"Elephant Love" Pop-up Shop: Crowdsourcing for art and charity

By Patricia Chow
Last weekend I had my first photography show in Chelsea (New York City), as part of the High Line Open Studios.  Since my day job is in statistical research, this was my first experience putting together an art show – and it was fabulous!  The show was a great way for me to combine three completely separate facets of my life: the artistic side (I am a photographer and graphic artist); the volunteer side (I teach ESL 3 days a week); and my personal and professional networks, which were instrumental in ensuring the success of the show.
 
 
I first started to photograph when I was living in Spain in 1995, and much of my photography focuses on the different perceptions that a newcomer has of ordinary surroundings. Since beauty can only exist in the eye of the beholder, I have tried to convey the essence of what I find beautiful in a place, rather than what is commonly considered beautiful, which, in many cases, is simply familiar.  There are a few images below – you can view more of my work on my photo blog.  Selected images are available for purchase as prints on Society6 and facebook.
 
 
 
In addition to photography, I also create whimsical, stylized elephant designs.  “Elephant Love” is the brand name for these designs, which are also sold on Society6 and facebook.  They are inspired by artists and design companies such as Marimekko, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol and Walasse Ting, as well as by traditional folk arts such as Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls and the molas that are embroidered by the Kuna Indians in Panama.  A variety of home decor and novelty items are available with these designs, such as posters/prints, blank stationery cards, throw pillows, iPhone covers, tote bags and clothing (t-shirts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.).  The bright colors are great for decorating your apartment or nursery/kid’s room.

Because my work is primarily digital, I appealed to my friends and family for donations to cover the cost of producing physical items for my show. This was my first attempt at crowdsourcing and I was very impressed by how supportive everyone was.   
In order to encourage people to support my show, I promised to donate the profits from the sale of artwork and merchandise to a good cause: the Institute for Immigrant Concerns, where I am a board member.  The Institute is a New York City non-profit that provides free English classes and basic social services to low income immigrants, refugees and asylees.  The amazing stories of our alumni have been featured in the New York Times and other newspapers.  I was a volunteer English teacher with them for two years before becoming a board member, and 
 
I continue to volunteer with them about 12 hours a week.  The combination of the artistic cause and the social cause was a great way to reach a wider audience.

We are planning one more open studio day in a few weeks (possibly Thursday, November 7), so stop by if you happen to be in the area!  Details about the event to follow soon…  In the meantime, check out my website, blog and facebook page!  Thank you for your support!
 
Patricia Chow  

Photographer, Block-by-Block Photography
Graphic Artist, Elephant Love
(Read Patricia’s Firstindigo&Lifestyle interview from April 2013 here)
 

Artist Spotlight: Daniella Rabbani

Daniella Rabbani, actress, singer,  and a new yorker is currently producing and starring in #GYMSHORTS, a series of Web Shorts. Daniella graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts with a focus on acting for television. She also studied at The Stella Adler Studio of Acting.  
Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What productions/premieres did you do recently? 
 

DANIELLA RABBANI: THE GOLDEN LAND, THE OFF BROADWAY MUSICAL I WAS IN THIS PAST FALL WAS NOMINATED FOR A DRAMA DESK! I GOT TO DRESS UP AND GO TO THE NOMINEE RECEPTION AND THE AWARD CEREMONY. IT WAS SO FUN!  I’M CURRENTLY PRODUCING AND STARRING IN #GYMSHORTS ABOUT THE FUNNY THINGS THAT HAPPEN AT THE GYM. IT’S AWESOME. I GET TO DO BE REALLY GOOFY WITH SOME OF THE FUNNIEST ACTORS I KNOW AND PUMP IRON WITH TRAINERS LIKE BRETT HOEBEL FROM THE BIGGEST LOSER. IT’S HYSTERICAL.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who are your greatest mentors and idols? 

DR: I’VE BEEN VERY BLESSED IN MY LIFE TO HAVE SEASONED  PROFESSIONALS, MASTERS AT WHAT THEY DO, TAKE ME UNDER THEIR WING. I APPRENTICED UNDER THE STELLA ADLER STUDIO’S HEAD OF MOVEMENT, JENA NECRASON, FOR YEARS. SHE TAUGHT ME HOW TO FOLLOW MY INSTINCTS, TO TELL A STORY WITHOUT ANY WORDS AT ALL, TO COLLABORATE AND TO TEACH. I ALSO SING IN YIDDISH. ZALMEN MLOTEK, THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL YIDDISH THEATER, HUNKERED DOWN WITH ME FOR HOURS AND HOURS TEACHING ME BEAUTIFUL YIDDISH FOLK AND THEATER TUNES. WE TOURED TOGETHER FOR YEARS. EVEN ARTISTS I HAVEN’T MET YET- GIRLS LIKE GRETA GURWIG, LENA DUNHAM, ZOOEY DESCHANEL, MINDY KALING – GIRLS WHO TAKE THEIR ARTISTRY AND FATE INTO THEIR OWN HANDS- THESE ARE MENTORS TO ME TOO.

What is your favorite performance genre, which one do you like more, musical theater, drama or film? 

DR: I’M INSPIRED TO CREATE MORE WEB-BASED FEMALE DRIVEN COMEDIC CONTENT. I THINK THE WEB IS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE AND I DIG IT. MY BACKGROUND IS IN THEATER, WHICH I TOTALLY LOVE, AND MY FUTURE IS IN TV (IT’S ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM). STATING A PREFERENCE IS LIKE PLAYING FAVORITES WITH YOUR CHILDREN… EVERYONE DOES IT BUT IT’S NOT THE TYPE OF THING YOU’RE GONNA ADMIT.


Do you tour, how is it different to perform in New York City and elsewhere?
 

DR: I TOUR LESS THESE DAYS. THE LAST TIME I SANG A CONCERT OUT OF TOWN, WE WERE IN WARSAW, POLAND SINGING TO HUNDREDS OF POLES IN YIDDISH. IT WAS INTENSE. BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING, SAD AND HAUNTING… I GOT TO GET TO KNOW WARSAW A BIT AND EVEN TOUR AROUND KRAKOW AND AUSCHWITZ… IT WAS A COMPLICATED, LIFE CHANGING TRIP.

 
How do you consider yourself as a role model for young people?
 
DR: WHEN I PERFORM, I TRY TO BE MY FULLEST SELF- BY EMBRACING MY HUMANITY WITH ALL ITS GREATNESS AND EVEN MY IMPERFECTIONS. I HOPE THAT THE AUDIENCE WATCHING CAN FEEL INSPIRED TO LIVE THEIR FULLEST LIVES AS WELL.
 
Daniella Rabbani’s own website. Follow @DaniellaRabbani on Twitter.,  @drabbani on Instagram.

Knit Sandy: Knitting for Hurricane Relief

Kristin Hatleberg is a dancer and educator living in New York City, whose recent efforts include organizing a knitting circle for Sandy relief, (SandyReliefKnittingBee on Facebook).

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Kristin, how did you get started with the project of knitting?

Kristin: The idea came to me quite simply, and I blurted it out to the right person! My boyfriend and I were making dinner and I said, “You know, I should just start a knitting bee to give everyone a way to help out. I’ve got the yarn—why not?” And that was it, within that evening the idea was public, space was donated, and we were going through with doing it. It started in the week right after the hurricane, because I kept having conversations with people about how they were frustrated at their inability to help out. Lots of people I knew were getting turned away from volunteer centers because they didn’t have long enough windows of time to volunteer. And I thought if only there were a way for everyone to sit down together and process what’s happened, and to do something with all the concern in the air….it felt surreal to return to work and “normal life” when just a mile or two away, within the city limits, things were shattered. Then I remembered I had this huge pile of yarn back at my mother’s house that I knew I was never going to use. Then, I was handed a free meeting space that was connected to a huge network of people. So it all came together on its own, really.

Who joined you in the effort?

Kristin: So many people have made this effort come to life! The managers at Saltlands Studio, Jim Smith and Jackie Werner, were my biggest support and motivators in getting the group off the ground. Jim Smith has helped me organize and facilitate all the planning stages. My two crafting consultants who I relied on heavily for all the initial blanket design decisions were my mom, Lois Hatleberg, and Renee Kurz. I couldn’t have done this without everyone! Lori McCaskill gave me administrative support, big time. Isabella Bruno of Bruno Design created a flyer and our Facebook page so that we were able to reach the knitting communities. Because as soon as I started this I realized I only knew maybe two other knitters in the whole city…so we really did have to reach out.

And the response has been amazing. People from all over the country sought us out, asking to be able to mail in squares and contribute. So we said sure! At the beginning of our knitting bee we already had over eighty finished squares waiting to be sewn into blankets. That was amazing to watch take shape, seeing all the packages come in and getting emails from people who rsvp’d for the event saying they already had two squares done to bring, etc. And at our knitting bee Sarah Louden and Lauren Balthrop both volunteered their homes as meeting sites so we could continue the initiative together. That’s really why Knit Sandy has taken off and been able to do as much as it has so far—because everyone’s response has been so energetic and willing, it’s all just been able to come together.

 

Knitting for Sandy in NYC

What have your experiences been in organizing the knitting circle? 

Kristin: It takes a lot of thinking ahead! That, and listening to everyone’s responses, following through on what I hear. The most incredible thing, other than actually getting our homemade blankets to people who need them, has been the conversations I’ve had. It’s humbling to hear how meaningful a little human touch can be.

What is your perspective for now and the relief? Winter is here, do you see things have moved on with the relief efforts?

Kristin: I’m not sure I know in which sense you’re asking….have things moved on? Yes, in the sense that it seems all the hard work is paying off and the disaster areas are moving from response mode to recovery and rebuilding. No, in the sense that I don’t think people can yet move on. So many people who didn’t suffer major personal damage still care and still want to reach out to those who were more affected. Knit Sandy is still getting at least one message a day from someone new, asking how they can help. People still want to talk about what has happened and what is happening. People I’m in communication with through Knit Sandy are still waiting for their insurance to sort out and let them take action, begin to rebuild. Other people I know through Knit Sandy are still waiting for the basic comforts to be stable, still living off generators and without proper amenities. People are still without their work offices, without their children’s schools. And so, so many people were affected economically. It’s too early to move on, every one is still coping in that sense. It’s still in everyone’s minds.

How is your dancing going these days, what projects are you doing and planning to do? 

Kristin: Great! I’ve been doing research work for the past six months, developing an approach to working that feels both immediately effective and bigger in scope, to weave all my interests in dance into one joint focus. It’s been fun. I wrote a dance, called “The Read-Aloud Dance,” out of the notes and writing done in our first major research phase (nine dancers involved). And I’ll probably write some more. It feels balancing to combine the two modes, dance and writing. For now I’m clumping all the dance research under the name “Anima” and working on a few different manifestations, mainly practice rituals that can deepen into performances and film. My friend Cecilia Fontanesi did an Anima performance with this research in the fall. This month I’m on pause with that, because of Knit Sandy and my other dancing. I’m dancing with Dai Jian, and we’ll be doing a gallery-style performance January 17th in Ran Tea House in Williamsburg. Also I’m dancing with Sari! I stepped in for her in a duet she’s making, we’ll dance it at the FLIC Fest in Fort Greene on Feb 1st. Lots going on, always….

Kristin Hatleberg in a dance studio.

Kristin: Do I get to ask you questions too? How is everything going? What are you working on right now, in your research work and also on the stage?

Thank you, Kristin, that is so sweet of you. Btw, I am waiting to see you and Sari Nordman on stage at FLICfest in February. Myself, I am basically just back from performing at La Mama, another project with Yara Arts. It was wonderful! This year, I will be doing something in the city, video-dancing too, and hopefully also outdoors somewhere. Always ready for new projects. My research, I am swamped with my book-project trying to get a draft by summer, which is somewhat unrealistic.

(Photos of Kristin Hatleberg Marielise Goulene)

Promoting FLICfest: Independent Choreography Kickstarter

Promoting new Choreography for FLICfest: A Festival of Independent Choreography, in Brooklyn in February 2013
Dancer-Choreographer Sari Nordman is making a new dance work for FLICfest: A Festival of Independent Choreography to be performed in Brooklyn in February, 2013. Sari holds an M.F.A. degree in modern dance from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, and has worked with prominent choreographers in modern dance, including Douglas Dunn, Naomi Goldberg Haas, Dean Moss, Robin Rapoport, Susan Rethorst and Melinda Ring, and artist Ming Wong, among others. Sari is a recent recipient of American Scandinavian Society’s cultural grant. Sari has worked as a choreographer for several platforms in New York City. In her free time, she is an enthusiastic photographer. 
To be able to fund her new choreographic work A Dadaesque Collage of Chauvinist Wisdom, which will be performed as part of the FLICfest at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn in February, 2013, Sari needs donations. She is part of the Kickstarter fundraiser for the FLICfest, which is open for just another two days. They are less than $1500 away from their goal, and with your support they can make it. Donations will help Sari to fund her project. (This is a US tax-deductible donation).
You can see the project by following this link
 
Photo: Sari Nordman, 2009

Artist Nozomi Rose: Dai Dai

Nozomi Rose is a rocking Japanese woman artist, who has a lot to say about the women’s role in the fine arts. From traditional Japanese Nihonga to Western artistic techniques, she uses fingernails to add dimension to the paintings. She was trained in painting at Cornell University and earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The focus for our discussion is on diversity of artistic practices. We listen to her plans from organizing a conference in New York City, where artists and scholars who have more than one practice get to present their work and share knowledge on how one discipline informs the other. She is publishing an e-book in Japanese on hybrid art teaching and learning for Tatsu-zine Publishing. Her exhibition ‘Dai Dai’ will open in New York at Japanese Embassy on October 2nd. This exhibition will feature her latest paintings of multiple techniques, along with her other works.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: We had a discussion about patriarchal Japanese art-institution, could you explain that a bit?

NR: Haha. Are we really starting out our interview with this question? I was talking about the wife of Ikuo Hirayama, one of the most important Nihonga painters in Japan. Ikuo Hirayama is a Hiroshima-A bomb survivor, served as the President of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (a.k.a Geidai) twice, and a synonym for Nihonga, so I would say he is a Japanese version of Jackson Pollock. Well, sort of…Hirayama paints landscape and is known for Silk Road paintings. Everyone in Japanese art knows his name. His wife Michiko Hirayama entered the same university with Ikuo and was the top of their class. Ikuo was the second. Michiko, however, gave up on her painting career when they got married because their best man told her that having two painters in one household would not work. Michiko took the advice and stopped painting, and then, Ikuo truly climbed to the top of the field. It sounds similar to Lee Krasner now I think about it. There is a Japanese idiom “breaking one’s brush,” which typically means “stop writing stories,” but Japanese painters see that the words symbolize a female painter’s marriage with a male painter in Nihonga. Michiko’s episode is an urban folklore among Japanese painters worldwide. I heard this story for the first time when I was studying painting in Paris, France!

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are using both western means of creating art and Japanese traditional Nihonga in your art, how naturally this came about to you as an artist and when?

NR: Oh, you mean, I use Nihonga paints with acrylic medium on canvas and you see it as unusual? That is a very good point. The fact is that, though, many Japanese painters trained in Nihonga use this method in New York. Also, Nihonga pigments are heavy because their particles are much larger than western pigments, so I can’t really use gum arabic for this, like you do in watercolor. I can’t mix it with oil painting medium because oil paints cure through oxidation, and oxidation changes the colors in Nihonga pigments. These are scientific sides of why and how it came to me. The technical diversity creates the differences in visual effects in western and Japanese paintings. I am curious to see how Nihonga paints react to various western painting mediums in my work. I might try it with oil paints at a later time. I have increasingly been attracted to casual ways of making paintings, so the color change may be okay for certain types of work that I will create in the near future.

You may be asking me about the conceptual side of the work. For me, using Nihonga paints is one way of “citing” Japan in my work, but this is not the main theme I promote in art. Personally, making art has more to do with erasing my own identity as Japanese rather than emphasizing it. I was told at an early stage of my artistic career that I should stay away from quoting Japanese art materials or Japanese visual languages for my own work because they can never make my art original. For example, I can never be unique by copying Ukiyo-e patterns as art because many people have seen those. I have never trained in Nihonga; learning Japanese traditional painting never attracted me. When I was still in Japan, I was studying oil painting; I liked Japanese oil painters such as Ryuzaburo Umehara who studied with Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I enjoyed seeing the world through the lens of Japanese artists influenced by the western aesthetics.

I also liked the works by westerners influenced by the Japanese aesthetics. This included Impressionists and conceptual artists like Daniel Buren, so I went to Paris in 1999. I even went to Monet’s house in Giverny, but you know…he had a strong collection of Japanese woodcut prints and that was the secret! It was a bit unfair that I had to travel all the way from Japan to France only to witness that Claude Monet was a big fan of Japanese art. Daniel Buren, on the other hand, might not be familiar with Japan although his work looks very Japanese, especially the installations with color stripes.

Do you know there was no art in Japan until Ernest Fenollosa came and made it happen with Okakura Tenshin, who established Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston? Okakura Tenshin was Fenollosa’s assistant and both of them worked for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. People who say that the Japanese Constitution was written by the United States would probably claim that Americans created Japanese art, but I am not a historian.

So my short answer is that it has always been on my mind. However, inserting something very Japanese directly into my own artwork, which I have long been resisted, came to me only when the Japan Tsunami Earthquake Disaster happened.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The collaboration between Fenollosa and Tenshin is very moving, and kind of tells us how the world of artists has always been connected.  Do you feel you are mediating between East and West with your art, or do you think that it is stereotypical to make this opposition?

NR: As a visual artist, color is my “language.” I would like color to mediate between east and west in my work, so my answer is yes and I feel there is no way for me to escape this. I am certainly interested in mediating between Japanese and American visual effects and aesthetics. Japanese art has borrowed elements from Indian and Chinese art, so it is the idea of East. I think the question is more about “how” I am doing it. I am watching how my art can mediate both east and west.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘Happening’, 2012. oil on canvas. 8″ x 10″)

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You participated in the Japan’s Earthquake and TsunamI 2011 art-project, could you tell me more about it?

NR: I was an organizer for Silent Art Auction and a curator for Charity Art Exhibition, but they were both student-driven projects. Our students learned a lot by carrying out those charity art events. I was just a tool for them to communicate with the College and Japan. Students who wanted to show and sell their art for their fundraisers, first on campus and then in a Chelsea art gallery, got together, and through myself, they were able to even have a commercial gallery owner donate his space for one day, for free.

We see those activities as our students’ educational experiences as well as healing processes. As a result, affected students successfully survived the crisis and graduated. I just presented on this theme with two other Professors, Kyoko Toyama in College Discovery/Counseling and Tomonori Nagano in Education and Language Acquisition, at the Opening Session at LaGuardia Community College: (For more details, look the website: http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/Opening-Sessions/Workshops-II/)

Our College President Dr. Gail O. Mellow has been sympathetic about what Japanese students went through due to the unfortunate disaster, so she briefly came to our presentation. I felt her attendance symbolized a kind gesture by the College to the affected population in Japan.

The title of our paper is “Respecting Tradition and Creating a Community: Culturally Appropriate Response to the needs of Japanese Students and the College in the aftermath of Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami.” We previously presented the same research in a session under the same title at the 2011 Asian American Psychological Association Conference in Washington D. C.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Then, I am always curious what an artist like you holds for their future. I guess it is about the dreams, what are your dreams and future plans?

NR: Wow, this is an interesting question. My dreams:

1) Sending 1000 young women from the disaster areas of Japan to New York City to study visual arts at LaGuardia Community College. This can be for three months or longer like two years. They do not need to be all Japanese citizens and I believe this is the right way for us to start spending more money on women’s education. This art project is after “Fairytale” by Ai Weiwei. Please let me know if you know anyone who would be interested in funding this project!

2) Creating a visiting East Asia artists and curators’ lecture series where people from various East Asia countries peacefully collaborate. After 3/11, my school suggested me to create an East Asia art course, so I wrote and proposed HUA191: the Art of Eastern Asia. It is now part of the College’s official course offerings. We are currently developing a new East Asia/ Japanese major, in collaboration with Queens College, so the new East Asia art course is becoming a permanent addition to the major. This is a bold step for diversity in the arts of Long Island City, Queens/ NYC. The next logical step would be an art lecture series with the same theme.

Future plans

1) To film “Dai Dai.” The title of my exhibition came from a film project that I started in 2010 entitled, “Orange.” Daidai is a Japanese word for one specific shade of orange, whose sound also connotes the concept of genealogy. The film content was mainly about my personal experience with the color orange, the largest earthquake in Japan, which was the Kobe earthquake before 3/11, and the sarin gas attack on Tokyo Subway system. I think production of a contemporary Japanese folklore was my initial purpose of this project. The tsunami earthquake was literally a life altering experience for me as an artist in part because it forced me to stop writing this script, but I recently decided to re-start it by re-structuring the entire work.

2) Swan Hill Art Biennale. I am helping the Swan Hill Museum of Contemporary Art in Himeji, Japan, to create an art biennale. Himeji literally means “Princess Road.” It currently promotes art made by women and I want to eventually include transgender women. For that, I think the conservative region needs a good woman’s medical center. We want a feminist art “museum-medical center,” so I will start talking to artists and doctors who may be interested in this type of project. This can sound very different from what I have done in the past, but I think the fundraisers for Japan last year were really about helping to raise funds for medical treatments.

3) Interdisciplinary Art Practices Conference in NYC. I am planning to organize a conference where artists and scholars who have more than one practice present their work and discuss how one discipline informs another one in their own practice.

4) E-Publication. I am writing an e-book for Tatsu-zine Publishing (http://tatsu-zine.com/) in Tokyo, Japan. This will probably be about Art-in-NY for non-majors and online art learning tools because this Japanese publisher specializes in e-books for computer programmers.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘One Summer Dream’, 2012. oil on unstretched linen)

The artist’s website: http://nozomirose.com/

Information about the upcoming ‘Dai Dai’ -exhibition: Opening Reception: Thursday, Oct. 4th, 2012. 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m, Discussion with the artist: Friday, October 5th, 2012, at 1:00 p.m.

http://www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/i2/special_2012-10-02–31_DaiDaiExibition.html Opening

  • (Daidai is a fruit)

What is a virtual feminist museum?

Griselda Pollock’s writes in her Encounters in the Virtual Feminist Museum: Time, Space and the Archive (Routledge, 2007), about the choice and power, as well as about alternative views in the curating of art.

Spring time is full of art showings. Some of the contemporary art events used ideas that were earlier introduced. Current mixing of concepts and art are already well established. Where is art actually taking place, is it the person performing it, is it in unique details, or is art a social phenomenon, or is it in your subconscious? Looking into Griselda Pollock’s view on curating offers some interesting insights.

Would art galleries be any different than museums from the perspective of power? In case there would be no space for alternative voices in the museums, would ‘officially’ curated galleries be any different? What Pollock implies is that ‘reading against the grain’ is much more than just aesthetical choices. Virtual feminist museum needs to touch silenced territories. Whose story will be told in the future is important. But we choose to follow the path of retelling the same ‘official’ stories.

I just learned about an art project, which would fall into a category of ‘alternative’ curating. After all, writing about works in a more positive light, using the power of choice, and overall, rethinking the ethical parameters in actual processes, is crucial for this type of curating. Who gets to participate in a biennale, for instance?

I found some answers from Estonia. The contemporary art movement called Artishok was established in 2008 in Tallinn. It was initiated by a group of young voices who wanted to “scatter clusters of symbolic capital and status quo”. They were ten young artists, ten young critics, and ten exhibition days, showing new works with critical reviews that opened new works each day. Multiple tastes, philosophies and world views were the key words in the project, which aimed to do something around the exhibition experience as well.

“Artishok Biennale is an experimental exhibition format that was brought to life by art and criticism…”  (http://artishok.blogspot.com) The next, 3rd in a series, Artishok Biennale will take place in October 10th-20th 2012 in Contemporary Museum of Art of Estonia in Tallinn. The biennale aims to bring X young Baltic and Scandinavian writers to promote X young Estonian artists. This will happen in a moment, where Estonian art world “is struggling for the preservation of the most basic functions”… (III Artishok Biennale will be supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.

Artishok seems to offer ideas for alternative curating. How would the project do something that relates to a virtual feminist museum?

Griselda Pollock states that “The dominant social and economic power relations that govern the museum make feminist analysis impossible” (2007, pg. 9). She further adds that “The museum in contemporary society is increasingly bounded into the circuits of capital between entertainment, tourism, heritage, commercial sponsorship and investment” (pg.10).

So, can this rhetoric be changes in establishing something like the Estonian biennale?

Art criticism is a tricky institution, and it needs to re-evaluate itself together with the artists. What is truly at stake today is that criticism still has a powerful voice in creating the future for the arts.  The mission statement of the Artishok Biennale is collaborative, as both the artists and writers can be at home “within the ever changing landscape of contemporary art”. What is so great about Artishok is that it has taken the art criticism seriously. It has created reading groups, interviewed renowned professionals from around the world, and brought professional circles and the media together. Artishok has also touched upon the idea of the exhibition spaces. The first two biennales were exhibiting in white and cubic city galleries. The 3rd biennale will take place in Contemporary Museum of Art. The group sees that the art museum is a positive space, because as a young institution the Estonian museum is ambitious and interested in experiments.

Coming back to the virtual feminist museum. This blog writing showcases one photograph, which is empowered by a writer of this blog. Her writer name is Firstindigo. In the picture she is looking at her camera, which is her documenting device. She also admirably pretends to hold her defined notes of the documented art. But in fact, this might be completely false. It is rather implied that she holds an art museum program or the museum floor map in her hand. The fact is insignificant in the picture. The location is Philadelphia Museum of Art. The sculpture in the picture matters: Diana was made in America in 1892-94 by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who was born in Ireland.

***

{Addition to this article by Liisa Kaljula from Artishok comments on March 21, 2012}:

So nice to read your contemplations on alternative curating and also that you merge it with feminist theory! Some little remarks though on the purely factual: Artishok was founded in 2006 as a platform for different activities on art and criticism, but mainly as an art criticism blog, 2008 it started with Artishok Biennale. The founding formula of the biennale was that there had to be ten artists and ten critics involved in the exhibition each time. The rest has been up to the changing curator. This time instead of one person picking the participants, I wanted to let the critics choose, and for that to make sense, they had to be with as different backgrounds and agendas as possible. So this is why there are critics who are into queer theory and feminism, phenomenology, self-mythology, modernism, video games, sculpture and installation, photography and so on. So basically these ten critics who all have different agendas pick ten artists – and they will all merge in the autumn as one big happy family, when each and every critic has to write about each and every artist.

Hopefully there will be changes

Our lives can become targeted, and the world events can break our innocence of time and space. The political turmoils in many areas of the Middle East have evidently shown us that our imagination of cultural space can change rapidly. International media has been ‘good’ in influencing our views of the significance of recent political turmoils.

Once undergoing a radical process from being a state under oppressive powers, Egypt took a route for re-branding its image in the world. The sequence of events towards a revolution in Egypt took place in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in February 2011. This political performance became a testimony of a new type of nation branding, which operates with the help of global testimony. The advertising value of the events in the international media is in the question of, how did the revolution realize itself through the use of contemporary technologies? The revolution was not only local in terms of its impact, but it was simultaneously taking place in the various surrounding regions, and ultimately it took notice of the entire world through the modern telecommunications devices. SMS messaging, the use of Twitter and Facebook became channels for branding a new and globally more attractive appearance for Egypt. Men and women, young and old, came out from their homes bringing their radical presence, and fighting for the better future.

As a political performance, Tahrir Square stands as an utmost example of branding a nation. The sequence of events radicalized some common ideas that usually stand for the images of Egypt as an ancient, and merely an anti-modern state. The representations of the region’s backwardness, as it comes to people, its ruling power, and even the medieval imaginary created around the cultural artifacts (use of camels etc.), has been holding a strong place in our imagination. These representations were crashed and set in turmoil. Yet, the immediate surface and media representation, the use of stereotypes by the international media, as it discusses Egypt, still seemed to continue.

I went to Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif’s lecture on March 3rd in 2011, as she was lecturing at the Edward W. Said memorial lecture at Columbia University. Her view on the local peoples’ communal actions that gave Egyptians new voice throughout the world, was very moving. It seems now that in today’s global world, nation branding involves voicing that promotes both uniqueness and difference. From the cultural political points of view, critical consciousness started building itself in Egypt, that perhaps elsewhere would transform itself to a milder forms of ‘re-imagining our new nations’. Yet, Egypt’s cultural space became an example of nation building that carries across national borders. Its new imagination has become contested in the global space.