by Jessi Khavivi
I’ve worked in numerous curatorial contexts over the course of the nearly fifteen years that I have been active in the arts. These range from directing an independent project space in Berlin, editing an interdisciplinary arts journal in Mexico City, and working as a curator at an American non-profit institution, to working with commercial brick and mortar galleries in Europe. A commonality that has linked my work throughout these diverse contexts is an artist-centric approach. I prefer to work in an atmosphere of experimentation and collaboration, one fueled by dialogue and risk-taking.
The artists that I have selected for Ungalleried work across different media and live in different parts of the world, although a core group of them reside in Germany, where I also live and work. A number of them I have collaborated with before in different capacities and some of them are new to me. A commonality linking all of the artists in this selection is how they search for moments of exchange and encounter in their work, rather than adhering to formal or discipline-specific concerns. A Berlin-based artist whose work I recently discovered and I’m quite excited about is the French artist Daniela Macé Rossiter. She explores photography through a process of mise en abyme and stratification of the image medium, deconstructing reality in an endless space between folds and strata. Daniela’s work takes place in what may be described as metaphotography, transcending the photographic process. I’ve been following the work of American artist Elizabeth McTernan for several years now, but Ungalleried has provided my first opportunity to collaborate with her. Elizabeth’s work can be described as a form of cartography and she approaches mapping through the lens of storytelling, approaching territory and terrain in a poetic sense that is able to encompass the gaps and elisions that are common to traditional forms of mapmaking. Among other things, her work has mapped the patterns of waves in the Baltic Sea, patterns of sunlight, and the “Death Zone” in the Himalayas. I’ve been in conversation with the American Amada Miller since we met last summer while she was in residence at Künstlerhaus Bethanian in Berlin. We’re currently preparing a site-specific project that will take place in Berlin in 2020. Like Elizabeth, Amada’s work investigates and observes natural processes on their own terms in order to present new means of looking at the world. Her recent work reveals a new type of chemistry pairing clay, indigo, meteorites, and glass; materials we might regard as extreme until we realize the sources that make them possible. Brazilian artist Fernanda Figueiredo has lived in Berlin since 2015. For Fernanda, painting needs to figure out something, whether formal or conceptual. Her work strongly engages with art history and its socio-cultural implications in Brazil and expresses a deep interest in Latin American postcolonial theories, tropical exoticism and the role of visual arts and design in these narratives. Israeli artist Alma Alloro mixes patchwork fabric with other materials like video, animation, and drawing, connecting the analog with the digital. She interweaves old and new works into new compositions and, in doing so, aims to continually cross boundaries.
A commonly cited tidbit about curating is that the root of the word means “to care.” This is often linked to things like tending or preserving. For a curator like myself, this notion of caring doesn’t merely extend to art as an object itself, but also relates to how we as curators might create frameworks for exchange: in other words, ways of being together. Whether working with non-profit institutions or in commercial contexts, I like to ask myself: How can I create frameworks within my projects that support artists in the process of creating new works? Moreover, in which way might intimacy be a curatorial material? When I say intimacy I don’t mean giving someone a hug, but rather creating an atmosphere conducive to exchange—it’s an invisible curatorial material that’s impossible to quantify and challenging to even describe, but nonetheless I would argue that a curatorial stance of cultivating intimate spaces within institutions and the other places and contexts that we work within, ultimately expands the channels through which we can engage with art and with each other.
What prompted me to accept the invitation to curate for Ungalleried is how the project positions itself as an international community of emerging artists and collectors, which is nurtured through pop-up events and an editorial platform that offers direct insight into the artist's studio. As a business model, this works against the traditional positioning of the artist/brick-and-mortar gallery/collector triad, which although in my opinion plays an important (although often much maligned) role in the arts ecosystem, is typically predicated on exclusivity.
When art is good it has the capacity to ask challenging questions, to get us outside of our comfort zones, to make connections between different disciplines or areas of thought. It’s a very speculative and provisional space and that’s something that excites me. This is an ethos shared by everyone that I have invited to join the Ungalleried community and I’m happy that the project will provide a platform for artists to share their individual visions in more nuance and detail directly with collectors, whether through their artist page or Ungalleried’s web magazine.