In Dialogue with Naomi Lev, Rebecca Pristoop, and Sarah Crown
The Exhibition Private View is a bit like an artist’s game of telephone. Three curators: Sarah Crown, Naomi Lev, Rebecca Pristoop, coordinated the movement of works by seven artists (Aimée Burg, Noa Charuvi, Tamar Ettun, Julia Goldman, KB Jones, Dana Levy, Gabriela Salazar) from home to home of each of the artists. In each new space the works were rehung, re-organized, and displayed in a new environment, often with the addition of the host’s collection of art. I interviewed the curators to find out how they planned and executed this show and how it was recorded and disseminated. In a way this exhibition reversed the traditional structure of personal and private: instead of the public being able to see artworks in a whitebox gallery or museum, which has been made impossible because of the pandemic, we became spectators on an artists private space—we couldn’t be there in person, but via Instagram we were shown more than we usually get to see. These notions of intimacy, personal expression, and a safe space in times of turmoil were central to the exhibition Private View.
Private View is a traveling exhibition of intimate proportions in which seven artists and three curators, all identifying as women, send a collection of works to each other. Was there a map or a conscious path that the exhibition followed? How did it move from place to place and artist to artist, and why in that order?
Conceived during the forced lockdown, we wanted to challenge the usual model of exhibition making (art being displayed in an art adept space) and direct the attention to our homes (now a living, working, leisure time, and experiential space).
The collection of works developed over the course of the exhibition, as we decided to curate in a cumulative manner. Private View began with one work in the home of one participant with works added successively as the exhibition traveled between our homes. We organized the exhibition in this way for both practical and creative reasons. Practically, we were mindful of the costs and labor required to move artworks from place to place. Creatively, we wanted to keep ourselves engaged and responsive to each other by adding a new artwork at each location.
The exhibition’s travel route was more or less based on geography. We were looking for easy modes of exchange between boroughs, neighborhoods, or states. Many of the artworks were delivered by hand, though we did make use of the USPS, as well as private rides. In addition, we took into consideration each participant’s schedule – many of us were in and out of the area due to the pandemic.
What was the mechanism for choosing each of the seven artists (Aimée Burg, Noa Charuvi, Tamar Ettun, Julia Goldman, KB Jones, Dana Levy, Gabriela Salazar)? Are these artists you’ve worked with in the past? What is the resonance between them?
Most of the artists are part of Collective_View, a female art collective that has been meeting since 2016. These particular members felt compelled and able to participate in this iteration of the show, and in addition two artists, Gabriela and Julia, were invited by KB and joined as well. The exhibition was born out of the notion of intimacy and how the pandemic and lockdown does two things at the same time: create intimacy within one’s home, while also creating, in many cases, a lack of intimacy as we are all meeting via screens or not meeting at all.
One of the purposes of the group, Collective_View, is to create a safe ground and intimacy between its members, as well as to organically create new collaborations. So, some of the artists have worked together in one way or another, and some of the curators have collaborated in the past with some of the artists and/or with each other.
The resonance is created from years of conversation and support. It is also created with each of the artists’ and curators’ personal sense of intimacy.
There has been a lot of writing and discourse about how works of art function in homes in times of crisis: was this conceived before or after the pandemic, and were you trying to build familiarity, comfort, revelation, what did you hope would emerge from the participants (artists and curators) living with these works?
Yes, we were trying to build all of that: familiarity, comfort, and revelation. Private View was conceived during the pandemic. At its heart, was the desire to find intimacy and action in a time when we felt isolated from each other, and homebound. We were eager to collaborate and create something that would stimulate us, intrigue us, and connect us on a level deeper than exchanging words over the screen. Spending more time at home, our relationships with people as well as our relations to objects and artworks were changing. Offering community and a collaboration between us women was a major step in supporting one another and also challenging our professional skills and creativity in a time of absence. A deep sense of connection was highlighted with glimpses into our personal homes and a sense of communal caring for each other’s artworks.
On one level the show is supremely exclusive: it only exists as an interaction between the artists and the three curators (Naomi Lev, Rebecca Pristoop, and Sarah Crown), and it is only experienced by one person, or one family at a time, in a different setting each time. Were there rules for installation? Did each artist create their own arrangements of the work? How do you curate a show that appears in someone else’s home?
Yes, that is correct: the exhibition lives in private spaces but is made public through the internet, and mainly Instagram, representing the online culture we are part of. The exhibition is, indeed, experienced in person only by the host and the people they live with, but like every event during these days of social distancing, the experience is shared and takes place online. In fact, each participant that has the works at their home, is the one posting on social media for that specific week.
There were no rules for installation, another important and wanted aspect. We desire to highlight the versatility of the artworks and the different viewpoints of each participant regarding installation and exhibition design. In this way, the exhibition, under the circumstances of different spatial parameters, assumes different identities.
The curation, in this case, refers much more to coordinating an individual concept alongside a communal thought process, rather than a particular installation design.
An added and potentially unforeseen boon to exhibiting the works in our homes was that artworks in our private collections joined the exhibition! We were able to twine the threads connecting our group of artists, with those we already live with. It was so much fun to see how some participants created relationships between the works in Private View and artworks already in their homes. This added to the sense of intimacy and connection at a time when we really aren’t encountering artists, friends, and acquaintances at openings and exhibitions.
Alternatively to the previous question, you used Instagram as a means of both publicizing the show and making it public. It’s been followed by 360 people , which (if they’re actually occasionally looking at the feed) is a very healthy attendance for an art show. Besides “likes” was there a discernible response from outside viewers? How did Instagram affect how the artists interacted with the exhibition?
The exhibition generated and is still generating a lot of conversation and we have been contacted by many artists asking if and how it would be possible to participate. Indeed, we are thinking about how to extend this show and planning Part II.
Additionally, many people that are not artists have requested to host the show. It seems that living with artworks today is a precious and vital experience. We would absolutely love to share and spread this experience with the world, and are looking at ways we can further do so.
As for the participants’ interaction with the exhibition; that’s an interesting point. We were looking at creative ways of presenting the ambiance and the feel of living with the artworks to the outside world. We were thinking not only of what we were presenting, but also how we were experiencing the exhibition individually at home, and how we could create a suggestive experience for the public. For instance, Rebecca Pristoop chose to host an IG live conversation with one of the participating artists; Sarah Crown posted a series of questions to each artist and shared more information about them so people got a closer look at the artists. Some participants photographed the works at various locations in their homes, and some (as mentioned before) presented additional works not officially in the exhibition. Our Instagram feed and stories was also a place for participants to share photos from their everyday lives, enhancing this sense of familiarity and discovery.
While this show could only be known publicly via social media, would it have worked without it? In general, do you think Instagram, and to a lesser extent other forms of social media, are effective ways of disseminating art? (Art itself, not so much publicity about art)
Yes! This is a shared experience between a self-selected group of people. It came about as a way to feel connected to each other. In some ways, it’s like a potluck… everyone shows up and shares what they have. We are nourished by each other.
The concept reflects a social situation, or better, condition: we live more online than in the real world. Information can certainly be disseminated via the internet. On the other hand, we believe that the experience (physical, emotional, intellectual) of an artwork cannot be fully achieved when consumed online. Artworks emanate energies and those need to be picked up by neural sensors. Art created with technology may be effective online; therefore you have the two presentation modes available in this exhibition.
All photos courtesy of the artists
Artists: Aimee Burg, Noa Charuvi, Tamar Ettun, KB Jones, Gabriela Salazar, Julia Goldman, Dana Levy; Curators: Sarah Crown, Naomi Lev, Rebecca Pristoop Instagram account: @_collectiveview_
This project circulated August 3 – November 6, 2020 The second iteration of Private View, with an additional flair, is scheduled for the beginning of 2021.