CrossSections in Stockholm
”The project challenges the exhibition focus of the art world. All structures are built around fast productions, installation, opening, review, go home, start next thing. This project gives the possibility to digest and discuss on a long term.”
This is of course a something that many curators and institutions have stated before Crossections. The difference with Crossections is that Senova actually means what she states and she has also created a structure that will give tools to create a project where the focus really is on the process and on learning, testing and rethinking. The outcome, the end result, will however be what you expect from an art project: seminars, books and exhibitions. The difference here is the methodology of curation and productions and an aim to show the full process of a complex art project in full transparency. Below I will try to explain how this is done and why this project is different to others with similar aim.
The aim and the scale of the project is also something that surprises. It involves 19 artists, numerous institutions, a geographic area that includes a large part of Europe and it aims to take practice and theory to new levels.
The whole structure of the project is coloured by transparency. The artists share their ideas, thoughts and process with the curator and the other participants. The curator shares her ideas, methodology and progress with the artists and the whole project is shared with the public in form of meetings and with partner institutions. This will be furthered discussed below, under ”Curatorial methodology”.
In all, Crossections is a project with almost an aim of an institution, but one that lacks a home and venue. The cross-section point is the website and I understand it as a classic home page, i.e. it’s something beyond the common contemporary website – it’s the home of the project. It assembles activities, people and functions as a home. It’s the archive, the office and the reception desk to a nomadic institution. The project mirrors the times of migration and the actual situation for some of the participants in the project. It’s confusing times where home, origin, history and story become relative notions. One of the participants labelled themselves, the free-lancing artists and curators, “jet set labours”, who are forced to fly from country to country, stay in residencies, ask institutions for support, they stay at hotels, go to opening parties, exhibit at fine institutions, but they are without any chance to create a stabilized situation for themselves and their families.
The curatorial process and the artists methodology
The Core meeting in Stockholm started with Basak Senova saying:
”Where are we now? What are we going to do?”
These two questions illustrate the openess and the collective idea of Crossections. It is an ever developing expanding/shrinking, cross-disciplinary, inward/outward process. Still, with this elasticity, there seem to be characteristics of Senova’s curatorial methodology:
In many ways the project collects the fragments of the of the post-war modern project and the post-wall decades: peace, understanding, stability and comfort, as well as cold war tactics, and puts these fragments together as an attempt to create a platform where different stories, different origins and different languages can meet and form a comment on contemporary times.
Many of the participants work under very difficult conditions but an outspoken policy seems to be that there is no room for complaints. Instead the project should be an opportunity to deal with the situation in a creative way. The conditions build a strong and tight group, with strong connections between the artists and the curator and a devotion to the common activities and goals. All participants are in it together and support each other.
It is important for the process that the participants meet even if the meetings are time and resource consuming. In many other projects I have studied or been a part of, even less complicated, the teams have replaced the meeting with different tools, such as Google docs. I believe we all have experienced these attempts and how little the tools help to communicate common processes and how hard it is to get everyone to use it and get involved in it, and how little these tools will help in establishing true and deeper exchange of ideas.
Close connected to the group methodology is the importance of social activities. Common meals, cooking together, going to openings, discussing other projects, family business etc. glues the group together and helps focusing on the common process and to support each other.
The curatorial process is very open and transparent but still focused on exhibition, art production and knowledge production. The diverse types of meetings create both a way to communicate with the audience during the production process but also mean a chance of giving and receiving critique. This also include the chance of the artists to give the curator critique. The project also includes several exhibitions and the artists can exhibit, discuss their work with the other participants, the curator and the audience, improve, find new directions and re-exhibit. The exhibitions are in different formats, from a shopping window in Vienna, to a full-size exhibition, where the smaller scale can function as a test-bed for sketches or prototypes.
Basak Senova has with the project created a researched based curatorial model that involves both theory and practice and it goes from idea to prototype to evaluation to full scale – and this without losing the public access and without leaving a scientific mode. The model turns the process inwards to the group, to the individual work and creativity as well as outwards to professionals and audiences outside the project group.
Senova stresses during the core meeting the importance of the knowledge production and the focus on the process rather than the end product – be it a publication, be it a larger exhibition. Also she stresses the importance of saving and documenting the knowledge. She doesn’t devaluate the final result as an important goal or manifestation but questions how much of the process you will find in a finalized result. How can the process be manifested in a publication? Should all participants write to include all aspects? Can all participants write? How can the group activities and the social events in Crossections be manifested?
Basak Senova explains her aim: ” I am interested in the process, how is art produced. I want to show the process in the final exhibition. Storyboards, mail conversations, sketches... How can the fantastic things that occur in the process end up in the final work? There is often something lacking in the final shape.” I interpret her intentions here as very pragmatic – the process should be clearly articulated and mediated.
The artists all have very different backgrounds, they all have different working methodology and they work with different media and topics. Also, the main aim and the title of the projects are descriptive – Senova aims to let all these different backgrounds and ideas cross each other at one point. This holds the project together. What also holds the project together is how the individuals through a long and common process are glued to each other, how they support, encourage each other.
Basak Senovas work is expansive and including. She has a clear focus, but she is constantly adding on to the project any time there is an option. In some ways she is forced to. As a Turkish curator living in Vienna on temporary premises and with activities in Austria, Sweden and Finland she is forced to find new ways, seek new possibilities and opportunities and expand in the possible and suggested directions, without losing the quality or the focus of the project.
The artisic process and the artists metodology
Benji Boyadgian, Tamsin Snow, Egle Oddo, Ramesch Daha, Barbara Holub, Yane Calovski, Ricarda Denzer, Nisrine Boukhari and Timo Tuhkanen. Basak and I, Björn Norberg, particpated as well. Connected to the project, but not present in Stockholm, are also artists Lina Selander, Behzad Khosravi Noori, Gözde Ilkin, Heba Y Amin, Nilolaus Gansterer, Inma Herrera, Isa Rosenberge, Otto Karvonen, Bronwyn Lace and Marcus Neustetter.
The artist and participators all have different backgrounds and they work with in different ways and media. Still they all take part and discusses each other’s work. Basak has chosen artists for the project that she has already worked with or artists whom she has followed and would like to work with. This also mean that all artists have different methodologies. This becomes apparent when all artists present where in the process they are, at the time for the Stockholm meeting. Below I will try to describe some characteristics on how they approach the project and where in the process they are and what they are currently work with:
Public Meeting at IASPIS
On the third day in Stockholm there was a public meeting at IASPIS. Basak Senova presented the project in front of a good audience, and Calovski and Daha presented their own projects. Moving over from the private context that had been built up in Vienna earlier and at the Core meeting at Malongen to a new, public context, in front of an audience that knew very little about the project and the intentions of it, was of cause not without problems. The enthusiasm of the participants drowned any possible critical analysis from the audience. The mingle afterwards showed to be a better platform for exchange of ideas.
Crossections has formed a group of different individuals, all of them with an own story. The structure with the website, the different exhibitions and the labelled meetings might at first look a bit overwhelming and forced but helps to organize a huge project consisting of many different voices.
The project has an outspoken focus on the process and gives all participants tools and time to reflect over the process. It’s importance that the final show and any publication, really find ways and a language to describe all activities in the meetings. With such documents Crossections will not only be a very important and rare document on curatorial and artistic processes and practice, but also it will also create a multi-facetted image on current aspects of home, territory, history, origin, heritage and even death.