How would you describe your curatorial practice?
My current projects are mainly focused on moving-image art, and I seek to highlight the relevance of movie theatres in framing the viewing experience for narrative video works, as well as exploring the potential of TV and the internet as (mass) media to expand curated exhibition formats. A central topic to my current research is man-made climate change and the human depredation of the planet’s resources typical to the Anthropocene with a special interest in posthuman imagery and new aesthetics born within dystopian visions of the future.
How did you arrive at your curatorial focus?
In my case, my interest in moving image art developed in conjunction with a fascination for the force of gravity, meant both as an inescapable physical condition and as a metaphor for a more abstract aspect of our existence today–one that a number of philosophers have described as increasingly rootless, groundless and weightless. The moving image has a sort of spectral, intermittent existence, which dematerialises the moment the device is unplugged; digital video can be sent everywhere, bypassing shippings, assurances, douanes and geographical borders.
Can you describe your method or practice methodology?
I choose works I find relevant and powerful enough to contribute to the current global discourse in the arts and beyond. I strive to show them in a way that respects their meaning without subordinating them to my vision, and I explore new exhibition formats with the aim of reaching a wide and heterogeneous audience.
I try to be as conscious as possible about the relationship between the characteristics of the work and the experience of it. For instance, I would avoid showing a 40-minute-long video piece that has a linear narrative in a walk-through space with no comfortable seats, because that would imply that the work is not meant to be watched entirely – when the artist might think otherwise. A certain degree of immersivity can entirely modify the experience of the work.
The medium of the moving image within the visual arts is so pervasive today that we are brought to find new ways to display and curate it–on online platforms, for example–or resignify traditional ways of showing it– in movie theatres or on TV, for example. In particular, I believe that movie theatres are very powerful spaces for showing narrative video works: Their codes of vision have remained unaltered for more than a century, and everyone is familiar with them; the great conditions of immersivity and the synergy of vision create a collective experience of vision that is completely different from the walk-through one.
What inspires you about curating the kinds of artworks/aesthetics you work with? How do you see these as ‘expanding’ contemporary art/art forms, and where do you see them going as aesthetic tendencies or directions?
The notion of art increasingly expanded over the past decades and moving-image art, specifically, bounced from an early rejection of cinema’s ways of seeing and narrating to celebrate a more recent embracing of its language and even exhibition format. Artists are increasingly adopting a style closer to documentary or video essay in their artworks, creating long feature films and, in some cases, even featuring movie stars. Conversely, a growing number of museums are building or embedding a movie theatre, and galleries display the works’ screening times outside cinema-like disposable black-boxes. In the evolution of the architecture that hosts moving image works in exhibition spaces for the visual arts I see a reflection of the expansion of the medium, and its progressive crossing of the historical borders between video and cinema.
A similar process is happening on the internet, which has been widely used to display art in recent years. Decades after the affirmations about the blurring of art and life, we are now experiencing the blurring of our online and offline existence, which is increasingly influencing the arts both in the creative process (concepts, aesthetics) and in the way they are displayed and distributed. In the near future, curating is going to happen more and more outside traditional exhibition spaces in a continuous expansion that inevitably follows the constantly expanding notion of art in part because of the virtual shrinking of geographies that enables a wider access to pretty much anything that can be transferred digitally.
How do you see the installations and exhibitions you curate in relation to the broader contemporary art field and aesthetic orientations in society? How would you describe their place, contribution, role or ‘urgency’?
The present situation of the world is one that is confronting environmental catastrophe, population increase and the respective decrease of global resources, the disappearance of politics and the parallel emergence of extremisms together with a general lack of belief in the possibility of change and an even more general sensation that the world–a world of our own making–is becoming a worse place to inhabit everyday. It suggests for itself that there is no other way for art than to be engaged in current problems and open a discussion that transcends the artistic field and experience. Luckily, art is currently gaining new relevance in creating engagement, and the moving image, being among the most accessible forms of art, can play a key role in shaping collective memory and contemporary thought.
In my current projects I approach urgent topics with the aim of opening a discussion that takes the artistic experience as a starting point to reflect on broader issues and, hopefully, create awareness. Personal taste and concerns often drive me to choose works that analyse the extreme consequences of the relationship between nature and technology, leading–unsurprisingly–to dystopian visions of the future. Nevertheless, I choose them with a background optimism, with faith in our potential to drive the change.
VANINA SARACINO is an independent curator currently based in Berlin. She is the Co-Founder and Director of OLHO video art cinema, an international curatorial project based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since 2013, she has curated monthly video-art programs on the experimental, non-narrative television channel ikonoTV, and is responsible of the external projects in collaboration with museums and institutions worldwide. She holds a Master’s Degree in Arts Management from GIOCA, Università di Bologna and a Master of Arts in Philosophy and Art Theory from Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.
Guest curating for the Screen City Biennial she has selected the work Finding Fanon 2 (2015) by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, presented in the biennial’s online exhibition until 1 December 2017.
Recent curatorial projects: