Art Spiel in Dialogue with Elisa Gutiérrez Eriksen
Elisa Gutiérrez Eriksen has curated The process of calculating one’s position at NARS Foundation. This group show features NARS 2019 season IV residency artists: Esther Hovers, Niklas Asker, Jiin You, Tavi Meraud, Fiona McGurk, Dominique Doroseau, Martin Vongrej, Joonhong Min, Ella Weber, Martin Désilets, Sophie Dupont and Tali Keren. It runs through December 13th. The curator shares with Art Spiel the ideas behind the show, the artists, and a bit about the NARS Foundation venue.
AS: Tell me a bit about your background.
EGE: I am a Mexican curator and arts administrator. My whole professional life has been dedicated to art in many different forms. For more than 12 years I have worked and collaborated with artists and institutions in curating, producing, coordinating and installing exhibits, festivals and cultural events. I started my curatorial practice as Assistant Curator of the 100m3 Gallery in Mexico City. For 3 years, I worked at the Ministry of Culture of Mexico coordinating, planning, executing, and implementing public programs for children and families, which has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my professional career. During this time, I was part of an amazing interdisciplinary team of specialists who developed several projects that included monthly programs of artistic activities and projects in more than 20 venues every month and the organization of 4 high volume festivals which attracted audiences of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. My independent activities included the creation of exhibitions and collaborative art pieces between artists and audiences, which enabled me to work with contemporary artists and curators, as well as promoters and artistic institutions, in ensuring that the objectives of the projects adhered to the curatorial vision of the Program.
Before coming to NY, I worked at the UNESCO Field Office in Mexico, developing projects concerning the relationship between culture and migration, audiovisual heritage, and others related to social sciences and the environment. Now in NYC I work for the NARS Foundation as Programs Manager and Curator. This is a very rich and interesting position that allows me to work with artists coming from all parts of the world, to learn from and with them, and engage in significant relations based in creating space for care, growth and development.
AS: What is the premise of your current curatorial project at NARS, The Process of Calculating One’s Position?
EGE: The idea of this exhibition came out from a conversation that I had with one of the artists participating in the show, Tavi Meraud. In this conversation we spoke about the ways in which their work could articulate their position in reference to the world as a political or non-political individual; as part of something or several things; as a multiple dwelling within different aspects of life. After having studio visits with all the artists, I noticed that this question regarding the methods for finding one’s place in and in relation to the world was intrinsic in the work of the full residency cohort, and was articulated through a series of repetitive, almost obsessive acts that existed mostly in the process of creation.
These simple repetitive acts like breathing, observing, walking, collecting both images and information, following patterns, manipulating materials, and creating personal and even obsessive rituals, became the continuous infinite act that responded to this question. Meraud’s work, Dead Reckoning*, is a line that traverses the building through the gallery space in a specific direction. It comes from and points to a specific emotional and geographic location. While almost imperceptible at times, this piece that encompasses all, is the connecting line from where the title of the exhibition stems.
*Dead reckoning – the process of calculating one’s position, especially at sea, by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than by using landmarks, astronomical observations, or electronic navigation methods.
AS: Can you tell me a bit about the work of each artist in this show?
EGE: The exhibition opens with two pieces by Martin Vongrej. Using simple materials like aluminum glass, MDF, and cord, the floor installation titled Moving objects charge by setting their meaning in the motionless, when they are put back into gravity, explores the line that separates two phenomena such as knowing and thinking, and refers to the invisible. On the wall beside it is Self-portrait “X” (Decline/Accept) Variables Meaning, a large canvas intervened with cord in which the conceptual artist uses geometry and intersecting lines to speak about semiotics, human consciousness, and his position in reference to the world.
Jiin You´s work deals with political issues in her home country, South Korea. In the exhibition, a tip jar awaits the charity, or support, of the viewer, referencing a Korean artist couple that committed suicide out of starvation due to their struggle in finding work.
Softly marking each one of her breaths in a lung shaped copper sheet, Sophie Dupont’s performance Marking Breath investigates what it means to be human. Her works procure acts of reciprocity with the world and evoke the cycle of life and death in an (in)finite breath through her use of materials.
This action is contrasted with the moving abstract images of a massage chair that resembles a breathing creature. Ella Weber’s This is Nice Here plays with ideas of absurdity and comedy in quotidian life while tapping on social and ethical questions regarding the relation between care and automated processes and objects.
Niklas Asker’s meticulous paintings pair objects and figures that make unintended references to the hidden. The compositions that coincide on canvas and in space create a specific feeling or atmosphere left to be determined by the viewer’s experience.
Dark Matter, by Martin Désilets, is a lifelong project in which he blends hundreds of images of artworks taken at museums across the globe into single file images. The acts of repetition and superimposition imply both the finitude and infinitude of the acts themselves, alongside a nuanced futility of the effort of survival.
The results of collection and accumulation are also seen in Joonhong Min’s the past is not done with you, an installation that reconstructs the city of New York with collage, drawings and found materials of memorized urban patterns. The work addresses subjects surrounding concepts of efficiency and development, while reflecting on the artist’s feelings of isolation.
Walking and collecting imagery are also some of the elements that Esther Hovers uses as tools for developing Traveling Salesman, a work in progress where she superscribes office envelopes with possible solutions to a mathematical problem about movement. This project addresses the idea of walking and establishing routes in the city as a metaphor for the unpredictable through the artist’s usage of photography.
The city as a space in which to experiment with the idea of data collection and analyzing information is also where Fiona McGurk’s LINE finds its origins. This installation that dissects the gallery space, questions Redlining, a discriminatory practice in real estate, visible in the historical and digital realms, sets a new viewpoint for the spectator to think about the value and uses of the information that has been collected.
In Fragment from a work in progress, Tali Keren presents a recreated a map from 1801 depicting a “New Jerusalem,” next to a waving flag that will be part of a forthcoming VR project. This work is the continuation of her ongoing exploration of light as a spiritual symbol and metaphor of enlightenment rationalism, while highlighting how these historical ideas are inseparable from racial violence, white supremacy and settler colonialism.
Dominique Duroseau’s required to pause [session 5] draws a line between the work and the spectator that suggests a connection between the two. Through the use of music, spoken word and the manipulation and re-contextualization of materials, Duroseau examines themes of racism, socio-cultural issues, and existential dehumanization.
Encompassing all, a quiet line at the top of the gallery space intersects, traverses and unites the surface of the whole. Tavi Meraud’s work is centered around the thresholds between perception and recognition, and Dead Reckoning* is the connecting line from where the title of the exhibition stems.
AS: Tell me a bit about NARS and how it operates as a curatorial venue.
EGE: NARS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting artists mainly through 3 different programs: An International Residency, Exhibitions, and an Outreach Program. It started in 2006 with one artist in residence and became a non-profit in 2009. For over ten years we have hosted over 250 artists coming from 40+ countries, with the clear mission of being a safe space for development, experimentation and reflection. We have a robust program of studio visitors that engage in conversations with our resident artists, to gain invaluable feedback and expand their network of artists and professionals in NY and internationally.
As a curatorial venue NARS functions through a yearly Open Call for Exhibitions in which we select exhibitions proposals from young curators and artists, for solo and group shows to be presented in our Main Gallery and Project Space. Additionally, during the third month of each Residency Season we present an exhibition with the works of the current cohort. These exhibitions are curated in house by Vanessa Kowalski, our Programs Director, or me. During these events we encourage the artists to take risks and offer the gallery as a safe space for experimentation a discussion of their work.
AS: Are you working on other curatorial projects?
EGE: I am! I have 2 very exciting exhibitions that I’ve been working on as an independent curator.
The first one, that will be presented at The Clemente Soto Velez, Abrazo Interno Gallery from April 17 to May 16 is Subversive Kin: the act of turning over. Subversive Kin is an exhibition that brings together a group of 4 female-identified artists whose practice stems from their embedded relation to nature and to original practices from their places of birth or ancestry, and traditions. In their work, these artists look at ancient knowledge and community acts, to recreate what has been lost and document what might seem an alternate reality; each one of the pieces acts subversively to build a bridge that leads to an active relationship with nature. The artists in the exhibition are Tatiana Arocha, Bel Falleiros, Christine Howard-Sandoval, and Karen Miranda Rivadeneira.
The second exhibition, will be presented at BioBAT Art Space from May 1st to October 15th is Common Frequencies, a six month exhibition with free public programming featuring the works of Tania Candiani, Marcela Armas, Gilberto Esparza, Interspecifics and Lorena Mal. These artists—working mainly across sound, performance and installation—are inspired by nature, resonance, mechanics, electricity, and magnetism and will take these phenomena as the basis for the invention of poetic mechanisms that permit the possibility of tuning into multiple natural frequencies—emerging from minerals, animals, bacteria, plants, and humans—that are translated into visual and sonic landscapes.