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Krísis: critical interventions is a one-day symposium that brings the international network of artistic practices and narratives from the Krísis exhibition and public programme into a day of talks, presentations and performative lectures.

It provides an opportunity for artists, curators, academics and the general public – both local and international – to engage in dialogue; reflecting on the complex topography of Nottingham and the UK, the relationship to the art world and how socio-political issues are addressed in both Nottingham and in international contexts.

Presenters include the international artists involved in Krísis, Nottingham-based activists on refugees and female genital mutilation issues, guest speakers, and Nottingham Trent University lecturers and researchers from the School of Art & Design and School of Arts and Humanities.

Participants will explore the exhibition themes and the artists’ responses and practices which encourage the debate on art as a transformational tool for research on contemporary societal matters.

Krísis: critical interventions is chaired by Professor Duncan Higgins, (NTU School of Art & Design), Dr Roy Smith (NTU School of Arts and Humanities) and Dr Anna Ball (NTU School of Arts and Humanities) in partnership with the curators from Something Human, and Nottingham Contemporary.

This event is part of the public programme in association with the exhibition Krísis. Curated by Something Human and presented in partnership with Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University and Nottingham Contemporary.

Download your copy of the programme (pdf)

Image credit: Sama Alshaibi, Al-Tariqah (The path), 2014 Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

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As part of Krísis, artists Annie and Alessandra of Something Human interviewed many of the artists involved with the exhibition. Bellow you can find a selection of these interviews.

Krísis Conversations: Tuan Mami and Boedi Widjaja

28 November 2016

As part of Krísis,Tuan Mami and Boedi Widjaja reflect on the state of ‘crisis’ in relation to movement in liminal spaces via their new performances and artworks.

Something Human: Both of you are visual artists and performers whose work utilise a form of ritual or “processual” approach that invites the audience to engage with the works. What does this process mean to your practice, and why do you seek to engage audiences with it?

Boedi Widjaja: Process means to me, first of all, a way to get into a dialectical state of mind. It is about finding unusual connections, thoughts and ideas out of conflicts, contradictions and contrasts. A good process tends to suggest new paths for navigating opposing histories and contexts. Process may be described as a series of methods that generate connective material, enabling forms, ideas or expressions to be made out of newly found relations between subjects. Process is also a space that the audience can enter, to experience the dialectical tensions that make up an artwork. 

Tuan Mami: Actually, in my old works, I have used a sort of ritual setup or ritual approach but in something more like a normal daily activity. For example, I invited audience members to sit with me one by one in a private space and collaborate in sort of celebration for our shared moment, or I invited 100 old ladies to visit an art opening to create a shared moment of exploration. But recently I am working more with ritual as part of mythology, to present the relationship between environment/object which is closely intertwined with the relationship between human and nature in the world, where one could perceive on a physical level as well as that which exists in the imagination. For me, ritual is a sort of special moment or environment when I could focus on the meaning of my art, it is also the oldest form for our art. I get a lot of feeling in experiencing through the ritual form, me-my work-the audience we are all in the same level/same journey of experiencing the subject/object.

SH: You both hail from Vietnam and Singapore respectively, and Boedi, you also have a personal and professional relationship to Indonesia. These countries have witnessed different periods and outbursts of internal political conflict and debate within its borders, and are situated within same region that has recently seen an escalation of political tension. How do you think your practices address the recent socio-political issues? 

BW: Southeast Asia is a diverse and politically complex region. The twentieth century saw countries in the region gaining independence hence nationalistic politics is de facto. The region continues to ring with echoes from the Cold War, as seen in the tension at ASEAN’s meeting with China over the South China Sea, America’s drive for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S lifting its ban on weapon sales to Vietnam and Philippines’ rhetorical leaning towards China. 

A series of works that I am currently developing is Imaginary Homeland—one that looks at Indonesian political history since the nation’s independence in 1945. The series explores nationalism, identity and memory, through mass media imagery. It inevitably looks at Indonesian military history, and how the Cold War has impacted the personal narratives of so many. 

TM: My works are based on research, which takes place on a certain topic or in an area between human and its reactions, between daily life and imagination, so I look at socio-political matters as a central point in my exploration. But I get into the issues in indirect way. I often adapt the ephemeral senses to create a moment, which presents an ambiguous reality, the one you could experience by yourself by traveling between the past-present-and the future. I see socio-political matters as basic human matters, looking at it as a researcher to review or reveal in a poetic dialogue.

SH: For this exhibition you have been invited to reflect on the notion of ‘crisis’. Could you please tell us more about how your artworks and performances reflect on this condition?

BW: I am presenting 2 works in Krisis: (Post) Path.7, New Ground—a documentation of Path.7, New Ground, a live art work that I performed in London in 2015—and Imaginary Homeland: 谢谢你的爱,  a new live art work. 

Path.7, New Ground indirectly addressed the migrant crisis in Europe, as I contemplated my own diasporic experience. I walked from east London to the Barbican, lugging a 30kg bag of lump chalk with a 1.5m helium balloon tethered to me, culminating in a performance by the Barbican lake. The work was visceral—the weight of the chalk and the balloon’s movement resisting my forward trajectory, speaking of the weight of motherland and the disorienting force of nostalgia. (Post) Path.7, New Ground looks at the abstraction effect that media has when representing a live event. I wanted to draw out the camera—the primary device that tracked my durational walk and through which we comprehend all forms of crisis today. I did this by arranging individual frames from the documentation videos, cropped tightly around the balloon’s movement, in a regular grid. 

Imaginary Homeland: 谢谢你的爱 is a new work from a series that looks at the impact of mass media images on memories and personal narratives. The work is about the dialectics between image and corporeality—bodily movement complicating the image surface even as the latter choreographs the former.   

TM: I’ve been invited to make a second chapter of my last research-based project which I had been working on in the area between the Cambodian and Vietnamese border. I had researched about the long controversial history of the relationship between the two countries and also the conflicts that exist nowadays. For the ‘Krisis’ exhibition, I’m going to create an ambiguous notion of the “Border”. On one hand, it is a construct based on human forces that create man-made borders for protection, which in turn, becomes a threat. On the other hand, it is about human instinct and its memory. Since border issues are getting more intense in the world recently, my work is an ironic voice to twist the matters into a playful game or a ritual moment where everyone could join in to de-construct the material issue into an ephemeral moment of peace and respect for all kinds of people and nature. I want to create an experience for people go through time, space and sharing together of the imagination of freedom geographically and spiritually.

Images credits: Boedi Widjaja and Tuan Mami

Nicola Anthony

25 October 2016

Something Human: As an artist who has lived and worked in the UK and Singapore, and have had the experience of both the European and Southeast Asian regions, what are your thoughts on the recent states of crisis in both places, and as an artist, how has this impacted your practice?

Nicola Anthony: The current moment in time seems to be on a precipice, whether we look at things socio-politically, environmentally, or on a very human level; our time is certainly one filled with crisis. There are so many troubling things in our world, and yet people go on: trying to adapt, many suffering, and others denying. This is a classic reaction to trauma – on an individual or mass level. Somehow human beings are wired to continue through adversity however they can, when instead we logically could be telling ourselves (as the Auden poem goes):

“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun”

Through my artwork, I do not try to make political or cultural statements. Instead, I try to get to the essence of the issues, and somehow imbue my artwork with something of that feeling, that experience of that moment or emotion.

An image showing three circular pieces layer on top of each other. Two of which are blue, and one a beige-green. These objects are made of oy a translucent material which you can see through them. They all have different textures.
Courtesy of Nicola Anthony

SH: For the Krísis exhibition, you will show 50 skies : 50 scars, a large 6 metre aerial installation, as a reflection on the notion of ‘crisis’. Could you please tell us more about how your artwork reflects on this condition?

NA: Crisis is ineffable. It is frequently repressed or erased from our minds as our meddlesome brains clear paths to allow us to move forward. It is not a condition which can be summed up neatly. It is varied, difficult, and individual. After much consideration I decided to find a symbolic way to blend together the elements which can be experienced during crises  – ruptures, scars, a cycle of time and duration, resulting in the repetition and normalisation of crisis.

Waving my arms and my nostrils around, I took my time to use my paper burning technique, for which I use incense sticks. (These to me are already heavily scented with ideas of spirituality, prayers, or simply freedom and hope). With this method I created ‘scars’ on the paper skin rather than writing a story as one might usually do on chinese calligraphy paper.

In some cultures, burning is the way to send offerings to the Gods or to the dead. In other cultures burning is synonymous with destruction and loss.

To hint towards time, I created the scars to exist in a linear progression, suspended overhead with their blue colour referencing the sky. I wanted to go a step further and actually capture some of the sky, as well as the movements of the sun (so significant in the daily cycle, the passing of time). To do this I crafted sunlight lenses inside the artwork, which filter beams of light through the glass window to create a shimmering patina on the paper surface.

SH: 50 skies : 50 scars is described as hand-burned incense drawing, watercolour ink on calligraphy paper, charred paper, charcoal, embroidery hoops and handmade sunlight lenses. In your work, you frequently use techniques that are time-consuming, delicate and require prolonged periods of concentration, could you please tell us why you are drawn to create work with this kind of painstaking process?

NA: That is a good question and one that I frequently ask myself… I can say with certainty that I am drawn to that working process: it’s not a conscious decision, more an instinctive one. I am constantly looking to bring meaning and significance to my materials and artworks. I feel that they should undergo a transformation whilst becoming an artwork – and in some cases the artist goes through a transformative process too. Even though my art is most often sculptural, there is a big element of performance in what happens behind the scenes in the ‘the making of’.

The burning technique takes patience, can result in loosing sections of drawing, setting my hair on fire, or scorching my wooden desk. The flame needs to be controlled. But the process of burning the paper skin can be almost meditative: synchronising with the breath; and filling the art studio with the redolent scent of sacred spaces; controlling the perforations.

Image credit: Nicola Anthony

Prof. Duncan Higgins, Dr Roy Smith and Dr Anna Ball

21 October 2016

On Friday 28 October, as part of the Krísis public programme, there will be a one-day symposiumtitled Krísis: critical interventions organised by Prof Duncan Higgins, Dr Roy Smith and Dr Anna Ball (Nottingham Trent University) in collaboration with Something Human. The symposium brings the international network of artistic practices and narratives from the Krísis exhibition and public programme into a day of talks, presentations and performative lectures.

Something Human: The state of ‘crisis’ and its corresponding terminologies have certainly entered our common vocabulary in the last decade. With your research interests in the diverse fields of visual arts and the social sciences, how have you been thinking about this contemporary state?

Duncan Higgins: For me ‘crisis’ is always going to be a very relative question, ‘crisis’ in relation to what? Where? When? Who? And how? My own motivation is to try and avoid any generalisation of such issues; this question feels too big without more context. In respect to research, education, visual arts and social science I suspect each generation has always indicated or described ‘crisis’ as a condition of practice. For example, in my experience the art school has always described itself to be in a state of ‘crisis’ for one reason or another and not always out of necessity.

Roy Smith: ‘Crisis – what crisis?’ highlights both the widespread use of the term, plus the fact that what may be perceived as a crisis scenario for some may be barely noticeable to others. Media reports of numerous humanitarian crises, environmental crises, refugee crises et cetera run the risk of producing what has been described as ‘compassion fatigue’. With the huge expansion of media outlets, including increased use of social media and citizen reporting, audiences are at risk of feeling overwhelmed and disempowered by the enormity of these issues. Whilst not underestimating the situation for those directly impacted by crises, for example in Aleppo or Haiti, for many observers these are issues that are happening in faraway places and with little or no immediately apparent consequence for their daily lives. Such an attitude appears, for some, to be reinforced by a retreat from internationalism and a global outlook to more inward-looking attitudes of ‘taking back control’, as demonstrated in the recent EU referendum debates and the current rhetoric of the Donald Trump campaign.

Anna Ball: My current research is concerned with creative representations of refugee experience, particularly in the context of the contemporary Middle Eastern refugee crisis in Europe. Today, refugees from Afghanistan and Syria comprise some of the largest populations of those fleeing violence and terror, but their encounter with Europe is itself a site of crisis: a point of contact at which the forms of biopower and necropolitics exerted by the State, and by more illicit sources of power – human traffickers, for example – render those subjects supremely vulnerable. In turn, the encounter with European subjects – one which is often mediated (and reduced) by visual representation in the media – becomes a site of disjunctive and often alienating exchange, whereby the humanity of those seeking refuge is racialized and politicised in ways that are dehumanising and unjust.

Within my current research, I’m particularly interested in mobilising a materialist, corporeal and haptic critical lens that pays attention to the suffering, feeling, tangible, beating body – particularly the bodies of women and children, which are often reduced (visually and in other representational terms) to figures of the radical subaltern, though they in fact experience very particular modes of biopower and bodily suffering. (Women’s ‘flights’ may, for example, have been prompted by forms of sexual violence or indeed maternal vulnerability that may drive them to seek refuge.)

I’m interested, therefore, in how intimate, personal crises, experienced in tangible, material terms, can be represented and felt against the vast backdrop of dehumanising political crisis that currently marks the contemporary Middle Eastern refugee crisis in Europe. My project is a drive towards recovering the presence of the human, and humanity, in terms that are necessarily attentive to smallness and individuality.

From an Arts and Humanities / Social Sciences perspective it is clear that the impacts of crises are felt and experienced very differently by various groups and individuals. In part this can be determined by the randomness of being born in a particular part of the planet, into differing socio-economic and cultural contexts where attitudes towards race, class, gender, sexuality, age or numerous other factors may be relevant to how likely you are to be involved in a crisis situation. This also relates to what support mechanisms are available to you and how resilient you and those around you are to manage and survive a crisis. Increasingly the factors that will determine how a crisis is addressed and, hopefully, resolved are often beyond the control and agency of those at most risk from such crises. The nature of many processes of globalisation means that they bypass local and even national authorities. Trans-boundary pollution and the free-flowing of capital around the world is now more representative of contemporary life than the ongoing state-centrism being focused on by most mainstream media outlets and, understandably, national politicians. At one level the ‘taking back control’ agenda mentioned above can be seen as a direct reaction to certain aspects of globalisation and the sense that they are the cause of many locally experienced problems. However, the risk of reverting to such narrow-minded worldviews is that this emphasizes difference rather than commonality.

The challenge for Humanities / Social Science disciplines, and related fields of the visual arts, is to acknowledge andcelebrate what makes individuals and communities different while at the same time showing that difference does not mean opposition. It has been said that crises can bring out the best in people and communities. Maybe so, but this is more likely to be the case when they can see commonalities between them. Taking back control to meet the many crises that are evident around the world is something to be welcomed. The danger is that by thinking and acting only at the local level this will overlook, and probably exacerbate, the international and global processes that are leading to the very crises that these locally-determined policies and actions are trying to address.

SH: The Krísis exhibition and public programme, which is a culmination of the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project that took place from 2013-2016, aim to unravel multiple perspectives on the notion of crisis and possible futures. Why did you think this project and its themes were relevant to Nottingham? 

DH: What Something Human have set out for the exhibition and programme is I feel a desire and ambition to listen to others and be heard by others, for me this is an essential route of knowledge exchange and for me defines intercultural dialogue. That this is a ‘doing thing’ rather than an ‘owning thing’, where uncertainty and not knowing become creative principles of discovery. For NTU this is essential and consequently it is the creation of new opportunities to see and listen beyond what is known that has the potential to lead to the creation of new knowledge both personally and culturally. For NTU to be a place for creative knowledge exchange is my firm belief and understanding of the fundamental role of universities and art schools to host, facilitate, frame and enable exchange. So to bring the themes, questions, examples and creative practices to NTU and Nottingham is part of a necessary dialogue we all need.

RS: Nottingham is a vibrant multi-cultural city with a long history of engaging with the wider world, not least in terms of the many international students studying here. Yet at the same time the city of Nottingham voted to exit the European Union, albeit by a very small margin. It would be too simplistic to say that those voting for Brexit did so solely due to immigration issues, although mainstream media portray this as one of the key factors in determining voting preferences. Despite the ‘leave’ vote the city is known to be generally welcoming to migrant communities and whenever groups such as the English Defence League have  attempted to hold demonstrations in the city they have always been met by much larger counter demonstrations. There are multiple support networks among the many communities that share Nottingham as their home, both newer arrivals and longer-term residents. Resistance to austerity measures and related cuts in public sector spending highlights another potential set of crises, but also creates spaces for creative and positive future visions.

AB: One of the reasons that I find the exhibition to be so pertinent is because it operates at the levels of both the international and the local, and seeks to draw connections between, as well as find specificity within, particular places. In my work, I am interested in trying to recover a vocabulary of ‘small’, personalised experience that is local as well as international in nature. To me, that is indicative of Nottingham as a site of cultural crisis and international exchange. In some senses, Nottingham is no different from any other space: it, like most major cities, has a significant population of refugees and asylum seekers, who render the refugee crisis local, as well as international. What makes Nottingham significant, though, is the network of international and inter-organisational connections that create their own maps and structures of support around this community. The work of the Nottingham Refugee Forum, for example, or Nottingham Beyond Borders, along with the annual Refugee Week events, which often enter into dialogue with organisations such as the universities, the New Art Exchange, Nottingham Contemporary, Five Leaves Bookshop, or the Nottingham Festival of Words, construct crucial sites of personalised, local exchange and encounter that are mobile in temporal and spatial terms. They invite people to engage with alternative maps of crisis-ridden experience and community that also exist within the city, and to engage with them in terms that are affirmative and constructive of solidarity. The central motif of the Move With(out) exhibition – the act of dragging a trunk containing a mobile exhibition within it around the city – in some senses therefore serves as a microcosmic metaphor for so many of the activities that already take place within the city.

SH: The symposium offers a mix of perspectives from academics, artists and activists in order to explore the Krísis exhibition’s themes and encourage a rich dialogue on art as a transformational tool for research on contemporary societal matters. What place do you think art can occupy in relation to academic research?

DH: It is fundamental to academic research.

RS: Various forms of art have long been associated with conveying political messages and assertions of identity, either repressed, struggling or liberated. Just as crises are experienced differently by various stakeholder so is art variously presented and interpreted. The Krisis exhibition and related presentations, performances and discussions offer a striking example of how different disciplines can collaborate and produce multifaceted approached to understanding and commenting on aspects of crises and their potential solutions. As a public exhibition this is also likely to draw in people who might not normally engage with some of the themes and issues raised by the artworks and various media linked to the exhibition.

 AB: For me, as a ‘postcolonialist’ who functions in a very interdisciplinary framework, art and visual representation more broadly are powerful tools through which to intervene in dominant modes of ‘knowing’ and ‘seeing’. Thinking about the refugee context specifically, visual media is often employed in a way that seems to offer a reductive immediacy in the way that we access human identity. Even when images incite an extreme emotional response (the photograph of Aylan Kurdi, for example, the little boy fleeing Syria whose body was washed up on a beach in Turkey, prompted international political outcry) their isolated and repeated representation has a tendency to conjure a limited spectrum of ‘types’ of refugee (‘innocent’ or ‘deserving’ refugees) that limit the human complexity of identity and experience.

In stark contrast, more reflective artistic practice has the potential to unsettle and complicate these kinds of immediate media snapshot. I would even venture that the time required to reflect on art, in all its forms – the ambiguity that circulates around it, and the necessity for active, engaged interpretation that sometimes might prove impenetrable or inconclusive, but is necessarily so– operates as a powerful alternative mode of apprehending the individual. It is this kind of slow, considered, deep engagement that I think we need to seek in academic research across the forms – textual as well as visual. It offers a vital counter-discourse to immediate and reductive media discourse in particular, and fosters more intimate dialogues and exchanges as we seek to forge meaning through collective interpretation rather than isolated response. This is why I am particularly excited about the interdisciplinary aspect of the Symposium.

Image credit:
Sama Alshaibi, Al-Tariqah (The path), 2014
Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

Collective Creativity

17 October 2016

As part of the Krísis public programme, Collective Creativity will be facilitating a free workshop, titled ‘Surviving Art School’. This is based on the publication of the same name made in partnership with Nottingham Contemporary, which will also be launched during the symposium on 28 October 2016.

Something Human: Evan, Raisa, Rudy and Raju – as Collective Creativity, you are an ‘informal non-hierarchal collective space’ that has been formed ‘out of necessity, to carve collaborative space outside of the institutional framework where a specific Black QTIPOC voice and experience could be nurtured’. When did you start your collaboration and how has your work developed so far?

Collective Creativity: Collective Creativity is a group of QTIPOC (Queer, Trans*, Intersex People of Colour) artists who have been working together since 2013. It was initially set up by Raju Rage and Evan Ifekoya, and later extended to Raisa Kabir and Rudy Loewe as a core group with many other participants. We have run roundtable sessions that nurture intergenerational dialogue, conducted extensive research into countless archives and generated discourse in our collective voice that draws from collectivity but also our individual practices, creating a knowledge that responds to legacies and archives of Black British art in the UK through a feminist and anti colonial lens. We do this work by creating a middle ground between lived experience, radical practice and theory and rendering the historical as an encounter in the present, specifically in how our current practices connect to our legacy beyond the white canon, and critically negotiating and navigating institutions and the art industry as queer and/or transgender artists of colour.

SH: You were in Nottingham previously, and you worked in collaboration with Nottingham Contemporary. Could you please tell us more about your work in this city and how you think the audience responded to your critical provocations then?

CC: We worked with Nottingham Contemporary in 2015 around the Glen Ligon exhibition ‘Encounters and Collisions’ facilitating a workshop with local art students of colour entitled: Politics of the Art School: Black Arts Movement Then and Now. We also held a panel with key members of the 1980s Black Arts Movement such as Keith Piper, Said Adrus and Claudette Johnson, and ourselves as part of Collective Creativity, offering critical reflections on this history and the contemporary circumstances under which students and other people of colour experience contemporary art school curriculum from the perspectives of QTIPOC creative practice. We engaged in a critical conversation both on the panel and in the workshop and created some textual, oral and visual responses that have been edited into a publication ‘Surviving the Art School’ that will be launched on Oct 28th 2016.

SH: Crisis can be thought of in terms of the personal, societal and institutional. How do you interpret the term ‘crisis’, and how do you think your practice related to the notion of crisis? 

Raju Rage: We are truly in a moment of crisis, globally and locally, economically, politically, socially and personally. Whether we are connected to institutions or not, we are impacted by this crisis in every aspect of our lives; what we eat, how we live, how we move around inside and outside our racialised, gendered and classed bodies in the world and how we basically survive on a day-to-day basis. My work creatively responds to this urgency of being in crisis by exploring the body, intimacy and everyday life experience to uncover and unpack in what ways we are impacted in our everyday lives, how we struggle and survive and as an attempt of resistance to the crisis we genuinely face.

Image: Collective Creativity

Lynn Lu and Marija Milosevska

12 October 2016

The Krísis project brings together two other ongoing Something Human projects: the performance programme, Cross-Cultural Live Art Project (CCLAP) and MOVE W I T H (OUT), the travelling exhibition and performance programme. CCLAP was a three-year project aimed to connect the live art and performance practices of artists from the UK/Europe and Southeast Asia, and MOVE W I T H (OUT) brought its explorations of migration and movement to multiple cities to connect with local artists, who would create new performances in response to its themes and their local topographies.

Artist Lynn Lu worked on the 2015 edition of CCLAP, and Marija Milosevska was the artist for MW Skopje in 2015. We spoke to them separately about the work they will be presenting in Nottingham.

Lynn Lu, The Friction of Distance, performative installation, 2016

Something Human: Lynn, you brought to the 2015 edition of CCLAP a socially engaged live art intervention built around the notion of care and post-natal depression. This year in Nottingham, you will be responding to the notion of ‘crisis’. How have you approached it? What does crisis mean to you?

Lynn Lu: For the Nottingham exhibition, I will present an interactive installation, a live performance for the opening event, and deliver a performance lecture for the symposium. Reflecting on the current refugee calamity as a starting point, the three separate works explore ideas surrounding migration, nomadism, the attraction of unknown regions, topophilia, and the ‘homing instinct’. In the performance lecture in particular, I examine the impetus for migration across species and the accompanying precariousness. As David Welcome describes in No Way Home (2008), the migrant travels without any knowledge of what may happen to her homeland, or what might await at her destination. . . “ Migration is an act of faith after all, a hardwired belief that there is somewhere to go, and a way to get back”.

SH: Distance, memory and the ephemeral are evoked in your work,  ‘The Friction of Distance’. How do you feel these are explored in the stories and journeys of refugees you are bringing into our consciousness, if only briefly?

LL: The Friction of Distance will be a live performance, during which – over the course of several hours – I bring to light the names of perished refugees inscribed on the brittle pages of Homer’s Odyssey.

SH: In your practice, you address human and societal conditions that affect people and community both intimately and in the public sphere. Do you see your work as socially engaged? Do you think art can help during ‘crisis’?

LL: I seek to create experiences that will be personally relevant to my audience, often by using their individual histories and/or the specificities of our shared context as content for the work, and the resulting performances or installations themselves frequently draw my audience out of invisible spectatorship and into active (if absurd) collaboration. So on an intimate level, yes my work tends to be socially engaged. And yes, art – especially during crisis – can absolutely be therapeutic and cathartic.

Marija Milosevska, Piece of Krísis, performance, 2016

SH: Marija, you are a visual artist and performer whose work utilises a form of ritual that invites the audience to engage with the works. What does ritual mean to your practice, and why do you seek to engage audiences with it?

Marija Milosevska: Ritual, for me, is the very process of learning and creating through which I get to know the audience with the being of my work through expression of the current/temporal perception of living in the broadest sense, starting from the individual origin and culture, collective heritage, which is then incorporated in a new era of art – filigree. The original manner of fitting the filigree work into the context of tradition found its expression in the cult. The unique value of a work of art is based on the ritual, where the work got its initial and first usable value. My jewellery is the undiscovered in me, part of the ‘collectiveness’. It is a conductor and it is a reaction. It can be an installation or a performance whose completeness is obtained through the contact with the audience.

SH: You hail from Macedonia, where there has been a recent escalation of internal conflicts and precariousness both within its borders and in the context of its related region. How do you think your practices address the recent socio-political issues? 

MM: My practice addresses the transformation of the barbed wire and I really want to transform it, not just in the contest of borders but in any kind of its association for separation. In Macedonia, everywhere there are barriers, borders, separation, crisis and the process is continuous and non-stop. We need something to change but we are powerless in the vacuum of space where culmination is looking for the exit. The world is shaking, the earth is opening, but the exit we should seek is inside us, and transforms us into human beings.

SH: For this exhibition you have been invited to reflect on the notion of ‘crisis’. Could you please tell us more about how your artworks and performances reflect on this condition?

MM: It was very challenging for me to make a connection with the theme of ‘crisis’ and my medium of presentation – wire. I create jewellery with the filigree technique. Sometimes the pieces are for someone’s need for protection from crisis or a something to remind us who we are, where we come from, and the impact that we made in society through our behaviour. It is a sign that represents and transitions between what we had been given in the past to keep us, and as what we are today. In my exhibited piece of crisis, the public can see 5 phases of ‘crisis’ and the performance will be the coupling of the transformation of ‘crisis’ through the filigree process of making the pieces of crisis.

John Clang and Sama Alshaibi

8 October 2016

For the Krísis exhibition, we’ve been very interested to look at how the photographic image can depict very different notions of crisis, and then also thinking about how to show the image in different ways within the exhibition.

John Clang, Street Vendor, Silhouette/Urban Intervention (Black Tape), 2009

Something Human: How do you work with the photographic image as a medium? What is your creative process?

John Clang: It is interesting that you ask about the photographic image, rather than photography, as a medium.  Photography, to me, is a recording and an archiving process of materials to form my thoughts. What I do next with the materials is my reaction/response to my thoughts. So, in principle, I always work on images created by me, not found images.

Sama Alshaibi: If I’m being honest, I don’t consider the medium first. I am more concerned with what I want to question and then I consider the possibilities of outcomes derived by various mediums. However, I’m quite comfortable with most cameras and the photographic image, or even the moving image (such as video) to aid me in asking such questions. The ideas I’m concerned with are already articulated in a puzzle in their final, visual expression. I’m not providing easy to read photographs to my audiences.

Photographs, as a mean of delivery, are second nature to me, because I have been making them since I was a child. Using the camera, instead of sculpture for example, eliminates irrelevant uncertainties and allows me to concern myself with the pressing issues that motivated me to make the work in the first place. I know how the language of photography operates, but that can be a trap in itself. I often ask myself, how do I remain sincere and authentic to what and who I’m hoping to be in dialogue with through a medium that is second nature to me? It isn’t an easy answer. In Silsila, the change of space and place that were so alien to me was humbling. It wouldn’t allow me to be complacent.

SH: In your works, you depict certain conditions of the world around us. What is your motivation for doing so? What do you think art can achieve?

JC: I’m interested to create a body of works that inform future historians or viewers of the mindset, the thinking process of another human being living in this specific period of time – somewhat similar to those cave drawings that’s being done 30-40,000 years ago.

We have no lack of images nowadays so my focus has always been about the recording of our inner mind rather than our physical world. Art can help us understand and tolerate one another a bit more.

SA: My motivations are simple no matter the complexities in achieving it through art. I’m driven to fight for justice, but I’m not naïve enough believe I could achieve that alone, by any means of struggle, let alone just through my art. But I do believe that artists, through their choices in art making, can strive for a “just” contribution – to bring balance, even within the horrors of the human and social conditions that are part of being alive. Whether through representation, contextualised through a visual argument of why that representation is lacking, or asking the early and meaningful questions society is not ready to address, art always contains the potential to surpass the status quo. It can do more than depict and inform. It can also inspire. It can tap into spaces and possibilities not apparent in the moment of suffering. While many live in conditions in which inequality have devastating effects, even if born from dissimilar causes that result in various suffering, in the end, it is still suffering. My art practice, at its best, is not about me, even if I’m the one that makes the decisions of what to produce. I haven’t produced the conditions we live in, but through my art, I can imagine other conditions and ask my audience to consider that too.

Sama Alshaibi, Ma Lam Tabki (Unless weeping), 2014, Courtesy of the artist and Ayyam Gallery

SH: Atmospheric backdrops/landscapes and anonymous humans are referenced in your works presented in the Krísis exhibition. How do you relate to the notion of ‘crisis’ in your practice? How do you think your works address this human and environmental condition?

JC: There are many angles from which to look at crisis. My focus is on ‘internal crisis’ resulting from the changes in our bigger environment, over which we have little control. I am not interested to create work just depicting the issues or crisis in the world. I’m interested in negotiating the nuances in our response to these crises or shifts.

SA: The “faceless” body is a strategy I use in my work to implicate all of our positions and bodies – the universal us – in a dialogue of crisis. Not just me, the artist, but all of us, as stewards of the planet in our current reality and what the future provides/condemns for those who will come after our own moment on earth. ‘Crisis’ could be perceive as a threatening term, but I hope it has the effect of demanding a confrontation with what we must deal with now.  Especially the environmental catastrophe that undoubtedly shapes the conditions that humans will face politically and economically, resulting in the social and bodily impact. I ask myself, is it enough to just be aware of a crisis, or represent it through my work? My photographs in this exhibition are relics of testing my own body and its vulnerabilities in communities and physical spaces struggling in crisis. However, I can’t ever represent it in a manner that truly speaks to such difficult circumstances, no matter my favourable intentions. I aspire to communicate effectively with a sensitive audience willing to engage in empathy. The complexities and specificity of any topic addressed in my work is only compelling (by my own standards) if the audience realise it is just as much about them, albeit in a different context. Our environmental circumstances are interrelated, as are our personal ones, and all suffering is in the end, the same.

Something Human’s coming to Nottingham!

4 October 2016

Annie: Hello, we are Alessandra and Annie, and we’re Something Human. We’ll be “taking over” the Bonington Gallery blog as we are guest curators for the exhibition Krísis, which opens with a preview on Thursday 27 October 2016. In the following blog posts, we’ll be sharing some insights and reflections from the different artists involved in the project, and also some of our thoughts as we prepare to come up to Nottingham to install and open the show.

First off, a little about who we are. We’re independent curators based in London and we work together in partnership under the rubric of  ‘Something Human’. Something Human was started in 2012 as a collective, based on the shared interest in the idea of “movement across borders”, and it sought to create cross-cultural collaborations and conversations with curators, artists, practitioners and thinkers. It was called Something Human because initially, it was a bunch of people from all over the world and we were struggling to find a name that could represent all our different aesthetics, ideas and principles – and somehow, we alighted on ‘something human’ as a commonality – and the name stuck!

Alessandra: I joined Something Human in June 2013 and I was thrilled about the idea of starting to work together on an open and independent platform interested in exploring movement and relationships across boundaries, through a multidisciplinary and experimental approach in collaboration with artists.

Since joining in June 2013 we have worked together on the stopovers of a nomadic project whose finale instalment has now brought us to Nottingham, three years later – the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project. This is a travelling exhibition project with site-specific performance interventions that has now taken place in ten cities: Berlin, London, Rome, Venice, Belgrade, Singapore, Budapest, Skopje, Lisbon and now finally, Nottingham. We’re very grateful for the invitation of Professor Duncan Higgins and Dr Roy Smith at the Nottingham Trent University for inviting us to bring the project to Nottingham.

Images credits: alikati

Annie:  Over the different instalments of the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project, we had the privilege of connecting with the artists and arts scenes of different city centres, which led to many deep discussions regarding the arts and the city, and the different socio-political-economic factors as push-pull forces that instigate migrations of people to, from and across cities. As we were making this journey, it also became apparent that larger narratives of crisis were escalating across the world, whether it was the increasing representations of violence and conflict in the media, the humanitarian refugee crisis or social and political tension in different countries. It did make us question – how can art make a difference? Indeed, can art, and therefore, artists and art producers, make a difference?

Alessandra: Working on all the iterations of MOVE W I T H (OUT) made me feel that it has been impossible to avoid the term ‘crisis’. It forcefully entered the public vocabulary as well as my personal one with strength and as a constant presence, such that it was time to deal with it. What better opportunity than co-curating a show and public programme where we can involve artists to help address and respond to it? And if asked “why art?”, I would borrow Boris Groys’s definition of what the avant-garde’s role could be today: ‘Artists do not and cannot predict the future for us but rather demonstrate the transitory character of the present and thus – hopefully – open a way for the new’.

Images credits: alikati

Annie:  For Krísis, and indeed for the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project that has led up to this final culmination, we’ve been very fortunate to work with incredible artists from all corners of the world. For Krísis, our artists bring their practices from different national and cultural contexts, which have also been informed by their movements across the global contexts in their work.

They will bring their reflections via very different mediums and forms, from installation to video, photography to performance and participatory interventions. We’re also excited to be working with Professor Higgins and Dr Smith on the symposium where NTU researchers, visiting speakers and artists will all address the theme of the project with their different perspectives.

Alessandra: The invitation we received from NTU and Bonington Gallery to curate the Krísis exhibition and public programme as a final reflection on the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project came at a moment when we really wanted to map the lines of this incredible journey that has been shaping our understanding of both curating in public and private spaces, and the network built of relationships with interesting international art scenes.

Nottingham will be an incredible opportunity to share our experiences and the practices of artists we have met along the way, via a series of artworks, performances, workshops and a symposium free for everyone to attend. We do hope the local, national and international audience will join us!

For more information on Something Human visit