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''The time has come to become extroverted in a more systemic – and anti-systemic – way.''
P.K: You are a multifaceted creative. We believe that good curatorial work is an artform in and of itself, how do you approach your practice in terms of curation being a medium and artistic intervention of sorts?
S.G: I'm an admirer of the so-called "Gesamtkunstwerk" (total work of art) and despite the overuse of the term what still intrigues and inspires me in the reception of art are the interfaces between site specificity, medium specificity, location, social, political and aesthetic context. Sites of performance, of exhibition or display are revealed to be culturally specific situations that generate particular contexts, ethics and narratives regarding art, art history and society.
P.K:) There’s a line of thinking regarding the Internet and that it’s not changing perception of art, but rather the art itself as a whole. Do you believe especially now due to the pandemic, this has become more true and also actually been exacerbated?
Following on, do you think that there might be a shift against being so terminally online, people will be turned off by it and looking for more “offline” art experiences?
S.Z: I think a paradigm shift is taking place and indeed I might agree that technology and the internet are changing the reception and perception “we” had for art and its production. Whether with crypto art, that has been considered as anachronistic by certain thinkers, or with internet art.
The mega galleries or auction houses, as we have seen with Christies and Beeple, will end up controlling these markets through their selective processes, however, at the same time there is a democratization that is taking place and we cannot, yet, foresee the impact it will have on art production. We were waiting for a paradigm shift in the way cultural goods are received, but now it is becoming imperative due to the pandemic. Art should be a common good and the positive opportunity given to us by a pandemic is to realize the social power and impact of art by expanding the ways of public viewing in the public sphere, whether this is in the virtual world of the internet or preferably in the real world of the public domain.
P.K: In your most recent exhibition “The Right to Silence?” the subject is quite dystopic and political. In this current climate, there’s a valid need for inclusivity and diversity, but it can be skewed by individuals and the identity politics game. Could you please elaborate with regards to the subject and its motifs?
How do you feel about unpacking all the aforementioned complexities in an exhibition? As an Academic we would love your opinion for the artist to be a social commentator and not only a producer of aesthetically pleasing images?
Is current reality so “exposed” that there is true risk to express opinions?
S.G: The subject of the exhibition I am curating is based on a reversal: I am interested in paradoxes, when they illuminate profound meanings. In this case it is about the well-known “Miranda Rights” and the 5th amendment. I was always impressed by the expression “you have the right to remain silent.” Silence is transformed into a right when what can be said might be legally binding for a citizen of a benevolent democracy. The paradox, however, is that some citizens remain silent because they are not given the opportunity to speak, therefore, the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In the group exhibition, “Miranda Rights” acquires a metaphorical sense in terms of exploring moral issues, but also aesthetic forms and artistic means, if we assume that silence is the culmination of abstraction. At the same time, we are confronting the confinement of the current pandemic, hence, despite the sensitive balance of drawing a parallel between the confinement and incarceration indeed we become more aware of the issue of mass imprisonment during the current condition that we all share.
Indeed, I have always tried to be cautious in my curatorial project of not aesthetisizing such crucial social and political issues. There is a very sensitive balance especially in the metaphor between incarceration and the current condition of confinement that we are all experiencing. At the same time in contrast to the academy and scholarly knowledge (philosophy and especially science), art gives the opportunity to make reflective leaps. Nevertheless, to propose a spectacle based on these dystopic subjects can lead to an impasse. In the case of “The Right to Silence” and to the forthcoming exhibition “The Right to Breathe,” I think it is significant that Greek artists are invited to respond to issues that they haven’t really reflected upon due to the geographical and political contexts that they haven’t experienced. African American artists would consider these issues in an entirely different light and this is I think the contribution of these exhibitions, to introduce complexities and asymmetric knowledge or to provide versions of "uncomfortable knowledge" (Steve Rayner) on how artists can make sense of the complexity of the social sphere without aesthetisizing political tensions.
P.K: Finishing we would like to have your opinion as a creative who has worked in many art metropoli. P.K as an art platform one of our aims is to overcome the polarisation of a two speed europe and push the standing of Eastern creatives in the West. As the Founding director of the cultural platform GREECE IN USA, Do you believe that artists from the East need to have more opportunities and support exporting their practice to a wider audience abroad?
I am reluctant of terms like “Global South” or the so-called “West/East,” but at the same time I understand the necessity of using these terms. I would challenge the specific uses of the terms by challenging the victory of “neoliberal capitalism” that has failed to recognize the impact of massive social changes in parts of the world that are characterized as non-western. I am interested in these heterogeneous and even imaginary provinces of the world as they can be formulated in artistic and curatorial research. More specifically, however, since your question raises issues of infrastructure, governmental policies and funding I consider it is vital for these artists to receive more support whether from European or local networks to export their work abroad. Greece in USA with its modest means, but with a strong cultural capital, is trying to contribute to these efforts. It is principally the support of the artists that is helping us realize this goal even more than the systemic partners.
P.K Bonus question: Do you have a vision for the course of art currently? What would be a healthy future for art in general and more specifically for Greek art and how you see it coming true?
S.G: About a year ago, Yale University decided to remove its introduction to art history survey course following criticism that it focused mostly on Western art. This decision sparked public praise, but also a national outcry. The discussions surrounding that issue focused on how to ensure that the diversity of research can match the diversity of today’s student body and to advance teaching. I refer to trends in contemporary international art education in order to highlight the ideological and aesthetic principles that are radically changing these days. In Greece, these changes to our cultural life occurred recently, during the economic crisis of 2010 onwards, and then with the hosting of Documenta in Athens and Kassel in 2017, and with the pandemic this past year. The art scene in Greece has been influenced in ways that are not yet evident, and this is the reason that we refer to a “national” identity with frustration and discomfort. The time has come to become extroverted in a more systemic – and anti-systemic – way. This is the reason I chose to give the platform the generic name “Greece in USA”, and not a cute, conceptual title as is the norm in the post-postmodern era. I did not want the name to have any metaphorical dimension, thus risking or inviting misunderstandings. The name also raises questions about stereotypes and different expressions or perceptions of the “Greek nationality, language and country.”
The Greek art scene, like Greece itself, is unpredictable, stray (in terms of governmental strategy and funding), exciting and undisciplined. I consider that lately, it has evolved into a more international scene owing to the broader interest of foreigners in Athens. That is partly a result of the financial and social crisis, and of art initiatives by younger, local and international artists and curators who understand the importance of experimentation and who aren’t afraid to fail. This approach has caused a cultural shift from the significance of galleries in the 1990s to the prominence of non-profit art initiatives. I am investigating the Greek paradigm since I consider that “developing” art markets like the Greek can show the way to saturated markets like the US market that are anxious to find and exhaust new territories like the African American market. The past injustices cannot be resolved in a day especially if the new narratives are again recited by the dominant voices of the west.
Sozita Goudouna is the inspirer, founder and artistic director of GREECE IN USA, head of the
Raymond Pettibon Foundation, one of America's most prominent artists and adjunct professor at CUNY City University of New York. She is the author of "Beckett's Breath: Anti-theatricality and the Visual Arts" published by Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernism and researcher at the Organism for Poetic Research supported by NYU and Brown University. Sozita has taught from 2015 at New York University as the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial fellow at Performa Biennial in NYC. Her internationally exhibited projects include participations at New Museum NYC, Performa Biennial and Institute in New York, Documenta, Onassis Foundation New York, Hunterian Museum London, EMST, Benaki Museum, Byzantine Museum among others. She served as treasurer of the board of directors of AICA Hellas International Art Critics Association and as member of the board of directors at ITI International Theatre Association, Unesco..