On August 14th, vessel curator Viviana Checchia as well as vessel curator in residency, Anne-Mette Villumsen met with curator Angela Serino in her hometown of Benevento. After showing the curators the main tourist highlights of the city, Angela took the group to a local park, where she talked about some of her later projects, as well as aspirations and inspirations that shape her work.
She started by describing “As If She Worked Here”, a performative guided tour she developed as part of artist Maja Bekan’s solo show at Vanabbe Museum in Eidhoven, in June 2011.
Bekan’s work consisted of a fully equipped office, used by anyone in need of an urgent place to work, and a series of public performances commenting on the overlap between the contexts of the art world and the business world.
As Angela described: “For the tour, I used the Museum’s spaces on the ground floor as if they were rooms of a private house, my own flat actually. I established this change of the space’s identity designing a new floor plan of the Museum, giving the existing spaces new names, and functions, like ‘kitchen’, ‘living room’, etc. Maja’s office was of the rooms of this new fictive house.”
This new map was the conceptual framework for a monologue revolving around the figure of an anonymous woman, most likely an artist or a cultural worker – represented by Angela, the tour guide -. While guiding the public around each singular space of this ideal house, she spoke of the current working conditions of the artist and of cultural producers in general, who are often self-employed and work from home.
Central to the guided tour was the attempt to describe what this kind of work entails: the multiple roles a person has to play, as a woman, artist, teacher, mother, lover, friend, and the issues brought by each and all those roles (such as coping with expectations of professionalism and states of precariousness); the time (or lack of time) for love and caring, the awareness of how sex- and private relationships shape the informal network that is at the core of our profession. The text of the tour comprised personal notes, quotations from already existing texts and a selection of artists’ works.
The need to reflect upon such ideas partly stemmed from the experience she had gained earlier from a major project she curated in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. Embracing the need for social and cultural change, the project was part of a municipality initiative to change the use of a few vacant brothels. Here Angela invited artists Laurence Aegerter, Mounira Al Solh, Alexis Blake, Egle Budvytyte, Francesca Grilli, Achim Lengerer, Ahmet Ogut and Niels Vis, Meiro Koizumi (guest artist) to develop new works in relation to their specific, assigned work spaces. To think about both the physical space itself – its particular history and architecture – as well as the broader socio-political context of this allocation of former sex trade windows to artists, falling under the city council’s urban renovation plans for Amsterdam’s Red Light inner center. The project comprised a series of events throughout the year and culminated in a three-day final presentation under the title “A Second Exchange”. “A Second Exchange” was an exhibition of the new works developed by the resident artists and a public program with artists and other practitioners from other disciplines, all located in different places in the heart of the city (see the map).
Activist Gideon Boie (from BAVO), graphic designers Vinca Kruk & Gon Zifroni (Metahaven), art theoretician Diedrich Diederichsen and art historian Joyce Goggin were some of the participants who discussed the relation between art and urban renovation policy.
“As a consequence of this experience, the consideration of how and where an artist makes a new work and how his or her work is framed, have become increasingly important issues for me. More recently, within this perspective, I’m interested in particular to understand more the conditions of artistic production in artists-in-residency structures. I want to raise the question: ‘Apart from being instruments of local and international policy, and symptoms of a diffuse nomadic lifestyle, what is the current function of artists-in-residence within the art world and for the artists?’”
About her curatorial methodology, Angela stated:
“The projects I have realised collaboratively or on my own over time, were often developed around a question stemming from the specific physical or social context where I was working – an urgency of the moment, so to speak. Starting from that question, I invited artists as well as art critics, and experts from other disciplines to react to the issues in an attempt to generate dialogues and new understandings of a situation. For the artists, this has often resulted in commission of new works.
On all those occasions, however, I did not expect to find confirmations or definitive answers to my question in the artists’ works. Rather, I was interested in the unexpected and various perspectives that these works could suggest, what they could trigger in the various publics, and being in dialogue with other professionals’ points of views. The coexistence and even the clash among different perspectives is what, in my view, can raise the awareness among people of a specific situation or issue.”
About her vision of art, Angela stated:
“I’ve always seen the art world as not only a place to collect and display artworks, but also as a privileged arena to inquire into broader cultural issues or shed light on aspects of our reality that go unnoticed or ask to be rethought. I think that this is possible because art is a discipline connected to other fields of knowledge (from science, to sociology or architecture) yet capable of exceeding any theoretical definitions or notions; and moreover, because artworks are able to affect people on a perceptual, experiential level, sometimes even beyond the artists’ initial intentions. The possibility -via an art project- of bringing together different publics and artworks, artists and experts allows art to be an ideal space where new meanings, ideas or ways of looking at things can be generated. With my work, I try to assure the premises for the existence of this space and for such openness.”
Angela’s curatorial style ties in with the aims of vessel in that she thinks that every institution is situationally dependent. Organizations should not limit themselves within the art world, but should rather embrace a multidisciplinary approach in order to engage other sectors and garner wider public attention.