second to cover a large space) and the time of the embroidery ( on the triptych « Le dernier Royaume » you have more than 1700 hours of embroidery, 2 months of work for 6 to 7 embroiderers). As you notice, It offer a multilayered visual experience.

We have appreciated the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics and for this special edition of ART Habens we have selected PAINTING INDIA, an interesting series that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. When walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works.

It is certainly due to the union of two cultures, two visions, east and west. India has a cultural link with miniatures, precise works and while working the face is very close to the work in the west, even the bodies, during the embroidery work. Proximity is not a problem. In our western countries, we like to consider the whole thing, from far and we like privacy. All the embroidered painting give the same impression : Look at« Erumpu », for example. From far, you can see the whole painting, Move a little closer and you will see armies of ants « running maliciously to bite inches of paint maculated earth » as Victoria Konetzki said.

I did’t think that far... sometimes, when you think too much, you don’t do nothing just because the task seams hudge (and it is…). I was confident in my intuition in mixing my painting and the embroidery even if it was quite a bet and a challenge too: I didn’t decide what I was going to embroider and what I am going to paint… So, I just arrive in Chennai with my brushes, my colors, my linen canvas. Very often, I discover what I was Doing in Doing (that is also why I said that the

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Erumpu (detail)

For the embroidery, we use semi-precious stones, old glass beads from the XVIIIe s., metallic sequins, plastic, feathers from

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several birds, all kind of threads (coton, silk, zari etc‌). All those materials, sometimes worked on

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ÂŤ Erumpu Âť, 2017,198 x 153 cm Mixed media on canvas, Painting : pigments and acrylic painting Embroidery : glass beads, semi-precious stones ( black onyx, garnet), zari.


Erumpu (detail)


Caroline Dantheny

layers are part of that dimensional visual experience. To answer your question about the conducting wire of my work I can say that painting is my life. My paintings are the reflection of my life. I act in the present so one painting painted at a certain time reflect my mood at this particular moment. I am on my way. Artist Lydia Dona once remarked that in order to make art today one has to reevaluate the conceptual language behind the mechanism of art making: are your works created gesturally, instinctively? Or do you methodically transpose geometric schemes? For me, Painting has nothing to do with the concept. I even try not to have a method (even if we all have a method that we have acquired by experimantation ), to forgive all experiences, to paint without theory, without control, just to be a transmitter. Life is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, a shadow on a wall, a color, a perfume, a word … Everything could inspire you and the canvas took form in your mind before the action of painting; the act of painting is the final step, even if that final step take minutes, hours or months. There is no rules. I have in mind a little sentence pronounced by Gilles Deleuze during his courses at Vincennes in the 80’s and which

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initials my new project : « Quelque chose nous arrive, quelque chose nous emporte » («Something happens to us, something take us »), such as the stream that is built by himself and sinks in his own bed. The journey does not pre-exist, he is planning his own course. The act of painting is like the brook, the path does not pre-exist, it traces itself. To start painting is to engage yourself in this journey. Concerning my work with Jean-François Lesage and the embroiderers of Vastrakala, I needed to design a pattern (it is quite a methodic work that I’ve learn thanks to Mr. Lesage). Embroidery is a meticulous work and I needed to be as precise as I could even if , sometimes, I make some changes the evening for the next morning designing directly on the canvas. It is a precious work and with all the knowledge and maestra of the embroiderers we achieve it. As you have remarked once, you believe that painting is a physical experience that reveals not only a work of art but also a state of being. German visual artist Gerhard Richter once underlined that "it is always only a matter of seeing: the physical act is unavoidable": how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your practice? Yes, I totally agree. Look at Kazuo Shiraga flying over his canvas painting with his

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Children at lalit Kala Akademy Photo : C.Brami


ÂŤ Le dernier royaume Âť, 2015, 198 x 459 cm Triptych /3 panels 198 x 153 cm, Mixed media on canvas Painting : pigments and acrylic painting Embroidery : glass tubes, metallic and rayon threads, semi-precious stones (garnet, golden topaz, jasper, onyx) , small rocaille, tulsi and wood beads, zari.


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Caroline Dantheny

« Masculin/Féminin », 2013, 193x193 cm, mixed media on canvas.

feets and what about Pollock or Schnabel… Now, we use hudge machines or hudge brushes to cover the space. And even the painter working on smaller

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canvases, just look at the brush connected to his hand, then his arm and the whole body and all the energy flowing through. I can see myself, turning sometimes like a

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« Le dernier royaume », details

tiger around the canvas laying on the floor, waiting the good moment to act. I often use my hands like in « Masculin/Feminin » to be as near as

possible to the canvas, to feel it in my palm. Visiting my website, you can see me painting in the trailer « la source jaillissante ».

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ÂŤ Le dernier royaume Âť, details

We have really appreciated the vibrancy of thoughtful nuances that mark out your artworks, and we like the way they create tension and dynamics, as in Vulcano. How

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did you come about settling on your color palette? And how does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to

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ÂŤ Le dernier royaume Âť, third panel of the triptych


Children at lalit Kala Akademy Photo : C.Brami


« Des racines de la terre », 2016 Diptych, 306x198 cm, mixed medias on canvas


« La source jaillissante », 2013, 198 x 306 cm Diptych / 2 panels 198 x 153 cm, Mixed media on canvas Painting : pigments and acrylic painting Embroidery : glass beads, , metallic sequins, nakshi,, tracing paper, organdi,small rocaille, Swarovski’s glass beads, zari.


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Caroline Dantheny

ÂŤ La source jaillissante Âť,details

include in a specific artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture?

methods, no good and no bad colors.

Creation is a mystery without any secrets.

Colors revealed sensory, sensitive.The

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There is no rules, no good or bad

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Caroline Dantheny

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« La source jaillissante »,details

palette of a painter is his own mirror, you can’t escape.I mostly start with a vision, with the intention of a gesture or the intention of a combination of color or with

both. One color called another, one action another, etc … Technically, I work with pigments, I do not mix my colors ; I like to use pure color,

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« Castellamare, ce soir », 2019, 310x270 cm, mixed media on free linen canvas

working color by color; They overlap, meet, challenge, mix or not. Unconsciously, you try to find the good balance between lighness and thickness,

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between deep and bright, between transparency and opacity etc… Accidents are unavoidable and I like them, they are welcome as they often brings an

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As I previously said, Painting is a mystery even for the one who create it.

unexpectable dynamist when you need it ! The painting is thus constructed, in a dialogue between you and her where you have to be constantly there, concentrated and aware. It is a disorganised process that progressively takes a form, a constant questioning and a boldness regarding destruction and reconstruction. It sometimes reveals as a miracle.

It's important to remark that you settle your studio in differents places and that you recently moved from India to Sicily, working on your new projects “the sacred lands”: as an abstract visual artist how would you describe the relationship between ordinary surroundings and your creative process? Moreover, how does everyday life's experience fuel your creative process?

With its powerful emotional drive on the visual aspect, we daresay that your artistic practice seems to aim to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you to invite the viewers to elaborate personal meaning? And in particular, how open would you like your artworks to be understood

I am mostly based in France and my studio is in Paris but since a few years now I move during the winter for months and settle my studio elsewhere. For the project « Painting India », during the past 5 years, I’ve move to Chennai and settle from 4 to 6 months everytimes. I carry with me about 100 kg of material and re-install a studio that take about 2 weeks. Usually after a month, I feel ready to work on my canvases. For « Painting India », I settle my studios in 3 differents places around Chennai !!

There is nothing to understand. My paintings are the reflection of my life. I act in the present so one painting painted at a certain time reflect my mood at this particular moment but, what make me feel happy is when someone have a connection with one of my painting.

I am actually in Sicily for about 2/3 months.For my new project, I decide to paint directly in the nature and painting outside in the middle of the nature make you feel all the force and the power of nature. Emotionaly, these are strong experiences and inevitably, you act and re-act to the surrounding.

Everybody have his own perception, his own way of looking at a painting. I just do and let the audience have their own feeling about it. What I try to do in not so important.

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Since 2010 your artworks have been showcased both private and public international contemporary art collections, and you regularly exposes in France and abroad, including your recent show "PAINTING INDIA", a solo exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

it ! ». That's all and that's a lot. Everybody can understand it.

It was the first time that I have a « museum » exhibition. I use to be on galleries where you just met the audience during the opening where it is quite complicated to have a real conversation with the visitors.

Thank you !! I was a pleasure to answer your interesting questions. Actually, I am working on a new project called « the sacred lands » but title might change.

We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Caroline. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

After several weeks on several years spent traveling through Sicily, I stopped at the Tonnara di Scopello ( An old tuna fishery where we use to fish tuna alla matanza till the 80’s). Those historic buildings, hidden in a little cove are facing the sea and the majestic faraglioli. the decor is very particular. I decided to settle there during the winter, isolated of the world, to read Homère and to paint on 3 meters large free linen canvases, like sails floating in the wind.

For that particular exhibition, I use to came for a couple of hours each day during the show and it was such pleasure to exchange with childrens coming with their teacher, students, local people or strangers visiting India. I was amaze of the numbers and variety of the requests: Some are amaze, just adore out of a second and can told me what is my painting ! and some need an explaination, wondering what’s going on, how it works ….

So, Actually I send you that interview from that place where beauty is and I feel blessed.

I just want people to feel something, to interact, to have a connection with the painting. I love when someone looks at one of my paintings and say: « Whoa ! Love

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An interview by and

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C.Dantheny, Ms.Chuku and J.F.Lesage in front of Vulcano. __________ Photo : C.Brami


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Will Coles

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video, 2013

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Will Coles

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Will and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training and you studied at the Ravensbourne College of Art, Wimbledon School of Art and Glasgow School of Art: how did those formative years influence your evolution as an artist and help you to develop your attitude to experiment with different media? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? Hi, thanks. The first year after school was at Ravensbourne, I discovered the freedom of just making sculptures, of making art & not having to justify that to anyone. I had the opportunity to make large scale works, not needing to worry about archival permanence but just play with materials & discover their qualities. London is an incredible place to someone brought up in a typical old sleepy country village.

Will Coles

Wimbledon & Glasgow were great for similar reasons, for making sculpture with other sculptors, bouncing ideas drunkenly off like minded artists. These art schools themselves were pretty useless as learning institutions, I learnt more from the technicians than the tutors. The doorman at Glasgow was great, we talked philosophy, Buddhism, swapped tapes, generally got more out of him than all the (usually absent) staff rolled together!

sculptor & was trained in the old skool materials like wood & stone carving, cement & plaster casting. He was accepted at the Royal College of Art at sixteen but World War Two intervened. He taught me things like classical composition & the basics of the skills he knew. He’s why I use cast concrete so much, ‘poor mans bronze’, a real post war sculpting material. I love the texture, the accepted aesthetic sense of solidity & weight, the way it ages when left to itself & the natural elements.

But my grandfather Norman Sillman taught me more than art college. He was a successful

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Will Coles

Through him I learnt not just classical Greek, Indian & African sculpture but also the foundation of my modern art knowledge, from Picasso, Moore, Hepworth & Gonzalez through the post war European & American artists of the 1940’s 1970’s. As a result there has always been an internal conflict between aspiring to the perfect skills & composition of Greek & Roman art with the rawness of African Art & its unforced natural abstraction. It’s like when you see the flick of paint in a Francis Bacon painting, he had the confidence that made you believe that paint landed exactly how & where he wanted it to, rawness delivered with skill built up from experience.

You are a versatile artist before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would invite to our readers to visit http://willcoles.com in order to get a synoptic idea about your artistic production. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of ART Habens has at once impressed us for the way they unveils the resonance between pop and conceptual aesthetics, to provide the viewers with such a multilayered visual experience, capable of challenging their perceptual and cultural parameters. When walking our readers through your sources of inspiration, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? I move between ‘street art’ & gallery sculptures so I usually have to change between less subtle means of communication required for street works & the more intellectual meanderings allowed for contemporary gallery pieces. For me street works require the viewer to instantly recognize the object, usually there’s a text element that they then see so they can process the idea, the meaning. I often find an object then have to wait months or years before I find the right text to go with it. Other times I have

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the meaning & the text but not the object so I spend months or years looking for that. They can be small objects you find lost on the streets like gloves & shoes or larger objects thrown out like suitcases, televisions & washing machines. Gallery exhibitions allow me to make bigger works, like casting a copy of a Mercedes. There’s a lot of snobbery in the contemporary art scene about Street Art, unless they’re talking about the financial value of Basquiat, Haring or Banksy. For every curator that ‘finds’ me & includes me in a show there’s another that refuses to show me even if a gallery asks them to, for them my Street Art background is not serious art. The artists that inspire me are all over the place. Classical Greek & Michelangelo, Ian Hamilton Finlay & Susan Hiller, Henry Moore & Francis Bacon, Bill Woodrow & Martha Rosler, West African art & Don McCullin, Rothko & Goya, etc etc etc. Most of my influences aren’t visually present in my work, painting & film would be strange to me as my creative process is stubbornly connected to the tactile experience of physically making the sculptures. What are the properties that you are searching for in the materials that you include in your artworks?

I love materials that age, that are aging before our eyes. I love materials that have a texture that a slow deterioration can cling to. Concrete, & resin with fillers like iron dust naturally patinate, tannins from Gum tress can streak cement sitting under them, lichen & mosses grow up the sides of neglected cement works. When you see a lifesaver that’s obviously concrete then you know where the concept is going. Add some ‘carved in’ text like a gravestone & it’s very obvious it’s not

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pretending to be a real lifesaver.

population. Often my works are like projected cenotaphs or Dicken’s ‘ghost of Christmas yet to come’, a comment on a certain subject & the direction we’re taking it in. So the material must allude to that, something monumental or unimposing but commemorating an event from the future as

I keep finding the content of my work is memorializing the present as if it has already become history. Things like war memorials always fascinate me, how we can understand the attitudes of the time towards the general

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if it happened a long time ago like something from Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’.

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address them to elaborate personal associations? In particular, how would you consider the role of symbols playing within your artistic production?

Rich of symbolically charged elements, we daresay that your artistic production responds to German photographer Andreas Gursky when he stated that Art should not be delivering a report on reality, but should be looking at what's behind: in particular, you seem to urge your spectatorship to challenge their perceptual categories to create personal narratives: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' perceptual categories in order to

I’m kind of old skool in my mentality of what art is to me, that it’s message driven. I try not to lecture but often my pieces are as subtle as a sledgehammer, maybe because it’s unavoidable like anything that relates to climate change, the ignorance & greed that perpetuate the problem & the urgency of remedial action required. I grew up when the

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Will Coles

Cold War was peaking, when Reagan was playing poker with nuclear weapons, pushing the Russians & the world to the edge. Mothers were protesting outside the US airabse that stored first strike nuclear weapons not far from where I lived, artists like Peter Kennard tackled it head on. We were lucky that time, now Trump has just restarted the Cold War, we need to protest about this & many other things, this is how I protest. Maybe it’s a quaint old fashioned idea of the artist to hold a mirror up to society, to try to make them aware of a better tomorrow, to fight against simplistic ideas like ‘The end of history’ where consumerism is praised as the height of human endeavour, that this is as good as it gets so why change it. 26 inidividuals now have as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire worlds population, that’s not ‘as good as it gets’. Sometimes it’s an elation to realise that you were wrong about something you were passionate about, an opinion that you had to change due to new information. It’s quite liberating to realise you can change yourself rather than stubbornly hang on to something you subconsciously know is flawed to say the least. Fortunately the evolution of my art usually makes me hate the work I only recently finished! I see all the flaws, sometimes that’s all I can see when I look back. Contemporary consumer brands are symbols but I try not to be obessesed by brands otherwise I might become rather like the brand whores I hate. There is always the issue of my work potentialy being bought by the kinds of people those sculptures are ripping into The way I see it, even if that happens then the people I hate are funding my war against them.

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We sometimes tend to ignore the fact that a work of art is a three-dimensional, physical, artefact: how do you consider the relation between the abstract nature of the concepts that you explore in your artistic research and the physical aspect of your daily practice as an artist? I find I can’t draw the ideas in my head anymore, that they’re so rounded. so textured with so much form that it’s almost impossible to reduce them to a flat representation. The few times I draw it’s simply to anchor an idea to an image because I couldn’t find the words to adequately describe it, like a string stopping a balloon from floating away. It’s as if my thoughts realise ideas as a four dimensional mental object that has to be reduced to a three dimensional physical one. Anything between the idea & the ultimate physical realisation just seems to be going through the motions of what is expected of an artist. Something I missed despite it always staring me in the face was something a friend said, that they liked work that left a space for them, for their interpretation, that the work wasn’t just a leaden lecture dropped on them. That’s an idea I aspire to, to create within in new work. My biggest problem is trying to stop a very conventonal mental filter from realising a concept in a boringly conventional way. Using resin allows me to play more, to experiment, to push ideas & create the bastard son/daughter of painting & sculpture. I would love to move away completely from making ‘stuff’. In a world overflowing with stuff why make more? Each of your artworks seems to weave together a story about contemporary life, to question a wide variety of themes, conveying an unapologetic critique of consumer culture: religious icons, pop culture references, military

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terrorism when they’re used against us.

accoutrements and symbols of death: Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated, "artists's role differs depending on which part of the world they’re in. It depends on the political system they aree living under": does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? In particular, how do you consider the role of artists in our media driven and globalised contemporary age?

In this Investment Art era I see it being more & more difficult for artists to challenge the establishment when most commercial galleries are part of that system & most artists want one of those galleries to represent them. Artists like Martha Rosler seem to have been punished for not caving in & becoming part of the establishment she railed against. The plus is that it’s easier than ever to bypass the gallery system, especially using online tools & galleries by their nature are, at best, playing catch up.

When I was in Australia I criticised the mythological icon that was the ‘ANZAC’ soldier & their inability to come to terms with their holocaust of the original peoples. When I was in Bristol I felt the need to make them aware of their pivotal role in the North Atlantic Slave trade. When I moved to Spain I felt the need to criticise their silence on the crimes of Franco in comparison to how Germany dealt with it’s Nazi past.

A work of art can be considered a combination between understanding reality and hinting at the unknown: how does everyday life's experience and your surroundings fuel your creative process? And how do you think your works respond to it in finding hidden, crystallised moments in the everyday?

Someone asked why don’t I do something similar in Germany, make some Hitler related sculpture. I said it wasn’t necessary, Germany is constantly processing it’s fascist history & the guilt attached, it is very aware of what went wrong, Spain is having trouble just trying to speak about the crime that was Franco. As George Santayana wrote “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

The last few years I’ve mostly been in the Spanish countryside, the opposite of the inner city Sydney I was in for two decades before but a return in some ways to the English countryside I grew up in. All the fears of the world are very removed when watching them online surrounded by orchards nestled in secluded valleys. But half an hours drive & I can drink amongst the very worst foreigners that can be inflicted on any nation. It’s difficult to see the best of society in a city but very easy to see the worst, or maybe that just reflects my subconscious & only what it allows me to see.

I have the luxury of being born a white man, the luck of being born into a group that faces the least resistance. None of those countries are oppressive when compared to places like China or North Korea but all are in danger of receding to a place of wilfull ignorance simply due to fear stoked by a controlling minority. We’ve never been more aware of the United States use of covert & even overt international terrorism but it is rarely something challenged by US or other Western citizens because we’re essentially on the winning team. We love drones when we use them but they’ll be the cowards weapon of

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I love cities but the inner city suburbs of most Western countries have become almost like gated communities for the rich with an unspoken curfew to expell the unmoneyed classes from those areas. Visiting places like London seems almost unreal, art is something kept hermetically sealed in museums & has stopped being a part of a living culture. Places like Hackney have little pockets of resistance

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but they’re only a ‘urban renewal project’ away from being banished to the outer suburbs. Art is largely for & of the wealthy now, starting with college.

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Over the years your artworks have been showcased in several occasions and before leaving this conversation we would like to pose a question about the nature of the relationship with your audience. Do you consider the issue of audience reception? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks?

Most of my work is a reply to very urban environments, it loses it references & relevance when placed in a non-urban surroundings. A concrete television in a forest just looks tiny & out of place. I like that a lot of my small concrete works became special secrets to some people. Each street piece is an installation becuase it’s never dumped there, it’s always placed somewhere that seems right at the time & the space has to be taken into account when looking at each sculpture. Putting these works into the standard white cube art space has become steadily less satisfying with each show. Oberfett gallery was the first place to challenge me to find something inbetween rather than just put outside sculptures inside on plinths.

I hope at the very least to have planted the seed of thought in their heads. Although I want people to experience my work for real I have to accept & understand that most people will see my sculpture through the 7 x 6 cm screen of their phone. As much as I try to put my work in the centre of various major cities or have shows with galleries in different countries most people will see my sculptures digitally & usually as part of a landscape photo, close up & intimate but still as the documentation of an art installation. Do people need to even actually see art works for real anymore? There is some incredible work being done in virtual reality sculpture, the possibilities for internationally shared art are incredible, we just have to keep the internet free from government censorship & corporate ownership.

We like the powerful narrative drive that marks out your artworks: how do you consider the role of humour in your practice? I love the humour of artists like Bill Woodrow which is probably why he still seems to battle to get the recognition he deserves. King’s jesters were often the only people that could speak the truth in court, stand up comedians are the best to deliver attacks on the establishment, it can be brutal but it is somehow allowed because it isn’t lecturing. It’s easier to get children to take sweet flavoured medicine over bitter tasting pills. I feel that the art establishment doesn’t allow humour out of fear that the people are actually laughing at them & not with them.

Thanks for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Will. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Working on larger projects for Hamburg, Germany has a great audience. Bigger works, anti-investment art, installations that can’t be owned & go back into the recycling system afterwards.

And sometimes you just need a break, a breather, a fucking laugh. or the world will eat you up. Like any good depressive I tend to laugh at the things that could destroy me, it makes them easier to deal with rather than building them up into some castle like edifice.

, curator

An interview by and

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Lives and works in New York City, USA

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Viviane Silvera

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video, 2013

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Viviane Silvera

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An interview by and

, curator curator

Hello Viviane and welcome to ART Habens. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training: you hold a BA from Tufts University in Cognitive Psychology and Political Science and you later nurtured your education an MFA at the New York Academy of Art: how did those years influence your evolution as an artist? In particular, how does you multifaceted cultural substratum direct the trajectory of your current artistic research? My mother was born in Turkey and raised in Israel, my father is an Italian jew who was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. He escaped at the age of 19 and moved to Japan. When he married my mother they moved to New York City, where my sister and brother were born and right before I was born they moved to Hong Kong. My parents speak many languages and they spoke arabic at home to each other. I went to a British school and English was my first language. Chinese was the language I heard when out in the street and shopping, so I grew up not understanding a lot of what was said around me. We went to a school where we were the only jewish kids and many of the students and teachers were openly anti semitic. My early experience of not fitting in and the strangeness of being born in a place where I was “from”, but didn’t belong, was an impetus for my becoming an observer and problem solver; having to struggle to figure out the way my world worked in order to navigate it.

Viviane Silvera

When I was ten, we moved to Brazil. I had imagined living in a jungle among animals, and was disappointed to discover Sao Paulo was another crowded, concrete city. Over the years I discovered the irresistible charms of brazilian music, football and the vibrant and warm culture, and grew to love it. When we first got there I only knew two words in portuguese, “sim”, which means “yes” and “loco” which means “crazy” (because I was obsessed with the horse book series; “My Friend Flicka” and Flicka’s mother was wild and described as “loco”.) Brazil is not a country where most people speak English. When we moved there our parents sent us to sleepaway

camp. We didn't speak Portuguese yet and the other kids didn’t speak English. I have memories of trying to communicate and misunderstanding a lot. There’s a word in Portuguese called “joya” which means “ok”, but if you are trying to decipher it from an English perspective, it sounds like “joyful”. I think I misinterpreted a lot. As we settled in Sao Paulo, I spent most afternoons watching Brazilian novellas and the actors gestures and expressions

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ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

helped me figure out what they were saying. Although I studied portuguese in school, I consider novellas my real education in the language. I began drawing at home for hours everyday. Although I only ever knew my father as a businessman, before I was born he was interested in making art and took evening classes in painting and drawing in New York. I discovered a “how to draw the figure” book he must have held on to. I copied all the pictures of the portraits and figures in the book. At the time, my mother had started organizing art tours for American ex-patriots, visiting artists studios and she knew a lot of artists. My parents took me to meet a Brazilian painter and I began studying in his atelier when I was eleven. I wasn’t fluent yet in Portuguese and the painter didn't speak English. Everyone else was over 18 and I was sort of quarantined. I think I was allowed to paint and draw form the nude model but I was not comfortable with looking at naked people at that age. So I was drawing and shading eggs in a room downstairs, while everyone else was painting from the model upstairs. In a painter’s studio, light is set up to be noticed. Especially because he was an observational painter and the studio had skylights and northern light. In drawing demonstrations he indicated that I should notice how light affected objects. I have a very strong memory of the mood of the light in his studio on Saturday mornings. He took a blade and showed me that you didn't use a pencil sharpener when preparing a pencil for drawing, in order to get a long lead for shading, you peel the wood of the pencil off with a blade. And the kneaded eraser - I didn't know it was called a “kneaded eraser” until I moved to New York. It was just this thing that you “kneaded” and he showed me how to use it to pick out the lights. So my early art education was almost all visual. We moved to New York when I was fifteen and I finished high school here. It didn't occur to me to study art in college, even though Tufts University has a great art program with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which I regret I didn't do. I was drawn to Political Science and Psychology and questions about how and why people perceive, think and behave the way they do. I also studied film theory - but not the practice of filmmaking and interned at a Human Rights Documentary film

Special Issue

23 4 05


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

At Piano 21 4 06

Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

Through The Window Special Issue

23 4 07


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

company where I got to write radio shows and get a taste of that world. After college I became a nanny. I wanted to work in film but I didn’t have a green card yet and could only take offthe-books jobs as a script reader and an intern. It was frustrating to have no no creative input. I went back to painting classes on weekends and had a moment of realization while painting - that I could orchestrate a scene on a canvas without a crew, equipment or money. I decided then to forget about working in film. I went to a graduate school that focused on the history of art-making and a rigorous skills-based education. I focused on sculpture and made an outdoor bronze sculpture for Vanderbilt University as my first project after graduation. I spent the next 14 years exploring perception, film images and body language in drawings and paintings, gradually finding my way back to my first love - film. We appreciate the way the results of your artistic inquiry convey such a coherent combination between intuition and a rigorous aesthetics, and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.vivianesilvera.com in order to get a wide idea about your artistic production: when walking our readers through your usual setup and process, we would like to ask you if you think that there is a central idea that connects all your works. My central subject is memory. Part of the reason I started to do the kind of work that I do is that I have very little memory of the first ten years of my life in Hong Kong. When I talk to my brother and sister, they have very vivid and detailed memories of those years and each time I hear their descriptions my own memory is colored in a bit more. But otherwise, my memories of Hong Kong are extremely abstract. I remember my swim teacher Captain Mark (who I was afraid of), a neighbor’s dog (an adorable poodle) and my first grade teacher Mrs.Whitaker (who made me feel special). But I haven’t been able to access more than a few memories. It’s as if someone forgot to press my memory's record button in Hong Kong. When I moved to Brazil - the tape started recording. In delving into this kind of work, I have become more and more preoccupied with memory, storytelling and legacy: The legacy of stories that are passed down to us as children, how we put those stories together to form our

21 4 08

Special Issue


Photo by Meghan Boody


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

foundations and how that foundation shapes what we envision for our futures. And then it’s our turn to pass our stories onto our children. I have struggled to construct and reconstruct my memories to figure out how they fit together and what it all means. When I discover a piece that I didn’t remember before, or someone reminds me of a piece that I hadn’t thought about - that one piece can shift the whole story. When I first started See Memory, I thought of memory as visual, perhaps because when I look back at my childhood in Hong Kong it feels like a silent movie. I remember fragments in the way that I remember strange images in a dream. Because I am not sure how to put those images together I’ve spent most of my life as an artist trying to find that storyline. Since making See Memory and spending time with neuroscientists, psychiatrists and therapists, I realize, of course, that memory is also smell, sound and sensation. I used to think that explicit memories were the “valid” memories, and I was frustrated by my lack of memory because I didn't have explicit memories (memories that I could describe in words). In interviewing scientists I learned that if you have a feeling that washes over you that might be an implicit memory and as valid as an explicit memory. Neuroscientists such as Daniela Schiller who works on memory reconsolidation, have shown that the more times you recall a memory the more it may change. I am interested in the idea that we can choose how we use our memories and what meaning we give to them, rather than simply reacting to them, or feeling a victim to them. If what we remember and how we remember influences our decisions for our futures, that could be life-altering. For this special edition of ART Habens we have selected See Memory, an interesting experimental video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that our readers can view at https://vimeo.com/146825627. Made out of 10,000 painting stills, See Memory captures the viewers inviting them to question the notion of memory as the building block of identity, providing them with such a multilayered visual experience. When walking our readers through the genesis of this captivating artwork, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? When I begin a project, I decide to follow an idea I’m excited about, hoping that it will change in unexpected ways once I

Special Issue

23 4 09


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

Blue Horse 21 4 10

Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

Flowers grow Special Issue

23 4 11


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

start the work. When I started to make See Memory, I shot it as a short film with actors, not as moving paintings. I wanted it to be about a therapy session with one character being the listener (therapist) and a witness to the younger character’s (the patient’s) memories. I gave the actors input about their characters. When I watched the first day of footage, I realized that I didn’t know what to do with the dialogue. The actors did a great job improvising but I needed to simplify and isolate the variables. I decided to approach the film as an extension of painting: I can compose, I can create a mood with light and I’ve always had narrative in my work in a cinematic way. I was dissatisfied with my still paintings and drawings and was eager to add the passage of time. I re- shot with a story in mind, drawn from the film Ordinary People. In Ordinary People, as I saw it - Act One is a teenage boy struggling with something that is haunting him - he is only somewhat aware of what it is and his memory comes out in his behavior (the memory of his brother drowning). In Act Two, he connects with a therapist who gradually joins him in his inner world. In Act Three, by having a witness to his story, he is able to face a memory he couldn't face before and discovers that he can live with what had seemed unbearable. This was my arc: An isolated young woman is lost and suffering in her inner world. She meets a therapist (a witness) and struggles to connect with her. When she finally connects with her, she shares what she had been alone with. The sharing changes the way she sees the world because she is not alone in with her memories, colors, anymore. In terms of the production process: The materials began as film (moving images), were transformed into paintings (10,000 stills), which were put into motion, back into film, transformed by the act of painting. We have really appreciated the vibrancy of thoughtful nuances of your tones and we particularly like the way they create tension and dynamics. How did you come about settling on your color palette? And how much does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in a specific artwork and in particular, how do you develop a texture? I looked at the footage, which was “realistic”, with “ordinary” colors when I printed stills to work from as a point of departure for each scene. If I was going to make paintings from the footage, there would be no point in rendering the footage exactly as it was. I wanted to have the paintings do

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Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

to invite the viewers to elaborate personal interpretations? And in particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

things that couldn’t exist without paint - make colors that move, drip, and transform. The sequences I shot of the young woman walking through the park on a snowy day were overexposed and there was a lot of white which I loved. I think of white as the color of memory (Irving Petlin once said this about his paintings) and the idea of white covering everything, another world concealed under a blanket of snow, is a metaphor for the covering of memory. I was instinctively drawn to lavenders, purples, blues and pinks. I liked the idea that she was walking through a landscape that couldn’t possibly exist. From my perspective, in the winter, there aren’t lavenders and pinks in the landscape - there are browns, grays, blues and white. I chose colors that make up the tone of her inner landscape, which is bittersweet. Memory can be beautiful, but it can also be painful and haunting. The palette I chose is gentle but when you watch those colors drip, some of the darker pinks and reds and even yellows and blues, feel like blood or sweat dripping over a body. As the story progresses, the palette transforms. The colors become more vibrant and in a way more “realistic”. When she walks out of the window of the therapy room and back into the park, her reality is in sync with “reality”in a way that it wasn’t in the beginning of the story.

When I began See Memory, I didn’t know what I was doing technically and so the first year I worked on it, I didn’t imagine that anyone would see it. It was an experiment for me, an emotional need to understand memory and an artistic challenge to see if I could add time to my work. The project started because I found it unbearable to think I would never have many memories of my childhood. I needed to understand how memory works because I was trying to understand how my own memory worked. I began by speaking with therapists about how memory comes up in their work, and then In order to get to the core of memory, I realized I needed to understand the biology of memory storage and retrieval. It was thrilling to learn that you can see the formation of a memory, through the work of nobel laureate, Eric Kandel who was the first to show the actual making of a memory in sea slugs. An interview I did that deeply changed my outlook on memory was with neuroscientist Daniela Schiller. When I told her about my frustration with “missing memories”, she asked, “why do you need a visual or narrative memory? The way you act, your reactions to things - those are the sum of all of your experiences - that IS your memory.”

There are amazing, seamless things you can do in film with special effects and computers that I couldn’t possibly do with my hands and a brush. But what I can do is get a raw quality that is hard to achieve with with camera-made images. When I think about art that is visceral to me, such as a Rodin sculpture, you can see the human touch in his fingerprints right there on the surface. As I was painting I realized that there are things I can do with paint drips: The paint can drip over the scene; I can paint upside down and have the paint drips rise; and I can play the drips in reverse and have them disappear and uncover what is underneath. I was trying to see what I could create with the most basic materials: a point and shoot camera, a canvas and paint.

Although I began the project to answer my own questions, the relationships I developed with the people I interviewed took me out of myself. People who work with memory have their own personal relationships with memory (we all do) and reasons why they work with memory. Daniela Schiller’s father was a holocaust survivor and she is trying to understand his experience through her work. I learned that everyone had their own experiences that drove their work. Before interviewing my subjects for the film, I would show clips of the animations as I was making them. The few minutes of moving imagery I showed would stir up their ideas about art. science and memory. So the act of collaborating, getting out of the isolation of my studio and doing the interviews was one of my favorite parts. Life was mirroring art; just like in See Memory; when the girl connects with the therapist, her inner world is transformed, through my new connections, my inner world transformed. I was no longer alone with my thoughts and feelings about memory.

See Memory shows how painting-in-motion is uniquely suited to act as a metaphor for how we remember, while the science of memory can shine a light in the dark corners of our minds: we daresay that your artistic practice seems to aim to look inside of what appear to be seen, rather than its surface, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception. How important is for you

Special Issue

23 4 13


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

Of course not all memories involve a struggle, some we just enjoy as they come and go. But when I interviewed therapists, they were thinking about people who came to them with a problem. Most of us know that the past can interrupt the present. But there is a way the past can weave together with the present informing it, without tripping us up and blocking us from envisioning our future. People who struggle with memory are having a hard time functioning now, they can’t build their futures on what came before because they haven't come to terms with it. Through the work of neuroscientists Karim Nader and Joseph LeDoux, we now know that every time we recall a memory the memory is unstable and can change. This was a profound shift in our understanding of how memory works; everytime you recall a memory, you can update it. Scientists ask the question in evolutionary terms; if we adapt to survive, memory as flexible is necessary to our survival, whereas memory as a fixed recording is not. The purpose of memory is to help us learn from past experiences so as not to not repeat the same mistakes. Let’s say something happens to you at age five when you have a limited knowledge of the world. As you grow older and recall that memory, you add context, reframe the memory, adding new information - the memory of the experience is more useful to you with greater understanding. People with memory trauma have a memory that doesn't get updated. The memory is stuck in the original traumatic experience, so they experience those memories as though the event is happening right now even though it may have happened 5,10 or 30 years ago. When I began See Memory, I knew that paintings in motion would add the element of time, but I didn't realize what a strong metaphor for remembering they would be. It wasn't until I was editing, as I watched the paintings from frame to frame that I realized; this is remembering. It also made me realize how little I remember of what I do in the studio. I come home at the end of the week with thousands of stills, I put them into motion and as I watch the paintings move I notice; “I didn't remember there was a dog and it turned into a boat.” Seeing all the transformations later, gives me a record of my experience. Now it’s almost impossible for me to do anything in the studio without recording it. The stopmotions show me how inaccurate my memory is. When you recall a memory you are not changing it in one fell swoop. Everytime you recall it, you are editing it just a bit. After recalling a memory 20-30

Special Issue

23 4 15


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

Girl on a Rock, 2018 21 4 16

Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

Girl on a Rock earlier version Special Issue

23 4 17


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

times, it may be quite different from the original, but you wouldn't have noticed that because it happened so gradually. In See Memory, you see the stroke by stroke transformation of a scene then ends somewhere quite different from where it started. Where there was once a tree, there is now snow and a blue horse. Even though you just watched the transformation, it was so gradual that you can’t quite remember how it started. At screenings, people often tell me they feel they are not watching a story, but having their own memory experience and I think that’s because the paintings in motion are an apt metaphor for how we remember. I feel no desire to dictate how people take in the film. I have noticed that some people are very interested in the narration and how it guides the imagery, while others prefer to hear the narration as a poem that can float in and out of their minds and prefer to watch the images as if they are dreaming. In his book “In the Blink of An Eye”, film editor Walter Murch points out that it’s only in dreams and in film that we accept jumps in time. In real life time is continuous. It is our interpretation and the meaning we give to the our dreams that tells us something about ourselves and it is the same with our interpretation of art. I would no sooner dictate a dream than how someone interprets my work. We would like to introduce our readers to another project entitled Feel Memory: that can be viewed at http://www.feelmemoryfilm.com/the-film. Centers on the stories of daughters who go on quests to uncover their parents’ mysterious pasts, your experimental artwork sapiently combines live action, archival recordings and interviews to achieve such a powerful narrative drive: how did you structure your workflow in order to achieve such effective results? My new film Feel Memory, is based on three daughter’s journeys to fill in missing pieces of their parents lives, each character’s portrayal is a merging of her memories and imagination and my own. One of the daughters, Victoria, is a memoirist. I’ve read her books, I’ve done interviews with her and over the past year we have spent a lot of time together. I call or text her from my studio while I am painting and ask - what colors, what images appear when you dream, daydream, imagine? I am

21 4 18

Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

surrounded by each daughter’s family albums and cut out copies of family photos are all over the studio, pinned to the walls and on the edges of paintings. I’ve also shot scenes of them in their lives as they are today. I use that footage for live action as well as as points of departure for painting sequences. I keep the interview transcripts in my studio so I can reread them. I’ve already read them very closely and made notes of sequences that can go with each section. I’ve written each daughter’s story in 3 Acts. See Memory was like a poem, while Feel Memory is a narrative documentary, requiring planning and storyboarding early on in the process. Each story has its own historical context: Victoria's begins when she is 4 years old in 1989 in Sacramento during the AIDS crisis and jumps between her life today, her childhood and her father’s life before she was born. Rebekah’s starts in the 1970s in New York City goes back to her mother's childhood in Poland during the holocaust and back to Rebekah’s life in New York today. Karen’s will go between Michigan in the late 1960s, her father’s time in WWII and her life in Michigan today. The project has taken me two years to structure. In 2016, I had the concept of memory, and the idea of expanding on See Memory. I screened See Memory for therapists and scientists and got lots of great feedback on the many directions I could go in. I began by interviewing legendary scientists Brenda Milner and Karim Nader in Montreal. Over the course of the first year, I realized that I needed storytellers whose experiences naturally play out the science, rather than having the film be all about the data and research itself. I spent another year searching for and recording stories and doing test animations. It is not easy for people to share their most intimate memories on camera and the search took a while. I would try out each person’s narrative voice with accompanying moving images. Sometimes I found incredible stories but the person wasn’t willing to go on camera, or the story was more of a poetic moment than a full story arc for film. It took time to find three stories that would work together to explore the dimensions of memory I wanted to explore. Once I had settled on the three daughters, I mapped out Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3 of each story and how they would weave together. As they are all based on real lives, I expect there to be changes I can’t predict along the way. I begin each animation by painting a scene that I’ve filmed. I’ve art directed the shoot, so I’ve chosen the composition, lighting

Special Issue

23 4 19


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

Moon on a String, 2018 21 4 20

Special Issue


ART Habens

SummerIssue 2015 Special

Viviane Silvera

23 4 21


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

and action. When I start each painting I ask myself what I can bring to the sequence that I could not bring through filming alone. I think of the windows, picture frames and doorways within each room as the “movie screens’ on which memories and dreams will play out. Victoria’s apartment faces north. Because of the windows and northern light, (I only used natural light when filming), it has a Vermeer mood and it was instinctive to place Victoria by the windows as in a Vermeer painting. An example of what happens while painting: Her father, who died when she was a child, was an architect and, he loved Calder. In a scene about her loss, a Calder mobile begins to appear outside the window behind her. This was not storyboarded. It wasn't until I was painting that Calder appeared and it is not just Victoria’s Calder reference, I grew up with a Calder painting of the sun and the moon. I’ve read about his early experience as a mechanic on a steamboat seeing the sun and the moon appear in the sky simultaneously. So it’s Victoria's story, it’s my childhood memory of looking at the Calder paintings and it’s the story of how that sighting of the sun and the moon made a lasting impression on Calder. I know her dad’s favorite color for Victoria to wear was red whereas hers was green and that she likes eucalyptus leaves. I google eucalyptus leaves on my ipad in the studio and notice that they are the same shape as the red Calder mobile I am painting. The Calder mobile in the window behind her starts to turn into eucalyptus leaves and branches. The leaves start falling inside her apartment. I didn't know what the metaphor was going to be while I was painting and these thoughts and images were emerging. It was later that I realized that I had selected a red Calder mobile and that turning the red to green with the leaves falling inside was a metaphor for Victoria’s journey: Her dad dies when she is a child and as an adult she realizes she doesn't know who he was, even as she tries to live her life “for him”. She loves nature, he loves architecture: When the mobile turns into leaves and they fall into her world it is at the point of the story when she begins to make her own choices, discovering who she is without referencing her father. When I let my my intuition take over the painting process, it’s kind of like dreaming in the way that dreams tell you what goes on in your subconscious. If I can allow painting to not be a straightforward rendering of what I’ve filmed, then things start to appear that merge her story with my own and hopefully speak to a universal experience.

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Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

As you remarked in your director's statement, Feel Memory explores our intimate relationship to memory and how we reframe our memories to understand who we are, to explore the elusive nature of remembering and forgetting. How do you consider the relationship between the notion of memory and the creation of the perception of the Self? And how does everyday life's experience fuel your artistic research? My understanding is that the self is constructed from our biology - the way we are wired, as well as from our experiences; how we react to and connect those experiences to form a narrative, and how we feel about that narrative.There is also the way the world reacts to us; environmental feedback to our behavior and our story. I have come to understand that all of this is more flexible than we realize. Rewriting the narrative – altering the meaning we give to our memories has a profound effect on how we feel, how we behave and how others react to us. Changing our personal narrative and memory associations has a trickle down effect that can ultimately change our “self”. Oliver Sacks points out in his essay “Speak Memory”; there is no way to decipher in our brains, “imagined memory” versus “experienced memory”. Memory and the “self” are constructed from our experiences, but also the stories we hear from other people, read about in books or watch in movies. The stories that most stimulate our imaginations and trigger a strong emotional response (emotion is the strongest encoder of memory), become part of the fabric of our memories and our “selves” and there is no way to draw a hard line between any of these elements. We noticed that in Feel Memory you used more intense tones, and we like the way it conveys such a stimulating combination between figurative elements and a subtle, captivating abstract feeling, whose background creates such an oniric atmosphere: how would you consider the relationship between abstraction and figurative in your practice? In particular, how does representation and a slight tendency towards abstraction find their balance in your work? Feel Memory, starts as a documentary and I let each character’s home tell me who they are. For example; the writer who lives alone and spends her days writing is on an inner journey. Her place is very organized and minimalist -

SummerIssue 2015 Special

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Viviane Silvera

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ART Habens

Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

The Boat Dream SummerIssue 2015 Special

23 4 21


Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

each object is carefully chosen and placed. Her father was an architect and her home tells us who she is, who he was, and how his legacy lives with her today. Another character is a doctor who has two young children. Her life is hectic, balancing work and family and her home is full of photos, toys her children’s artwork. The compositions; one very neat and the other with an overwhelming amount of objects, show us who they are. In terms of abstraction, I don’t make paintings that looks exactly like a film still. The video can document the “real” image more accurately than I can by hand. When my painted images look too similar to the film still, I lose my energy and focus. When I allow myself to paint as if I am dreaming, following my intuition and not knowing where I will end up - I gain access to my subconscious and I become engaged and curious. My energy starts to flow again. I can only paint what comes out of me, in the way it comes out of me. I am not a technical master but what I have is a need to communicate and connect. When reading a book, seeing a movie, looking at art, the realization that; “You feel that way too!” feels like a discovery each time. I feel that way when I create something from personal experience, as with See Memory, and people watch it and tell me “that was my experience!”. Someone might relate to it because they have someone in their lives who is going through memory loss, which the film doesn’t address directly, but they saw that when they watched the film. Someone else had a traumatic experience and someone else had a nostalgic experience. As specific and individual as each person’s experience is there’s so much we all have in common. Each time I discover a connection feels like a surprise; “Oh, you too!”. I dont think I’ll ever get tired of that . I’m putting something into motion that reads as a film while showing it was made by hand and showing the imperfection of the hand made. Some of the scenes I paint drip over the live action. You can see that in my painted version the room maybe a little slanted. I could fix that, I could measure and correct the perspective but I intentionally don’t do that. Filtering the world through my eyes, through my hand and noticing how the drips over the camera images don’t line up perfectly is one

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Special Issue


ART Habens

Viviane Silvera

more metaphor for how our minds are not accurate recorders of reality. We all have our own slightly skewed lens that we look at the world through. My work takes machine made images and transforms them into hand made images. That human touch is a reminder that I was there. I made it. We have appreciated the way your inquiry into the theme of the science of memory involves the viewers on an emotional level: how do you consider the relationship between artistic production and scientific research? As an artist who is fascinated by science and has talked with incredible memory scientists, what they have told me has moved me and helped me understand how we think and feel and remember in a much deeper way. When I am crafting the stories I am very aware of the science. For example neuroscientist Daniela Schiller’s work explores reconsolidation - the possibilities of changing memory. I am not citing her work in the narration of the film – but she is on my advisory board – and her work is integral to crafting the stories. I selected the stories based on her work, as well as the work of Karim Nader and Joseph Ledoux on reconsolidation. As a storyteller herself, Daniela knows that people care about human experience. Memory is learning – if someone teaches you something as a story, you're going to remember it and it will have more meaning than a memorization of dates and facts. I spent about a year researching the science for this film, and then I put it aside. For example I’m thinking about the work of nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman in a sequence I am working on – how people try to mentally “undo tragedies”. His work informs the weight that I give the sequence and how I interpret what came up in the interviews. Over the years your hand-painted stop motion videos have been installed at several locations and your recent solo exhibitions include Iron Gate East Gallery and the Edward Hopper House: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? And what do you hope your audience take away from your artworks? I hope audiences take away the idea that memory is flexible. You do not have to be a slave to your memories. If you have a bad memory, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can make a new association with that memory. The idea of memory reconsolidation is that from the moment you recall a memory it is in flux, and is therefore changeable. This can

SummerIssue 2015 Special

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Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

Empty Room 2018 21 4 22

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ART Habens

SummerIssue 2015 Special

Viviane Silvera

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Viviane Silvera

ART Habens

be extremely liberating. Many people live as hostages to their memories: perhaps they have a traumatic experience that repeats and doesn’t get updated each time they recall it – but gets more and more emotional and traumatic. They feel a victim to their memory. It’s not easy. But I want people to walk way with a hopeful feeling about the wonder of memory and their relationship to memory. We have really appreciated the multifaceted nature of your artistic research and before leaving this stimulating conversation we would like to thank you for chatting with us and for sharing your thoughts, Viviane. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? I am working on Feel Memory which will take me a year or two more to finish filming, painting and editing. One of the ideas I am continuing to explore is the reframing of memory. But this film is not only about wanting to remember and reframe memory - but about forgetting as well. Two of the characters very much want to find the missing pieces of their father’s pasts to make sense of their relationship with them, to find out why they made the choices that they made that caused suffering to themselves and others.. The 3rd story is more ambivalent about memory. It asks; how much do we want to know? What if we don't want to change a memory, but we gain new information of a loved one that changes our memory of them in a conflicted and painful way. Psychiatrist and Neurologist ,Silvana Riggio, talked to me about “the pain of remembering and the pain of forgetting”. Not remembering portions of your life can be painful because you feel you are missing parts of who you are. When you do remember something difficult, the memory can be overwhelming - so you jump back from it. Our minds protect us by forgetting what is too painful to remember. I see these three stories as a dance each character steps towards a memory that frightens them, so they leap back from it. We are all engaged in this dance, yet we think we are alone inside our experiences. While our experiences are individual, so much about how we remember and forget is relatable and shared. And that’s what art can do – take a very isolating experience and reveal how it connect us.

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Special Issue

Profile for ART Habens

ART Habens Art Review, Biennial Edition  

In this issue: Sheryl Luxenburg, Marcel Schwittlick, Will Coles, Caroline Dantheny, Philip Hopper, Viviane Silvera, Allan Gorman, Aaron Higg...

ART Habens Art Review, Biennial Edition  

In this issue: Sheryl Luxenburg, Marcel Schwittlick, Will Coles, Caroline Dantheny, Philip Hopper, Viviane Silvera, Allan Gorman, Aaron Higg...

Profile for arthabens
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