7 November 2019
Ahead of the November instalment of Venice’s Biennale Arte 2019 performance programme, our Director Aaron Cezar spoke to each of the participating artists in a series of conversations published by My Art Guides, released weekly in the run up to the presentations.
The programme of short performance-lectures and audio-visual performances, which follows on from those that took place during the Biennale’s opening week in May, will be presented during the edition’s final weekend, from 22-24 November.
Aaron Cezar: Your practice focuses on sound, taking specific references and investigating the meanings with which they are imbued and the responses we have to them. How did you arrive at your interest in sound and this particular approach to it?
Vivian Caccuri: I come from a family of musicians and I have always been fascinated by music performance and how it creates different dynamics between people, be it body or attention-wise. At the same time, I was very strong in my drawing passion as a child and teenager, but the nature of this expression was not exactly cathartic or liberating enough for me. That’s why music expression and electronic music became my way out of a rigid Christian education. When I turned thirteen I started faking my IDs and running away from home to go to the rave parties of the late 90s/ early 2000s and to drum’n’bass nightclubs. It was a whole new world for me, and somehow similar to the Catholic experience because it brought so much visuality, spatiality and ecstasy together, but the only clear rules were freedom, innovation and a positivity/optimism for the digital world or the internet could heal the world. So I was a Napster / Audio Galaxy / Soulseek kid for a couple of years until I learned how to program own sounds using MAX / MSP, an amazing coding platform for music, sound and noise.
Aaron Cezar: Your projects as Cooking Sections are highly research-driven. While they differ in outcomes, you seem to consistently take a similar approach to them. Can you speak about your methodology and the influences behind it?
Cooking Sections: Cooking Sections was born to use food to understand how space is built. This is perhaps the common thread that cuts across our projects, trying to explore the different environmental or geopolitical frictions that determine the ways humans and more-than-humans inhabit the planet. Our practice is indeed highly research-driven and the conversations, interviews, and readings shape our working methodology and approach in each project we undertake. In that sense, the methodology has to be shaped and created for each context we work in. When developing a project on watering systems in Sicily or a project on ocean pollution from salmon farms each demand a specific approach and language.
Aaron Cezar: You two have been working together as Invernomuto since 2003. How did this collaboration arise?
Invernomuto: We come from the same area, the countryside, about an hour south of Milan. We got to know each other better during our studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, in the art and new media department. Having backgrounds in punk/hc and hip hop, it was natural for us to work together, in the same way, you start a band or a zine. We created a unit that was something in-between a graphic design studio, an experimental audiovisual collective, and a visual art duo. Our first project was a magazine called ffwd_mag, which we curated and designed. We then started to work with moving images and sound, slowly progressing to more complex installations and performances. Working as a duo is about removing ego, and at the same time building something truly solid: it’s the result of constant negotiations and discussions.
Continue reading Invernomuto’s interview on My Art Guides here.
Aaron Cezar: As well as conducting your own socially-engaged projects, you have also spent many years researching the history of these types of practice in China as well as teaching about it. Could you tell us about this work and its importance to you?
Bo Zheng: As an artist, I started making relational works in the early 2000s, with Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong and the queer community in Beijing. Soon I realized that I needed to read more on social theory. In 2007 I enrolled in the Visual & Cultural Studies program at University of Rochester, and studied with Douglas Crimp for a PhD. I never planned to teach, but was recruited by China Academy of Art in 2012 when a new School of Intermedia Art was set up. I started teaching socially engaged art there. Although I could find a lot of information on social practice in Europe and North America, there is hardly anything on China. There are many Chinese artists doing social practice, but there is just no one documenting this field. So I decided to build an online archive, seachina.net. Now I use it for teaching; so do many colleagues in China and abroad. It’s useful. None of this – art, teaching, research – was planned. I just did it because there was a clear need for it. These days I always tell people (and plants) that I want to be useful.
Continue reading Bo’s interview on My Art Guides here.
Aaron Cezar: You have spent years working with farmers on seed conservation in Palestine and across the world. Where did your interest in agricultural heritage arise from?
Vivien Sansour: It’s hard for me to say exactly when my interest in agriculture arose. Mostly because I don’t think it actually arose; I think it was always there.
I was also born in Palestine in an environment where planting and eating from the land was the only way of life. I did not know anything else, thankfully. My idea of a playground was my grandmother’s terraces and the walnut, pistachio, almond, apricot, and olive trees. So I was made from and marinated in the elements of this nature: soil, sun, air, and fire. Literally fire – one of my best memories is as a child setting my grandmother’s stack of dried weeds on fire and feeling so mischievous and running around with my cousin. It was innocent, natural, and in many ways so privileged because I look at kids today and I feel that while they have many comforts they are missing out on the magic of learning through touch, smell, and unknown explorations in nature – on how to survive and how to own that knowledge even as a kid because you learned what not to eat or what to eat through trying things. That may have sometimes been risky, but you felt the pain and the pleasure of it and now it is part of your embodied knowledge of the earth and life you are part of. You are not separate. You don’t have to live in a boxed room. You are part of a magical planet and a biosphere that is abundant with adventurous and sparkling things and beings. So yeah! I guess my love for agriculture comes from just where I come from and how I grew up and with whom I grew up.
*The performance presented by Paul Maheke and Nkisi is also in equal collaboration with musician and light artist, Ariel Efraim Ashbel.
Aaron Cezar: Firstly I wanted to ask one question to Paul. You were among the artists involved in the first part of the performance programme during the Venice Biennale’s opening week presenting Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer *deep within*. Can you talk a little about your experience with the opening week?
Paul Maheke: The opening week of the Biennale was, as expected, an intense and very dense moment. In conversation with Aaron Cezar, the curator of the performance programme, we had chosen to show a very self-contained older work of mine titled Seeking After the Fully Grown Dancer *deep within*. It’s a 20-minute long partly-improvised, partly-scripted dance performance wherein which I converse with the audience while performing a dance exercise called Authentic Movement. The work addresses the relationship between an audience and a performer in relation to notions such as authenticity and performativity. We can definitely say that the piece has a humorous/self-deprecating twist to it too.
Over the opening week, the work was performed daily in the Giardino delle Vergini in Arsenale alongside performances by Victoria Sin and boychild, artists who are both friends of mine and whose practices I highly respect and admire. It was an immense pleasure to share the space with them and it felt like a very nurturing and caring environment.
Continue reading Paul and Nkisi’s interview on My Art Guides here.