Rondò Pilot, issue n. 1.0/2020

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Issue no. 1.0/2020

Juliane Bischoff | Dagmara Wyskiel | Carlos Rendón | Yuga Hatta | Eduardo Unda-Sanzana | Lara Verena Bellenghi | Kurosh ValaNejad | Amir Soltani | Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi | Hamed Noori | Gohar Dashti | Vivi Touloumidi


Rondò Pilot. Issue no. 1.0/2020 Rondò Pilot is an independent publication, part of an action-research project at the intersections of arts, culture, communication processes, cultural production and awareness-based systems change. Author, editor, researcher: 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.



About Rondò Pilot 1.0/2020……………………………………………………………………….……..…………….p. 5 Juliane Bischoff………………………………………………...…………………………………………………………..….p. 8 Voices from SACO…………………………………………………………..……………………………………………..…p. 33 Dagmara Wyskiel………………………..…………………………………………………………………………...……….p. 37 Carlos Rendón……………………………………..………………………………………………………...………………..p. 61 Yuga Hatta………………………………………...…………………………………………………...………………………..p. 80 Eduardo Unda-Sanzana ……..………………………………………………………….…………………………….p. 102 Lara Verena Bellenghi…………………………….………………………………...……………………..…………..p. 135 Identities in Movement…………………………..……………………….…………………………………………...p. 159 Kurosh ValaNejad…………………………………………………….…………………………………………………..p. 162 Amir Soltani……………………………………..………………………………………………..………………….….….p. 176 Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi...…………………………………………………………………………..………...….p. 189 Hamed Noori……………………………………………………………………………………...…………………..…..p. 204 Gohar Dashti………………………..………………….……………………………...………..………………………..p. 214 Vivi Touloumidi………………………..…………………………………….……………………………………………..p. 228


About Rondò Pilot 1.0/2020

The pilot issue of this publication was launched more than one year ago. Many events happened since then, challenging our collective beliefs, our concept of normality, our capacity to touch the deepest human abilities to learn, create, imagine, act and to become aware. The action-research project behind Rondò Pilot maintains its essential reasons to be, the same intention to investigate and contribute to making visible the ways we are co-shaping our world from the art and culture field perspective. Sharing knowledge, deepening discourses and holding the space for catching emerging cracks and insights reveal the same potential to offer evident and hidden possibilities of choice. The diversity of the individual and collective experiences here presented seems to remind us once again how complex our reality is. The interviews have been conducted in different moments in time, before and during the current pandemic due to Covid-19, and they represent a testimonial to how our projects have been influenced by the course of events. People to listen to and projects to learn about have been not only intentionally researched, they also self-selected themselves: My feeling is that the people who responded to my appeal are also those who were listening and open to sharing about what they observe from their place in the world. The thanks at this point are not a pure formality but the expression of heartfelt gratitude to those who work every day to co-create, through art, big and small projects starting from everyday reality. A special thanks to Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi, whose precious collaboration made possible the publication of the chapter "Identities in Movement".

Daniela Veneri



Conscious keywords / emerging thoughts #1


Juliane Bischoff Curated by Daniela Veneri


Juliane Bischoff. Photo: Fabian Frinzel.

Juliane Bischoff works as curator and writer. Together with Nicolaus Schafhausen she is currently conducting the exhibition Tell me about yesterday tomorrow at the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism (2019-2020). From 2016 to 2019 she has worked at Kunsthalle Wien, where she curated the exhibition Kate Newby. I can't nail the days down (2018); and co-curated group exhibitions and discursive events such as How to Live Together (2017) and Political Futures (2018). Other institutions she has worked for include Kunsthalle Basel (2012), and Ludlow 38, Goethe-Institut New York (2015). She is editor of the publications Kate Newby. I can't nail the days down (Sternberg Press, 2019) and Ineke Hans. Was ist Loos? (Sternberg Press, 2017) and has contributed to catalogues such as Hui Ye. Keep Me Close to You (Sternberg Press, forthcoming), Olena Newkryta. folding unfolding refolding (Sternberg Press, 2017) and 2015 (edit. by Vivien Trommer, MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38, 2015).


Juliane Bischoff

“I think the way in which you could make a work public was something that I found very fruitful. It's important to do research but I feel that in the academic field there are a lot of limitations in terms of how you would publish research results. I think the great chance of working in a public institution is the ability to make things public and to invite people from various backgrounds to engage in discussions as well as enabling different kinds of connections to certain topics.” - Juliane Bischoff

Juliane, how did you become a curator? What do you like most of your work and what drives you in what you do?











contemporary art has always been very much connected with what is going on in the world. During my studies I didn't have a clear picture of where my interests would lead me, in a role, in an institution, or as a curator in general, but I knew that I wanted to work between those two fields, sociology and art.

Besides my studies I have always worked in art associations, e.g. when I was doing my bachelor degree, which was in Dresden, Germany. After that I spent a few months in Basel, working at the Kunsthalle Basel. When I moved to Vienna for my


Juliane Bischoff

master's degree I started working at Kunsthalle Vienna, and that was in 2014, just after Nicolaus Schafhausen took over the institution, and I had followed his program since 2012. I saw the topics that concerned me during my studies and my interests very much reflected in the program of Kunsthalle Vienna and I was lucky to get involved in the institution. One of the first projects I've worked on was a conference on a topic of curatorial ethics, and then an exhibition titled "Political Populism” followed. I think the title is telling about political dynamics, social questions and the relationship between art and society in a way. This was the kind of place where I felt I could connect well, but my idea of being a curator was still very open. Also I wanted to be involved in all steps, in working on a concept, for an exhibition or for discursive format, and being in touch with the artists, and realizing the project in terms of trying to create a situation for the works to be perceived in the best way; or a suitable frame for the invited speakers.

Which feedbacks surprised you most over the years? Did anything in particular make you realize that this was really what you wanted to do or how you wanted to approach curatorship?

I don't know about a feedback that surprised me, but I think the way in which you could make a work public was something that I found very fruitful. It's important to do research but I feel that in the academic field there are a lot of limitations in terms of how you would publish research results. I think the great chance of working in a public institution is the ability to make things public and to invite people from various backgrounds to engage in discussions as well as enabling different kinds of connections to certain topics. There are different formats to present and mediate, there is an education department to complete these efforts and of course there is the chance to invite artists to realize something in cooperation, and also the collaboration with the team of an institution, I think this collaboration with the different departments of the institution is something that I consider very valuable in the work.


Kate Newby, I can’t nail the days down, Kunsthalle Wien. Curated by Juliane Bischoff. Photos by Jorit Aust.

Juliane Bischoff

What are the questions that you are exploring with the exhibition "Tell me about yesterday tomorrow" at the Munich Documentation Centre for the history of National Socialism? How was this exhibition born and how are you approaching it?

The project came into being when Mirjam Zadoff, the director of the Documentation Centre in Munich, invited Nicolaus Schafhausen to develop a project with contemporary art. This invitation was quite open and it related to the idea of how memory culture, history and contemporary art can come together. This means addressing issues of the past but also of present day as well as thinking about the future. Thereby, not only the representation of history plays a major role, but also how history is instrumentalized by politics.

The Documentation Centre opened in 2015 with the purpose to document the history of National Socialism and especially the role of Munich, which has a very specific connection to it being self-proclaimed city of the movement by the National Socialist Party, the place where the crimes of the Nazi party were planned. The Documentation Centre opened only in 2015, 70 years after the Second World War, so it took a very long time until the city recognized and admitted to have this institution there at this specific place, which is the location of the former, to have a place for people now to come there to learn about the history and also how it is connected to our present time.

Nowadays we see right wing parties and movements all over the globe that also try to appropriate the idea of history and tell a story that suits their aims. Thereby, they also foster separation between people and implement ideas that increase racism and other kind of discriminatory practices, and that are very much against a liberal and open and free society. The place where the exhibition "Tell me about yesterday, tomorrow" takes place is also a very defined place. It's a documentation center as the name says, and it is concerned with the history of National Socialism in general and especially with the role of Munich within the


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

system. It is a place for people to learn about history, to reflect on the historical experience and connect it to the question of what does this history has to do with me now. The way the - permanent – historical exhibition is conceived is very much built on one perspective, which is a scientific one, developed by historians, and very detailed and very profound. That's very important but the distant view through the lenses of science sometimes makes it difficult to make a connection to our lives in present time. Is this something that can happen again? Enabling a discourse around this kind of questions and creating a broad picture that connected to global realities are amongst others aims of the project. We also hope to enable people to find different ways to connect with the topics that you would find in the historical exhibition, such as separation, discrimination, the horrors of the history that happened, but also to make sense of what's going on in the world right now and how we can learn from history in this sense.

Are you thinking of addressing the exhibition to a specific audience or is it conceived for the general public?

We very much want to develop this project for a broad audience, but of course we are also aware that not everybody yet necessarily connects with contemporary art, however I think that a great hope in this project is that we bring contemporary art to a place that is not necessarily connected with it and to open a dialogue between history and art. It is not the classical white cube space, it is an historical institution. The way that the project will unfold in the institution is that the permanent exhibition will stay as it is, so everyone will find the historical material, and the art works (works by more than 40 artists) function more as interventions in the space, as ruptures, as footnotes, as a critical remark, or pointing towards other parts of the world, or the realm of the digital. This will be conceived by placing the works along the permanent exhibition in the exhibition space but also by making use of spaces in the building that are not usually used as display, like the hallway or a corridor for example. 15

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

So people might not plan to see our exhibition but the permanent exhibition and they would stumble upon something that irritates or something that leads to a new, unexpected questions like "Why do I see a work here that is concerned with the colonial legacies in European art collections or museums?" for example. We also cooperate with other institutions in Munich, for example, and a monastery, Abbey St. Bonifaz, next by the Documentation Centre. I think this also offers a great chance that the audience will be quite broad.

From your perspective, what are the specific challenges in curating this kind of exhibition?

One of the biggest challenges I would say is the contextualization. What happens if you bring contemporary art in this specific context is that it brings new readings of the artworks compared to an exhibition in a white cube setting; but it also triggers new perspectives on the historical exhibition. It is not meant to be a simple comment in the sense that it would simplify things; to say that one thing that happened in history is exactly like something that we see now. By putting things next to each other, you have to consider the differences, how did things happen in the past and to ask ourselves to look at our present day. The dialogue between the works and the permanent exhibition, the works among each other as well as the related topics, is something very challenging.

In which way is this exhibition different from the other ones you curated in the past?

The conditions of “Tell me about yesterday tomorrow” are very different, because there is already a given context for the exhibition. It's not a white wall,


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

there is this historical exhibition that creates a kind of backdrop for the works to unfold and the way they are read. However there are also similarities to exhibitions I have worked on in the past, for example "Political Populism", or the exhibition "How to live together" that took place in 2017, both at Kunsthalle Vienna. A similar aspect is that with all of these exhibitions we tried to generate a certain openness, that it's not necessarily one story that we want to tell, there is no one beginning and one end, it's not one thesis we like to prove, but offering a broad scope of different realities. And this is also something that relates to the historical exhibition, which is presented in chronological order.

The exhibition we conceived is non-linear narration, which also resonates with our global reality, which is multifaceted, fluid and acronychal. This openness is something that I would say is connected to some other recent projects of mine.

What is your feeling about how contemporary art can influence the way we look today at the world or understand what is around us? How can contemporary art influence somehow the way people look at things and think of the current social and political situation?

This is a very tough question, but of course the one that concerns us in our work and also many other people in this field I think. Of course, as I said, we are very aware that the direct effect contemporary art can make is limited. It also comes with a lot of barriers that you can't connect to everyone and reach out to everyone. One role a public institution fulfills is to make ideas, art, information and knowledge available.

I think not only one artwork and not only one project or even not only one institution can change things on a broad structure, but I think all of these little steps and efforts are very important.


Juliane Bischoff

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the role of artists, arts professionals and institutions, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

Looking back at recent years, a big chance I would mention is the economization of the art field. In order to sustain oneself, artists more and more have to rely on the market. That means there is also art produced to be able to be consumed and fit some formats. It goes hand and hand with objectification and speculation of art. In my understanding art should be free to take whatever form is suitable: from ephemeral, time-based works to collaboration and social practices. This is also a challenge for institutions that naturally present art works. Another challenge and chance is the crossing of borders of genres and disciplines. I think collaboration of various fields is a productive mean to work on future issues.

If you were able to change one or two things of the way the art system functions, where would you start from? Where do you feel is more necessary to intervene for the benefit of everyone?

It is difficult to say, there are so many things on very different levels and realms... A big challenge is payment and maintenance, because I think everyone that works for something should get paid for the work. That's a very important aspect in the work on all levels, especially in institutions and the work with artists. Working in this field I know that funds are always an issue and you always have to look for additional funding and financial support and the means of production should be distributed equally. Often artists are thought to earn the symbolic value of visibility, but of course that is not something you can maintain a living from. Payment is one big challenge in the field in general, and then also certain responsibilities in terms of a public institution that has a certain path created from the city or the state. How would you handle this? That an exhibition space, an


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

institution maybe should not necessarily only be about exhibitions, not only about the presentation of art but also should enable to involve people, to offer platforms and education? One very successful mean in that way is free access, in terms of free entrance, and I wonder why sometimes it seems so difficult for public institutions to offer free entrance. I think this is one very simple but successful way to include more people. This is just to mention two topics but I think there are many more aspects to change.

The first part of our interview took place before the opening of the exhibition. What are your impressions about it, now that it has almost reached its end?

There was a really interesting process because it was not only an exhibition that brought together various artworks, it was really creating a dialogue between an existing exhibition that is already there and interventions in the space of the Documentation Centre.

Looking at the permanent exhibition in the Documentation Centre you would find one approach which is a rational documentation of history based on text and image reproductions. It is about a depiction of what happened in the past, but it doesn't really make connections to the present time or at least the connections are not so obvious. ”Tell me about..” tried to establish a dialogue; to point to things in history but also find connections to nowadays. And it offers different approaches to regard that, through works of art obviously. That was really special.

The project was really trying to use the background of the historical exhibition in a productive way, to involve it, but also to reflect on it. Some connections between the historical context and the contemporary interventions really came together in the space. Also the duration of the exhibition was longer than usual and that allowed for more discussions with the audience.


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

The temporary exhibition also works for me as a reflection on the historical permanent exhibition. It's not just a depiction of the past but it's really also reveals the history is told and depicted as well as the conditions behind images and behind videos. The artworks really involve you as a spectator, it asks you what is in between the binary between good and bad, and how you would position yourself. And it asks from whose perspective are we looking at history, present but maybe also future.

A global pandemic, due to Covid-19, has been spreading all over the world and we have seen educational programs, schools, cultural centers, museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites closing and being forced to change their plans. How has this crisis affected the exhibition in Munich?

Every public institution struggled with the situation of having the mission or aim to be an open institution to invite people, to have a program and now having to close their doors. Trying to find a way to produce content online and to still engage with your audience, to still have discussions, it's very challenging. We also discussed a lot about what makes sense for us, what we should do. You have to find a way to deal with this unpreceded situation, to stay connected to your audiences within this attention economy. But then you don't want to connect only through marketing and only through advertising but really by working with the content. There was the plan for an “Assembly” related to "Tell me about yesterday tomorrow" that should have taken place in June. It was planned a 10-day kind of festival inviting people from various disciplines, from art, from history, from sociology, journalists, writers, musicians and many more. We wanted to offer workshops and also augment the program of "Tell me about yesterday tomorrow" through practical learning. That was another dimension we wanted to include, and of course also fostering discussion from various perspectives. It was soon clear that we could not do that as we planned because it would have involved a lot of people,


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.

Juliane Bischoff

so we came up with the idea to create a podcast series which tries to translate at least the discursive part of the assembly into the virtual space, so that we could still work with the people that we wanted to invite, to hear their perspectives on current topics that were important for us within the whole project, for example questions about solidarity, questions about radicalization happening in online spaces, but also about new forms of memory culture. We tried to implement it in a program that was doable for us as an institution but that also offered something that's more sustainable, not only another projection of images online.

What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to experiencing, producing and sharing the arts in the future?

It's impossible to predict the future. What I see now is that people long for being together in a space again, because there is also a physical dimension to society and I think people feel that. Reflecting the current situation, especially now that we are in the middle of the second wave of Covid19, one has to be very careful about it, but I think there are dimensions and effects when people come together that cannot be translated into a digital space. This also happened with our podcast series, because we brought together people to discuss things and other perspectives but there was no chance for us to really involve the public, to have questions from the audience. There is this moment of sharing and participating but then, on the other hand, I think people are also a little bit tired of having the same digital formats reproduced over and over again. I think that now that we have understood this pandemic has changed the way we come to together and engage with institutions has changed fundamentally, the possibilities of the digital will be thought through more carefully in order to interact with audiences. I see there is the development of new forms of engagement when we are not able to come together as bodies in a safe way and there are also more attempts to sensitize about what are the dangers of online manipulation but also about isolation and alienation from society.


Juliane Bischoff

Can you think of some keywords that would express your impressions and feelings about what we have just discussed?

Memory culture, discourse, maybe also narration between past, present, and future. Collaboration, democracy, and freedom.

Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.


Tell me about yesterday tomorrow, Installation view at Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism, 2019-2020, Photo: Connolly Weber.



Conscious keywords / emerging thoughts #2


Voices from SACO Contemporary Art Festival Curated by Daniela Veneri


Voices from SACO

Imagination, art, science, nature, peripheries: These keywords showed up very clearly during the very first steps of my research about SACO Contemporary Art Festival. Then these questions emerged:

What do we mean by peripheries? How do we define what is possible? When imagination gives space to courage? How small an action and how big its impact can be? When collective-awareness becomes responsibility by choice? What happens when art and science come together to collaborate and leave old ways of thinking about themselves behind to move forward?

On the two previous and the two following pages: Enterrar las banderas en el mar, Miguel Braceli + alumnos del liceo en Mejillones, escuela sin escuela de SACO8 (2019).


Voices from SACO

Dagmara Wyskiel Curated by Daniela Veneri


Dagmara Wyskiel. Courtesy of the artist.

Dagmara Wyskiel, Polish, PhD in Art from the University of Fine Arts in Krakow. She has made public interventions with performing objects in the Valley of Meteorites and at the ALMA astronomical observatory, both in the Atacama Desert; Laguna Amargo in Chilean Patagonia; an old Jewish neighborhood in Krakow; the British coast and the Port of Valparaiso. Likewise, she has made various interventions in the salt flats of the Argentinian Andes; in public spaces in Manizales, Medellín and Bogotá in Colombia; in London and Hastings in England; in Antofagasta, Coliumo and Castro in Chile; in the Great House of the People and in the Plaza Murillo in La Paz, Bolivia. She has participated in biennials in Russia and Poland. Her works have been exhibited in the National Museum of Art in Bolivia and in the Contemporary Art Space in Uruguay, among other galleries and museums in the United States, Spain, Poland, Chile, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Argentina. In 2016 she was awarded first place in the XVII Asian Biennial in Bangladesh, with the video Joint Game. Dagmara is co-founder of SE VENDE, collective that from its first exhibitions involved relevant artists, curators and experts from Chile and abroad. Later, these experiences gave birth to SACO Festival of Contemporary Art, an event that spreads contemporary art among new audiences in the north of Chile starting 2012. From 2016, she is also the coordinator of ISLA Center for Artist in Residence in Antofagasta. 40

Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

“Eventually, we realized once again that working from the absence of means and spaces, against cultural obstacles and the current of the immediate surrounding environment, stimulates and accelerates the determination to turn the field into a possible scenario, looking for alternative solutions that are applicable and necessary here and now.” - Dagmara Wyskiel

Dagmara, what are your most important objectives as director of the Contemporary Art Festival SACO? First of all, to continue to resist the unbearable fragility of cultural projects in Chile. To ensure continuity for those of us who organize cyclical non-commercial events, a condition that consumes us and often defeats us. Each year, once again miraculously exceeded this goal, I dedicate myself to plan the exhibition, educational and residential contents with the main goal of linking them effectively and affectively with the territory, its inhabitants and their potential with the world outside the desert, generating both transcendental and contingent reflections.

SACO is a project that was born in and from the Atacama Desert, which responds to its surroundings, that grows with the city and that attends to, listens to and feels the local community. It is not like a serial project that is installed in several locations regardless of the context. On the contrary, SACO is unique. This recipe has an aroma of this sea, ingredients of this land, it is kneaded by several hands here and is baked under this sun. 41

Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

SACO believes in breaking established drawers of knowledge and in tearing down the isolation of different areas of knowledge, coherently with the most advanced contemporary world, to blend conceptual creativity with astronomy, the depth of images with archeology and, why not, existential reflections with mining. The world today is heterogeneous and so is the festival, since its supra objective is to contribute to the autonomy of individuals and their way of feeling, thinking and acting beyond learned structures and inherited gaps. Free people are those who think by themselves. It sounds obvious but it is not. You have to exercise contemplative and deep thinking, as if it were a muscle.

What values and principles guide your work?

Chile is around five thousand kilometers long. All university schools of visual arts, cinema, photography, theory, history and pedagogy of art, philosophy, sociology and related fields, as well as specialized exhibition spaces, archives, research and bibliography centers, are located in less than a fifth of the length of the country. The inequality of access to higher artistic education and the consequent professional void, which already affects three generations, deepen the knowledge gap, leaving aside the majority of the creative potential of the entire north of Chile, simply due to distance and lack of resources. In this context, generating a fissure, a scratch, became a challenge not only in the field of education but also in the realm of values. Antofagasta is a city of passage built on pure mineral-rich soil, economically thriving and culturally lame. The historical value system, which was based on numbers, added to the blackout implied by the dictatorship from which nothing has ever been recovered, has left the scope of reflection outside the elements of relevance in the citizens life. Within this context, my work aims to art deelitization, decrease the inequalities regarding the access to art and creation, the resignification of the relation between center and periphery, and the appreciation of Chilean richness from its ethnic, geographical and cultural diversity.


Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

What was your initial intention when you started working on this project and what has changed since then? What are the main insights that you collected as the project unfolded?

I arrived in Antofagasta in 2001. I began to connect with artists, theorists, curators and ask about museums, galleries and documentations centers; I looked for art publications and culture programs on local radio and TV. And I realized that I landed on the moon, in several ways, including because of how far I was from any cultural center as well as because of the nakedness of the landscape, and the incredible sky over it. Nothing with capital N.

The multiple abandonment of an extensive territory, reduced to its extractive role and anesthetized for decades by consumerism, corresponds to the historical series in which the only thing that changes is the object of world desire: guano - saltpeter - copper - lithium, but the territory itself never becomes a place to live by choice. It is also in this same place that, in the middle of the first decade or so of my permanence in Chile, thanks to a qualitative change in the local cultural micro scene, the view was recomposed starting from new platforms originated in the city and the territory, with extensions and ambitions that went far beyond the regional borders.

From the first actions in 2004, SE VENDE Collective induced the encounter of the public with the transformation activated by objectual, conceptual, experimental and ephemeral practices. The first collective interventions were located in significant buildings for the city, in architectural heritage or on the streets. A fundamental element was the realization of forums that initiated a reflection on critical art issues at a local level, with the participation of guests, authors and academics from cities such as Santiago and Valparaíso. The Collective managed to consolidate a connection and network format that was giving it notoriety.

On the two following pages: Enterrar las banderas en el mar, Miguel Braceli + alumnos del liceo en Mejillones, escuela sin escuela de SACO8 (2019).


Vista panorámica de Antofagasta con el Muelle Histórico y exposición SACO8 Origen y mito (2018).

Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

Eventually, we realized once again that working from the absence of means and spaces, against cultural obstacles and the current of the immediate surrounding environment, stimulates and accelerates the determination to turn the field into a possible scenario, looking for alternative solutions that are applicable and necessary here and now. I think it was at that time that we understood that decentralization is achieved by bringing ideas to life, by doing homework after studying and researching, without copying, that one should decentralize and not wait for decentralization, since claiming for it is a symptom of subordination, so typical in the regions. There is no other way than to empower oneself and lead oneself story, even if the panorama seems unfair and disadvantaged.

What specific challenges and opportunities the local context offers?

There is no better chance than starting, generating something from nothing, the void in all its layers.

How do you cultivate the relationship with the local community, and how did it respond to SACO?

Through two great utopias: museum without museum and school without school. Free from nineteenth-century architecture palaces - the ones that mark the distance with citizens on the sidewalk - we can dialogue from any corner with the community, generate flexible routes, without walls, adaptable to each particular edition. We imagine and create an exhibition circuit merged by a curatorial project, with a rigorous formal coherence, alignment of duration, mediation, dissemination, visual communication and above all with the same way of thinking about art, territory and the public.

SACO intervenes the art scene not only by de-monopolizing the circuit of conventional museums and galleries, but above all by enriching and diversifying the 47

Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

use and interpretation of urban spaces, by renewing the ways to inhabit, flow and observe. If we understood the school as an academic and hierarchical space, structured and fossilized according to obsolete standards and canons, we would not be able to operate, since our organization is independent of universities and we maintain a critical vision of what a university career in the artistic field means today. Our challenge is to create

an educational platform conceived as a space for

constant transfer of knowledge and techniques, for the development of critical thinking, interdisciplinary connections, relation with the territory, mediation, creation of human bonds through common goals and work, dialogue, reflection and interpretation; that is our school. SACO today is one of the most visited visual art event in Chile, but what matters most to me is that the community appropriates the festival, the museum-without-museum path becomes a familiar routine and our ISLA education and residency center is full of people for most of the year.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

Science world. Listening to the first source of meaningful content, such as astronomy, geology, archeology and anthropology in northern Chile, among other areas of knowledge, allows us to formulate really contemporary questions, transversal to different fields of research. In accordance with this multidisciplinary approach, the Archaeological Museum in San Pedro de Atacama welcomes each year, as host, one of the festival's international residences. Our other great ally in the field of science, Guillermo Chong, from the Humberto Fuenzalida Geological Museum, opens the possibility of creating crossroads by generously introducing artists to the world of rocks, minerals, volcanoes and tectonic plates. Eduardo Unda-Sanzana, of the Astronomy Center of the University of Antofagasta, invites creators to explore the common spaces of the infinite. In this way we build a two-world approach platform, bringing together art and science, where we already have the certainty that they do not have to exist separately.


Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

In the field of art we have a wide network of spaces inside and outside the Latin American metropolis, which favor the development of alternative dynamics of operation built through the resistance and the connection with the local context.

On the macro scale our most appreciated partners are curators, artists and researchers involved in any of the festival's editions, as many of them became SACO advocates in the world.

What parameters do you consider to evaluate the impact of this project?

The most superficial parameter, which is at the same time the most measurable, is the amount of audience. In 2019 we had more than forty thousand people who visited the exhibitions of museum without museum, in a mining city of half a million inhabitants. Based on the market criterions, those that do not resonate with me, this number represents, without doubt, a success. The impact that I am interested in achieving is actually related to a qualitative change in the local society, a change of the mining and consumerist paradigm, with a shift towards critical thinking, creativity and reflection. These types of impacts can be measured after decades and are always the result of a combination of several factors. I think that just aspiring to measure the real impact of an artistic event is something pretentious, established from the technological and economic worlds those that believe that all the dimensions of human experience are transferable to numbers - and thankfully, it is not so.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today?

Simply by doing their job. To fulfill their role they must take care of their autonomy; In times of crisis there is no lack of attempts to instrumentalize art, on one side or the other. I will respond with a fragment of the curatorial text of SACO8 Destiny: On the two following pages: Vista general exposición Enterrar las banderas en el mar, Miguel Braceli + alumnos del liceo en Mejillones, SACO8 (2019).


Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

“If there is someone who knows how to advance the present, they are the creators. They have the gift of feeling what is coming, even without understanding it; of perceiving for example the danger before thunder turns into a storm. These are not supernatural powers or hidden knowledge but probably consist in a particular sensitivity, that conjugates the ability to pay attention to what goes beyond the visible with a mind that deconstructs what it perceives. Outsider within society, or at least guardian of what looks marginal compared to norms, herd dynamics, beliefs and rituals. The architect distrusts the glorious future, both here and there, sitting on the armchair when society performs its contingency show. (...)

We have two powerful cranes capable of lifting up self-esteem - with decayed reason - as Homo sapiens: science and art. The evolved society will replace priests and politicians with scientists and artists. We must prepare for this by exercising our abilities: by selecting what to leave behind and what we can keep with us, foreseeing the waves that await us towards ports and interconnections, planning transfers and intimate as well as universal final destinations”.

Where do you see the current shifts in the transformation of the art and culture system, where do you see the risks and challenges and where do you see the opportunities?

SACO is carried out in one of the most neoliberal countries in the world, with much inequality in education and health, not to mention the access to cultural goods, where everything is conceived as a consumer good with a price that defines its value. However society woke up. I am writing these words four months after the popular and massive outbreak in Chile, and nobody knows how this will end. As in all Latin American countries, in these cases the risk that society runs in wanting to transform the country is to receive state oppression, the challenge of society is to resist and the opportunity is to be part of a pivotal moment.


Rabdomante de Joaquín Fargas (Argentina) en una de las salitreras abandonadas en el desierto, SACO8 (2019).

Preproducción de Rabdomante de Joaquín Fargas (Argentina) en uno de los acantilados del sector, SACO8 (2019).

Taller de profundización en fotografía contemporánea para la macro zona del Altiplano, dictado por Rodrigo Rovira, director del Festival Internacional de Fotografía de Valparaíso; escuela sin escuela de SACO8 (2019).

Chuquicamata, la mina a tajo abierto más grande del mundo, residencia arte+industria SACO8 (2019).

Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

If you could change one or two things in the area of responsibility of art curators, cultural producers, institutions, artists, what do you think would create the greatest value and benefit for all?

- The inbreeding of the metropolis causes myopia in its cultural agents. In Poland doctors to get their professional degree must practice for several months in remote places, deprived of the facilities and accessibilities of a city, for example in a rural location with minimum equipment. I would propose something similar not only for curators, but also for state cultural administrators and art critics.

- I would ban missionary artistic tourism, the neo-colonial tendency to evangelize the most remote or suffering communities on the planet through contemporary art; the instrumentalization of the other through a sophisticated conceptual research.

- The third factor for deelitization is to listen to the public, to generate a bidirectional flow. Have you ever wondered why all areas of artistic creation have their own tools to measure pulse and taste except visual arts? Film and theater festivals have audience awards, music and literature measure sales of tickets, albums and copies. Institutions dedicated to visual arts normally underestimate their audience by applying a lot of mediation that involves group dynamics and physical motion, without considering any tools to collect concrete feedback.

At this very moment there is a public health crisis spreading all over the world and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, schools and educational programs are closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about how this condition will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts? What questions are arising for you?

The situation is very dynamic, it is worth mentioning that what I will answer next corresponds to the information that we have at the beginning of April 2020.


Voices from SACO - Dagmara Wyskiel

The global crisis generated by the pandemic did not leave us much time to wait for clear seals marked on the art landscape. I imagine that, although it is not my area, at the moment we talk the international market is frozen, since fairs postpone their openings and galleries are closed. I do not see a boom in virtual auctions, new sales platforms or other symptoms of speculation around art. This seems very significant to me, as I get the impression that there is a silent agreement beyond words, that nobody is in a position to play the winner role today. In response to the closure of physical spaces, a boom of online exhibitions emerged, including vernissages and virtual guided tours, online encounters with artists and curators, the streaming of conversations, podcasts and talks. Films about art and artists abound in networks, video recordings of plays are released, photographic archives and cinema jewels once difficult to find now circulate. And, the most incredible thing is that we have a little time now, a little more than what each of us had yesterday. We are at home and there is no rush. Paradoxically, it seems like a dream situation, but of course it's just one of the horror scenes. Will we learn something as a species thanks to this storm? I doubt it. But surely some of us will change forever.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to mention?

In 2021, after nine versions, the Festival of Contemporary Art will become the Biennial of Contemporary Art of Chile, expanding the boundaries of the city and art with significant actions across the desert. The biennial exhibition format will give us more time to deepen research, education and residency programs.

Can you identify three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the content of this interview?

Fragility, conviction, continuity, resistance, work.


On the two following pages: Residencia arte+arqueología en San Pedro de Atacama y preproducción de la exposición Diario de una búsqueda hacia lo suprasensible; Natalia Pilo-Pais (Perú), SACO8 (2019). 57


Voices from SACO

Carlos Rendón Curated by Daniela Veneri


Carlos Rendón

Carlos Rendón, Chilean journalist and cultural manager, from the region of Antofagasta. Have worked as a journalist and editor in digital and printed publications in the country and in numerous cultural projects in the region, opting to combine the skills of the journalism to promote arts and different cultural expressions. He has been in charge of the Relationships area of the Contemporary Art Festival SACO for two years.


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

“One of the most valuable impacts is that you learn that you can still create great things from the periphery. There are more projects like this in Chile and you understand that you are not alone and that from anywhere, with enough persistence and conviction, you can create something beautiful and unique that is different from anything you see anywhere else.” - Carlos Rendón

Carlos, how did you become involved in the Festival of Contemporary Art SACO?

I am a relationships manager, executive assistant, and sometimes I represent our director, Dagmara. My work is in connection with the Region, with SACO's team and with the artists and people in general that wants to know more about the project. The first time I got in touch with SACO I was invited to ISLA. The idea is that I could became a journalist for the Festival, but at that time I was already committed for an internship and could not accept the offer. After my internship, they contacted me again and I joined the team as a second journalist in charge of the communication for the festival. After that, some months later, the possibility of being the relationships manager appeared.

What do you like most about your work for SACO and why?

I think that what I like most is, first, the fact that SACO gives me the chance to know a lot of people and cultures that otherwise I could not. And second, to


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

create something like this from the periphery of the country -and the world-. It feels good to know that your work is part of something meaningful, especially in these times of transformation. In 2021 we will have a Contemporary Art Biennale in Chile for the first time ever, we are creating something big that was not here before and that motivates me every day.

What values and principles guide you?

What I value most is the idea of moving forward. To look at my -personalcontext, no matter how problematic it can be, with the necessary determination to overcome the difficult times and its challenges, and to make the most of my journey. This is also very related to SACO. It started very little and now we are growing and moving forward...

What feedbacks surprised you most over time?

I think that the feedback of people that visit SACO are important, as we are working for them, but one kind of feedback that surprised me particularly came from the artists. It's amazing to contact the artists and see that when they start working on their projects they think they have an idea of the place they will be working with, but then, when they have the experience of SACO, they discover something very different. They see the desert, the schools, they meet the local people and discover powerful connections with very different and distant places and communities, and this generates a certain flow of emotions. They tell a lot about questions they heard, emotions they felt, things they discovered, what makes the humanity of the experience of SACO.


Bloch day in Antofagasta, this international contemporary art project visited Latin America for first time activating artists, students and -mainly- people in the street, as part of SACO8 events.

Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

When the artists are invited here, they are asked to create something specific for the context. What they encounter is a place where they connect with people who normally don't have any advanced artistic education, and what they notice is that locals are very curious and have a high level of interaction. The artists are so impressed by the humanity and the reactions of people that they still tell me or ask me about it months after their participation.

What are the specific challenges and opportunities that your local context offers?

One thing that I learned is that the desert is the main challenge but it is also an advantage. What is challenging is that here we have to travel five, six hours to reach other people and places, the distances are very long and different from those of Europe, for example. The advantage is that artists here can imagine things that they cannot imagine anywhere else. The immensity of the desert is something unique, and creating something in relation with the desert is also something unique. Another kind of advantage is that art education here is very particular. We do not have "generations" of art students, as we do not have a visual arts degree. We have very diverse kinds of participants in our workshops, people from 12 to 40 years old, and the art of the local scene is very different. I consider it a very interesting advantage, as we have a different kind of art in Antofagasta. We do not have any university telling us how art should be or giving us preconceptions of what to do.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from SACO?

One of the most valuable impacts is that you learn that you can still create great things from the periphery. There are more projects like this in Chile and you


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

understand that you are not alone, and that from anywhere, with enough persistence and conviction, you can create something beautiful and unique that is different from anything you see anywhere else.

In your experience, what is most important when involving different interlocutors and stakeholders in the realisation of a project like this?

When you involve different kinds of organizations, something that requires long talks and meetings with different people, it's very important to be sure that they have your same mission, the same goal. If you share the same goal with your partners, then you can work together, since you will be in the same frequency. In Chile we can create great things with our art and culture, things that can also enable change, make space for cultural expression and make people think about the reality and the times that we are living right now. In Antofagasta we can do things like that, and we need partners who believe the same.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today?

This is something very subjective. I believe that the most important contribution is to connect people to each other, to enable to think out of the box, to believe that you can change things, to create something that can awake different kinds of opinions and thoughts. We want to create artworks that are not just beautiful, but also pieces of art that enable a switch in the mind of people, that make them think about important topics, about what is happening in Chile, but also about humanity in general.

On the two following pages: Research travel with artists, curators and SACO's team in Lasana Pucara.


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the arts and culture system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

I can see the transformation when I see that art is increasingly connected with its context and other disciplines. More than ever, maybe thanks to the hyper-connected reality of these times, arts are expanding to other disciplines, other experts and other types of creators. That is something that SACO is promoting for several years, specially linking art with science. I see a connection between artists and scientists in Chile more than in the rest of the world, probably thanks to the particularities of our region. You do not have to create your art locked in a room, isolated from the outside. We need to connect with others, or the risk is that you start believing that you have the "right" approach and this leads to an environment of competition more than to one of collaboration, and I think this is a problem. As for the opportunities, I think that they are related to the Internet and the hyper-connected reality that I mentioned before. We are still far from exploring the possibility of technology. I think that we can build more on that, like videogames or social networks, there are a lot of new types of expressions that we need to keep exploring. The power of the never-ending advance of technology is an opportunity that we need to learn how to control, as a network of opportunity. I believe that in SACO we look at this with no fear, but with expectations.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of institutions, cultural producers, art curators, artists, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

In general, we as art workers have the awareness that our work is important. We can create something beautiful, big, impactful, and even have an


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

influence on the thinking of individuals. That is a big responsibility, as we can make meaningful changes in society. But at the same time, I think we need less ego and more collaboration from anyone who wants a change in the world. You need to be very responsible for taking this kind of role, especially when working in arts and culture, and even if you have trouble admitting it, you need the help of your partners and friends to keep walking forward.

At this very moment there is a public health crisis spreading all over the world and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, schools and educational programs are closing the doors in many countries. How is this affecting you in the planning of the next SACO edition?

Without a doubt, it has been an unexpected situation, which we initially saw from afar but which, day by day, became a real problem that led us to opt for major changes in SACO9 Now or never, this year's edition. Like most of the cultural events in the country and the world, we had to change the date and postpone all our activities for the first semester, which led to a necessary transfer of events, people, places and moments that even today we are still working hard to carry out without too many casualties. There is also a change in mentality that we certainly take into account, especially in regards to the inevitable post-traumatic stress that people will have after the pandemic. We know, as a massive and international event, that people will see foreign visitors differently and that they might be reluctant to crowd into large groups, but those are natural reactions given the situation we live in, which we hope to get around when SACO9 Now or never takes place at the end of September this year.

What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?

I think it will affect enormously and we are already seeing some examples.


Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón

Art in the end is a reflection of the feelings and tribulations of the artist, who, confined for weeks or months, will undoubtedly, see an unusual impact on his or her works. There are already stories, paintings, video games and music created either about the situation of the virus or in the context of the virus, and that is very interesting. It is a terrible situation, a tragedy that implies delays, cancellations and abruptly finished projects for the art world. But it is also an opportunity to create differently. Art as such cannot generate a vaccine for the virus, but it is a condenser of emotions that we need in these times, whether for people who create or for those who enjoy it.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share?

I would just like to let people know more about SACO. It is a great adventure, and I would love that people reading this could know more about us in every corner. We have a webpage, numerous videos on youtube and you can follow us on our social media.

Can you mention three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the content of this interview?

Future, because we can be the future. Determination, Discovery, Dreams, Community.

On the two previous pages: Fragmento de la exposición Destino en el Muelle Histórico Melbourne Clark de Antofagasta (2019). Photo courtesy of Dagmara Wyskiel. 74

Sound Art workshop by Fernando Godoy, in Liceo Alessandri, Calama. Photo courtesy of Carlos Rendón.

Transistasis, Jordán Plaza. Part of the group exhibition Nosotros, los ancestros, curated by Cristóbal León, SACO8 production.

On the two following pages: Yuga Hatta, Self monument / Contrail de Yuga Hata, exposición Destino, Muelle Histórico Melbourne Clark, Antofagasta, SACO8 (2019). Photo courtesy of Dagmara Wyskiel. 77

Voices from SACO

Yuga Hatta Curated by Daniela Veneri


Yuga Hatta. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Yuga Hatta is Japanese artist. After finishing BA degree in fine art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design he moved to Porto Portugal in 2013. Currently he is enrolled in course of MA Artes Plasticas at Fauldade de Belas Artes Universidade do Porto. His practice explore artistic activities as a strategy to understand signs and meaning embedded in context of daily life narratives. Recent participation to exhibitions include: Descongelar (group), FBAUP, Porto, 2020. Destino (group), SACO Festival de Arte Contemporaneo, Antofagasta, 2019. FRESTA (group), Centro Comercial Invictos, Porto, 2019. etc.


Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

“In my process making objects is not the most important part at all, it is more about the original narrative that I want to know. Making objects or certain kinds of interventions is like my commentary, I do not think it is about inspiration, it is something smaller, it is more like a commentary and the communication of that commentary with people around.” - Yuga Hatta

Yuga, what are the projects you are working on that excite you most?

I am following a Master's degree course here in Portugal, it started last year. My artistic projects develop from a process of trying to understand the everyday life and what it is composed of. I am a foreigner here and I have lived also in some other countries such as the United States, England, but I was never so much conscious about being a foreigner, and at that time I did not have to deal so much with the immigration process. Here in Portugal people are open, the process is not something difficult, and somehow I started using what normally is called artistic production as a kind of strategy to understand and internalise the context here. Sometimes it involves the process of learning the language or picking up seen objects that are usually being taken for granted in everyday life, and my artistic intervention can be really small. It's a kind of process for me to internalize and understand what is around, that is somehow expressed through the artistic practice. Every time I work with different materials, depending on specific objects or projects. Right now I am mainly working with artistic interventions in parking spaces. Here in Portugal there are many parking lots in the streets, which is something that you do not see much in Japan, and people place whatever kind of object in parking lots to reserve a place, sometimes chairs, sometimes buckets and so on, and I find it quite interesting where these object are placed in the particular parking space, because it's like the 82

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

specificity of the object disappears, they become all just objects good for saving the parking spot. For me it's funny because it's kind of opposite in artistic production, which is about making something more specific, involving many layers of things and meanings, and the space function is completely the opposite.

As I observe this I think that there is a story behind the object that is placed out there in the parking space, it can be a chair or food, and then there is the interactive dynamic of the car coming, and also the story about for whom, where and why they are booking the parking space and so on. The project somehow has been unfolding from this narrative, because there have been many experiments about using actual objects and I started focusing more on this narrative like a story-making process. A funny thing for me is that I do not actually have a car, and I started wondering who would I ask for help to reserve a parking place for me. It could be an object or a person, and first I thought of people dancing in the space, and then I thought of using extinct animals, so I came to the point that I thought I would ask extinct animals to save the place for me. They are not here anymore but for me it was more about giving something or somebody a role, a function of saving the space, and now I am quite interested in this role that one can take in the narrative, that is for me a key to understand something I get interested in. I start by asking what is the function of that object or person in that narrative and I bring them in, so now I started making dodos and they will be put in a parking space to book the parking spot. This is what I am doing at the moment. People stop by the studio and think that this guy is always making bones, something very weird.

What are your most important objectives as an artist?

A very important thing is that I keep being very interested in what I do. It is not something granted even if it is supposed to happen. It's important that I really get interested in the object or the project and stay enthusiastic and curious about it, and that I do not lose that focus, because in my process making objects is not the 83

Yuga Hatta, A Barragem, 2020. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

most important part at all, it is more about the original narrative that I want to know. Making objects or certain kinds of interventions is like my commentary, I do not think it is about inspiration, it is something smaller, it is more like a commentary and the communication of that commentary with people around. It is difficult, there are for example many people at school who at the beginning get enthusiastic and then there are many reasons that take away this kind of force, and also for some people, even when they are really interested in the process, it is difficult to keep up with it for other reasons, maybe because of the visa if they are international students, or also because of financial reasons, so it is also a privilege when you can dedicate yourself to your interests. This level of involvement is important for me, maintaining, keeping the interest, maybe because I am a kind of person who gets distracted easily.

What values and principles guide you?

I have to be constantly aware of the differences. It's similar to what I said before. I think this happened even if I was in Japan but here it happens more often. For example, thinking about the calendar, here in Europe it's 2020. In Japan we also use this calendar but there is also another calendar related to the royal family, and whenever the emperor changes a new year starts. Just thinking of something simple like the calendar I have to be aware of the differences, and just in picking one concept like this that we use every day there are some differences. In general, there are many differences that I find, in small things, and I start picking them up and then analyzing them, sometimes I ask people around me why something is the way it is. In a way what guides me is curiosity, and also my desire to be integrated in the context here. My values are connected with the differences, which I enjoy very much. I am not a very social person, so when my projects have taken a kind of formal public intervention I think it is also a way to have my works make the


Yuga Hatta, Coroas de Fim de Semana, 2019.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

comment for me. It's a kind of multimedia communication. It's also about my satisfaction in a way. My artistic projects are not so much manifestations, they are more about presenting what I realize or what I thought. For example, here coffee culture is quite popular and there are a lot of cafes around and people go there, talk about politics, gossip, football, and one thing that you always find on the table is the paper napkins holder. I once was really attracted by these paper napkins because some cafes have personalised ones, some are used for a general message like "Thank you, come again" or "Bon appétit", and they are a very granted element. So, I once started painting and thought of distributing my personalised painted napkins for their normal use. In that way my work was ideally trying to give the objects back to where I found them, in the context of a typical life experience. I hope that with this kind of intervention there is some communication happening, but if it does not it's also okay…

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

One thing I loved happened when there was this napkin project going on. I live in a city that is next to Oporto, on the other side of the Douro river, at about a 15 minutes walk. I live in front of the City Hall and this antique building has inscribed walls quoting all the values that citizens should have, like virtue, work, honesty and so on. I decided to make a series of napkins printed with these words. In one case they were placed in a restaurant and the napkins were hang on the wall, and a guy came in and started reading the napkin out loud; he thought it was a joke and for him it was also a joke, because you could read the original message printed on the napkin that I collected in first place, like "Thank you, come again", and then there was my print over saying things like "work", "traballo, traballo, traballo". Maybe it was not the exact same of a feedback or a commentary about my work but I enjoyed it, it's one of the things I remember most because for that guy it was just a napkin, he did not see it as a work of art, and that is actually what it


Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

was supposed to be... People who are used to see artworks I think they have a different focus, and that same time someone asked how I painted the napkins, some other people tried to put them in relation with Japanese calligraphy because I am Japanese, and it was interesting, but these feedbacks stayed with me less because the object I made was not something important. It was more about an image or a situation that the objects created when they were placed in a flow of narrative of the everyday life. For me the project made a sense or the project was successful when someone read the object as a paper napkin rather than as a painting.

How did you become involved in the Festival of Contemporary Art SACO?

It was very random. I was in one class when the professor told us about an open call and suggested us to apply, it was for a project in Portugal and about planning a monument. I visited the website with the application form and I noticed at the bottom a banner about SACO and I thought it looked much more interesting, so I submitted my application to SACO instead to that other one.

What seemed so interesting about SACO?

The description of the festival and the theme of the year were particularly matching the project I was thinking of at that time and that was still not realized, so I felt like it was just for me to apply in that moment.

Can you share about the artistic project that you proposed in Chile? How did you choose it and what was the intention behind it?

The theme of the exhibition was “destiny”. That time I was thinking of


Yuga Hatta, Self Monument as Contrail / Immigrant, 2019, CACE, Porto.

Yuga Hatta, Self Monument as Contrail / Immigrant, 2019, Antofagasta, Chile.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

monuments for emigrants that exist in many places in Portugal. The reality of migration is very much different from the times these monuments were made. So I decided to make one, but a personal one, for myself, as immigrant. I had already before used images of contrail of airplanes giving the feeling of direction and destination in the sky. I imagined myself as a contrail, a succession of myself and the image behind. I decided to use expansive foam for not having so much control. It’s personal but at the same time very general, it can represent anybody with their own history and destiny.

What did it mean for you to participate in the last SACO edition?

It was a great experience in total. It was the first occasion for me to be part of a big project, so it was a significant personal experience, and then being involved in the project of SACO meant meeting other artists, sometimes sharing the working space, sharing ideas and also seeing the exhibition buildings, and that was beautiful. Another aspect is how the project is managed. The team worked enthusiastically and observing them was really special. It is difficult to describe, there were so many inputs, so many meetings, it was amazing, I learned a lot of things. I do not think I can fully explain what it meant for me because it wasn't just about making an artwork and participating in the exhibition there, there were other interactions, many occasions of sharing besides the exhibition. It all happened through an artistic project but it was much more than an artistic project.

What opportunities and challenges did you encounter in Chile?

As for the opportunities, I had the chance of participating in this exhibition and developing the work outside my normal studio, through the interaction with others, and for me this is rare. Everybody was really enthusiastic about the project, the placing of the work, they really tried to resolve any issue together, to


Yuga Hatta, Fala Baixo Portugal Não É Nosso, 2015.

Yuga Hatta, Song of the dawn 1 (Project Imigrante / Emigrante), 2015.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

understand how to make it work better, and I was so happy, it was really nice. It was such an opportunity, I do not think it happens everywhere to find that kind of environment. The space of the exhibition was really nice as well, and discussing with them how and where the work can be installed. Of course the opportunity of making my first visit to South America was nice, too. but the biggest opportunity was to be part of this project because the people who are co-creating it really believe in what they are doing, and it was great to be part of it. As for the challenges, maybe I can mention the communication. With language I am familiar or not, it is always challenge to me. It’s my weakness.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from SACO?

I think there is much more impact than what I actually can see. What I see is already a particular impact on myself as a person, but I think the biggest impact they bring is for the community there. Dagmara, the artistic director, told me that before SACO there were not so many cultural activities going on in Antofagasta, and they really build up a big project there. I was there for only 10 days or so but the edition was going on from a long time before, with projects with local students and with some other communities. In my way of understanding, especially because of how I work for my projects and my kind of artistic production, SACO offers another way of reading a situation or condition, a different perspective and way of expression that the project is providing in Antofagasta. There have been already nine editions, so I believe there is a real impact they bring there in the local community, which is much bigger than what I could see in my 10 days stay there.

In the unfolding of your own creative process, who are your most important partners or interlocutors?

There are multiple levels. First, now I am sharing my studio with colleagues


On this page: Yuga Hatta, O Erro Não Mora Aqui, 2019.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

and this is amazing. Before I was using the studio by myself and now we are four and it's very nice this kind of sharing and exchange. Thinking of partners, it is a bit different but the environment here, this city is in a way a partner in my production process, people living here around, the neighbours, and of course my family.

In your experience, how can arts and culture have an effective social contribution today?

First of all I see in the work of others a lot of productions that focus on really changing some specific conditions, and that is bringing a lot of impact... For me, it's about a different way of communicating a perspective, and because of that you can have an influence that otherwise would not be there. For example, once I was working on a project in Palestina, in a city called Jenin, with the help of local organizations, where the city used to have a train station, train system of Palestina. They demolished it after the war and people, even locals, many of them did not even know that they had a train system once, and their current condition is that there is little mobility there. The project was about planning with local teenagers the reactivation of the train system in the future. That implied also a kind of political discourse, I am aware of it, but for me it was more about discovering the city with local teenagers, taking with them decisions for the city. What we made was a kind of metal ticket, to go from a city to another city.

This way of working, by using artistic practices as a tool to understand a particular local context, it is sometimes similar to the appearance of a really political work, for example because it involves many times public interventions, so even if it is not intended to be a political work it is a commentary somehow. When there is a problem that is discussed politically and collectively, I think that an art project can show a side of it that was not really being talked about, another side of a problem or a situation. I prefer to be positive in a way and I think that an artistic production is good at projecting a kind of hope on some issues towards the future.


Yuga Hatta, Collection Balloons of S. João 1, 2016-2019.

Yuga Hatta, Wishes of Neighbours (stills), 2019.

Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution of the arts and culture system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

For me it is a bit difficult to see it in big scale. I am not yet ready to take risk more than I can take. Doing art is in a way already a risk and challenge in the system but also privilege. I think it would be nice if all of us start doing it, but maybe outside art-sphere. On culture system, to be honest, I do not know much about it.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of institutions, cultural producers, art curators, artists, and in the way the arts system relates to the social field, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

Maybe distance between art system and social field? I can only talk about where I am but here it seems they are almost separate world. I think if art people want autonomy as they claim in general, responsibility that accompanies it is actually bigger than how it is taken.

We talked first several months ago and ever since the global pandemic, due to Covid-19, has strengthened and has affected the whole world. We have seen educational programs, schools, cultural centers, museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites closing and being forced to change their plans. How has this crisis touched your projects and practice?

Fortunately or unfortunately, on a personal level, it has not changed my practice so much to the point I have to change a plan completely, though surely causing some inconveniences. Well, there is a project that was supposed to take place at cafés in the city and to happen within the next months. It would not be the same when I thought of before the pandemic, but how it will be also reflects the


Voices from SACO - Yuga Hatta

situation and mode of life we have to deal with and that my practice is about. So, yes, some decisions that I would not have to consider without the pandemic had to be thought of.

What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to experiencing, producing and sharing the arts in the future?

In the long term, maybe not influence so much neither in a good way nor bad way, i guess. It affects mostly the now, so there may be something we will discover retrospectively.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that is important for you to mention?

For me it's all very simple, but when I try to communicate it I complicate it with words...

Can you think of three or five keywords related to our conversation that resonate with you right now?

Sharing. Sharing the experience is a way we relate to each other, it is very important. I think it's a nice way we have to create knowledge. Sharing is like a seed of a new knowledge.


On this page: Yuga Hatta, from the social / artistic project Station Without Rail / Skkit Baladna - train of our land, 2013.

On the two following pages: SACO, journey of contextualization, San Pedro de Atacama (2019). Photo courtesy of Dagmara Wyskiel. 99

Voices from SACO

Eduardo Unda-Sanzana Curated by Daniela Veneri


Eduardo Unda Sanzana

Eduardo Unda-Sanzana was born in Concepción, Chile (1974). He studied Chemical Engineering and did his MSc in Science, minor in Physics, at the Universidad de Concepción. Thanks to a PPARC-Andes studentship he did his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Southampton (UK). After returning to Chile, he directed the Paranal-UCN Outreach Center for 5 years in Antofagasta. Since 2012 he is the Director of the Centro de Astronomía of the Universidad de Antofagasta. He is responsible for developing Ckoirama, the first Chilean-state owned observatory under the northern Chilean skies, as well as the first Center of Astroengineering in the north of the country. Eduardo has a keen interest in science outreach and in the relation between science and art, having directed several projects related to public communication of science in the Region of Antofagasta, often in collaboration with local artists.


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

“I see that when after a couple of months you can walk in an exhibition room in the city center and you see that there is something related to our work that is seen from different eyes, it has a value that it is very difficult to measure.” - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

Eduardo, which of the projects that you are currently working on excite you most and why?

There are two main projects that I am focusing on right now. One of those is more related to science and technology, the other is more related to outreach. The first project investigates what is happening with the new megaconstellations of internet satellites worldwide: those satellites have the potential to bring a huge benefit for humanity, by providing very cheap connectivity for various areas, but the cost of that in terms of observation of the sky and appreciation of the sky is that they may ruin portions of it. There may be parts of the sky in which you are currently used to contemplate the stars, and what could happen now is that you may regularly observe strips of lights. Those lights are reflections of the Sun on those satellites as they move through the sky, and that could become a problem for science. We are trying to quantify that and, if our fears are confirmed, we will try to provide technological solutions to that. This is one of the things I am doing, and I am collaborating with some research groups locally and internationally. The second project is related to our region, to outreach and basically the idea is that there is an area in the region in Antofagasta where you will have a large concentration of telescopes or, more generally, of astronomical equipment and capabilities. It is an area close to Paranal, where the VLT telescope is, and where in the future there is going to be also the ELT and several other telescopes. I have


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

been trying to encourage the authorities in the region of Antofagasta to use this opportunity to start a new center of interpretation of astronomy, open to tourist visitors and to schoolchildren that will get to this part of the region and will receive help to understand the natural qualities of this site and also what are the goals of the different projects under development there. If successful, this is going to be a large project, not only in terms of investments but in the sense of becoming a new landmark for connecting people with the observation of the sky and with understanding why we promote so much the interest of astronomy in Chile.

What values and principles guide you in your work?

Recently I was in charge of organizing a large scientific meeting of astronomers, attracting people from all over the continent and from other continents as well. In the process of organizing this I led a discussion with the rest of my team about the values that would guide our work for that meeting. It was a very good exercise because those values are generally applicable, they are not restricted to that meeting. It was a good exercise of analyzing what we believe in, and I think that they are a good summary of what I try to do generally in my work. They are excellency, in the sense of trying to do things as best as humanly possible; integrity, as a way to express that ethical considerations will always be a key aspect of what I do; then diversity, in the sense of understanding that we live in a complex and diverse society with many different voices, we are all contributing to some common human efforts and need to have mutual respect for what we do, we need to have our space to make our contribution. Then sustainability, and this is important, because we do not want to exhaust the resources of the planet, the resources related to whatever we do, in this generation; we need to keep things going for the rest of humanity, not just in our time but also for the future. Of course there may be some other values but these are possibly the most important ones. I


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

realize that even when I am not actively asking myself what are the values that are guiding me today, when I think about that, after a while I see that those are the values that intuitively I have been trying to apply and reinforce in my work.

What are your most important objectives as a scientist?

As a scientist there are several opportunities that I have in front of me, even the particular time in which I am living, and also the particular country and region in which I am living. I think that, speaking from a purely-scientific position, I want to be one of the people contributing to the protection of the sky, as I was explaining before with this idea of studying the effect of these new satellites, but also be one of the researchers involved in the potential discovery of life outside our planet, in other worlds. In particular, I am confident that, if we get the scientific certainty about that, such certainty will come from data acquired in this region, because of the machines that are going to be installed here in the following years. It is a singular opportunity in history to be in the right place in the right time, being able to contribute to an effort that is probably going to change how humanity perceives life completely. A second objective, more related to society, is that people really appreciate the power of science to improve the quality of life of human beings everywhere. Many times it is frustrating to find scepticism in relation to the work of astronomers or scientists in general; to hear many conspiracy theories around scientific activities. When you are part of the scientific community and you are really trying to improve things for everybody, it feels bad to find this disconnection with society. This is heavily related with the perception of science, so this has moved me to try to change that and to try to be in constant connection with society as much as I can. I offer to go to schools regularly, to write for newspapers, and so on, because I see


Accompanying a delegation of Latin American astronomers to Paranal in 2020 (photo by Rodrigo Maluenda).

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

that this kind of things can help change how people see science. I will be very happy if, when I retire, my evaluation of how people perceive science or relate to the work of scientists has changed in a significant way.

How did you become involved in SACO? How does it relate to your objectives?

This is strongly related to the second objective above. When I did my PhD, between 1999 and 2005, I studied for a number of years in England, and I observed that it was not uncommon to find scientific institutions receiving artists for residences. The idea was to give them an opportunity to view the things we do, to connect with scientific knowledge, with scientific techniques; with all things that normally would be closed to people not related to science such as closely observing experiments. I realized that very interesting artistic products were the product of these residences, and at the same time I saw that there was also an advantage for a lot of scientists to see their own work through the work of a person who was not a scientist, to see the kind of inspiration that one’s work can provide to a person who is not working in science. I have been trying to do these things in one way or another since 2005, when I started working here in Antofagasta, but I could not find the right allies. Some years ago I became impressed by SACO and ISLA, and specially for the work of Dagmara and her collaborators. I attended several of their exhibitions and once I was invited to a forum to talk about the relation between science and art. I was invited as a scientist but I had also some experience in theatre, so people saw that I could speak from the experience of trying to do art even when being a scientist. The conversation was very interesting, and at the end of that I used the opportunity to mention that I had this idea of starting residencies in scientific institutions, that if people were interested they could approach me. Several people


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

expressed interest but for a couple of years after that it came to nothing; then we discussed it with Dagmara, and we decided to do it. She could support this initiative on her side with the ISLA infrastructure, so people would have accommodation, and they could find some ways to support the artists if I was able to provide some kind of support and keep the interaction with the observatories and with scientists. It sounded perfect, so we discussed this in formal terms, reached an agreement, and started the first residency in 2019. It was really successful so I am interested in keeping this going forward in the future.

What worked well in this interaction, what elements make you believe that the residency was successful?

My evaluation comes from the fact that I was uncertain whether this residency would be interesting for both the artist and my colleagues, or whether it was just my crazy idea... whether at the end the scientists would become interested in interacting with the artist, whether they would visit the art exhibition, etc. It worked very well on both sides. I followed up with this regularly, so pretty much everybody in the astronomic center presented their work in some way or another to the artist, and the artist had an opportunity to choose in which topics she wanted to dig deeper, so she could keep talking with one or two people. Then the artist had a very exciting idea of trying to reimagine much of what we do as a project focused on the exploration of Mars (which looks very similar to the Atacama Desert) and in the development of the technology to do that. The artist presented the outcomes of this and everybody was enthusiastic. She printed the artworks with our machines, so we used the resources of astroengineering to bring to life artistic material, which was a new thing for us, and eventually what we did with that was definitely central for the exhibition. Everybody attended the final exhibition, so I asked all the people involved if they were happy to keep this project going on and they agreed.


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

Everybody saw that it was a very interesting experience, that they wanted to have this contact with different perspectives about our work and we decided to continue.

What do you like most of this project?

What I like most of the collaboration between SACO and the Center of Astronomy, is the fact that at the end of the artistic residency we are going to see a concrete artistic production that is related to our astronomical work. I see that even if that did not happen, I would still be interested in giving access to the astronomy center to the visiting artists, but I see that when after a couple of months you can walk in an exhibition room in the city center and you see that there is something related to our work that is seen from different eyes, it has a value that it is very difficult to measure. It motivates a different kind of conversation with my colleagues, and that is very attractive for me. At a personal level, I also think it has been very enriching having to discuss things with the team of SACO and all the visiting artists that are not coming to the astronomy center but who are coming to visit Dagmara, and being involved in other events. I had this unique opportunity to be with those people and having those kinds of conversation was very enriching at a personal level, beyond the institutional level of the collaboration.

What kind of impact do you see emerging from SACO?

I think that a very important impact of SACO is to subvert the idea that art in general is an old fashioned thing that is disconnected to what is going on in society, and that it consists of things that are going to be very isolated, to exist only


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

in some closed room. SACO uses spaces and rooms that normally people would see for many different other reasons, for tourism, for their daily life, for paperwork, for doing business, because they are on the streets, on touristic venues, they are on different cultural centers, many times easily reachable for people so you can just stumble upon SACO, you just walk on the streets and you may find an artistic work and see that you are living in the middle of art for some days. This makes people feel that art is part of life. This, is maybe one of the most important results of SACO.

One particularly striking example for me took place in 2019. In Antofagasta there has been an increasing phenomenon of immigration from other Latin-American countries, so you are used to having foreign people waiting in line in front of the office of immigration to ask for visas and other paperwork, so this has become part of the social landscape. In some cases people arrive so early in the morning, when it's cold, and some of them are sleepy, that they start to set up some small tents so to have some protection. There was an artist that came to Antofagasta last year that set up tents with different colors containing dummies, so you would see legs coming out from the tents, and people were looking at this from afar thinking that they were immigrants waiting for something, and only when they went closer they realised that it was an artistic setting. These lines were everywhere and then the artistic work left but the real lines of tents with people within stayed. Then you start thinking whether this has been transformed into an artwork in some way. The perception of people of something that for them may be very annoying, as not everybody likes immigrants, becomes challenged when you say, look, I am going to show you this as a work of art: how are you going to relate with this now? That is a very interesting challenge, a constant challenge that SACO presents to society.

On the two following pages: A composite image of the "Hand of the desert", an artistic monument in the Region of Antofagasta, which is part of an astrophotography exhibition taken to all the towns in the Region. Author: Eduardo Unda Sanzana. 111

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

What are the opportunities and challenges that your local context offers?

I see that the opportunities for what I do are very clear. I live in the region of the world where the largest telescopes are being built. It's a region in which astronomy will be at the center of top level collaborations and have access to some of the best scientists in the world for discussions, institutional collaborations or even individual collaborations. This will increase the chances, to get funding for all projects dealing with Astronomy, not only for research but for education, tourism, development of technologies, or just for the enjoyment of it. At some point in the negotiations with incoming international observatories Chile asks for contributions for the development of the country but also for the development of the host region. Then you can propose projects and get them funded so I see that the opportunities are out there, and we need to manage these opportunities in a wise and responsible way to get some really concrete development outcomes out of that. On the other hand, I see that the main challenge we are facing today is that Chile is, even now, a very centralized country, by which I mean that most of the important things always happen in Santiago, the capital of the country. Living in a region that is not Santiago means that you are basically out of all key discussions, unless that you try to get involved at a huge cost for you. A clear example of this can be seen in the case of ESO. ESO has its main observing facilities here, in Paranal: the VLT is here. It also manages a part of ALMA. Here, in the region of Antofagasta, ESO is building the ELT, the largest project in the world. However, if you look for the headquarters of ESO you will find that they are in Santiago. This of course has an impact in the relation with ESO, because, if we need to talk with the guy who is the head of ESO and if you live in Santiago, your relation is completely different than when you need to talk with the same guy and you live in Antofagasta. Currently things are a little better thanks to online communications, thanks to the widespread use of the Internet. I see that the last 5 or 10 years have really helped Chile change in a positive direction, with more integration in the country, but even


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

now many things are not discussed online, the most important things are discussed around a physical table in some office and many times the invitations to be present in a physical meeting are received one day for a meeting happening the next day. If you live in Antofagasta you just cannot be there. It is common that many things are discussed in Santiago between the central government and the heads of the international observatories and there are no regional representatives there. This is a strange thing, and is one of the reasons why, even with the great potential for astronomy, common citizens are still not very enthusiastic about astronomy in Antofagasta, and that is a reality we need to face. They perceive astronomy as a thing which is remote and not really connected to them, that even if you really want to learn about astronomy, it is paradoxical but you need to go first to Santiago because the main companies and observatories that are working in the region of Antofagasta have funded outreach museums in Santiago and not here in Antofagasta. This is again a very strange thing, something which produces much perplexity, and some of us are really putting a large effort in trying to change that, in working with the region and the authorities to get things to be different, but I know that this is a long-term process. This is clearly our main challenge for anything we want to do.

In your experience, what is most important when involving different stakeholders in the creation of a common project?

I think that a key element of success is to try to have a clear vision so that you can show you know what to do, but also to keep this vision flexible so as to be open to integrate the best resources and best compatible visions of your collaborators; they do not want to be your employees, they want to be your collaborators, so they want to contribute and also to be satisfied with the things they put in the work.


On this page: Eduardo Unda Sanzana, Public talk during the 2020 solar eclipse. Photos by Rodrigo Maluenda.

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

For example, when involving my colleagues, as the director of the center I must explore who is interested in participating in the artistic residency, how much and to what limit they want to be involved. They may just want to talk with the artists, or they may want to go with the artists to observatories, or they may want to teach something to them, to give them access to their equipment, to their documents, so I need to really learn what they are expecting from the collaboration, and then I try to adapt what they offer to what I know people are going to experience while participating in this project. This is true on the side of the artists as well; it is what we did last year. Our first conversations were all about expectations, and once I was aware of the expectations I could help the artists trace a path forward, because I already knew what colleagues would be more approachable and for what. I think that this is very important, to really communicate well, to talk with the people involved, to not be rigid in what you are trying to do, but also to not abandon what you are trying to do, which means to have a clear vision but a vision which can be flexible so as to involve people as long as they are excited with the idea and want to contribute to it.

What do you see emerging at the intersection of arts and science?

In general I think that a mutual acknowledgment of the potentialities of each field would help both disciplines, art and science, to achieve their maximum potential. To give you an example, I know that Dagmara likes to work with different media and materials for her work, but she may not know all the things that are possible with some materials, because many of the techniques to work with them are restricted to what happens in some scientific labs, and if she does not interact with scientists she might live her whole life unaware of some phenomenon that could be useful or inspiring for her work and for what she wants to express. Science has a strong foot in what we understand as an objective reality, and I know this is a hard topic when talking with an artist, but I think that in several


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

aspects of society having this scientific perspective is extremely useful because it shows you the most effective path to achieve something. For example, today we are talking about the new virus (SARS-CoV-2) spreading worldwide, and we can do so involving different aspects of human culture, but probably the most effective decisions to contain and control it will be made by following scientific guidelines. I think that this constant communication and collaboration is enriching for artists trying to achieve the full potential of everything they have at their disposal and available to them, to help them express what they want to express. For scientists this is also very interesting because art has an emotional power that science many times does not. It's common that in science, when you are so passionate about what you are doing and you know that it is very important, you offer a talk that not many people attend to and, even among people who will go, not many of them will follow what you are saying and or may not very interested even if they are following you correctly. I am sure that for many scientists this is frustrating because you are in front of something that you know is very valuable, and that you are sure that people probably would benefit a lot from knowing more about it, but you do not have the power to reach these people and you see with professional envy that artists normally have that power. It is likely that having collaborations between art and science will have scientists also to increase their emotional palette, the emotional resources at their disposal to help them reach broader audiences, either by themselves or in collaboration with somebody who may be more skillful in reaching those audiences. I think that part of that is what is happening today with these artistic residences: that we are reaching other publics, people different from the public who goes to scientific talks, and we are letting them, in indirect ways, to know what we are doing and, many times, what we are feeling while we are doing our work. I think that this intersection between art and science is beneficial in these two different ways, for both artists and scientists in the end. This is a main topic for me: if we want to benefit society as a whole, the different powers that art and science have are both needed for improving the quality of life of society.


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today?

This is strongly related to what I was saying in my previous answer, because what I see as the result of that intersection between art and science is also what I see as the most desirable outcome in terms of making an effective contribution. This is not just an intellectual exercise that is done to feed our own egos. I mean: scientists have a social responsibility, and the same is also valid for art. Most scientific projects are funded by citizens, we are not receiving funds from private corporations that tell us what to do. In astronomy, I receive a lot of money from the Chilean government, and if you track the sources of the money you see that they come mostly from taxes, so I need to give something back to society, not just feeling important in my office because I am doing very important stuff... I need people to see that I am returning to them what they are making possible for me to do. This is why building a bridge between the scientific activity and the interests of the general public are so important. I would feel like cheating society if I was not doing that. Many times building this bridge is important not just because I think that people should hear me to know about my work because I consider it relevant, but because often people will believe things that will guide their lives and these things might not be correct. And who knows? In some topics I may be one of the few people that are able to actually explain things to them. I can give you an example of this: Chile is a seismic country; this means that there are earthquakes all the time, and of course this is a matter of serious concern for people who want to ensure their safety, the safety of their families and of their investments. There was a very large earthquake back in 2010, one of the largest earthquakes we have had, and after the earthquake happened many people claimed that they had the power to predict when the next earthquake was going to happen, and I do not mean mystic power but some sort of scientific power. They were claiming, for example, that they would correlate the activity of the Sun with earthquakes on Earth, or with the activity of the Moon or whatever, and people


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

were planning their lives believing in those guys, trusting the safety of their families based on those predictions. Sometimes they were using their savings by buying properties or accumulating things for the next earthquake that this person was announcing in TV or in social networks, and that was one of those times when scientists had the responsibility of going out and saying look, this is a fraud, and if you follow this you will probably ruin economically your family. That was also one of those moments in time when you may feel really frustrated because of the difficulty to reach as many people as you want, because it was important for everybody to know the reality of things. That's one of those cases when you look at the art field, you look at how effective art may be in reaching people in a non intellectual way, in an emotional way, and you see that those fraudsters were using emotions to engage people while you only have your rational arguments: Then you, as a scientist, start wondering about analysing who is better at using emotions, because we need to counterbalance this kind of dynamic. That story more or less ended after several years in which eventually people got exhausted and not believing too much in what these other guys were claiming, but there were several years, I think five or six years, in which they were really scaring people to blindly follow their predictions.

Those kinds of things are going to happen again and again and again, as long as we are disconnected from emotions and as long as emotion does not really impregnate the communication of science. It is sadly common to find that the people with the higher emotional power to reach society are far from science and even to realize that they do not trust science too much... so their power is not used to become a voice of sanity in some cases. I think that acting on this disconnection could be a really effective contribution for society in the future.

On the two previous pages: Observing in the Ckoirama Observatory postdoctoral researcher Jeremy Tregloan-Reed. Photo by Juan Pablo Colque. 122

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

If you were able to change one or two things of the way the arts and culture system relates to the expanded social field and to science, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

It's difficult for me to talk about what you call the arts and culture system, because I do not know it in detail, but I can explain what I observe and perceive potentially related to that. Something which always bothered me when I was studying in the university, when I started studying engineering, which is my first degree, is that people from Humanities and people from Engineering and Science in general more or less perceived each other as rivals. That bothered me all the time, and probably I was one of the very few people that would be constantly crossing borders. I mean, I was studying engineering and I signed up for a couple of artistic topics at the university as part of the optional courses, I was constantly going to the library in humanities, most of my friends were psychologists... but what I describe was very uncommon. I could see this in my interactions with my psychologist friends: they were open to talking with me but in general they perceived engineering and sciences as more or less the enemies; they needed to remark the clear difference that they had a broader view of the world, that they were not restricted to rationality but that they could see the world also in some other ways. Engineers and scientists many times were describing humanities, and I am reporting the exact words, “as a jungle”, where you can easily get lost and go nowhere. These mutual suspicions make people more or less proud of staying apart, because you would do better in your own way, and I saw that as a reason for not achieving even greater things in the end. Both sides were missing a lot. I would really like to see that change, and I believe that some level of education should be common, that people studying engineering and science should know some history and philosophy as part of their training, and that people in humanities, no matter what is your specialty, should know the basic understanding of the world from a scientific point of view. For scientists and engineers, that would mean to have a


Exploring sites for potential new observatories in the desert. Photo courtesy of Eduardo Unda Sanzana.

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

better understanding of what is the purpose of what they are doing, why and when it fits in the history of humanity to try to achieve some goals, and this is very important for engineers and scientists to really understand. For people from humanities in general, and more specifically for people from arts, learning some tools to differentiate when something is based on data and objective reality and when it is not, it would be really useful; otherwise you can be very vulnerable to somebody who speaks your language but that is really trying to scam you.

This could also apply to the field of politics. When our politicians want to be elected they are naturally going to make promises... but these promises need to be grounded in the real world, in the likely effect of your decisions in the environment, in health, in education and so on. This makes all the difference between these being just empty words and being something that this person is going to achieve over the years, this is where scientists and engineers come to your help, because they can give you tools to evaluate whether that is possible, and If you do not have that and just believe in charisma you may be in a very fragile position. At the same time, if scientists and engineers do not have a conscience of context, of their role in history and of their role in society, the same politicians could easily manipulate scientists and engineers, with all the power they have, to do terrible things just by funding things. I think that there has been a mutual influence that has been developing over the years but too slowly. What is happening is that we are having too quickly too much power in our hands, a potential to destroy the environment, for instance, which would have been just a fiction two hundreds years ago and now it's a reality. This gives a different flavour to be a scientist or an engineer today, but at the end of the day everybody is electing politicians, not just scientists and engineers, and this is why everybody should have the scientific perspective at their disposal.


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

At this very moment there is a public health crisis spreading all over the world and educational programs, schools, cultural centers, museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, are closing the doors in many countries. How is this affecting your projects?

After the understandable initial shock we are trying to take this as an opportunity to innovate. Our outreach talks that were classically given in a room for some tens of people now can potentially reach many hundreds, use digital interactive resources and be preserved for the future. The residences we talked about may also happen in an online, remote format, perhaps going as far as integrating virtual reality experiences in it. One crazy idea I suggested to the artist who will participate in the residence with us this year is that we may consider jointly exploring another world (e.g. the Moon or Mars) in a virtual reality setting and see what happens. However, this is also giving us an important perspective to keep in mind. The use of online resources boldly highlights the difference between people who have this as part of their daily life and people who not only do not have internet access but who may not even have a place to live or some basic privacy at home. These differences are problematic when you ask everybody to cooperate with the control of the disease because you are not asking the same level of effort to everybody and, in fact, you are asking more from the people who have less. I think that looking at the future with optimism it may happen that an enrichment of universal human rights is born of the reflections we are all having about these issues during the current crisis.

What is your feeling about how this emergency can influence our approach to experiencing, producing and sharing the arts?

I think that the current limitations are giving us all a chance to run experiments which, otherwise, could have taken decades to happen. 127

Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

Some months ago it would have been unforeseeable the level of access we have today to filmed theater and opera, for example, or to how frequent it has become to listen to a singer performing from their living room and even being able to talk with them. This has been born as an emergency reaction to the crisis in order to help people resist the isolation and also to give artists a chance to stay relevant in people’s minds. However, unless this becomes some sort of industry the artistic activity will not be sustainable if the crisis lasts too long. Thus my hope is that in the short term we will find ways to make the digital connections with art sustainable and that in the long term the good aspects of this new dynamic will survive. I hope that in the future we will regularly have some alternative online access to art when physically reaching it is not possible (due to distance, resources, health, or who knows what other future reason I cannot think of now). Perhaps in the future the online interaction with artists will be more common and not reserved just to VIP attendants to a concert who were able to pay for a meet-and-greet experience. I think that in the long run, as long as we remain human beings with all our senses active, the live experience will still reign, but perhaps this crisis will make the live experience grow some “socially-responsible digital tentacles” that may provide access to part of the experience to vast segments of society that would have had no way to have access to that experience at all otherwise.

Is there anything important for you to mention that I did not ask you?

There are in general in Chile some regions, but in particular in the region of Antofagasta, where there is the interest to make sure that the knowledge and visions of indigenous people will not get lost in the middle of the progress, and those people live in some cases close to the sites of the observatories. That's the case of ALMA and several projects of what is called the Atacama Park (Parque


Voices from SACO - Eduardo Unda-Sanzana

Astonómico Atacama) area. This introduces some influence in how things are developed in those projects: For instance, they need to have some regular interactions with representatives of those communities; they create a small fund to support the projects of development of these indigenous communities; in some cases they try to incorporate some elements of indigenous culture in the projects. Just to give an example, the telescopes in Paranal bear Mapuche names (Mapuche are indigenous people of the South) and those names were proposed by some schoolchildren years ago. I am not an expert on this, but I think that this plays a role and some people who approach the study of the observatories in relation to society in Chile are interested in investigating more deeply this dynamic of having some of the most advanced technology in the world next to some of the poorest and more vulnerable communities. This may also have something to do with art and with what is happening with indigenous art, and I think that there may be some elements for thought in the future about the interaction of science and art in the region.

Can you think of three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about our conversation?

If I were filing this conversation in an imaginary folder I would use the keywords art, society, science, interaction, and potential.

On the two following pages: From the movie Este día vimos el volcán, shot in Mejillones, directed by Dagmara Wyskiel (2019). 129



Conscious keywords / emerging thoughts #3


Lara Verena Bellenghi Curated by Daniela Veneri


Lara Verena Bellenghi

Lara Verena Bellenghi studied Fine Art at Oxford University and completed her MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She is currently based in Vienna, pursuing her artistic practice and working for the education department of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. Lara explores notions language-based anxieties and the inevitability of misunderstandings. Pursuing her often site- and community-responsive practice alongside work with museum audiences, cross-national and -generational frictions frequently form the base of her research. Sites and objects that are informed by socio-historical phenomena provide points of departure for exploring the relationship between souvenirs or relics and collective experience. From her engagement with audiences inside institutions, Lara extracts fragments that are then translated into often performative and documentary practice of her own.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

“If one has skills that are unique but cannot be applied to what lies beyond one’s own field, they are of minimal use. It is much more beneficial to transgress categories, disciplines, nations and so on. Almost everybody, apparently, wants to do it, but then another question is how far one is willing to go in order to achieve it.” - Lara Verena Bellenghi

Lara, what projects are you currently working on that you are most passionate about and why?

I am currently working on more than one project. One is ongoing work in the education department of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the other consists of workshop preparations for Into the Night, an exhibition currently on at the Barbican in London.

When I started working the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna a little over a year ago, the idea was to employ me to give tours in several languages and, as an artist, to propose workshop programmes that would focus on specific aspects of the museum’s collections or for temporary exhibitions. As an artist, I tend to approach such projects – tour formats and the optional additional workshop part – from the creative end; I generally put the selection of works and an art historical discourse second, and think of the activity for our workshop space first. It is very rare nowadays to get paid by institutions for one’s individual ideas, especially when they are creative. On the two following pages: Lara Verena Bellenghi, Zauberflötenhäuschen (from the series Small Paintings of a Bigger Picture), 2019.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

I have recently worked at the Belvedere (Austria’s National Gallery) and back then reached out to an institution I hadn’t previously worked with, the Barbican in London, on the grounds that both institutions present Into the Night: Cabarets and Bars in Modern Art. It struck me as necessary to propose a creative educational project that both exhibition venues would offer. There appears to be no interest in such an enterprise at the Belvedere, but the Barbican – and I feel very lucky here – was particularly welcoming. When I mentioned that I had written my dissertation on postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte (the Viennese Workshops that acted as the Secession’s main funding body) and that, as part of my Courtauld MA in London, I had proposed an exhibition set in a Parisian cafè, I was invited to run a workshop in the Barbican on December 8th 2019.

Based on the Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art) so intertwined with Vienna 1900 and other contemporary movements of the European avant-gardes, I suggested a typography-based workshop so that exhibition visitors could compose their Dada-inspired compositions with a variety of fonts from all over the globe. For this, I photocopied the letters visible in reproductions of the exhibited works, cut them up and now they are ready to be mixed and matched. Also, I have just come back from Milan where I made frottages of original signs and bottles in the Campari archive. Campari and the Futurists have a shared history. Fortunato Depero in particular influenced typography for its bottles and signs. I also visited a wonderful type-press office, the tipoteca Bonvini 1909 in Milan to make frottages from type characters of the 1920s and 30s when Depero had designed the Cabaret del Diavolo and which features prominently in the Barbican show. There is also the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, where Dada was invented in 1916, so I thought to get as many fonts, letters and numbers together that could be traced directly to artistic movements represented in the exhibition. The frottage is the closest to the original and the photocopy the closest to that. I am really looking forward to this because it means that visitors in London will add new life to my souvenirs from Vienna and Italy by (re)composing the fonts I am bringing.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

What I think is particularly exciting about typography of the time is that it’s use went far beyond understandable communication. Expression went beyond grammar; it is, rather a principle of fragmentation that influenced the sound- and sight-scape. And so, the words that you put together with letters don’t have to make sense as with Dada or in Jazz. Scat in jazz are expressive nonsense syllables made up by random letter compositions. Expression is important as it is, sense can be made of it but does not need to. If the outcome for the Barbican turns out to be successful, I'd like to propose it to the English speaking communities in Vienna when the show will be here. The Italian Cultural Institute, the British Council, some international schools or bi- or multilingual communities may be interested. This way, could become a project that exceeds the connection between the two cities hosting the show. The essence of the workshop is that the method of extraction and (re)composition undergoes exciting metamorphoses as more and more communities apply it. I also think I am arriving at a point where collective practice really does match the methodologies I have been developing in my own artistic work. I have a tendency to focus on surface materiality, mainly in the form of dust, patinas and crumbs. The surfaces I select for my works always are of sites or objects that reflect socio-historical events. Geography therefore almost always is integral too. I think that focusing on letters for Into the Night will be the first big test of this fusion of independent and collective practice.

What values and principles are at the base of your methodology, why did it take that shape?

I think the base is always frustration. With that I mean that there ought to be a problem that moves you and which you have to define; first you're sad about the way things go. Then you try to figure out solutions of some kind. This is a very vague way of putting it but when you think of it on a grand scale and then relate it

On the two following pages: Lara Verena Bellenghi, Bigger Picture (from the series Small Paintings of a Bigger Picture), 2019.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

to individual experiences, you start seeing parallels between smaller and larger systems. You realize that on a much smaller scale your own life with the events and relationships that you're in yourself may parallel dynamics of world politics, for instance; it takes time to be able to look at the world and one’s own lived life with a critical distance in order to find a way out of mess and a way into better phases. You start learning to define what really bothers you, even if it's just the dynamics in your interpersonal relationships, and as years go by you start to learn more about yourself. It is when you are truly upset that you are forced to do something about it, otherwise you continue repeating what has already lead to disappointment. So at first, to follow the cliché of a romantic artist, you are convinced to be alone in the world with nobody who understands. Then follows apathy and a complete block. And eventually, you realize that perhaps you have had enough of isolated self-pity and so you ask yourself: what can I do about this?

For as far as I am concerned, I had to get to a point where wanting to be understood became a necessity and this required stepping out of protected isolation. I think that choosing to open one’s self to the risk of rejection or derision is an important value. Courage perhaps isn’t the exact word, but I do think it is what it takes, after all. It is easier to just not put yourself out there, and I guess you see lots of people that do what they see everybody else does rather than posing questions and doing things without prior validation. I think this idea of standing up for your own belief regardless of what others think is key. And that then translates into what I do as an artist. It took me very long to develop any kind of artistic methodology because it took me a while to define problems. I am happy to say that concept and form are finally starting to make some sense and I feel I can work away for the time being with less anxiety. My current practice feels more corpo-real because I don’t just refer to the human condition. I draw from my own experiences which is something I feel is often being discouraged. We are, rather, used to follow demand, not bring up new issues.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

I went to the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford 10 years ago and I don't feel that much of what I was doing then was in any way substantial. There was always the option to approach individual tutors for expertise and learn by observing what course mates did. At some point, though, you have to develop your own artistic language. During my studies, my ideas about any aspect of the world were totally nebulous and so the thought of developing a creative form appeared silly and obsolete. Maturity of concept is key and it is not something that one can force into any course structure. To my mind, maturity is the outcome of a serious approach to the world and to one’s own biography. Otherwise, the risk is that one’s art is a mere imitation of someone else’s personality, someone else’s necessary path.

Back to your question about methodology: I’d like to answer as an artist and art educator alike because I am convinced that an artist is – or at least ought to be – driven by a need to pass on information. When giving tours at the museum, for example, I want to do more than inform audiences about the lives of artists like Tiziano or Raffaello. You sometimes get an audience that wants to see what you know (dates, geo-locations, where battles were fought, etc.), but that is, I think, only a small fragment of an inspiring tour; it’s not an exam, after all. A tour, like an artwork, is a filter offered that one can use to get one of many views of the world.

Also, you can feed somebody information but I am more interested in people's reactions in front of an object or artwork, without actually saying too much about it in the first place. I offer a bit of context at the start and the rest, ideally, turns into dialogue; if attendees of my tours feel they’re mind is caged in by the information I’ve fed them, then I’d feel not to have done a good job. I apply a similar approach when making my own art; I love reactions! A valuable tour, then, should be understood as a sharing platform rather than a fixed monologue. Representing nuance and being honest about the difficulties therein – of not having precise answers – that’s what I hope to do. Discovering, defining and discussing fragility is valuable.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

What questions are you exploring with your artistic practice?

“Analogy” has become my favourite term recently. I think that everyone needs to go through a process and arrive at some kind of signature methodology, and these steps are comparable almost in every discipline. They get you thinking more generally about the world and about what you do within your immediate surroundings. I certainly am not the only one attempting to form some sort of universally applicable language – I only wish it were a thought more people would consider. What frustrates me most about the art world – or any defined world for that matter – is that it tends to get very self referential, and I think that is boring and not very useful to anybody. If one has skills that are unique but cannot be applied to what lies beyond one’s own field, they are of minimal use. It is much more beneficial to transgress categories, disciplines, nations and so on. Almost everybody, apparently, wants to do it, but then another question is how far one is willing to go in order to achieve it. I am interested in the unique solitary journeys of those that have gone against all odds to eventually offer something that is beneficial










cross-temporal. I don’t see the point in a “best before date” mentality, for instance. All thoughts are valuable and can be revisited and re-contextualized in order to, hopefully, be applied with a commonly beneficial use.

All of this language seeking and creating tends to take a very long time and strong nerves. Sometimes it requires the courage to let go of things; people, habits, property. At some point, it is necessary to define priorities. You don't want to get by with lies and hegemonic society’s dictations. You want to work honestly and this requires letting go of a lot and – that’s the hardest part – without certainty that results will ever be noticeable. Still, fear the absence of acknowledgment is worth more than living in pretence and on success based on illusion. I suppose that the above partly relates to specifics in my artistic practice. I'm interested in souvenirs and talismans because they figure as contemporary relics: they represent a form that can hold time and place and spiritual significance. They tell us something


Lara Verena Bellenghi, Berggasse 19 (from the series Out of Sight Out of Mind) 2018.

Lara Verena Bellenghi

about the way we look at objects and their potential to make connections, what value we ascribe to things when we know where they have come from.

I think that artistic practice shouldn't be giving answers, it should tell everybody that there are no answers and that you'd better learn to deal with the complications of, well, living. I suppose that is one reason for why I work in different media; I don't follow just one technique, it's not enough. I collect dust, but I contextualize that collection with other things like a sound piece for example. My work almost without exception is site-responsive. I try to explore how a site, from the moment that I engage it in my work, can resonate with other places and their respective (hi)stories. It’s always the same, really: an obsession with analogy and dialogue as opposed to detached monologue. I have no choice but to deal with contamination. I grew up with five languages so I am a good example of contamination








connotations). This shows in how I work as an artist: most things I do revolve around fragmentation, the discontents it evokes, and an obsession to tie lose strings together. Liquid thought and solid substance or the inversion of that makes a lot of sense to me. Water and dust are constant Leitmotifs, as are abundance and scarcity.

What are your most important objectives as an artist?

I think that exploration and – by necessity – curiosity are the most important objectives. Artists each have to have their own foci, things that get them going; I have no patience for imitation and market-speculation, no nerves for artists that do what could guarantee social success.

Of course it would be silly to claim that I don't care about what people think of the art I produce. I do want people to understand, in the same way that an inventor or a scientist cares for people to make use of their brainchild. I don't ever


Lara Verena Bellenghi

want to come to a point where I can say that I've known it all, that I’m tired of research. There's always more to learn; it does not matter if you are young or old, you should never be tired of asking questions. It’s sad if you do get tired of asking. I don’t ever want to become lazy, to feel satisfied about having fixated my methodology point and carry on with it for another sixty years. That's not my idea of a lived life, I wouldn't be very proud as an artist that way. New challenges in life demand adjustments in continuation. Life is mobile and so one has to adjust ideas to a flow, not arrest them.

Who have been your most important partners or interlocutors so far in your learning process, including people or situations you lived that helped you clarify your ideas?

This is an interesting question because I think that most of the key things I have learnt and continue building up on have come my way by chance, not necessarily mentors, if that’s what you mean by interlocutors. At times, as an artist you work without any external influence, in those moments you want to be alone anyways; there is also this component - that in first instance I'm my own interlocutor.

I used to get the most support from my maternal grandparents and that’s really been my fuel until now. It is only rather recent encounters that have proven similarly supportive, in a seemingly unconditional way.

I studied fine arts and in that period I wasn't happy with my own ideas and I didn't really care about anybody else's opinions either. There was little to be done about it then, though I think it was a shame because some people in Oxford would have been valuable mentors. So, with a delay of seven years, I've started to get back in touch with professors and some former artist colleagues. The Barbican project is a result of such a return to contacts.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

My most important interlocutor in my own learning process has always been my grandmother. She was my best friend and when she fell ill it felt like my entire world collapsed. I was fifteen then and when you're that age you generally don't really know what loss looks – or feels – like, let alone how its consequences manifest themselves and what to do about them. Accompanying someone dying prematurely was certainly the most strenuous task I can until now identify for myself. At the same time, because I was studying abroad, it amplified what had always been integral to my life: always saying goodbye to a place or someone and not knowing whether I would find it as I had left it. As a result, I learnt to live moments fully so long as I enjoyed them; there was never a good enough reason to not put in the effort. My grandmother made me believe that living for the moment with someone treasured is worth more than anything else. I think she is right, though her passing makes this thought, at times, unbearable.

As for people that in recent years have been an important presence, I would say they were a natural consequence to my own development until now. Their commitment to and respect for my joys and worries, in a way validated what until recently has felt like a solitary journey after a universal language. It’s reassuring that these solitary journeys eventually converge and become a collective phenomenon.

There is, I suppose, also always the necessity of an innate sympathy for someone to be an interlocutor.

Which of the feedbacks that you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you and which surprised you most?

During my university studies, I seem to have taken to heart too many superficial ideas that were stamped onto my forehead like a label. Also, I


Lara Verena Bellenghi, Northern Italian Battlefield 1918 (from the series Party's Over), 2018.

Lara Verena Bellenghi

internalized many complaints about me as a child. I was restless and curious and fidgety and often this was met with anger and impatience and so I believed I was a problem to start with. Eventually, this changed. I was lucky that my grandmother always allowed me to be whatever way I wanted so I am happy that in recent years and months her ideas on how to raise children freely resonate with others’ observations of me as a free spirit. And that this is fine! I am surprised that the moment that I ended up being selfish brought me my best friends.

How can contemporary art influence the way we remember and understand the world?

I have a rather disheartening image in mind when it comes to the current reception of art. I am thinking of one of the events I attended during the opening week of the Venice Biennale 2019, the lecture performance by Joan Jonas. There was limited seating so I was sat on the floor between the stage and the audience. I had a view of the audience and the performer alike. Joan Jonas environmental activism was greeted by sea of lit phones, not because attendees were photographing or filming but because they were busy messaging around. If a financially secure group of people with moderate to effective influence claims to be interested in saving the planet’s ecology and is busy playing around with phones when a minimum of representative action is required, then I wonder how tenable the claim is that the art-world can sustain itself as a platform for teaching. Contemporary art I think becomes interesting when it reaches out to the world and I don't think that the art world now has much substance because it is self-referential. Its potential has a chance to flourish when it's exported to other fields. Art should be a catalyst, not an island. I think one of my favourite catalysts of this kind is the Wellcome Trust’s Reading Room in London. In this medical institution, you find book islands that each stand for an organ or to a bodily function.


Lara Verena Bellenghi

For example, one book island revolves around the lungs and so the literature subjects range from air pollution to kissing. The structure of this reading room reflects open-mindedness and can only be encouraged everywhere.

Where do you sense current shifts in the evolution/transformation of the relationship between the art system and the expanded social field? Where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

As much as interdisciplinary practice is a fashionable term, it is true that there are more and more platforms where the usual grouping of curators, critics, artists is enriched by the presence of, say, sociologists, architects or health-service workers, for example. I believe it is in these unfortunately still rare constellations when one can start to finally compare notes: conversations lead to the realization that all sides have to orchestrate. It’s about conversion, not polarization. In terms of expanded social field, the art world is a job for everybody, there is the art, that is a kind of separate product, but art also requires a whole system of contacts and processes in order to continue existing. Else it runs thin and who wants that, in the long run? To my mind, there are exhibitions that have been doing well recently in museums; re-enactments of historical exhibitions I think are useful especially when they emphasize similarities in behavioural and social patterns. That is where the museum can function as a platform that goes beyond the art world.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, arts curators, cultural institutions, cultural producers, what one or two things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Where would you start from to change things for the better?

Payment. Education is fundamental and it is being treated, in the museum context, as a hobby activity for infants or middle-aged ladies. Consequently, it is hardly subsidized. That’s just outrageous. I wish there were more open-minded


Lara Verena Bellenghi

people in institutions but, above all, that there will be a return to wanting to know, wanting to learn. Not challenging the status quo is a systemic issue, wherever we look. Education can change this, within the museum but within schools and the home too.

Our planet has been dealing with a public health crisis spreading all over and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, schools and educational programs, have been closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about how these events will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?

For what it is worth, I can only hope that the collective mind will be more attuned to the necessity of nurturing dialogue between different ministries. We have seen that culture and education are treated as separate entities: museums are equipped with resources and occupy the physical as well as the digital realm via social media. I have found myself wondering, perhaps naively: Why is there no back-up plan to when schools have to shut? Covid-19 may have come as a surprise, but seriously, isn't the current situation a reflection of how unsustainably decisions are being made? I hope we have understood how precarious all of our existences are and how interdependent we are. I am not an economist but the long-term damage of lacking education will probably impact the economy a great deal. I hope that, perhaps again very naively, that those in the position of power will understand that true power has to depend on dividing it. Such a move - the distribution of power, that is - is a sign of strength, not of weakness. I suspect the majority has grown tired of ego-centric politicians. Most of them have been unable to offer solutions when they were most necessary. And so, when the governed make decisions that the ones governing should have made way back when, I suppose it becomes blatantly clear that power doesn't equal solutions to problems. It is out of this crisis,


Lara Verena Bellenghi, Eden Upside Down, 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lara Verena Bellenghi, Carnevale, 2016. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Lara Verena Bellenghi

that the art system, in its own way interdependent on politics and the world economy, can offer sustainable models for anyone contributing to it.

To give one very simple but probably useful thought: one art work needs not cost a couple of millions. Supporting artists needs not go via institutions. One can help save the existence of people paying them a couple of hundreds or thousands. This is sustainable, not the sensation that record prices hold at auctions. That's just immature game-play.

Can you think of three to five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the topics we just talked about?

Coordination. Curiosity. Enthusiasm.



Conscious keywords / emerging thoughts #4


Identities in Movement Curated by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi and Daniela Veneri


Identities in Movement

What happens when you interview a group of artists based on their origin and hope to catch a glimpse of their common roots? Contemporary Iranian artists lived through various aspects of our reality and Iran's executions, diaspora, revolution, displacement, exile, war and image. Each artist reveals deep differences of philosophy and of artistic, personal and societal aspirations. Bringing them together based on their origin seems to make visible the complexity of our global society. It is not a surprise to find poetry as a common anchor that manifests itself in each of the artists’ answers. Rumi, Ferdawsi, Hafez, Khayyam, Saadi are Iranian poets, some from more than a thousand years ago, whose words are still alive in all Iranians and are widely read, even today, by Western audiences. This revelation makes us pause and wonder at the depth of our civilizations. How do culture and language transmit from one generation to the other and co-shape our identities? How does our identity survive executions, wars, displacement, exile, imperialism, revolutions? What does all this have to do with the global society today? What is the role that art plays?

The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes. because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. — Jellaludin Rumi



Identities in Movement

Kurosh ValaNejad Curated by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi and Daniela Veneri 162

Kurosh ValaNejad, Self-portrait. Courtesy of the artist.

Kurosh ValaNejad is an Iranian-American who was born an American-Iranian in 1966 in Tehran to an Iranian father and an American mother. In 1977 he moved to America, to Midwest City, Oklahoma, and now lives in the West Mid-City neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. From 2001-2016 he served as a lead artist and art director at research labs at the University of Southern California where he helped develop virtual reality experiences to advance remote learning, non-fiction video games (The Cat and the Coup) and a meditative interactive installation by Bill Viola (The Night Journey) These projects were supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the USC Annenberg Center, and the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences. As emerging technologies push Cinema back towards its roots in the theater, Kurosh has shifted his focus to live performance. His Body Scrub device adapts real-time rendering and motion capture technologies used in video games to amplify body language and empower stage performers and dancers. And when used in Art installation, his series of virtual fun-house mirrors encourage spectators to become the spectacle. In 2016 Body Scrub, Lego was added to Field of Play, a long-term exhibit at The Strong National Museum of Play. 163

Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

“Witnessing an injustice, and the delusion that I can make a difference, moves me into action - not as a peaceful protester but as an angry art maker. When a movement hits a wall, art can extend the protestors language - making it less likely for a peaceful march to develop into riots and looting.” - Kurosh ValaNejad

Kurosh, what projects that you are working on excite you most and why?









enlightenment. Abstracted from real life, using metaphors, and retold as allegories, I embed any insight into the more accessible form of Art. When successful the viewer shifts from being the reluctant audience of a preacher to a corroborator on an adventure. This approach can garner compassion for the other. Irreverence in Another Paradise, a public art intervention. The Freedom Sculpture presents an opportunity to bring attention to the lack of freedom in Iran. I want to transform it, at least momentarily, into the Freedom Memorial. In the middle of the night or perhaps in broad daylight while disguised as a Beverly Hills Parks and Rec maintenance worker, I have added the names of political prisoners currently in Iranian prisons with silver-colored vinyl letters to the silver portions of the sculpture. I hope the sculpture creator and sponsors see my non-destructive, and fully reversible intervention as a proposal rather than criticism; as I would like them to permanently etch the names of prominent Iranians who were executed or assassinated to the inner gold portion of the Freedom Sculpture. Previous related work: Irreverence in Paradise. Handful of Pranks I pulled while living in Aspen, Colorado, 1989-1996.


Kurosh ValaNejad, Simorgh in the 21st Century. Courtesy of the artist.

Simorgh in the 21st Century, an animation work, brings stories about Simorgh, the mythical flying creature, that span 5000 years. She is beautiful, with magical tail feathers. She is inherently benevolent, able to heal man and to purify nature. And in stories of Sufi mysticism, she is divine. But life has not been easy in the 21st century. Crimes against humanity, and by humanity against Nature, have been relentless. She is burnt black from a constant barrage and plucked out of magical feathers. Her patience with us, and her protective bubble from us, has worn thin. Desperate to survive, she takes a dive. The divine must divide. No longer together, we fear the other. The storyboard for the opening sequence can be seen here. Included on the webpage is information about the technique I developed which utilizes a robotic arm to scratch the animation directly onto pre exposed film. I do this to imply that the birds made the film as a warning to mankind.


Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

For the second phase of the project, and to expand the short into a feature length film, I will ask 30 storytellers to each represent a bird from Edward FitzGerald’s translation (1889) of The Conference of the Birds (1177) by Attar.

There is also Gender ID, a Multimedia Performance. From crib to coffin, we are put in boxes. At birth, our gender is recorded by checking one of two boxes; male or female. Just out of the womb, we are assigned a lifetime of expectations and limitations. While growing up we see variations in others and in ourselves. This personal sense of gender, our gender identity, forms at the age of 3 and raises the number of options from 2 to 32+. This larger set of gender glyphs is all-inclusive. It is well-meaning yet myopic, as the box that describes you, may ultimately define you. For some, it is not enough to think outside the box; they must live there. You can see more info and previsualization for the performance on my blog. Previous Related Work: Gender (2012) a virtual fun-house mirror intended for display at/near public bathrooms. It reflects viewer-participants as male and female symbols, suggesting gender is fluid, and not binary as indicated at these facilities.

Kurosh ValaNejad, Gender ID. Courtesy of the artist. 166

Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

What are your most important goals as an artist?

There are practical goals and ambitions. Without daily practice and financial security ambitious work is unattainable. Beyond that, social impact is my primary goal.

What moves you in your work?

Witnessing an injustice, and the delusion that I can make a difference, moves me into action - not as a peaceful protester but as an angry art maker. When a movement hits a wall, art can extend the protestors language - making it less likely for a peaceful march to develop into riots and looting.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

During the research phase of a project, subject matter experts and librarians/curators are critical. And during development of its look and feel, frank feedback from trusted voices gives me confidence to move into production. Depending on the type of project, user testing with the target audience helps determine if the work is ready to roll out, or to go back through another iteration of development.

Which of the feedbacks you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you or surprised you most?

I used to feel embarrassed after showing new work. My mother, Joan ValaNejad, suggested removing some of the personal details to allow my message to be more universal. Years later, while discussing this topic with curator Barbara Bloemink she suggested I invent details, rather than remove them. She convinced me to give it a try when she pointed out the embellished facts of a successful artist whom she knows intimately.


Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

I can not maintain a lie, so I shifted instead to the use of metaphor in my most personal work. This is exemplified in Bani Adam, a series of works about a personal tragedy. In the first 30 seconds of my Lighting Talk, I explained that I became a filmmaker from the necessity to my story.

What makes you feel free to create your art?

Art and the freedom of expression is a human right. But having the time to make art is for the privileged. As an independent artist, I can make works of moderate scope.

I am not free to create more ambitious projects without

collaborators and sponsors.

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

I would be very happy if my work was used as a template for similar work, I am delighted by the success of The Cat and the Coup, but also disappointed that our model for

documentary games has not been used by other game designers

working in NonFiction.

What are you most proud of The Cat and the Cup? I am a product of an Iranian-American relationship. My father is Iranian, my mother is American. This story is really the story of an interaction between America and Iran. What I am proud of is that the game talks about democracy in Iran and helped Americans understand that whether they realize it or not. Democracy is not returned to the Middle East and it is just so ironic that the two countries that pride themselves on the modern form of democracy are the ones that toppled one basically for oil. It's a complicated thing but we were able to get a message out that was seen positive.


Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

What unites past, present and future in your artistic practice?

For me, the cosmopolitan culture of Tehran in the 1970’s represents a respect for the past and the idyllic vision of the future.

What kind of relationship do you feel should exist between aesthetics and ethics today?

Ethics is taught alongside Engineering courses in Nuclear Engineering programs. I know art can be as powerful in generating energy and in destroying lives. Ethics and an understanding of the consequences should be required for art students.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution in our time?

Art often gives us our first glimpse into other cultures. We learn about new traditions through some form of Art. Art triggers curiosity by highlighting the best of a culture. In this way we develop a respect for other cultures.

What is your feeling about what the art system and institutions should do in order to respond to current societal issues? I do think that institutions are reacting and learning about the past. But currently it seems like, as with "black lives matter", there's been a sort of overt response by institutions by just actually apologizing for their past, not for just basically being unaware that they were their systems, whatever designed to be discriminatory. I do feel like that change is happening. There is this awareness because there's so much going wrong, it seems like the planet is reacting and trying to get rid of us, it's sort of a reality check for all of us right now. I think it is totally cool to ask an artist to contribute to current issues. Artists have their visions and if you ask an artist they do know what they're free to pick, the topic that they want you in and out. 169

Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

A global pandemic, due to Covid-19, has been spreading all over the world. We have seen cultural centers, educational programs, schools, museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites closing and being forced to change their plans. What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?

Those institutions may have been slow to adopt new technology, but the shift started before the pandemic. Museums no longer demand to own unique items and many have virtual exhibits online. The pandemic and the stay at home solution encourage this way of experiencing. We can't sustain this for very long and will find ways to get out to experience the world. Robotic avatars provide a solution. I have been fantasizing about visiting Iran this way and hope the COVID quarantine will accelerate the development of this technology.

Has the ongoing pandemic changed anything in your approach to your own artistic work?

I think that for me the root of it really is all related somehow to what is happening in the US, with the political and social issues. It's so bad. I am realizing that I'm really an activist pretending to be an artist. If you look at the work I do there is always this message that drives, I have to try to get a message out. My true intentions are the activists part of the message that I'm trying to sort of relay, if I have some insight in something, if I see some injustice in the world, whatever it is. It happens all the time. I feel like I could use art to sort of get that message out, as that is probably an easy way to sort of take complex ideas and simplify them through our sense.


Kurosh ValaNejad, Irreverence in Another Paradise (The Freedom Sculpture, revisited). Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

Does that mean that you feel like you would not be an artist if you did not see injustices in the world?

No. I think you have the soul, the drive, of an artist or you don't, and I think whether you call yourself artist or not doesn't change what you are. I sort of always had this approach to language through art, in a creative way, whatever that means.

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the contemporary art system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

We are quick to reward the use of new technology in Art. These early works ultimately are seen as low hanging fruit. And we also are quick to abandon technology as new ones become available. I see opportunities in reinventing old technology using new components. Similarly, Art laboriously made using analog processes are opportunities for contemporary artists who can mimic some aspect of the original genius using digital and automated technology. I expressed this idea using an example fro my own work (Duel Citizen, Dual to the Death,) in an interview about my Milestones at USC. If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, art curators, institutions, cultural producers, exhibition platforms, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all? Institutions: Remove the boxes for Gender, Race, Nationality, Age ... in grant proposals. Curators: Remove the requirement of an artist statement. The Artwork is the statement. Artists: Let go of old ideas of ownership and copyright - they hinder natural evolution. Demand acknowledgement, not money.


Identities in Movement - Kurosh ValaNejad

For All: Don’t dismiss an entire effort because of its technical flaws, or cultural faux pas. Look for any advances in thought and process. Judge its potential.

Is there anything that I didn't ask you that you would like to mention? There are kinds of ways that as an artist I can get a message across much better than words. You can take a game do this really well to make it take complex systems and abstract them to their basics. You can learn so much from just that sort of abstracted version of it. That's what an artist does, it's an entry point into a topic. You know that it might not change some policy but it gets people talking about it, so it creates some excitement around that topic and they have to work it out. It can sort of motivate, inspire.

What keywords resonate with you right now in relation to our interview? For me they would be culture, activism and sort of "art versus fact". I think the best way to teach is not to sort of tell someone that's it you have to memorize but to really have them practice to participate.


Kurosh ValaNejad, Free Nasrin, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.


Identities in Movement

Amir Soltani Curated by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi and Daniela Veneri


Amir Soltani, Portrait, with Miss Kay, one of the characters in Dogtown Redemption. Courtesy of the artist.

Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American activist, author and filmmaker. He grew up in Iran until he was twelve and left Iran in 1980, shortly after the Islamic Revolution. Much of his education, work and activism is informed by that revolution, from executions to war, displacement to exile, and ultimately, to the reclamation of his worlds through memory, literature and art. Amir studied history at Tufts, the Fletcher School and Harvard, before dropping out to launch the blue initiative, his first human rights venture, a reaction to the 1999 crackdown on students and scholars at Tehran University. He has written extensively on human rights and religious freedom, culminating in a NYT bestselling graphic novel, co-created with Khalil Bendib, about Iran's 2009 protests. Zahra's Paradise was translated into 16 languages and was nominated for two Eisner awards. Amir has also produced and co-directed Dogtown Redemption, an Emmy-nominated documentary film about recyclers in West Oakland. His latest essay, The Keys to Paradise: On Children, Martydom and War, appears in the LA Review of Books (January). Amir is currently the Executive Director of the Semnani Family Foundation, a philanthropy based in Utah, with a focus on addressing health and poverty. He has directed the research and writing of two policy papers on Iran, the Ayatollah's Nuclear Gamble and Where is My Oil? A Study of Corruption in Iran's oil and gas industry. 177

Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

“I think the artistic impulses exist pretty much in everyone and I would be very careful about saying that there is a class or caste of artists, that they have a particular advantage that others don't, I don't believe that for a minute. I think that, whether we call it listening to our heart or whatever, the ability to withdraw from the world that you're in is crucial to seeing it. When you're in something you don't see it, but when you withdraw from things you can see them more clearly.” - Amir Soltani

Amir, what projects that you are working on excite you most and why? I'm thinking about turning my graphic novel, Zahra's Paradise, into an animated film. A few other ideas. I'm drawn to stories, and the ways in which they serve or disrupt power, the voices they silence and energies they unleash. We humans are absurd, and that is both funny and frightening, and in that space, between fear and joy, is where there is room for creativity and community, revision and revival. What are your most important goals as an artist?

To create spaces and relationships that I can inhabit with honor and dignity, to belong to communities that can evolve and endure. What moves you in your work?

What moves me is intimacy and vulnerability, proximity to life, the closer you get to sources and springs, the more present you become, the ability to take something as dead as time and to create something as vibrant as a moment. Most of all it is the knowledge, when working, that I am alive. 178

Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

What is the most exciting moment for you when you start working on a new project?

Most of my work typically begins with something that bothers me, something that feels off about the world, something that doesn't feel right. For instance, my film, Dogtown Redemption, was inspired by the sight of people having to find food and money by digging through garbage, my garbage. That just felt there was an indignity and that people were being forced to live without dignity. Same with my Iran work. There's an indignity involved and I think that as an artist, as a human being, you want to dignify the world that surrounds you, and I think dignity is a big part of our work. I think that human beings are incredibly beautiful, then when you find them in situations that are so severely compromised and compromising, whether it's refugees dying as they're trying to cross the Mediterranean, or African-Americans living in abject poverty in America, or Iranian women being subjected to the most brutal persecution, all of this stuff feels like it's wrong and that it can be changed, and because you feel that you can change it you engage it. That has been my approach to my work.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

My friends, other artists, historical characters, dissidents and my dog, Louie.

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

Feedback is irrelevant. Faith is what matters--the leaps you take in the absence of feedback. The most powerful feedback is what you get from the body of work that you engage - it's not in what people tell you so much as how deeply you listen to yourself. Far too many times, I have had people, other voices that get in the way. 179

Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

What matters is where your instincts - your biology meeting your environment - takes you. The instincts are often a function of an encounter on the periphery of your consciousness, for example, seeing someone rummage through your trashcan. That's not feedback, it does not happen after the fact. It is what lies before the fact - the way in which consciousness turns into attention.

Do you feel that the ability to listen to yourself is a distinctive ability of an artist?

I don't think that we should sort of separate artists into a class that is distinct from the rest of society. I think the artistic impulses exist pretty much in everyone and I would be very careful about saying that there is a class or caste of artists, that they have a particular advantage that others don't, I don't believe that for a minute. I think that, whether we call it listening to our heart or whatever, the ability to withdraw from the world that you're in is crucial to seeing it. When you're in something you don't see it, but when you withdraw from things you can see them more clearly. I think occupying this other space is not a role or a job - it is the space you can retreat into and look out from - a way to see yourself and the world through fresh eyes again. I think that's what I mean by listening to your heart. You need a measure of silence, you do need to walk away a little bit from your habits. I think that's what I mean by listening. You can't really listen when you are in a crowd.

What makes you feel free to create your art?

Trust in the universe, trust in others, trust in learning, trust in sharing. And joy along the way.


Dogtown Redemption, frame and cover.

Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? I would like it to become a part of a community, to live in and through other as consciousness. I want it to affirm the beauty of life, that every second and every encounter with the world is a miracle.

It's a kind of ecstasy isn't it, a kind of

exaltation and salutation, a form of prayer and gratitude.

What unites past, present and future in your artistic practice?

A desire to break new ground, find new ways of seeing and relating, a sense that nothing is dead and that everything can come back to life, be redeemed.

What kind of relationship do you feel should exist between aesthetics and ethics today?

I don't like to deal in shoulds. I don't think an artist has to play the role of a philosopher or a theologian. Aesthetics in the service of ethics can become an ideology. And we all know what brutal forms morality can take. But aesthetics divorced from ethics can also lead to an emptying of human experience, and that can pave the way for decadence, nihilism, narcissism. You can't approach art this way - you approach art through its own essence, and your integrity and ethics can be a function of how you let your work and material guide you.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution in our time?

Yuck! Where are we heading here?

What's this obsession with social

contribution? And "effective" social contribution? As opposed to what? Frivolous social contribution? Can we dismantle these words: effective, social and


Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

contribution. Was Picasso out to make an effective social contribution? What about Chagall? Why impose "effective social contribution" on free and creative spirits? Isn't their freedom and creativity enough? This question makes me recoil. Are we out to create a bureaucracy that measures "effective" and "social" and "contribution?" What's the agenda here? I think the challenge is to get the world social, effective and contribution - out of the artist's way.

Do you feel like maybe we shouldn't even ask these questions?

I think it's impossible for artists not to reflect their times or not to be part of the power structure but I also don't think that an artist necessarily has to have a political agenda. I think that is important for art not to become propaganda. Artists should be in a position to assign value to whatever it is that they wish to do. That internal freedom is wonderful. If somebody wants to draw jellyfish for instance, and the colors and the beauty of jellyfish, that's what they are giving value to, and then you can say it's part of the environmental movement or whatever it is. But that internal sovereignty, that ability for the artist to choose and assign value and purpose and meaning to whatever it is that they want to do I think is the need of human freedom. I don't think that artists should be burdened with all these external requirements about what is and what isn't art. I think that's their choice, that's their freedom. That's I guess where I come from. I don't see the artist as an extension of the collective necessarily. I think that being able to tap into their instincts is itself the most important contribution they can make, that's good enough.


Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

Our planet has been dealing with a public health crisis spreading all over and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, have been closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about how this pandemic will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?

The pandemic is an art form, and the disruptions that it creates will, in all likelihood, create a shift in perceptions of space and time, and thus in the institutions that govern our ways of seeing, valuing and framing art. That's not a bad thing. Trust people to figure it out. Or not.

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the contemporary art system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

I don't know much about the contemporary art system, thank God. But, obviously, in a realm like film, everything is going to change - funding, producing, directing, marketing. And that's bad, because a lot has been invested in the infrastructure but it is also good in that the power structures are being altered.

I think for me the real point of departure is how we define the system. One part of what makes the conversation complicated is that it's not clear that we have a mutual understanding of what systems we are talking about, how those systems function, who they serve. From where I'm sitting it's not clear whether we have a mutual understanding of what we mean by systems, how those systems are functioning and where I sit in relation to them. The other thing is that I think every artist or creator, they also have their own system, their own media, their own language, and how those things intersect obviously is a complicated question. These things are obviously very vast and complex.


Excerpt from Zahra's Paradise.

Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, art curators, institutions, cultural producers, exhibition platforms, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

We need art, culture and media that serve the poor, that is rooted in life.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to add?

Many things but really each of your questions is vast… Just that I think that philosophically, looking at an artist's life or work and then wanting to open up to understand that process it's almost like dissecting the dead. You miss the animating spirit. I think that by its nature, because there is an inclination towards life and instinct and spontaneity, the artistic types can resist the process or analytic approach to whatever they do because that is always an attempt to reduce things to factors that are comprehensible and so on. I think that by definition there are aspects of inspiration and instinct that may not necessarily lend themselves to analysis and would resist analysis. There is mystery, always. Analysis takes something that's creative out of you and if you don't really know what its source or intention is and turn it into something that is functional, that for me creates some kinds of tension. Where is this analysis going? What is its point? What can it achieve?

Can you mention three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about this conversation?

I'm turned off by this process. By the end, turned off completely. It's like dissection, even worse, it's like asking a frog to dissect itself. Don’t ask these tiring questions. This kind of knowledge only generates paralysis. Engage the art. If you are interested in who I am and what I think, go read Zahra's Paradise. All the


Identities in Movement - Amir Soltani

answers are in the work, not in the artist. Go watch the frog jump. Or even better, jump yourself, and you will have an answer to all your questions. Find out what it is like to be a frog, or an elephant or a kangaroo- do it on your own terms. And maybe you will discover things intrinsically. Stop thinking about the frog. If want to jump, jump. And if not, recognize that you are paralyzed. And knowledge is just a crutch an excuse for not daring to jump. If you want to be an artist just be an artist - you don't need knowledge or even questions. Just the instinct. Do it. One key word: jump.



Identities in Movement

Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi Curated by Daniela Veneri


Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi, Self-portrait, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi (b. 1972) is an an Iranian born Swiss artist, co-creator of “The (Im)permanence Platform", lawyer, and longtime Social Presencing Theater and Theory U practitioner, who investigates identity, history and cultures. She makes scars and cultural wealth simultaneously visible, in order to investigate the potential of being human. Among her latest art work is “ Sanctionwear" and ”Other Kings... Other Stories...” where she analyzes, together with her collaborators in the latter, the relationship between the West and Iran through illustrations, the lenses of Western legal documents, travel accounts, and Persian history and poetry. With her interactive “Matrix of our Identities”, Artemis investigates time, diversity and identity. In her newer prototypes of this project, she is using tools such as visual and contemplative arts, photography, and Social Presencing Theater. Artemis exhibits internationally, and develops and teaches classes in fine arts in order to bridge cultures. She is a graduate of Université de Genève, Switzerland and Boston University, United States.


Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

“When there is inclusion of what is happening now, almost automatically, the past is always included and simultaneously the future opens up, moment by moment. This has a major impact on my artistic practice because it determines if I am present and open to what I am creating.” - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

Artemis, what projects that you are working on excite you most and why?

I am revisiting an old project, a timeline of human identity, involving human history and desire, to help shape our future, The Matrix of our Identity. The first project was created in 2014 and presented in 2015 in a pop-up art show, Crescent Moon Project, in New York City.

It was framed with these words:

How to capture from a visual perspective the matrix of our identity?

If we created a timeline on a white wall, no dates, some selected texts and images that we consider to be iconic, ordered in a chronology, and ask you to add your own chronology of factors that brought you where you are and further... through drawings, writings or your own iconic images: what would we see? Would we get out of a limited view of some "parts"? Would we enter in a space of inclusiveness, curiosity, compassion and courage?... Would we see the true Human matrix? Would we become the whole? Would you see what you love and love it?

The intention is to simultaneously sense the history of humanity as a whole,


Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

by including all individual's history, and to sense humanity's aspiration as a whole, by including all individual's aspirations. It seems relevant to include everyone's body and voice in the history of humanity and in the aspiration of humanity. The assumption is that only then, we can have enough ground to sense what is needed for our future with unconditional confidence.

I was deeply touched by the impact of the project on visitors, the story that they brought with them, the deep desires to shape our common future. The experiment at Crescent Moon Project was only 2 dimensional, and built upon a series of 10,000+ historic images that I have collected from the net and exclusively related to Iran. Of course, the personal experience of living through the Iranian Revolution as a young child, and the sudden shifts of identity, separation, and homelessness informed deeply this project. The exhibit was meant to remember and celebrate Iran or the memory of it. So the visitors were mostly Iranian expats living in New York City. The experience remains within me, touched me deeply, and was followed by a need to understand inclusion.

When we bring a picture, a word, a sentence, a history, even innocently, we name a race, a slice of history, a religion, a group, we bring in set notions, set groups, we exclude, naturally, even when we want to include. Unless we go further down history, assuming that we all were one, at a certain point, and that we will all become one again, at a certain point…

So gradually, I realized that my need to be included could only happen when I let go of the need of becoming Iranian. I am also very interested about how we understand time, how we can bring together past, present and future, and integrate and absorb all in our consciousness. Including those who came before us, and those who have yet to be born. Our bodies, our parts (water for example), in many ways, beyond me, include all. They are are older than our age. They have lived longer than us. They know more than what we know. They will survive us. So I started to experiment with embodiment practices, specifically Social Presencing


Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi. Mozaffar Al Din Shah, watercolor and ink on paper, completed in 2012. Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

Theater, a wonderful social art created by Arawana Hayashi. I have been studying Social Presencing Theater with Arawana since 2004. Arawana is a real guidance in my life. In 2017-2018 I had the chance to be part of her advanced year long program and I revisited “ The Matrix of our Identity” using Social Presencing Theater methodologies. I tried it with small group of artists friends, unfamiliar with SPT, with families and friends. These were timid attempts. A real sense of necessity and urgency to bring forward this project is happening only now. How can we even imagine a future if we do not have a full grab of human history, human desires? If we do not include every single story, voice, body? How can we solve climate change or pretend that science has a voice if we have a mind that naturally, proudly, deeply, ignore or exclude most data?

Another project that is deeply important for me is one co-created with photographers Gohar Dashti and Hamed Nouri: The (Im)permanence Platform. It is an exciting project because in my lifetime, only now, thanks to the pandemic, all humans have a common language for “ impermanence”. The creation that comes out of allowing to stay with the state of impermanence is what interest me in this project. We are in uncharted territories, there are no data to rely on. Suddenly artists, homeless, immigrants are in the expert seat. People without a goal, people who are familiar with, and who let themselves be with not-knowing. Our art platform has three basic practices: interviews, exhibitions and events.

Can you share a bit more about what you mean by saying "gradually I realized that my need to be included could only happen when I let go of my need of becoming Iranian." What's behind this and how does it relate to your art practice?

My art practice really started because I don't have a strong first language. I am multicultural and since the beginning I was spoken to in many different languages. Maybe as a result of this multiculturalism, since a very early age, I


Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

have used drawing, instead of a mother tongue, to express myself. As a kid, I often relied on photographs to understand people. Meeting in person wouldn’t be enough for me and wouldn’t allow the same understanding. These were the bases of my art practice. Life brought the Iranian Revolution and I had a need to understand why it happened, and who were these political leaders that lead these changes and why they did so. I started searching for answers in the photographs of these leaders, and then make line drawings to search for more information. I was a child when the Revolution happened and we moved to Europe. I've been living in the West since the 80s, a time since Iran and Iranians are depicted negatively. A desire to understand in my own terms was what I was looking for. The first version of the project “The Matrix of our identity” allowed visitors to feel safe enough and compelled to tell their own history/story, spontaneously. These were very intimate events that happened in their personal lives that completed and, at times, changed my understanding of history. But by defining my identity there is a silent aggression that comes into play. I am excluding all those who are not part of this identity. I feel like that's one of the problems. As we define ourselves in very small ways that seem legitimate, we are creating separations. We have difficulties in defining ourselves in a more inclusive way. Anyway, there's no way to just limit one culture historically or ethnically.

What are your most important goals as an artist?

Fall in love with life. This is very similar to falling in love with impermanence. I fully fall in love with life each time I let myself be surprised by it, when I loosen control. This is so much easier to practice with art than with life…

What moves you in your work?

Nothing more than art makes me feel free. Unless I think that I have to feed my kids with the product of art.:) Art allows me to be fully myself, finally, completely. For a moment, I can


Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi. "The Dar Al-Fonon is established”, from the series “Other Kings… Other Stories…” , a collaboration with Cyrus Samii, completed in 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi. "Amir Kabir is assassinated", from the series “Other Kings… Other Stories…” , a collaboration with Cyrus Samii, completed in 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

experiment just for the sake of curiosity. Allow myself to make mistakes, to misunderstand, to play.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

My children, without any doubts, Kassra and Soshant. Their ways of seeing the world is shockingly different than mine. They are from another generation. They were born and grew up in a country that I still do not know. They speak a language that I still do not master. They live with a mentality that I do not understand. They have an education that I did not have. I love them. They have ways to make me listen to them. So who can be a better partner, a better interlocutor, a better interpreter than them?

Which of the feedbacks you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you or surprised you most?

“It is not about what you want. It is about what is needed.”

What makes you feel free to create your art?

Having no other choice. This is the only way for me to feel free to create.

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

I dream to bring all perceptions in one….

What unites past, present and future in your artistic practice?

Past, present and future come together when I allow inclusion. When I am stuck somewhere, in the past or in the future, with my thoughts, it's a time when


Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

I'm excluding a lot of what is happening in my reality now. When there is inclusion of what is happening now, almost automatically, the past is always included and simultaneously the future opens up, moment by moment. This has major impact on my artistic practice because it determines if I am present and open to what I am creating. Time is a difficult concept in general. It really depends how you look at it. If I had a deep understanding of diversity, I may also understand time better.

What kind of relationship do you feel should exist between aesthetics and ethics today?

Aesthetics is a wonderful way to awaken and bring us here and now. If it is genuine. If not, its danger relies on the fact that it distracts from the essence. You are so attracted by what you see or hear, etc. that you have no incentive to go beyond, to be curious. It involves only the attention of one sense, and excludes all others, not allowing a full experience to happen. Ethics' value also relies on its ability to bring us here and now. Otherwise, it limits you in a set reality that it does not want you to question. It basically asks you not to trust yourself, limit your imagination, and thus does not let you discover who you are nor reality. So both need to be in service of the here and now. It is interesting to think about this relationship. Aesthetics is something I think a lot about in relation to my art.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution in our time?

Arts are an extraordinary tool that can go beyond what we believe is reality. It can bypass time, bypass mind, bypass unconsciousness and consciousness, bypass lands, nations, cultures… it can redeem the past, create the present and the future, and bring us to the here and now. These are all effective social contributions. Yet, I do not think that we use enough of art’s potential…


Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi, “Sanctionwear”, mixed media, completed in 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

Our planet has been dealing with a public health crisis spreading all over and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, have been closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about how this pandemic will influence our approach to producing, sharing, and experiencing the arts?

Hopefully, the reality of impermanence that this pandemic has made us face, will empower artists and others who are far more accepting of impermanence. Artists who value the unknown. We can learn so much from them. So much. From another point of view, art itself has its independent life and freedom. It will survive no matter what. Museums, exhibitions, cultural centers, etc., on the other hand, will need either to truly understand diversity and inclusion, and become more creative, or keep relying on even more wealthy, but less numerous, hands.

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the contemporary art system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

The current crisis made us face the reality that we are living in uncharted territories. It brought together people on all issues. In the USA, where I live, issues of inequalities, injustice, and racism are more and more evident. There is less work, less money, more inequalities, more injustices than ever, and people have more free time to kill. The art world needs to deeply incorporate these divides. It is serious and we have no time to waste. We live in a world where all our values are based on devaluating the other. A world where freedom, democracy, education, health, even spirituality are all based on the principle that it can only be for some. Diversity and inclusiveness are the biggest challenge. There is a need to change a paradise that has been there for many, many, many generations. But all challenges incorporate an opportunity. I see efforts made in this direction... Are they deep enough?


Identities in Movement - Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, art curators, institutions, cultural producers, exhibition platforms, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

I see the most benefit in working with the perspective of one planet, one race, one history. While realizing and showcasing the preciousness of diversity. I really believe that inclusiveness and deep understanding of diversity is key in our time. The use of art as a tool with which we can create, literally, our current reality, our future on a ground of full understanding of the past. I see benefits in the use of arts as an awareness-based practice and a way to include in our consciousness more and more until all living being are included.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share?

The questions were more difficult than I expected but so helpful! I cannot think of anything right now…

Can you mention three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about this conversation?

Gratitude. Your questions helped me clarify my artistic process and intention. Thank you! My five words: Planting seeds - would they bloom?



Identities in Movement

Hamed Noori Curated by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi and Daniela Veneri


Hamed Noori. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Hamed Noori (b. 1979, Mashhad) is an Iranian artist who received his B.A in "Applied Art" from Kashan University (IR), Faculty of Arts and Architecture in 2007. He is a former graduate student of “Art in Context” at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK). He uses photography, video, and mixed media, and his practice focuses on his personal experiences within the frame of a collective identity, deeply linked with social and historical issues.


Identities in Movement - Hamed Noori

“The audience always surprises me. They usually move much further ahead of me and give me the clue that I didn't think about.” - Hamed Noori

Hamed, what projects that you are working on excite you most and why?

So far I would say that I am really enjoying the experience of the ongoing project that is called "World in Travel". I am taking a small world map to every place that I go to and take a picture with this background. It represents my real-life, like so many immigrants carrying their world to new places where they move in. Also, I am very excited about the new collaboration with two other artists. We have founded an art-platform dedicated to impermanence: The (Im)permanence Platform. This project has value for me because it caused me to look deep inside myself. I believe making a conscious effort to identify points of commonality existing between artists, homeless, and immigrants and find interdependency between permanence and impermanence could lead my creative process.

What are your most important goals as an artist?

Making artworks without temporal and spatial limits is an important goal for me.


Hamed Noori, Boston, MA. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Hamed Noori, Mashhad, Iran.. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Hamed Noori

What moves you in your work?

The desire for learning is always moving me forward. I like to increase my knowledge far beyond the visual arts: to architecture, cultural critique, philosophy, literature, anthropology. These bits of knowledge become tools for my attempt to make the artworks with fresh ideas.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

I am spending my time with a society of like-minded individuals. We motivate each other to achieve our highest artistic potential and they help me to push forward my creative pursuits. Of course, the most important partner and interlocutor is my wife, Gohar. With whom I spend my time talking and designing our artistic ideas in order to achieve new capacity in our artistic life.

Which of the feedbacks you received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you or surprised you most?

The audience always surprises me. They usually move much further ahead of me and give me the clue that I didn't think about. I remember when I was showing one of my videos, one of my friends told me that he was thinking of birds that would lose their way because of the destruction of nature and die on the way. Honestly, my idea behind that video was about "Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)" and I never thought about environmental concerns. I could say he was very smarter than me.

What makes you feel free to create your art?

I feel free when I can talk no matter my medium. Creating art is my dialogue 208

Identities in Movement - Hamed Noori

with the world and with people. My camera is my most important medium. I capture my daily life for myself, my son, and the people who are interested and by so doing I somehow bring it into the future.

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

I aspire to make art documentation to preserve memory and our history. My art is about personal and cultural memory and invites the audiences to empathize.

What unites past, present, and future in your artistic practice?

What is important for my work is to go beyond time, to make it timeless. Creation in itself brings me joy and thus is a time where I do unite time and bring it to the present moment.

What kind of relationship do you feel should exist between aesthetics and ethics today?

I believe and work with minimal and polished esthetics in my art. I invest time to eliminate excess, and confusion, in order to make sure that what needs to be seen is seen. I make a distinction between good and bad and consciously choose to highlight what is good.

How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution in our time?

I believe that art and artists can educate and create empathy through the power of storytelling and this would lead to dramatic social change. Art and culture are helping to train and enrich humans in turn this will build a stronger future. 209

Hamed Noori, Still frames / Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) / 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Hamed Noori

Our world has been dealing with a public health crisis spreading all over and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, have been closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about how this pandemic will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?

I believe all new experience brings us unique information and helps us re-define who we are. Without a doubt, this pandemic has been a new process for the artist community. Artists always needed social interaction to feed on experiences and knowledge, so social networks and the avalanche of digital communication became the best tool to invigorate ideas and inspiration at this moment.

Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the contemporary art system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?











commercialized, and the production, reproduction, and support of artists who work and produce in the service of capitalism is an inappropriate model for those who want to enter art in the coming years.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, art curators, institutions, cultural producers, exhibition platforms, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

I would definitely incorporate art in public spaces more. Transform train stations, bus stops, or even hospital wait rooms into art galleries. In other words, connect art to everyday life.


Identities in Movement - Hamed Noori

Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share?

I feel that you brought a complete set of questions that I do not need to add upon.

Can you mention three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about this conversation?

Questions reaching deep into the roots. Helping us to look at art from various perspectives: our own but also, from the societal, commercial, cultural, and public/private points of view.



Identities in Movement

Gohar Dashti Curated by Artemis Akchoti Shahbazi and Daniela Veneri


Gohar Dashti. Photo courtesy of the artist.


Gohar Dashti received her M.A. in photography from the Art University of Tehran in 2005. For the past 15 years she has been making large scale photography with a particular focus on social issues. Her work references history and contemporary culture, as well as the convergence of anthropological and sociological perspectives; employing a unique, quasi-theatrical aesthetic, she brings to bear a diverse intellectual and cultural experience to illuminate and elaborate upon her perception of the world around her. In her most recent works, Dashti has explored, through her highly stylized, densely poetic observations of human and plant-life, the innate kinship between the natural world and human migrations. Fascinated with human-geographical narratives and their interconnection to her own personal experiences, Gohar Dashti believes that nature is what connects her to the multiple meanings of ‘home’ and ‘displacement’, both as conceptual abstractions, and as concrete realities that delineate and contour our existence. The result is a series of quirky landscapes and portraits, as lush as they are arch, inciting questions about the immense, variegated, border-eschewing reach of nature – immune to cultural and political divisions – and the ways in which immigrants inevitably search out and reconstruct familiar topographies in a new, ostensibly foreign land. Gohar Dashti’s works have found homes around the globe in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP), Chicago, and Kadist Art Foundation, Paris. She has been awarded numerous art fellowships including a MacDowell, Peterborough, NH (2017), DAAD award, Berlin (2009-2011) and Visiting Arts (1Mile2 Project), Bradford/London (2009).


Identities in Movement - Gohar Dashti

“My feeling is that everything is still in the past, that we didn't really change much, we just repeat the past in different ways. I think my work is talking about my experiences that maybe will be future experiences of someone else.” - Gohar Dashti

Gohar, what projects you are working on excite you most and why?

Now I'm really enjoying working on new upcoming catalogue in Milan.

What are your most important goals as an artist?

Keep working and feel free when I make artworks. I feel joy and euphoria when I am making art.

What moves you in your work?

The process of producing art is what is really enjoyable for me.

Who are your most important partners and interlocutors?

My husband Hamed who is an artist and art advisor.


Gohar Dashti, Uprooted, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Gohar Dashti, Uprooted, 2019. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Gohar Dashti

What unites past, present, and future in your artistic practice?

My feeling is that everything is still in the past, that we didn't really change much, we just repeat the past in different ways. I think my work is talking about my experiences that maybe will be future experiences of someone else.

What kind of contribution would you like your work to have? What is that you want to tell people?

I utilize staging in my artistic practice, to focus on a range of social and political issues pertaining to the complex relationship between identity, citizenship and the meaning of home. Drawing on my personal interest in anthropology and sociology, as well as my experiences of growing up in a country debilitated by multiple wars, I use photography and video to discuss how the intimate relationship between mankind and nature can create new narratives related to issues on global migration. I reflect on my experiences of living between Iran, the United States, and Europe; exploring how cultural diaspora and nature are delicately connected. For me, nature remains my touchstone no matter where I am physically. Landscape plays a powerful role in my

experiences, which I view, both as an

unexpected protector and an astute messenger of a world out of balance.

What you think is the role of arts and culture today?

I think arts open the way for people to understand much more about what happens in the world. Art and culture can have an important role in society. I as an Artist never offer any solutions for such cultural and social problems within my works but I do try to raise these issues through an over-play of the social realities.


Gohar Dashti, Land/s, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Gohar Dashti, Land/s, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Identities in Movement - Gohar Dashti

Our world has been dealing with a public health crisis spreading all over and museums, exhibitions, arts, and cultural sites, have been closing the doors in many countries. What is your feeling about the consequences of this pandemic, how will it influence our approach to producing, sharing, and experiencing the arts?

I think public art can have an important role now, because it's outside and people can really engage with it. It's a good time that even museums start showing works outside their buildings. Considering the audience as part of an art project is also a very interesting idea.

What do you think changes when art is showed outside of museums?

What changes for artists is the audience, because the audience of a museum, which is a cultural house, is different from the audience that you can reach in street. Art is for all people.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of artists, art curators, institutions, cultural producers, exhibition platforms, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?

Artists would have much chance to have a free or affordable Art / Home studio in all cities. I would change the art marketing and try to make art for the public more.

How would you imagine applications processes for artists residencies?

I would suggest institutions to research about artists and at that point, as


Identities in Movement - Gohar Dashti

an artist I could write a motivation about why I'd like to go. Sometimes I just need being in a quiet atmosphere and an art residency is an opportunity for me to research, create, reflect and make my art. In this opportunity, I could get acquainted with artists in various fields and learn from their experiences. These learned things would greatly influence my artistic creations since the art is directly related to life and when artists are in one place they all affect and learn from each other.


Gohar Dashti, Alien, 2017. Photos courtesy of the artist.


Conscious keywords / emerging thoughtS #5


Vivi Touloumidi Curated by Daniela Veneri


Vivi Touloumidi

Vivi Touloumidi was born and studied in Athens before continuing her jewelry education in Germany and Canada. She holds an MFA from Konstfack University, in Stockholm. Since 2010, her work has been exhibited internationally in several curated gallery and museum shows. She is interested in exploring jewelry as a multifaceted cultural phenomenon and in its manifestations of the human condition, while taking into consideration today’s social challenges. Understanding the cosmos of jewelry is her way of negotiating and commenting on society and history. Touloumidi is currently a PhD fellow and lecturer at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp.


Vivi Toulomidi

“I care about understanding the human condition better. Finding ways of application. Articulate better questions and throw new questions to the already existing cultural production to distill new readings.” -Vivi Touloumidi

Vivi, you have a multi-disciplinary background. How did you start working as an artist and what pushed you in that direction?

It was a need driven by a mixture of experiences and feelings, mostly dissatisfaction and curiosity. My previous studies and occupation in banking and management provided me with a solid foundation, but gradually the learning curve within the business world became less rewarding and financial profit had no seducing power to keep me going. In my late 20s I decided to give a U-turn a chance and started anew. At a foreign country and towards new locations of knowledge ever since. At that time, I used to go quite often to the theater in Athens, which has a very vibrant scene. This was a trigger towards another possibility of existence, which empowers me and was convincing to me.

I had to catch up a lot, since back then at the beginning of 00s, Greece had few contemporary art institutions and art was not much discussed within my education. Thereafter, at the various counties I lived and educations I followed in contemporary craft, I embraced a long process of unlearning. Nevertheless, parts of my previous professional background continue to influence my current practice as an artist, craftswoman, researcher and educator today.


Vivi Touloumidi

To conclude, since I was born and raised in Athens, the Greek society for a female used to be an authoritarian, patriarchal and conservative one. It still is for many women. In retrospect, I started walking towards this direction of art making much earlier, so it was an escape act as well.

How does your being an artist coexist with your other roles?

It all operates together simultaneously. The one role informs the other, sliding in and out through their gray zones. They preoccupy much of my daily life and under these conditions of working I can reflect on what is missing, how to improve things. I care about reformation within the scene I belong to, the contemporary art jewelry that is. And not everything should or can be put in action through my own art making. Being an educator, conducting artistic research and evolving my craft skills and writing, all these are activities that update my practice as an artist. They are challenges, which keep reminding me about how much I have no clue yet.

What are the projects you are working on that excite you most and why?

Though my education has started with an emphasis on aesthetic value and technical innovation, throughout the years my practice has developed towards concerns of content-and-context and especially towards making as an agent for social change. Within the jewellery art field, there is still a lot of effort to be invested regarding its social relevance as also in critical reflection and writing. Therefore to connect to the previous question, contextual practice, either as an artist, researcher or educator excites me the most. This is a space not yet thoroughly explored for the medium and its social agency.


Vivi Touloumidi

Currently, through my work and by conducting a PhD in the Arts at ARIA (Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts) in Belgium, that started in Sept 2018, I have been investigating adornment and body-related objects in times of social conflict. Aspects of suppression as well as resistance are diagnosed through the lenses of the wearable and their effect on social identity. My activities so far, had a focus on archival research. I have been looking at profound historical examples, where the main target of medium’s agency was dispute and marginalization. Mainly it interests me the materialization of social friction and violence on wearable mediums and their operation in the public realm. How bodies were systematized and categorized, under which criteria, how this materialization evolved and under which argumentation. And how this knowledge is relevant today. A new body of work is on its way under the German title: “vom Abzeichen zum Auszeichnen” that subverts these intentions.

What are your most important objectives as an artist?

The stored knowledge within the Greek language gives two translation alternatives to entertainment. The one that is closest to the english language is “διασκέδαση” (diaskédasi), which can also be understood as amusement. Nevertheless, etymologically it suggest notions of dispersion, like being fragmented into pieces, or of diversion, like an activity that distracts the mind. The second option is the word “ψυχαγωγία” (psychagogía), which etymology relates to the uplifting experience of the soul while involved with culture. I believe both of these objectives are meaningful, if in appropriate proportions. And that applies not only to the artwork as an outcome, but also as an attitude, while in the making process. I try to keep myself in check with these two ingredients. Then apart to my concerns mentioned already above, I aim at taking steps forward in relation to previous work and to think what is missing.


Vivi Touloumidi, Kosmos. Photos courtesy of the artist.

Vivi Touloumidi, What will kosmos say? - Photos courtesy of the artist.

Vivi Touloumidi

What drives you in your work?

This question relates much to what I have shared already. Moreover, I am influenced by my own experiences in everyday life and what is happening to people around me. Why do we react in this way? Why things run this way? Discomfort is a location that has been proven useful as it reviles norm-critical perspectives upon which I can build on the discourse further. Investigating the agency of adornment for statement making and positioning a public body are areas of interest to me at the moment.

Who are your most important partners or interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process?

I maintain a fruitful exchange with a circle of like-minded friends coming from diverse domains of expertise, within the art field and beyond. These long lasting relationships are support structures of trust, which have proven most important to my life. And of course, all people I collaborated within the frames of all my roles, had their impact on my practice. Having to articulate my work for different people in different contexts sharpens my criteria. And at last, books, music and especially cinema have the power to recharge me.

Which of the feedbacks you have received over the years have been the most meaningful for you and which surprised you most?

This can be a looong list, from my own mentors, the audience, the gallerists, the friends, my own students….I will share a blend of inspiring and controversy ones, all meaningful for different reasons: “Learn to recover fast”. “It is all about cheating”. “Do not make things too complicated”. “Thank you”.


Vivi Touloumidi, Parerga. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Vivi Touloumidi

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

I said much about this already. It is about contribution to the medium and the scene itself, as also to people who can find common grounds and meaning in the pieces for their lives.

What unites past, present and future in your artistic practice?

My love for knowledge and a natural urge for finding out truths in things and situations. I care about understanding the human condition better. Finding ways of application. Articulate better questions and throw new questions to the already existing cultural production to distill new readings.

What kind of relationship do you feel should exist between aesthetics and ethics today?

Aesthetics are ethics. Ethics are aesthetics. It is the intention, the motive that forms them. And it is the implementation and the balance between them that can move us. The care that we invest to serve both. Working with materials as a craftswoman and achieving a good balance in this equation, especially in terms of ethics, is very tricky today. And I have failed more than once in this aspect. To me both are complementary components and one should consciously not


compromised for the other.

What do you feel should be the role of arts and culture in contemporary society?

I feel this overlaps much about my shared views to my own artistic practice in the previous answers. Apart from the effect of “ψυχαγωγία” mentioned above, I think culture needs to include the everyday, the daily life back again much more.


Vivi Touloumidi, Parerga. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Vivi Touloumidi

I am against the discipline hierarchies between high and low art imposed by experts, like the division between the fine and the applied. This fragmentation is not useful. I think culture needs to become a way of living again. More of a process of recreation, togetherness rather than something that is consumed during leisure time. More education, more living within it.

Where do you see current shifts in the evolution of the arts and culture field, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?

I think the overall socio-political frustrations have been pending for too long and the recent decade has been turbulent enough to mobilize realizations for many cultural actors. Many institutions have started to rethink their roles and objectives. Especially, ethnographic and historical museums have started to rethink their social contribution and reformulate their narratives. When such institutions initiated exhibitions, where their collections blended with contemporary art production to create ongoing dialogues, a few interesting results emerged. It is a positive shift, even if in its first steps. Similar site-specific projects, situated knowledge production that seeks social relevance were refreshing shifts.

If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of institutions, cultural producers, art curators, artists, and in the way the arts system relates to the social field, what things do you feel would create the most value and benefit for all?

Taking decisions according to contribution. Avoiding too much of the spectacle. And as within educational institutions, cultural agents need to practice what they claim to stand for within their own production structures and power dynamics. More irritation, less adaption. More transparency.


Vivi Touloumidi, Parerga. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Vivi Touloumidi

The world has been facing a global pandemic due to Covid-19 for many months, with severe consequences on people's lives and on all fields of activity. We have seen educational programs, schools, cultural centers, museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites closing and being forced to change their plans. How has this crisis touched your projects and practice?

I am a maker-researcher type of an artist, so when I do not travel or teach, my daily life is in isolation in the studio. The pandemic found me luckily enough at a timing where most field trips had taken place and I was about to go to my cave and make again anyhow. So it was mostly fruitful for the upcoming work. Of course, some future plans are postponed or shows are completely canceled. I have the luxury be finding myself in a protected place financially due to my teaching and PhD, so I used this slowness for reflection to reboot my practice and what matters to me now.

What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to experiencing, producing and sharing the arts in the future?

I can only speculate that the ongoing abundance of the immaterial digital versions supplementing many art forms might bring physicality and materiality even more to the foreground. Then the imposed restrictions will trigger new creative paths, for example in directing theater or choreography. In architecture as well, how spaces will be occupied or constructed will have a major shift.

Is there anything that I did not ask you that is important for you to mention?

I think the art market has to become more transparent about its production processes, same as film and music industry has done already for decades.


Vivi Touloumidi

Can you share three or five keywords that express your impressions about this conversation?

Contribution. Common grounds. Future.

Vivi Touloumidi, Parerga. Photo courtesy of the artist.



#RondoPilotCollective1 - Conscious keywords / emerging thoughts #6



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