ON PROXIMITY (Conversation)
Shortly before the opening of On Proximity, we sat down with Fareed Aziz and Maria Muehombo (the 2 curators of the expo), Mirra Markhaeva (a participating artist) and Elli Vassalou (project coordinator in Globe Aroma).
What’s “On Proximity” and the “Mirrored Space” about?
“On Proximity” is an opportunity to get to know each other but also to work with a kind of freedom. We, as curators, made a framework for the project but we let the artists think how and what they wanted to show.
“The mirrored space” is an approach for the exhibition “On proximity”. The concept of the exhibition is to celebrate this proximity but also the differences. “Proximity” as a word is about ‘nearness in space, time, or relationship’. That’s why we thought of creating a space (= “The mirrored space”) where we build an actual and physical 1/1 room as canvas where artists can enter for some time and start to interact with each other in order to reflect on the proximity they had during the last semester, when we were all using the atelier (every three months the workshops/atelier of Globe Aroma hosts a new setup of artists. Artists can request a workspace and receive logistic and networking support during the time they’re working in Globe Aroma).
We all have different backgrounds, but we all work together in one space. During the year, we get to know each other but we do not particularly collaborate together or with everyone. By working in the same space collectively, we created more of a type of shared work culture and interactions.
What about the space itself? How is it for the artists to build a space that is actually the artwork itself?
The relation between the artists and the space came naturally after some time. “Mirrored Space” is a reflection on how the artists perceive themselves, how they perceive the world and a reflection on social dynamics and emotions. When you enter the space now, you see so many details reflecting anger, love, peace, friendship, …
We actually created the space in MAD Home Of Creators. That’s why I also like to call it “The traveling space”. I think it’s linked to my own experience. When you move from your hometown to a new country, you need to adapt but your identity doesn’t have to change.
We encouraged the artists to bring their very own identity. However, the space can physically move from one destination to another.
I would like the project to keep traveling from space to space. Everytime the space will be different and will interact with the “Mirrored space”. I see it as a living, moving piece that can be reshaped by the artists or new artists.
So the notion of space here is central. To what extent does the space influence the artworks?
The first thought is about a physical place where artists feel safe and feel they can express themselves.
We started with a very white canvas in MAD. It was fitting with the white environment in MAD. We actually created most of the artworks or the concepts there during the residency. After a few weeks, we moved to the co-working space of Globe Aroma.
The “mirrored space” took a different or new shape. There were two completely different vibes. MAD was perfect for the beginning of the process and for seeing the space as a canvas. We were more focused. The space there also provided a better opportunity to have some distance and see the space from different angles. You could actually leave the space and then re-enter the space.
Here at Globe Aroma, we don’t have that option. You just interact with the space. Artists are used to working in Globe Aroma, so they were a bit intimidated by the space in MAD. Moving back to Globe Aroma inspired us in regards to how a space can be adapted.
We were guests in MAD, we didn’t own the space, but in a way we were also more focused on the artworks. Here, I feel that I own the space, it’s like being home… but we also have more distractions here.
How was the collaboration between the artists?
For Globe Aroma, it is an experiment to see the artists themselves create and execute a new collaborative project. In our organisation, an artist works in the atelier on his/her own practice or participates in a co-creation project hosted and promoted by another artist. This is the first time we have let artists from the atelier take over and use the room.
It is an experiment on the autonomy and proximity of the artist. We will see how our atelier space is reborn after the exhibition. I see ” On Proximity ” as the mother of a new culture for the workspace. These 10 artists will perhaps carry these new practices and lay them down for new artists to join later.
The big challenge was dealing with the different personalities and the variations between (their/our) backgrounds. But also learning to understand each other. To me, the only way we got the exhibition done was for everybody to feel liberated and self-sufficient. We were not focused on the outcome.
Through the whole process, we developed our own concepts and ideas. For example, I remember a discussion with Egoo Dallas, WEEW and Tamila about their work. They work on childhood, finding their children’s stories.
Looking at the space now and thinking about the process, I notice that the space was led by a certain personality and that he/she influenced the other pieces. I don’t know if he/she was aware of that or not. It was interesting to me because our project was constructed as a collective artwork. I wonder what the space would be like if this person was not involved in the project..
In my opinion, childhood influences your art because it is a first approach to creating art. I also like to reflect back on my childhood fantasies. The artists here have been reaching for their inner demons, childhood memories, and they have been mirroring them in this shared space.
I also see a link between childhood and this collective artwork: when you’re kids, you don’t know each other but you all play together in the playground.
I like to think that in a way the playground sums up what happened: moments of teamwork, moments of understanding or moments of coordination. We saw a lot of overlaps, collaborative works … I don’t see the project as one where people work together, but more as one where ownership is questioned. I saw people working and being influenced by the closeness of each other’s artworks.
At the same time, it is nice to see everyone’s style (even from 3 artists) overlapping. Each artist’s characters actually live and are in the same place.
How do you see the future of this piece:
As Fareed said, this is or should be a travelling space. It reminds me of the Berlin Wall. There is the liberty of passing on other people’s work.
We now have 10 walls, kind of like 10 sheets of unlimited possibilities. We see it as a living area that can be re-organised.