Rondò Pilot, issue n. 2.0/2021

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Issue n. 2.0/2021

Eva Stenram Aristofanis Soulikias | Nadine Gomez Gundula Kosch-Gruber | Ma Jia | Matthew Mottel | Nicole Lattuca | Urban Grünfelder


Rondò Pilot. Issue 2021/2.0 Rondò Pilot is an independent publication, which is part of a larger action-research project at the intersections of arts, culture, communication processes, cultural production and awareness-based systems change. Author: Daniela Veneri. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission of the publisher. All images and texts are property of their respective owners.

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Contents

Rondò Pilot 2021/2.0 ……………………………………………………………………….……..…………………….p.

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Eva Stenram .……………………………………………...……………………………………………….………………...p. 10 Film making and catching the invisible ………………………..…………………………………………...….p. 26 Aristofanis Soulikias ………….……..………………………….………………………………………………….…….p. 30 Nadine Gomez …………………………………..……………….………………………………………...……….……..p. 54 New works and art galleries .…………………..……………………….……………………………………………p. 78 Gundula Kosch-Gruber ………………..……………………….……………………………………………….……..p. 81 Ma Jia ………….……………………………………..………………………………………………..………………….……..p. 96 Matthew Mottel ………………...…………………………………………………………………………..………...…..p. 112 Nicole Lattuca ……………………………………………………………………………………...…………………..…..p. 128 Urban Grünfelder ………………………..………………….……………………………...………..………………….p. 142

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Rondò Pilot 2021/2.0 by Daniela Veneri

The current issue of this publication, the third since its launch, gained the exceptionally generous contribution of artists Eva Stenram, Aristofanis Soulikias, Nadine Gomez, Ma Jia, Matthew Mottel, Nicole Lattuca, Urban Grünfelder, and gallery owner Gundula Kosch-Gruber, who also co-curated the chapter "New works and art galleries". After about two years of global pandemic, that impacted all aspects of our human experience, the possibility of looking closely at what was emerging from the art field, with the lens focused on the complexity of the moment, was particularly precious. What can art tell us about our capacity to support change processes, to experience and co-create reality? It is worth taking the time to read this collection of interviews to explore the flow of creation and representation of artworks, new perspectives and narratives, through different languages of photography, film making, film animation, sculpture, painting, installations. Some of the questions that emerged from the conversations: What is around us? What spaces do we share with others? What questions do we need on our journey? What arises from the encounter between imagination and observation? The picture on the side page captures keywords picked by our contributors. Awareness is the most prominent word, sticking out from a constellation of terms that evoke the many facets and layers of the current reality.

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Keywords 2.0 #1

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Eva Stenram Curated by Daniela Veneri

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Eva Stenram. Photo:

Eva Stenram studied in London at the Slade School of Art and Royal College of Art. She recently exhibited in Die Biennale für Aktuelle Fotografie, Germany, The Riga Photography Biennale, as part of the internationally touring exhibition A Handful of Dust, and at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. Her work is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Gallery London, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. She was selected as one of the 100 Heroines of contemporary global photography by The Royal Photographic Society (GB) in 2019, first prize winner of The Cord Prize for Photography (GB), finalist of the Aperture Portfolio Prize (US) and the Hyères International Photography Competition (FR) in 2013 and was also a finalist of Le Prix Découverte des Rencontres d’Arles (FR) in 2012. Originally from Sweden, she currently lives and works in Berlin.

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Eva Stenram

“I’m really interested in how we look at images, what is this process of looking and viewing, the observation and exchange between the work and the viewer. I am interested in our consumption of images - the viewer taking in what they see in front of them. What happens at that moment, how is the image digested and what comes out at the other end?” - Eva Stenram

Eva, what are you currently working on? At the moment I am in between projects. I just finished a virtual exhibition that I did together with curator Clémentine Deliss and Galerie Barbara Thumm. I am starting to think about how to put together the next exhibition that I need to be working on (an exhibition of my work happening in Copenhagen next year). It will include some past work as well as some recent work and hopefully also some future work. One of the themes that I have been thinking about is ‘dwelling’. The situation with the lockdown has partly commanded that, but at the same time, in my work I have often explored related ideas of the domestic. As we emerge from the pandemic, I would like to think not just about the space we call home, but how it relates to isolation, geography, civic procedure and migration.

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Eva Stenram

What drives you in your work? This is a very hard question to answer. I don't feel like there is something external that drives me to make the work, like a cause or a goal. I'm trying to make meaning through the process of making the work. Producing visual meaning is very different from producing verbal discourse. The origin of the work is often quite intuitive, and you could say that the artworks are almost like a set of symptoms that revolves around something that perhaps cannot give a clear answer. It is ambiguous. I see making artwork as a way to question or play with the world, but the work doesn't necessarily explain it or make complete sense. I also know by now that if I don't make artwork I don't feel content; making work makes life meaningful. So there is a wish to produce work, a need that is different from other things in life.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? For me the time after the production of the work is incredibly rewarding – to display the work, show it to other people and to engage with this further dialogue with the world through the pieces of art that have been made.

What do you appreciate most of the interaction emerging between your artworks and the viewers? I can't imagine making work for myself in my studio or home and never showing it. Exhibiting the work is crucial. The artwork is itself exhibitionistic – it wants to be shown. It needs to have this moment of exchange, not just with the audience. It also excites me to think about the work being in dialogue with other artworks – putting it into dialogue with other works within art history or within contemporary 13


Eva Stenram, Drape XVI, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.


Eva Stenram

contemporary culture. This dialogue is foregrounded in my work by the use of found, or third-party, images to make the works themselves. It’s a very direct way for me to set up a conversation or interrogation of photographic culture. I alter the world’s photographic material and make it anew into something else. In this way, photography is something that is in flux, that is unstable and that is essentially an exchange. contemporary culture.

What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process? It is definitely a part of it. I think it is important to not just have virtual experiences, but more material experiences too. The actual content of my work often deals with an idea of the sensory. I have been using vintage erotic photographs a lot in my work, and one reason why I am really interested in those pictures is because they are partly about a fantasy of touch. There is a sense that the photograph breaks down the barriers between the imaginative and the actual. This is highlighted and emphasised within erotic photography. That is something that has interested me. Photographic materiality is addressed very directly in my works from the series ‘Offcut’, where I pick out fabric details from found erotic photographs and then re-create those fabrics. There is, for example, a work that I made which is called “Split”. It started with a found photograph, a pin-up picture depicting a woman on a bed. I then made a new version of the flowery pattern on the bed, printed it as a cotton fabric and used it to reupholster an actual chair, which is then placed in front of the photograph. In a sense the photograph comes out into the real world. The viewer is invited to sit on the chair, so in this way the viewer becomes enveloped by or touches the photograph itself. These are things that I am very much interested in.

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Eva Stenram, Alluvion, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.


Eva Stenram

Who are your most important partners or interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process? I think this probably changes from project to project, but my stable interlocutor would be my husband. He's always the first to have to have a look at my new work. He does a lot of initial feedback that can be very useful. Because my studio is at home, that domestic setup is almost always the first point of exchange. The exchange also happens with my daughters, as they are also the first to see my new work. Their reactions are also very interesting.

In your personal experience, what do you notice about how the arts and culture field relates to the expanded social field? What do you feel needs some attention or change? This is hard for me to answer, as it is just not how I think about my life or about making work. I am not a cultural worker within an institution and I don't spend time thinking about what I would like to change - it is just not part of my agenda. I am interested in investigating, questioning and responding to society and its various issues through making work. For some other artists I think that the idea of effecting change is stronger. I think art can draw attention to societal issues in different ways. Some artists interact directly with communities and expand beyond the more traditional space of the gallery. Other artists’ work is more intimate in the way that it interacts with society through the process of looking or viewing. I have always identified more with this more private experience that happens more quietly from person to person.

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Eva Stenram

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? Ultimately I would like my artwork to have some kind of impact on my viewers, that it resonates with them, that it manages to make a little ripple in their world.

Is there any blind spot that you would like to bring to the attention of the beholder through your artworks? I am interested in blind spots. Sometimes these blind spots tease out the viewers’ imagination and sometimes the blind spots point to a sense of dread or fear. An absence can be terrifying. The tension between absence and presence is something that's really at the core of all kinds of photographic practices, it's a fundamental element of photography. There's a photograph of something that once was there but is no longer there... and then I draw attention to that, expose it. A lot of the time in my work, I remove things, cover things up or in other ways make a part of the photograph no longer visible. It is a kind of muting the photograph, perhaps distilling it into its essence. Sometimes, this invites the viewer to look at new aspects of the image, allowing a shift of the viewer’s attention.

What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice in general? Is it something you intentionally think of when making artworks and, in that case, what is behind that intention? I utilise photographic material from the past to say things about the present. It is a very direct way to conceptually interrogate imagery from the past. I’m really

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Eva Stenram, Garden State (199), 2019 Courtesy of the artist.


Eva Stenram

I’m really interested in how we look at images, what is this process of looking and viewing, the observation and exchange between the work and the viewer. I am interested in our consumption of images - the viewer taking in what they see in front of them. What happens at that moment, how is the image digested and what comes out at the other end?

Where do you sense the presence of any seeds of future? In some ways, making work is always a kind of proposal for the future, it involves setting new ideas in motion. A lot of people ask me about nostalgia in relation to my work. I always find this hard to answer, because I don't necessarily think about the material that I use as overly nostalgic. Rather, all photography is nostalgic to some extent. Even if you are on your smartphone and you take a picture, ten minutes later or in the evening, when you look back at the pictures that happened previously in the day, we already have nostalgia. We don't have to look at pictures from the 60s to have this feeling through photography.

What is your experience of the pandemic since 2020? Do you feel that anything is going to change in our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art? What impact did it have on you? It's really hard to say if anything will change. I think possibly everything will go back to normal very quickly and we will forget the whole pandemic. In terms of the wider network, maybe institutions will think more about how to have a meaningful digital presence. I think that's great and I think that also artists will perhaps re-think the digital component to their production. This is something that was already changing, but is perhaps now accelerating. If you do an exhibition in real life, 20


Eva Stenram

exhibition in real life, you ask yourself if there are smarter ways of presenting the work online or otherwise for a wider audience that can't get to the gallery space. These are interesting things to think about. I was working on an exhibition recently (‘Feral Eyes’ at Galerie Barbara Thumm) that was a virtual/online exhibition only, with no real-life component. It was fascinating because I made artworks that I maybe wouldn't have made in a real life exhibition, and could thus play around with ideas in a different way. I will think more about how to expand that in the future. However, sometimes these kinds of digital outputs during the pandemic have been quite disappointing (and a lot more could have been done). One aspect of the pandemic that I really appreciated was that I've been able to attend so many more talks than normal, and attend talks from all over the world. As a mother, I'm often at home around 6 or 7 o'clock cooking dinner for my kids. This is a classic time when talks in galleries and museums happen, and often I am unable to attend because my kids are just back from school and I want to see them for dinner. But if I can listen to a talk online while cooking, I can participate, even though I am at home. This is amazing and I hope that this continues; that even if talks happen in real life (because we all want this too), you can also access them online. Conversely, the pandemic has also made me really crave the physical and to see actual art in galleries, museums and other spaces. The physical encounter with objects is very particular and special.

What do you feel needs attention now, also considering this moment in time when everything has been reopening after periods of lockdown? What do you feel are the most relevant emerging questions in the field? I don't know. I'm not sure what needs attention. I think I'm still trying to work that one out.

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Eva Stenram, Buds, 2021 Courtesy of the artist.


Eva Stenram

Where do you sense opportunities, where do you sense challenges or things that you feel should be left behind? There should be greater transparency in the way that the artworld is run. There is clearly a problem with artists working for free or for very little money a lot of the time. Unfortunately this means that often more wealthy or privileged artists get more access to the contemporary art world. I hope that will change. Institutions want to be diverse and inclusive, but it doesn’t go deep enough. I think more artists are talking about it and it becomes dispiriting to do exhibitions in big institutions if everyone else, from the curator to the cleaner, is being paid, but not the artist. In the end, artists love to make work but also need to eat. In some countries it works better than in others.

Would you like to do anything differently on a personal level, thinking of your artistic practice? Is there anything that you would like to change? Yes, plenty of things. There are many things that I should change and need to change in the way that I work. There is always desire for improvement.

Are you holding any keywords that you are leaving with, after this conversation? I wrote three down because I was thinking about this one work that I want to expand right now - so it's very specific to this moment in time: petrification, emancipation and euphoria. Maybe it’s also partly an answer to that question, the one I couldn't answer. What was it? Something about this moment and where do we go?

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Eva Stenram, Cave I, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.


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Film making and catching the invisible Curated by Daniela Veneri

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Film making and catching the invisible With Aristofanis Soulikias and Nadine Gomez

This section explores different styles of filmmaking. Aristofanis Soulikias and Nadine Gomez have a very different approaches to making films. Their precious contributions to this research project offer unique views on what it means making films today. Between shooting and handmade film animation, these two interviews show different sensitivities towards our ways to live cities and connect with our lived experiences, but they both tell of a strong vital force that digs into humanity and into the collective dimension of the spaces we share.

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Above, from left to right: Aristofanis Soulikias, Production still from Last Dance on the Main, 2014; Nadine Gomez, Exarcheia, Still, 2018; Aristofanis Soulikias, Still from Last Dance on the Main, 2014; Aristofanis Soulikias, Production still and still from In the Shadow of Mount Damavand, 2017; Aristofanis Soulikias, Sketch for Lisbon project, 2019; Nadine Gomez, Exarcheia, Still, 2018; Nadine Gomez, Metro, Still, 2015; Nadine Gomez, As Night Descends, Still, 2020.

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Film making and catching the invisible

Aristofanis Soulikias Curated by Daniela Veneri

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Aristofanis Soulikias. Courtesy of the artist. Aristofanis Soulikias is a film animator and architect with a BArch from McGill University, an MA in Building Conservation from the University of York (UK), and a BFA with a Major in Film Animation from Concordia University. The sensibilities he developed having worked extensively on historic buildings in Greece and the UK, served him significantly in the making of, Last Dance on the Main, an award-winning animated documentary on the precarity of Montreal’s downtown built and social fabric. The film’s capacity to successfully communicate its story across borders and different categories of people, with almost all of its images fabricated with paper-cut silhouettes and other tangible objects, moved manually in the stop-motion technique, prompted questions about the relevance of bodily ways of making animation to express physical space, materiality and atmosphere in the face of the ubiquity of CGI technologies. These questions are expanded in his current research-creation PhD project, titled Sensing the city: revealing urban realities and potentials through handmade film animation, and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Carmela Cucuzzella (primary), Prof. Luigi Allemano, and Dr. David Howes at Concordia’s INDI programme.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

“This kind of consciousness of the physical is something that we feel, and I think that, in a way, it is evoked when we watch a film made of handmade images. There is a parallel between feeling that sensual life of the material city, which we often neglect, and the viewing of film animation made by hand, frame by frame, and I think there is that same humanizing sense of meaning that speaks to us when we are surrounded by an architecture that is less mechanized, less copy-pasted.” - Aristofanis Soulikias

Ari, What projects are you currently working on? I'm working on a sensorial exploration of a spatial element of the city. This is a project for which I have been hired by one of my supervisors, Dr. David Howes, where we are examining the urban environment through our senses, especially those less studied by planners and architects, namely, the non-visual. I am called, as a film animator, to look into the urban park and its use, especially during this time of the pandemic, since, for many months while Montreal was under a relatively strict lockdown, many of the group or public activities that people would normally do indoors could only take place in the park. There are a lot of things to look at and examine. It is very interesting how all these activities all of a sudden intermingle in spaces where there are no walls, and generations and cultures mix, there is no shelter from the elements of nature, and you look at how people adapt to this environment and how they themselves adapt and create space.

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Aristofanis Soulikias, Production still from Last Dance on the Main, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

I proposed to express the senses of the urban park through my animation, and to make a link between this sensorial environment and my sensorial way of making things with my own hands. Since I myself was also going daily to the park to exercise, I had my own sensorial experience all throughout last winter, with the snow I ran on, the tree I would use to exercise, the changing light and sounds, and I was going to transfer all this into the handmade animation medium I use. So, I thought of connecting my perceptions in situ with the act of making in my studio – because I cannot bring my studio into the park – by making sketches in the park, and then re-enact these sketches in my studio, so a correlation between the bodily practice, let's say, in the park, and that in my studio would be established. All of a sudden, the sketches done outdoors begin to move. It is all great explaining it; doing it is another story. It is a long process. I really want to capture my personal experience but also the invisible architectures that are formed in the park, with the groupings and the movements of the people, and this may be a hint of what architectures the city may need to have. This is one of the goals of this project, but I'm still at the very beginning. I'm thinking of three parts right now; the first part is about my personal encounter with the elements of the park, and will be made of charcoal on paper, which is a type of animation that isn't my main technique, but with which I would like to play, also because it's very plastic, as you can “move” and smudge the charcoal drawing on the same paper with your fingers; the second part will be to animate paper cuts on a light table, which is my primary technique, in order to represent the multilayered activities that take place in parks and then, as a third part, maybe to have these possible architectures “crystallized” into watercolours with some minimal movement.

What drives you in your work? Right now, as a Research Assistant, in this specific project – and then for one

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

one more that is coming up soon – I work with themes chosen by my supervisors, but, of course, I steer them toward my own research interests, which lie at the intersection between the fabric of film animation and the urban fabric. There is also a narrative film on Lisbon during the first stage of the pandemic, which I began last year there under the supervision of Portuguese film animator Dr. Pedro Serrazina, in which I am looking at the city as a body that needs to be felt and celebrated. I'm always trying to reveal that which is there but is often overlooked, that which is very human, relatable and tangible but which, most of the time, especially in our societies of inane spectacle, distractions, and thirst for instant gratification, we don't indulge in or even pay any attention to. This is a very general statement, but I think it characterizes much of what drives my work. It goes all the way back to my interest in telling a story, a documentary, about buildings, which are neglected, and which are about to be demolished. I think I'm trying to shed light on something and put value on to it, and this applies to a story, a place, a way of living, or even how to design our streets, especially now that we are all forced or lured into abandoning this physical environment and going virtual. This kind of consciousness of the physical is something that we feel, and I think that, in a way, it is evoked when we watch a film made of handmade images. There is a parallel between feeling that sensual life of the material city, which we often neglect, and the viewing of film animation made by hand, frame by frame, and I think there is that same humanizing sense of meaning that speaks to us when we are surrounded by an architecture that is less mechanized, less copy-pasted. To some it might sound nostalgic or backward-looking, but I thought about this quite a bit, and I believe it is just another way of looking forward, the same way as taking care of the natural environment. Is it romantic to want to preserve human life on earth or to preserve nature? No, it isn't. It is our survival, and I think it has to do with our survival in this case as well.

On the following pages: Aristofanis Soulikias, Still from Last Dance on the Main, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

Where do the architect and the artist meet in your creative process? There are many ways to answer this question from a design perspective. For me, it was architecture and storytelling coming together. Architecture is temporal, because we're experiencing it in time, but it has many constraints that film animation doesn't. For example, making a project alone, having so much control over the whole artistic process and its product, is something that I don't think I could have as an architect. I always wished to be the architect who is the storyteller, who is able to finish the product and communicate architecture by incorporating the living experience, incorporating the human story in it. What I'm answering here is about how I am an architect by means of animation. On my light table I have made models of towns, elevations of streets, sections of buildings, plans of intersections. Ultimately, both the architect and the animator are visual artists. When architects are designing, they communicate ideas about the world, about ways to live in space, and the animator too can represent a world that is still not built; an imaginary world. They both imagine and they both deal with space; even the animator, eventually, will have to deal with space. I think it makes sense for an architect to become an animator. I am not the only one to have done so.

What are your most important objectives as an animator and as an architect? As an animator, I think that there is still much to be discovered within traditional

stop-motion

representations.

techniques,

especially

with

regard

to

spatial

I see the transition between handmade animation to that made

exclusively on the computer as an indicator, a paradigm of the loss of human physical imprint across a large range of activities of making. To me the role of the hand in animation is as important as architectural theorist Juhani Pallasmaa claims it 38


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

it to be for the architectural drawing. And, indeed, handmade techniques are not dead. One reason why handmade techniques have been revived in recent years – and I also have been benefiting greatly from this – is digital technology. Digital technology has helped the handmade. A paradox which makes me hopeful. There are possibilities for hybrid processes, where the handmade can be re-valorized or re-consolidated, somehow reinstated within them. I think it is important that the craft part, the tactile part, that part that's away from the computer screen, that in which one makes one’s hands dirty with materials, so to speak, still has a place, survives, has an important place in the process. Then, I think, it also becomes crucial in our perception, in the way we perceive these artworks when we view them. As an architect who is doing animation, or let's say simply as an architect, my objective is to promote urban places that respond to the human body, its capabilities and limitations, and have meaningful stories to tell us; and just as we have slow food and all these slow movements, maybe we need to slow down in certain ways, and even to slow down in our voracity for consuming materials and space, and just try to look at the quality of our existing spaces, and at the possibility of having buildings that are in dialogue with the pedestrian on the street, and are in harmony with the public realm, where communities are formed, and where the city acquires its soul, its atmosphere. I think atmosphere in a city is created by that invisible synergy between people and their immediate surroundings, and that's what I'm often trying to communicate in my work. To me, it is these collective and cumulative interactions, or even their traces, in real space, which create atmosphere. It cannot happen on Facebook or on Instagram; atmosphere has to be in real space. As an architect, I'm trying to remind people of these values, and as an animator I want to put them into motion and, equally, to preserve a way of making animation and underline that the lates 39


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

latest gadget in technology is not going to make a story better. I say to myself: “I'm going to make a story more meaningful, more touching with the simplest of means”. We have the capacity, as viewers, to suspend our disbelief, and we have imagination, the capacity to imagine things. We don't have to be given everything on screen; and, of course, by “simple means”, I don’t mean lesser means.

What do you mostly value of the interaction that is created between your works and the viewers? I first sensed such interaction when showing my documentary, Last Dance on the Main, at festivals back in 2014-2016, which was about some events that were happening here in Montreal at the time concerning a historic neighbourhood that was scandalously under demolition and the successful resistance put up by a burlesque venue. I thought it was going to affect, or to be relevant mostly to Montrealers, but soon realized that it was very relevant to many other people who didn't know anything about Montreal. For me, this was very valuable, the reaction of people from another part of the world who also felt and understood the film, because a lot of these issues are universal. The other thing, which I found satisfactory, is when some people were not even commenting on my animation but were just outraged by what was happening in Montreal, which means that my work, without being noticed, was able to communicate exactly what I wanted to express: my disapproval of what was going on. And all this, of course, was communicated with my humble paper-cuts, so that was enormous for me. I think it is a revelation for some people from the audience to recognize, when they see that this work is made with paper silhouettes, to realize how much they prefer this aesthetic or feel, I would say, almost “at home” with those types of visuals. I think it's a reminder that we can all think of ways of doing that don't require computers and so much technology all the time. 40


Aristofanis Soulikias, Production still from In the Shadow of Mount Damavand, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

What role does the sensorial experience play in your creative process? I didn't know it played any role when I started, when I discovered these techniques, I just liked the end result, and I also liked the fact that we have control over the medium, that we feel comfortable with it. But somehow, looking back, I recognize that it was fun to make things by hand, to make these silhouettes, to play with all these paper surfaces instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. And that fun originates from having a physical experience with real materials. That's definitely a sensorial aspect. The materials I choose, all have a reason for being chosen, that has to do with how they can be manipulated but mainly what feel they communicate. When we see these animated objects on screen, we feel a certain touch that resonates through our bodies. This sensation is called by scholars a haptic one, and it is a key aspect of my research. I quite enjoy being immersed in my work. Usually, I begin by absorbing the place of my story as fully as I can.

This perceived experience, inevitably, is

transferred onto my animation. Then comes the making and of course the viewed work as projected. So if one was to divide the sensorial life of my film into three phases, one would have the perception of the artist, the act of the artist, and finally the perception of the viewer.

I see this process of transferring these haptic

experiences as a unifying thread between artist and viewer.

Who are your most important interlocutors or partners in your creative process? It is true that what I do is highly individualized; I work alone, and I have to be

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

be alone, and sometimes that's not that great because I am also a collaborative person. I chose this because I want to have control over my work. However, I do have my PhD supervisors as interlocutors who have employed me to research and create, through this technique, very interesting interdisciplinary projects while guiding me in theorizing my own research. I cannot ask for anything more or better than this, to have people who are willing to hire me to do exactly what I want to do. I can say that even my readings, often people about whom I knew nothing, or films, like this silent film from 1927 that I saw yesterday, called Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, can be very inspiring. There are interlocutors that may not even be alive, that are not there but whose writings are quite enlightening. And of course, my colleagues at university, with whom I have discussions, and who challenge me sometimes with important questions; so they are also interlocutors. Other possible collaborations that I had in the past and would like to have again are with people who work with music and audio, and this is interesting because, surprisingly, I have musical ideas that I give to them, and they, in turn, have visual ideas that they give to me.

What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice? Making animation the way I make it is definitely very engaging, I'm really living the present when I'm animating. At the same time, the work is based on past experiences, while there is the anticipation that through this work something new will be born in the future, which is not completely planned. A lot of things are unplanned, they happen, and they are surprises.

On the following pages: Aristofanis Soulikias, Still from In the Shadow of Mount Damavand, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

On another level, my films are often about historic places, voices from the past, and yet I try to show their relevance today and what can be imagined about them in the future. For me, the past is never a dead thing, it is something that is always alive, and in the end, my animation is trying to illustrate that liveliness and how it still animates our lives.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? I would like to bring to the surface those qualities of urbanity that are essential in community building, social consciousness and a sense of belonging to a place. I hope to make these qualities become better appreciated and understood by ordinary citizens, but also by planners and designers, and urge them to protect what is meaningful to them in city life. I try to raise awareness through sensitizing. I’m not interested in making smart or shocking statements. We are so inundated with shocks these days that one more shock will only be lost in the noise. My ambition is to make poetry in animation, a pathway of connection, a shared experience that will enrich both my life and that of the viewers' day, and, who knows, their life just a little bit.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the most recent pandemic? How do you feel or sense this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art? It seems that this pandemic encouraged and accelerated things that were already on the way. The ongoing virtualization became more prevalent, even amongst people who were not into communicating or living virtually. At the same time, 46


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

time, and this is evident everywhere, there was an awakening, I think, about the need to have real human interactions in real places, in squares, sidewalks, cafés, etc. I see it here in Montreal, the yearning to get back to the city and reclaim it. The city had been emptied and, I think, the value of interacting physically in and with the city is something that, because of the pandemic, is more recognized than ever before. So, some of the arguments that I'm positing are now more convincing. Digital technology can be great in facilitating remote collaborations or communicating across thousands of kilometers, as we are doing now for this interview. It is an extraordinary tool. At the same time, I am a little bit afraid of this aggressive push towards doing everything virtually, and I find this fusion or confusion between the real and the virtual a bit disconcerting. I don't think it is a generational thing. I listen lately to these radio interviews by seasoned scholars who are excitingly saying that there is this inevitability in how our lives will be more and more mediated by technology, or that we are going to somehow abandon our own human consciousness and outsource it to artificial intelligence because that is simply where things are heading towards, but these are decisions that we, humans, will have to make.

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Aristofanis Soulikias, Sketch for Lisbon project, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

What do you feel needs attention now? I am noticing an ongoing process that is taking place everywhere, and which is quite evident here in Canada; the fragmentation of society, the isolation of people, people being disconnected from their surrounding environment and being "connected" always somewhere else and keeping themselves "busy" with some activity or another that involves them being absorbed into their smartphone, wherever they are. I'm also not immune to this, and it's something that we all have to struggle against, but I think that it has become clearer now, especially during the pandemic, that this virtual hyper-connectivity, with all its conveniences, has not made us any happier. I don't think we're happier than when we were without smartphones 20 or 30 years ago, and I believe recent research is showing that. It is obvious to me that convenience and happiness are two conditions that are often wrongly conflated. This is important because when people are conscious of their immediate surroundings, they are also conscious of their fellow humans, and only then can they develop empathy, help each other to solve problems, but also live in sanity. That engagement with our immediate surroundings is important for their appreciation and eventual improvement. It is this appreciation that I try to heighten in my films.

In your personal experience, if you look at the current landscape and at how arts and culture interact with the social field, what is that you notice? What do you feel needs some attention or change? When we talk about art and culture, we can presume that all people are participating, or experiencing a certain culture and enjoy a certain art. What many call

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

call "art", which is in galleries and museums, may not be accessible to the wider public and may not be communicating to them anything that will touch them profoundly. There seems to be a huge gap between the art destined for mass consumption and high art, or pioneering art, and bridging this gap is always on my mind. What I quite enjoyed with Last Dance on the Main is that all kinds of people got to see the film, and all kinds of people had something different to say about it. I think film is an art form that, even when not purely commercial, can still reach a broader public than, let's say, painting. I often think about how artists can inspire larger segments of society and – may I use the forbidden word – elevate people, like the way I got elevated when I saw the film I mentioned before, or as many artworks from past centuries are able to do, even if they come from completely different societies or value systems. By elevating, I don’t mean pleasing but offering a new positive outlook into the world, empowering through something that connects us, something that, no matter how small, can reveal something greater, perhaps too large to grasp with other means. Throughout history, art has been an important part of public life. I'm thinking of a baroque church in Italy, where you go in and you see art that speaks even to the most uneducated person, and every person can gain something different from it. These are artworks that have many readings, that are rich in levels of understanding, and are also public, and are also part of the physical, the built environment. That is something that interests me very much. I always have this idea that maybe animation can also leave the dark rooms of the cinema and become the new wall paintings of today that speak to everybody.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

Is there anything that you would like to do differently, on a personal level, in your artistic practice? I would like to keep myself open to other handmade techniques such as drawn animation, charcoal animation, or animation of 3D objects. It is true that working on a light table with paper silhouettes is a long love affair of mine, but I need to be careful not to become complacent with past successes and begin imitating myself. I would also like to expand my theoretical framework in the area of projection. As I said, I am all for projecting my animation outside the cinema, where people are less static and can experience it within an urban context. I will have to think outside the conventional ways of projection and also see whether there could even be a place for the physical bits of my work.

Is there anything important for you to mention that I did not ask you? I would like to add that even though much of the joy I get in my work comes from the unplanned, the opportunities to be impulsive and make spontaneous decisions at any given stage of the process, the thought of creating hundreds of excess frames that may need to be scrapped is quite daunting and at times debilitating. It takes discipline and courage to jump into a film animation project, and I feel that I still wrestle with accepting that not everything can be resolved in my head before I begin. I need to be more willing to dive in. By getting immersed into animating, one gets fresh ideas as well.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Aristofanis Soulikias

Can you think of any keywords that you are leaving with, after this conversation? Relevance. Physical presence. City atmosphere. The pleasure of making. Imagining through traces. Feeling place.

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Aristofanis Soulikias, Beautiful Lies, projection on the Amalie Redlich Tower, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.


Nadine Gomez Curated by Daniela Veneri

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Nadine Gomez. Courtesy of the artist. Nadine Gomez, a graduate of Université du Québec à Montréal, completed a master's degree in communications at the École des médias, where she discovered the urban issues that have inspired her since. Launched in 2012, The Horse Palace, her first feature-length documentary, observes the transformations of a city and its link to the memory of places. In 2015, she was awarded a grant with which she directed Métro, a short documentary essay that takes a fresh look at Montreal's underground network and its unique and imposing architecture. Her second feature film, Exarcheia, The Chanting of Birds, a nocturnal and philosophical stroll in a mythical neighborhood of Athens, was launched in national competition at the RIDM 2018 and presented at the Thessaloniki’s International documentary Film Festival in 2019. Nadine keeps on creating and developing several projects on various platforms. Actively involved in her community, she also sits, since 2018, on the Board of the Conseil des arts de Montréal as President of the Cinema Committee. Her filmography includes: Ceci est une espèce aimée, court-métrage documentaire, 10 min, 2021 ©Ambiances Ambigües; Avant la nuit, court-métrage documentaire, 10 min, 2020 ©ONF; Exarcheia, le chant des oiseaux, long-métrage documentaire, 73 min, 2018 ©Production indépendante; Métro, court-métrage documentaire, 17 min, 2015 ©Embuscade Films; Le Horse Palace, long-métrage documentaire, 68 min, 2012 ©Argus Films. 55


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

“The film I'm working on is kind of a fresco, I could say, about the city as a human experience, the space were human experiences can take place, that is also built through the imaginaries of people, not just from a urban planning point of view or only by architecture, and all this brought together makes the complexity of the city.” - Nadine Gomez

Nadine, what projects are you currently working on? This morning I was just talking to my producer for this film that I've been developing for quite a while now, and it's a project that I've been trying to grasp not knowing exactly how to approach it. I think I often work this way, I start with intuitions and concepts that are a bit academic or intellectual, and I take a long time to process them into something cinematographic, so it doesn't become a thesis in a film but it becomes a film. The film I'm working on is kind of a fresco, I could say, about the city as a human experience, the space were human experiences can take place, that is also built through the imaginaries of people, not just from a urban planning point of view or only by architecture, and all this brought together makes the complexity of the city. While speaking to my producer today I realized also that I think I want to grasp the question of tension between beauty and chaos, I think that this is also what I'm trying to aim, because I love cities as much as I hate them. I need to live in a city, I miss the city but at the same time sometimes we need to get out of it.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

I think the pandemic has shown us a lot of things about cities, when they're empty they can become scary spaces, they lose what we look for into them; and they also are part of environmental problems, but at the same time they are places of upon God, where new ideas, new projects, new technologies arise, so they're very interesting spaces for me to explore, in the cinematic way and in a documentary way, that I'm also approaching. At the beginning, the idea was to include literature into the project, because I felt literature was part of what has built the imaginary of cities. Now, I'm realizing that literature is becoming like the third wheel of the bicycle, which is maybe forced into the project and it's not working the way I would like to. For now, I'm working on trying to build the film, a bit in between documentary and fiction. We will navigate in this kind of imaginary space, meeting people that tell us something about where they experience the city from, and we will have like a journey of discovery while meeting one after another of these characters. It doesn't seem very precise, but it is more than it seems, and we managed to get almost all the money, so we're waiting for one last grand and we'll be able to able to shoot it, I'm still pinching myself that institutions trusted us with the film. It's good.

What drives you in your work? I think there are two aspects now. Maybe one year ago I could have not ever really said this, but now I see more clearly that there are two aspects that I really feel are at the center of what I do and what I like to do. One is to dig into concepts, to kind of be able to sublime and explore intellectual or philosophical or more academic themes and subjects. It's the way I approach my work, and maybe it's the academic side that I still have, but I never wanted to follow into the academic

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Nadine Gomez, Metro, Still, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

academic structure because I felt that it was not a place for me, however I get this approach by reading a lot of books before working on a project. The other aspect is meeting people. I think that when a film starts to exist, what happens is not in your hands, and you actually lose the control when you start working. In documentary, a lot of magic can happen; people are their own creators for you, and I think that's the best gift you can give when they offer with generosity something in a scene, seeing things in a certain way, moving in a certain way, observing life, or by discussing with somebody else in a certain way. This gives me a lot of life energy, and I really love it.

What are your most important objectives as a filmmaker?

That's a good question. I know that I make films in a world where there are an enormous amount of films, and I think many filmmakers have this kind of seizure, feeling that you are just a little grain of sand, and huge mountains of work are created every day, year after year. I question a lot myself about why I'm doing this, and why I want to keep doing this, because it's not easy. It takes a lot of years, and I know people feel like making films is very sexy and cool, but that makes us feel also very alone and sometimes it is very painful and stressful. So I ask myself why I'm making this, and I think it's a way for me to ingest and digest existence; it's the way I found that could bring all things that are interesting to me together. Cinema kind of allows me to do a lot of what I like and what I feel I'm able to do, so I would say the objective for me in cinema is to create films that are open enough so the public can have a dialogue through the eyes. For me, it is a way to encounter and to meet people, and I feel it's the same for the public. I want to respect the intelligence of the people that watch the works I do.

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Nadine Gomez, Metro, Still, 2015. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

The films I make do not necessarily go mainstream, but when people find a space to dialogue with them, I think it really works, and they connect and think about the film for a while afterwards. I think my objective would be always to make films that are on a dialogue mode with the public; not to impose, not to present my convictions, but to present my beliefs so as to have a dialogue with the people that are listening to them.

What do you appreciate most of the interaction emerging between your films and the viewers? It's a bit hard for me to see it because I don't have that much experience in showing my films, with that interaction, and it's really interesting for me to see what I experience when I am the watcher, when I’m the public. But I do ask myself during editing for example, what is the space that you, public, find yourself into what I have managed to present you, where you hang on, what are the details that you find interesting, what stays in your mind?

What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process? I think that, as much as I pretend to have this intellectual rigor or a solid background, as much as my films are built on this, I think what drives me the most is the sensorial aspect of what you can show. Of course, in cinema you are restricted to two major senses, which is the view and hearing. Since the first time I made a film, I realized that sound was an aspect that I found very important, that is much more powerful than we suppose when we speak about cinema, and the sound people I worked with also made me understand and feel that. For me, it is a necessary part of the sensorial experience.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

When you make Cinema and you want money (to make films), you have to pretend that you know what you're doing, and I wasn't yet at that stage of being able to do it, but I remember writing a lot of bark gesture when I was working on the film on Exarcheia (Athens), and I was obsessed with the gestures of people, or the way gestures sometimes say much more or (mean) something else that you words intend to do, and for me it's something that makes sense for cinema. The film about the city is not about saying what a city is saying, or what the city should be in the future, but it is about what is the feeling of you being in a city, how do we feel. Of course, there's no truth and not one answer, but if my film manages to have that kind of feeling which is sensorial for me, and subjective, and subliminal, invisible, well, this is what I'm kind of searching for, secretly.

Who are the most important partners or interlocutors that have somehow an influence in the unfolding of your own creative process?

For a big part, definitely the ones who write about the subject, but sometimes I would not know who has the most direct access to what I'm trying to say. Definitely people around me, my friends, and my boyfriend, who sometimes doesn't understand at all what I'm doing, but the fact that he doesn't understand forces me to try to explain it more or understand myself better, because sometimes I tend to be comfortable with my ideas, as I don't have to confront them, and I'm not exactly there where I want to go. I have some friends that I really trust because of their practice. I have a friend that works in theater, who I often go to, to dialogue about subjects. I have a group of friends from high school that are very rich intellectually, and they are able to give me 62


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

me references. I have a friend who made me realize that every time I do a film, it is like I am building the process to achieve the film instead of the film being the objective. When I ask for references, sometimes my friends suggest what I should go see in theatre for example, and sometimes they made me realize that I already had a clear idea of what I wanted to make. It also happens, when I watch my work when it’s finished that I would say something like "Hi, stranger, is this you that I was making?" - I didn't know it, I discovered it at the end of the journey. Generally speaking, my interlocutors are people that are good for dialogue, that inspire me or that will help me; it depends on where I am.

What feedbacks that you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you or surprised you most?

My process feels to me intuitional. Some people at certain moments made me realize that, if often I don't have much perspective on the way I work, I feel very confused when I'm working, then I realize that I know better than I think. My boyfriend often makes me notice that I don't allow myself, for example, to be convinced of what I am doing, and that I am hiding behind this excuse or this other thing, and this takes time to digest but then it helps me a lot in my process. It's like if I was working in a cloud, doing what I'm doing, and slowly, through the people around me who make comments like this, I'm kind of seeing a bit more the path I'm working on, which gives me more confidence and helps me be more engaged with the work I'm doing. I have a small kid now and time suddenly is so much more precious, so I feel I have to know where I'm going because I have only few moments in my day to do this stuff, and now it's like if my subconscious works more efficiently, like if all the

On the following pages: Nadine Gomez, Exarcheia, Still, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

the fog of anxiousness and of what people are thinking, what I'm thinking of myself, dissipates because I have to be efficient. I guess it's like not so much what people say about my films, but what people say about how I work, that is what works inside of me most.

What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice? It's a good question because actually what I'm interested in is cities, and cities are infinite layers of time. My first film was exactly about how the presence of how the city of the past is visible, or how it is disappearing in the new city. What traces can we see? Who is carrying this memory? When are they losing something? I was interested in this and I was spending time in a neighborhood that changed; it was one of the oldest neighborhoods in Montreal, even in Canada, and it became like a stick attraction, so these were very important questions for me. The most I advance in my films, the most I'm abandoning that and becoming interested in future. I would say that my first film was about past, then the latest films were about present, and now I'm interested in the future. I think cities are always for me, at the same time, as a projected prediction of the future and nostalgia of something that we're losing, and I'm always oscillating between those emotions.

Where do you sense the presence of seeds of future? Well, I think there are two futures. There is a future of my own life, which is a future that for me will darken because of the end of life, something that I see more 66


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

more now that I have a kid, and I feel like she forces me to see further that I ever saw before. At the same time, I see future in my work as I ask myself what will be of the world that we are heading to. I'm interested in how cities blow up. I've been doing interviews with architects, and think about the cities of the future, how resilient architecture can be, or how it needs to be resilient because of climate changes. We are forced to think. There will be changes, we will have floods, we will have heat, winds or fires, and how should we build the city around these things? For me this is inspiring.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? It is a very interesting question because it is forcing me to admit that I want my work to out past me, or exist after me. Sometimes, a lot for many years, I approached my work with a lot of the syndrome of being an imposter, I would say like many women, however I don't want to bring it to gender. I didn't study cinema, I studied communications and I was around it, but I did not study cinema like many of my friends, and I learned by myself. They didn't know what I was doing. Now, with time, I feel that this is my place and this is what I want to do. I guess I would like people to be able to see these films in the future, that they could watch my work and still have a dialogue with it. If I'm honest I really kind of hope that people can watch my films out there and that, one day, some young person will be interested in it and find a dialogue and feel that it still relates to reality. I have myself this relation with many work made by people who are dead, but I still shoot myself in the past, and I wonder if one of my films can have this feeling of not being linked to a temporary moment but to transcend that a bit. I would be really proud of it.

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Nadine Gomez, Exarcheia, Still, 2018. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

In your experience, what kind of impact do you see emerging from the most recent pandemic? How do you feel or sense that this experience is affecting our way of producing, sharing and experiencing art?

It is a big question, because I think we're still in the midst of the pandemic and I'm not sure it's easy to say that we're out so we can have a perspective on it. If I just think fast, I would say that the domestic side of me would say that it has pushed forward, or faster, this individualistic experience of life. The fact that we might return to tribes, to smaller communities that are more similar to us, because we are less exposed to difference. I made a small film in the underground metro of Montreal, and what I liked when I was making this film was the fact that I realized that subways are political spaces in a way, as that they force you to go a bit closer to people you would never want to be with you. You have to watch them, they don't look like you, don't smell like you, and you always come up with stories about seeing this person and observing this person; that's important for tolerance and collectivity. I'm afraid that emptying spaces of their people will affect more the question of collectivity and social life. As for the cultural aspect, at the moment here in Montreal live shows like theater, music and dance shows, are allowed even if places cannot be in full capacity, but people don't go, which is scary. I also heard a study about people in philanthropy who are giving money, and arts culture are the least of the worries of the society, because people are worried more about elders as well as our young kids being locked in front of a computer. Of course there are urgent matters that out fast art, and I think art will have to ask itself very important questions. Sometimes I feel art is becoming, or it has become, some kind of a trend, not only a way of questioning life and digging to find essence and meaning and beauty, but it has become something you call yourself off like artsy, and it's like a hashtag word.

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Nadine Gomez, As Night Descends, Still, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

What questions do you see emerging right now?

I will say this, and I don't know if I will believe it myself in a few weeks or months, because it's just something I thought two weeks ago that was brought up by a friend in a conversation, and I haven't thought it through, but she was saying that we are losing sensuality in our existence. We are not attending premieres, or being together at festivals, very close to each other, having drinks and speaking, being in a collectivity, we lost that. We have urgent problems to face, the environment, social and political crisis are rising again, and maybe not more than before, I'm not sure, maybe the media make you feel like it's more complicated, but I feel like cinema art was at a time very political and then it has become very poetic or interested in small narrations. I don't know much about the visual arts and where they're standing now, maybe theater is more engage with life, but I feel cinema has become interested about itself. We need to have a crisis, maybe, to go and do something that will start speaking about people that are living with problems. People don't go to art fairs or events, because right now there are other, more urgent matters to attend, and art has to find a way to be in this space for soothing, for helping understand reality, and not just be something of a laser. What I feel is that art has to find a way to reconnect with people and help people live better, instead of being something that people just see as an extra in life entertainment. When things are going bad, this is the first part you cut. How do you make people understand that they need arts? We need to remind them that art is not just cosmetic, that art is necessary for life.

On the following pages: Nadine Gomez, As Night Descends, Still, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

In your personal experience, what do you notice about how the arts and cultural field relates to the expanded social field? What do you feel needs some attention or change?

I think the industry that is guiding the big lines of what is being produced needs to be confronted. I was about to say that artists should be more engaged to political life. Citizens need to be a bit more aware of their responsibility towards society. I think art should be able to dialogue again with society, and maybe this has been lost in cinema. I’m not so sure. I feel institutions are a big part of the problem, like the fact that they are still focusing on money and making money; but art has a function in society. Here in Quebec we are suffering a lot from that. Some institutions in cinema are mainly focusing on cinema that is like mainstream, but they have a responsibility… I think of the way art is articulating itself right now for example, and that we're losing artists because sometimes institutions focus a lot just on being eligible, of being financed or entering a festival circuit or in a big gallery, and as an artist you try to make what you think is expected from you. For me, this is becoming a problem. One of the characters in my last film, a teacher of cinema at the Greek Academy of Cinema, was seeing the same thing, he saw how kids came to him with a script and they wanted help to be able to enter festivals but not trying to make a film that is ingrained in them; he would ask “ what about this image that obsess you, things that you really want to make out of chaos”, but the industry has become so appealing, big and sexy that people want to enter it because that is where fame is and where money is. So it kind of closes on itself, and that is kind of cannibalism. Maybe we are losing a certain definition of art and its social function also.

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Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

Is there anything that you would like to do differently on a personal level, in your own artistic practice?

I was thinking this in the last few weeks, that I feel I don't want my films to be specifically political films, or I don't pretend that my films will change anything, but I feel I have the responsibility to be very thoughtful of what I'm doing, in terms of politics of the space I occupy, of the privilege I have of making the films I do; that doesn't mean being politically correct, it means being aware of the immense amount of films that are being made in society. There is this way of seeing artists in societies, as spoiled children who ask for money to do nothing. This is very interesting; it's something we have to listen to. The reaction could be, you know, they don't understand us, those people don't know what high culture is. I think, even if I'm middle class, I try not to have a bourgeois thinking about it; it's not always easy, as you're surrounded by many conventions and stuff like that, but I feel like I want to keep an edge in my work. I want to still be sitting a bit on the side of the chair, I don't want to sit through comfortably because I will bore myself.

Is there anything that I didn't ask you that is important for you mention? This conversation makes me realize that all the context that you gave, thinking about the pandemic, about the social implication of artists and art, makes me realize that there are tons of people like me that are suffering, or fighting, or wishing for art that makes sense, that are investing everything they have in it, and maybe that's the danger of what institutions and what the industry do when they separate us, and without the space for dialogue, the space to encounter your peers, you forget that there are peers like you. It makes me realize that the fight is not in between us, but it's about to context the structures that are forcing us to be in fight or in competition with one another, instead of being fighting together. 75


Film making and catching the invisible - Nadine Gomez

Can you think of three keywords that you are taking away after this conversation?

I don't know why but I would say awareness, because it makes me aware, and I think disposition, when you think about your practice and when you dialogue about it; and I think perspective. Social awareness and creating, two things that go together, that we need to go together.

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New Works and Art Galleries Curated by Daniela Veneri and Gundula Kosch-Gruber

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New works and art galleries

New works and art galleries Gallery Gundula Gruber with Ma Jia, Matthew Mottel, Nicole Lattuca, Urban Grünfelder.

What are art galleries doing? This question emerged since the beginning of Rondò Pilot research project, and it seemed particularly interesting to dig deeper into the reality of art galleries especially now, in the middle of a global pandemic. How are art galleries working? What is the intention behind their proposals? Which artists do they turn to? What new artworks are they catalyzing? What role are they playing? This collection of interviews gravitate around the activity of Gallery Gundula Gruber, which opened up its doors in Vienna in the Covid-19 year. It offers a view on a constellation of individual and collective levels of awareness in this specific moment in time, when an art gallery owner, with artists with different backgrounds and cultures and their works activated a certain motion in the art landscape in Vienna.

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Above, from left to right: Gundula Kosch-Gruber (photo by Jolly Schwarz Photography); Ma Jia (photo courtesy of the artist); Urban Grünfelder, Matthew Mottel (photo courtesy Miriam Jusch), Nicole Lattuca (photo courtesy of the artist).

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New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

Gundula Kosch-Gruber Curated by Daniela Veneri

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Yuga Hatta. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Gundula Kosch-Gruber. Photo: Jolly Schwarz Photography.

Gundula Kosch-Gruber was born in Austria and grew up in the Salzkammergut near Salzburg. Her interest in art and philosophy was already evident in her choice of hobbies during her school years. Mainly in the form of reading and founding a reading circle. After graduating from high school and after a one-year stay in London, she attended the College for Fashion and Clothing Technology in Vienna. Afterwards she was a flight attendant for the German airline Aero Lloyd. Four years later, she moved to Vienna to work for Niki Laudas Airline Fly Niki, where she was responsible for the training and quality control of the cabin crew. After two years in Vienna, she started a family and focused on raising her two children. At the same time, she began to study art history at the University of Vienna, where she is now writing her master's thesis on Marcel Duchamp and also has been running the Gallery Gundula Gruber in Vienna for a year now.

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New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

“It's maybe a niche work, but I still think that's a possibility. I don't want to be the fiftieth art gallery that is just trying to show the same five upcoming artists in Austria. I do want to keep diversity in the gallery, and that's what I'm interested in. So this year I am just focusing on new connections, and maybe there are some new upcoming possibilities; I'm just figuring out opportunities.” - Gundula Kosch-Gruber

Gundula, what are you currently working on with your art gallery? This is a new art gallery and I'm trying to emerge from the bottom, and I don't have any investors. I have a possibility to run the gallery without any costs but still need to build up a network. Many galleries who started in earlier times have their connections, know the actors in the field, have some supporting investors, but this is not my case. At the moment, I am trying to figure out how to build up a network without having the possibility to go too fast; I don't know if this is possible, but I have to figure it out anyway. Of course in the background I have some advisors and I'm starting to have connections, but this is just taking a lot of time.

Why did you decide to open an art gallery? What was your intention? My intention was to test it out; I had the possibility to do it because I have the 84


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

the space. It wasn't a plan to open it during the Covid-19 year, but a friend of mine asked me if I could open it for a week, and it was already a couple of years since I was talking to artists about showing in my gallery and I was negotiating with them already, then I just opened it for my friend for one week and all the artists saw that the gallery was open, and then they asked me if I could just leave it open. This is more or less how it happened to me. Opening in 2020 gave me somehow the possibility to show good artists from the beginning, because during the first phase of the pandemic there wasn't much to do anyway, so they agreed to be involved. I have already gained a good reputation with my shows, and that's also a nice opportunity. Even though a show didn't sell and I didn't have many visitors, the reputation of the gallery name has been growing.

What are you mostly proud of the shows that you hosted so far? I like the diversity of the artists, and what I also like is that I didn't just show selling artists, like other young galleries do. I really took the opportunity to show some difficult things, like installations, sculpture, and things like that. Now I am hosting my first painting show, with a male artist who is well known in Austria. I'm trying to have a quite good mixture of art now at the gallery, because I also need to sell, but I still like the paintings a lot. I wouldn't take any paintings just because I know they sell, that's what I'm trying to stick to, as long as it's possible. At the beginning I was not sure if I would like to show paintings like those I am showing now, but then I saw these works and I really liked them, as they ask questions about the human condition. When you look at them, what you see at the beginning is that they look very beautiful, but on a second side they make you feel quite uncomfortable and think about our society, and that's what I liked about them and why I show them now. They are good at asking questions.

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Photo: Jolly Schwarz Photography. Installation by Stephanie Misa at Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

What do you feel is really driving you in your work with the gallery? I was thinking about it and I was discussing about it with a well-known curator in Austria, who is also a collector, and I think that even though the gallery is in a very wealthy district of the city, people are not happy here and they are suffering from different kinds of things, so I just was considering to make the gallery really a space to gather together again, for them to come up in the gallery, have the art as a kind of saving here, not only just to buy it but because this is a space where to come together, join artists' talks, concerts, performances, and so on. Church and politics do not work anymore to invite people gathering together, so I thought that if there is a little bit that I could do then I should do it; art is still, at a very high level, a kind of health care service for people, I'm still believing in that.

What do you notice or appreciate most of the interaction that emerges between the visitors, the gallery and the works that are shown? The kids feeling that they show, at any level they are considering art. I always listen to visitors, if they know a lot about art or not so much, they just seem to open up here, they tell me a lot of things and we talk about a lot of deep stuff, and that's really nice and that's also my intention, that even though people don't like the art, they just start thinking, and I try not to judge and not to interrupt the taste of anything.

Who do you feel are your most important interlocutors and partners in this ongoing process of setting up a new art gallery? I do not really actually have interlocutors or partners. In the decision process 87


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

process I try to listen to some artists who are older and were longer in the business, who try to tell me what's going on, what's happening. Of course you get sometimes frustrated because it seems like if having connections is the only thing that really counts, but then again I also have to work with the reality here and that's what I'm trying to do. I try to listen, to figure out our reality and try to work with that. I also have some very experienced curators in the background who always give me advice about artists I should show and how this whole art scene in Vienna is working. I think it makes sense not to get frustrated and to figure out new things and new ways to make things work, and I listen to everyone, also to potential collectors, what they like, what they miss. I really just listen to as many people as possible, and that's what I'm doing at the moment.

Which of the feedbacks that you have received so far, since the beginning of this adventure, have been particularly meaningful for you or surprised you the most? It's surprising to me that after this one year with Covid-19, when I only really had three interesting shows, a lot of important people already either contact me or keep watching me, and this happened quite fast. I am missing collectors now, and they keep saying to me that I just have to be patient, because the collectors will come.

What do you notice about how the current arts and culture field relates to the social field? What do you feel needs some attention or change in this particular period of time? I think that, after these Corona years, this selling online, this hosting meetings 88


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

meetings online, social media have become more important, and they also are now more accepted. You have to be very present all the time, and everything is really fast. People working in the arts are often permanently on social media, and they are also very transparent through their online presence. Not being transparent, also about the pricing of an art piece, is over, and I think it just changed totally. It is not reasonable to just be an art gallery somewhere in Vienna, sit and wait for people coming around; maybe, if you have a bunch of collectors who are your customers, it's nice and they keep your gallery alive, but now things do not improve like that anymore. You have to do a lot more to improve, and being on social media and on different platforms is also a very low cost advertising possibility, which is good I think. Many people are now also buying online, even houses sold at high prices, and I think you should very much consider that possibility as an art gallery as well.

In your experience, what do you feel about what role art galleries are playing, or should play, in the current art and culture landscape? Where do you see opportunities, and where do you see challenges? It's a really good question, and I'm still trying to figure that out. I've recently read an interview with the founder of a big gallery, and he said that an art gallery has to be a social place again. I do not think that this contradicts what I said a moment ago about online selling, but I think it is important for galleries on one hand to do online selling and be transparent on the social media, to open up to the possibilities to get collectors, but then again also to be a place where collectors can see the artworks in a physical space. The social component of art galleries, after these Corona years, stays also in coming together and talking, and I think this is very important.

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New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

What do you feel about the relationship between art galleries and other arts and culture players, like museums or other institutions? What is that you mostly notice of the dynamics in place? I don't have so much experience right now, but if I think at the relationship with collectors, what I see is that they have to trust you, as you advice them, which is the most important thing when introducing something new to them. I also think that the relationship between museums and art galleries is quite inspiring, and they could help each other and trust each other. Art galleries could play as advisors for museums, because they are always looking for new artists and they have a lot of connections to artists, which sometimes are like close relationships. Even when big museums have their curators when they set up exhibitions, having the support of art galleries offering these connections and their advice, could be helpful to consider what is possible or not possible with an artist, what sounds like a good idea or a bad idea.

What kind of contribution would you like to offer with your art gallery? As I already said, I like to show not only decorative, selling art, but to open up to artists that are more difficult to show. It's maybe a niche work, but I still think that's a possibility. I don't want to be the fiftieth art gallery that is just trying to show the same five upcoming artists in Austria. I do want to keep diversity in the gallery, and that's what I'm interested in. So this year I am just focusing on new connections, and maybe there are some new upcoming possibilities; I'm just figuring out opportunities.

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Photo: Jolly Schwarz Photography. Installation by Stephanie Misa at Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the recent pandemic? How do you feel that this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art? Artists here got some refunds, and museums had I think fifty percent of their visitors missing, and now they have more problems and lower budgets, they had to postpone some shows, and the consequences are still going on. I think it will take two or even three years to just be able to work normally again and to have a budget again for some shows. At the moment, I think the scene is a little bit boring, because they don't have enough money to show interesting things, but some new exhibition are still coming up. Artists worked during the pandemic and now they are able to show again, maybe on a smaller scale but they're still trying to do something; maybe this is happening more underground, which is interesting. The pandemic didn't impact collectors too much, and some artists even sold more than usual, because there was not much more to do and the galleries could do more appointments with collectors. I couldn't do it because I wasn't established yet, but I think for art galleries it was interesting, that's what I heard.

What do you feel are the most relevant emerging questions in the art field now? The most relevant questions for me are still the same, not only about visitors numbers, and not only about selling for an art gallery, but also about what is really good art. I think these questions are even more relevant now, after the pandemic break, because it became harder for everyone and things seem to be focused on money again, and I think also public institutions in the field are focusing even more on money issues now, which makes me very sad. There are people who would love to do something different, like performances in young, small museums, but it is a really hard thing to do because there is a lot less funding for museums in general 92


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

general and the small ones do not have a big apparatus behind them, and it's all based on money.

If you were able to change anything in the area of responsibility of the different actors in the arts and culture field, where would you start? Art galleries have to sell, they are commercial, and that's one thing, but maybe there should be a possibility for young galleries to get funding. Maybe it would be a nice thing to support a quite vital scene with young galleries in a city, it would be very interesting also for collectors. Museums have a lot of restrictions about what they have to do, the state and the funders tell them what they should do, but then I think they should have more freedom to take some possibilities and do something different, because they would catalyze new ideas; they are now trapped in some ways. Maybe when they get less funding, they have more freedom to do other things. Then I see how much artists struggle with money, many times it's such a hard life for them, and I would give them a small income, even just to buy some material to work on something. I would do that but you have to start by changing the laws, that's the thing really.

Where do you sense seeds of future around you, in your work? I'm trying not to look too far in the future, because my intention is clear. Trying to focus on future then becomes overwhelming. I'm just trying to adjust, to run this gallery for three years and then I will reflect on the process, on what happened 93


Photo: Florian Schmeiser. Installation by Ma Jia at Gallery Gundula Gruber, 2021.


New works and art galleries: Gundula Kosch-Gruber

happened already and then I will maybe have to change; maybe I will have to give up, I don't know, but until then I just try not to miss any opportunity, and when you are too much focused on the future you just miss opportunities which are happening now, so I'm trying to be playful, to do the work and not miss any opportunities that come up. I would say that intention is more important.

Is there anything that I didn't ask you that is important to you to mention? You asked questions that I'm thinking of about every day. Maybe the question that is still there is about why are we doing what we do, but I can't answer it. I mean, why are we doing or starting something new in this art scene? Maybe we should do something else, but why are we doing it? When we discuss about it with artists, they just say that they just can't do anything else, and that's what every artist tells me. We have to do what we do somehow and I think that's why we all do it; maybe some people do what they do because their families started and they're just carrying on with it, I don't know, but the question is always about why we are doing what we do.

What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation? I think the key word in this conversation was intentionality, and also freedom.

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

Ma Jia Curated by Daniela Veneri and Gundula Kosch-Gruber

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Ma Jia. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Ma Jia was born in 1981 in China. From 1998 to 2001 she studied at the Art School Of China Art Academy, Hangzhou, China, and from 2001 to 2005 she attended the Central Academy Of Fine Art in Beijing, where she lived and worked until 2011. She moved to Austria in 2011, studying at Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Her most recent shows include: Uomo Universal LA FEMME, Semperdepot, Vienna, Austria, 2021; Little Donau, Central Garden, Vienna, Austria, 2021; Parallel 21 Auction, Art Care, Vienna, Austria, 2021; Parallel Vienna, Intervention, Austria, 2021; Female Art Auction, Artcare, Vienna, Austria, 2021; FAN, Vienna, Austria, 2021; Schloss Eybesfeld, Styria, Austria, 2021; Parallel Edition, Vienna, 2021; Gallery Gudula Gruber, Vienna, Austria, 2020; Parallel 2020, artist statement, Vienna, Austria, 2020; Untitled, Bildraum 1, Vienna, Austria, 2020; Speed #2, Büro Weltausstellung, Vienna, Austria, 2020. Awards: 2019 Parallel Vienna / Bildrecht Young Artists Award. Competition: 2021 Paternoster, geladener Wettbewerb, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum, BIG Art. 97


New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

“Artists work like analyzers, to analyze parts of the world that are not normally analyzed by science, or by philosophy or something like that. There is a part of the world that can only be communicated by artworks to people in life.” - Ma Jia

MaJia, what projects are you currently working on? I just participated in one public art competition in Vienna. It is about a public art project that should be prepared next spring and it will consist in a public sculpture. At the same time, I am working on two or three other projects, and most of them are sculptures.

What excites you most of what you are doing in this period of time? Art pieces basically first appear in the artist's mind and then they are represented in the real world, and this moment is always very exciting.

What did your exhibition at Gallery Gundula Gruber represent for you? The exhibition was about creating time and space energy through the used rusty industrial elements. It was about relationships, politics and emotions.

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

What drives you in your work? Generally speaking, the spiritual component. I think artwork is most of the time connected with spiritual life, and this is very interesting for me, that what you see with your eyes and what you feel are in connection, and this is what makes possible for an artwork to transform the world. When you see a pedestal, like a show box, you may be interested in knowing more about what is this thing on it. If, as an artist, I remove the artwork from the top of the pedestal, the object becomes something else, and there is a transformation of what the artwork is and of the show platform itself, and then it's already transforming from an object into another object, and this transformation is very spiritual. Artists work like analyzers, to analyze parts of the world that are not normally analyzed by science, or by philosophy or something like that. There is a part of the world that can only be communicated by artworks to people in life.

What are you most important objectives as an artist? In the end, there is not really any goal in life, I think. We are alive now and then we will die, and I do not think there is any specific goal for me to hit.

What do you appreciate most of the interaction that emerges between your artworks and the viewers? This has never been my concern, especially over the last years. My concern is 99


New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

is about the work, which is always constructed between my identity as a person and my cultural background. I live in Vienna since 10 years now, and I have spent my first 30 years in China, and my work is based on the foundation of culture. There is a lot of influence from Austria and from the European culture, and I feel also strongly supported by the major foundations of Chinese culture. My interest is about what I really want to express, and I'm always focusing on this and also on the way I let my work flow out of my thoughts. I think every individual has his or her own background. If we look at something from our own positions, me from where I am and you from where you stand, for sure we see really different things. The audience is like a large sea. In a way, I only work with my life experience, knowledge and feelings.

What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process? When I was in my twenties, I was working a lot with the sensorial experience in my life. By gaining age and experience, I think I'm growing and I can feel my way of working is growing too; it is slowly getting more logical than sensorial. I think art in the end for sure goes back to the sensorial experience, but I feel like my creative process is getting more logical. When I work with the sensorial experience in my working process, maybe in the very beginning I feel that there is a short moment when a sensorial experience from my past brings me to one point and then, after this point is fixed, I am aware of myself getting more logical to elaborate the topic and a more practical solution for the work. This is a very interesting question for artists; it is like a lifestyle question for creativity.

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

How the growing part of the logical approach is connected with the spiritual flow that animates your creativity? I think it is about knowledge. I feel like, as much as a human being is collecting knowledge, as much as you are getting more logical, your are elaborating things in the mind, but kids are much more doing things or judging things based on the sensorial experience, and I really appreciate the kids spirit and I hope that, as an old person, I will still keep this feeling, as this is a gift from birth that we should cherish, although I find it is moving away from me. I think that it is a normal process not only for artists but also for anyone else. It's a normal process, and it's really good to have it and people would be very lucky to keep it for their whole life. Being an artist, I think I would like to try to touch it up.

Who are the most important partners or interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process? I am influenced by the experience, by watching art pieces, and there are so many artists I'm really influenced by that I cannot say who mostly influences me. I have always liked to go to museums, to look at art history, to look at books, and they are all amazing. I am absolutely influenced by so many of them. Until now I have always worked alone and I do not have any partner influencing me, but of course I have some good friends, and in the end you always get influenced by your friends and by your working colleagues as well.

On the following pages: Ma Jia, Untitled metal, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

Which of the feedbacks that you have received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you, or have surprised you the most? I do not have anything like that. I think that every moment in life is really important. There are easy times, there are happy times, and there are difficult times, and the time, which is past, it's past. I think the present moment is important, as long as I breathe in my life and I can continue breathing. At least, at the moment, when I talk to you, this is the most important time for me.

What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice? I never thought in my artistic practice about the time. I think that, as a human being, every second you are different, and artworks represent the thoughts of artists, and that also every piece of the work is different. Even in the commercial world, you see that there are reproductions of artists' artworks, and if you really analyze the different periods of artists, you see that they normally have a strain but they are still clearly different, and most of the times it is quite honest to show it. This is very interesting for me, to look at other artists' work, because sometimes these people died a long time ago and then, through their work, you still see how their thoughts and feelings appear in your space. Sometimes I watch the work I did some time before, and it feels like I'm watching another person's figure. It's really very interesting.

Where do you sense the presence of seeds future? It is a very interesting question as a human being. I think you are always curious 104


Ma Jia, Untitled metal, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

curious about the future because future is a myth, since you cannot change the past but you can change the future, and there is often a fear about the future. I am really not concerned about future, about how things will develop, or what things could happen, because anything could happen. I'm always interested in looking back at history; it gives you knowledge to prepare yourself, to look at your present life and understand it, but I think I'm more into the present moment. Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions in life, you may really struggle with making decisions, and I am deeply rooted in Chinese culture and have my own ways to help me decide and find solutions; I see it like a philosophy, a way to help human beings with their lives, which is shaped by many generations and delivered by the ancient culture, by old languages, and it's interesting to pick it up today, as we are living in this multicultural world.

What kind of contribution would like your work to have? It is a really difficult question. I feel like I'm doing the work for some spiritual need, as the spirit is actually the element at the foundation of the human world, the human environment. I think it's a kind of energy, and when there is energy built in my work, I am feeling very glad. I'm not sure if I could really contribute to anybody.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the recent pandemic? How do you feel that this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art? I think there is an opportunity for artists, and it is a really good reminder for human beings about the unlimited development that we have followed until now.now. There is

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

There is something like a sign, signalizing that all things have to slow down, and this is giving artists the opportunity to consider the philosophy that in the modern world we are consuming, which is mainly based on Western culture. The world has been following a leading approach for shaping the society, the economy, marketing, like capitalism, and we should ask ourselves if this is the right direction or if there is a push to slow down the use of resources and the experience of life. There are for sure a lot of troubles and contradictions in real life, but maybe in some time from now, when looking back, we will recognize that this pandemic also had a positive effect for society as a whole, not just for one country or one culture. And it is an opportunity for artists to work with these themes.

What do you feel needs attention now? I think focusing on the inner life. If we look at how education works, since we are at the kindergarten, most of the time the society teaches you to learn from the outside pinching, but what happens with the needs of the inner side of a human being? I think that the inner life of human beings should receive more attention.

If you observe how the arts and culture field relates to the social field, what is that you notice? What is that captures your attention or that you would like to change? I am thinking of education, as I have very different experiences. I had my Chinese education in China, and then I started again at the art academy in Vienna, and they offer two absolutely different education systems. In general, it has been very interesting for me being exposed to both these education methods. On the following pages: Ma Jia, Untitled metal, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

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New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

I never thought about what to change. Art education is something to think about for sure, as you offer basic knowledge to deliver to younger generations, but the part that is strictly related to creativity and to the art making process is very hard to teach. Some people know it as a gift from birth; you can feed a baby, but you cannot feed the baby's mind. I think there are levels of knowledge hard to measure, and hard to let professors or teachers to pass to students, because as you try to form some ideas, you might be even blocking some parts of the process. Maybe the individual experience of artists themselves is the best education for art creativity. Art schools, I think, can really give something that is limited.

Is there anything that you would like to do differently in your own artistic practice? I always do as much as possible. My artwork is materially based so, as much as I have the budget for the project, I do as much as I can. If you ask me, I could give you one, two, three or thirty crazy ideas that I would love to develop, which of course may or may not have a physical capability to be realized in the real life, but they always need to be based on the actual possibilities of the real world.

Is there anything important for you to mention that I didn't ask you? What I am interested in and my artwork is about, is strongly supported by a philosophical sense of life. There is a very important book for me, one of the oldest books in Chinese culture, and it's called The Book of Changes, and it is related to art and culture but also to a traditional Chinese medicine; it is absolutely a philosophical book and it is also a future telling book. I feel like this book is tickling my genetic-based being; sometimes it brings me back to explore some sensorial way of 110


New works and art galleries: Ma Jia

way of being out there. Some aspects of me are in the subconscious level, and I get supported by having this book with me.

What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation? Black, white and yellow. It's something that just came to my mind, as I am a color sensitive person.

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New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

Matthew Mottel Curated by Daniela Veneri and Gundula Kosch-Gruber

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Matthew Mottel. Photo courtesy Miriam Jusch.

Matt Mottel (born 1981, New York, NY) is an artist, performer and writer who enlivens primary source materials and creates collaborative artworks that amplify knowledge and provide access to subterranean culture. Social activism and cultural community are threads that run throughout Mottel’s extensive body of performances, videos, sculptures and music. Mottel’s comprehensive artistic foraging stems from his native New York upbringing. His B.A. is in Political & Cultural Studies (SUNY New Paltz, 2003). He graduated from City College’s Digital Intermedia Art Practice program, receiving a M.F.A. in 2019. Mottel builds geodesic domes as a performance architecture based on Syeus Mottel’s (father) 1970’s photojournalism of Loisaida cultural organization CHARAS, who built geodesic domes in collaboration with Buckminster Fuller. He is currently researching the 18th century era of the keytar and is also inspired by the 24 hour format that was HnH Bagels…

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New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

“The level of culture and human interactions anywhere in the world is where I go forward with inspiration, as opposed to thinking that it has to be central to these cultural production towns. The optimism of getting lost somewhere and discovering that newness from that, collaborating with others and making artworks, that's how I wound up.” - Matthew Mottel

Matthew, as a performer and as a visual artist, what do you like most of your work? I didn't grow up as a studio artist and my training comes from more observation and experiential happenings and being part of New York City's culture from a young age, as opposed to starting with pen and paper and doing figurative drawing and then moving into abstraction, sculpture and all of those sort of things. I observed the art around me and then started seeing it as a format, and reflected on how if you see how you can communicate within a format, your technique is not the purpose. I believe that it is the same in music, because musicians often time wind up with so much vocabulary from their training and their conservatory relationships that they then don't know what to do on stage if the music is taken away. The main focus I do as a musician is with improvisation and making decisions in real time.

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New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

When I went back to graduate school in 2016, which was in a program at City College called digital intermedia art practice, this program was based on research and research methodology and on being able to research a topic and expand on it, then make a presentation as an artist. In 2017, when I was traveling across Europe, after playing at music festivals and visiting art biennials, I was very much struck with the way artworks were presented at Documenta, because the works were about a history, and I was interested in telling cultural stories through my art. We apply facts to a space or a site, and I felt that as a musician I had an advantage, because as musicians we are making decisions in real time. I pay attention at how the audience is actually reacting to what I'm doing and I make decisions in real time, which is for me a form of editing. When visual artists are in their studios by themselves, they have an existential amount of time to make all of these decisions about their art, while as a musician you really have to make decisions at every moment. So I felt that it was an interesting advantage for me, not having a studio art background, to still be able to set a room with the materials that I was using to build an artwork. In 2019 I attended the Salzburg Summer Art Academy, with the idea to watch through a new window at how other artists make their own work. I went with a basic plan to continue what I had been doing, which is applying my father's photography from 1960s and 70s political and cultural imagery to either my own performances or by inviting other people to use the work for their own creations or research. Once there, I was invited by the teachers to cultivate my own way to be an artist, and make art about my own life. It sounded like a beautiful blessing and it opened me up, even more, to my own creative mind, allowing me to participate as myself, rather than being an artist representing my father's material.

What projects are you currently working on? ‘The eye behind an eye and lenses‘ - this will be a set of sculptures and installations 115


Matthew Mottel, Burnt Truth, 2021, Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

installations that is about familial metaphysical influence and transference of knowledge. ‘Deja reve is the view'. For the last two years, I have experienced the physiological phenomena of witnessing my point of view at events, and daily life experiences and recognized them from past dreams. This feeling used to be in tiny hints of ‘recognition’ and in the past two years, it expanded and turned into full visual awareness that what I was living in the current moment, had happened in my dreams, sometimes many years earlier. There is no predictive quality in my witnessing of my dreams in my present. I will make an artwork about this deja reve, in its endless elliptical loop. 'Geodesic artwork as a teaching artist'. For the past fall semester, while living in Moers as the music ‘improviser in residence’ I worked with a high school art class and facilitated their creative actions, by giving them a conceptual framework to make artwork about their own life and the town they live in. These artworks were placed in and around a dowel rod four-meter geodesic dome. This gave the students a confidence that their artwork was ‘part of something ‘ rather than the usual; just the flat hanging on the classroom wall. One student, who added color, light and reflection panels to the dome remarked to me “you have given me the confidence that I am too, an artist.” I hope to continue building domes and inspiring creativity with artistic and creative education.

How did your works for the exhibition at Gallery Gundula Gruber came to life? I decided to research about the 14th century keytar (with a 2am google search on a whim), as I play the keytar and I was curious to learn more about its history. The origins of the keytar come from Vienna, and the original version was called orphica, that looks exactly like the instrument that I play. I started wondering what 117


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

what were the touring conditions of musicians in the 18th century and I started making analogies with the current touring conditions of musicians. I go on tour, and often, my van breaks down. The 18th century analogy is that the horse, leading the wagon, will have died when musicians were going between Vienna and Linz. I bet Mozart found himself schlepping his instrument in the mud across Europe because of dead horses exhausted from the conditions of the road. Musicologists and people that study classical music do not think about this, they only focus on the notes. I was starting to imagine a parallel reality that investigated the life and culture of Vienna around that period of time, and then it felt really unique and special that I could make an artwork about the history of Vienna, in Vienna, about the instrument that I play today. For this show about the keytar in Vienna, I felt very much part of ‘art history’ by being the artist with ‘the idea’, working with the fabricator, which felt very similar to the composer writing the score and then the violinist playing the piece. I took it even further than that, by saying that the gallery to me was like a band. The gallery was a stage and the other artists that I invited into the show were all making thematic artworks based on my theme. I felt like I was an artist with one idea that was central to this room and I recognized that I was not a painter, so someone else decided to paint; it was very much like each artist being a member of the band, and we were realizing my ideas.

What do you appreciate most of the interaction that emerges between your artworks and the viewers, as a visual artist, and between your music and the public, as a musician? What are the most significant differences for you between these two kinds of experience? When you make an artwork that is then placed in a gallery, you want people to see it just the same way you want people to hear your songs when you are

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improvising. It is for you as much as it is for everyone else. There is something really satisfying in both cases. I think that when visual artists work on a finished artwork presented in a gallery or a museum, that is most akin to being a composer, or a songwriter, when you have taken all of your steps and ideas and outplaced them in the space, and the work is finished and you want people to see it or hear it. To get to that point, there has to be a process where there is an epiphany. As an improvising musician, that epiphany often happens on stage, in the moment of the music making, and that is enough for the performance to have a purpose. When I came to the conclusion that I was going to make an artwork about the history of the keytar, I had a visual idea in mind, and for almost 12 to 15 months all I wanted was to make these keytar silhouette frames, that are non sounding objects, that are just about the abstraction of the instrument, and that epiphany happened by just being in the world, then the fabrication of the objects became like being the composer, the songwriter placing them in the gallery. When I came to Vienna, I came, so as to say, as a composer, I had all of my finished artworks that then were placed in the gallery, and even then there were still decisions that were made in real time about the set up, and that was great. At the same time, as a visual artist there is also a sense of loss, if no one sees the work. How do you deal with that balance?

What drives you in your work? What drives me is the idea that culture is supposed to create alternatives and solutions based on action, and the idea that an artist can lead culture to show alternatives to the status quo, as the status quo is just like the bare minimum of what we do in life, at least for me. The idea that the artist is offering alternative viewpoints is what drives me, in general.

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Matthew Mottel, burnt truth, 2021, at Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

What are your most important objectives as an artist? Asking questions, communicating, having a good time, and creating a social space. For example, when I was in college, I was frustrated with everyone just partying at 80s nights in techno disco clubs, because I was interested in being in the present and didn't like the nostalgia of 80s, so I decided to cook rice and beans and sat on the street outside of this 80s night club and gave away the food, making food for a social space.

What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process? When having a cicchetti and a spritz on the canal of Venice; nothing that the ‘artistic hand’ can make is more beautiful and open; the same is observing birds cruising above my head in the forest; or taking a hike up the mountain and witnessing the sunset. Nature is the greatest artist of all time.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process? Growing up in New York City, just the idea that I was getting lost every day in New York from the time I was 15, leaving my apartment on my rollerblades and rollerblading down to Fifth Avenue south of Central Park, and the idea that I was rollerblading through all of these elite places not as a trespasser, but as someone who could kind of interlope through them. As a young teenager, I had a version of access in 1996 or something like that, that other people might not have, and I felt my interaction with mainstream culture as something that I wanted to be more jagged and malleable.

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The idea of discovery, anywhere, at any time, was what I was really keyed in on. When I came to Moers, everyone asked me what it is like being from New York City and now living in Moers, and I said it's actually totally fine, because this is new for me. Growing up in New York and living there almost all my life means that I can really see it in this topographical way, top down. There are new surprises, but when I'm out of New York City I don't miss it. I don't hold cultural supremacy of one place over any other place. The level of culture and human interactions anywhere in the world is where I go forward with inspiration, as opposed to thinking that it has to be central to these cultural production towns. The optimism of getting lost somewhere and discovering that newness from that, collaborating with others and making artworks, that's how I wound up.

Which of the feedbacks that you have received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you, or surprised you the most? In Salzburg at the Summer Art Academy, I did a public performance at a central plaza that had a metal framed geodesic dome skulptur; no one had ever done a performance at it. A colleague from the class, from Russia, told me "I’ve never been to New York before, but this performance made me feel like I was in New York". To be able to hold a sense of place, wherever I am, and bring out that sense of location, aura and essence. Wow! Evidently my ‘new yorkness’ shines thru wherever I am!

What is the relationship between past present and future in your artistic practice? I am trying to observe the osmotic relationship between the planet, my memory, imagination, and myself. 122


Matthew Mottel, burnt truth, 2021, at Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the recent pandemic? How do you feel that it is affecting our ways to producing, sharing and experiencing art? The first nine months, from March 2020 till January 2021, allowed me to really pause and have a self-growth that I was very fortunate to have in all aspects of life, and I was able to be grounded and happy and not feel like I was missing out anything; my internal world was set satisfying enough. Since August 2021 things have sort of again returned relatively to a version of the status quo where gig life is busy, and what felt different is that people did not really asked themselves how long this was going to last. I've asked myself, is this the pause within the pause? Is there an ability to make plans for next year or the year after in the same way? The thing that I think I've come away with most out of the pandemic is that wherever I live, or wherever my locality is and whoever the people that surround me in that locality can be, my artistic collaborators are my peers and my community, and that premise goes in a way back to lifestyle choices, that you just make your own zine about your own scene. I'm going to be developing my own life where I live and I can be satisfied more with that.

What do you feel needs attention now? I think what's important is still that we're not only operating in our own internal clicks. I went to see an artist's exhibition yesterday, and it was based so much on the artist's own academic methodology of determining ideas into formats and visual presentations, that you really needed so many codes to discern what you were seeing, under the premise of an institutional retrospective or presentation of the 124


Matthew Mottel, burnt truth, 2021, at Gallery Gundula Gruber.


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

the work. But as a viewer you don't have time, space or energy to decode anything, so it becomes only a closed circuit. Then there is a curator that thinks this person is important, and they are going to put their work, exactly as it is and a lot of it, in a building, and then someone like me, who has a version of understanding of these things is going to have a premise to care about it but can't even hang with it. We need to really return or move to the idea that all cultures can be open formats again, versus needing the knowledge to interface with an artwork, or a music scene, or the healthcare industry or whatever it is.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? I've started making artwork interventions with my father's photography. I really saw it as a format for other people to, then, use and apply the idea that your own family history is valuable. I was not working with these materials only because they are of socio-political and cultural value, but because of the idea that everyone has a history.

What I did not ask you that is important for you to mention? I'm happy that people respond to what I do and I often see, as a musician after a concert, the same face of wonder on the audience, a face of imagination, of openness, of curiosity. I would really like to have a way of shooting portraits of people's faces after I play, and get a surreptitious secret photograph so they don't put on their face again. The idea that I see that I'm making people discover something in themselves through what I do, and they feel joy from it, that's something I feel good about and like 126


New works and art galleries: Matthew Mottel

like and take with me as a reason to exist, versus it being the accolades of reviews or expectations of awards or sales or acquisitions or whatever like that. If any of those things happen it is fantastic, but the process is now the purpose, and trying to remove the expectations about the results is also what I'm attempting to ground myself in.

What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation? Optimism, caring, awareness, then also intuition and criticality.

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New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

Nicole Lattuca Curated by Daniela Veneri and Gundula Kosch-Gruber

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Nicole Lattuca. Courtesy of the artist.

Nicole Lattuca is an Artist-Educator and Curator based in New York, USA. Nicole has been an artist in residence at Fogo Island Arts, The Banff Centre for Creativity, and Santa Fe Art Institute in New Mexico. She holds a Masters Degree in Exhibition and Museum Studies from the San Francisco Art Institute in California.

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New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

“Figure out multiple ways to speak to audiences and people with different levels of understanding. This is some of the most meaningful feedback I've received that has translated across my work in museums and with remote communities. It’s really been about paying attention to individuals and their needs, interests and to what they're saying.” - Nicole Lattuca

Nicole, do you identify yourself more as an artist or more as a curator?

I would say I oscillate between the two. I try to find places where they can overlap. In 2016, I co-founded an art space called Practice Space in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a hybrid model storefront in a busy part of the city. We curated exhibitions, but we also hosted workshops and produced publications. In the front of the space, we had a small shop where we sold works by artists and other small women-owned businesses. I've also been an art teacher for 20 years, teaching at museums, schools, and nonprofits. When I think about myself as a curator, I think about how learning processes and pedagogy are important to me, in terms of theories and practices. And that’s a trajectory I’m interested in continuing. I’m also interested in the work of curating as “exhibition making” or thinking of all the ways curating can be a creative practice within itself. I have a very social practice, teaching and having the storefront. By not being able to have a social practice for the last couple of years, I've really been turning back to my foundations of art making and trying to get back to the things I did when I was 19. My undergraduate degree focused on photography and painting, and right now I am just trying to get back into working with my hands; that was my practice during the pandemic lockdown. This summer my boyfriend Matt 130


New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

was my practice during the pandemic lockdown. This summer my boyfriend Matt and I were at MIDI residency in the south of France, and I spent every day just drawing for 3 to 4 hours in the garden. I’m trying to capture that spirit of the love of art-making back into my own life, because it's evolved over the last 20 years, since I was an undergrad always experimenting and making things. Art practices evolve through making, selling, or exhibiting, and I am just trying to get more comfortable back into that messy studio space of making work that doesn't go anywhere or that doesn't have an agenda. I’m trying to find fun again in the art-making process.

What projects are you currently working on, and what excites you most about them?

There are quite a few artists I'm really interested in collaborating with here in New York. In one idea, I am interested in working in the curatorial role with artists that I've met while I was an artist-in-residence, or through my space Practice Space, in Cambridge. The three women artists in particular that I’m thinking of all work with body movement, but also pedagogy, education, learning. I'm really fascinated by the idea of body movement and exchange of knowledge. I was a figure skater as a child and teenager and so I'm always interested in body movement and how the body learns, and also this idea that maybe we learn information better with body movements attached to learning processes. What potential is there for children if there was less sitting during the school day and more movement?

What was your role in the exhibition at Gallery Gundula Gruber?

Matt Mottel, the invited artist of Burnt Truth, is my partner and he decided his role in this exhibition would be as the “band leader” meaning, he invited different collaborators to exhibit alongside him in a collaborative and emergent spirit. He invited me to participate as well, specifically commissioning a piece, which was a drawing and watercolor I made from a screenshot of the Google search “how babies are affected by the music of Mozart” He asked me to do this drawing for the show, because we have a baby due this April! He wanted a piece in the show that spoke to life, to what was next in our personal life. On the following pages: Nicole Lattuca, Fogo Island, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. 131




New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

What drives you in your work? Curiosity. As someone interested in learning and education, I’ve always been interested in self-education. I view teaching as reciprocal learning, and always being a learner just as part of my personality. And now in terms of life someday getting back to normal following a global pandemic, the curiosity and the fascination of being out in the world - around color and texture, and finding the joy of working with those things. I like the idea of a re-emergence and seeing things anew after this moment in our collective history.

What are your most important objectives as an artist as a curator? Nurturing a regular art making practice in my life. I really strive to work regularly and make that space to just be creative, if not every day then as much a week as possible. It's a practice. Just this idea of fulfilling that aspect of myself by making sure that I have an in-home art studio and the goal is to keep that studio organized so that I can work regularly, to find that routine at home, but also in traveling when possible. Also, seeing new work by fellow creatives. Making sure I don’t become complacent, making the effort to see what other artists are making.

Who are the most important partners and interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process? It changes with the context of where I'm at geographically. When I did a residency in 2014 on Fogo Island in Newfoundland, the partners and interlocutors were the local community. I was in a residency there and I worked with the local school and a variety of community members some of whom were former fishermen, others, older women who made quilts, and all sorts of interesting people. It's an older community that lives on the island, and it became a big part of my practice while I was there to get to know these people over daily tea - their everyday life and what interests them, and then work on the art project with them in collaboration. Right now being in Newburgh, outside of the city of New York City, this place has become a kind of artists enclave, a city seeing many artists move here because of affordability and a “blank space aspect” in the sense that there is a lot of physical room and interest in new projects. I meet many creative types working on new initiatives, 134


New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

new initiatives, starting up a new gallery or a new shop, learning about my neighbors is a way to collaborate with them, and things develop from there. Wherever I live or in places I'm invited to, I make a real effort to get to know the people and really consider the audience and the collaborators in a holistic art making process.

Which of the feedback that you have received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you, or surprised you the most? Some of the best feedback I received was when I was a middle-school art teacher. Figure out multiple ways to speak to audiences and people with different levels of understanding. This is some of the most meaningful feedback I've received that has translated across my work in museums and with remote communities. It’s really been about paying attention to individuals and their needs, interests and to what they're saying. When I teach, I aim to know each student and to what drives them, what impacts them, and what might hold them back. I take the same approach when collaborating, as well, not just approaching a community as one entity, but thinking of the community being made up of many different types of characters and personalities, and how to speak to those different characters and personalities. I learn to find out what's needed from different people, and how to change the language when necessary.

In your personal experience, what do you notice about how the arts and culture field relates to the expanded social field? What do you feel needs some attention or change? I see a lot of institutions claim a focus on audience engagement and connecting with communities, and I see digital expansion with institutional collections. The issue is I don’t see much follow through or support being given to the departments who work with the public. At Practice Space, like many artist run spaces, we considered our various audiences constantly. Because we were in a neighborhood of shops and restaurants we had foot traffic and because of that we were able to engage people with our ideas, research, and art work. With a lot of museums or other institutions that are a destination, there is a “threshold issue” you have to make an effort to get there and then pay to get in, and it becomes a whole bunch of things that become blockades 135


Nicole Lattuca, Parking space in front of Practice Space, 2016. Courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

blockades to being accessible. Many nonprofits or for-profits in the U.S. are trying to expand their outreach, but there is still plenty of room for rethinking how to engage audiences. As for what would need some attention or change, probably things like a whole restructuring of where the money in institutions goes. Just knowing, when I ran an education department in Montreal, how a lot of our funds went to superfluous things. The education department brought in a significant amount of money but the money we were allowed to spend as our budget was significantly less. A reallocating of funds that could happen at foundational level first, thinking about the outreach, the visitor services, the education departments, could lead to more change in terms of accessibility and who is actually getting exposed to art and culture, especially in the States, where budget-wise arts are always the first thing to get cut and there isn't a budget for working artists like there is in Europe or Canada for example. Respect for art and the respect for creative life would be, speaking specifically about the United States, something that could really change the whole culture.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have?

Impacting individuals; when possible, something as simple as impacting a child or a classroom, to value art making and culture and the ways art is expressed in culture, also in terms of working with people interested in seeing their own creativity and their own role within creative culture. Because there's such a lack of funding for the arts in the States, you hear so often young people say they are not artists or that they are not creative, and I think that can be really detrimental because then you grow a culture of people who view themselves as separate from the arts, and from music. They think they can't do it, that they don't understand it, and then they don't value it and that becomes a whole circular chain of how children grow into adults who don’t value creativity. This is how we lose money for the arts and lose respect for the arts. Working at this kind of small group or individual level with kids and community members, it is enough for me at this moment.

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New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

What kind of impact do you see emerging from this pandemic? How do you feel or sense this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art?

The pandemic has been an extraordinary experience. Living through it and seeing what systematically was able to change and what didn’t, in terms of government assistance or support in general, I think just helps us turn a magnifying glass on different social systems, like the public school system. Having every child going remote on to Zoom school maybe was a good short-term solution but a year later, having children just sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, just thinking about how they could have really used an opportunity to rethink how learning happens in this country. This also goes back to the idea of pushing people, especially Americans, into creative thinking, so that when there are these kind of massive issues, like a year into a Zoom school for children, people can think differently about how children can learn, instead of having a real mind block as to how to make their learning experiences better than just sitting in front of a computer. With all the children at home, maybe it could have been a great opportunity to learn things around the house, it could have been a gap year in some ways, where children everywhere could have been learning about their neighborhood, their environment, the outdoors, homework and repairs and just different things that could have been a more fruitful time.

What do you feel needs attention now? What are the most relevant emerging questions, where do you sense the presence of seeds of future in this moment in time?

It would be great if the United States could look more at creative thinkers for solutions, if we could think about what were the missed opportunities during this whole pandemic, what kind of things we can have in place, what kind of troubleshooting and how can artists be part of that, how a creative mindset can change, how we deal with structural issues, where the troubleshooting can be.

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Nicole Lattuca, Practice Space, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Nicole Lattuca

Is there anything that you would like to do differently in your own artistic practice?

Especially after all this isolated time or working with people through screens, and teaching through screens, the simplicity of being in the presence of people again, and working with children and making art, this is just where I would like to get back to on a regular basis. There is still this constant negotiation with the fear of the virus that really puts a barrier between human interactions. In warmer months you get to that place again, but as we enter late fall and winter, we see again the insular fear of going to places and everyone's again backed off. It would be nice, in not such a distant future, to return to coexisting with people, moving around with people, making artwork with kids.

What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation?

Kids, is one, Systemic change; thinking about the needs for change, but also of the awareness, and maybe the global awareness of those systems. And "in-person" too, the goal of being back and coexisting with people and collaborating, being together with other humans without this looming fear or barrier.

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New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

Urban Grünfelder Curated by Daniela Veneri and Gundula Kosch-Gruber

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Urban Grünfelder. Photo courtesy of the artist. Urban Grünfelder was born in 1967 in Brixen, Italy. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Selected exhibitions and projects include: Are we gambling away the world? Gallery Gundula Gruber, Vienna, 2021; Biennale, Dresden, Gedänkstätte Bautzen, Ism, 2019;Biennale, Valetta, found a mentalism II, 2018;Kunstverein Kärnten, Ahead of the game, Klagenfurt, 2017;Hofburg, Garden, Bressanone, 2016;Center for contemporary Art, Ostrale 2015, Dresden, 2015; Keramikmuseum, Keramik Europas, Westerwald, 2014; Künstlerhaus, Humans, Klagenfurt, 2013; Kunsthalle zu Kiel, The Human Senses and Perception in Contemporary Art, Kiel, 2012; Leopoldmuseum, The Excitement Continues, Contemporary Art from the Collection Leopold II, Vienna, 2011; Gallery Schmidla & Voss, Ecce Homo, Cologne, 2009; Academy of Fine Arts, Entsorgungspark für funktionslose Kunst im öffentlichen Raum, Braunschweig, 2007; Gallery Artbox, Sculptures, Frankfurt, 2006; Gallery Andrea Brenner, Paintings, Düsseldorf, 2004; Essl Museum, Conflicts/Resolution, Klosterneuburg, 2003; Museum Morsbroich, Central - Neue Kunst aus Mitteleuropa, Leverkusen, 2002; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, IRR, Group show,Düsseldorf, 1998.

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New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

“I don't think that art can change anything, but that it can change a person a little, and consequently something in his or her decisions. This can happen after seeing a painting, when an image can push a person to question and make decisions in a new, better way. If people who look at paintings, exhibitions and works of art ask themselves questions, they can also change their lives a bit. ” - Urban Grünfelder

Urban, what projects are you currently working on? I continue to work in my usual, classic way, that is, I do the sketches first and then I paint. I don't work on other projects such as installations, or on special themes for specific exhibitions.

What did your exhibition at Gallery Gundula Gruber represent for you? As an artist, I always work on my paintings independently, on aspects that affect society, human existence, nature. For this exhibition we have selected works that were somehow related to the chosen theme, "Are we gambling away the world?". My paintings do not give answers, they only offer questions. I put together elements that are well recognized, putting them together in such a way as to suggest a different interpretation, so that the viewer can ask himself questions.

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New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

What drives you in your work? I think the artist's work is to put together things that don't normally fit together, and to ask questions, to give something to think about. I don't like formalism, in the sense that I also create something that can be pleasant to look at, but painting well is not what I'm interested in; it's just a good trick to get the attention of the viewer, while what matters are the questions behind it.

What are your most important objectives as an artist? I'm interested in painting and living a good life, being able to develop ideas, sketching, then creating the artwork, following the work from start to finish. I don't like it when artists let others do their work; maybe this can make sense in the case of installations, but there are some artists, even very well-known ones, who have other people doing the work for them, and I do not like it. When I start sketching, I start by choosing the composition of the painting, then the colors, and then I paint. When I think about changing a color, I choose it myself, there is not anyone who does it for me. Artistic work for me also consists in having a philosophical attitude, a certain approach to the world, and in choosing a way of following things to the end. I am happy to be able to work like this.

What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process? Even when I'm not drawing or painting, I am always working, when I go around and walk and observe the world. I get ideas for work even months after a certain experience, when I remember seeing something, or hearing something. Even memories of when I was a child and I lived on the farm, of some aspects of nature, plants, animals, can lead me to decide to visualize these elements in another way, through my works.

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Urban Grünfelder, The gaze of the philosopher, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

What do you appreciate most about the interaction that emerges between your works and the viewers? What interests me most, at times, is noticing how someone chooses to buy paintings other than what I would have expected them to choose, and I wonder why. What is important for me as an artist is to know that my work arouses a reaction in the viewer, that after seeing one of my paintings, people, even after days, at a precise moment, notice something that brings them back to the memory of the artwork, and that they can ask themselves questions about why it happens, about their attitudes, about their choices. I don't think that art can change anything, but that it can change a person a little, and consequently something in his or her decisions. This can happen after seeing a painting, when an image can push a person to question and make decisions in a new, better way. If people who look at paintings, exhibitions and works of art ask themselves questions, they can also change their lives a bit.

Who are the most important partners and interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process? It depends. When I walk, I observe nature, the woods, the trees, and then I take photos and I have an archive of characters, plants, animals; however, all these elements have no direct influence. When I then start doing work and look at the images again, something particular may catch my attention, such as when I see people behaving strangely, when they seem to be forced to do something they don't like, and I think of ways of putting together different things. There are also influences from other eras, such as Caravaggio for light and how he combines elements, Velasquez for his way of painting and the abstraction he uses in the details, when you take a closer look and the color becomes confused, and then also other artists.

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New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

Which of the feedbacks that you have received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you, or have surprised you the most? I think of when there were people in front of one of my sculptures or in front of one of my paintings crying, that was important to me. At first I thought I had created something that hurt these people, then I said to myself that the painting or sculpture had aroused such strong emotions that it made them cry, because obviously whoever looked at it had a very personal story. A very interesting thing about art is that there are people who look at works that have a very special history, which sometimes even family members do not know, and talking to the artist or contemplating a work can arouse very strong emotions in them. I think it is very important that art is able to do these things.

What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice? The space behind is very important to me. Before, my paintings always had a monochrome background, of a single color, then there were the figures. The space behind the paintings for me, that single color, is like the space of destiny, huge. Since I started, after the academy, I have told myself that figures, people, are born, move in space and have the possibility to have a philosophical attitude, to choose how to behave with others, and as an artist I use this sense of movement in space and time even with painting. I choose a precise gesture that belongs to this movement, to this turning in space that continues from the moment one is born until one dies, and I fix it on the canvas. What I paint is a story that develops, moves in space, and it is a story about humanity that is not real but which, through the paintings, allows me to ask questions of myself and others.

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Urban Grünfelder, N. T. 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

Where do you sense the presence of seeds of future, in your artistic practice? I look at how things change and I try to follow a thread. It's a bit like starting with a letter, which put together with another becomes a word, then a sentence, then a story. I don't know what there will be in the future. Every now and then I do different things, but I have always followed this thread, trying to shed light on human existence, as others do in other ways.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from the recent pandemic? How do you feel that this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art? Not much has changed for me. Maybe there are fewer exhibitions, but as for me, I go to my studio and work. I know that for other artists, who might have projects to work on with others, it was different. I don't look for many contacts with other artists, because I think we ask ourselves the same questions. I happen to talk more with people who have nothing to do with art, who perhaps ask a little more questions about existence. I don't know if this will change in the future. If I look at society, I don't think much has changed for now.

If you observe how the field of art and culture relates to the social field, what do you notice? Is there anything that captures your attention or that you would like to change? There are many artists who work by doing research, who do works that have no market, who do not do exhibitions and do not go to fairs. Then there is art on the market that has too much to say about existence, about society. Perhaps, it would be better to also be able to see the works of other artists, those who work a little more privately.

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Urban Grünfelder, Goldmund 2021. Photo courtesy of the artist.


New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

Is there anything that you would like to do differently in your own artistic practice? In exhibitions that involve your works, there is always something that you would like to change. I think about how the work is shared, and then that the artwork must work in my studio, as well as in a gallery and in a museum. It is not that important that a painting is included among the biggest in a museum, the important thing is that it brings emotions. What curators and others think when they give an artist advice on how to work interests me, but it doesn't change what I do. Serious artists do the work they need to do.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? In my works, the formal aspect is important, but it is not the fundamental thing. It is more important to create something that makes you think. Sometimes people tell me that they would never put a certain painting of mine on the wall at home and, when it happens, I think I have done something that maybe makes them think, that hurts a little, that brings a certain restlessness, and these are important things to me. It is too little for me when people like one of my paintings, I rather want my works to lead to asking questions that are even uncomfortable. It happens that some people, finding themselves with others in common circumstances, do not say much about themselves, because they may be afraid of being judged and criticized. When those same people talk to artists, when they talk to me, they tell things they don't share with other people, just because I painted these paintings, and they start talking about themselves and their existence, not about themselves as members of a society where they have to function in a certain way and not talk about emotions. It happened to me that a collector called me announcing that he would come to my study to have a coffee. When he did it the first time, it seemed strange 152


New works and art galleries: Urban Grünfelder

to me, but then he wanted to talk about the paintings he had bought, and about things that had nothing to do with his work, with his family, or with his colleagues.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that is important for you to mention? I work in a very classical way, I choose a very bourgeois language, through painting and color, and so I can more easily capture people's attention, who then begin to approach the theme of the work; then I have more possibilities to being able to communicate with them when they look at a painting. The problem is that sometimes the artistic language is too much for normal people, in the sense that it is a little difficult to understand. Some artists are a little too complicated in the way they use materials and languages that are very specific and that ordinary people don't understand. I think it is also very important, for those involved in art publications and for the artists themselves, to use a language that works. Sometimes people don't know what is wrong with a painting, in a communication or in a work of art, they have the feeling that something is wrong, but they don't know what, and this leads them not to ask too many questions about what is behind there; they rather think that this certain artist cannot paint hands, hair, flowers or anything else properly. So I think that we need to make a work of art that works, so that people don't have to ask questions about the technical ability of an artist, but other, important, questions, and feeling emotions. If too technical languages are used in the art work, and if I don't know how to paint, then I create a filter that blocks the viewer and does not allow others to step into the theme of the work and open a flow of emotions.

What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation? When I talk about my work, I also find some confirmation of what I have done and what I want to do. 153


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Rondò Pilot. Issue 2021/2.0


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