ART WORLD CONVERSATIONS


Art Residency, exhibitions, and a 360 public programme: V.O Curations is breaking up the scene for emerging and underrepresented artists in London.

V.O CURATIONS

Located in central London, V.O Curations is an arts organisation dedicated to supporting emerging and underrepresented artists, curators and researchers through an innovative and critically-engaged programme.

 

Founded in 2018 by Zina Vieille and Nnamdi Obiekwe, V.O Curations believes that to curate is to approach all aspects of our programme - residencies, exhibitions, events, publications and studio spaces - with care.

V.O Curations promotes diverse voices and narratives across all of our activities and projects. Our programme aims to facilitate artistic exchange, socially-focused discourse, knowledge production and experimentation.

 

We are focused on cultivating a sense of community, promoting collaboration and encouraging active learning rather than passive viewing.

In January 2021, V.O Curations will open its new hub at 56 Conduit Street, which will be the site for its residency programme along with a gallery, project space and artist studios. This new location in Mayfair reinforces our com- mitment to connecting emerging and underrepresented artists to distinctive networks and resources.

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Left: Nnamdi Obiekwe, Right: Zina Vieille

 

Why did you choose London as your main city to start VO.Curations?

With countless reputable arts schools, London holds a diverse set of artistic practices and voices, which allowed us to meet and connect with artists easily that we hoped to collaborate with!

VO. Curation is quite diverse in respect to what’s around. Other than providing a space for artists, you are consistent in giving opportunities and creating collaborations. Where did this idea come from?

We believe that to curate is to approach all aspects of our programme with care. We ensure our spaces are not only accessible, but supportive and inspiring for artists to collaborate towards an engaging programme of exhibitions and events. With this in mind, we place emphasis on central locations for these cultural hubs, so as to reinvigorate emerging art within a visible and public domain.

It was exciting to learn on your website about how you go around curating exhibitions for your residents. You put emphasis on keeping “a critical” aspect, by initiating workshops and talks, lectures and screenings. I imagine it to create a greater conversation around art. Do you think that galleries have lost that?

More now than ever before, galleries offer adjacent public programmes to their audiences, which is engaging to see and, in turn, form a part of. We want to create diverse dialogues and experiences within our spaces. It is rewarding to have an organisation that values aspects of a commercial gallery, yet equally strives to inform, educate and present underrepresented groups and narratives.

How you curate goes hand in hand with the residents and residencies you represent. Do the artists help with the curatorial process?

Our curation process very much involves the artists, as we have always felt that artists are often the best curators. The exchange that lies between practice and conceptualisation is always exciting, and we know that this outlook will always encourage a 360 approach.

 

 An organisation centred around collaboration, community and support in a global pandemic breathes out solidarity. Communication must not have been easy though. How did you get by it to keep your residence engaged? Did you use specific ways to communicate with them?

Luckily, our residency artists are still able to work from their studios, as they are private and safe spaces. Studio visits have moved online for the time being, but this has only increased the amount of contact we have been able to have with our artists!

The pandemic itself has impacted the art world immensely. Sales and fair models are being revisited, and artists themselves, have been trapped in their homes, making it difficult for them to find that creative drive they used to have. How did your residents react?

Most artists were impacted by the abrupt changes and cancellation of their shows, projects etc, but we also noticed that it gave them the time for renewed focus on their work without the pressure to meet deadlines.

With your brand new space coming up it looks like you are set for a new beginning. What expectations do you have, after the pandemic will be finally over?

 With the launch of our new headquarters in Mayfair, which will be the site for our residency programme, alongside a gallery, project space and select artists studios; we are excited to hit the ground running, and continue our commitment to connecting emerging and underrepresented artists to distinctive networks and resources.

An Atlas of Emotions: on the practice of Sasha Cherkas 
by Elizabeth Aisher Crespi

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During the 1970s, many ideas of containment and liberation came to the surface during a period of intense artistic experimentation with the body. From the early performances of Kerry Trengove, Stuart Brisley, and Tunga to the more recent works of Zhang Huan, Hu Yunchang, and Aki Sasamoto - there was a shift in which artists began to use the body as tool to channel their anxieties in some form or another.

Sasha Cherkas (Moscow, Russia) is a London based artist. After completing her BA at Central Saint Martins in Jewellery Design, she went on to do her MA in Sculpture from 2018 - 2020 at the Royal College of Art.

Cherkas’ artistic practice lends itself well to the elements described above, in which art can be used a form of dealing with an overwhelming sense of anxiety and discomfort. The human body takes on a central role in Cherkas’ work. For the artist— it is through the body that she can access the most layered and complex parts of the psyche. Through this inner work, she can project an external reality onto the physical world, thereby releasing itself from the panic ridden, tense body that it arises from.

Often experimenting in public or outdoor spaces, Cherkas invites the viewer to make a series of intimate choices within a new environment- treating her body as a territory in which both she and the viewer can playfully explore limitations in time and space. This is exactly what happened during her performance Second Skin, a work that took place at Central Saint Martins in May 2017 as part of ‘The Space In Between’, an exhibition curated by Elizabeth Aisher Crespi and Maria Jane. Through a diverse range of mediums, from sculptures to videos, the exhibition explored notions of comfort versus discomfort, examining the metaphysical boundaries in anatomy and the connections they form amongst objects and with space.

Cherkas’ performance, Second Skin, consisted of her lying on her stomach with an alabaster arch wrapped around her waist like a belt. Visitors were encouraged to take a tool of choice – chisels, files, or a mallet – and they could carve away on this object, my second skin. The object represents Cherkas’ body and repeats the curve of the back from the inside. Second Skin materializes the origin of communication and movement between the audience and the body. In a sense, the object thus becomes an extension of the body. The artist deliberately invites the participants to invade her personal space, to engage in this personal emotional exchange of energies.

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“It is my atlas of emotions that I collect through the shared action with them. This moment creates a twist of tension from the object to the participant. Now they become the main character in the space between my body and the audience.”

- Sasha Cherkas

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As well as this performance, Cherkas displayed a piece titled Self Portrait: Reaching Comfort. The work conveys the fine line between comfort and discomfort. The chair is a situation, as well as a continuation of the (female) body. The delicate alabaster and bronze pieces resting on the chair were made in response to the body, acting as a second skin. Not only does this work evoke much thought on notions of strength and femininity, but it also emits the utmost level of craftsmanship that Cherkas has over the materials she works with. The delicately treated alabaster and bronze reflects the artist’s sensitive skill and dedication. Most recently, Cherkas exhibited her work Lacunar amnesia between the elbow and the wall as part of a group exhibition at Art Biesenthal in Berlin, Germany. Using wood, marble and ice, the piece focused on movement and fluidity— considering physical and emotional states of the mind and the body.

Indeed, Cherkas’ practice is best described as sitting between “the interface where the body and language blend”, as critic Mary Ritchie Key put it in The Relationship of Verbal and Nonverbal Communication. By inviting the participant to release their tension, Cherkas hopes that the tension can be shared as a communal experience rather than a confined sensation. Through her works, her own emotions as well as those of the viewers, can be treated non judgementally and can be let go - whether positive or negative.

Cherkas is currently working on a series of new works which will be exhibited as part of ‘Space Lapse: RCA Sculpture 2020’ at the Royal Society of Sculptors, London.

Installation View:

Lacunar amnesia between the elbow and the wall Art Biesenthal, 2019

Installation View: Art Biesenthal, 2019

Installation View: 202 Gallery, Central Saint Martins, 2017.

“The ice pieces represent the negative space between my elbow and the wall. I am stuck in the threshold. They represent me and partake of both a fictional and a documentary identity; it is real and imaginary, a thing and a commodity.”

"INSIDE OUT"

TWO YOUNG ITALIAN GALLERISTS SHARE THEIR PERSPECTIVES ON THE

ART INDUSTRY TODAY

SOFIA ALEMAGNA

SALES ADMINISTRATOR AT WHITE CUBE

GALLERY, LONDON

ANNA CAMERANA

ASSISTANT TO GLOBAL SALES DIRECTOR AT

WHITE CUBE GALLERY, LONDON

Like so many industries, the pandemic has urged significant, at times painful, although arguably much needed change in the art world. With countless opportunities for sales cancelled or indefinitely postponed, art businesses, particularly art galleries, have been forced to re-evaluate how art is bought and sold. A myriad of online viewing rooms has come to replace travel and in person modes of exhibition, once pivotal constituents of the art world and art market. 

 

While this new remote model of business has significantly reduced costs, job security in art galleries has sadly plummeted, particularly for those working in no longer essential, at least for the time being, departments such as events, fairs etc. And while most experienced art collectors had grown accustomed to online buying well before the pandemic, often purchasing art exclusively via PDF, online viewing rooms have proven an all but satisfactory solution, as seen by the number of artists whose outreach has suffered due to the lack of in person exhibitions and events. Augmented and virtual reality, for instance, have managed to breach the gap somewhat, proving interesting experiential tools for mid-sized, predominately two-dimensional work, but have yet to convincingly translate the phenomenological intricacies of seeing art in the flesh.  

 

That is not to say, however, that this new mode of experiencing art is irrelevant, or in any way temporary - a means to weather the storm. On the contrary, for the most part I feel that galleries’ expansion of the digital realm has prompted a profound shift towards a more inclusive approach to artistic representation. Indeed, what was most interesting for me to experience during this crisis was a subtle, yet important breakdown of previously engrained hierarchies. Both in terms of how art is exhibited and collected, the sudden rise of online viewing rooms and exhibitions has allowed for greater transparency and visibility. 

 

As a leading contemporary art gallery, White Cube has consistently distinguished itself for its more daring choices of representation, often promoting less established artists at various stages of their careers. While at the time necessary, the gallery’s development of its online exhibition programme advanced this attitude exponentially. In White Cube’s case, the launch of virtual initiatives such as the gallery’s dynamic ‘Introductions’ series, which showcase the work of artists not represented by White Cube, has made way for a potentially infinite variety of new and exciting voices. Amongst my favourites of the series is the most recent Emma Cousin online exhibition, whose humorous, at times disquieting bodily figurations confound a clear sense of narrative to embrace instead a potential for multiple interpretations, unencumbered by the restrictions of language. Consistently shedding light on diverging modes of expression, White Cube’s ‘Introductions’ are a testament to the shifting role of art galleries, and their potential to effectively shape and support increasingly multifaceted insights into the contemporary art world. 

 

As is often true of crises, the pandemic, along with the events of 2020 at large have also underscored a newfound consciousness in the art world for social issues. Galleries and other art businesses positioned themselves alongside artists at the very forefront of social activism, as evidenced by the increase of fundraising initiatives calling for action and support across the industry. It was both inspiring and humbling to witness the passion and effort that made possible White Cube’s and its artists’ response to the pandemic. This consisted of the release of three limited charity editions – ‘Who Cares Wins’ by Harland Miller, ‘Together’ by Antony Gormley and ‘Dream and Refuge’ by Michael Armitage - the proceeds of which were donated to non-profit organisations and cultural support initiatives providing relief from the pandemic, targeting issues such as mental health and health care, which had been respectively selected by each artist.  

 

From the receiving end, that of collectors and the public, there seems to be in turn a growing concern for art that speaks to present social concerns. For me, this was most prominently emphasized by the interest in Tracey Emin’s online exhibition at White Cube this summer. Poignantly entitled, ‘I Thrive on Solitude’, the show featured Tracey’s new work produced in isolation as she resided in her long-term London home during the first lockdown. These tranquil scenes of domestic existence, while deeply intimate both in scale and nature, forcefully bring forth shared feelings of contemplation and anticipation that characterised for many the lockdown period.

 

On a more general spectrum, there has been – actually for some time now, but perhaps accelerated by the pandemic - an increasing trend within the art market for artists belonging to under-represented minorities. Although this trend has often caused the undesired, and somewhat paradoxical effect of further marginalising artists from minority groups, allowing for their work to be seen exclusively as instances of supposed and predefined subjectivities, I feel that society’s newfound yearning for shared experience is cause for hope. We are a long way from what is arguably an all too idealistic prospect of a truly inclusive art world and art market, yet this might be where the real work begins.  

1. You work in the art world in London, dynamics in this industry are changing today more than ever. First the pandemic and now Brexit. Are there any predominant changes you have specifically noticed in that your industry has adapted to?Are there any changes that you expect to happen in the near future?

It has certainly been a challenging year for the artworld, whose standardized and traditional methods of sustaining the market, nurturing artist developments and client relationships have been challenged. I am amazed of how quick the art market has adapted to the obstacles that the pandemic has given to our market. The quickest adaptation we have all seen this year has been the full embracement of the digital platform. We have all seen technology being slowly approached in this industry throughout the last two decades, but it was never fully endorsed

at the same pace as other markets. Given that the art world has always had a more interpersonal approach, no one could have known how and whether the art world system would have worked well by fully embracing and only relying on the digital world this year. The evermore-increasing technological world could have challenged the very basis of how the art world structure has always been based on. I cannot say what will happen in the future, but what I can certainly say is that the digital platform is already helping, and will even more, attract the attention of different audiences who have had obstacles to embrace themselves with the world of art. Thanks to technology, the art world can become more democratic ,it can and it will reach different audiences and new generations.

2. In a moment where the digital and the physical world are merging into a hybrid, how do you see art galleries evolve in the next 15 years? Do you think the digital realm as a sustainable option for an art gallery of your level?

I believe that the digital realm will be a sustainable option not only for art galleries, but for the art world itself. This hybrid union between the digital and the physical world you are talking about, which began in the 1990’s with technological evolution,has led to a changing culture where social interaction is based on the use of technology. The digital world has and it is further shifting the system of interaction, communication and valuation of art. What I believe is that art institutions are now even more adapting to technology and I can only see it as a powerful tool to promote art, as well to increase audience attendance, including the young audience. We are facing a new phenomenon, which is that of techno culture, describing how nowadays technology and culture are united, in the end, what Walter Benjamin feared of in his book “The World of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. While digital world is and will allow for a new method of processing art, artworks will always be unique to their environment in which they exist. What we are going towards is a dual relationship with art, a physical

accessibility to the artwork as well as a proactive technological interconnection with the audience. The embrace of the digital platform in the art scene will allow to function as a mediation to experience artworks and as a site where experiences are almost becoming the real. If our world is increasingly digital and technology has shifted the systems of interaction, assessment and communication, then digital platforms shall be seen as the tool to reach the wider audience and to strengthen the art market into new realities of our evermore increasing technological future.

3. Your last exhibition in your mayfair gallery was showcasing recent works by Tracey Emin which she developed during the pandemic as she was also recently diagnosed with a severe sickness. In a moment of such delicacy and empathy towards health crises, how do you think this show was perceived by your audience? Do you think showcasing series of ‘cathartic’ art expressions current to these unprecedented times is going

to become more common in the future?

I have always admired Tracey for her honesty and transparency of what humans can struggle with, and her unique ability to use art as a powerful tool to give voice to human taboos. Society tends to hide problems, humans tend to hide their traumas, but Tracey has always been transparent of what happens in the private life of a human being. This year we have all been faced with struggles, traumas, losses, and her work can only be a powerful instrument for our audience to accept that life is made of challenges. Embracing and giving a voice to challenges,whatever everyone is facing, makes you stronger. I believe and I hope her recent exhibition in our Mayfair gallery has given our audience the message that obstacles can be overcome. Art can be a powerful tool to represent traumas, and as a consequence, a powerful instrument of healing.

4. What is the piece that most appealed to you during your time working at White Cube and why?

My favourite exhibition while working at White Cube has been Anselm Kiefer’ exhibition ‘Super String, Runes, the Norns, Gordian Knot’ at White Cube Bermondsey in 2019. Having written my dissertation on him analysing his works from the very 1960’s up until the 2000’s, seeing this completely new series of works was once again a surprise of his incredible ability to bring together different theories, religions, mythologies, astronomy and histories. What this show has demonstrated is that everything is interconnected. The most astonishing work of the exhibition was the installation of 30 vitrines in the gallery corridor, whose title is the very one of the exhibition, and whose overwhelming presence gave the audience the space of self-reflection, not only of what would be seen in the other rooms of the show, but also a moment for the viewer to sit with its emotions, to ponder the power that art can transpose to ourselves as a tool of analysis of ourselves, a contemplation of the interconnectivity of everything. His ability is to act as an archaeologist of knowledge and to find powerful aesthetic tools

to translate these different strands of theories that transpose history, in a unique manner that can speak to everyone. Kiefer has invested decades of his artistic production in dealing with the taboos and traumatic memories of his country’s past. In a broader sense, Kiefer has successfully achieved to demonstrate how art can be a tool to reflect, heal and embrace engage in consciousness transposing history and generations.

"AMANITA"
Caio Twombly

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In March of 2020, I was in New York City with my good friend Christian Luiten — Christian founded Avant Arte in 2014, he and I had met in the City during 2017 through Robert Nava. Given our similar age and passions, namely art and football, he and I quickly became friends and even worked on a show together in 2017. We were in the midst of planning a second show for May 2020, which for known reasons never came to be. Rumors of Covid started spreading like wildfire throughout March, and with both my parents being the first to be locked down in Italy, the mirage of hosting a show in 2020 quickly started to fade. Before leaving to quarantine in Italy, Christian and I discussed current events, and even though circumstances were objectively daunting, we both confessed to a childlike sense of excitement. The world was changing so visibly and quickly, and it felt as if we were living through a truly memorable event.

Even though time during quarantine never seemed to pass

and an insufferable stillness surmised, it also felt as if the

world was at a confessional both and along with it, so were

we, all its inhabitants. All pressures, from academic to social, were suddenly lifted. Everyone had the perfect excuse, to not attend, not reply, not follow up etc. Being relieved of all pressures was highly rewarding, even in the case of the show that never was...for even though I am willing and able to put forth a show and lay bricks to my career in art, I still admit to the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing, nor why I’m doing it.

With a newly restored sense of tranquility, far away from the

anthropomorphic zoo of New York, possibilities for creative

intent felt necessary. For the first time in my life, I felt as if

there was a need for more art and dialogue — especially within

the Italian scene. With so much time being wasted, Covid

(for me, and allegedly many of my peers) worked as a kind

of motivator, to build and renew. During quarantine, I began

working on Amanita — an exhibition space I have opened in

early February of 2021 in Florence in collaboration with Avant

Arte. Spending a big portion of the year in Italy, it became evident

that Italy was too far behind in ambitions of art, and there

is too little opportunity for young artists to grow. In a summer

spent with Italian curators, musicians and artists, it became

clear that this is a conundrum that involves us all, and with

the immensity of Italian cultural baggage and historical artistic

excellence, it is simply inadmissible.”

Francesca Morpurgo & Claudia Dwek

 

IN CONVERSATION: MOTHER/DAUGHTER SERIES

FRANCESCA MORPURGO

COURTAULD INSTITUTE OF ART, HISTORY OF

ART MA 2020; UCL HISTORY OF ART &

PHILOSOPHY BA 2018

CLAUDIA DWEK

SOTHEBY’S, CHAIRMAN, CONTEMPORARY

ART, EUROPE; DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, EUROPE;

CHAIRMAN, ITALY

During the past 8 months the world has had to quickly adapt to these challenging circumstances. How has your working life changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

“Usually, when thinking of the art world, a series of events such as art fairs, exhibitions

and auctions come to mind. Season after season, there is always that one next gathering or opening to look forward to. The excitement of being able to see new works or historic masterpieces never ends. But this year is different to every other. As the pandemic crippled

throughout the globe, the art world had to adapt itself to social distancing measures, inevitably changing its rhythm and dynamics. As a neo-graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art and someone whose career in the arts has just started, I have been observing these changes

closely and trying to understand what this world will look like in the future. My mother, Claudia Dwek, who has worked in this sector for many years, has shared with me her point of view on how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the art world, and to which extent she expects these effects to be permanent.“My working life has definitely changed a lot since March. I was used to travelling at least twice a week, both in Italy and abroad, to see collections and collectors worldwide and to attend international auctions.I did not go to an airport for months and I was in touch with my colleagues from London, New York and Paris only through Zoom. When I went to London for the first time after lockdown at the end of July, to attend our ‘Rembrandt to Richter’auction, it felt somehow special. I never thought I would miss being in an airport or sitting on a plane. My life between March and June would have been split,

as it happens every year, between art fairs in Milan, auction week in New York

and Paris, and then Art Basel in Switzerland,which I had not missed in the past

20 years. I myself had to quickly adapt to a virtual life, which I definitely was not used to. Almost everything shifted from visual to virtual, which can be quite challenging when you work in the art world. It has been quite a sudden change, and absolutely unexpected. Workwise, we turned our core businesses from live to online, and have been working remotely where possible. We put a lot of effort in coordinating and reorganizing all office work, and into thinking how we

could operate in these unprecedented times. What was most challenging was the inability to make plans even for the foreseeable future. One after the other, all art fairs, live auctions and exhibition openings were cancelled. And this has been going on also throughout the fall.”

As you mentioned, with the pandemic everything shifted from visual to virtual. In a country like Italy, where art institutions were perceived to be less open to digital innovation than those in other countries, what did this imply for the sector?

“This situation has sped up all the digital processes that we had previously thought of but had never put in place. I believe that the Italian institutions have done the best they could to tackle the situation, although aware that the in-person experience in a museum is the most important. We have seen the implementation of virtual tours in museums and galleries all around the country and abroad, as well as live-streamed talks by different directors and other experts in the field. They have tried in every way to provide their audiences with an alternative to visiting the space, mostly with the help of social media. We’ve also been introduced to the world of webinars, a word which most of us hardly knew before 2020. All these initiatives have kept people’s attention and provided them with a good distraction while staying at home. One positive outcome is that the art world has become more accessible to a global audience, perhaps also pushing people to want to visit the sites in person once travelling can be resumed.

At Sotheby’s, we’ve had to turn our forthcoming auctions into online as soon as the lockdown started. We’ve been lucky enough to already have a wide-reaching digital platform conceived for the future, so just had to implement these new means immediately to fully operate during these times.”

You said that one of the key components of experiencing art is the physical component. How would you evaluate the response of the art world to the challenges currently surrounding in-person viewing?

“Virtually visiting gallery or museum exhibitions certainly cannot substitute

the in-person experience. However, given this unprecedented moment, this is

probably the best feasible solution for art institutions. The last exhibition I’ve

visited was “Artemisia” at the National Gallery in London, which I had been looking forward to since its opening was announced last year. It made me rediscover

the pleasure of being in a great museum after months spent in front of

a screen. As social distancing measures were in place, I had the privilege to view

it surrounded by very few visitors and engage personally with each masterpiece.

Although in this second lockdown I got definitely more used to this ‘virtual’

life, I am very much hoping that after the winter we will be able to go back to

museums and art fairs and experience again the incredible buzz that surrounds

the art world.”

LAGUNAB

"PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE - THE NEXT GENERATION OF CONSCIOUS DESIGNERS &
THE ART OF GLASSMAKING."

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In conversation with Marcantonio Brandolini D'adda

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Photo Credit: Dan Bradica

What is your relationship with Murano and glass?

LagunaB is a Venetian glass company founded in 1994 offering products whose true value lies in their positive impact on current and future generations.


How did your journey start and then evolve into what it is today, which goes beyond merely just producing glass?

The company was founded by my mother Marie Brandolini d’Adda and rooted in a deep love for Venice, art, design and craftsmanship. I took over the company in 2016 with the goal of bringing a more youthful and contemporary approach to luxury goods.

What you do essentially sits at the intersection of material innovation, sustainable design thinking, glassmaking education, and environmental impact projects, which operate both on a local community scale as well as on a wider global scale with educational partnerships and programs. Could you expand on these and tell us why you explore all of these elements in your practice?

We take very seriously the question of what it means to be a contemporary company. To us, it has to include a positive trajectory for the environment, the Venetian community, and the wider world of glassmaking. Especially since we make luxury products, which by definition are not essential goods, we think it’s essential to bring all of these elements together. The first time I visited the Pilchuck Glass School in 2017, something clicked, and the Autonoma exchange program was born soon after. Then in 2019, we began looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact. We adopted plastic-free packaging and researched ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We began working with a local environmental nonprofit called ‘We Are Here Venice’ and invested in increasing the Venice lagoon’s carbon sequestration capabilities and commissioned a life cycle analysis to determine how much CO2 emissions we produce.

 

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Photo Credit: Alessandro Trevisan for LagunaB Media

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Photo Credit: Alessandro Trevisan for LagunaB Media

Are there any key obstacles you have met up till now during your journey with Laguna B? How did you overcome those obstacles?

Of course anytime you do something new there are obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest obstacles we faced is that the technology to open a carbon-neutral glassmaking studio doesn’t currently exist, so we’re working to help develop new solutions.

How has your company evolved to adapt to Covid? Have you developed any elements of your practice in any specific manner?

In general we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve mostly been able to keep working throughout Covid-19. We had to follow local restrictions that at times forced the Murano furnaces to remain closed, and had to scale back the 2020 edition of Autonoma, but we are hopeful that all of our programming will soon be live again. In response to this we developed a digital workshop with Autonoma NEXT, partnering with glass educational institutions such as Pilchuck Glass School, Hilltop Artists, Abate Zanetti, and YaYa. We had all of the students participating in the workshop present their design projects on zoom and even if we had to work in the limiting parameters of a digital screen, it was a great success!

The practice of glassblowing in Murano has been around for more than 500 years. However, one could say that what glassblowing actually entails, as a practice, is not commonly communicated on a global scale; the time, precision, human craft, the sustainable element of it - are often not understood. How do you think this unique and intriguing practice can be better communicated and more easily digested for the next generation?

Photo Credit: Enrico Fiorese for LagunaB Media

Murano glassmaking has traditionally been something that visitors had to experience physically in person. Today, we are creating media campaigns and other artistic projects to “bring” viewers into the furnaces and help them understand how Venice’s unique ecosystem — cultural, industrial and ecological — contribute to glassmaking, both past and present.

What is your approach/ what do you think of research and education as mediums to solve issues in this realm? How do you educate on the art of glassblowing through Laguna B?

Our approach is to be as open and collaborative as possible. We recently refitted a classic fishing boat to oer visits to Murano and the lagoon, with the goal of fostering a holistic understanding of the island. On top of this, with projects such as Autonoma NEXT we invest in educating designers and artists from all over the world on the art of glassmaking by hosting themed workshops in Murano.

Looking at what you achieved up to now and what you aim to achieve in a future, how do you see your practice evolve in the next 15 years?

Our goal is to become carbon negative, not just neutral, and we really hope it won’t take 15 years! We also want Murano to be an international glassmaking capital where people come together from all over Italy and the world.

What would you say to a young version of yourself who would want to start working in glass, but in 2021?

I would emphasize the same things that have always been important: teamwork and listening. I’ve been lucky to learn so much working with the glass masters in Murano.

A last question - not as a professional in this field, but as an Italian, what do you think of the Italian art and design scene today? How do you see Italy’s cultural and creative potential play a role on a global scale? (in the broad sense of the question)

We’re excited to see Italy on the front lines when it comes to the intersection between environmental sustainability and design. Whether it’s the environmental activism at the biennale in Venice, the urban forest projects coming out of Milan, the application of biodynamic practices to culinary traditions, or attempts to make artisan crafts more sustainable, we hope these types of sensibilities will spread worldwide.

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Photo Credit: LagunaB Media

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Photo Credit: Enrico Fiorese for LagunaB Media

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Photo Credit: LagunaB Media

TARMAK22, Gstaad 
BY ELIZABETH AISHER CRESPI

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Douglas Gordon © Photos by Stefan Altenburger, 2017 

In 2016 the artist Douglas Gordon came to Gstaad to scout a location for his spectacular installation as close as you can for as long as it lasts, which took place on the top of a mountain at 2 079 metres above sea level. The installation, a large fire pit in the snow, formed part of Elevation1049: an outdoor arts festival curated by Neville Wakefield and Olympia Scarry which takes place biannually in and around the area of Gstaad, Switzerland. I was lucky enough to show the artist around and speak to him about his feelings—as an outsider, towards this beautiful but terrifying landscape that surrounds us. Now, almost 5 years later, I resonate with his words more than ever: “To those unfamiliar with this environment, it can represent beauty, fear, loneliness and a particular melancholy. Lonely travelers will often seek the companionship of another – the question is whether this relationship—the call and response—is based on desire, fear and excitement of the unknown.” 

I still think about his idea of call and response. What do we call towards? Why is it that, when so close to nature, we crave a sign from this vast, external outside world? We look for meaning, for a response in the abstract and mystical realm of nature. On the one hand, the proximity to the mountain peaks, its trees and its sky is exciting, but on the other it’s easy for it to trigger a storm of existential thoughts. Fear and desire act as two sides of the same coin as we try to get closer to this unknown earth that we call our own. 

Indeed, nature has been a topic that has fascinated artists for centuries. When we invited curator Chus Martínez (also the head of the Academy of Art and Design in Basel) to visit us for the first time, she picked up on this idea immediately, telling us that nature was always a background for poets and wanderers, for farmers, for thinkers, for those that exploited it, but never saw it as a priority. Artists, however, as she says, have always proposed it as the only possible conceivable 

future. Today, nature appears in the work of many contemporary young artists as an organ, as the most fruitful way for us to imagine new futures. Her interest in how nature has shaped artistic language throughout history, especially here in Switzerland, quickly became the centre of attention. The location of the gallery being in the middle of a dramatically steep valley seemed to fit well with the thought. “The Sunrise Sings”, our first independently produced exhibition, opened in August 2020 at Tarmak22, showing the works of six young artists that responded to these thoughts. The artistic practices of Charlotte Herzig, Kaspar Ludwig & Ambra Viviani, Gil Pellaton, Claudia Comte, Katrin Niedermeier indeed all seem listen carefully to the elements of the earth. In the words of Martínez: “You can sense energy and the winds in their works, but also the force of flowers, the logic of earth, the memory of wood. It is as if the works try to convey through their presence the comprehension of coexistence. Art and artists remind us that art is situated at the meeting point between the organic and inorganic realms.” 

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Douglas Gordon © Photos by Stefan Altenburger, 2017 

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Claudia Comte presented works carved from different characteristic woods in a range of symbolic shapes, evoking the memory of the climate in the wood. Kaspar Ludwig & Ambra Viviani’s work echo the art of storytelling – to create a modern mythological tableaux. Cast in concrete rectangles, the pieces depict stylised scenes straight out of folklore, each myth is a single image making up a larger story of our shared history. Gil Pellaton harnessed an actively ritual element in his sculptures. Golden leaves are moulded from ground turmeric, just a delicate touch can cause the spice to fall onto the tips of your fingertips. The delicate, organic forms create a sacred connection to the ancient self. In Katrin Niedermeier’s new-media Arcadia, a character, Rose, plays a game where the goal is to grow, to find a personal truth. We play the game vicariously, and let Rose’s memories and experiences wash over us while the now dancing, now failing avatar, enriches our understanding of how we also interact with our inner struggles, a gentle reminder that humanity has fundamental philosophical questions to address.

Charlotte Herzig’s site specific installation of a gigantic flower mural painted in the colours of a meadow stretches across an entire wall of the gallery. Hand painted, and over ten meters long, the work resembles a breathing motion, going upwards and downwards. Herzig created something both ambitious and luscious in equal parts. Stepping lightly in front of the petals, you experience a disorientating shift of perspective – a sense of vertigo that rises from within, leaving a behind a quiet kind of revery.

As writer Jonathan Ferguson put it, in “The Sunrise Sings”, the artists show us that humans are hypnotised by stories, fascinated by the mother earth. This causes me to ask whether nature is not just one big magical reflection of ourselves, offering the chance for us to see ourselves in a new light. But who wants to see themselves in this light, anyway? Are we all shying away from it? What would it take to begin consciously walking towards it? 

Gabriella Comte © Photos by Guadalupe Ruiz 

Gil Pellaton © Photos by Guadalupe Ruiz 

Kaspar Ludwig & Ambra Viviani © Photos by Guadalupe Ruiz 

Charlotte Herzig © Photos by Guadalupe Ruiz 

Founded in 2019 by Antonia Crespi and Tatiana de Pahlen, Tarmak22 exists to breathe life into the cultural landscape of the Swiss Alps. Located directly on the site of the Gstaad-Saanen airport, the gallery takes its name from the runway that it overlooks. During the winter season Tarmak22 hosts museum-quality exhibitions in collaboration with their international gallery partners, while in the summer months they support emerging artists with a link to Switzerland, with a more experimental program. In spring 2021, the gallery will host the first in a series of artistic residences. Through the balance of traditional exhibition making and a fresh approach to artistic exchange, Tarmak22 creates an exciting dialogue for a community of artists, curators, collectors and spectators. 

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