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curator

Anti-Utopias / Sabin Bors - EXTRA!, October 2012

EXTRA!, October 2012: Anti-Utopias / Sabin Borş

Anti-Utopias contemporary art platform

Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

You hold functions such as curator, associate editor and columnist for different magazines, and you recently initiated a contemporary art platform titled Anti-Utopias. Since you don’t have any formal art education, how did you become interested in contemporary art?

Art has always been one of my main interests, ever since I was a kid, and though I did not follow any formal art education, I did follow an MA in philosophy and culture where some of the major topics we discussed have been Art, Institutions and Cultural Policies, The Artist’s Statute in Post-Modern Culture, or Contemporary Perspectives Upon Culture. I also follow a PhD with a thesis on the future of museums, in terms of art, policies, architecture. Throughout the years I’ve kept a close contact with art in my readings and references, and I think coming from the “outside” is actually an advantage because it allows me to view art in a broader context and integrate its discourse differently. At the same time, I am also aware of the two perils with philosophers discussing art: on the one hand, they run the risk of subsuming art to a philosophical speech; on the other hand, they can feed art with concepts that only deepen the dilemmas of contemporary art and thus contribute to its fractures. When I started Anti-Utopias, my main concern was to create a thematic platform bearing in mind these two perils precisely, but also the theoretical abundance where art in general claims itself from. 

Tell us about Anti-Utopias. Why did you choose the utopian – anti-utopian motive as the theme of your project?

In spite of all the discourses on contemporary art, I think it is still trapped in a false attempt to surpass its own modernity. The artistic discourse still tries to dissect its own foundation and remains somehow captive inside artificial constructions, based on imitation. I am equally circumspect whether discourses crediting the derivative modernities can indeed not only resurrect, but actually redeem the project of modernity. These modernities are based on alter-constructions that complete the same project, though they construct on the margins of modernity. We relate to the same referent, and hope our alter-construction will indeed rescue notions and practices. Art is caught in this paradox: on the one hand, it has to constantly shift its aims outside the marges, because when you construct on the marge, the marge itself becomes a center; on the other hand, art contributes to a global process of territorialization, precisely in this movement it needs to operate. It’s like an expanding fissure that deepens the faults. And it is along this fissure that one can understand the exposure of art, in what this fissure draws ahead, but especially in what it leaves behind, not only as a trace, but in that which remains. Art is this rest, this remnant. Art is reversion. And I think this is one of the ideas and concepts that I need to develop further, this idea of art being a reversion.

When I started this project I knew I was placing its theoretical horizon under two major discursive pressures. The first one is this unsuccessful attempt to give an answer to an utopia other than by formulating another utopia, and the second is the use of the prefix “anti-“ itself, which does indeed bestir a number of critical reflexes and exercises. Obviously, there is no exit from utopia, and the more we seek to counter this statement, the more we end up in utopias of the refusal or in the utopias of some alter-constructions. From my perspective, anti-utopias don’t claim themselves from a refusal or a counter-position, nor are they the expression of a cultural, historical, or political transgression. They do not fall into the metaphysical discourse where anti- would refer to a sort of anti-metaphysics, and I don’t see them being shaped as a means of counteracting either. For me, anti- should refer to a state of exposure, to a certain openness which is not only affirmative but also all-embracing, definitive, and which can be understood on multiple levels: over-exposure, exposure to the certitude of death, exposure to a certain risk and impossibility, exposure to its own tragedy, etc. It is an exposure not only to the unpredictable, but also to a subtending dread defining art and life itself – a fear of dying, the interruption of breath. And though this discourse may seem to bear away from the current artistic discourse, I still think it is this dread that art is running away from. And this can be seen in all its diversity, separations, counter-currents, and reconsiderations. Not lastly, I think that the insistence upon difference/differences cannot account for the current state of things any longer, but only perpetuates the discursive and political impossibilities. From one utopia to another. I think art and society are on the verge of a more radical transformation, for which it has no name yet, a transformation we cannot fully appropriate right now.

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  • Interview with Chang Hyun Bang - New Artist, June-July 2011

    Interview with South Korean ceramic artist Chang Hyun Bang - New artist, June-July 2011

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    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : In what techniques do you usually work and what materials do you use?

    Chang Hyun Bang: I usually use two different techniques for my artworks. One is slab-building for the architecture, the other is plaster-casting for the swine. I use stoneware for the architecture, firing at cone 04 while porcelain clay for the swine, firing at cone 6.

    What is your present project, what’s its history and how do you make the pieces?

    I have been interested in expressing my personal emotion derived from my own trauma through swine’s body language. Most of all, depression, anxiety, desire, obsession from my daily lives, and subtle emotions indescribable through language have been important sources for my inspiration. My recent works ‘Secret Garden’ represent my personal story hidden in the flowers. The universal meanings of flowers were subverted with my personal narrative in my artworks. But viewers are given a clue through the text to decode my secret story with the flowers.


    Demosirorooo, 2009, 50 x 32 x 39, 2009, clay, glaze, decal - View his works

    Do you remember your early works, how did it all started?

    When I look back on my early works, I seem to be interested in expressing my ‘contradictory desire’ and ‘phenomenological things’ such as the absence and presence of a thing. I usually loved using big words that I couldn’t fully understand. But that kind of questions are very helpful to my recent works.

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  • Interview with Gwen F. Chanzit - Special feature for The Denver Art Museum, July 2011

    Interview with Gwen F. Chanzit, the curator of Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition at The Denver Art Museum, July 2011

    This is the first interview we’ve made for the special Overthrown feature. The special feature for The Denver Art Museum covers more interviews with artists exhibiting at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, which is on view June 11 through September 18, 2011. Subscribe here to receive the special edition of our newsletter.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: How did you find the artists for Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition? Was it hard or you already had their names in mind?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: I spent many months researching, talking with artists in the field, and visiting artists in their studios.  I also participated in symposia at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I was introduced to the work of additional artists.

    From well over 100 file folders with research on the work of individual artists, I narrowed my selections by reviewing these regularly, moving the folders into piles that grew into “yes,”  “maybe,” and “no.”  I was particularly interested in showing the breadth of work that ceramic artists are accomplishing today.  Sometimes when I made a studio visit to see one artist, I discovered another artist or two.


    Ceramics Now Magazine: What are the criteria on which you selected the artists for this exhibition?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: I look for quality, inventiveness, and artists who are pushing the limits to develop new methodologies. 

    Working in all scales, from architecturally expansive to almost impossibly small, the artists in Overthrown employ twenty-first-century technology hand-in-hand with standard modeling and molding techniques. They use digital cameras, computers, laser cutters, 3-D printers, and computer-controlled mills along with more traditional tools. Some push the forms of functional objects. Others push the limits of fragility. They take risks that draw on material chemistry and maverick kiln techniques. Some of their works include not only clay, but also found objects such as metal, plastic, and abandoned industrial materials. Overthrowing our expectations of ceramic art —its size, its context, its methods, and its meaning—these artists show us new ways of using this versatile and timeless material.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Did the exhibition space offered many obstacles? How did the artists adapt to the space?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: The exhibition space is a dynamic Daniel Libeskind design with angular walls and interesting spaces that are wonderful for exhibiting three-dimensional work. The soaring ceilings provide particularly good opportunities for large scale work. Each artist was encouraged to utilize these exciting spaces—which they did.

    Most of the works were made especially for this exhibition, and many are in direct dialogue with the site—they move beyond the pedestal to the wall, the floor, and even the ceiling. A few extend across the entire museum complex. They break boundaries that are physical, technological, conceptual, and spatial.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: On what principles do you guide on preparing an exhibition like this, with more than 20 artists participating?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: It’s important to show each artist’s work with integrity, to enable the work to have enough space to show itself well.  It was a particular goal for each work in this exhibition to be seen independently—-with the added bonus of long vistas across the gallery from work to work.


    Ceramics Now Magazine: Do you have any guidelines for the artists? How long ago did you contact and proposed them to exhibit at the Denver Art Museum?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: I encouraged each of the 25 artists to be very ambitious—not to be hindered by cost of materials or limitations of space.  Most artists had just over a year to prepare the work—a very short time in the world of these ceramic installations where challenges of materials and techniques had to be resolved.  In some cases, kilns had to be built..

    Ceramics Now Magazine:  Significant support was provided by different foundations and citizens. What is DAM’s relationship with foundations and donors?

    As most non-profits, the Denver Art Museum appreciates the significant support received by foundations and donors.

    Ceramics Now Magazine:  What part or what limits of this exhibition you find yourself connected to?

    I am connected to all parts of the exhibition.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: What expectations do you have from this exhibition?

    Gwen F. Chanzit: I very much hope this exhibition will overthrow some expectations of what ceramics might be.  It is a versatile and timeless material that is being used in new inventive ways in the 21st century.

    ——————————————————————-

    Gwen Chanzit is curator of modern and contemporary art and the Herbert Bayer Collection and Archive, Denver Art Museum. She has organized many DAM exhibitions including Bonnard, Matisse from the Baltimore Museum of Art, Martha Daniels Grotto, Vance Kirkland: The Late Paintings and Color as Field, as well as numerous exhibitions on Herbert Bayer. Her rotation in the modern and contemporary art galleries for Marvelous Mud is Focus: Earth and Fire.

    Among her many publications, Chanzit has authored two books on Herbert Bayer; contributed essays to DAM exhibition catalogs, RADAR: Selections from the Collection of Vicki and Kent Logan and The View From Denver; served as editor and authored essays for the 2009 exhibition catalog, Embrace!; and published an essay in the Austrian exhibition catalog, Ahoi, Herbert: Bayer und die moderne (2009). 

    For Marvelous Mud, Chanzit is curating Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, an exhibition in the Anschutz Gallery that features new work by 25 contemporary artists—most of whom work very large scale. She is also preparing a catalog and organizing a related symposium in September 2011.

    Chanzit is a frequent lecturer locally, nationally and internationally. She often serves as juror for art competitions and exhibitions and has been a guest curator at the Aspen Institute and the University of Denver. Chanzit holds a Ph.D. in art history and contributes to the future generation of museum professionals as director of the graduate program in museum studies at the University of Denver’s School of Art and Art History.

    Visit the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection's web page on the Denver Art Museum website.

      

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    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

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