LandEscape Art Review, Special Edition

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LandEscape Contemporary

A r t

R e v i e w

Anniversary Edition

LOLA AWADA SHANNA MEROLA CHAO DING JAMES JOHNSON-PERKINS ANJA MASLING NOGA COHEN NINA SUMARAC AMY SCHISSEL JOAN GINER

ART

Caustic Ballet, a work by Joan Giner


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CONTEMPORARY ART REVIEW

Workshop ‘We, Trees’, The FOREST exhibition (Nina Jorge Sumarac) Rojas

The Great Battle (James Johnson-Perkins) Naima Karim

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

Cécile Filipe

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Nina Sumarac

Noga Cohen

Amy Schissel

Chao Ding

James Johnson-Perkins Shanna Merola

Serbia / Cyprus

Israel / USA

Canada

USA

United Kingdom / China

USA

Nina Sumarac Jablonsky’s work questions the very nature of daily global and bio-political narratives which form the fabric of our consciousness and, in a sense are the revisitation of past experiences. By articulating them through a poetic and often metaphorical lens, Sumarac uses a visual vocabulary that pieces together a variety of social and philosophical issues, questioning how we embody socially constructed stereotypes on a personal and collective plane in an endeavour to develop new ways of thinking. “Combining my passion for engineering, fine art and philosophy, my current evolution focuses on intermedia art, specifically integrating new technologies within art practices as a means of seeking out ways of healing and empowerment. I am interested in investigating what it means to be human through a wider technological and mechanical lens, to question ideologies related to the boundaries between organic and AI organisms/algorithms, and the power struggle these debates raise.”

Noga Cohen works in sculpture, installation, and mixed media art to navigate through psychological and existential themes of perilousness and protection. Her work draws a line between temporality, decay, and preservation, and addresses the relationship between the human body and trauma. Her practice is pushing the limits of found materials and exploring natural processes of decomposition and putrefaction through nontraditional sculptural techniques. She collects everyday objects, furniture, plastic waste, and industrial materials used in house constructions, manipulates them by using methods of deconstruction and rebuilding, to investigate their inherent qualities. In her sculptural process, she stacks, hangs, breaks, tears, wraps, stuffs, uses heat, time, and gravity, to construct objects that reveal anthropomorphic elements.

Increasingly as we go about our 21st Century lives, we try to bridge the gap between spaces we see and navigate in both the physical and online worlds. Given augmented reality, every physical, geographical space is ‘interpenetrated’ with information, so all physical spaces are now also informational spaces. My paintings meld notational systems of traditional cartography and internet mapping to explore new dimensions of our contemporary landscape. I examine specifically how physical ‘location’, set against the ability to be everywhere at once via net-space, presents contradictions of identity in geo-political relationships: interpretations of personal and collective history are reshaped by the onset of digital information technology, offsetting our traditional sense of civic legibility.

My paintings are a diary of things that have happened around me, a preserve of evocative moments and fragments I have experienced. It is the integrity of my perception that involves my emotional struggle, vulnerability, and mental fantasies. I concentrate on revealing unusual beauties and poetic significance from those deserted spaces in my work.The sense of loneliness brought from my upbringing made me always have a sentimental attachment to trashed and nonfunctional things. When I came to the US, the sense of displacement made me started to explore the abandoned houses where I can gain an inexplicable feeling of rooted. I am drawn into the odor of mystery and memories they produced. The decayed textural layers and subtle colors left by time passing are really appealing to me. This kind of human absence automatically carries narrative possibilities, in a silent way. The traces are the sediment of “dialogues” which are a new level of perfection for me.

James Johnson-Perkins is an acclaimed British award-winning artist whom currently lives and works in the UK and China. JohnsonPerkins has exhibited in leading venues in Asia, North America and Europe, Including: Toyota Museum of Modern Art, Toyota City, Japan, The Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts, Nanjing, China, The Arts Student League, New York, USA, Ars Electronica Centre, Linz, Austria, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, Scotland and The National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, Russia. He Recently won the Mediterranean Contemporary Art Prize, President's Award and the Bath Open Prize, People's Choice Award. He was the Runner up for the Alpine Fellowship, Visual Arts Prize and he was an award winner for the Art Observatory Digital Art Program, Ukraine/UK. He was also a finalist for the 'Airland 4.0 | Nature, Technology, Energy' Competition and he was shortlisted for the Passpartout Photo Prize, Italy.

The images in We All Live Downwind are culled from daily headlines – inspired by global and grassroots struggles against the forces of privatization in the face of disaster capitalism. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes about the free market driven exploitation of disastershocked people and countries saying, “the original disaster—the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane — puts the entire population into a state of collective shock”. The scenes in We All Live Downwind, have been carved out of dystopian landscapes in the aftermath of these events. On the surface, rubble hints at layers of oil and shale, cracked and bubbling from the earth below. Rising from another mound, rows of empty mobile homes bake beneath the summer sun. The bust of small towns left dry in the aftermath of supply and demand. In this place, only fragments of people remain, their mechanical gestures left tending to the chaos on auto. Reduced to survival, their struggle against an increasingly hostile environment goes unnoticed. Beyond the upheaval of production a bending highway promises never ending expansion - and that low rumble you hear to the west is getting louder.

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Amy Schissel

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lives and works in Miami FL, USA

Noga Cohen

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lives and works in New York City, USA

Nina Sumarac

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Joe O’Brien

lives and works in Cyprus

Anja Masling

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lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Chao Ding

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lives and works in Sacramento, CA, USA

Joan Giner

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lives and works in Paris, Île-de-France, France Anja Masling

Joan Giner

Lola Awada

Germany

France

United Kingdom

Increasingly as we go about our 21st Century lives, we try to bridge the gap between spaces we see and navigate in both the physical and online worlds. Given augmented reality, every physical, geographical space is ‘interpenetrated’ with information, so all physical spaces are now also informational spaces. My paintings meld notational systems of traditional cartography and internet mapping to explore new dimensions of our contemporary landscape. I examine specifically how physical ‘location’, set against the ability to be everywhere at once via net-space, presents contradictions of identity in geo-political relationships: interpretations of personal and collective history are reshaped by the onset of digital information technology, offsetting our traditional sense of civic legibility. While addressing the progressively dematerialized quality of our data driven culture, the conflation of traditional and cyber mapping systems seeks out new social cartographies and presents fantastical meta-narratives of worlds colliding in large scale paintings and installations. Inevitably a hybrid visual language emphasizing junctures where physical, ‘factual’ cartography melds with effervescent, ‘informational’ traffic is embodied within the timehonored strategies of painting.

Joan is a french multimedia director and visual artist who leads a global research around volumes, light, sound and motion, creating new narratives.

Lola is a multi-disciplinary artist creating across different media, including painting, sculpture, photography and photomontages, as such, her work is quite varied. She has always perceived visual arts like music: a magical therapeutic tool, a universal mode of communication that does not require any form of translation whatsoever. Nature and the interconnectedness of everything in and with nature are her deepest inspiration. Music is another major inspiration of hers and the music she listens to when she creates becomes a part of the artwork. She likes to call it “the secret ingredient” in her work. Many of the visuals she creates were born within a specific song or melody. Her work simultaneously straddles nature, humanity, spirituality, magic, fantasy and what she refers to as "harsh realities" but because she is a firm believer in Dostoyevsky's saying that "beauty will save the world," she always aims to create a visually appealing final result.

His work is a mix of traditional and digital technics, a dialog between disciplines and aesthetics, questionning usages beyond boundaries. He uses video mapping and motion design for animated light design purpose, in line with kinetic and optical arts. Deeply rooted into electronic culture, he plays music under the name Belüga, creates videomapping projections and develops a wide range of activities such as art director, video director, digital installations, stage design, motion design and light design, engaging his digital skills across disciplines.

James Johnson-Perkins 154 lives and works in the United Kingdom and in China

Shanna Merola

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lives and works in the United States

Lola Awada

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lives and works in London, United Kingdom Special thanks to Miya Ando, Juerg Luedi, Urte Beyer, Beth Krensky, Rudiger Fischer, Lisa Birke, Haylee Lenkey, Martin Gantman, Ariane Littman, Max Epstein, Nicolas Vionnet, Sapir Kesem Leary, Greg Condon, Jasper Van Loon, Alexandre Dang, Christian Gastaldi, Larry Cwik, Michael Nelson, Dana Taylor, Michael Sweeney, Colette Hosmer, Melissa Moffat, Marinda Scaramanga and Artemis Herber.

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LandEscape meets

Amy Schissel Increasingly as we go about our 21st Century lives, we try to bridge the gap between spaces we see and navigate in both the physical and online worlds. Given augmented reality, every physical, geographical space is ‘interpenetrated’ with information, so all physical spaces are now also informational spaces. My paintings meld notational systems of traditional cartography and internet mapping to explore new dimensions of our contemporary landscape. I examine specifically how physical ‘location’, set against the ability to be everywhere at once via net-space, presents contradictions of identity in geo-political relationships: interpretations of personal and collective history are reshaped by the onset of digital information technology, offsetting our traditional sense of civic legibility. While addressing the progressively dematerialized quality of our data driven culture, the conflation of traditional and cyber mapping systems seeks out new social cartographies and presents fantastical metanarratives of worlds colliding in large scale paintings and installations. Inevitably a hybrid visual language emphasizing junctures where physical, ‘factual’ cartography melds with effervescent, ‘informational’ traffic is embodied within the time-honored strategies of painting. In my recent work, the painting and drawing process acts to record physical and imaginary journeys of the contemporary body through the simultaneous spaces of the physical and cyber, marking out ‘new world’ terrain. Here, historical ‘truth’ and ‘accuracy’ in traditional cartography meets the ever fluctuating, boundary-dissolving, architectures of cyberspace from the viewpoint of a female navigator, plotting, measuring, and tracking. I seek to pin-point myself within rapidly shifting spatial relationships through a labor intensive and process-oriented practice; a daily recording of repetitive mark-making becomes embodied and cerebral, drawing out expeditions in a never-ending Atlas. Layered cartographies, circular charts for tracking, grids for sizing, tablets for counting, a been-there graphite smudge on a flat-land surface, and an instruction manual for how to build simultaneous worlds encapsulating the contemporary experience of being here, there, and everywhere, reflect an ever-shifting identity as a physical, female being in an ultra-dynamic hyper-world.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Amy and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your

artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.amyschissel.com to get a wide idea about your artistic production, and we would start this interview with a couple of



Hyper Atlas, Patrick Mikhail gallery, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2018 8’ x 100’ (length of total paper, dimensions variable when installed), acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper


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Hyper Atlas, detail

Hyper Atlas, detail

questions about your background. You have a solid formal training: you hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts, that you received from the University of Ottawa: how do these formative years influence your evolution as an artist?

rigorous not only in terms of honing skill and material exploration, but also in learning how to constantly question and weigh what I felt compelled to make considering the theoretical and philosophical components of my education. Throughout my evolution as an artist, the foundation set by my professors and mentors has served my desire, my commitment, and my drive to constantly make, research, and think about the evolving function of painting and drawing within contemporary modalities of being.

Amy Schissel: The formative years studying for a BFA and MFA gave me the discipline and structure to maintain a daily practice, and to think about that practice in light of the history of my medium and also its contemporary contexts. My education was


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The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape — and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our attention for the way it invites the viewers to question the relationship between physical reality and the online Technosphere within the theme of space and its ever changing meaning in our globalized and media driven society, highlighting at the same time the uniqueness of the viewers' response to the work of art. When walking our readers through the genesis of your works, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Amy Schissel: I always gather a wide range of visual references first from the internet, magazines, and books. These consist of charts, diagrams, antiquated maps, cyber and internet maps, flight plans, and scientific ‘visualizations’ of the ‘Technosphere’. These images are visually exciting for their intense linear networks, nodes, clusters, forms, and representations of the otherwise largely invisible highways and byways of cyber space. I look, read, and makes sketches, then I hide them from view. As it is important to me to work from the imagination and to first move intuitively along the surface of a substrate, in most cases paper, each work’s initial development is determined by the material, and how I process and respond to it. For example, referring to Animate Grounds, I started by painting 20 feet of 10-foot-tall paper with Black polymer, making thick painted gestures in some areas and thin


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Hyper Atlas, Patrick Mikhail gallery, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2018 8’ x 100’ (length of total paper, dimensions variable when installed), acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper


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washes in others. Next, I covered the entire surface in white and as the polymer dried, I scrubbed and sanded into the surface until the black and white polymers mixed. Various values and viscosities started to form a dynamic, energetic, yet organic ground from which to work. Linear, gestural drawing began as an intuitive reaction to this ground, and ‘mapped’ its surface, treating both textured and sanded-down areas as fields over which marks and notation were dotted, scratched, and stamped. I then began layering hand drawn references until a hybrid visual language drawing from traditional cartographic notation, topography, cyber mapping, and other modes of digital representation was apparent. This process of layering continued until I felt it was resolved visually and as an expanded drawing. Your works — as the interesting HyperAtlas — are marked out with large dimension that provide your spectatorship with such immersive visual experience: how do the dimensions of your artworks affect your workflow and how important is for you to "enfold" the viewers, providing them with such unique immersive experience? Amy Schissel: Even though in Hyper Atlas, I was examening hybrid analog and virtual spaces, referencing traditional cartography, cyber mapping, geocaching schemata, etcetera, it was important that this entire work was hand drawn and tactile. In other words, I chose a traditional, ‘analog’




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Checkpoint, 2020, 98” x 98”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper

methodology rather than a digital, computerized one. So, the work happened physically in my studio over a period of about one and half years and my space slowly filled with this large, winding scroll.

It went through many iterations reflecting the architecture of my studio as I worked. I was often enfolded in it, imagining the immersion of a viewer, which became very important in my decision making for the


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Indicator, 2019, 98” x 98”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper

install. Considering my intention for the work to be experienced phenomenologically I experimented with formats that would initiate a journey; a walk-through experienced and perceived more than just

visually, but incorporated one’s perceptual movement through time and space. Extremely detailed, and melding notational systems of traditional cartography and


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Contenders I, 2021

Contenders III, 2021

32” x 60”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper

32” x 60”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper

internet mapping, your works, as the interesting Contenders and As the Crow Flies feature such refined sense of multiple perspective geometry that has reminded us of the idea of the fractal elaborated by mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot; would you tell us something about extremely stimulating aspect of your works? In particular, do you create such geometries

instinctively or do you elaborate specific patterns? Amy Schissel: The pieces Contenders and As the Crow Flies came about after looking into vortices, fractals, circle charts, radials, zycles, and other artwork using ‘sacred geometries’, but I did not model the works after a particular pattern, or multiple


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Contenders II, 2021, 32” x 48”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper


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Animate Grounds, Work in progress

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Outliers, 2020, 98” x 98”, acrylic, ink, graphite, charcoal on paper

perspectival geometry. These are mostly invented in my work, though inspired by the former visual research. For example, although a central radial in As the Crow Flies

provides a structure to house the intuitive mapping of each world, it is the only ‘accurate’ armature of the drawing. It is overlaid with Invented multiple


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perspectives, planes, patterns, and notational devices that are developed and placed instinctually and governed by the process. These elements are visualized somewhere between the physical and transcendental, but feel very familiar, so I can see why you asked! We really appreciate such stunning organic quality of your artworks. French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas once remarked that Art is not what you see, but what you make others see: how would you consider the degree of openness of the messages that you convey in your creations and how open would you like your works to be understood? Are you particularly interested in arousing emotions that goes beyond the realm of visual perception? Amy Schissel: For me, while in the studio, my recent work is the remnant, history, and evidence of a female navigator tracking and recording personal journeys through simultaneous physical and virtual contemporary landscapes. My hope is that the work translates to a diverse viewership when it leaves the studio. It is open to interpretation. The willingness of the viewer to finish the story regardless of what I put out there, especially beyond the realm of visual perception alone, is exciting, and welcome. The works have already elicited interpretations from the spiritual to the existential, and from topography to astronomy, from viewers during walkthroughs of my exhibitions. In general,

Here to There, 2020 Armory International Art Fair, Focus Section, Curated by Jami

once a work leaves my studio, regardless of what it might communicate, the work enters the world of things, art objects, and images, and no longer carries a singular meaning.


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llah James (Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) NYC, NY, Courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery

We dare say that you are creating such hybrid visual language able to unveil the bond between the realm of materiality and the abstract idea of information. As you have remarked in your artist's statement,

in your recent work, the painting and drawing process acts to record physical and imaginary journeys of the contemporary body through the simultaneous spaces of the physical and cyber, marking out ‘new


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Animate Grounds, Installation View, VOLTA Basel, 2014, Art Basel, Basel Switzerland Courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery. Installation included painting/drawing on paper 52 feet x 10 feet, wrapping 3 booth walls,

world’ terrain. How do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination playing within your artistic process? Amy Schissel: The reality from my

perspective, is that we live in a world almost completely infiltrated by data and information, where all Physical spaces are now also informational spaces, via wearables, cell phones, etc. The key to the


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‘visualizations’ of what this space might look like, but we can never really visualize its totality, as cyber connectivity is constantly in flux. I aim to make visible an interpretation of what this very ‘real’ but otherwise invisible connectivity might look like. Here, I would say that the real and the imagined become conflated, enmeshed, during the drawing/revealing process. You are an established artist, and over the years your works have been showcased in many exhibitions in Canada, Europe and in the United States, including your participation to the Armory International Art Fair, in New York: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalized audience?

materials: acrylic, ink, plaster, graphite, charcoal on Fabriano paper

traditional ‘geocode’ is quickly disappearing, as we can be in various places simultaneously due to the amorphous nature of the Technosphere, and the world wide web. There are many scientific

Amy Schissel: My instagram, @amyschissel, gives the audience a very different, fragmented experience than does an inperson experience of the work, for sure. At this point, I have not considered creating art on a digital platform for the purpose of digital proliferation, which would make more sense for online exhibitions, or even to show on Instagram. I try to curate a different experience on Instagram from the gallery experience by posting more detailed, close-up shots of sections of my work, in-progress shots, studio views, information about what is happening in the studio, information about shows, a little bit about life as an artist and as a mother of a


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Untitled, 2022, 280” x 72”

young one, and I like to highlight other artists I am showing with as well. I see my audience as my peers, as I often also am their audience as well.

develops, but for now, my vision is to continue making expanded painting and drawings that one must physically journey to be around.

What Instagram and having an online presence does do, is allow me to make new and exciting contacts and connections, stay in touch with what my audience is doing, see what is happening globally in various art communities, and give show information for those who can see my work in person. I think my relationship with a globalized audience will continue to develop in various formats as technology

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, Amy. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?


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Amy Schissel: Thank you very much for your interest in my research and work! I am grateful for your questions and the opportunity to share my thoughts with the LandEscape readers. Currently, I am working on an installation for VIS Arts Center opening in the New Year, in Maine, and am working towards a 3 person, travelling exhibition with 2 other artists. For these, I have been experimenting with scanning original fragments of drawings and applying code through open-source software to see what new forms and linear networks generate. The digital results so far are intriguing because I am certainly not

a coding expert but use the software and technology from the point of view of a ‘painter’ and for experimental purposes. I print the results with an XY plotter, and while the work is printing, I interrupt the printer by folding, masking, flipping the paper, and drawing along with it. This process poses interesting challenges conceptually, mechanically, and manually, so I am excited to continue working this out in the coming months! An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Noga Cohen Noga Cohen works in sculpture, installation, and mixed media art to navigate through psychological and existential themes of perilousness and protection. Her work draws a line between temporality, decay, and preservation, and addresses the relationship between the human body and trauma. Her practice is pushing the limits of found materials and exploring natural processes of decomposition and putrefaction through nontraditional sculptural techniques. She collects everyday objects, furniture, plastic waste, and industrial materials used in house constructions, manipulates them by using methods of deconstruction and rebuilding, to investigate their inherent qualities. In her sculptural process, she stacks, hangs, breaks, tears, wraps, stuffs, uses heat, time, and gravity, to construct objects that reveal anthropomorphic elements. Her work contextualizes different aspects of violence, destruction, and precariousness. It offers a critical political point of view of the ways the human body is perceived, utilized, and valued in the current time. Her work highlights wounded bodily textures and forms as physical manifestations of trauma. She reconstructs fragmented residues, accumulated marks, scars, and traces, to explore concepts of mortality and loss.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Noga and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.nogacohen.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 background. You have a solid formal training and

after having earned your BFA from the Shenkar College of Art and Design, you moved to the United States to pursue your MFA, that you received from the prestigious Columbia University, New York City: how do these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum address the direction of your current artistic research? Noga Cohen: Thank you! I’m excited to share the philosophy of my practice with you and LandEscape readers. The past few years and my art education have influenced my evolution as an artist in many




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ways. My multidisciplinary approach is rooted deeply in my background. While earning my BFA in visual arts from Shenkar College, Israel, I was exposed to different mediums and means of expression and tried to gain experience in as many disciplines as I could. I got acquainted with many different art practices, like drawing, printmaking, video, and painting - and eventually realized I want to focus on photography as my main medium. I was very interested in the relationship between body and space in contemporary photography and built my photographic practice around that. I created my undergraduate thesis exhibition based on long research I’ve made that linked found footage images of pornography projected and rephotographed in artificial settings. This was a very meaningful project for me. After showing this project in 2018 I won the Gross Foundation Prize, the SBY Grant, and the Adams Prize. In 2019 I got accepted to the photography department of the MFA Visual Arts program at Columbia University and moved to New York City. In New York, I found that my practice is shifting towards an experimental, installation base, multidisciplinary practice. I became interested in working with materials and objects, incorporating playful, exploratory qualities into my studio practice. Since my background and my art education experience were so integrative it allowed me to explore different mediums, and I felt comfortable trying new things and developing my practice in new realms. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape has at once captured our attention for the specificity of your critical gaze on the concept of human body, that you sapiently develop through unique use of the

grammar of materiality: when walking our readers through the genesis of Don’t Bandage The Knife, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Noga Cohen: Don’t Bandage The Knife is a video installation that encapsulates a poetic, layered view of concepts of mortality and decay. It is a result of thorough, long material and conceptual research. The installation provides different visual experiences when viewed from different perspectives. The idea behind it was to bring the viewer closer to the object, and by that, have an experience that’s impacted by the relationship between the viewer’s body and presence in the space and the object. The base of the work consists of black rectangular shapes, with angled edges, which creates a coffin-like structure. The top of the structure is a translucent surface made of epoxy resin, fiberglass, plastic, and cotton fibers. While viewing the object from afar, it looks almost monumental. While getting closer to it, viewers would notice the sound of ocean waves and a flickering light coming through the top surface. From a close look, another layer of the work is revealed: underneath the top layer, there are two television screens playing a loop video of water. The installation was planned and built to be a spatial experience that draws the viewer in and creates a laminated presence of space, light, sound, and movement. My practice revolves around the idea of the human body, so I’m interested in the relationships between the installation and the viewer’s bodily experience. This work is driven by an idea of a decaying body, not only a human body: the ocean as a body, and the idea of a body as an abstract, elusive concept. This work emerged from my interest in the processes of decomposition and


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putrefaction of organic and synthetic materials, and the neverending human desire to try to delay these processes and preserve life. The work describes how the physical, psychological, and moral toll wrought by the climate crisis, is reflected in the human body. It explores loss and mortality and its aspects of horror, absurdity, and uncanniness. With its unique organic quality on the visual aspect, Honey Trap and Cub Twist seem to be laboriously structured to pursue such effective and at the same time thoughtful visual impact: how important is intuition for you? Noga Cohen: My work process is very intuitive and is based on material experimentation. My process of creation is unpredictable, since I am working in non-traditional sculptural methods and found objects. For creating many of my sculptures, as well as in “Honey Trap” and “Cub Twist”, I use actions such as melting and burning in high heat, hanging objects from the ceiling to let gravity affect their structure over time, and wrapping them in nylon to create structures through pressure and compression. My interest in the body and the ways the body is perceived is at the core of my artistic practice. In my work I expand on the idea of a body isn’t limited to how a human body is typically defined. I am interested in the idea that to an extent, the body is always a mystery, something that cannot be fully comprehended and explained. By incorporating an experimental and intuitive approach, I found different means of expression that resonate with my conceptual practice. My process is reactive by nature, and I respond to events and processes that I observe. I use plastic, for example, mixed with wax and melted in high heat, to create deconstructed anthropomorphic forms and


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textures. through melting and reconstructing it I explore new structures that often transform into bodily elements. I am interested in twisted, broken shapes, and found that they have an interesting relationship to the other materials that I use. I work with high heat in my studio and melt plastic, trash, and other materials to create textures and forms that resemble bodily qualities. The highly unpredictable process fascinates me and the element of discovery in it leads me to explore qualities that are familiar and uncanny at the same time. For example, textures that resemble wounded or scarred skin, or naturallooking textures that result in synthetic material interactions fascinate me. A sense of discovery and variability through making these pieces lead me to explore new techniques in intuitive ways through my practice. Contemporary practice has forged new concepts of art making, that involve such a wide and once even unthinkable variety of materials and techniques — for example in Don’t Bandage The Knife you included two television screens — and we have been particularly fascinated with the way you explore natural processes of decomposition and putrefaction through nontraditional sculptural techniques. American 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. In particular, how do you select them and what do you address to include found objects in your artworks? Noga Cohen: I started collecting objects in my studio when I moved to new york. It was a way




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for me to become familiar with the new space and

studio. I work with found materials such as

explore the landscape and the objects that

everyday objects, industrial waste, plastic,

surrounded me. When I come across materials

furniture, and trash because they carry traces of

and objects that inspired me, I usually collect

their past lives. The materials and objects that I

them and spend some time observing them in my

choose to work with have a relationship to the


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body; they were designed to serve a specific

exploring these relationships and the inherent

function that considers the human body. Collecting

qualities of these materials through experimental

objects that carried marks and imperfections was a

actions in my studio. While manipulating and

way for me to explore questions about their

transforming them in my studio practice, I go into

relationship to the body. I’m interested in

the matter of these relationships.


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I combine insulation materials, especially fiberglass, cotton fibers, and Polyurethane foam in my sculptures. I’ve been thinking about the essence of these materials, and their association with functions like protection, isolation, and preservation. I found a link between these purposes and the role that those ideas play in our everyday life, and how much of it is present in our

relationship with our bodies. Integrating trash and wrapping materials, treated with high heat, was a way for me to explore how the relationship between synthetic and bodily elements. My research of the symbiotic relationship between natural and man-made materials like plastic made me think of the ways that we perceive nature, and how nature is


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presented, and controlled. I believe there is a violent aspect in the ways that humanity perceives and tries to control nature. There are many examples to illustrate this relationship, and I have been interested particularly in the ways that the idea of nature is typically presented in museums. This was the inspiration for creating “Don’t Bandage The Knife”: it is a work that

speaks to the idea of tension between presentation and preservation of natural elements, and the ways in which this idea that we have of nature is linked to our perception of death and decay. The work, which consists of a video playing on two television screens hidden underneath a coffin-shaped black box, covered with a translucent resin surface, represents this




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complex idea. The video shows river waves, accompanied by natural water sounds, coming from the bottom part of the coffin-shaped box. To view the wave motion, the viewer needs to come close to the work and look down. This is another way for the viewer to experience the relationship between their body and the space by looking down and participating in being a part of the installation. Your artistic production offers a critical political point of view of the ways the human body is perceived, utilized, and valued in the current time. Artists from different art movements and eras — from pioneer Richard Morris, passing through Thomas Light and Andy Goldsworthy, to more recently Kelly Richardson— use to communicate more or less explicit messages in their artworks: do you think that artists can raise awareness to an evergrowing audience on topical issues that affect our everchanging society? In particular, as an how do you consider the role of artists in our globalised and unstable society? Noga Cohen: My practice changed drastically during covid, and it had a lot to do with my growing awareness of social issues and an increasing sense of precariousness and urgency in the world. It made me ask myself questions about my role as an artist in a world that is becoming increasingly unsafe and hostile. Acknowledging the fact that everyone around me was going through collective trauma helped me inform my practice with more political and social awareness. All of these changes impact my practice deeply. When I felt overwhelmed by the ongoing environmental crisis, political turbulences, and the effects of Covid, and when I witnessed social values and constructs starting to lose their


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meaning, I instinctively turned to my studio practice that helped me observe the world and myself. I started to draw a line between my own personal trauma and the ways I’ve found to understand it through my studio practice, and other kinds of trauma and violence that I became aware of. Witnessing growing perilousness and uncertainty, I became interested in the ways that my own personal trauma, and the way that it manifests in my life, have a relationship to the accumulating damage done to the planet. I started expanding on the idea of a body that is not limited to just a human body, and thinking of oceans and deserts as bodies. I started seeing the accumulative environmental damage that is a result of pollution similar to the physical and psychological damage that accumulates in one’s body and mind as a result of trauma. I believe that artists can raise awareness of social and political issues and use their available tools to create a critical discourse around issues that are important to them. You are a versatile artist: your practice encompasses sculpture, installation, and mixed media art: what does direct you to such multidisciplinary approach? Noga Cohen: My background is in photography, and my photographic practice shaped and informed the ways that I think about my studio practice nowadays. The ways that I observe the world around me are deeply connected to the nature of my photographic practice: by collecting visual information and images, I created a personal archive of found footage I had worked with. My photographic practice was based on cropping, deconstructing, layering, obscuring, and decontextualizing visuals similarly to collage, but it was done by multiple projections in built studio




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settings. My way of learning, gathering information, and observing the world, was based on diving into a rich world of visual content, extracting pieces of information, and decontextualizing them. Methods of decontextualization through layering cropped images allowed me to investigate certain personal psychological content. I incorporated similar methods and processes into my sculptural studio practice, and nowadays I’m working with found objects in a similar conceptual way. When the Covid-19 pandemic started I had to leave the studio for six months. I spent lockdown mostly in New York, reading and writing, observing the world around me, and investigating how isolation impacted my relationship with time and space. This experience informed the ways I interact with space in my sculptural practice and think of the relationships between space, time, and body. For example, I started combining insulation materials, especially fiberglass and foam in my sculptures. I was interested in the inherent qualities of these materials, and their association with functions like protection, isolation, and preservation. When I was able to return to the studio, at the beginning of my second year of my MFA at Columbia University, I started asking myself questions about my role as an artist who is becoming more interested in the unpredictability of the world around me. I stopped trying to force myself into creating art in a certain way, and instead, I tried to look around me and connect with making art through simple physical gestures. I applied a similar approach to working with materials and using space. I was fascinated by the objects I found on the streets that started to accumulate in my studio. I engaged with the uncanniness I felt by applying


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expressive gestures like breaking and burning as sculptural techniques. Using physical, primal, expressive actions was a way for me to investigate the materials that resembled bodily qualities. I was fascinated by how the furniture, trash, and industrial insulations transformed over time, and as a result of my actions in the studio, just like a living body. This experience led me to think of my studio practice in a broader context and expand the range of actions and methods I consider a part of my artmaking process. I believe that a multidisciplinary approach allows me to broaden my research and add multiple perspectives on the subjects that interest me. Your works — more specifically Nightmare Nest — are marked out with unconventional aesthetics and unique dystopian atmosphere, able to create multilayered involvement in the viewers. French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas once remarked that Art is not what you see, but what you make others see: how would you consider the degree of openess of the messages that you convey in your creations and how open would you like your works to be understood? Are you particularly interested in arousing emotions that goes beyond the realm of visual perception? Noga Cohen: In my work, I’m not necessarily looking to provoke certain emotions among the viewers, but to raise questions and create space for a critical discussion. I think of my practice as an externalization of mental and psychological processes and try to connect them to a broader social and political point of view. By using textures and shapes that are familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, I want to bring up questions that are centered around how we perceive the uncanny aspects of our existence


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and our relationship to the idea of the body. Bodily textures, that resemble scarred, wounded or burnt skin, flesh, dry blood, or fat, are parts of plastic-made sculptures like “Nightmare Nest”, representing the abject, brutalized body. By using elements that echo bodily aspects of everyday materials, I present a visual language that points out to those questions. I decided to have this piece as a ceiling installation, and hang it from the ceiling of the gallery at 12 feet of height. I was interested in the idea of including the viewers as a part of the work, and that visitors would be able to walk underneath it and look up to see how the work interacts with light and is impacted by it. Notions of violence and trauma are important components in my works, that I explore through the practice in my studio. My sculptural techniques are often expressive and gestural, and I apply actions such as breaking, burning, and wrapping objects. Other methods in my sculptural practice that I perform, like combining toxic materials and pieces of plastic speak to a broad range of forms of violence that has a relationship to the human body and to nature. The reminiscences of the process are present in my work and arise questions about violence, trauma, and pain. I am particularly interested in the idea of exploring different forms of violence, like “slow violence” - slow, invisible processes of accumulations of toxins, foreign objects that enter the body (like microplastics) that become one with the body, and damage that is done but is not always visible or quantifiable, is a way for me to talk about violence and trauma - personal and collective, visible and invisible. In my work, I’m interested in arising a discourse that deals with the nature of our relationship to

violence that is “invisible”, and how are we, as a society, are working towards understanding and creating safe spaces for ourselves and others to deal with those issues. Your works are marked out with unique combination between rigorous sense of geometry and precise choice of tones, able to provide your works with recognizable visual identity. How does your own psychological makeup determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in your artworks and how do you develop your textures in order to achieve such unique results? Noga Cohen: My work consists of a wide range of materials, textures, and forms. Geometrical structures in my work are often taken from furniture and man-made objects. I use a lot of found objects, which I manipulate in different ways in my work. For example, some of my sculptures are made out of broken pieces of furniture that were suspended from my studio ceiling for prolonged periods of time, which changed their structure drastically due to the effect of gravity. While the structure has transformed in those pieces, geometrical shapes remained as the base of the work. Alongside straight lines and rectangular shapes, I use a lot of natural and organic shapes that are created in different ways. When I use plastic, wax, and insulation materials, for example, I often use high heat and melt these materials. Melting in high temperatures create more organic-looking shapes, as well as textures. The contrast between organic shapes and textures and synthetic materials is one of the things I use in my work to create a layered emotional experience among viewers.




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You are an awarded artist and over the years you have exhibited in many occasions, including your upcoming show at The Border Gallery, curated by Jamie Martinez. How do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? By the way, as the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces to streets and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalized audience? Noga Cohen: The nature of my relationship with my audience has changed over the years but stayed the same in many ways. During covid, for example, I found that online spaces were a great opportunity to connect with people and build communities. I participated in a number of online shows, and in my experience, it was an exciting way to reach a larger audience, connect with people all around the world and work towards making space for art when physical art spaces were not available. In 2020, I participated in an online international show curated by Iksong Jin, an artist, and curator based in South Korea. This show was a way to start building a community of international artists, and we have been working together every year since then to create independent international exhibitions and publish catalogs. This year we’ll have our first in-person exhibition in New York. In 2021, I participated in an online exhibition at Project V Gallery curated by Farah Mohammad. This exhibition, alongside the interview I had with the gallery founders, Cary Hulbert and Trinity Lester, was shared on Instagram and reached an audience of art lovers all over the world. On my personal Instagram account, I share finished work and work in progress, news, and press releases.

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, Noga. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Noga Cohen: Thank you for a profound and interesting conversation. I am currently working on multiple projects. The main project I’m focused on is a site-specific installation I’m building using recycled textile fibers mixed with wax, glue, plaster, and other materials. I’m also working on a series of 2-D mixed media work on plexiglass, using found objects like textile, wax, and photographs to create compositions on translucent surfaces. Both projects are formed around the objects’ relationship to light, and how light plays a role in creating an immersive experience in a space. I hope to continue exploring ideas I’ve been interested in and add a wider range of means of expression, and a diverse spectrum of conceptual and theoretical perspectives. Research is a big part of my artistic practice, and I try to expand my knowledge on the subjects that I’m working on in different ways. I find reading and having conversations with other artists, writers and creators are helpful ways to enrich my research.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Nina Sumarac Nina Sumarac Jablonsky is a Serbian-Cypriot multidisciplinary social visual artist based in Cyprus, with a background in fine art, painting and mechanical engineering. Her work questions the very nature of daily global and bio-political narratives which form the fabric of our consciousness and, in a sense are the revisitation of past experiences. By articulating them through a poetic and often metaphorical lens, Sumarac uses a visual vocabulary that pieces together a variety of social and philosophical issues, questioning how we embody socially constructed stereotypes on a personal and collective plane in an endeavour to develop new ways of thinking. “Combining my passion for engineering, fine art and philosophy, my current evolution focuses on intermedia art, specifically integrating new technologies within art practices as a means of seeking out ways of healing and empowerment. I am interested in investigating what it means to be human through a wider technological and mechanical lens, to question ideologies related to the boundaries between organic and AI organisms/algorithms, and the power struggle these debates raise.” She attended the Polytechnic University for New Technologies in New Belgrade, where she studied mechanical engineering and computer numerical control systems. She earned a BFA from Buckinghamshire New University in the United Kingdom, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Cyprus College of Art in Larnaca. Sumarac is a multi-awarded artist. Her works are in permanent collections of the State Gallery of Contemporary Cyprus Art, Municipal Gallery Limassol, Byzantium Museum in Nicosia and private collections.Since 2001 Sumarac has had ten solo exhibitions and has participated in numerous international exhibitions. For more than fifteen years Sumarac had worked on experimental films and animation production by Toonachunks animation studio with which today she collaborates. She is one of three founders of the contemporary art group Arboreal Collective.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Nina and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.ninasumarac.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 background. You have a solid formal multidisciplinary training: you studied mechanical engineering and computer numerical control systems at the Polytechnic University for New Technologies in New Belgrade, then you nurtured your education with a BFA from Buckinghamshire New University in the United


Nina Sumarac photo by Vladimir Jablonsky


Workshop ‘We, Trees’, The FOREST exhibition, NeMe Arts Centre, Limassol, Cyprus


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Kingdom, as well as a Postgraduate Diploma in Fine Art from Cyprus College of Art in Larnaca: how do these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your multidisciplinary cultural substratum address the direction of your current artistic research? Nina Sumarac: Hello LandEscape, and thank you for inviting me to talk about my work. It’s an honour to share it with you. It sounds like a straightforward question, but the journey has been nothing but. Right now, I can say that my work represents my passions, which I’ve nurtured over time: engineering, fine art and philosophy. I’ve found a way to interweave all three through a curious and playful mind rather than focus on a particular approach or ethos. This helps free up space to integrate new and traditional technologies and artistic practices within a multidisciplinary context. This lens has also helped me articulate the personal and political fractures, I and many of us, have experienced. Coming from a broken family, a dissolved country (the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and then migrating to the divided island of Cyprus, my work provokes questions about the nature of daily global and bio-political narratives. These narratives form the fabric of our consciousness within the present and, at the same time, are in a sense a revisitation of past experiences. By articulating this paradox through a poetic and often metaphorical lens, I create a visual vocabulary that investigates how we embody social and philosophical constructs, such as stereotypes, individually and collectively. The aim is to seek new ways of thinking and healing, which at this stage of my career, often leads back to focalising the ideologies that disturb the boundaries between organic and AI organisms/algorithms. For this special edition of LandEscape we have selected I'll See You In The Trees — a stimulating

project that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article and that can be viewed at https://www.ninasumarac.com/illseeyouinthetrees — “has at once captured our attention for the way it invites the viewers to explore humanity and its complexities within the context of nature, unveiling the sense of oneness with our surrounding and at the same time highlighting the uniqueness of the viewers' response to the work of art.” When walking our readers through the genesis of I'll See You In The Trees, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Nina Sumarac: Inspiration comes in many forms and sources, and as I am often reminded through my work, none are entirely synchronic nor operate within a vacuum. So, it's not surprising that I do not have a usual setup or way of working. Every piece evolves differently. But if I had to identify one common element of my process, that would be allowing spontaneous and interactive playfulness to guide the way towards honest expression. As the creative process is continuous and often relentless, feeling free to bring this element home is essential. My husband and sister are always keen to engage with philosophy and politics, which motivates me while offering the emotional support I often need to work things out. In this sense, communication is key, and I always seek out different approaches to articulation. For instance, working with Dr Frosoulla Kofterou, a content writer coming from a background in psychology and literature, has helped me understand the polyphonous nature of my work in new ways. When it comes to, I'll See You in The Trees, specifically, my inspiration has been long in the making. Since childhood, I've had a fascination with trees. Belgrade, where I grew up, is very green and next to our apartment building was a forest with very tall trees. From our 5th floor apartment, I remember I could touch the branches of tree crowns (now those same trees have grown as tall as the 7th floor). Sometimes, I


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stared for hours out of the window, resting my eyes on the sea of green. It was therapy. Whenever feeling rootless and disconnected from the world around me, I would seek to redress the balance through these woodland allies. Hugging them was a practice that grounded me in their fundamental essence, as I felt them speaking to me, and I could see myself in them. Our silent conversations helped me relate to a deep love and compassion for our planet and Mother Nature, which forever gives me a feeling of greater meaning and belonging. I'll See You in The Trees came about from this connection and developed as a project through my art classes. During their first lesson, I began asking each student to draw a "portrait of themselves as a tree" using burned wood and branches. I wanted them to illustrate their innermost selves while considering the anatomical attributes of trees. When the "tree drawings" filled up one of my drawers, I knew I had a small forest. After that, I started collecting tree drawings deliberately by organizing workshops and collaborating with performing artist Elena Gavril whose guided workshops asked participants to draw tree portraits following meditation, breathwork and mindfulness exercises. A synthesis of actions that attempts to bridge our growing disconnect from nature, resulting most recently from the pandemic, the mass dissemination of the virtual world and urbanization by bringing the senses back into balance. Eventually, I collected over 120 drawings. With the formal approval of all contributors (the full list of participants: https://www.ninasumarac.com/illseeyouinthetr ees), these drawings were transformed into digital images, which I "re-planted" into a "people-tree" forest. Collaborating with animators Marinos Savva and Nicos Synnos from Lab for Animation Research (LAR)


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I'll see you in the trees, exhibition 2022


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Exhibition The FOREST by Arboreal Collective, NeMe Arts Centre. Photo: Szymon Piotr Pruciak


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Department of the Fine Arts, Cyprus University of Technology, sound artists Dimitris Savva and the generous support of Mrs Eugenia Francesca Soncini this forest came to life. Work "I'll See You In the trees" was primarily shown at a group exhibition The FOREST, curated by Arboreal Collective, hosted by NeMe Arts Centre and funded by Cyprus Republic Ministry of Culture. As a means of exploring the nurturing potential between humanity, nature and technology, this exhibition has given equal weight to all three by interweaving the narratives they convey through a primitive/scientific discourse that comes at a crucial time in which we all need saving. https://www.neme.org/projects/hosted/the -forest

Through symbolically charged figures as trees and effective use of lights and sounds, I'll See You In The Trees created such powerful synaesthesia able to draw the viewers to experience such multi-layered and immersive experience. This is a recurrent aspect of your works — as in the interesting Ko-Vid and E:SCOPE — how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and how do you see the relationship between sound and images in order to create such immersive artworks? Nina Sumarac: The sounds in my works are often hypnotic, multi-layered, and intended to orchestrate an immersive experience for the visitor. To some degree, this is manipulative. An aspect that asks viewers to engage critically with how our perception of reality is physically orchestrated and monitored by what we see and hear. In I’ll See You in The Trees, for instance, the immense trees cover the walls entirely with minimal animation adding the effects of foliage moving in the breeze. Pre-recorded audio is taken from the sounds of the forests around Cyprus in a way that creates the illusion that visitors are stepping into the forest themselves. Peaceful and


Exhibition The FOREST by Arboreal Collective, NeMe Arts Centre. Photo: Szymon Piotr Pruciak



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harmonious sounds transform into the repetitive and disturbing sound of an axe repeatedly cutting down the trees, followed by the alarming sounds of chainsaws and a raging fire scorching the forest. In E: SCOPE, sound choice also plays a key role in a deliberate sense. ‘As Fast as You Can Happen’ by Junior85 accompanies the vision of a computer processing the internal view of the human intestinal tract. This mediative sound disorientates the viewer by adding another level of perspective that aligns with the healing process. While in E: SCOPE, sound functions to expand perspectives, in the work METANOIA sound works to openly reprogram and transplant visitors’ belief systems in a more focalised sense: https://www.ninasumarac.com/metanoia In KO-VIDI (https://www.ninasumarac.com/kovidi), the sound is a part of the narrative that creates the artwork. With the sound composed explicitly for this piece, KO-VIDI alludes to the workings of our bilateral negotiation between data footprints and an identity matrix powered through mis/information (the sound of glitching) around transmission and processing. Sound is integral to this piece because it is at the same familiar and alien, symbolising the anonymous eye in the ‘cloud’ that tracks, traces and constructs selfhoods with unknowable futures. Your approach deviates from traditional art making to provide the viewers with such a heightened visual experience, and we have been particularly fascinated with the collaborative nature of your work invites your audience to discover hidden connections with our surrounding space. We dare say that your artistic journey highlights the Ariadne's thread that makes visible what is often overlooked and unnoticed, how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination playing within your artistic research? Nina Sumarac: There is a fine line between reality and imagination. William Blake’s vivid imagination

Exhibition The FOREST by Arboreal Collective, NeMe Arts Ce

led him to explore his inner self profoundly. He said: “We don’t live reality; we live what we think is reality.” I agree that there is no true reality. Instead, there are individual virtual perceptions, inspired by our imagination, fed by the influences we are exposed to and the knowledge we gain from experience. True reality, we could say, is an ongoing collection of personal realities that interact and shape each other. Through my work, I always want to highlight this subjective multi-


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ntre, Limassol. Photo: Szymon Piotr Pruciak

layering in a prismatic sense. The meaning of the work is in the visitor’s mind. If I cannot change their minds, at least I can challenge them to think outside of the box and question where the box comes from. In the MULTIVERSE series (https://www.ninasumarac.com/multiverse), I especially sought to explore this complex and fruitful dynamism by offering an insight into how

the fabric of identity is constructed as a chronological meta-narrative. What speaks through the schism between belonging and alienation, attachment and detachment, identity and reality? There is no intrinsic truth because our cellular transcript is diachronic, not static, so defining [hi]story within a single word or picture is thus rendered an impossible and unfeasible undertaking.


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I'll see you in the trees, exhibition The Forest at NeMe. Artist Nina Sumarac, Photo by Yiannis Colakides

As a matter of fact, technology is taking on an ever-growing role in human experience: it 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, enhancing the viewers' perception. As an artist “particularly interested in integrating new technologies within art practices as a means of seeking out ways of healing and empowerment”: how do you consider

the relationship between technology and artistic production? In particular, how do you think that technology will help artist to expand their chances to create a kind of involvement that will break the usual exhibition spaces' barriers? Nina Sumarac: When artists explore the world around them using new technologies, this opens up an experimental playground I love working in. Experimenting or creating in this way gives rise


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James Bridle (where E: SCOPE was first shown) referenced Dziga Vertov, who in 1922 described the thrill that the cinema camera brought because it was capable of seeing in ways that had never been seen before. In short, he explained how the machine eye, free from all other human limits, offers us visions of unexpected insight and startling beauty. I love technology, and personally, I cannot resist it. I can even imagine myself having some biomechatronic body parts. Or, for example, improving my memory (data) storage and processing capabilities. We have a chance to learn so much by using new technologies, but only if we resist getting carried away by reckless ambition or, something that is typical of humans, abusing it. I also feel that we need to pay attention to our evolving relationship with technology. It is frightening to think how much we have invested in developing technology while there’s been a decline in emotional intelligence. Humans still very much struggle to deal with some primary emotions. So, where are we going from here? What feeds this movement, how is it fed and what knowledge is being pumped into AI are broad questions I address in my work. This leads to a further spectrum of questions, such as how information is prioritised? How are our social, political and cultural systems arranged as a result? How susceptible are we to manipulation and seduction? Will this lead to developing clever machines and inferior humans? Can we make positive progress in this way, and who decides what that is or what it looks like? to ambiguous possibilities, and new perspectives, raises questions and sometimes leads to alternative answers. The uncertainty around what the outcome will be and what impact a work made in this vein might have on the viewers/visitors opens up a new era of interactive art, which I find incredibly exciting and motivational. As a curator for the exhibition “Through Other Eyes” 2019 at NeMe Arts Centre in Limassol,

Art and science have never been more aligned. Furthermore, faster analysis, data generators, machine learning, meta-spaces, with virtual reality, 360-degree projection, robotics and so much more "will give us access to the world we already know in new ways" and to artists the tools to recasting understanding of it. There’s never been a greater opportunity for viewers to participate in artistic production than today. Emerging artists will likely know how to code, and they will apply programming in their artworks as primers to a



ESCOPE 2022 at 'Stories of Intimacy' The Limassol Municipal Arts Center- Apothikes Papadaki. Curated by Mariza Bargilly


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KO.VIDI ( WH0 SEES – IT KNOWS) Exhibition ‘The State Of Emergency’ The 90th Autumn Exhibition 2021, Art Pavilion "Cvijeta Zuzorić", Belgrade. Curated by ULUS, Dr Dejan Sretenović and Dr Jelena Stojanović

METANOIA The Peace Mechanism

greater extent than we can imagine now. To learn more about ourselves and perhaps even deeper meanings to our existence, it has become essential to study the relationship between humans and machines, especially AI. I see that there could be a spiritual impact too.

Your works also urges the spectatorship to a participative effort, to realize their own interpretation. Austrian Art historian Ernst Gombrich once remarked the importance of providing a space for the viewers to project onto, so that they can actively participate in the

Cleansing Booth PMCB 2000


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METANOIA The Peace Mechanism, Cleansing Booth PMCB 2000 Arsenal of Venice, Art Laguna Prize, Sestiere Castello, Venice, Italy 2023

development of the work of art and its meanings: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations?

Nina Sumarac: Marcel Duchamp said: “To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing.”

In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

Taking a dialogical approach, I try to actualise this ‘clearing’ though situational and perspectival


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Billboards for Instant Release, Metanoia Exhibited at “IT NEVER HAPPENED!”, The Old Cinema Balkan, Belgrade, curato

approaches. Therefore, my work is interactive and attempts to inspire viewers to develop a more mindful relationship with art. In this vein, I hope to create the space for dialogue, encouraging viewing from other perspectives as far as possible while being aware of the strategies I use to achieve this. So, my work does

not give answers or insist on a single point of view. Instead, viewers come with their own history and by meeting with my history, context is created. At this point, each piece becomes the platform that incites socio-political, philosophical or environmental engagement, for example. Essentially, the viewer is the final component of


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criticism: as an artist inquiring into how we embody socially constructed stereotypes on a personal and collective plane, how do you consider the role of artists in our media driven and globalised contemporary age? Nina Sumarac: Some series, such as Take All of Me (https://www.ninasumarac.com/multiverse) request the viewer to consider and practise radical acceptance. To accept glorious complexity, to love and be loved for our quiltpatched nature: a nature that is sewn from the criss-cross stitches of history, culture, the environment, power, circumstance, age and genetics. There is no fixed human nature/reality. Like it or not, we are all cross-breeds. Furthermore, no matter our origins, our human DNA constantly evolves due to a myriad of circumstances and the way we embody them. Identity and reality are neither maintained nor achieved through a single intrinsic or extrinsic definition, as our cellular transcript is diachronic, not static. Everything is a unique combination of everything; an essential reminder during these turbulent times where many of us are struggling to find our identity through a sense of belonging in terms of culture, race, sexual orientation or gender.

rs Milica Lapčević, Milos Peskir, Dusan Radovanovic and Neda Kovinic

the artwork. When inviting the viewers to question ideologies related to the boundaries between organic and AI organisms/algorithms, and the power struggle these debates raise your artistic production weaves such a subtle, still effective socio-political

As an artist, I dream up visions and suggest some ideas about how this non-static reality is made and functions. Working with new technologies has expanded the scope of how this can be achieved. It gives us new perspectives, tools that can be used or abused. During seminar of the exhibition BibioTech at NeMe Arts Centre Artist Silvio LaRusso in his talk about Experimental Publishing he observed that “the absurdism of AI, with the given access to the analogies of older forms of absurdity, hides in plain sight by perplexing us in its terminology and practices while affording us new parodies”. My work often focuses on that complex and formulaic conditions of this lived experience,


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developed through processes which deliberately withhold details about intention and design aimed at shaping the subconscious. In this consumer-focused world, the power of advertisement and the seductive power of smart easy-to-use modern machines are powerful mindcontrolling programs. To draw attention to the complex relations at work within the production, consumption and interactive uses of social media, in my work METANOIA I try to integrate the ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness into the modern consumerist design. Instead of offering free esoteric teachings, which hold less appeal to a consumerist mind, I “suggest” a Peace Mechanism Cleansing Booth 2000 (like AI), ready to be consumed for instant aggression-release. Encouraging viewers to be self-aware and unapologetic, I tactically draw the viewers into the web of a well-planned human reprogramming experiment. (https://www.ninasumarac.com/metanoia) Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco once stated that "artist’s role differs depending on which part of the world they’re in. It depends on the political system they agree living under": does your artistic research respond to a particular cultural moment? Nina Sumarac: Born in ’72, I was brought up by two intellectuals in a home that equally appreciated the arts and sciences, poetry and philosophy, freedom of expression and righteousness. I was raised in a block of flats in New Belgrade ex- Yugoslavia, housing a family of three generations along with their collective and personal histories. The Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia was a country of united south Slavic nations and different religions, which was never a part of the Eastern or Western Bloc, but open to western influences, with a general politic of independence. Yugoslavia started as a great idea but was ruined by wrong governance like many other countries.

Exhibite


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MULTIVERSE, ‘Nothing Compares to You’ owned by The State Gallery of Contemporary Art in Cyprus.

d at CICA Museum in South Korea, JanKossen Contemporary gallery New York and elsewhere. 1�� prize winning artwork.


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Nina Sumarac drawings

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Nina Sumarac

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When I was 7, I took The Pioneer’s solemn oath, a pledge that asked young children to devote their lives to upholding a clear ethos. The words are still deeply ingrained in my mind and roughly translate as: “To preserve the brotherhood and unity of all its nations and nationalities and appreciate all the people of the world who want freedom and peace!”. I’ve always felt deeply about injustice and discrimination, naively perhaps wishing that one day my work would help usher in visions that would change the world for the better. I worked towards building a fire by reading Hesse, Müller, Bach, Pesić, Orwell, Dostoevsky, Camus, Selimović, Antić, Lorca, Tagore and many others, science fiction, eclectic films and listening to ‘new wave’ music. All these influences played out in the background while I shouted my way towards a revolution. The ’90s brought the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Balkan wars, NATO attacking Serbia, division, hate and aggression. That is when I decided to migrate to Cyprus. At that time, Cyprus was one of countries that refused to impose sanctions on Serbia. All this has left me with wounds that I am still recovering from. Supportive Cyprus, a sunny island on the sea, had a similar history. Once a happy country with two religions living in peace also fell apart and was divided in 1974. Its citizens, like Serbs, are still struggling but most are open and hoping for dialogues and resolutions with their ex-co-citizens. Brought up in a broken home, in a dissolved country and migrating to a divided island have been the most impactful influences shaping my work. Mirrored through multiple perspectives, voices, trauma, resolution, healing and forgiveness, I wanted to find out, as Cynthia Cockburn in her book The Space Between Us states, “…how peace is done. I mean really, done”.


Find the artist , 2022 UNRELEASED MATERIALS, 6th International Triennial of expanded media ULUS, photo Minja Sumarac



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You are an established and a multi-awarded artist. Your works are in permanent national and private collections, and over the years you have participated in many exhibitions, including ten solos: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Nina Sumarac: To be honest, I find using social media as a promotional platform to connect with my audience incredibly challenging. In a way, my values are compromised because we live in a time that, from socio-political and environmental to personal survival, depends exclusively on the effectiveness of propaganda. However, I also understand that social media greatly impacts the “audience” who appreciates updates on your progress as an artist. The issue is if I want to be noticed on social media, I have to spend more time promoting myself than working. I am not enough over there. With endless scrolling, my mind ends up being overloaded with information and polluted by non-essential things, which you can’t avoid entirely. There is some truth in that for us older artists, building a social media following is like building a carrier all over again. It’s tiring and maybe not so important to me anymore With NFT art platforms and metaverse gallery spaces, art is becoming a digital image and, at the same time, its own currency. The metaverse market is getting bigger every day. New artists vs big names, corporations and brands that cannot resist the new market scene. Is this art or consumerism? Probably both, which is a perfect reflection of our time and long in the making. Preparing the work to be presented in traditional and non-conventional spaces to a new audience is challenging, exciting and highlights new points to the work every time. I am equally interested in ‘real’ spaces and ‘non-real’ spaces.

Wherever presenting, it is essential to be able to create intimate spaces for the viewer to experience the artwork fully. As Marina Abramovic wrote in ‘An Artist’s life manifesto’, “an artist has to create a space for silence to enter his work. Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean.” 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, Nina. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Nina Sumarac: Thank you. It was a true pleasure for me also and I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to talk with me. At the moment, I am focusing my attention on showing the works. I am preparing for a solo show at Estação – Associação Cultural, CanelasEstarreja, in Portugal this August as I’ll See You In The Tress won first prize at an “Ode to Earth” Curated by A. Conte, C. Mateus and J. Queiroz. After that, the work will be shown in Gongju-si, South Korea at the “Forest and Life” Geumgang Nature Art Biennale 2022, organized by YATOO. I’ll also be travelling with E: SCOPE, which was selected to be shown at ReA!Art Fair in Milano in October. And in March next year, the METANOIA Cleansing Booth will be exhibited at Art Laguna Prize in Venice. “Unfortunately”, we live in ambiguous times, so there is much to talk about and be inspired by. I have my mind on some ideas, but they are still percolating and I won’t give you any spoilers just yet. An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


Nina Sumarac drawings


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LandEscape meets

Anja Masling The misty landscape plays an important role, as we can only catch a few glimpses while the horizon is shrouded in fog, as a metaphor for the little knowledge we gain about the person and his reasons. The more we understand, the more the landscape becomes visible. The work is very important to me since it deals with rejection and isolation, formed by the peculiarities of the landscape in which the photos are made.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Anja and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.anjamasling.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 background. You have a solid formal training: you graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Audiovisual Arts and you later nurtured your education with a Master of Fine Arts, that you received from the Sandberg Institute: how do these formative years influence your evolution as an artist?

Anja Masling: Both institutions encourage conceptual thinking in art making, and this has helped me immensely to create projects that can expand intuitive working methods. Over the years, I have learned to create a balance within both methods - conceptual yet working intuitive, creating personal works that communicate universally. In addition, the Moving-Image department of the Rietveld and Fine Arts at the Sandberg influenced my ability to think critically and motivated me in experimenting with a variety of media and learning to both understand and explore its meaning. For this special edition of LandEscape we have selected TRACES, a stimulating video — and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our



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attention for the way it unveil the connections between ordinary life experience and the dreamlike dimension, highlighting at the same time the uniqueness of the viewers' response to the work of art. When walking our readers through the genesis of TRACES, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Anja Masling: For the video TRACES, I began by writing and photographing as I often do when making work, capturing the particularities of everyday life. In the working process of TRACES, I was astonished by the landscape covered in constant fog. The text / poem was inspired by real events that took place in a parallel time of my life. The two layers were not meant to merge at first, they slowly grew together. And that's exciting for me as a maker, when the work takes on a life of its own and grows into something unexpected. Brilliantly shot, TRACES features essential cinematography and keen eye for details: what were your aesthetic decisions when shooting? In particular, what was your choice about camera and lens? Anja Masling: I used an old Nikon photography camera to take the pictures, early in the mornings when the fog was thickest and no one was on the road yet.


Anja Masling

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The TRACES project, still


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The TRACES project, still

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For me, it was important what you do NOT see. I tried to maintain a balance between showing enough to navigate the viewer through the images but not too much to still be left disoriented. In post-production, I then used After Effects to animate slow movements and zooms in the photos to draw the viewer into the photographs and play with the intensity and experience of being pulled in or out. In the writing proces I then too balanced the content not to become too obvious but to give enough information to understand the basic storyline. We have been impressed with the way you structured the combination between sound and photography to achieve such unique atmosphere able to resonate with the feeling of isolation: how do you consider the role of metaphors — and evokative elements as fog — playing within your artistic process? And how important is for you to create artworks rich of allegorical qualities? Anja Masling: I use the landscape shrouded in mist as a metaphor for the little knowledge we gain about the person. The more we understand, the more the landscape becomes visible. The use of metaphors such as natural phenomena, like deep fog, as well as cinematic interventions like composition, repetition, movement and sound are key elements in my work to



The TRACES project, still


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create a feeling or atmosphere that is conveyed through the experience of the work itself. It is always a balancing act to combine all these elements in a sensitive way and to challenge the perception of the viewer. As you have remarked once, TRACES is a video diary about someone who hides in the woods because of who he is and who he loves, far from his family and their condemnations: how does your everyday life's experience and your memories fuel your creative process? Anja Masling: The process of making art is possibly always a mirror of my own experiences or a reaction to what is happening around me in the world. For TRACES, I used the medium of video as a narrative technique to tell a story that is close to my heart. In TRACES we literally find traces of answers to a life lived in secrecy. Being queer myself, I felt it was very important to make this work. Still many families condemn their members, and it is not uncommon for us to find ourselves isolated by escaping the unacceptability of our own families. None of this was said literally in my work, even the text leaves gaps and question marks. That was a conscious choice. Above all, I wanted to convey a mood, an uncanny, suffocating and insecure feeling in the stomach. I didn't want to give too much away, but enough to


Anja Masling

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High Sierre, Super8Film project, still


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High Sierre, Super8Film project, still

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allow the viewer to connect the dots and hopefully find themselves back in the work. Sound plays a crucial role in your practice and we have appreciated the way the soundtrack provides the footage TRACES with such strong atmospheric mood and a bit unsettling atmosphere. According to 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. How do you consider the role of sound within your artistic research? Anja Masling: In my work, sound is equally important as the image. My sounds always are self composed especially made for each of my projects. The role of sound probably effects us much more than we are often conscious about and in audiovisual works the use of sound is essential, also when deciding to use silence as a concept of working with(out) audio. You are a versatile artist and your practice encompasses such a wide genres of digital and analog techniques, including vintage slides, computer game landscapes, YouTube tutorials to animations and video mash-ups. As a matter of fact, technology is taking on an ever-growing role in human experience: what does direct you to such cross disciplinary approach? In particular,


NEW LANDS prpject



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what role will in your opinion play technology in the artistic production of the future? Anja Masling: Sometimes the starting point of a new work can be the technique or the medium, when it is questioning and bending its traditional arrangement and usage. In my experience that can add an extra dimension to the work when exploring our relationship to it while investigating on our expectations. My past work Healed by Youtube, for example, consists of selected YouTube clips that claim to heal through the screen. The YouTube healers send their energies into the YouTube universe via webcams from their private homes, seemingly bombarding us with their healing energies. At the time YouTube became mainstream, we no longer used it just to watch cute cat videos, but to expand its function, to see what else we could do with that platform. In this example to possibly heal others or become healed. I have selected videos from nonprofessional accounts, the average user behind their webcam, seeking a higher power in using the medium. The collection for Everybody's Youtube is based on a selection of girls who at the beginning of their tutorials do not wear make up and are totally diverse and individualistic personas, slowly transform

The NEW LANDS project, still

themselves through the same gothic make up style and gradually start to look more and more the same. Obviously as a methaphor to ask ourselves when we lose our identity by putting ourselves in fixed stramina online, whereas we wanted to achieve just the opposite.


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I also enjoy working with combining digital and analog techniques, using the potential of the digital realm with its endless possibilities combined with the analog material that is physical and textural. For me that means an infinite playground for exploration. For example, with NEW LANDS,

an experimental, non-narrative music video, I am using animated layers of CGI and archival film material to construct and deconstruct the image through remixes, mash-ups and vertiginous effects, fused by a sound work using electronic music elements and 1980s synthesizer pads &


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The NEW LANDS project, still

bells for melodic distortions. It is equally important to me, to understand both the weight of a renderfile in GB's and a roll of film hanging to dry in meters from my bathroom ceiling. On a more philosophical note, blending the past with

the future - digital -techniques with the analogue - to understand where everything comes from and cherish each of their unique abilities when creating. In particular, as an artist particularly involved in the creation of immersive


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Instagram and Vimeo — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Anja Masling: Our world is constantly changing, so the way we experience artworks will also find new ways all the time. In my opinion, we as artists need to listen to the work, what shape, platform does it need to communicate, interact or question us at its best. That could be a video posted on Instagram that reaches thousands of people in just 1 minute, or an immersive, long-term exhibition that, over time, raises questions and sparks deeper discussions. However, as we evolve, so will the technology around us, and ultimately the development of new formats of exhibition displays. Interestingly, after we introduced mostly online exhibition formats during the Covid restrictions, the importance of actually being physically present as an artist with your audience gained additional value and attention today. works, how will technology help artist to expand their chances to create a kind of involvement that will break the usual exibition spaces' barriers? More specifically, as the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to online platforms — as

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, Anja. What projects are you currently working on, and what are


The NEW LANDS project, still



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The NEW LANDS project, still

some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

inspiring! Thank you so much! Currently I

Anja Masling: I also really appreciated this interview and am impressed with your engaging questions, which are truly

developing the material myself and

am working on an installation with film, intentionally scratching it to create a tactility in layers. Again, I've been filming


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to life. I am also working with a collection of slides I found on Ebay, shot on several expeditions into the antarctis. I found out it was a female photographer who I later managed to contact. We made several interviews, working through diverse topics; climate change, personal experiences and discoveries. I am also researching a lot about the history of female explorers, when going on mostly men-ruled expeditions. During my research I did find sound files of ice cracking and roaring, I used as a starting point for a new audio piece. Now I am tying the ropes together, experimenting with the slides using them in video or physically in large window frames like I did in the Heimweh project, only this time showing ice, snow and water. In addition, I'm always writing, shooting video, making sound, digging through archives or taking photos, until some of those elements finally find each other and take over to manifest in a new project.

landscapes, but this time I'm using it much more as a structured canvas that I can interact with as I work the material. I am also composing sound, experimenting with electronic rhythms that bring the scratches

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Chao Ding lives and works in Sacramento, CA, USA

My paintings are a diary of things that have happened around me, a preserve of evocative moments and fragments I have experienced. It is the integrity of my perception that involves my emotional struggle, vulnerability, and mental fantasies. I and poetic significance from those deserted spaces in my work. The sense of loneliness brought from my upbringing made me always have a sentimental attachment to trashed and non-functional things. When I came to the US, the sense of displacement made me started to explore the abandoned houses where I can gain an inexplicable feeling of rooted. I am drawn into the odor of mystery and memories they produced. The decayed textural layers and subtle colors left by time passing are really appealing to me. This kind of human absence automatically carries narrative possibilities, in a silent way. The traces are the sediment of “dialogues” which are a new level of perfection for me. As a foreign artist, these specificities also transferred a kind of isolation as an echo for me to “speak with”. Through my works, I am longing to bring the forgotten beauties which people usually missed back to their sight, pursuing a universal impression on psychological representation. I look for constructive force and harmony from the “chaos”, discover internal orders. I am intrigued by the visual formalities and vibes that I encountered in casual surroundings, even a pile of trash or traffic cones made me take out the sketchbook. In my compositions, I simplify and structuralize the objects, “suggest” the realities to spectators with my version. I like to excavate the real side of things, like the back of the stores, they usually contrast the gorgeous faces. But this kind of “negative” side give me a strong satisfaction of truth, belonging, and beauty. In contemporary life, things are changing, and moving with super high efficiency, accompanied by less emotion remained. The connection becomes trivial, information becomes like movie trailers. It seems like everything is ephemeral. On the other side, time is silent, soundless, but it always shows up in a brutal way when you realized it. During this flashy period, I would like to collect those remanences that evoke empathy and memory, bring that fleetness and vanishing into eternity on my canvas.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Chao and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://vipdc3.wixsite.com/chaodingart in order

to get a wide idea about your artistic production, and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a solid formal training: you hold a BA in Fashion Design and after having earned your MS in Multidisciplinary Studies, you nurtured your education with an MFA in Painting and Drawing, that you received from the Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA: how do



The corner


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Chinatown in Philly

Studio 2-4pm

these formative years influence your evolution as an artist?

to study drawing and painting at SUNY Buffalo State College, where I found the enthusiasm to return to the medium of painting.

Chao Ding: My previous art-high school studies give me strong painting and drawing technics which allow me to model and sculpt objects accurately, it helps me to efficiently interpret and transform nature through my own perception. But I am aware that it also can become a limitation as a contemporary artist. After four years of study and experience as student and intern in the fashion industry, I felt limited to express myself. In 2014, I moved to Buffalo, New York

My aesthetic judgements have broadened over the three years of my MFA program. I started to appreciate more diverse forms of art expression. During my graduate study, I have been struggling with my interest in traditional representation which encountered many doubts and hesitations. But after having gone through this period of questioning, I realized that figurative painting is really what I


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Construction

have always wanted to do, and my motivation has become even stronger. We were highly encouraged to learn how to aptly

communicate our work and share the thoughts with others. I have come to realize that communication is essential to the


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contemporary art community. But at the same time, I started to feel like the interpretation is trending to be an equivalent of artwork

currently, and sometimes even “manipulates” it. I believe that real art as a representation of an outer reality has its own capacity to


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“interpret” itself. I have been constantly told to “step out of my comfort zone” when I was in the college. For me it’s kind of a slow process that cannot be rushed. My breakthroughs didn’t come from whims of any moment but emerged unexpectedly from accumulation of persistence. Self-questioning on my direction and pieces is one of my big challenges during my art discipline. I read a lot and refer other contemporary artists besides my practices to keep my thoughts refreshed and activated, but it would also become an issue to evoke hesitations sometime. It’s easy for me to get drawn into other amazing works and lost. But I gradually learned to stand firm on my direction. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape —and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our attention for the way it unveil the connections between ordinary life experience and a variety of feelings that encompass of struggle, vulnerability and mental fantasy, highlighting at the same time the uniqueness of the viewers' response to the work of art. When walking our readers through the genesis of your works, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? In particular, how do you consider the role of chance and improvisation playing within your artistic process? Chao Ding: Over the years, I came to realize that it is helpful to work on multiple pieces at the same time. Taking breaks from working on one piece for an extended period of time helps me stay objective. It also allows me to reevaluate my progress at different states. I would to pull myself out and back in again several times. I find myself often work at nighttime. The quietness and darkness make me more concentrated. I usually get more energetic and activated mentally at later


Chao Ding

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The exhibition


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Home in city

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hours. In general, I don’t have a set schedule. Sometimes I would just sit before my painting without any movements for a long while. Sometimes great visual effects come out from unexpected “chaos” that excite me. I would intentionally keep my works open and loose in the process. Fundamentally, I am motivated by the visual formalities and vibes that I encounter in daily life. Sometimes even a pile of trash would make me take out the sketchbook. I find unusual beauties anywhere and I am driven to preserve those moments and fragments in my “painterly reality”. Part of my subject matter is to look for constructive force and beauty in nature and discover internal orders. But sometimes great visual effects come out from unexpected “chaos” that excite me. I would intentionally keep my works open and loose in the process. The tones of your works — be they intense as in Workday , be they marked out with such thoughtful, almost meditative ambiance, as in A living room — create delicate tension and dynamics: how does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in your works? In particular, what role does play intuition in the composition of your pallette? Chao Ding: The sense of loneliness brought from my upbringing made me always have a sentimental attachment to trashed and nonfunctional things. When I came to the US, the sense of displacement made me started to explore the abandoned houses where I can gain an inexplicable feeling of rooted. The marks brought by human absence automatically carries narrative possibilities, in a silent way. As a foreign artist, these specificities


A living room



The coffee shop


Chao Ding

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The Meeting II

transferred a kind of isolation as an echo for me to “speak with”. I am longing to bring the forgotten beauties which people usually missed back to their sight, pursuing a universal impression on psychological representation.

We definitely love the way your draw inspiration from ordinary situations and casual surroundings, as in the interesting 68pm in apartment and The exhibition. As you have remarked once, your paintings


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Pillow

are a diary of things that have happened around you, a preserve of evocative moments and fragments I have experienced. We dare say that your works could be considered a response to direct experience mediated by the

lens of memory: do you agree with this intepretation? In particular, how do your everyday life's experience and your memories fuel your creative process?


Chao Ding

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Pillow

Chao Ding: Yes, it is an appropriate description about my “resources”. I always feel that in our contemporary life, things are changing, and moving with super high efficiency, accompanied by less emotion

remained. The connection becomes trivial, information becomes like movie trailers. It seems like everything is ephemeral. On the other side, time is silent, soundless, but it always shows up in a brutal way when you


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realized it. During this flashy period, I would like to collect those remanences that evoke empathy and memory, bring that fleetness and vanishing into eternity on my canvas. For creative process, sometimes I couldn’t help to unconsciously push my “memories” further during my ordinary life. I always staring at a random corner next to me for a long while, and image I have spent a long time down there. Anything surrounds that corner would become my new memories and a connection with the old ones. When I am composing my pictures, I piece together puzzles of those fragments in my mind and bond up the relevant representations. We highly appreciate the way your works address your audience to explore the connection between reality and abstraction. Scottish painter Peter Doig once remarked that even the most realistic paintings are derived more from within the head than from what's out there in front of us, how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination, playing within your artistic production? Chao Ding: I couldn’t agree with Peter Doig more. Everything you want to present in the art are abstract, with subjective intensions. So technically there is no absolute realistic art. I feel like I am just like a filter, the realities in front of me are already imaginative. In my art discipline, I unceasingly push the balance between representational and abstract. I firmly believe representational artworks can present powerful abstract visual effects with strong tension and profound poetic significance. I can probably describe my process as to borrow the images from “reality” to compose strong abstract forms that can arouse audience’s empathy and even memories.


Chao Ding

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The Utility Poles


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Chairs

Your artworks tell stories featururing such unconventional sense of beauty: how do you consider the role of aesthetics playing within your artistic process? Chao Ding: I like old stuff, which carries a special scent. I am drawn into the odor of mystery and memories they produced. The decayed textural layers and subtle colors left by time passing are really appealing to me. The old marks are the sediment of “dialogues” which are a new level of perfection. Based on these, most of my works are in low key tone and silent color schemes,

Chinatown in Philly

but for me those extreme nuances is even “louder” than saturated colors. I am intrigued by the visual formalities and vibes that I encountered in casual surroundings especially “indecent scenes”, even a pile of trash or traffic cones made me take out the sketchbook. I am seeking the visual geometries and ratios from unusual viewpoints. Your works drawn heavily from the peculiar specifics of the environment and feature both urban and indoor settings, that often communicate isolation sense of loneliness.


Chao Ding

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6-8pm in apartment

What does appeal you of such locations? Moreover, how important is for you to capture the ambiance of locations that are connected to your daily life's experience? Chao Ding: These spaces give me similar sense of “rooted” as the abandoned buildings in my early works. I found myself like to excavate the

“real” side of things, such as the backside of stores or some storage spaces, they usually contrast the gorgeous fronts. But this kind of “negative” side gives me a strong satisfaction of truth, belonging, and beauty. I often think about how to define the significant or insignificant; meaningful or meaningless; functional or non-functional. I have titled my


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exhibitions in this way since 2015. Like the old houses I paint, I often feel my works are irrelevant to other people -- they are neither political nor contemporary issues. But when you slow down and give yourself into painting, you will discover many things that were not expected. I am not merely painting those locations but regard them as the medium to express my sensations and emotions. I look for structural force and beauty in nature, discover visual skeletons. I only select the traits which interests me. Values, colors. contrasts, or vibrant lines, as the manifestation of my highest pleasure to them. To capture and extract the constructive force and beauty in my compositions has always been a strong motif for me to paint. I meant to use simplest and least shapes and forms to indicate the spaces and elements in my paintings, discard the redundancies and build up a visual illusion from my mind. Richard Diebenkorn is the most influential artists to me that inspired me a lot with the visual structure studies. Austrian Art historian Ernst Gombrich once remarked the importance of providing a space for the viewers to project onto, so that they can actively participate in the creation of the illusion: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Chao Ding: I love Gombrich’s book which really addressed the spirits of pictorial representation. That would be extremely satisfying to an artist that the audience can really “walk into” the


Chao Ding

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Horizon


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Celebration

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artworks. I admit that I am pursuing a universal impression to the viewers on psychological representation in my works. I am hoping my work can evoke peoples’ nostalgic senses and make us mentally “stop” for a little while in this flashy modern life.

a great opportunity at the same time for the contemporary art world. I would be thrilled to perceive various comprehensions brought from the globalized audience which enrich my body of work via multiple level and aspect. I assume ART is consist of artworks + audiences.

I think it’s a balance that is hard to control or manipulate. There are perhaps two aspects to discuss, the first one is I assume my works can only serve a certain range of people but not everybody. So, at this point I don’t like my works to be too open or straight that even become less powerful; The second is I feel like the mystery and distance can even escalate a stronger trigger to the audiences. And more over, I believe it happens that the viewers understand my works more than myself to some degree.

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, Chao. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

You are an established artist, and over the years your works have been exhibited in many occasions, including your recent participation to the group exhibition, “Made in Paint”, at Golden Artist Colors Gallery, New Berlin, NY: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram https://www.instagram.com/chao_ding_ — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Chao Ding: I regard the audiences as a chat group of the subject matter of my art. We “share” the empathy via the multiple platforms, “communicate” with each other with or without languages. Its romantic. I think the various culture contexts will definitely affect the interpretation of artworks more or less, but it’s also an exciting thing also

Chao Ding: Since the Covid exploded, I discovered a lot more resources from the shut downed scenes like clubs, restaurants, schools, and factories. I developed strong interests in those deserted spaces, and I am intrigued by this human absence derived silent sense of narrative. It carries sentimental values and evokes peoples’ memories before and during the Covid. So, I kept tracing and recording them, planned a project of Covid “documentation” series. I am planning to bring some of them to the public in my upcoming exhibition in October in Sacramento CA this year. When I was in the college, one of my major concentrations was figure paintings. Currently I am attempting to incorporate more figures into my abandoned scenes to create a stronger sense of isolation and poetic vibes. I feel like the torso gestures and facial expressions have strong force to push the atmospheres further in my work.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Joan Giner Joan is a french multimedia director and visual artist who leads a global research around volumes, light, sound and motion, creating new narratives. His work is a mix of traditional and digital technics, a dialog between disciplines and aesthetics, questionning usages beyond boundaries. He uses video mapping and motion design for animated light design purpose, in line with kinetic and optical arts. Deeply rooted into electronic culture, he plays music under the name Belüga, creates videomapping projections and develops a wide range of activities such as art director, video director, digital installations, stage design, motion design and light design, engaging his digital skills across disciplines.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Joan and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://joanginer.myportfolio.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 background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum address the direction of your current artistic research? Joan Giner: Hello and thank you for having me

in your magazine. My cultural background started with music: Classic / pop/ rock / alternative at home, from Vivaldi to the Clash, passing by the Stones, Madonna or French singers like Aznavour. Then I started digging into electronic music, discovering a world of musical possibilities, a kind of renewal. I fell in love with the late 90’s electro/techno music, listening mainly to techno/trans/hardcore with artists like “69 db” or “the Hacker”. One day I decided to try to create my own music on my computer. Soon I realised that I didn’t really have the musical know-how, but I had a lot of fun and kept practicing until it started to sound better. Infact what I was experiencing was an awakening in ways to tell a story, and


Joan Giner Photo portrait: Leslie Rosenzweig


Time Portal


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Time Portal

Time Portal

creating using digital technology really blew my

(VJ) scene and the new tools to create live visuals, and finally tell a story in a non-linear way. Since then I have been collaborating with other artists to create audiovisual shows and performances, trying to mix my passion for electronic music and my new knowledge of video.

mind at the time. In parallel, I went to an audiovisual school and learned how to create movies, while discovering the heritage of a century of filmmaking. I also discovered the video jockey


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Time Portal

After a few festivals and awards for my early works, I was part of the parisian VJ scene and we collectively decided to create ‘Vision’R festival’ in 2006. There was no scene for audiovisual performances at the time, so we decided to create one. For 10 years I was in charge of

programming and checking technical feasibility of 100’s of projects. I found the role fulfilling and it opened a large network of relationships, but most of all, it helped me understand where I wanted to go as an artist and I started creating video mapping installations.


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Another turning point in my career was my collaboration as light design assistant for senior artist Olivier Ratsi, who helped me greatly in my move from TV work to my complete migration into the art field. From that point I spent time creating my first installation concepts, searching for a line and

a purpose. And I came out with a series of augmented sculptures around the theme of water produced by french production agency Crossed Lab (www.crossedlab.org) and supported by CDA95 who provided me the space and technical support to create large scale installations.


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You are a versatile artist with notable digital skills and you also develop such a wide range of activities encompassing art and video directing, digital installations, stage design, motion design and light design: what does direct you to such stimulating multidisciplinary approach? In particular, how did you develop your attitude to experiment with new media? Joan Giner: As far back as I can remember, I have always been thirsty for knowledge, trying to understand the world. I really love to explore limits, my own personal ones for sure, but mostly external ones, physical boundaries and limitations people put upon themselves be it as individuals or in a group. Once I find an interesting topic, I try to push the barrier and eventually break it down, at least philosophically, searching for something behind common usages, wondering what it’s made of. As humans, one of our most important sense is sight, we use it to analyze the world around us. Unfortunately, human sight is pretty unreliable and can be easily cheated. Therefore, I started to develop projects based on optical effects and illusions, trying to figure out the limits of our perception. The thing is I’m interested in pretty much everything. That's what drove my career, there is no pre-established plan but rather encounters and opportunities for development and constant learning. The modern media art scene is quite new as well, there are few people who master all the techniques, therefore, without trying to master everything, I am simply curious of the new possibilities that can be explored with technology. Each project


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Light Fountain


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Light Fountain

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for me brings with it new techniques and knowledge that I can reuse later on. Artistically speaking, I refuse to set up limits other that the ones inherent to the technical choices. In my artwork, what matters the most is the message that I am sending out. With that in mind, I search for the best techniques and materials to tell the story. Experimentation is really the key to what I’m doing and even if the result is not always satisfying, it can be the trigger to something new. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape — and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our attention is the way it urges the viewers to go beyond the boundaries of ordinary perception, helping them to discover hidden connections with with our surrounding space: would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? In particular, do you think that there are any central ideas that marks out your work as an artist? Joan Giner: Overall, everything I create invites the viewers, whoever they are, wherever they come from, to slow down and immerse themselves into a form of introspection. The themes I use are universal and can be felt and understood by whoever - they are basically a natural phenomenon translated into the digital world. Let’s take my main theme “water” as an example, it is a universal vector of communication, everyone knows how a drop of water behaves. I therefore rely on a phenomenon known to all and I transcribe it into light and sound through an artistic device based on sculpture, projection and sound.


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What interests me in this approach is the questions it raises. What happens to our human perception when we hear the sound of a stream through technology? Is its representation enough to provoke the same relaxing feeling the original does? And finally, do we really need to live it in real life to experience it? Your works are sapiently structured in order to encourage the viewers to go on an inner journey, providing them with such an immersive, almost surrounding visual experience: what were you aesthetic and technical decisions in relationship to the exhibition space, in order to imparts Infinite Room such multilayered qualities? Joan Giner: Some pieces like Infinite Room or Caustic Ballet are directly inspired by my professional background as a videographer and my love for camera lenses and all related optical phenomenons. For Infinite Room, I had to disassemble an old video projector lens to get to know how a series of concave and convex lenses could work together, a kind of reverse engineering somehow. I ended up creating an illusion box based on the distortion of space through a lens. The idea here was to get rid of the constraints of physical space by creating an immersive feeling close to a VR experience, without the need to move at all. It shows a crossover between real life experience and the digital world, as our body doesn’t need to move for our brain to get a feeling of movement. The funny thing is that the box is 60x60cm, it is quite small, but as it creates a

queue, the exhibition space around needs to be taken into consideration. Caustic Ballet is my first attempt to create a sunken environment thanks to an optical phenomenon called a caustic. This is basically what happens when sunlight going through a glass produces an array of light strokes dancing on the table. It is also the kind of light you can see when diving. This phenomenon can be created using a source of light and almost any curved transparent material. Therefore I started thinking of a sculpture representing a kind of city landscape, made of transparent tubes, glittering with lights and spreading caustics all over the place. This medium size sculpture ends up filling a large size room with an overwhelming light sequence. With its stimulating Zen feeling, Light Fountain draws the viewers into such relaxing experience. At the same time, it challenges their perception of the surrounding space inviting them to get their own interpretation. Austrian Art historian Ernst Gombrich once remarked the importance of providing a space for the viewers to project onto, — through material connection with the work of art — so that they can actively participate in the creation of the illusion: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood? Joan Giner: My aim is to create a piece that can resonate with the viewer’s imagination and consequently open the way for introspection. Therefore, the space for personal interpretation is wide open. I create


Caustic Ballet


Caustic Ballet


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a framework so that people can slow down, take a break and eventually relax. The only thing I really impose is the design, surrounding, minimalistic and sober. That’s also the reason I work with such universal themes that can be understood by anyone. In my view, art shouldn’t need to be explained to be understood. It’s an experience that must be lived as such. It allows the viewer to appropriate the installation and to project onto it their own interpretations. Light Fountain has been designed to specifically trigger a relaxing feeling, it’s very much a matter of time and space, using a very large sculpture as a support for a sequence based on wait and suspense. The space is opened thanks to an advanced sound spatialization designed by sound designer Christophe Rault. This specific treatment gives the feeling that the sculpture is calling from its different parts, inviting the audience to move around while expecting the next move. I find very fascinating to walk around in the exhibition space and observe how a piece of work is received by the audience, what they perceive, feel, interpret, based on their personal story, background and experiences. Each person comes with their own reality, their own interpretations, and I really feel that the simplicity of my installations is provoking such appropriation. That’s the beauty of it. As a matter of fact, technology is taking on an ever-growing role in human experience: 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? In particular, as an artist particularly involved in the creation of immersive works, how will technology help artist to expand their chances to create a kind of involvement that will break the usual exhibition spaces' barriers? Joan Giner: I don’t really think that the role of artists has fundamentally changed in our modern world as there will always be a need for people to dream and artists are basically here to create spaces for it. However, what has changed is the context people live in. Technology - with new global communications - brought along new ways of consuming, whether it be goods, relationships or even art. Each day we are bombarded with a ton of information. Emails, social networks, push notifications, advertisements, it is difficult for a message to exist in this perpetual flow of information. I am convinced that what people remember are live experiences and emotions felt. This is where immersive works are making the difference, because all of a sudden, it is not just your sight which is solicited. This is a work to experiment, to feel deeply with potentially all your senses. As a result, the involvement of the viewer is inevitably different. They now become actors in the work by projecting themselves onto this virtual space. There is also a need for people to experiment technology without being always reduced to a simple consumer, or even worse, becoming the product itself. That’s also the reason why a part of my work


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is based on some sort of reverse engineering, it’s a way to refuse to be a simple user and just a consumer of technology, but rather become an actor of it, and finally show people how it can be used for a different purpose. I find it more interesting nowadays to create an immersive experience which is not collectable, not repeatable, but one that is highly instagrammable. The interest is to leave with something that is not tangible, not immediate, but which can resonate in the future. Another interesting work of yours that has particularly impressed us and that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled Time portal and it proposes a large scale facet sculpture similar to a gate. Through such stimulating harmonic contrast between the severe, monolithic, almost sharp geometries, we daresay that Time Portal aims to challenge the concept of time, inviting 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. When walking our readers through the genesis of Time portal , would tell us what does fascinated you of the concept of time? Joan Giner: Time and its subjective perception have always captivated me. What fascinates me the most is probably the relationship between the perception of time and technology. Indeed, I consider that our perception is influenced by our environment and the

technologies which we use. Our modern lifestyle imposes us a very intense rhythm (due to the relationship we have to our smartphone, our screen time, etc.). Generally speaking, everything goes faster and we are constantly pushed to go even quicker. We live in this instantaneity which I believe evokes a high level of stress in people. So here, I’m really trying to create a space and an atmosphere for people to slow down. A parenthesis out of time in a way. Even the genesis of Time Portal is interesting when you consider the time aspect. This project took 10 years to come to fruition, which is really unusual when it comes to my work. In 2012, I was working on something else when the graphic form of Time Portal appeared randomly in my software. It was a mistake, but from that day on, I knew I had to do something with it. It’s like the work asked to exist, kind of a “Back to the Future” feeling. Then time passed and 2020 came… Covid-19, lockdown, you know the story. In a time where we were only allowed to go outside only 1h per day, believe me I was very keen to go back in time and this Time Portal took on a whole new meaning for me. Time Portal is a door opened on time. To the past, to the future, to another dimension, wherever your mind and imagination brings you. It is an interpretation of a very popular theme in science fiction which if time travelling.


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Time Portal X Negotium - Daylight 2


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Data Cityscape

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We really appreciate your ability to create through such unique combination of traditional and digital techniques, triggering a dialog between apparently different disciplines: what does appeal you of Traditional techniques? In particular, especially on the aesthetic aspect, do you aim to create a bridge between Tradition and Contemporariness? Joan Giner: I guess what I like about Traditional techniques is the artisanal side, you know when things take time to be created and it’s not just instantaneous. I find beauty in that process, especially nowadays. In a way it carries a heritage that comes from our ancestors and I have a huge respect for that. In my work, I always try to use high-quality materials, worked with classical techniques. It’s always a dialogue between different materials, and the search for materials is always key in my creation process. I consider that the way the work is conceived is as important as the final result, because in the end, that’s part of its story. The reason technology (essentially light, sound and video projection) enters in the game is to enhance the sculpture. I like the fact that the sculpture can live during the day without any technological addition, like a traditional basrelief. Technology opens a floodgate of possibilities. I try to use it to give an illusion that the material is luminous. It brings this little magic, an impalpable side which sublimates the traditional medium of sculpture. This is where it opens a dialogue between what you see and what you feel. In the final rendering of the work, I try to keep the technology as hidden as possible. So I don't know if we can speak of a bridge as such between Tradition and Contemporariness.


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Kinetic Waves

Above all, I have the feeling that this mix defines me as a person. You know the extremely classic side, inherited from my Versailles culture and education and on the

other side my love for modern and geek culture. You are deeply rooted into electronic


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culture, and it's important to mention that you also plays music under the name Belüga: would you tell us something about this aspect of your artistic practice? In particular,

how do you consider the role of sound in your work as an artist? Joan Giner: Music was my very first step in


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the artistic world. I started to create with it. It has always been a source of fascination and inspiration for me. Music is still ever-present in my everyday life and I try to be the most openminded when it comes to the different styles of music (from electronic to classical - but still this bridge between tradition and modernity). Even through I love music, very quickly I found myself more attracted to images and graphism, which explains the shift in my art practise. That’s the reason why I mostly collaborate with other artists on the sound aspect. I also love this co-creation process where the other artist appropriates the work. It opens a dialog between the two of us bringing a new perception and a new sensibility and in the end, it challenges and feeds the work. If I think about the place of sound in my work, I would say that this is as important as light and animations. The sober and geometric aspect of my sculptures are softened by the sound. By adding a rhythm, a frequency, it gives life to the graphic form and depth to the overall work. It’s an indispensable part: without sound, there is no magic. You are an established artist and over the years your works have been showcased in many occasions: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Joan Giner: Audiences, whether online or


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Data Cityscape


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offline, are actually very different. Online, the reviews are much harsher. That's precisely what interests me, I strive for sincerity. It explains why I like going into the exhibition space incognito to observe how a piece of work is being received. It allows me to observe what happens and feed my thoughts to develop future pieces. Attracting an audience online, and especially on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/joan giner), represents a challenge because my works are pieces that need to be lived in the now. There is a real issue with the selected images, the post-processing, the retransmission of the experience which acts as a teaser. Online, I never give a complete version of a whole work. It's a way of pushing people to come. 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, Joan. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Joan Giner: I am actually working on a very large scale light installation called Data Cityscape. It is a data driven light installation designed for public areas like bridges, pedestrian streets and designated places. It’s a new step in my creative process because it involves a lot of new perspectives. For the first time I must work around an already existing space with its own architecture and design and I must try to figure

out the best way to highlight its volumes without breaking the original harmony. Data Cityscape is animated following the realtime datas of the city. The installation displays a gradient colour ramp evolving slowly when the city is asleep and fastesr at the rush hours. At anytime Data Cityscape offers a unique real time visualisation of the air quality and the traffic jam density. I really think that light in our modern cities should be more dynamic and moreover should be a common tool used to reveal the state of the city on a daily basis. Light is never static by definition, but neither is its natural sources. Be it the sunphase, a dancing flame or the strike of a lightning, all natural light sources are moving, therefore I feel that we should try to give some movement to our artificial urban lightings. The project has won a design award in China and will be premiered in Grenoble, France at Experimenta Festival in October. A few other cities in China and in France are studying the project, and I really hope that Data Cityscape will be implemented in many cities. An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


Data cityscape


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LandEscape meets

James Johnson-Perkins lives and works in the UK and China

James Johnson-Perkins is an acclaimed British award-winning artist whom currently lives and works in the UK and China. Johnson-Perkins has exhibited in leading venues in Asia, North America and Europe, Including: Toyota Museum of Modern Art, Toyota City, Japan, The Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts, Nanjing, China, The Arts Student League, New York, USA, Ars Electronica Centre, Linz, Austria, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow, Scotland and The National Centre for Contemporary Arts, Moscow, Russia. He Recently won the Mediterranean Contemporary Art Prize, President's Award and the Bath Open Prize, People's Choice Award. He was the Runner up for the Alpine Fellowship, Visual Arts Prize and he was an award winner for the Art Observatory Digital Art Program, Ukraine/UK. He was also a finalist for the 'Airland 4.0 | Nature, Technology, Energy' Competition and he was shortlisted for the Passpartout Photo Prize, Italy. In 2021 Johnson-Perkins was involved with two digital residencies at: The Belgrave Arts Studio, Serbia and Correlation Contemporary, Peru: and his work was also recently shown at: The Rotterdam Photo Festival, Holland, Florence Contemporary Gallery, Italy, Austral Festival Internacional de Performance Art de Buenos Aires, Argentina, The International Forum of Performance Art, Drama, Greece, at Ars Electronica with .ART Gallery x VR-All-Ar, Linz, Austria and at Boundaries, Bekarei Video Art Space, Berlin, Germany and he was also featured in BOSS Magazine, Beijing, China, Al-Tiba9 Online Contemporary Art Magazine, Barcelona, Spain and Aerogramme, New York, USA.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.johnson-perkins.co.uk in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production, and we would like to start this

interview with a couple of questions about your background. You have a particularly solid formal training: you graduated with a Master's Degree in Fine Arts from the Northumbria University and you later nurtured your education with a PhD, that you are currently pursuing at the Lancaster University. How did these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum



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Brightonian

due to living in China and in the United Kingdom address the direction of your current artistic research? James Johnson-Perkins: I studied in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at Northumbria University in the UK, during the 2000’s. This place had a great DIY ethic, that was much less influenced by money, than say London or New York and this period had a very influential effect on my ideals and ideas. During this time, I met with the late Gustav Metzger (Auto-Destructive Artist), and he turned me on to the Social and Political Art, and also at this time, I guess I clocked on to the fact, that there are many different ways

to make and think about Art that aren’t at all art-market centred. Also, in Newcastle I met Robin Klassnik (Matts Gallery), and I became interested in the idea of galleries as working/Installation spaces. The North-East at this time was an exciting and bright place to be, and In 2007, I had an Exhibition alongside one of the last standing Fluxus Artist’s Alison Knowles, at the legendary Waygood Gallery, and I also met with the extraordinary free-thinker, and Fluxus mega-brain Alan Bowman, and definitely, I think, all of these experiences and meetings with these creative kindred spirits were hugely influential. Consequently,


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with this particular Fluxus exhibition, it led to me to doing a series of Artist Residencies in Venice, at the Fluxus Gallery and Archive, The Emily Harvey Foundation, which ultimately became a kind of creative home and focal point in my development as an artist Since 2011, I have lived in different places, in Oman, Russia and now China, which are all places that have all also affected me and my art practice in various interesting ways. I have had some great experiences in China too, such as, when I worked with the Icelandic artist Sigurdur Gudmundsson’s (The Chinese European Art Centre) Gallery, and yes, more recently, I have been working

on my Creative Writing PHD at Lancaster University, and this has allowed me to explore ideas about Collaged Narratives, and during this in-depth study, I have created a series of short stories, based on this continued research and on my artwork as well. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape —and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our attention for their unique chromatic syntax, as well as for the way they challenge the viewers to elaborate personal interpretations. Would



Brightonian


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The Great Battle, detail

you tell us something about your usual setup? In particular, how important is intuition in your creative process? James Johnson-Perkins: I think Intuition is important, Yes, especially at the beginning of my process Here, I often think and muse, for a considerable time, on issues which are prescient to me, and suit various grand narrative e.g., Religion, Ethics etc… or will contemplate something societal or theoretical, and really, ultimately, I like to explore memories through a making process.

This process with the Gigapan works takes many years, and the things I add, are often instinctual and Intuitive as well. With some of these works, I have worked on them for ten years or more. Also, I would say, in the beginning these artworks also kind of present themselves to me, and also the landscapes themselves e.g., Times Square, New York or A View from the Rialto Bridge, Venice, present a particular starting point, that also brings with it, its own ideas.


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You often work with a large canvass, that provides your spectatorship with such an immersive visual experience: how do the dimensions of your pieces affect your workflow? James Johnson-Perkins: Yes, they are very huge and immersive pieces that’s true, and people will often spend half an hour or more looking at them, or longer, and I enjoy this fact very much. You know, we live in this fast information world now, with mobile phones etc. that's very transitory, and people often

only look at images for barely a few seconds. The Photographer Jamie House said regarding my work. ‘You're surrounded by a sea of images and they're fascinating, you know I can spend hours looking at one of your works and not fully understand them, because they have so many hundreds and thousands of characters.’ Also, everyone interprets and generates their own narratives from looking these works. We have really appreciated the way you draw inspiration from memories and


The Great Battle, detail



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The Great Battle, detail

personal experience to create works of art

and searches on various different topics, that

imbued with a unique narrative drive: how

relate to different themes, and they are

are they infused with your own experiences?

developed over a long-time frame. They often have a decade of collaged image decisions, so

They are infused with images from memories

it’s interesting that they encapsulate this time


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The Great Battle, detail

period as well. In my latest work the Raft of

course there are images sourced from the

the Brightonian, there are refugees here,

terrible events, right now, in the Ukraine.

collected over different periods of displaced people, due to war and tyranny, such as the

Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti once

conflicts in: Vietnam, Iraq, Syria…and now of

remarked that ''the object of art is not to



The Great Battle, exhibition


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The Assembly of the Gods

reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.'' Would you tell us something about the role of symbols and references to mainstream culture in order to achieve such brilliant results?

always enjoyed looking at the elongated haunted visions of Giacometti. I particularly love his drawings, and the energy generated by his frantic lines and his unique spatial awareness

James Johnson-Perkins: Thank you for saying that. The symbols and references in my work, relate to the themes of the different Gigatages themselves, e.g. There are religious objects scattered around The Assembly of the Gods, and there are 80’s Vinyl Records, 8-bit computers and children’s snacks flying around The Great Battle, which relate to nostalgia and memory. All of these works re-imagine a different type of reality I guess, that has its own epic intensity. I do like this Giacometti quote and it's interesting that you relate it to my work, as I have

The Assembly of The Gods is an extremely stimulating work that blurs the boundaries between such a wide variety of cultural heritages: how do references to mythology fuel your creative process? James Johnson-Perkins: Thanks again for your kind comments. In this work I am interested in a Taxonomy of Religiousness. In Goddesses and Gods from all times and places. So in the creation this work, I could be able to see many commonalities and differences between different areas and


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time periods, and this helped me to understand the visual history of this particular subject very well. What amazed me, is there are so many sacred images and hundreds and hundreds of different deities and many that I wasn’t always able to find images of. So, I guess each work is a miniresearch project in itself and I am learning about lots of different aspect about myself and these different topics and themes, that the works are about, and, I guess, this research is in itself a kind of fuel that drives this work along as well. We definitely love the way your works create visual links to history and reality, unveiling the connection ancient cultural heritage — with reminders of Géricault, Raphael and Canaletto — and references to

contemporary popular culture: how do you consider the relationship between Past and Present playing within your artistic research? In particular, do you aim to create a bridge between Tradition and Contemporariness? James Johnson-Perkins: Yes, I supposed this is exactly what I am trying to do. Both visually and now with storytelling and creative writing. To use an interesting metaphor, I’m trying to weave together many different aspects of a giant/vast Indra’s net. NOTE: In Hindu cosmology, "Indra's net" is used to describe the interconnectedness of the universe. Rich of references to different modern and historical figures in renowned sites and civic



The Assembly of the Gods, detail


The Assembly of the Gods, detail


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squares, your work has more than one story to tell, and we dare say that the works emerge from the context, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?

this question about my relationship with an audience is always an interesting one. I guess as an audience member too, I am mostly interested in art that: provokes, excites and engages. So, these are the same responses I would like from the audiences of my work as well, but also, primarily with my work I’m also very interested in triggering memories and creating nostalgic reactions in audiences.

James Johnson-Perkins: I would like my works to be understood, exactly as different personal interpretations around shared grand themes. I think as an artist we can only control interpretation so much, such as, in my case I can control things like the themes and the places I work with. By the way, It was interesting when I began to show my work in China, because these works mean something different in a Chinese context compared let’s say to a UK one, because so many of the references I use come from a UK persons memory, Therefore, in say The Great Battle, the Chinese audiences didn’t understand all the references as I did/do. So meaning is often culturally specific as well.

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, James. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?

You are an acclaimed and award-winning artist, and we would like to invite our readers to follow your Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jjpartist. Over the years you have exhibited in leading venues in Asia, North America and Europe, including your participation to the prestigious Venice Biennale: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? James Johnson-Perkins: Yes, I have developed an international reputation, and

James Johnson-Perkins: Sure, there are a few exhibitions that I am currently involved with. One with Tsinghua University, Beijing at the Sky Art Centre, Qingdao, China, and I am in a video show at The Czong Institute of Contemporary Art (CICA), in South Korea. I was also recently showing at the XL Edition of the Rotterdam Photo Festival, Holland. As well as this, I have started to become interested in Virtual Reality and so I have been made a series of VR galleries, which you can experience on my website, and I also have a series of LEGO ROBOT NFT’s coming out which will be available to buy soon.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Shanna Merola The images in We All Live Downwind are culled from daily headlines – inspired by global and grassroots struggles against the forces of privatization in the face of disaster capitalism. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein writes about the free market driven exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries saying, “the original disaster— the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane — puts the entire population into a state of collective shock”. The scenes in We All Live Downwind, have been carved out of dystopian landscapes in the aftermath of these events. On the surface, rubble hints at layers of oil and shale, cracked and bubbling from the earth below. Rising from another mound, rows of empty mobile homes bake beneath the summer sun. The bust of small towns left dry in the aftermath of supply and demand. In this place, only fragments of people remain, their mechanical gestures left tending to the chaos on auto. Reduced to survival, their struggle against an increasingly hostile environment goes unnoticed. Beyond the upheaval of production a bending highway promises never ending expansion - and that low rumble you hear to the west is getting louder.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Shanna and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production and we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.shannamerola.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 background. You have a solid formal training and after having earned your BFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University you nurtured your education with a MFA of Photography, that you received from the Cranbrook Academy of Art: how do these formative years influence your

evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cultural substratum due to your work as a photojournalist address the direction of your current artistic research? Shanna Merola: Initially, like many photographers, I fell in love with the medium through the chemistry and materiality of the darkroom. Then, while I was enrolled in an undergraduate program, the digital revolution began and within a few years darkrooms started shutting down. Materials for analogue processes became more expensive and harder to find. I embraced digital photography for its convenience but always missed working with my hands. So, in part, I started making sculptural photo collages to bridge the



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divide between old and new processes, which satisfies my need to get out from behind a computer and into the studio. The assemblages I’m making now also challenge me to find ways of combining the photographic genres I am most connected to– landscape, photodocumentary, and constructed tableau. My research in the field as a photojournalist and legal worker have also had a profound impact on the trajectory of my art practice. Back in 2013, I began working for the National Lawyers Guild, one of the oldest networks of human rights activists working within the U.S. legal system. As the Legal Observer Coordinator for the Detroit NLG, I was trained to document and collect evidence of police misconduct at demonstrations. The work introduced me to nearly every cause in the fight for social justice throughout the region – from education, labor, and housing equality to the deeply embattled struggle over water rights in Detroit and Flint, MI. During this same time an Emergency Manager was appointed who stripped residents of their voting rights and halted democracy for the entire local government. This calculated neoliberal restructuring of Detroit came on the heels of a racially predatory foreclosure crisis and ushered in a wave of shock doctrine austerity measures – effecting public resources as basic as clean affordable water. Looking to New Orleans as a harbinger of what was to come, the effects of disaster capitalism on the city became known as “a hurricane without water”. For this special edition of LandEscape we have selected We All Live Downwind, a stimulating project inspired by global and grassroots struggles against the forces of privatization in the face of disaster capitalism. What has at once captured our attention of your project is the way it goes beyond the expressive boundaries that mark out artists as Thomas Hirschhorn and Leon Golub to develop such unique materic visual language that invites your audience not only to deliver a report on reality, but to look at what's


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Uranium, from the series We All Live Downwind, 2017


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Benzene (C6H6), from the series We All Live Downwind, 2017


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behind such topical issues. When walking our readers through the genesis of We All Live Downwind, would you tell us something about your usual setup and process? Shanna Merola: Absolutely, and readers can view the complete artist statement on my website but I’d like to offer a quick overview of my narrative approach and technical process as well. Pulling from surrealist tropes and sci-fi narratives, We All Live Downwind presents a somewhat distant future where any semblance of the EPA collapses and big oil wins. Regulations all but disappear and unfettered free market capitalism becomes the rule of law. In the aftermath of full-scale ecological disaster, the fractured earth and its inhabitants are learning to adapt, mutate, and survive. The technical process for each piece begins with a visual databank. This archive of source images - a combination of photos I’ve taken myself and others appropriated from the internet - are printed, hand cut, assembled into sculptures, and re-photographed. In this final step I return the photographic sculptures back to their original, two-dimensional form. Conceptually the images were driven by conversations with grassroots organizers working on the frontlines of water rights and environmental justice issues. I also pulled inspiration from books like Naomi Kline’s “The Shock Doctrine”, and Christian Parenti’s “Tropic of Chaos”. The firsthand accounts and stories that emerged from these books aligned with what I was seeing play out around Detroit, and in other economically under-resourced, rust-belt cities. Southeast Michigan, for example, has become a dumping ground for corporations looking to cheaply store and dispose of hazardous waste, often in the backyards of low income and BIPOC communities. From uncovered petcock piles to expanding oil refineries – residents find themselves teetering on the brink of environmental catastrophe with little to no help from state run regulatory agencies. With their unique essential quality on the visual aspect, your works seem to be laboriously structured



Polychlorinated Biphenyl, from the series We All Live Downwind, 2017


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to pursue such effective and at the same time thoughtful visual impact: how important is intuition for you? Shanna Merola: The time I spend researching, travelling, and documenting all have to be fairly planned out with not a lot of room for experimentation and play. By the time I get into my studio it can be challenging to break out of this analytic space to tap into the intuitive or subconscious aspects of artmaking that I find necessary and very exciting. The times I am able to work intuitively in the studio are ultimately when I make my best work. I can think of specific pieces, for example, where everything I had previsualized fell apart and unexpected compositions came together instead. So, I think your question hits on a critical issue for me and other artists I’ve spoken with on this subject, where it’s time to get out of your head and let the process take over. Your artistic practice is deeply engaged with sociio political commentary and the need to raise social awareness about a variety of themes, including environmental issues, capitalism and the relationship between ecosystems, the human body. Artists from different art movement and eras — from pioneer Richard Morris, passing through Thomas Light and Andy Goldsworthy, to more recently Kelly Richardson— use to communicate more or less explicit messages in their artworks: do you think that artists can raise awareness to an evergrowing audience on topical issues that affect our everchanging society? In particular, as an how do you consider the role of artists in our globalised and unstable society? Shanna Merola: Just like community scientists, medics, or lawyers as artists we can use our skills in service of social justice movements by supporting work that is already being done on the ground. There are several artists in the realm of social practice whose work I admire in this respect – Mel Chin and Jackie Sumell immediately come to mind. Then there are artists who use their platform, not just to raise awareness but to break down and shift conversations on


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Methane, from the series We All Live Downwind, 2018


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Calcined Petroleum Coke, from the series We All Live Downwind, 2018


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complicated issues around globalization like Sheida Soleimani or Alfredo Jaar. Going a step further the work will often, additionally confront problematic ways that the media or art world uphold systems of oppression, raising complicated questions about the complicity of artists in the process. Through such sapiently evocative and symbolically charged images, We All Live Downwind establishes direct relations with the viewers on the emotional and intellectual aspect. How would you consider the role of symbols — more especially references to fragments from human body — playing within your artistic process, in order to create such powerful allegories? Shanna Merola: With regard to fragmentation and the human body, I was thinking a lot about automation, assembly lines, emergency waiting rooms, and the spaces that are set up for temporary disaster relief. Modes of inhabiting the world and spaces we encounter that set us apart from our humanity through the failed bureaucracy of failing systems. Under capitalism everything is commodified. In the United States, public assistance programs and welfare have been chipped away to nothing since the 1970’s. Without safety nets and regulations in place, federally funded programs for disaster relief become private entrepreneurial endeavors. Toxic waste management, which has also been privatized, becomes a lucrative industry creating incentives for companies to produce more toxic product. I’m interested in how all of these systems create an antagonistic relationship between labor, bodies, and the earth. In We All Live Downwind, this plays out through chaotic and violent scenes which reference disaster, the extraction of resources, and bodies for exchange in the global market. How important is for you to offer to your audience unambiguous interpretations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?



Chlorobenzene, from the series Love Canal, 2021


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Trichloroethene, from the series Love Canal, 2021

Hexachlorocyclohexane, from the series Love Canal, 2021

Shanna Merola: I think it’s important for the work to have different access points, and hope there are enough references for a wide audience to connect. There is also imagery that I’ve tried to work with over the years that is just so coded it doesn’t allow for people to enter.. when I run into this problem I’ll try to find an alternative. Ultimately, I want the work to be generous but not heavy handed. It can be a difficult balance to strike, but I do really enjoy the process of trying to create a visual language that speaks to people on different levels.

are marked out with unconventional aesthetics and unique dystopian atmosphere, able to create multilayered involvement in the viewers. As a visual artist whose work is mainly focussed on real images, how do you consider the relationship between reality and imagination playing within your process? Are you particularly interested in arousing emotions that goes beyond the realm of reality?

Your works — more specifically Nuclear Winter —

Shanna Merola: I do think about how certain images can resonate with us on a deep, phycological and sometimes subconscious level.


Methylene Chloride (CH2Cl2) , from Love Canal, 2021



Hydrogen Cyanide, from the series Love Canal, 2021


Installation from the exhibition Swan Song (forthcoming 2022)


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Strontium-90, from the series Nuclear Winter, 2019

And I tried to tap into that with Nuclear Winter for several reasons. When thinking about how to approach the legacy of nuclear war and nuclear energy, the obvious symbol that comes to mind is

the mushroom cloud. Today, the billowing clouds of smoke and bright blasts of light are iconic, but at the time that Trinity was detonated it was unique in that it had no visual referent or




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An Invisible Yet Highly Energetic Form of Light, from the series Nuclear Winter, 2019

equivalence. Potentially life altering events at that scale had always been a part of life but belonged to the natural world. Reading accounts from this era, the initial nuclear testing experiments were almost exclusively referred to as dreamlike, surreal, or likened to acts of god and nature

(hurricanes, tornados, etc.). This phenomenon, often referred to as the atomic sublime, was encouraged by the United States government and Manhattan Project who wanted to avert attention from the horrifying aftermath of Hiroshima, as well as the nuclear colonization of the Marshall Islands.


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Downwind, I try to bring lesser known or invisible facts to the foreground. I incorporate imagery of radioactive materials, prosthetics, worker related injuries, funeral adornments, and brutalist architecture as a symbol of Cold War anxiety. A disembodied set of teeth appear in one photograph, referencing Strontium-90, a cancer-causing radioactive isotope produced by nuclear fission. Over the past few decades comprehensive studies of baby teeth have exposed dangerous levels of this element in children who grow up in the shadow of nuclear power plants. In a controversial quote, German photographer Thomas Ruff stated that ''nowadays you don't have to paint to be an artist: you can photography in a realistic way". Provocatively, the German photographer highlighted the short circuit between the act of looking and that of thinking critically about images: how do you consider the role of photography in our contemporary age, constantly saturated by ubiquitous images? Shanna Merola: It’s true that, on the one hand, image saturated culture can be overwhelming and even damaging – leading people to feel desensitized or unsure of what to trust. But I think that’s partly why this is such an exciting time to be working with images.. contemporary photographers are using the camera to address power dynamics and representation by questioning the entire framework of the medium. Since its inception, the camera has played a role in surveillance, ethnography, colonization, and other forms of racialized violence. Today, artists are re-claiming the medium to work in service of liberation instead. And they are doing this in ways that speak very specifically to the conditions of frontline communities while also having a broader critique of photographic legacies. The casualties who suffer most at the hands of the nuclear industry throughout history have often been the most disenfranchised – uranium miners, test site veterans, victims of war, and of course, victims of nuclear reactor meltdowns. Similar to my methodology in We All Live

You are an awarded artist and over the years you have exhibited in many occasions, including your recent solo We All Live Downwind, at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art, in South Korea. How do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? By the way, as the move of Art from


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traditional gallery spaces to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Shanna Merola: Thank you, it was a huge honor, and I had a wonderful experience showing work at the Czong Institute for Contemporary Art in South Korea. The institution is pushing boundaries and opening up spaces for some incredibly exciting, emerging artists while connecting art practices around the globe. I’ve been fortunate to show in a few other spaces internationally and value this experience, mostly for what it teaches me. My work is often hyperlocal, fixating on the stories of how landscapes and communities are destroyed by industrialization and free market bust and boom economies. When showing work outside of the United States I realize that some of the nuances may get lost through a different cultural lens. Unfortunately, however, because of globalization ecological crisis has afflicted nearly every corner of the world. For this reason, major themes in We All Live Downwind (like climate change for example), seem to register with audiences across borders. With regard to social media platforms, I’ve discovered some of my favorite new artists nationally and internationally on Instagram. I talk with my students about what a powerful tool it can be for self-promotion but am embarrassed to say I don’t utilize it enough for myself! That’s a goal of mine this year, with several museum shows coming up that I’m excited about so expect more to come: https://www.instagram.com/shannamerola 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, Shanna. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future?


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from the exhibition Swan Song


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Radium[Rn] 7s2, from the series Nuclear Winter, 2019


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Shanna Merola: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit with my photographs and allowing space for some of these new images as well. I want to leave off with my recent series which examines the first United States designated EPA superfund site. Nestled just outside of Niagara Falls in western NY, Love Canal was a sleepy, suburban working-class town. But that would change in 1979, when national news media began reporting the story of leaking dioxin containers buried just below the asphalt. The residents of Love Canal had unknowingly been poisoned. A few decades earlier in the 1950’s, a chemical company dumped thousands of gallons of toxins underground and sold that parcel of land to the Niagara Falls school board for just one dollar. 10 – 15 years later, the mothers of Love Canal began experiencing abnormally high rates of miscarriages and birth defects. Today, wildlife like mullein and milkweed thrive despite elevated toxicity levels that remain everpresent within the landscape. Driveways to nowhere, broken streetlights, and decommissioned fire hydrants mark the empty streets adjacent to a fenced off piece of land where the 99�� Street School used to sit. But, in and around the containment zone, are the stories of mothers who fought for the right to a safe and healthy environment. The broader themes in this photocollage series explore adaptation, toxicity, reproduction, mutation, and survival - with a focus on the interconnectedness of our fragile ecosystem and the human body. Images from the series Love Canal will be included in three major exhibitions in the coming year, at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, MI, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, MI and at TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image in Philadelphia, PA.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com


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LandEscape meets

Lola Awada Lola is a multi-disciplinary artist creating across different media, including painting, sculpture, photography and photomontages, as such, her work is quite varied. She has always perceived visual arts like music: a magical therapeutic tool, a universal mode of communication that does not require any form of translation whatsoever. Nature and the interconnectedness of everything in and with nature are her deepest inspiration. Music is another major inspiration of hers and the music she listens to when she creates becomes a part of the artwork. She likes to call it “the secret ingredient” in her work. Many of the visuals she creates were born within a specific song or melody. ​ Her work simultaneously straddles nature, humanity, spirituality, magic, fantasy and what she refers to as "harsh realities" but because she is a firm believer in Dostoyevsky's saying that "beauty will save the world," she always aims to create a visually appealing final result. Her hope is that anyone who looks at her work will feel a rush of positive energy and an awakening of their sense of wonder. She does not seek to shock; she seeks to soothe. Even when working on several projects simultaneously, there is almost always a "meeting point" between the various projects she works on, as if each was somehow an essential part of the other and as if these various projects were different parts of a same "whole." She currently has several projects going on, including an (almost completed) art installation titled (for the moment)“Treepalace Garden of Peace and Energy”which consists of several small sculptures and many other elements. This Treepalace Garden is meant to represent a haven of tranquillity in which to recharge and reconnect with oneself and the world around us, in an attempt to approach what is referred to as “inner peace”and which she personally feels is a first step everyone should take if we are ever to attain World Peace.

An interview by Josh Ryder, curator and Melissa C. Hilborn, curator landescape@europe.com

Hello Lola and welcome to LandEscape. Before starting to elaborate about your artistic production, we would like to invite our readers to visit https://www.lolaawada.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 background. You have a solid formal training: you first studied Photography at Kensington & Chelsea College, then at Kingsway College in London and a few years later you completed a BA in Graphic Design and Illustration at the London College of



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Communication (University of the Arts London): how do these formative years influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does your cross cultural substratum — due to your Lebanese roots and your current life in the United Kingdom —address the direction of your current artistic research? Lola Awada: First of all, thank you very much for featuring my work and this interview in your magazine. I am very grateful for this. To answer your questions very honestly, my formal training had next to no influence on my evolution as an artist. It goes without saying that it enriched my general knowledge and introduced new concepts I was not previously familiar with, but it did not have any major or lasting effects on either my artistic evolution or vision. I was already selftaught both in photography and illustration before I enrolled on either course and it was mostly to obtain some official qualifications, in the hope that they would open doors for me in my fields of interest. I would just like to add that I had a couple of tutors at Kingsway College and another two at LCC who were very helpful and encouraging and I am very thankful for that. It was and has always been personal experiences, beliefs and ideas that shaped my artistic path. Growing up across different countries from the age of 3 (my native Lebanon, France, but also Italy when I was very young) definitely played a huge part in how I perceived the world and the people around me and in shaping me as a person. We also happened to often have visitors from different countries in my parents’ house and my mother was born and grew up in Senegal until the age of 21, so I was always exposed to different cultures from birth and this unknowingly enriched my life and my notion


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of love immensely. This naturally played and still plays a very large part in the direction that my work takes and my love of different cultures is one that has never gone away. Living in London greatly enhanced this feeling as you meet people from places you didn’t even know existed in this city. I have friends from so many different parts of the world, so many different cultures and backgrounds and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having said this, one of the main things that affected and still affects my artistic work, which is also one of two major reasons that led me to express myself through art was the Lebanese war. Any child growing up in a wartorn country will be affected by this experience for life. It will play a massive part in shaping who they are and how they observe, sense and perceive the world around them, and will also have a catastrophic effect on their sense of safety, security and stability, and should they have to leave their country to escape the war, whether once or repeatedly, it will also play havoc with their sense of identity. I was three when the war started. I was extremely lucky not to lose any of my close relatives or friends to the beast of war, but it definitely messed me up in more than one way and there is no doubt that most of my work still draws in one way or another from that experience, trying both to make sense of the mess and expose how lastingly harmful and nonsensical it is, on any scale, from the tiniest to the “giantest”. The body of works that we have selected for this special edition of LandEscape —and that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article — has at once captured our attention for the way it captures the interconnectedness of everything to highlight the relationship between harsh realities and the spiritual dimension. When walking our readers through




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your usual setup and process, would you tell us how do you develop your initial ideas? Lola Awada: To be honest, the seeds of my ideas could literally come from anywhere. Most of my work was born from a spontaneous idea or feeling. It could be a sentence in a book, a specific melody, something I saw on the street, in the woods, in a movie or something that someone said or did. It really could be anything. I often have sudden ideas when walking or in the middle of the night when I’m trying to fall asleep, so I usually sketch something very quickly, either in a sketchbook if I have one nearby or on anything, a piece of paper, a wrapper, even toilet paper, so I can work on it later. Sometimes years later! I don’t really have a method with which I develop my ideas. Some of them come fully formed and a single sketch is enough for me, because the image is in my head and so the process is more intuitive than anything else. Sometimes, it’s very clear to me which mediums, materials and colours I should use, and sometimes I really need to experiment quite a bit before the final piece “feels just right”. Of course, it’s different when it’s commission work as most of the time, you are given an idea, a concept, a story or a poem to work with and so, the seeds are handed to you but you decide which shape to make them bloom into. But even so, the process of developing the idea visually is similar, because whenever I am offered a commission, I always ask to hear the full idea, or read the full book or poem before I accept anything, because if the subject I have to illustrate doesn’t touch my heart, I am totally incapable of creating anything even remotely decent. Some works of yours — more specifically I dream — are conceived as responses to

personal experience: how do your memories and your everyday life's experience fuel your creative process? Lola Awada: It’s difficult to know where the creative process begins and everyday life or experience ends, if that makes sense. I feel


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them as intertwined and always have. I don’t differentiate between my art and my life; they are the same thing. My entire life is the fuel of my creative process, as is everything around me. You could say that I am always on fire, heeheehee!

Personal experiences and how we process them is what shapes us as individuals, whether we like to admit it or not and I believe that every personal experience leaves a trace, a sort of inner tattoo in you that is indelible and becomes a part of who you are, for better or for worse, and that it will express itself in some


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shape or other through at least some of your art. As for memories, I prefer to leave the past where it belongs, in the past. Although a lot of my work is concerned with things that happened in my past, such as the war, it’s not

the actual memory I focus on, it’s the residues it left behind. I try to use that residue like compost, to feed another idea that is already in bloom. I like to draw lessons from painful experiences, not dwell on them. I like to turn them into something so beautiful that should I be made to think about them again, I will only


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you consider the role of artists in our unstable contemporary society? Lola Awada: I think, firstly, that this question needs an entire essay to be answered properly : ), but I will briefly say that I think artists can play a very important role in today’s society and in any society. Most artists tend to think differently and most artists keep their inner child fully alive and nothing gives you more courage, vitality and creativity than your inner child, because it’s what keeps your vision fresh and your perception of things acute. It also makes you unafraid and quite shameless Lol! Because of that, artists can find ways to communicate a same message in a multitude of ways that is more engaging, more interesting, fun and palatable for an audience. Some artists are very influential and what they communicate in their work can reach large audiences and have reverberations.

see the parts that today make my life richer, happier, more colourful. As you have remarked once, your hope is to communicate a rush of positive energy and an awakening of their sense of wonder: how do

On another, just as important level, I think that the role of art and creativity in general in today’s society is really important because it’s a space to unwind, to play, to not pretend and to reconnect with your senses. I am referring to an extremely wide spectrum here, from musicians, visual artists, performance artists, martial artists, architects etc, but also the creative process itself. Just using your hands to create something has an appeasing and calming effect, which everyone in today’s society can only benefit from. When our mind is at rest, in a quiet space, it helps to clarify our thoughts, calm our hearts; it has a healing effect. I think we need to encourage the use of and exposure to creativity more and more. In today’s “modern” societies, we are bombarded with information that never gives our minds and hearts time to rest; most people seem to be in an eternal race to reach some unattainable goal because it seems that nothing is ever enough, there is so much





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pressure coming from everywhere: education, work, family, finances, expectations others have of us, expectations we have of ourselves, etc,

which eventually affects many people’s health, self-esteem and general sense of wellbeing. Art offers a form of respite from all that, whether


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we practice it, hear it or look at it. You are a versatile artist and your practice encompasses painting, sculpture, photography and photomontages, allowing you to create artworks rich of allegorical qualities: what does direct you to such multidisciplinary approach? In particular, are there any experiences that did particularly help you to develop your attitude to experiment? Lola Awada: I think the very first time I began using multimedia was when I was studying photography and we had a project called “selfportrait.” I didn’t want to take pictures of myself because I thought that my body was just a shell and no matter how well I photographed it, it would not really show who I was. So I decided to create little sets, or you could call them mini installations, that represented some of the things I felt I was inside. I would create those sets with a mixture of fabrics, cardboard, paper, tree branches, leaves, berries, twigs, flowers, mirrors, beads and an entire array of other things and then photograph them with dramatic lighting to create a final image. I loved the process and result so much, that it’s something I often returned to in other projects, such as “The Wingmaker” and “I dream”. It really depends a lot on what I’m trying to convey or how an idea comes to me. Some ideas come clearly as drawings or paintings, others feel more like they need to have some 3D element or be totally 3D, so either a sculpture or installation. I really think that each medium expresses something very different. Perhaps if I were a very good painter, which I’m not, and could give life to an image with paint only, I would; perhaps. But I like mixing different textures, I find there is something more “real” and sensual to a 3D piece and I totally love the process of creating 3D work, because I will literally use anything that might work and yes, I


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experiment a lot. Sometimes the result is wonderful, sometimes disastrous! I like the sense of freedom that mixing media gives you and it might sound a little silly but I find it somehow symbolises the world we live in and its gloriously beautiful diversity. The tones of your works — be they intense and bright as in Protective sky over River of Light, Sonatas and Nocturnes in G, be they marked out with such thoughtful, almost meditative ambiance, as in Creamy Skies over the Atacama desert — create delicate tension and dynamics: how does your own psychological make-up determine the nuances of tones that you decide to include in your works? In particular, what role does play intuition in the composition of your pallette? Lola Awada: Intuition totally leads my palette and my entire life. I have always followed my intuition and my feelings in most situations in my life and the same goes for the work I create. My own psychological and emotional make-up almost entirely determines the tones, atmospheres and nuances I will use. I am a hopelessly passionate, romantic and optimistic person and I think this shows in the tones and the lighting that I use. It really is almost like magic how colours and tones somehow choose themselves. Having said this, it’s not the case every single time and I do get stuck sometimes and have to try several tones/ways before I find the one that “feels” right. You often draw inspiration from real situations to create works able to convey messages, Still, you are a firm believer in Dostoyevsky's saying that "beauty will save the world,": how do you consider the role of aesthetics playing within your creative process? Is particular important for you to create work of art able to establish immediate appeal with the viewers?




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Lola Awada: Aesthetics are entirely vital to my creative process and yes, absolutely, I aim to create work that will immediately draw viewers’ attention and make them want to look closer and longer and take some sort of joy in the artwork, like a little visual journey that takes them to a place of rest. I look for a harmonious final outcome, the artwork does need to look beautiful, attractive, honey on the heart and in the eyes, even if the subject is gruesome. I have not the slightest idea if there is any scientific basis to it, but I know from personal experience that if I look at something beautiful, it creates a nice sensation in me, it makes me happy, it makes me feel good, it improves my day, my mood, my outlook on things. It has the same effect as a smile, a hug, a kind word. In other words, it does something positive and I’m pretty sure the same goes for most people, if not all. This is why it is very important for me that my work should have this quality, that it should be harmonious, melodious, balanced, pleasurable to the eye, soothing on the heart. This is what I understand by “Beauty will save the world”, the beauty is in the positive feeling created. In a wider sense, it is tenderness, kindness, tolerance, gentleness, softness, as opposed to violence, brutality, fundamentalism, hatred… We definitely love the way your works highlight the uniqueness of the viewers' response, walking them through such multilayered visual experience. We dare say that your work has more than one story to tell, and as you have remarked once the works emerge from the context, providing the spectatorship with freedom to realize their own perception: how important is for you to trigger the viewers' imagination in order to address them to elaborate personal interpretations? In particular, how open would you like your works to be understood?


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Lola Awada: As long as my works create a positive sensation in viewers, they can let their imaginations run wild, that is totally fine by me and all I hope for is that they enjoy the journey it takes them on, wherever that might be. Once an artwork is completed, it is in many ways no longer mine. It has a life of its own and in most cases, different people will project their own personalities and experiences into its interpretation and that is perfectly fine. I put my heart and soul into anything I create and there is a part of me in all of my work and although everyone might see something different, there is a basic essence I place in every artwork that I only wish every viewer can feel the emanation of. Music is the secret ingredient in your work and as many visual that you create are inspired by specific song or melody: such stimulating synergy is reflected by the title Sonatas and Nocturnes in G. Would you tell us something about such important aspect of your artistic process? Lola Awada: Music is the most perfect, allencompassing form of art for me, because in my view, it contains all others. Music touches the senses like no other form of art possibly could and I think I would not be alive were it not for the solace of music. In my case, and I’m sure in many other people’s cases, it creates an infinite sequence of images in my mind and it ignites my creativity and inspiration in ways I am unable to express verbally. I fell in love with music as a child and throughout my entire life, it has been the place I went to when I needed solace, that’s why I call it my shelter. During the Lebanese war, especially during my early teens, music was what saved me from going insane and helped to keep me feeling hopeful and alive.




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Although I am not a musician myself (long story), music is what restores me, recharges me and is like the purest, freshest of waters running through my system when I listen to it. It makes happy. Although there are times when I prefer silence to create some work, the vast majority of my work was created in a melody or a song. I can sometimes be really crazy and listen to the same song on loop for hours on end if I feel like there is something in it that will “guide” my hand while creating. For instance, for “I dream – part 2”, I was listening to Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) song “Nocturne” (夜曲) almost incessantly throughout the (long) creative process, especially when I had the whole scene set up and ready to be photographed. It's important to mention that you collaborated for a year with Chinese artist XiangKuan Zhu (朱相宽) on your project “Love: a different perspective". It's no doubt that interdisciplinary collaborations as the one that you have established over the years are today ever growing forces in Contemporary Art and that the most exciting things happen when creative minds from different fields meet and collaborate on a project: could you tell us something about the collaborative nature of your work? Lola Awada: XiangKuan and I began collaborating together as part of larger collaborative project called “Ctrl+” which brings together 50 Chinese artists and 50 foreign artists and was organised by the curator Yu Gao. The nature of the collaboration was entirely open and experimental. There were no expectations as such other than creative minds exchanging thoughts and ideas. XiangKuan is considerably younger than I am and his artistic practice is totally different from mine, so we spent the first few months getting to know each other


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as people and as artists, exchanging personal stories, creative ideas, images and trying to find a theme to collaborate on. We overturned many before settling on “Love: a different perspective / ”. This happened quite naturally as we realised that despite, or rather because of the many differences between us, we had managed to find many common grounds in the most harmonious, enjoyable and mutually beneficial of ways, or, to quote from the current artist statement for our project, it was “a sort of continuation to not only overcome our differences but to weave them into something complete and in tune in its divisiveness. To find a way to live together in harmony and reflect the tolerance of Great Love, in contrast to the post-epidemic era so replete with confrontations and to all the conflicts in the world. The way we chose to do that is twofold: first, we merged photographs from our respective countries in such a way that the viewer could not tell, without being specifically told, that there were two different countries in one image. Second, we merged some of our own respective artworks together, to find balance in our different viewpoints and creative styles.” You are an established artist and your works have been exhibited in many occasions, including your recent participation to Arts Crafts Spring Showcase at Artsdepot, London: how do you consider the nature of your relationship with your audience? As the move of Art from traditional gallery spaces, to street and especially to online platforms — as Instagram — increases, how would in your opinion change the relationship with a globalised audience? Lola Awada: Well, naturally the last couple of years have been very strange because of Covid and everything moving online. I much much


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muuuch prefer traditional spaces and interacting with people face to face, but I was and still am thankful for the possibility to interact digitally when doing so physically is not possible. It helped to keep people connected during the lockdown and beyond borders and that is something to be thankful for, for sure. I have Instagam (https://www.instagram.com/librelola) and facebook accounts but I am not good at all at promoting myself because I’d much rather be creating new work and so I have periods of time when I will barely post anything. A lot of my

audience does reach me through digital platforms and the beauty of this is that they come from all parts of the world, so in that sense, while I feel that nothing can quite replace the buzz and feel of traditional galleries, digital platforms allow artists to reach a much larger and much more diverse audience. That can only be a good thing, in my opinion. 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


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sharing your thoughts, Lola. What projects are you currently working on, and what are some of the ideas that you hope to explore in the future? Lola Awada: I am currently working on the other parts of “I dream” and still actively collaborating with XiangKuan to create more images for “Love: a different perspective”. I am also working on a number of individual paintings and illustrations and although I have completed all the elements needed for my art installation “Treepalace garden of peace and energy”, I have as yet to set it all up and photograph it properly.

As for future ideas, I have too many… I have several sketchbooks full of sketches for single images and project ideas I would like to develop. One of them is a set of certain images that flashed in my mind during a number of special meditation sessions I did with a friend of mine. Another is a series of tree sculptures for another installation that is still only at its conceptual change, but my hands are itching to start working on it. Thank you again for featuring my work in LandEscape : )