ECOCORE – In conversation with Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE - Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE is an​ ​irregularly published zine that aims to edit the identity of ecology from the point of view of art. It has pioneered discussions around ecology since 2010, by thrusting ecology into the agenda via the commissioned work of artists, writers, poets. ECOCORE questions the established rhetorics of environmentalism, without providing definitive answers. Its mission is to promote creative agency toward the proposition of future alternatives to the current global environmental bankruptcy. The zine operates as a point of intervention, assembling leading creative and theoretical voices across a range of mediums to discuss nature and the environment, as well as the problematic relationship between architecture and natural ecosystems. Concerns regarding human agency within nature are central to the publication’s discussion, motivated by environmentalism’s struggling project for sustainability. ECOCORE hopes to offer a forum for thought and expression regarding the co-evolution of human economies and ecosystems within creative practices.

ECOCORE IV seeks to explore G( )D as an ethical mechanism within deep ecology, biocentrism and nature’s profound mysteries. Deep ecology has emerged as a ‘secular’ proposal to reinstate spiritual intimacy and reverence for the earth. Nature has ended, meanwhile we enter into the new ideological sphere of ‘environmentalism’, directly subject to human action. A covenantal agreement is demanded in our approach towards utilization of the earth’s resources, alongside a formalised collective contrition for our ecological sin. Environmental crisis changes the basic facts behind the spiritual meaning of the world around us; presented as God’s creation, ‘Nature’ and what it signifies metaphysically has been perverted.

ECOCORE1

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

In an age where fanatical and self-righteous lifestyle choices, kale tribes, health ‘binges’, fair-trade coffee (the price of staving off perdition included in the price of the cappuccino) tenuously abate a sense of guilt within consumerism. An ecological ethos shares the same notion of progression as capitalism and neoliberalism, a teleological ethos, which insists that we must be better for future generations. By this logic, we must protect the earth to secure future growth. Given that environmental control is significantly left to human manipulation – nature can no longer keep its promise of beneficence or paternal love – we will need to restructure our outlook towards assuming responsibility for a healthy and integrated environment.

Ecology is the oldest and newest religion; a moral claim that nature has inherent value. Nature itself is calling for an end to instrumentalism and anthropocentrism, asking for us to reconstruct an idealised state of wilderness according to utopian values. ECOCORE questions the possibility of embracing the elusive nature of ecological systems, admitting to the limits of science when met with enigmas such as Higgs Boson or the ‘God particle’, in search of men’s place in the continuity between science and mystery. Is it possible to restructure a future according to a biospiritual agenda in which pollution is in decline, agriculture is sustainable, and species are revived?. ECOCORE The G( )D Issue looks at discussing the role eco-anxiety, ecoterrorism, ecofeminism, anthropocene theories, and radical environmentalist groups have to play in the restructuring of our contemporary ideology and our collective spiritual reactions to the environment. ECOCORE IV ventures to propose a politics of paradise, working on the principle that nature is sacred.

In the press release of the new issue of ECOCORE, you state “Ecology is the oldest and newest religion; a moral claim that nature has inherent value.” Is that what pushed into choosing G( )D as the new concept?

I saw an urgency in by-passing the established secularised approach to ecology and Nature. Something that has been canonised recently by the COP21 resolution…I was drawn to explore deep ecology in its possible connections to current political struggles. In this issue I was interested in the relation between ecology and politics and business: for example ISIS’ terrorist attacks are in many ways connected to an ecological struggle: COP21 has been read as a messy attempt to get away from fossil fuels to counteract the Islamic State agenda….things are changing!

As contributor Oscar Khan put it: deep sadness at the pitiful excuse for a climate accord reached in Paris which has almost no legally binding caps and features wealthy, historical polluters offloading responsibility onto smaller nations. In many ways this is as weak as an accord as the one signed in Copenhagen. If there is a time for divestment and direct action it is now. Mourning the devastation that 2 let alone 3 or 4 degrees increase in temperature will wreak on the planet.”

Why did you decide to create a zine as an instrument to illustrate your thoughts about the current state of ecology?

I was inspired by HOMOCORE a 1970s queer zine. I was impressed by the rawness and power of the medium. Recently an art blogger reviewed ECOCORE saying that they loved the latest issue but it was badly printed…She was referring to the sometimes poor quality of the images, which is totally deliberate and mirrors the grainy xerox quality of punk zines. The zine is printed in Italy to an art catalog standard 🙂

How do you evaluate the new era and movements of “environmentalism” that have become extremely popular in the last decade?

The one I’m most interested in is the NO-TAV one, it feels like it will be the model for youth participation in politics in the future…

Do you think that up to this point we have become successful in putting an end into the instrumentalism to protect nature – something you call sacred?

I’ve definitely helped that process with ECOCORE, but the zine is full of contradictions! If you read all the amazing contributions by all the stellar contributors, you might find an answer!

ECOCORE - Alessandro Bava

ECOCORE – Courtesy of Alessandro Bava

Alessandro Bava is an architect, editor, and artist. His work focuses on the relationship between architectural form and technology. He is the founder of Bava and Sons, a design practice working on architecture projects, cultural commissions, and research. In December 2014, the office realized an exhibition environment for the Google Cultural Institute residency program in Paris, presented at the Cartier Foundation. In June 2015 he completed a large scale installation at Moderna Museet in collaboration with artist Simon Denny. Bava is also editor and founder of the ecology zine ECOCORE, which has recently guest edited the “Disaster” issue for DIS magazine. He is cofounder of​ ​ÅYR, an art collective which explores the complex, post-internet evolution of domesticity and the home. The collective has exhibited internationally, at including Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation in Turin and the Swiss Institute New York. Bava recently published a book of architecture and poetry with the poet Harry Burke (Version House, 2014). He is the recipient of the 2015 Re Rebaudengo.

ECOCORE

ÅYR

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In conversation with Luca Massaro

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

Having been published in the same period, in which ways are L’Aquila e La Rana and Foto Grafia interlinked?

They’re somehow two opposite books: Foto Grafia was born after 4-5 years of a slow conceptual practice, a typology from different countries; L’Aquila e La Rana is the result of a short artist residency and a simple narrative process driven by coincidences and in-deep researches on a very limited topic. But the more these two children grow up, the more is possible to see they’re almost heterozygous twins: they’re both structured in two chapters with a circular ending interrogating the photographic medium and the interaction of languages, the duality of past and future, history and coincidences, image and word. I also later discovered the strong similarities between the afterword texts, the funny linguistic link between frogs and spoken words (in J.P. Brisset, Michel Foucault, etc.). The exhibition “quasi-quasi” at Matèria Gallery in Rome was the chance to discover all these unconscious associations and give them a shape in the installation space and time.

There is a certain amount of duality and difference also between printed and digital. How did you come up with connecting them in L’Aquila e La Rana through an interactive experience?

Yes, the newspaper L’Aquila e La Rana was followed by an interactive website The Eagle & The Toad. The double artist book is published by LDS Editions, which is my quasi-publishing house producing books at the intersection of printed and digital. The first self-published publication had a frog on the cover, and we later thought about amphibians living both on land and in water and decided to give the publisher this imprint, releasing contents both in the web and in printed form. The virtual corollary allows the viewers to get inside the book’s bigger frame and decide which of the forking paths to take in the two parallel chapters: the reading of this book from beginning to end can take from only 10 seconds up to hours. I think Borges, Queneau, Perec, Calvino, etc would have been very excited to exploit this magic box new possibilities for a narrative purpose. So we built a complicated novel to interrogate our contemporary reading habits online and the structure of the Internet itself as “a garden of forking” hyperlinks.

In your opinion, what is the connection between an exhibition and a book conceptualizing the works and the framework?

I think in the photographic field, the exhibition space is often overlooked or not enough exploited. If in the arts, it was often the case that an exhibition produced a derivative catalogue (sometimes as a poor description of the installation on paper), now the rising number of photographers working first on the printed book, inverted the attitude and many use the exhibition as a translation of the printed page on the wall and not as a different medium to discover something new about the work in the time and space of the installation.

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

How did you realize your interest for photography?

I started taking a lot of pictures of friends while working in the editorial office of PIG Magazine in Milan, which by chance developed in commissioned works; and for the first 4 years, I was obsessed in collecting pictures of words, signs and graphics, that recently became the book published by Danilo Montanari.

What was the starting point in putting together photographs and words?

I moved to Milan – then to Paris – to study Literatures and Linguistic, and started working for PIG and other magazines because I wanted to become a writer or a journalist. I guess that my archive of photographed words (and also the other two books I’ve done up to now) is somehow the diary of a wannabe writer, or the attempt to write a story/poem/book through photographs.

You have started from self-publishing and you’ve moved towards working with a publisher. What do you think about the current rise in the area of self-publishing due to the increasingly digital processes?

I self-published L’Aquila e La Rana when I was already working with Danilo Montanari Editore on Foto Grafia. The newspaper was then presented at his stand at Offprint Paris and other people helped, but I never asked anyone to publish it because the creation of the “quasi-publishing” house was somehow a follow-up of the fiction of the book in the real world. It later developed in an occasion of experimentation and total freedom from the market. I think independent self-publishing is interesting when it tries to question the major conventions and that’s why LDS Editions will keep working on the digital possibilities linked to artist books in many different outcomes. But I think I still prefer to work with a real publishing house for bigger projects – and I’m lucky I met Danilo, one of my favourite Italian artist books publisher – because of their developed experience, the production costs investment, their visibility during artbook fairs, and distribution channels. It’s just like putting out music on Bandcamp/Soundcloud or signing with a small label.

What projects are you currently working on?

I spent 3 months in the US, mostly New York, working on a new project started in Italy last year, that will soon become a book (or a double book), but not only a book. I keep working on various commissions that allow me to live and not to be stuck doing only one thing, but to contaminate different approaches with mutual inspirations.

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

courtesy of Matèria Gallery

Luca Massaro

In conversation with Aapo Nikkanen feat. Alex Bailey

be me - a collection of greentexts

be me – a collection of greentexts

The following conversation recollects the events of a semi-random evening six months ago. I had set up a meeting with Aapo Nikkanen, curious to hear more about his book project, which was still a work in progress back then. We had been talking about doing an interview for a good while already, yet the right context seemed to be missing. As we didn’t want the conversation to follow the obvious patterns of two friends having a chat, Aapo had suggested bringing in a third person, to play the role of a commentator. One day, I got a phone call from Aapo saying that a friend of his, Alex from London was in town, and would be the perfect person to do the job. The following day, I arrived to the meeting point, a carefully selected roundabout in Eastern Paris, with no set-up, just ready to press the record button on my phone. This three-hour recording, whose original version is way richer than written down here, extended to months of typing, deleting and typing. The book, be me – a collection of greentexts is ready and out there now. But first, let’s go back to the events of one sunny evening in May 2015.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Hey Mark, welcome to Paris! Is it your first time here?

Alex: First of all, my name is not Mark.

Sini: Oh, sorry!

Alex: It’s quite alright, and actually it’s funny that you call me Mark. It reminds me of a story, listen to this: once when I was in a bar and actually introduced myself as Mark, and the person said: Bark? And I thought, he either misheard me, or he actually thinks my name is the outer layer of a tree. Or, it was some kind of command: Bark! Haven’t seen this guy since. But I have to say, what concerns me a lot is the premise. It has to be established and clear right from the onset. The story will work, if the premise is in its place. What was the premise for you to do this interview? Does me being part of this conversation serve a specific purpose?

Sini: On my way here, there was a lot of things going through my mind: mostly, what kind of impact will your presence have on the conversation? Then I realized that I can’t have any prearranged plan since I didn’t know the first thing about you.

Aapo: I see you as the gonzo element: of not having the boring “same questions same answers” kind of thing, written in international art English.

Sini: Why did you want to invite Alex in particular?

Aapo: I just thought he was a suitable person.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Alex: And I was free and I was available: listen, pragmatism is nothing to be ashamed of! Before coming here, I was thinking about me and Aapo’s friendship, and what I came down to was basically is that I know things of a personal nature about him that he wouldn’t like me to tell. And vice versa. So there’s a sort of sensitive trust between us. I would also like to know why are we in this specific place. Do you come here often?

Aapo: I live down the street, so I pass by this place very often. When you’re in this roundabout it feels like you’re in a bubble: around it’s super busy all the time, but people come here to relax, they’re always chilling out here, drinking beer and smoking. This is a physical bubble. When everything around us is moving, there’s something very calming about it.

Sini: Do you have a hard time finding this kind of bubbles in Paris?

Aapo: I don’t think it has necessarily something to do with that. Since I got the funding for my book project, I realised I didn’t have any outside pressure on my work. However, there’s no ending to it in a proper sense: this project is not going to end up in an exhibition for instance. In this sense, I’m working in a bubble right now, without any stress – I could do this work and then just put in a drawer without ever showing it to anyone.

Alex: What kind of book proposal did you have?

Aapo: I’ve been collecting stories online since late 2010. Everything started when I found one really good one and wanted to make a work out of it, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it – and decided to save the story for later. Then I started collecting more and more of those stories. I ended up having loads of them, and proposed to make a book based on these stories: a book which would also function as a tool of access to these stories, to make stories out of stories.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Where did you collect them?

Aapo: Almost all of them come from 4chan. For most of the people it’s a terrible site, it’s seen like the dumpster of the Internet with basically one million posts a day. When facing this crazy content, what people do, is when seeing even a mildly amusing story, they take a screen shot and post it on these image boards, like the ones where people post cat pictures, flows of visual data. And this is what I follow.

Sini: So there was already a sort of preselection?

Aapo: Exactly. Every half a year I deleted half of the stories, because there was too much of them for me to handle them, and to be honest, I’ve read thousands of really shitty stories at this point. However, I think they’re very poetic in a sense: the stories have developed their own literary genre, a statement-like internet expressionism.

Sini: What about the criterion when selecting the texts?

Aapo: Yes, I’ve spent many terrible hours when selecting them, so I had to come up with certain rules. For example, since they’re anonymous – and this is the most important thing – they should be stories that we want to believe in. And obviously we can never know if they’re true or not. With the best stories you think that they cannot possibly be true – but who knows?

Sini: How about your other ongoing work, does it somehow reflect the same themes as the book? I remember you talking something about crying instagram selfies…

Aapo: One day I saw one crying selfie online and was wondering what was it about. I noticed that this was a sort of trend: people trying to win their lost love back by posting crying selfies publicly on Facebook, which inspired me to start a collection of these images. There’s the same element present as with the stories: if the pic is good enough, you want to believe it to be true. However, for me this phenomenon represents a sociological problem that hasn’t been resolved yet.

be me - a collection of greentexts

Courtesy of 4chan

Sini: Could you precise?

Aapo: Let’s say that if me and Alex would break up here, obviously it would be public in a way, since you and the people sitting at the bench over there would witness it. But it would never be a hyper public situation, since they would forget about it, and it would fade away. But when this happens online, it only takes one share and becomes a virtual act, and never disappears. This kind of posts are done by younger generation, people who have been familiar with Facebook all their lives, and it has thus become a normal act. In my view, there will be some social rules which will be generated on the Internet: this is already visible to certain extent for example with posts where people write content warning in the beginning, that people can hide or skip it. But this is only the first, awkward way of dealing with this.

Alex: Let’s say if we broke up here, those guys over there they wouldn’t necessarily come up here staring at my face, but online they wouldn’t necessarily press the hide button. What did you do with these images?

Aapo: I printed some of them on a thick plexiglass, perhaps half a size of an Ipad screen. The form resembles a little bit of a tombstone. By the way, I used to work for this company, who wanted to launch a virtual graveyard for rich people. My job was to translate all the content into Finnish, because they were aiming worldwide. So if you were rich enough, you had the option of buying yourself a virtual space and upload content there that people would remember you, and which could be unlocked by your children for instance. I don’t even know what happened to them afterwards: my guess is that the timing wasn’t right for them and they didn’t succeed.

Alex: You pick up cynical subject matters, do you? The work you do, can always go to both ways, either they can be super genial or pure cynicism.

Aapo: Not true. I’m actually doing a series of work on love as well, entitled What is love?, which started from a mixtape of hiphop lovesongs. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop in Finland, and when I moved abroad I had to leave all my vinyls there. Since I couldn’t bring them with me, I started to make huge playlists on iTunes. While listening to these hard core rappers, I realized that their best songs are often love songs, something that I find very beautiful: it gives an interesting vision to this very otherwise macho world. The same theme is also to be found in my book: amidst the homophobic, hateful and racist online stories found on 4chan, you can actually find a lot of love-related stories.

Courtesy of 4chan

Courtesy of 4chan

Greentext book
Amazon Aapo Nikkanen

In conversation with Simon Denny

Simon Denny, The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom, 2014, Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin Cologne and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

Simon Denny, The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom, 2014, Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Buchholz Berlin Cologne and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

This year, Thierry Raspail, artistic director of the Biennale de Lyon, launched the new cycle of three biennials around the term “modern”. The show “La vie moderne”, curated by Ralph Rugoff, explores the contradictory character of contemporary culture in different regions of the world, addressing how diverse legacies of the “modern” era continue to structure and condition our understanding of everyday life. Recently I met Simon Denny, one of the artists invited to this edition: a discussion concerning privacy, material and immaterial values, theft and ownership in digital age followed.

Could you tell me about the works shown at La Biennale de Lyon?

Ralph Rugoff was very interested in a particular body of work of mine that I’ve been doing for a while now: The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom. The work follows a particular entrepreneur called Kim Schmitz, the founder of Megaupload who lives in New Zealand. After running into legal issues with his company, the U.S. government filed a lawsuit against him, which was followed by a very spectacular and unusual – at least in New Zealand – raid in 2012. The New Zealand police collaborated with the FBI, and flew down with helicopters and guns, busting out the guy’s door. After the raid, the police seized a whole bunch of his possessions: physical objects he owned and money he had access to from different bank accounts around the world.

I came across a list of the things that were seized in this raid, which represented an interesting account of things, such as sixty bank accounts around the world together with an art collection. The list of objects symbolized the whole gamut of questions around the figure and his company: what is Megaupload doing for privacy, what file sharing and copyright are about these days, how far the US can reach cross the world in terms of jurisdiction? For me, all this developed into an interesting proposition as a sculptural, curatorial idea: on the one hand it was a collection of a well-known entrepreneur, on the other hand it was a subcuration of the U.S legal department on the personal collection of Kim Dotcom. This formed an interesting group of questions to talk about in terms of an exhibition, reflecting the values of entrepreneurship and those associated to privacy.

Simon Denny, The Personal effects of Kim Dotcom : Predator Statue. Courtesy of the artist, Mumok, Wien and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon

Simon Denny, The Personal effects of Kim Dotcom : Predator Statue. Courtesy of the artist, Mumok, Wien and Biennale de Lyon 2015 © Blaise Adilon


When did you first start this group of work?

I’ve done it a number of times already, yet every time I’m working in different contexts, so it’s a sort of a constant remade. I showed it in Vienna for the first time in 2013, and then in museums in England and New Zealand – the work has already had a long life. What stays the same every time is the list of things, but the objects that are shown, change constantly. For every exhibition I get a different arrangement of objects, thus trying to sculpturally deal with the idea of transferring information – transferring things in different resolutions and different scales. Sometimes I’m able to bring in things that are very close to the original objects figuring on the list, like cars, and other times I get only models of them. I like to think of this approach as a kind of resolution: for instance, when you’re watching pirated films online, sometimes they’re super great HD, sometimes they’re super pixelated.

The overall theme given to La Biennale by Ralph Rugoff is La vie moderne. How did you approach this topic?

Ralph wanted to look at income disparities around Lyon, which is a big issue over there, and also to question the idea of access – access to information in particular – which is a kind of luxury that makes us modern. In my approach I wanted to emphasize those different points: the story of Kim Dotcom is really all about value. However, this work emphasizes differences in values, because there’s no way I could ever reproduce all of the items of Kim Dotcom, as they represent many millions of dollars. What is finally shown, are representations of these valuable group of objects – instead of money you get fake money, instead of real HD screens you get stand-in mockups. The work refers to discrepancies between those who have and those don’t have, and to the idea how certain business models filter the money into the hands of a few relevant. This is the approach that also makes sense for the theme of La Biennale.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Michele Crosera

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Michele Crosera


What is the starting point for you when having to recontextualize and adapt the existing body of work?

As an artist, I conceive exhibitions by definition as local experiences: when you go to see an exhibition, you also visit the site and the building with its rooms. Also aspects such as political climate linked to the space matter: informing the viewer on how they see the piece. When working, I try to include some kind of acknowledgement of that. Obviously there are universal elements in exhibitions that are adopted as well, but at the end, work is always more powerful when it has some kind of relationship to where it is, and how it exists. La Biennale de Lyon gives a good example of having to adapt and react to the given context: by and large I was very impressed by the way the director of La Biennale was looking at the climate in Lyon, finding the most important things to focus on thematically.

You have a strong interest towards tech culture, how did it all start?

It’s been a life-long thing actually. I moved away from my hometown to Frankfurt in 2007, which was a big year for tech: smartphones, iPhones especially, were introduced. I had just recently got a laptop, so I was about to start having a different type of relationship with computers than before. Moreover, I had just moved to a new city, where I was lonely, missing my home and friends: I started to interact with the world through this object, and it felt like the world shrunk into this one machine, one screen. For my sculptural practice this was a very interesting experience – why was this object so important for me all of a sudden? What is this network that I’m engaged to, and what does it mean for my work and for my personal life?

Gradually, we started to witness a constant renewal of tech hardware: with all the updates and improvements, it became a symbol of obsolescence. As a sculptor, I found it very fascinating to enter this context, understanding its language and imagery. However, I wasn’t only interested in how tech looked and felt, but in the whole sphere surrounding it. I started to question the whole business surrounding tech: how companies have the power to make major decisions and produce myths, narrating a way of life.

Then I started going to tech conferences and looking into start-up companies, which had become a sort of pop phenomenon all of a sudden. I was observing the language they were using, and took specific examples of their management and branding strategies: I understood how they were producing contemporary culture, in a way that was somehow un-paralleled – the impact and the power they had was overwhelming, changing the way everything looked and felt. For an artist it is very inspiring to take a look at this world, because there is so much cultural information generated in that space.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Marco Polo Airport, The New Zealand Pavilion © Paolo Monello

How did you observe the development of the local tech culture here in Berlin compared to that in the US, in Silicon Valley in particular?

There is definitely a certain eco-system here in Berlin embedded for start-ups, impacting strongly the way they evolve. I was asking myself about the factors that make Berlin such a tempting place to come here and launch a business. Then I realized that it is, at least partly, for the same reasons why artists move here. I started noticing more and more similarities between young start-up founders and me and my artistic peers. Founders of companies seem to be kind of symbols for their companies, embodying the values of their brands and their products. The same goes for artists: often they are expected to be a personification of their artistic practice, not to mention the idea of taking risks and doing something innovative – thinking outside the box. I found so many similarities in my own practice: I was an immigrant here taking risks with money, trying to make my way through. Finally, observing these tech companies and their narration allowed me to express my own story through it.

Do you see yourself as an immigrant here? You treated this theme also at Venice Biennale with your installation Secret Power at Marco Polo airport, incorporating the ideas of restriction and surveillance.

Obviously I’ve had a relatively easy time as an immigrant compared to some other people. Nevertheless, I’m still not a permanent resident: I have to renew my visa, prove my income, all these things I didn’t need to worry about in my home country. All these procedures have made me more aware of the political role that national identity and background are playing. An airport terminal is a great example of this, because there one has to go through all different types of procedures: searching, surveying, lining up – at the end it’s about proving one’s identity. At the same time, certain people have to undergo different procedures than the others because of their background.

Having the possibility to use the airport terminal was great, allowing me to interact with that space and thus evoke the idea of crossing borders with all the aforementioned aspects – sovereignty, space, privacy. In parallel to the airport terminal, my second installation, the one in the renaissance library, allowed me to talk about knowledge: how it is gathered and valued. The library has some of the best artists of our western canon: it is about making images, while looking at the allegories dealing with knowledge creation and its maintenance.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash


Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash


You’ve been in Germany for a while now, how did you end up here in the first place?

I started my studies in arts at the university of Auckland in New Zealand. After my graduation, I was part of the young art scene in Auckland, making a lot of shows over there. A sort of turning point happened in 2007, when I met a German curator Nicolaus Schafhausen: that year he worked on the German pavilion at Venice Biennale with Isa Genzken, whose work I am a big fan of. Schafhausen was doing a lecture tour back then and happened to see some of my works in New Zealand, and we got along very well. At that point I was looking for possibilities to broaden my horizon, to leave my hometown and go study in another part of the world, and Schafhausen suggested Städelschule in Frankfurt. After my studies there I decided to move to Berlin, which was a kind of thing to do after art studies Frankfurt.

Last spring and summer must have been pretty intense periods for you, besides the pavilion at Venice Biennale you also had a solo show recently at MoMA PS1, The Innovator’s Dilemma. How did you experience all this? What about other forthcoming projects and shows?

There has definitely been a lot happening lately – it’s been crazy, exciting and stressful at the same time. I feel really lucky right now: having the possibility to do all these different projects. You know the feeling when you have all sort of crazy ideas in your mind, and you’re not sure whether it’s even possible to realize them – and this has been the case, which is amazing.

I’m working on an exhibition for the Serpentine Galleries at the end of November. The show will look at management practices, and how different companies – both larger organizations and smaller hacker amateur groups – innovate in terms of management. Management is a story that we tell not only to others, but also to ourselves: innovative management practices are the ways that organizations come together and build the dream. Looking at what those practices are and how they’ve changed over the years is something that I’m really interested in. For the show, I will take different examples of this by looking at management diagrams and organizational charts. Also smaller, hacker-like spaces fascinate me: for example, how a group like Anonymous comes together and how they organize themselves: it is about community building.

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

Simon Denny, Secret Power at Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, The New Zealand Pavilion © Nick Ash

I’m also very interested in architectural elements of those organizations – buildings where organizations reside and they’re imagined, with their massive and symbolic buildings. In December I’m invited to do a show at Hammer Museum, which is going to look, like the work in Lyon, at the changing nature of neighborhoods in Los Angeles. I was recently on the West Coast and noticed how Venice Beach, a traditional spot for artists and bohemians, has turned into the place to be for start-ups: some of the most iconic start-ups in LA, such as Snapchat, are at Venice Beach. What does creativity mean in LA and at Venice Beach at the moment? By and large, it will be about how all these elements brought together – strategies, identities and physical spaces – build the dream and the team behind it.

Simon Denny was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1982. He studied at the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt (2009) and at the Elam School of Fine Arts at the University of Auckland (2004). Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at MUMOK, Vienna; Kunstverein Munich (2013); Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2012); Neuer Aachener Kunstverein, Aachen (2011); Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Missouri; Halle für Kunst, Lüneburg and Artspace, Sydney (2010). His work has been presented in major survey exhibitions, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013); 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008) and 1st Brussels Biennial (2008). He was the recipient of the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in 2012, and represents New Zealand at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. He lives and works in Berlin.

Biennale de Lyon

In conversation with Iain Ball

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, installation view, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, installation view, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Following a solo show at Future Gallery, London-based artist Iain Ball discusses his Rare Earth sculptures, conspiracy theories and alien lifeform.

In other interviews you’ve often spoken about Object Oriented Ontology in relation to your work. At the risk of never arriving there, we can start discussing it or cautiously circling around it. Otherwise, we can always talk about aliens.

Maybe Alien Orientated Ontology? Some years ago it was crackpot to talk about panspermia and now it seems like a very plausible model and you have Edward Snowden talking in the media about how encryption could be stopping us from making contact. I’ll admit that I’m often more convinced by conspiracy than by mainstream science so things like the Fermi Paradox, for instance make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever and I get really frustrated by them, “where are they?” like I don’t even understand what kind of question this is. If we are supposed to believe there has been no contact and no witnesses or sighting whatsoever or aliens would even behave how we should expect them to. And you have suggestions that SETI not receiving any signals is proof that nothing is out there when we are likely talking about highly advanced extra-dimensional forms.

How would you define an alien aesthetic?

Contact from other worlds is always going to be reinterpreted into the existing aesthetic of the receiving culture, so UFOs through the decades appear to correspond to the technology and aesthetic of that particular time. An alien aesthetic is invisible, in the same way that cargo cults operate within their own belief systems indifferent to the actual technological objects they are appropriating and biblical demonic entities became technologically advanced extraterrestrial drones once we accumulated that knowledge. We can’t see the aliens, they are invisible to us they don’t even have to hide, we can only see the products of our own culture and we only ever see our own aesthetic.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, installation view, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, installation view, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Let’s talk about image ( text or anything else really) aggregation and acceleration. What do you think of accelerationist aesthetics, or rather from which point of view do you approach it?

There are obvious connections to modernism – or some neo-modernist agenda one should be wary of. I still really like Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, the ideas that image artefacts and image signifiers of contemporary life can act as warning beacons which dispel the illusion of progress, or the Jungian idea that certain images reflect our primal past ; these perspectives reflect ideas I see in new materialism and accelerationist politics, or aesthetics – So I think in a way I try to be aware of that, to look at the broader picture and not get swept up in thinking of this time as any different – of course we have Moore’s Law and its easy to get excited, or freaked out but I mean, if accelerationist aesthetics means health goth, I’m bored already and I’m not so interested in it form a post-left economic standpoint either, It just seems very zeitgeisty with academic accreditation.

I don’t mean to discredit fashion because I think it’s super important and plays a big part in all of this, but things reach a culmination and then become absorbed, of course, then they become banal. I also identify very strongly with the post internet term, not just because I feel I was a part of that peer group from the beginning, but because I think it describes a real condition that I relate to. I think the internet becoming invisible, deskilled and no longer specialised or privileged, whilst at the same time becoming a primary interface which mediates the way we consume Art is a reality, and it’s something we would obviously all be talking about anyway. Its relation to Energy Drinks, Post-minimalism, Pop, fashion/tumblr tropes and a few privileged players within the scene should be separated from the idea of the term itself, I think. Maybe that’s true of accelerationist aesthetics also, though.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Lanthanum, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Lanthanum, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Lanthanum, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Lanthanum, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

I agree with you, of course. The issue is not the work referenced. When this terminology becomes so engrained within the system, it becomes so powerful that sometimes it overrides the work- both conceptually and formally.

What I’m really interested in at the moment is superstition, animism, paranoia, irrational or extreme relativism and a neo-psychedelic trance like experience which isn’t understood through some hippy filter but is orientated towards some other outcome. I don’t understand pragmatism, or having a real stance in these times. I also remembered there are most probably many ways of interpreting accelerationism or accelerationist aesthetics, some which are politically and economically pragmatic, others which maybe point towards inhuman or post-human conditions, which is maybe where OOO comes in.

I’m trying to develop a new project for Praseodymium which is, in part influenced by the GCHQ document The Art of Deception – Training for Online Covert Operations that was leaked by Edward Snowden. I like this idea that there are so many false gods, so many layers of farce, like the world governments paying people to hoax UFO sightings, and US Government agents giving fake evidence to Ufologists to further obscure the whole reality of the subject, to create ambiguity. So I’m thinking a lot about PSYOPS and I think it makes a lot of sense, especially in the internet-era of context collapse and attention-based mimetic flows. I’d like my work to be a PSYOP, in a way, but more of a hypothetical one.

When I’m making my work I’m often imagining it as an ancient artefact in some weird post-human future. As an artefact I think of it as a set of conditions or parameters or algorithm which is generative and amorphous and path-dependent. I was trying to do that especially with projects like Old Earth Objects and Post.Consumer.Cult because I’m aware that future AI and pattern recognition will be a major component in how artworks are shaped. From a distance those projects can look very similar to a lot of aesthetics you see all over the place, so in order to distinguish them, the reason for their specificity is quite personal or sentimental. With regards to what gives form or uniqueness, it would have to be based on the AI making a synthesis of my consciousness, to understanding the parameters of the project enough to accelerate it and cultivate it towards the most ideal and successful outcome. I think to an extent my aesthetics could be described as accelerationist or post-human in that I am relying on an emerging phantom limb of technology to achieve that ideal state for the work to aspire to, it’s the way I think of my work moving beyond me as a live body – into the future, co-adapting to its environment and shaped by technological and cultural feedback.

Terbium also looks quite alien in the literal sense, the 3d printed objects looks like facehuggers, the Goch text is an alien typeface. Goch mostly makes forest psytrance but much of the aesthetics in Terbium are like Alien/Dark psytrance in style, I think these subdivisions; alien/dark/forest are really important right now, so working with Goch was really integral because he’s also very much into ancient aliens and conspiracy theories as well and he’s on a very similar aesthetic plateau.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, detail, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.
Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, detail, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (Rare Earth Sculptures) Terbium, detail, Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

As you speak of this “phantom limb of technology” it strikes me how much our generation seems to be fascinated by speculative readings of the future that are primarily concerned with form, that is to say that the understanding or engagement with possibility is always somehow formalised through matter. What are your thoughts on this? Would you say that the idea of a generational heritage (related to artefacts and objects) highlights a human centric desire for posterity?

I think there is maybe an increasing amount of speculation or attention towards post-human or inhuman posterity, which is maybe related to anxiety over a perceived technological singularity and human obsolescence. In real world terms this probably amounts to thinking about how your Facebook operates after you die into understanding yourself as a social body which could operate independently from your actual body, so in a way it’s already happened and we are already acting and behaving on those terms. I saw a young woman a few seats ahead of me on a three hour coach journey yesterday tend to her social life throughout the whole trip, presented to me as a dark silhouette seen from behind operating a large screened smartphone, surfing various vines, instagrams and facebook posts, all were selfies and videos of people, always people, either her friends or possibly people she doesn’t know irl but follows and admires or aspires too.

It seems feasible that algorithms could be developed soon enough to continue a social identity after you die that operates through the cloud, especially if you were to be 3d scanned and combined with more developed artificial neural networks. I have a lot of anxiety and insecurity but maybe also disinterest over my organic self when mediated through images so I tend not to make too many selfies on the internet, but my project organisms being cultivated and acting as prosthesis and growing and developing independently after I die is very exciting to me. The least because I like to have complete control over my work and I’m usually disatisfied with other people’s re-contextualisation of it through their own photos, re-blogs, curation and through generalised loss of context.

This sounds a lot like I’m trying to say it’s my baby and I’m being overprotective and It’s all very sublime which is very problematic but I think there is an interest in it being always in a state of becoming or reaching towards this unreachable ideal state and never being content or satisfied or stabilised. Developing the right algorithms for it to continue its morphology and understanding it as this amorphous blob of diffused fragile matter that operates indifferent to human viewership and control is one way I like to understand it. Reza Negarestani wrote an essay for the book The Speculative Turn where he talks about a capitalist singularity which operates in such a way that it might break off into the realm of the inhuman which he relates to Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle. So I think in regards to any human construction that breaks off through some singularity into inhuman realms, like art or capitalism or selfies, you have to ask what form, or material this could take, that’s why I started thinking about things like an actual Winklevoss planet and actually trying to make a sculpture that could localise or track such an object.

Iain Ball, (RES) Terbium Dark Psy Energy pack, 2015 Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.

Iain Ball, (RES) Terbium Dark Psy Energy pack, 2015 Future Gallery, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Future Gallery.


So would you say that in your work there is a wish to bypass humanism by means of technology, in particular the notion of prosthesis and alternative versions of the I? If yes, does it concern you that the basis of such discourse, however interesting it may be, somehow leads to the same point, ie. pre-modernist existential concerns?

There are certainly attributes towards trying somehow, in vain, to bypass future cultural iconoclasms and preserve (perhaps artificially or through AI), and cultivate through some means the works ‘essential essence’ rather than let it become subjugated to the hybridisation of cultural transformations – but of course this kind of conservatism is inherently flawed when that ‘essence’ never existed in the first place and is entirely a false god. Im sure many people would agree that today, being aware of the constant entropic forces which act upon the form of the work to destabilize and reassemble its meaning and thus going with that flow is the best option rather than aiming for some impossible negentropic ideal.

Art’s subservience to the market, to attention and affectivity and to current tastes and fashions is myopic in that it will only be re-scrambled in the near future and what’s more these forces tend to create the effect of sanding down and whitewashing once colourful marble sculptures and removing the genitals of artistic output today in real time, so many people try to work within the framework of the current system rather than fight the tide of massive market and cultural influence. I started trying to develop works which, for their survival were dependent on the influence of high speed mutations and changes in the environment, firstly by creating works that you can’t look at directly, in that they can only be understood in relation to various proximities of associated content which is in a constant making, remaking and editing.

Later, I started making primary nuclear sculptural components which would act as mothership to a constellation of content which would, over time, cause that mothership sculpture to morphologically transform through different phase states, like the ship that changes all of its parts before returning to its original point of sail, the more stable, negentropic parts are the ones which survive environmental and cultural influence, but there is no way of telling exactly how the sculpture will look or what it will be , or what it will be doing, or used for in the future. With all of this in mind, I can at least start trying to assemble something, I think emerging AI, artifical neural networks and pattern recognition technologies will increasingly start to play a major part in this which will fundamentally change what it means to create a cultural artifact or make a conceptual artwork.

Iain Ball

TRUST – Interview with Sonia Dermience

Nina Beier, Perfect Duty, 2014. Installation view Kunsthalle Bremen. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Nina Beier, Perfect Duty, 2014. Installation view Kunsthalle Bremen. Photo: Torben Eskerod

On August 29, the exhibition TRUST opened its doors on the occasion of Copenhagen Art Festival 2015. This joint exhibition gathers together five of Copenhagen’s biggest art venues (Den Frie Udstillingsbygning, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Kunsthal Charlottenburg, Nikolaj Kunsthal and Overgaden – Institut for Samtidskunst) together with several off-spaces. Through October 25, the works of 41 participating artists and a rich programme of poetic statements and performative experiments fill the cityscape of Copenhagen. During my recent stay in the city, I had the pleasure to meet Sonia Dermience, the curator behind the exhibition, who told me about this year’s edition, a megalomaniac show whose focus is on collaborative processes.

When did you start working on the exhibition? Involving Copenhagen’s five major art institutions together with 41 artists must have been a somewhat challenging project?

Everything started more than a year ago: in May 2014 me and two other curators got a request by the Copenhagen Art Festival to make a proposal for the event. Each of us were invited to stay here in Copenhagen for a few days to take a look at places and venues, to explore the city landscape, and then to make a proposal based on this experience. I sent mine around mid-July, and when I got selected I started working on the project in September. This was perfect timewise, leaving me one year to work on it.

Mikkel Carl: No Woman is an Island, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod.

Mikkel Carl: No Woman is an Island, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod.


Jessica Baxter: Do Not Feed The Artist. They Have Already Too Much To Digest, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Jessica Baxter: Do Not Feed The Artist. They Have Already Too Much To Digest, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

What kind of proposal did you come up with in the first place?

The first concept I proposed has remained almost unchanged until the present day. After my first visit in Copenhagen I had this idea of working on five major kunsthalles of Copenhagen, and to add a layer of fiction on the overall project by renaming them. I guess that my proposal was completely megalomaniac – I wanted to use the whole city as a context for the exhibition. Especially this city, Copenhagen, has a strong aesthetics of a classical, occidental city with its palaces and churches – a city where you can find all the traditional places and symbols of power.

I wanted to approach the curatorial process through a historical and aesthetic reworking of the places. For example Nikolaj Kunsthal, a historical church, was rebaptized as The Temple. For me a church, or in this case, The Temple, stands for meditation, no matter what is the religious orientation. What is particularly interesting in this case is that the venue is located in a middle of a busy shopping district, leaving us two antagonistic activities: consumption and contemplation. For this space, I asked three collectives to work on these aspects, consumption and entertainment. When working on the history and the aesthetics of The Temple, I had several questions in my mind: what are our everyday collective rituals, new forms of cothinking and coproduction?

We Are The Painters. Threshold of Apparition, 2015. Installation view. Photo: Torben Eskerod

We Are The Painters. Threshold of Apparition, 2015. Installation view. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Good Times & Nocturnal News #3. Installation view. Photo: Torben Ekserod

Good Times & Nocturnal News #3. Installation view. Photo: Torben Ekserod

Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst was named as The Exchange: in our capitalist society, the exchanged goods can also be immaterial ones – exchanging thoughts and gestures. This is the recreated identity of Overgaden Institut for Samtidskunst, which is a typical post-industrial factory-style warehouse that has been converted into an art center. For this particular place, the idea was to invite artists to collaborate together: to produce a piece together, which would develop into a collective show inside a collective show. When inviting artists I gave them some key words or some sort of a story in the beginning, a fictional basis. That’s to avoid too heavy, thematic shows where we are intended to talk about a specific topic.

Then there is The Salon (Kunstforeningen GL STRAND), which is the model image of a bourgeois house. In this exhibition, the idea is to enter in a house where the habitants don’t live anymore. What is left are the objects, a testimony of their past domestic life, which finally become the characters on the stage. There are seven rooms all in all, and for each of them I asked the artists to recreate something reminiscent of an artist studio: the visitor goes from one room to another, where you can find solo shows in a continuous series. It questions the idea of an artist studio today, and as we know, the image of this is quite nomadic today: it is more about the artist’s inner landscape.

The Palace (Kunsthal Charlottenburg) stands for the palace of culture: it’s relevant to our understanding on democratization of art. This idea derives from the royal palace: for example Louvre was the palace of the king before it was transformed into a museum. All these objects together aim to give an understanding of our surroundings, it is a sort of a curiosity cabinet, where our knowledge of the world is constructed through objects we see. Later, these palaces were opened to the public. For this kunsthalle, I requested artists particularly to work on this idea of collecting, which constitutes some sort of a repetitive pattern.

Ditte Gantriis, La Vida Loca, Body and soul, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Ditte Gantriis, La Vida Loca, Body and soul, 2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Nanna Debois Buhl, Botanizing on the Asphalt,2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Nanna Debois Buhl, Botanizing on the Asphalt,2015. Photo: Torben Eskerod

What about the title of the show?

In my first proposal I hadn’t changed the names of the places, but since the beginning I was looking for a way to link all the different venues together. I started to search for a connecting verb or a word, and finally I came up with Trust. The initial point was to make an institutional critique. For example, the idea that we’re not sure if we should trust the institutions today: most of the time when we go to see an exhibition at an art institution, we don’t know what to expect – this reflects the idea on trusting the institution and the location. What is interesting, is that the connotation of this verb is inherently positive, however implying immediately its negation: Trust – Don’t Trust.

Choice of particular words and their use play a major role in the construction of fiction. As a curator, if you do a deliberate show on a particular theme, it can easily be a straightforward demonstration against something and thus, get a political agenda. However, when working through a more poetic approach, it is easier to share the work between the curator and the artists. I give my personal reflection of the places – these places of power – and subsequently the artists have the freedom to do something else, not only by commenting.

Besides the classical venues the exhibition includes also several off-space locations, for example Torben Ribe’s installation in a pizzeria. Could you tell more about this?

By working on off-space locations, I wanted to approach the city landscape from a different point of view. In the beginning I wanted to work on generic places, for example on a parking lot or in a supermarket, and put them on the same level as the classical art institutions, the institutional places of power.

How familiar were you with the city beforehand?

It was very good that they asked me to come already in May last year to visit the city so I had the chance to take a look around before drafting my proposal. But of course in this kind of context you behave like a tourist, and accept the fact of not knowing all the small details and subtle differences. The city was like a postcard in the beginning for me, and actually, I somehow wanted to stay on that level, to follow the printed image of the postcard: what is generic here and how the city is represents occident, classical Europe. I wanted to do a proposition on this landscape, from my point of view as a tourist.

Vava Dudu, Le Poison, 2015 in Nørgaard Paa Strøget. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Vava Dudu, Le Poison, 2015 in Nørgaard Paa Strøget. Photo: Torben Eskerod


Torben Ribe, Untitled (Scrambled programme), 2015 in The Pizzeria. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Torben Ribe, Untitled (Scrambled programme), 2015 in The Pizzeria. Photo: Torben Eskerod

In 2012 you founded Komplot, where the focus is strongly on nomadic practices. I guess this background is also to be found in your proposal?

Totally, my personal curatorial practice is very nomadic. All the artists I invited to take part in the project couldn’t make it here, so they had to imagine the context and to rely on my storytelling of it. In the exhibition, we also have a lot of local artists, who obviously have a different kind of knowledge and sensibility towards the city. Here, also the idea of hospitality comes along: how do you welcome newcomers, how does a local artist position itself next to an artist coming from abroad? Along the way, some sort of a movement, a story emerged: most of the artists already knew each other beforehand and were invited to participate in the show in the very beginning, so they knew that they were taking part in something together. I see the role of the curator to create the context for the artists to work within, to give them a stimulus which they need to react to. Even with an existing piece, the artists should be able to project and imagine it in a new context, in a new framework. So all this process has been like a story, a play which has been shaping throughout the year. When starting something like this, you can never know what the outcome is.

Sofie Haesaets: Alignment. Photo: Torben Ekserod.

Sofie Haesaets: Alignment. Photo: Torben Ekserod.

Sonia Dermience (Belgium) founded Komplot in Brussels in 2002, a curatorial collective concerned with nomadic creative practices. Under the name of Catherine Vertige, she conducted extensive research into post ’68 collaborative art practices in Belgium with seminars and the two documentary films Sad In Country. In 2009 Komplot founded The Public School Brussels. Since 2010 Komplot is located in a converted warehouse dedicated to exhibitions, residencies and studios. Komplot published three issues of YEAR magazine between 2011 and 2013. Recently, Sonia Dermience re-initiated an individual curatorial practice with this exhibition, TRUST taking place in five kunsthals in Copenhagen.

Together with: Martin Erik Andersen (Denmark), Felicia Atkinson (France), Jakup Auce (Belgium), Elena Bajo (Spain), Jessica Baxter (Belgium), Nina Beier (Denmark), Maiken Bent (Denmark), Ellen Cantor (USA), Mikkel Carl (Denmark), Cel Crabeels (Belgium), Nanna Debois Buhl (Denmark), Vava Dudu (France), Sophie Dupont (Denmark), FOS (Denmark), Ditte Gantriis (Denmark), Sofie Haesaerts (Belgium), Steinar Haga Christensen (Norway), Maj Hasager (Denmark), Pernille Kapper Williams (Denmark), Ilja Karilampi (Sweden), A Kassen (Denmark), Seyran Kirmizitoprak (Belgium), Egle Kulbokaite (Sweden) Emmanuelle Lainé (France), Adriana Lara (Mexico), Jacopo Miliani (Italy), Cécile Noguès (France), Officin (Denmark), Carl Palm (Sweden), Douglas Park (UK), Angelo Plessas (Greece), Laure Prouvost (UK/France), Torben Ribe (Denmark), Ebbe Stub Wittrup (Denmark), Zin Taylor (Canada/Belgium), The After Lucy Experiment (Belgium), Harald Thys & Jos De Gruyter (Belgium), Benjamin Valenza (France/Switzerland), Loic Vanderstichelen & Jean-Paul Jacquet (Belgium), We Are The Painters (France), Atalay Yavuz (Turkey).

Copenhagen Art Festival 2015

Interview with Cristiana Palandri

L'œil ouvert sur la noirceur, 2015, performance, PPP, at Teatro Marinoni, Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

L’œil ouvert sur la noirceur, 2015, performance, PPP, at Teatro Marinoni, Venice. Courtesy of the artist.

L’Homme Face à la Nuit Reconnaît son Incomplétude is the new edition work by artist Cristiana Palandri, presented and launched in preview at The Art Markets; the project combines music, drawing and art printing. Working both as a visual artist and as a musician, behind the alias of Yokokono, in this interview the artist has discussed her multi-disciplinary work, as well as her interests and references. The discussion touches some of her most important older and recent works, revealing the development of her practice during these years.

Let’s begin with your latest performance, which was part of the series of events in the project PPP at Teatro Marinoni in Venice, during the Biennale in May. What was the project and how did it go?

L’œil ouvert sur la noirceur was both a sound and installation performance. It was the first time that I wanted and tried to put together these aspects of my practice, which I have been working on for long, but that had remained in separate sectors. In this case I was inside a structure, shaped like two small sharp summits covered with a dark curtain, from where I played with another musician. The production of the sound was made with the instruments that I usually employ – computer and synthesizers – and in part based on pre-registered and improvised tracks. All the lights in the theatre were off, as if I wanted to annul the space, so there was not a lot that was visible, only the sound. However, after about twenty minutes, I switched on a light from the inside of the structure and given the semi-transparency of the fabric you could see the figures playing against the light, and the articulation of the structure it-self. Obviously, the light influenced the sound.

In respect to other performances that I did in Berlin and Florence in past years, this time it was a bit different, but the parameters of the work remain the same ones: noise, drone and concrete music playing in a nocturnal situation where unexpectedly the space lights up. The sounds are in part natural, truly resembling a natural habitat, and in part are primordial sounds, that give the acoustic impression related to a creation, to a genesis – perhaps is better to say. Also the coordination of the action is more or less the same as what I have always worked on: to try to create an environment in this theatre, being this the primary reason for me to almost “annulling” it switching off all lights. I wanted to modify the structure in the location through the action.

As a performer you use your the alias Yokokono, whereas as visual artist you work with your own name. These two “persons” are obviously both part of you and are getting closer lately. Has something changed in their interaction?

Until very recently, I have always tried to separate these two aspects, although they are integrated in my daily life. Now, with maintaining both names, it is more spontaneous for me to merge sound in my other performances; in the future, maybe even in other works, making hybrid forms that were once going on two separate channels, although only for the public and not in myself.

Reverse, 2010, performance, Fondazione Merz, Turin. Courtesy of the artist.

Reverse, 2010, performance, Fondazione Merz, Turin. Courtesy of the artist.


Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος, 2012, performance, Museo Marino Marini, Firenze. Courtesy of the artist.

Ἀνερρίφθω κύβος, 2012, performance, Museo Marino Marini, Firenze. Courtesy of the artist.

You have spanned very much in your artistic production: drawing, installation, sculpture, photography, performance, script writing, sound. We could say you are an eclectic or – as we say today – an interdisciplinary and multimedia artist. I’d like to say that you work is complete, almost scenic, in the sense that it comprehends a multiplicity of languages that concern the same narration.

I think my work has become more lyric and poetic. It used to be related to something uncanny, but in the last two or three years I have recovered this lyric and dreamlike side, that has always been there, but that I have never revealed so clearly in the work. For example, the idea of Cosmogonie was born, quite banally, in Berlin in a moment when I could not see the sky, which corresponded to a sort of isolation that I have lived in that period in that city. It was a drive to find something more lyrical, I think. I am interested in working on an aspect that has to do with what is nocturnal and the possibility to imagine and represent a constellation or the outer Space, which is to me the most mysterious thing. From this I have made Farmacon firstly and the series Cosmogonie and the rest of the recent works, from the performances to my drawings.

Although I believe I understand what you mean, I do not completely approve the term “scenic.” I can intend it not with reference to something theatrical, but I share the term only as a metaphor of what I do: creating an atmosphere, creating a world, with its landscapes, its particularities and its branches, from sound to drawing, never anyhow with a theatrical presentation, yet as enactment of visibility, of positioning oneself in first person.

In one of your last series of drawings, you were inspired by a passage of Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo, integrating words into the drawings. The making of these pieces is similar to that of the series Cosmogonie, yet here there is also a written part, how did this need come about?

In this case it was a fortuitous encounter, thanks to the discovery of this writing, that I found particularly interesting as a mirror not on my work but on certain aspects of what I try to include into my work. Taking certain quoting that I considered more significant, I thought about making some drawings on and from some extracts of this text – it really was a natural step. I am accustomed to treat writing as drawing; since my first series Untitled I have used words, although in a different way. Not as in this case, the words reflected what I was thinking in the act of drawing and were treated as drawing, whereas in the new series the words are not mine but are borrowed from another author. In part, the words are drawn and in part simply copied, so they do not go with the flow of the drawing. This is the biggest difference in respect to how I used words in my work before.

Oversight, 2008, performance, MLAC, Rome. Courtesy of the artist.

Oversight, 2008, performance, MLAC, Rome. Courtesy of the artist.

In some of your performances your physical presence is very strong and guides the performative act (I am thinking about U.O. and Oversight, for example) and in other more recent ones instead you disappear and hide yourself!

I believe they are all very consequential steps. In the oldest performance Oversight the idea was to reveal my sculptural practice, although not literally. For this piece, I have built a sculpture with the body of another person, enacting the whole thing, although the idea at the base was still to reveal myself, to lay bare the my way of working with sculpture. The step after was U.O. (i.e. Unidentified Object), because I went from showing my sculptural act to gradually become a sculture myself. In the performance, starting from my feet, I bound and annexed some objects to my body, some of which I found around in the city of Bangkok (where I was doing the performance) and some other objects that I used commonly in my work. After I had tied up my body with enough objects, I disappeared underneath them; but in addition to this I was also interested in the fact that it was the sculpture itself that was determining the end of the performance, i.e. when I was not able to continue to fasten more objects, because it became impossible to move. It was a way to say that sculpture had its own autonomy in the construction, reflecting certain processes that I try to put in action and develop in my artistic research. This idea persists also in drawing when the drawing starts to draw itself, not as an automatism, but according to a kind of “controlled out-of-control,” where I do not decide the shape and I don’t want to make planned relation between one line and the other.

And at the end, from my point of view, it goes directly to the autonomy of the performance itself, where I am not there anymore: I perform, but only from within the sculture. More or less, all my performance work has to do with sculpture and the research of its limits and its possibilities. From that on, I have started to understand how a sculpture could be changed by an action and become an extension of the space, coming to be then environment.

U.O., 2009, performance, BACC, Bangkok. Courtesy of the artist.

U.O., 2009, performance, BACC, Bangkok. Courtesy of the artist.


U.O., 2009, performance, BACC, Bangkok. Courtesy of the artist.

U.O., 2009, performance, BACC, Bangkok. Courtesy of the artist.

Is this project of the edition – which you are presenting at The Art Markets Book Store – another effort of trespassing between music and drawing?

It is a very small edition project of 50 pieces, that I titled L’Homme Face à la Nuit Reconnaît son Incomplétude, where I wanted to combine a soundtrack of mine recorded on CD, with a monotype xylography, which has this kind of abstract zoomorphic shape made with silver enamel and ink on dark paper. The point of the project is to parallel minimal music with printing and art graphics. In fact, I find there is a relation between these two languages: in minimal music, the repetition significantly changes with respect to the development of the bar, and in art prints the monotype maintains a constant, but it slightly differs it-self from one print to the other. As I have worked in both directions, I thought about putting them on the same level in one project which includes both, with no intent of being descriptive – although it may happen anyways. I wanted to make them coexist as one work.

What other projects are you working on at the moment?

In September I will take part of a show in Turin that comprehends artists that are related with the work of Carol Rama – I think to his figure and character more then anything else. It will be organised into some small double exhibitions in various venues in the city. And then, about in the same period, I will release Adieu, a tape of 5 tacks for the Dutch label Søvn. The most interesting thing of this release is that the label works with a musician and an artist for the packaging. In my case, as I do both, I will develop the whole project myself.

L'homme face à la nuit reconnaît son incomplétude, xylographie , CD, Courtesy of the artist.

L’homme face à la nuit reconnaît son incomplétude, xylographie, CD, Courtesy of the artist.

Cristiana Palandri YokoKono Sovnrecords