Month: August 2020

Aidan Moesby & Claire Doherty

Aidan Moesby & Claire Doherty – ‘Affecting Change’ – A Blue Skies Conversation 

‘Affecting Change’ is a conversation between artist, curator and writer Aidan Moesby and artistic director and producer Claire Doherty. Speaking between Newcastle and Bristol, they discuss leadership, change and the significance of context in curating and producing.
For reference: This conversation was held one month after the statue of Edward Colston was pulled from its plinth and the day after the announcement of a £1.57 Billion funding package for the arts.

Download the conversation transcript.

Aidan Moesby sitting at a table viewed from the side

Aidan Moesby is a curator, artist and writer who explores civic and personal wellbeing through a body of work that is at once playful, intimate, questioning and deeply human. His practice is a socially engaged one, rooted in research and response – in conversation of many kinds. He works extensively in the spaces where art, technology and wellbeing intersect. A resident at Pervasive Media Studio, Watershed, Bristol he increasingly makes large scale, tourable works. Moesby is currently Associate Curator at MIMA in partnership with DASH Arts within a programme to increase the representation of disabled curators within the arts ecology. He works across mainstream and disability contexts to promote diversity and equality within the visual arts; regularly facilitating and participating in discussions and events. Exploring the relationships between the outer physical weather and internal psycho-emotional weather underpins his work investigating the dual crises of Climate Change and Mental Health within a curatorial milieu.

 

Claire Doherty is an artistic director and producer with a particular focus on developing more relevant and responsive arts organisations and programmes. Known for her artistic direction and thought leadership in public art producing as well as ambitious multi-artform cultural programming, Claire was the Founder Director of Situations from 2002 – 2017. Through projects such as Theaster Gates’ Sanctum and Katie Paterson’s 100-year Future Library, Situations became known as one of the UK’s foremost producing companies in the public realm. As an Artistic Director and advisor to heritage organisations and cities internationally, Claire has been committed to rewriting the rulebook for where, how and by whom the arts are produced and experienced. She was the Director responsible for the stabilisation and rethinking behind Arnolfini’s recovery in 2017-2019. Most recently she has co-led the Culture Reset programme with David Micklem, a programme over eight weeks for 200 producers to reimagine the future of arts and culture.

Images courtesy the conversation participants.

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is presented by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund.

Elijah Maja & Ibrahim Cissé with Dominique White & Adam Farah

A blurry shot of the sky and city with the glare of a streetlight

Elijah Maja & Ibrahim Cissé with Dominique White & Adam Farah – ‘Sanguine August’ – A Blue Skies Conversation

Elijah Maja & Ibrahim Cissé are artists and curators based in the UK and France, respectively. For this conversation they invited guests Dominique White & Adam Farah – both artists – to participate in an open ended conversation that threaded provocations and questions together to explore current mind-states, strategies and thoughts on care and collectivity, alongside their individual practices.

Download the conversation transcript. 

Ibrahim Cissé is a creative whose work revolves mainly around questions of social welfare. Cissé’s thinking is informed by his own living experience in Europe and his relation to the African Diaspora. It helps him to articulate and negotiate the intersectional narratives through filmmaking and creative writing. Cissé’s focus is geared towards education and publishing. These tools or practices are central to understanding Cissé’s intentions and methodologies. In 2020, Cissé works on the development of Lost in Time Publishing a platform to experiment on the potential for publishing and archiving processes to address the effects of colonisation in contemporary colonial contexts.

Elijah Maja is an artist and researcher from London. Working across methods of practice that actively engage audio-visual provocations into notions of ritual, process and their lineage as intangible spaces for activation.

Adam Farah is an artist and composer born-n-raised in London and is a Capricorn Sun, Cancer Rising, Leo Moon. They also practise under and within the name free.yard – an ongoing situational and unstable project set up to engage with and merge curatorial, research, artistic and equitable communal practices; with a focus on the ever-expansive and nuanced creative endeavours and potentials that emerge from endz. free.yard casts a side-eye onto the oppressive and supremacist structures upheld within the complacent and performative liberal bubbles of the artworld/s, and in the long term desires to create collaborative moments for artists to connect, manifest and exhale under such weight.

Dominique White weaves together the theories of Black Subjectivity, Afro-pessimism and Hydrarchy with the nautical myths of Black Diaspora into a term she defines as the Shipwreck(ed); a reflexive verb and state of being. Her sculptures demonstrate how Black life could extend beyond its own subjective limits and act as beacons or vessels of an ignored civilisation defined as the Stateless; a realm in which the past, present and future have converged into a Black Future. Recent and upcoming exhibitions include Ubuntu, a Lucid Dream at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2021); the Mediterranea 19 Young Artists Biennale in San Marino (2021); Possédé·e·s at Montpellier Contemporain, Montpellier (2020); Fugitive of the State(less) at VEDA Firenze (2019); Abandon(ed) Vessel at KevinSpace, Vienna (2019); and Boundary + Gesture at Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2019). White was awarded the Roger Pailhas Prize (FR) in 2019 in conjunction with her solo presentation with VEDA Firenze and has received awards from artangel (UK) and the Henry Moore Foundation (UK) in 2020. White was in residency at Sagrada Mercancía (CL) and at Triangle France (FR) in 2020.

Images courtesy Elijah Maja. 

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is presented by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund.

Khaleb Brooks & Naeem Davis

Khaleb and Naeem sitting on the beach looking at each other

Khaleb Brooks & Naeem Davis – ‘A Conversation Supporting the Black Trans Community’ – A Blue Skies Conversation

On the 17th of May 2020, Demetrio Campos, an iconic figure in the black trans community committed suicide. Overwhelmed with depression, experiences of violence in Brazil and likely the impact of Covid he made the decision at 23 to take his life. Thousands are devastated. Khaleb and Naeem began discussing how this loss has impacted them and the necessity to create systems of support specifically for black trans people that are masculine of center. In this conversation Khaleb and Naeem discuss their experiences of feeling silenced, being socialised as black women and navigating the realities and projections of black masculinity. They continuously ask themselves, what does being a part of a community look like? Where can black trans people discuss their experiences and would policy change truly affect social change? The impact of Covid- 19, as well as the ongoing murder of black people at the hands of the police are overwhelming realities to reconcile with. Yet through these hard times this conversation hopes to offer an intimate look at trans identity through personal experiences and friendship.

Download the conversation transcript

Khaleb Brooks is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and writer exploring blackness, transness and collective memory. Meshing the black queer figure with surreal environments in paintings and entering transcendental states in performance they force their audience to confront the literal and social death of black people globally. Over the last year Khaleb has been an artist in residence at the Tate Modern, where theu used the museums collection to lead weekly workshops and create work around the Trans Atlantic slave trade. Performing in the 2019 Venice Biennale and consistently pushing the boundaries of art as a tool to politically engage, Khaleb continues to exhibit globally: Institute of Contemporary Art (2020 and 2018), Schwules Museum in Berlin (2019), Gazelli Art House in London (2019), GlogauAir in Berlin (2019), 198 Contemporary in London (2017) and We- Dey Gallery in Vienna (2018).

Prior to working as an artist full time, Khaleb was an International Development practitioner where they worked with the United Nations and a multitude of NGO’s throughout Africa, Latin America and Asia. They have taken their passion for social justice and consistently seek innovative ways to bring that work to the creative sector. Khaleb, originally from Chicago, is inspired by the perseverance of black families in overcoming poverty, addiction, abuse and gang violence as well as their own experiences of being transgender. Khaleb graduated from SOAS with an MSc in Violence Conflict and Development in 2015.

Naeem Davis is a queer trans cultural producer, writer and the co-founder of Lesbiennale and BBZ, a curatorial collective and club night based in south London. For the past three years, they have produced events across the globe and worked in partnership with institutions including the Tate, Glastonbury Festival, Afropunk Festival and the British Council. As a collective, BBZ prioritises the experiences of queer womxn, trans folk and non-binary people of colour in all aspects of their work and provides physical and online platforms for emerging queer talent.

As a co-founder and independent producer, Davis remains unapologetically committed to building safer spaces for marginalized communities. Davis is a frequent speaker at many universities and conferences such as UCL, The RA, Goldsmiths, SOAS and for a wide range of organizations from the Southbank Centre, The Barbican and Whitechapel Gallery to CDR, Apple and Shesaidso. Their work has been profiled in ID magazine, Vogue UK, Elle, Crack magazine, Time out, The guardian, Notion, Vice, Hunger, Wonderland and Gaytimes.

Image 1: Demetrio Campos photographed by Bernoch.
Image 2: Khaleb Brooks and Naeem Davis photographed by Phoebe Collings-James. 

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is presented by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund

Jillian Mayer & Adelaide Bannerman

A screenshot of Jillian Mayer and Adelaide Bannerman speaking over Zoom


Jillian Mayer & Adelaide Bannerman – ‘You’ll Be Ok’ – A Blue Skies Conversation

A screenshot of Jillian Mayer and Adelaide Bannerman speaking over Zoom

The lead-image for the Blue Skies conversation series is a still from artist Jillian Mayer’s 2014 video You’ll Be Okay, encountered at Prospect 4: The Lotus In Spite of The Swamp, New Orleans 2017/18. ICF approached Mayer during May 2020 to find out how she was, about her recent activity and to capture her reflection on the work itself, reviewing its original intent, and it’s reading in the moment of the pandemic.

“…What a humanly thing to do to write a message across the sky, right? Like kind of an insane idea, but we figured it out.” Jillian Mayer

Adelaide Bannerman: Hi, Jillian. Nice to meet you.

Jillian Mayer: Hello, thanks for having me digitally.

Adelaide Bannerman: You’re very welcome. It’s a real pleasure to be speaking with you as the artist of our leading image for Blue Skies, which is to be a new conversation series that we’re rolling out over the next few months. I just wanted to introduce you to our audiences and thought maybe first to ask you how you’ve been in the last few months?

Jillian Mayer: So I did have Corona COVID-19 so I lost about a month to being confused and sleepy. I slept a lot, and was a bit foggy. But I’ve since tested negative a couple of times and I also had an antibodies test. But while I was ill, I made so much work, so many things in my backyard studio, but I don’t really remember making all of them because I was so exhausted and confused. Now, I’m doing okay, I’m doing fine. I have no sense of smell, it’s been like three months since I’ve smelled a thing, which is just a strange new situation. But I’m still very grateful that I never was in a situation where I thought that something was going very direly wrong. Also, I’m very grateful that it’s just that I have no smell rather than being stuck on something that maybe smells bad. Could you imagine if just everything smelt bad? So for me, I’m just grateful. I’m missing some data, essentially, but I was never in a serious situation of harm or extreme illness. I feel very grateful that I have a place to sleep and to rest. I don’t want to say check your privilege to anyone, but be grateful for whatever privilege or access you have. During my time with the pandemic, I made a lot of things, people in my family were detained, many of my projects collapsed, my dog died… ultimately, I think this was a reset for a lot of people. I know we are all thinking differently about how to move forward, I hope people are – so that gives me hope. I’m quite optimistic, so I try and look at the good things that could come out of this situation, even if it’s frightening and uncomfortable. I think of myself, and my art practice as very solution-oriented. 

Adelaide Bannerman: We’re experiencing that kind of reflection on so many different levels. I mean, it’s the prime moment for that, you kind of hope that people will be confident enough to look this in the eye, and not deny or think that there’s some kind of normal that they’re returning to, and that they’ll take confidence in a landscape that will change. I guess it’s how it changes and what the implications are really. And that’s kind of behind the Blue Skies series really for us. I mean, as an organisation, we’re asking our own questions about how we want to do things differently or how we respond to audiences, participants and collaborators that we’ve been working with over the last number of years, but I guess it’s about also trying to collect a poly vocal response that will try to speak things into existence, speak the changes that you want to see. So that’s what we’re kind of hoping for ourselves and trying to invite people along to actually see what we can action collectively. It’s a heavy moment.

Jillian Mayer: Yes, and it’s interesting because as someone who’s grown up with the media and advertising offering every opportunity for someone to reach an avid viewer, it’s this thing where I’m wondering if things are really bad right now or not so bad when compared historically or if we merely have more global connectivity, so we’re able to be more conscious of injustices that occur? So when we ask questions like, are we going to go back to anything? Are we going to like what this new normal is? Was the old normal so great? Or was it pretty alright? Does that depend on who you are, where you were born and what you look like?

I often wonder about the concept of world peace and if the world could ever be at peace – all at once? And what would have to conceptually and practically change for that? And… is that possible? These are large questions that when you ask them aloud, sound basic and elementary, but it’s still something that you hope could be resolved in some sense, where not everyone was suffering or felt they were suffering. I don’t know. Is utopianism too far away? And also, is it even possible for people to understand utopianism, if they had a chance to have it for themselves? Or would they always want more? I don’t know.

Adelaide Bannerman: For some people that is a luxury, you know, just even to dream that or even try to see what that could be.

Jillian Mayer: One person’s needs and expectations are so much more remedial than another. So would sacrifice have to come with utopianism for all, and then is it actually utopianism for some? I don’t know. Some people also believe that their utopianism exists in their next life, that this current state is the pain and suffering.

Adelaide Bannerman: Closer to home, and tangible in terms of the last few months your last solo show, which was at the Bemis Centre for Contemporary Arts, Nebraska. It’s been described as a commentary on environmental and infrastructural collapse. And so I was just wondering if you’d like to talk about that?

Jillian Mayer: Sure. So in February 2018, this show titled Time Share, initially opened up the UB Galleries, University of Buffalo, New York, and in November 2019, opened at Bemis Centre for Contemporary Arts in Nebraska, and it’s to be travel again to South Carolina. Time Share was a consideration of environmental situations, the institutional art space, privilege and accessibility in terms of access. And what I mean by that is, we have all known some body of water or some place where you wouldn’t eat food from or wouldn’t go swimming, in that is just too dirty, and we’re kind of okay with that. We accept that as a status of that environment.

So I imagined a future when all of our exterior environments are like that, where perhaps we be in a world where we’ll have to stay inside indefinitely. And in the way that we often go to art institutions to see moments of history and movements that have been archived in some type of canon, whether it’s a national history museum or just viewing art from other time periods, perhaps nature will be handled the same way and will have this artificial recreation that’s to imply the natural experience.

The natural experience I was most influenced by for the show was the sculpture garden or the garden, which is ultimately a curated environmental space. So it’s already playing on itself. But we come to accept it – regardless of the fact that it contains plants and animals that shouldn’t be located together in one amount of acreage – they’re there, we go and we like it. We adapt. We’re in the city and we would like to go outside, so we say “let’s go to this garden,” which is all manicured and human adjusted; human affected. Time Share is comprised of installations and different works that address how nature looks when reconstructed from up-cycled materials that are not biodegradable (such as foam and fibreglass).

The works invite the viewer to sit and spend time on/in them – to allow the viewer to feel as if they’re outside, but not in such a kitschy way that it feels like a themed restaurant or ride. My intention was to keep it very sculptural. But the underlying idea was of nature being able to be interpreted as an aesthetic force for contemporary sculpture. You could interact with many of the works, many of the installations. They sort of work as functional furniture or different benches. There’s a fountain that had serotonin in it. I wanted people to be able to run their hands through this water with serotonin and splash it on their face. Serotonin and dopamine rise in a person when they go out and experience authentic nature. As an artist, I had the ability to mediate this experience and replicate it – so I took it. There were a lot of living plants that were purchased for this show.

There’s this very popular meme of a little cartoon dog that’s on fire. Basically, it’s the meme of the dog where everything around him is on fire, and he’s just saying, “This is fine.” And it’s a line that women tend to say on the whole, like, “I’m fine, I’m fine.” Or “I’m sorry,” you know, for things that aren’t really our fault. So I did make a melted metal piece that just says ‘I am fine’.

Although I mentioned that much of my work takes place in a solution oriented manner hinged on optimism, so much of it is about adaptation and communication. And when one deals with a problem that’s so much bigger than oneself, or a problem that’s so large that it feels so much bigger than something that we could retract and actually make amends to, what do you do with that feeling?

Humans adapt, we generally override it or just declare that the water is ‘too dirty.’ So it’s dealing with a lot of these feelings. I made that show mainly in South Florida, where I live – in Miami. And it’s a very tropical place; the colour palette of the show reflects my outdoor studio. For Time Share, the pieces came from Miami and it feels quite organic for me to see what is essentially an installation of my outdoor surroundings travel around to these locations that somehow always seem to exhibit me in the most cold months. I think this particular show offers refuge or respite from some of the locations that have wanted to show it.

Adelaide Bannerman: Going back to talking about using your work as a tool of communication, and thinking about what you wrote large in the sky for your work, “You’ll be okay“. Can you recollect what you were responding to that time when you were making the work?

An image of the sky with 'You'll Be Ok' written across it in white

Jillian Mayer: Lately, people have assumed this message simply to be a very optimistic mimetic bumper sticker, but for me it was coming from a more complicated transmission of cross-communication.

For the ‘You’ll Be Okay‘ text, I simultaneously intended to present both forward and mirror versions, so that the text would appear backwards to the viewer, if you were the viewer. And what a humanly thing to do – to write a message across the sky, right? It’s kind of an insane idea, but we figured it out. And then by putting a message that says ‘you’ll be ok,’ that speaks to someone below who’s reading it, it’s an open gesture because ultimately, it reassured the reader but not without confusion. Who is this for? Who wrote it? Is this written from an outer world to us?

That is the reason why I wanted to simultaneously present it backwards – to position it as the possibility of correspondence from a different world, which then allows a viewer to wonder -Who might they be? Are they writing it for themselves? Or are they writing it to us? Or if we wrote it for ourselves, is someone else seeing it backwards?

I am interested in the planted notion for exchange. Every four minutes, the message ‘you’ll be okay’ loops and fades away. It is to reflect that we are all in a system, and even if the reassuring message fades away, it reboots. It’s kind of this artificially digitally enhanced pat on the head.

Adelaide Bannerman: But it was a beautiful moment. I think I stood in there for a few cycles of it, because it was just such a simple kind of gesture. But yes. I mean, the connotations and for who and how it speaks is innumerable I guess it depends on how you’re feeling in that moment when you walk into it as well.

Jillian Mayer: Yes, I remember telling one of my art mentors that I felt my practice leaning towards text-based work. And I remember them saying to me, “you know, the problem with text art is that it’s just so literal.” I thought so much about that, and ultimately concluded that the way to avoid that pit hole is that I would need the text to skew more poetic, more abstracted. Employing different presentational aspects or cinematic elements, editing, lighting, everything – it could be less literal, but it could also resonate with the people who needed to find it when they did. 

Adelaide Bannerman: It was certainly very powerful, very memorable as well, so it’s really nice to draw back to it again and have a small exchange, you around it, thank you very much Jillian.

Jillian Mayer: Thanks for talking to me about it. 

For more information about the works discussed in the conversation visit the artist’s website.
Image: Jillian Mayer, You’ll Be Okay, video still (2014). Courtesy, David Castillo Gallery.

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is presented by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund