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CONTENTS

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03 | NAZ SHAHROKH

14 | ANNA GARNER

23 | NICOLAS VIONNET

31 | KIRSTEN STOLLE

COVER | ANNA GARNER

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NAZ SHAHROKH

Who are you and what do you do? A mother, a visual artist and an educator who lives in Abu Dhabi, UAE. In my studio practice, I am currently concentrating on land art, photography, video and sculptural objects. You have travelled and lived in many different places and had the chance to experience many cultures. How has this influenced your artistic research? My studio practice is an extension of my life. Everything that I express in my work is an extension of this reality, both past and present. I weave in my work a conversation subjective of my experiences from the immediate (physical reality) as well as what is in my psyche which is infinite You wrote: ‘’Landscape and nature act as important sources of inspiration throughout my work’’. Could you tell us about this aspect of your work, to create objects that are in harmony with the natural environment? Is there a process or ritual you go through before you begin creating? And if so, what is it? Process is essential. As I work full-time

as a faculty member, I am not able to concentrate on my studio practice solely. I collect various materials daily, and continue submerging myself in thinking about the work(s) when possible, so that I am able to express into form at a later time. For example, in the act of “recycling”, I collect daily my papers and compile them nicely into piles, or I collect objects that are significant to me that day. My work is labor intensive, and I need blocks of uninterrupted time to complete a project. Sometimes the process of collection takes on years prior to the work being completed. In addition, I tend to multi-task and work on several projects simultaneously. In conjunction to nature and landscape I am at my best when surrounded by nature. This can be the beauty found in the arid desert, or the ocean, or the landscapes during my travels. I attempt to make objects that communicate a strong connection to nature, by either attempting to resolve current issues by recycling (my own waste) or other peoples’ waste. I believe these materials to carry energy (paper comes from cut trees), or inanimate objects carry a significance in conjunction to the time we experience them.

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Rhali Installation Collected petals and leaves in plastic bags 11 ft x 8 ft - 335cm x 243cm Installation at Dashur, Egypt 2005

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Moreover, as an individual who follows the Zoroastrian faith, we believe that we must be respectful of nature and in harmony with it. What subjects do you deal with in your art? The focus tends to be in problem solving either personal or objective. At the heart of anything I do, I attempt to resolve issues, with spirituality at its core. I follow various philosophies from my upbringing as well as adopted. I greatly admire the philosophies of the East, particularly Taoism and Zen Buddhism. I am also quite intrigued by Ethnographic cultures, as well as of course Zoroastrianism, which to me is a fusion of them all. Tell us about the series dedicated to beat Generation, how have you transposed this theme through your artistic work? Could you tell us about the inspiration behind this series? I came to know the Beats during my college years. I had a wonderful professor, Daniel Gerzog, who taught a literature course at Pratt who introduced me to the work of Ginsberg and Kerouac. I believe this generation of aesthetic souls to be instrumental an entire group witnessed the talks of Zen scholar Daisetz T. Suzuki at Columbia (including Agnes Martin, Rothko and Cage, amongst others). During the time while I was in college, Ginsberg was still alive, and he was quite active in NYC those days. I remember hearing him read his work at MoMA and elsewhere. The Beats for me carry a sense of freedom, and they followed their “truth”, albeit theirs was built on decadence but also of self-discovery. The latter is what I am focused on. The scroll for On the Road by Kerouac is present symbolically throughout several bodies of work that I produced in 2013 I tend to appropriate sometimes without even knowing but in this body of work, I purposefully transpose a

Rhali - Detail Installation Collected petals and leaves in plastic bags 11 ft x 8 ft - 335cm x 243 cm Installation at Dashur, Egypt 2005

scroll like form reminiscent of his scroll, which to me represents a longing for being able to exist within my studio practice void of interruptions. I think when one is focused in this way; the tapping into oneself is easier. Moreover, more often than not (and since 1995), I listen to Kerouac’s Poetry for the Beat Generation while working in the studio. This is one of my most treasured possessions. Which other artists have influenced you? So many, we can go back as far as the caves to the present. In modern times, the individuals I respect most are

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COME WITH ME (On the road series) Photography Digital C-print 11 x 9 inches - 27 x 22 cm 2013

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COME WITH ME (On the road series) Photography Digital C-print 11 x 9 inches - 27 x 22 cm 2013

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Haft-Sin Zazen Installation Gold and silver thread and salt on linen 6 ½ x 13 ft - 200 x 401 cm Ghaf Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE 2010

Joseph Beuys, Agnes Martin, Ana Mendieta, Nancy Holt, and Wolfgang Laib. There are numerous others but those I admire are those who hold a strong spiritual/metaphysical connection in their work one way or another. Other artists who I find inspiring are Kandinsky and Mondrian. I think the artworld is void of spirit today, it is a very material reality. Artists before us put an emphasis in trying to understand what this all means, where do we come from and where are we going. Other artists that I admire tremendously are Turrell, Goldsworthy and Olafur Eliasson. They are truly remarkable.

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Another topic you develop is relating to ecology, in which artworks do we find it? What methods do you use to achieve it and what do you hope people will take away from your art? I hope people can take away a sense of repose but sometimes also a sense of synergy, the fact that we’re all connected. I tend to problem solve in my head, and I bring this to the classroom as well. The center of my teaching is for young artists and designers to make work that is meaningful, and to be a positive addition to this little planet of ours one way or another. I think in conjunction to ecology, my connection to giving new life to


materials that would otherwise end up in a trash field is important, and this was a central focus for a long time. Currently, I weave between humanitarian as well as environmental. Also, recycling is very much sitespecific. In some countries like Egypt for instance, people make a living by recycling, and the same occurs elsewhere. Recycling in NYC or Los Angeles is different from recycling in other places. Living in this part of the world has opened my eyes greatly to so much, and I try to bring these perceptions to my work. Tell us a bit more about Haft-Sin Zazen This project exists on many levels, and is directly linked to my present locale and environment in Abu Dhabi. While driving from Cairo to Alexandria in Egypt in 2004, I first experienced this moment and was struck by these endless mounts of sand surrounding the desert road that inspired me. Through the process of searching and seeking to represent through form this moment I experienced, the work eventually formalized. Salt is a material that derives from the ocean, of which we are surrounded by, but also holds a personal meaning, as it is believed in many cultures to be a metaphysical organic material that carries negative energy away, and a material that allows for wishing well and cleansing. The mounts are placed on a kandora fabric, and this visual perception of white on white provides a feeling of repose, where one can find a tranquil state. This work is also a conversation with Wolfgang Laib, as it could not have come to fruition without his work in my mind. How would you describe the art scene in Abu Dhabi today? We have heard great things about it and it appears they are investing heavily in culture, What do you think about it? Abu Dhabi is like NYC in the 50’s but in fast motion. The scene is non-existent and existent.

Column installation Collected and folded newspaper from The National an fishing line against wall 10 ft x7 inches x 11 ½ ft - 305 x 18 x 29.5 cm Ghaf Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE 2009-2010

There are clusters of creatives coming from everywhere, from the expats who work in various sectors, to the “scene” in Dubai which adds to ours, and of course the various cultural events that occur. It is too early to tell, but since the UAE is becoming a hub of sorts for the creatives of the Arab world, its significance will be known a few years from now. The investment is wonderful, art is the vessel of culture. Through it, one can find repose, knowledge, and a confrontation with numerous realities. Art is a vessel of exchange, what is happening here is real… as we are lucky to come to know the various realities of various places close by and afar.

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Yin and Yang Meet in the Desert Photography Digital C-print thread, color drawing media and ink 4 x 4 inches - 11 x 11 cm 2013-2014

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Yin and Yang Meet in the Desert Photography Digital C-print thread, color drawing media and ink 4 x 4 inches - 11 x 11 cm 2013-2014

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What role does the artist have in society? The artist is the shaman, he/she is the one who can tap in to the infinite. If the artist truly practices this gift, he/she can add tremendously to others in society. Artists in this maze are those who can bring to matter the spiritual reality they experience. All religions speak of the same thing at the core, love and kindness. If artists make art that is kind and compassionate, they can share it with their other fellow human beings. Artists are also extremely sensitive, and this sensitivity can take shape by making work that adds to knowledge. I respect artists who take risks and share their opinions and express this content in their work. You see this often with artists who are classified as coming from the diaspora of their culture, or that are actively living within the struggles of their society. Art is a vehicle in physical matter that expresses, and the conversation can take on myriad of forms, but the end result should be that the work should exist to make a positive difference in my opinion.

Stairway Installation Collected stems and fishing line 17 ft x 1-26 inches - 518 x 2.5-66 cm Installation at Dashur, Egypt 2005

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What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future? I am working on several pojects simultenously. There are several land art projects that will materialize in the future both through video and photography, as well as a series of studies influenced by cartography. Another body of work is quite personal, a series of sculptural objects, but these will take time to materialize as I’m in the midst of living what I will be exploring.


Leaf Horizon Study of the Emirates Installation Watercolour and acrylic on Silver Maple leaves Installation at Ghaf Gallery, Abu Dhabi, UAE 2010

Naz Shahrokh is a visual artist who lives and works in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She was born in Tehran, Iran, she spent her childhood in Paris, France, and adolescent years in Los Angeles, CA. She received an MFA in Painting, and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. Her current work involves photography, drawing, video, and installation, and throughout her studio practice, Naz strives to find a connection that is significant in conjunction to society, the individual, and like a narrator or a poet, she assembles visual narratives that are gentle to the eye as well as revealing. Naz is currently working on several projects connected to land art, where she is investigating the landscape of the UAE, as well as a body of work linked to Cartography. nazshahrokh@gmail.com

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ANNA GARNER

When did you first become interested in art? What’s your background? My interest in art began with photography. My father is an ardent photographer, and I grew up with his work in the house and going out on location with him for shoots. I remember having little patience while I sat and waited for him to adjust his camera and wait for the right shot. In spite of that, as I got older I became more and more interested in getting behind the lens, and in looking at things photographically. When I was eighteen my father gifted me a Nikon F3 camera. As I began to experiment with this camera and to apply myself to developing my craft I started to think about myself as an artist and to study the history of the medium and artists using photography. Your practice includes so many different activities: photography, video, performance, and sculpture ‌ Where did you start? What is the discipline that most informs your research? I consider my research to be first and foremost lens based; most often when I do performance it is for the camera, and when I build a sculpture it is used in a

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video or becomes part of an installation using video. This stems from my background and beginnings as a photographer. I use the vocabulary I developed through photography in my video, performance, and sculptural work. I think a lot about framing and lighting when I set up and shoot video pieces, and I think about the videos working in a series, much like a photographic series. When I exhibit video pieces I show several pieces in a row or in a space, with the intention for the works to interact and through proximity and placement to create further narrative and associations. In your performances you frequently carry out physical challenges, like in Unyielding, Slowing the time, Surrogates... They seem to me to be emblems of our daily lives. Can you explain in more detail about this aspect? What is the message behind it? When I speak about my work I often describe the performances as physical challenges; through engaging with these challenges I seek to test my capacity to finish or endure the effort.


Surrogates Single Channel Video Duration 3’10” 2014 MADE IN MIND | 15


The actions bear no fruitful outcome other than to prove I can complete the action; in their futility the work parodies the emptiness of everyday strivings for meaning, achievement, and perfection. What is realized in the work is a corporeal contentedness in the act of doing, a bodily awareness through non-resistance to the action. What do you want people to take away from your art? First and foremost I want viewers to find something to laugh at in the work and in response find something to laugh at in themselves. I hope that the humorous and visceral quality of the work allows for a broad range of viewers and responses. In addition because I show my video work as a series there are multiple pieces playing at the same time. The multiple works create an environment that is overwhelming, I intend for this to heighten the feeling of physical discomfort and also of sympathetic identification. Could you tell us a bit more about Surrogates? In many of my works I interact with inanimate objects, paper bags, balloons, wood, and in Surrogates cinder blocks. These inanimate objects serve as standins and placeholders; my interaction and attempts at proximity with the objects affect a desire for contact and interruption of solitary pursuit. Using areas of my body associated with intimacy and tenderness, face, cheek, and chest, as points of contact with the brick I draw attention to a want for closeness. Yet this want is returned with scraping, hardness and rough surface to vie with. The space between the bricks becomes a point of intimacy as well, as I am held between the two unable to push them apart.

Sequential Interactions Single Channel Video Duration 1’57� 2013 16 | MADE IN MIND


Lineage Single Channel Video Duration 2’ 2013

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The actions of pushing apart yet also being held between, conflict each other offering two possibilities for the interaction. Neither potential is reached; I am unable to break apart the bricks or find an amenable intimacy. The act becomes Sisyphean as each effort to find the right vantage point and exertion of force fails. Surrogates is shown as part of a triptych including Sequential Interactions, and Lineage. These pieces similarly convey Sisyphean effort and intimate interactions with inanimate objects. Your Repeated actions to an exasperation remind me a bit of several Marina Abramovic’s works. Has it influenced your research? What are the most important influences that have moved you as an artist? The work of Marina Abramovic has absolutely influenced my own practice. What I glean from her work is a focus on transformation through ritual and individual experience becoming collective. However whereas Abromovic uses the immediacy of live performance to engage the viewer I am more interested in the level of

manipulation and control I have

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through working with video. I find

the ability to limit what the viewer sees through the edit and framing of the work, to allow me to better convey my ideas. I consider my influences to be vast as I am constantly reading and looking at other artists’ work. Most recently I have been interested in humor, and have been watching old silent films with Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplan, and Jacques Tati. I also just read Simon Critchley’s On Humor, which connected for me the way that physical comedy mediates the experience of being a body and having a body, bridges the physical and metaphysical. Working with performance for video there is a substantial history to pull from. My research spans from Bauhaus ballet to 1970s performance art to contemporary video artists such as Kate Gilmore. I also have a background in dance including ballet, modern, and improvisation. Due to this I am also inclined to look at choreographers’ work to understand how they use the language of movement. Recently I have been looking at Trisha Brown, Ann Liv Young, and Michael Clark.


What about Lineage? Could you tell us a bit about this work? As stated earlier Lineage is part of a triptych including the works Sequential Interactions and Surrogates. It deals with similar themes as I described for Surrogates, yet unlike Surrogates it embodies repeated actions with individual objects in a linear route. The bags again are stand-ins for points of connections, my cheek and head are again used as a point of force, meeting, and contention. The continued interactions allude to repetitive behaviors, to the act of going back for more despite knowing that there is nothing effectual, meaningful, or beneficial there. The Impossibility of an Augury is an artwork of high intensity, which is surely very important to you and intimate, as it speaks of a personal event in your life that you deeply marked. Could you talk about it? The Impossibility of an Augury deals with the way stories and grief are passed down through generations and examines the impact of my grandfather’s drowning. Despite the fact that his death happened before I was born I look at how this Unyielding Single Channel Video Duration 3’10” 2013

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narrative, that affected my mother’s life deeply, became part of my own narrative through its retelling. The work is comprised of two windows suspended on a pulley system, projected into the windows is a video depicting the arc of a storm. The windows embody an attempted and failed augury, which if successful would have alerted my grandfather of the storm that capsized his fishing boat, and thus prevented his death. The defeated omen alludes to my ineffectiveness in the situation and points to the frustration of wanting both separation and propinquity to the event. What are you working on at the moment? My current studio research focuses on physical comedy (pratfall) and pitting my petite stature, 4’11” and approximately 100lbs, against persons that are at least twice my size. I am working on videos that reenact pratfall stunts, stretching out the moment of tension and stunting the comedic release. Some of these actions include falling off an unstable bench, sawing off a piece

of wood that I am sitting on, and laying down banana peels for other people to slip on. The works dealing with size examine the position of the underdog and reverse the relation between my competitor and myself. In these pieces I engage in comedic acts of athletic skill including chasing, tickling, tackling, and climbing on top of my larger adversaries.

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF AN AUGURY Video Installation 2012

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Slowing the Time Single Channel Video Duration 3’ 2013

Anna Garner (b. 1982) is a multi-media artist whose practice encompasses photography, video, performance, and sculpture. Anna received her B.A. in Liberal Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and her MFA at the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. In 2013 Anna received the bronze prize in the Videoholica International Video Art Festival, and in 2014 participated in an artist residency at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent exhibitions include video screenings at Trestle Gallery in Brooklyn, NY and Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, WA as well as a three-person exhibition at Sala degli Archi in Livorno, Italy.

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Anna’s work investigates how the body can be shaped, sensed, relied upon or distrusted. She focuses on the body as an indicator of the interior performing as an instrument that reveals veracity through movement and presence. Through physical challenges and trials Anna pursues a collapse of self-control that reveals vulnerability, personal limitations, and clumsiness. www.annagarner.com


NICOLAS VIONNET

What inspired you initially to start making art? Tell us about your background. I grew up in a small village in the region of Basel, Switzerland. When I was a child I spent a lot of time in the studio of my grandmother. She had dropped out from school in the 1950s and had studied painting in Paris. Spending time with her in the studio was one of the principal reasons why I became an artist. At the age of seventeen, I got seriously involved in Graffiti. I worked late into the night and traveled through the country with the only aim to paint as much as possible. From this point on it was clear to me that I would always want to deal with art. So I first graduated from the Academy of Art and Design in Basel and soon after I received my Master’s degree at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. While in the early years I mainly focused on painting I nowadays work almost exclusively on site-specific installations in public spaces.

How did you come to work with the mediums that you use? Decisive for my current artistic practice was my two-year stay in Weimar, where I graduated from the Public Art and New Artistic Strategy Master’s program. During that time I was given the chance to realize my first major interventions in a public space. It was an exciting and a very intense time where I mainly learned to perceive my environment in a completely different way, to react and to undertake artistic interventions. Funnily enough, it was during this time that I gradually moved away from painting. Today my work is mostly site specific and when I start I never know which medium and material eventually I will end up working with. The history and the conditions of a place inspire me and lead me.

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How would you describe your subject matter? Several pieces of your work reminds me of Land art, like in Aus Versehen, and also of Street Art interventions, like in Close the gap. How would you define your approach to the environment?

My work often focuses on topics of integration and irritation. In other words, I’m trying to integrate something new into an existing environment and thus to irritate at the same time. However, the confusion should always be subtle. For the mentioned work Aus Versehen I installed a coin operated telescope on a beautiful square in front of an old lime tree in the heart of the old town in Zurich. Of course one does not find telescopes in the middle of a city and also not so close to an object that you no longer can observe. However, passersby were confused and did not know whether this is a joke. Actually, most of them used the telescope and examined the lime tree as if under a microscope.

Aus Versehen public interventions coin-operated telescope, tree St.-Peter-Hofstatt, Zurich (CH) courtesy widmertheodoridis, Eschlikon (CH) 2013

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In one of my latest works entitled Jacuzzi I turned a pond into a whirlpool. The bubble was triggered by a motion detector and thus came as a complete surprise. Again, I was interested in a subtle change and the resulting irritation. A bubbling water surface is really nothing extraordinary, but one doesn’t expect a pond to do so. As a last example I would like to mention the work A New Found Glory (together with Wouter Sibum, Rotterdam) that was conceived in a closed public toilet known as the Muellloch (litter-hole) next to the Herbruecke at the Donau in Ulm (Germany). For years, this non-place is closed off from the public. It had gathered garbage over the years and was overgrown by weeds and wild flowers. We were looking for a funny response to the still unresolved problem and decided to install a fountain in the middle of the forbidden zone. A fountain that was just visible for the passersby when looking down into the hole - surprising the observer but also returning a touch of festivity and glory to the old city wall in Ulm. One of your works that I consider very poetic is Colour me surprised, could you talk about it? The project was realized together with my friend Wouter Sibum from Rotterdam. We both graduated from the Public Art and New

Artistic Strategies program in Weimar and since then, often worked together as a duo. Colour me surprised was exhibited as part of the main project at the III Moscow International Biennale for Young Art in 2012, curated by Kathrin Becker (n.b.k., Neuer Berliner Kunstverein). Our idea was to transform and to turn a familiar ambiance into a new condition, whereas the transformation of the color seemed much more important to us than the change of the structure itself. The covered grass should still be noticeable as a lawn and keep its characteristic texture. One of our goals was to stimulate the public to get a higher awareness of their surroundings - both physically, with the confrontation of a horizontal “colorfield”, and mentally, with the encounter of an amazement. Basically we wanted to create a work that deals with questions of perspective and possible positions of perception. Furthermore the work had also the simple function of an eye-catcher that animates people to step out of their daily routine. It was shaped as a square, a twinkling eye reference to Malewitsch.

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Colour me surprised with Wouter Sibum (Rotterdam) public interventions chalk pigment on grass Art Park Muzeon, Central House of Artist, Moscow (RU) 2012

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What artists have influenced your artistic research? Of course, there are many artists that I admire and that impressed and influenced me in my research and my work. It is difficult to enumerate the most important ones, because I will surely forget some. However, I would like to mention Swiss artist Roman Signer. I love his humor and charm coupled with a pinch of seriousness. He always manages to raise a smile – an important quality that I miss from other artists. There are, of course, many others that I really like, too: Elmgreen & Dragset, Ahmet Ögüt or Harmen de Hoop, just to name a few. Which piece of work are you most fond of? One of my most important works was the installation Island - Catch Me If You Can. It’s one of my first major installations in public space played a seminal role for my further artistic practice. For Island - Catch me if you can I was employed with the Weimarhallenpark (Weimar, GER) and was planning an intervention in the pool, situated in the center of the park. In order to accent the existing character of artificiality and symmetry as well as to restore the former condition of the park, I decided to create a floating lawn in the center of the pond. The artificial square “island” was realized in the form of a float and was covered with an authentic organic lawn. This object was fixed to the pond bed, yet still had a minimal amount of movement. It was exactly this flexibility of the object in addition to its proximity to the bank that invited the viewer to linger in front of a simultaneous illusion of accessibility.

How would you describe the art scene in Switzerland today? I think Switzerland has an active art scene with an international vibrancy. One should always remember that Switzerland is a relatively small country, however, there is quite a lot happening. While a few years ago Basel was the center of the arts, the focus and buzz is now in Zurich. Of course Basel still plays an important role, not at last because of ART Basel, which has certainly become the most important art fair in the world. Neverless I see Basel rather as a typical museum and fair city, but the major galleries and projects are almost all settled in Zurich. Since I have studied in Switzerland and in Germany, I also see big differences in the quality of the academies. Switzerland still has some catching up to do. That is why the motto for a lot of young Swiss artists is: Go if you can!

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Island - Catch me if you can public interventions wooden frame, styrofoam, fabric covering, turf rolls Weimarhallenpark, Weimar (GER) 2008

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Island - Catch me if you can public interventions wooden frame, styrofoam, fabric covering, turf rolls Weimarhallenpark, Weimar (GER) 2008

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What are you currently working on? Until February 2015 I will be represented in several group exhibitions. I will mostly show small objects of a recent series. For the exhibition Trovato, non veduto at Ausstellungsraum Klingental in Basel I’m preparing an outdoor installation with an electric fence charger. Currently I’m finalizing the preparatory works. Next summer I will be setting up a major installation with Wouter Sibum on the coast of Aarhus (Denmark). The work is called The Wailers and consists of three large water fountains reminiscent of a whale fountain. Since the work will be installed in the sea it will be technically challenging and we expect a few hard nuts to crack. But what is gratifying is that I always can learn a lot in such projects.

Close the gap public interventions print on mesh Brühl 60, Leipzig (GER) 2009

Nicolas Vionnet lives and works in the Zurich area. He graduated from the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst Basel. He graduated in 2009 from the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar with a Master of Fine Arts degree after studying on the university’s Public Art and New Artistic Strategies programme. Vionnet has participated in various exhibitions at home and abroad since 1999, including at the Kunsthalle Basel, LACDA (Los Angeles Center for Digital Art), the Neues Museum Weimar (Gallery marke.6) and the III Moscow International Biennale for Young Art. www.nicolasvionnet.ch

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KIRSTEN STOLLE

What’s your background? When did you first become interested in art? For as long as I can remember I’ve always been interested in making things. My first strong memory is as a 5 year old, setting up an art table in front of my bedroom window, complete with paper, paints, markers, pencils, crayons, glue, string etc. I loved the solitude of being in my room by myself, surrounded by colorful art supplies and left to my own creative devices. To this day, I cherish the time and space my studio affords me. Being a visual artist can be somewhat of a solitary existence, but one that pushes me to be present and engage my creativity at the richest level. I was raised in Massachusetts and in the 1990’s moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue my art. After a string of unsatisfying corporate jobs, I committed to become a full-time artist and secured my first gallery in 2000. After living and working in California for 19 years, I decided to return to the east coast of the United States relocating to the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.

What subjects do you deal with in your art? What has influenced your work? Central to my work are themes relating to biotechnology, genetic engineering, and agricultural systems. I’m specifically interested in the global influence agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations have on our food supply and the connection between corporate interests and public health. Many of my projects deal with current science based concerns and challenge the ongoing popular narrative. The idea that art can bring new perspectives to contemporary scientific issues is very exciting to me.

Can you tell a bit about the inspiration behind Animal Pharm series? I listen to a lot of public radio while working in my studio. I first heard the term Pharming used during a program that discussed bioengineering animals for pharmaceutical needs. For example, I learned that goats, through a variety of DNA insertions, were being re-engineered to produce various human proteins in their milk.

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ANIMAL PHARM #8 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014

These proteins are extracted from the goat’s milk and then used to produce a variety of therapeutic drugs. Many of these transgenic dairy animals live on controlled university farms, often funded by the U.S. Government and the pharmaceutical industry. After hearing this broadcast I had so many questions and concerns regarding this type of drug making effort. What are the ethics involved in mixing human genes with animal genes? Who is monitoring the health and well-being of the animals? How are these transgenic animals and their milk being kept out of the general population? After spending time researching the Pharming business, there seems to be inadequate safety and regulatory oversight, and transparency by both the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA is fairly staggering. In my mind, the ethical and social concerns along with the unintended consequences of this experimental science needs to be further investigated and brought to people’s attention. The title Animal Pharm plays off Orwell’s dystopian fable “Animal Farm” and investigates the controversial use of genetic modification in animals by the pharmaceutical industry. Just as Orwell’s writings warn of total government control, my collages suggest a world where technological advances may very soon be out of our control. You explore the complex relationship between economy and ecology, could you explain more about this aspect of your research? The relationship we have between the economy and ecology is a complicated one. For instance, most people would like to slow or stop climate

ANIMAL PHARM #3 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014

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ANIMAL PHARM #1 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014

change (ecology) but are unwilling to reduce their energy use or get rid of their cars (money). We’d like to have cheaper food (economy) but at the expense of reducing farms to monocultures and chemical-intensive farming (ecology). In my work I examine the tension between these two systems and explore creative ways to express the frequently dark side of this relationship.

and sparse compositions. Over the past 5 years, I have shifted into making work based on my sociopolitical concerns. A large part of my practice involves research. I generally spend several months reviewing and synthesizing research materials, before sitting down at my drawing table. As I work on each new project, it is important to create pieces that engage both aesthetically and conceptually.

How has your work developed over the years? My early work centered on creating abstractions based on natural and human forms. I concentrated on mark making as a means to explore repetition and allusion, in conjunction with uncomplicated

Tell us about Genetically Commodified project I learned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 1996. Genetically engineering food sounded like some futuristic technology, so I didn’t give it much credence.

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ANIMAL PHARM #4 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014


It was only after having some of my own health issues with soy products, that I became acutely aware of the potential health risks of eating foods that contains genetically engineered ingredients. The fact that 90% of the soy, corn, and canola in the Unites States have had their genetic material altered through the insertion of bacteria, viruses, or gene splicing is overwhelmingly scary to me. And that the U.S. FDA has allowed GMOs into our food supply with limited oversight, inadequate safety testing and without labeling, is something that speaks to the larger systemic issue of the increased corporate influence that big agribusiness companies like Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta have within our government. Food is something we have to eat every day and without proper labeling, we are unable to make informed health choices for our families and ourselves. Culturally, we get our information through mass media, television, the Internet, and newspapers. Generally we hear short sound bites or see a compelling graph and then we move on to the next story. As a visual learner, I wanted a platform where people could spend some time looking, engage with the work, have the opportunity to ask questions, form ideas of their own or simply be drawn in aesthetically by the medium. Historically art has been a terrific medium for engagement, activism, social and

personal change and I felt I could create a compelling narrative through this type of work. My project Genetically Commodified explores the consequences of introducing GMOs into our food supply and local plant ecologies. Familiarity with issues affecting our industrial food chain is steadily increasing, but unfortunately awareness of GMOs throughout the United States (as compared to Europe and other developed countries) still remains low. The project works across mediums (drawing, installation, sound) to create an integrated environment where the audience can engage and reflect on the influence of GMOs. The title, Genetically Commodified, refers to commodification of nature and the manipulation of genes for profit. We live in a world where economy trumps ecology, a society where food is no longer seen as a form of nourishment, but as a product. In your work we find a lot of information: GMOs, mass production, globalization, human relationship with nature and technology... we can say that your artistic research is also political communication. What do you think of political art? Yes, my work is definitely underpinned by topics that have a political framework and hit upon contemporary social issues.

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For me, political art and artists who strive to make socially conscious art, is most successful when something new can be added to the existing narrative and the conversation moves forward to the point of encouraging critical thinking. Political art can be provocative or relatively quiet, but is always grounded in direct critique. Great artists have the ability to reframe and readjust people’s thought processes simply by observing and creatively reflecting back what is often too scary or daunting to witness. What role should have an artist in today’s society? Artists have this remarkable ability to creatively interpret and explore alternative ways of thinking. I believe my role is to create compelling work that stimulates thoughtful conversation and invites viewers to consider additional viewpoints. What artists have influenced you? Early on I was influenced by traditional Japanese paintings, 18th century botanical drawings, and minimalist architecture. More recently I feel inspired by artists such as Wangechi Mutu, Ellen Gallagher, Eva Hesse, and The Yes Men. What do you hope people will take away from your art? I hope people come to the work with a sense of curiosity. I’d like my art to be accessible, yet seem a bit odd or uncomfortable in a way that engages them to take a second look. I hope my work allows for people to consider the unexpected and gain an increased sense of awareness.

ANIMAL PHARM #5 collage on paper 30 x 22 inches - 76 x 56 cm 2014

Living her early years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kirsten Stolle was greatly influenced by food movement politics of the 1990s. As a vegetarian looking for alternatives to the industrialized food system, the Bay Area provided a rich resource. With the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in 1996, she began examining this controversial technology with both an aesthetic and consumer’s eye. Since 2008 she has been creating drawings and collages addressing the overwhelming impact of biotechnology and agribusiness on our food supply. Stolle received a BA in Visual Arts from Framingham State College, and completed studies at Richmond College (London, England) and Massachusetts College of Art (Boston, MA). She currently lives in Western North Carolina. www.kirstenstolle.com

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JESSE ERIC SCHMIDT Tell us a bit about your background. What are the most important influences that have moved you as an artist? I am obsessed with formulaically manipulating the body in relation to visual archetypes & performance goals. It is a coping tactic for buffering anxiety. There is immediate & measureable feedback on these experiments with the self. I’ve studied psychology & architecture. The fascinating topics for me were the procedural details of how an individual changes behavior in response to perceived group membership, & how their conduct is altered by environmental designs. My influential guide is derived from an algebraic body, a deconstructed mind, & contextual obedience.

Your body of work is complex and at the same time ironic and usable, partly because your work is not only in conventional exhibitions spaces, but also with your public actions you are in connection with the environment and casual viewers who encounter your actions. Could you explain more in detail, how would you describe your relationship with the public and with the environment? I try being an anonymous example of the public, while researching for new pieces, & during performances as much as possible. There is a strategy to be neutralized as just another human doing nothing special, until there is opportunity to precisely tweak that blended facade into a confusing instance of absurdity. I search for access points in the environment where I notice how a subtle modification could rupture its existing patterns through discomforting incongruence.

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Getting to Know My Stuff Public Action Duration 48 hours 2011 - Ongoing I manually transport my belongings ~0.5 of a mile to my new residence. This occurred in close proximity to a weekend “Arts & Crafts” show, which is led by more consumerist object based philosophies.

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What subjects do you deal with in your art? I deal with training methods for keeping curiosity fit. The subjects are processoriented rituals that destabilize the self into forced evolution. I think of art like a sport. I invent & test programming that stimulates change & nurtures a type of regimen similar to an athlete. The self is direly adaptable, & hardwired for complacent longevity. It will cease progressing into unknown territory if encounters with novel resistance become absent. I occupy foreign zones where current exercise modalities can be revamped into tools for redefining art & its mediums. What do you think you get from conceptual art, and what is different? I believe conceptual art is the leader in utilizing economical means for activating ideas. I’ve inherited a style from it that champions ways to efficiently transmit meaning. The differences might be how I employ the body very often, & that I do give importance to the work’s execution in most cases.

Nevertheless Public Action Intermittently for 1-3 hours I attempt moving things I cannot. 2011 - Ongoing

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I & Me Public Action Duration 3 hours 2008 I continually disassemble & reconstruct a self-portrait.

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Could you explain us the meaning of your public actions, like Nevertheless, Getting to Know My Stuff, Trying to Make Friends… Nevertheless is a cathartic endeavor to honor failure, while moving deeper into existential puzzles. Getting to Know My Stuff is a meditation on tangible inventories, which is processed directly through biological exertion. Trying to Make Friends is a signal to wrestle the implications of our anthropomorphic relationships with everyday objects. In your public action Free Rides you carry gallery attendees throughout the exhibition. What is the message behind this work? This piece questions how a temporary corporeal merger affects the remaining, essentially disconnected, neurotransmitter squirting, brains. The message is driven by trying to understand the artist as a service provider, & the art gallery as a network for distributing commoditized facsimiles of intimacy.

I like your self portrait, I & Me . How did you come up with this artwork? There is a game within identity management that positions the “I” subject against countless “Me” objects. These “Me” objects are generally static noun established representations of our subjectivity manufactured by individual unconsciousness or formed through social consequences. The “I” subject is a dynamic verb based agent in charge of organizing this myriad conglomerate. This project literalizes this navigation by consistently demolishing, locating, & reassembling elements of the self. I am intrigued with the functional understandings produced via these choreographed actions that reboot psychological scenarios. What is the craziest piece of work you have ever made? If you are implying which is most about spectacle, then I have a collection of images that document the result of masturbating onto typical office equipment called Protests.

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Free Rides Public Action Duration 3 hours 2009 I carry gallery attendees throughout the exhibition.

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There is a risk of detouring away from ideas when using such a charged material, but this piece is mostly designed to exhibit an aesthetic juxtaposition, that elicits questioning about mundane job paraphernalia & cyborg family heirlooms. If you are suggesting which is most about insanity, then I’d like to reference a series of events called Transactions, where I conceptualize a three-dimensional work, & purchase it’s required materials, but only to immediately get a refund for them. There is a peculiar feeling when I make the turn back into the entrance, after just recently leaving the exit. This decisional moment to perpetuate a loop of behavior that avoids a finale is important when getting into the nature of repetition. What do you think the role of an artist is in today’s society? There is a responsibility to dent the far too pristine assumptions in our collective unconsciousness, which is a fulcrum that pivoting cultural norms & statistical outliers use to fuel their make-up & intentionality.

The role is to pick meaningful boundaries in this shared archive, & refute or exaggerate them through articulating new forms in public venues. What are you working on at the moment? I’m currently interrogating personal routines. There are spatial qualities in this durational medium that are relevant to how we engineer the self. The patterns of behavior in usual environments become containers for work, specifically, they enable ideas to be manifested in a pliable form, which when setup & launched properly, can rupture normalized thinking arrangements. I am hacking into the underlying topographical genomes that determine how time is lost through compulsive ornamentation. There is an objective to sabotage residual apathy & detonate interruptions that convince rusted bourgeois themes to want hypertrophy in philosophical musculature. I am working on a negotiation between inflicting damage & recovery to advance the shape of my capacity for generating & using questions.

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Accompanying Public Action Duration 12 hours, 2010 I spend extended & purposeful time with objects to familiarize myself with them. (Bicycling with watering can. Snowball fight with ironing board. Waiting for train with window. Drinking with phone charger. Going to a meeting with lamp. Exercising with miniature chair.)

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The marker of an effective new piece is its ability to irritate the self into a state of bothersome contemplation. This experience tears our subjectivity apart into a delusional kind of order that repels language, & it severs us from a cohesive grip on what might any longer be considered reality. The self needs to rejuvenate from these phenomenological bouts of consciousness dislocation, & this is feasible through balancing the violent excavations with accurate dosages of basic health promotion. I try to elasticize the limits of alienated otherness, while hopefully keeping my cerebral & social profile in tact, within a certified range that grants me the status of apparent normality.

Enough Book 5 x 7 x 7 inches - 13 x 18 cm 2011 I use a default template as the final product.

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Trying to Make Friends Public Action Duration 1 hour, 2010 I enact competitive games with vehicles. I test ways the body can fit into metropolitan landscapes.

Expenditure Private Action, Durational Sculpture 1 hour, 36 x 96 x 9 inches - 91 x 244 x 23 cm (lasting 3 hours before dissipation) 2009 I sweat into garments, & then display them in public

Jesse Eric Schmidt is an U.S. artist born in 1981. He uses training in architectural sociology, kinesiology, & psychology to make art. He received his MFA in New Genres on merit-based fellowship at the San Francisco Art Institute. Jesse is currently a furniture manufacturer executive & certified fitness professional, while living/working in Upstate NY. www.jesseericschmidt.com

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MADE IN MIND 02  

Autumn 2014

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