Co-founders/curators of Sumac Space, Katharina Ehrl and Davood Madadpoor in conversation with Fabrizio Ajello
This interview was originally published on memecult.it under the title Sumac Space | Dialogue with curators Davood Madadpoor and Katharina Ehrl.
I would start with a dry question: what is artistically happening today in what you call the Middle East, since today the “borders” are multiplying because of the pandemic, and how did you decide to represent and tell it?
Even though there are difficult social and political circumstances, the Middle East has experienced remarkable artistic reinforcement in the last years, and there is a great young art scene. In the countries themselves, there are also many new cultural opportunities in the form of collections, museums, cultural centres, etc., but the problems with the borders and the related travel restrictions still affect especially young artists whose work is not yet often exhibited in allowing them to have a voice abroad. Important for us is to especially rethink how to use the World Wide Web for the broader art sector, facilitating the issues mentioned above and not only as a tool for the art market.
For the first time in Europe, it became clear what mobility problems or restrictions that suddenly arose meant. For EU citizens this was something new, but for other nationalities it was an everyday occurrence due to their origin. We aim to dissolve these borders and provide a place to exhibit without facing any political or bureaucratic restrictions or limitations.
According to our research there are about 55,000 museums worldwide; however, these require visas to travel to. An example is Germany, where citizens from more than 100 countries have to apply for a visa to come visit; the UK also requires citizens of more than 50 countries to have a visa to enter their country.
We live in suspended, dramatic and emergency times. Among the key words of the idea behind Sumac Space I found “activating the imagination”, “new dimension for public space” and “solidarity”. I would be interested in deepening these concepts that, in my opinion, are nerve centres of the relationship between cultural production and contemporary community.
Our project dedicates itself to the art scene while considering social and political “limitations” between globality and locality. Sumac Space stands for solidarity with artists and young curators as we are offering the possibility to create exhibitions regardless of problems in the “real” world. We believe young artists and curators can shape the future and reveal the red thread of humanity within us all. Of course, we all have to adapt to the differences and new formats that are now being imposed upon societies by the current situation, but artists must be given new opportunities for the aforesaid.
Through Sumac Space we try to have a new approach to exhibiting art online. For us, an important focus is the artist itself, and so we created the “Artists’ Rooms”, which are curated by the artists themselves and are like an abstract self-portrait. Through this we want to create another level of understanding and activate the imagination to link the artists, their way of thinking, their way of working etc. with the artwork itself.
Have you also planned a knowledge exchange with Italian artists, curators, researchers and scholars for the future?
Sumac Space was launched on October 8, and new voices from Tel Aviv, Vienna, Berlin and Lisbon have already joined us in form of, for example, guest curators and authors of our Dialogue section. This makes clear our belief that a platform must invite people to exchange and create a dialogue and adds an international perspective that can offer new insights and solutions for people to reflect upon. Innovative solutions only occur when dialogue is brought to light. Humans have much more in common than we give ourselves credit for.
But, in answering this question directly, Pietro Galiagnò – a curator and scholar based in Florence – is already working on a contribution to the Dialogue section.
The choice of the dynamics of the text within the space of the web page, almost in a floating state, reminded me of the shipwrecked state/condition. Why this choice?
We have consciously chosen this dynamic, because for us life/being is not fixed in one place. With a focus on the region of the Middle East we also include its global diaspora occurring in our ever-changing world.
How could the production and enjoyment of works of art change in the coming years? Aren’t we in a condition of excessive dematerialisation of the work as a physical object and a distancing from the cultural community experience? Are we risking a form of virtual flattening?
Questions concerning what will or can happen through innovation and technical change have been raised since industrialisation – we are thinking of Walter Benjamin’s L’œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproduction mécanisée. Of course, there are changes happening due to technical possibilities – but this is something we can discover in many, if not all, sectors since the 19th century. Today’s technical innovations do not just give new possibilities for producing art but also for viewing art. But if one observes the art world and the art market it becomes clear that, despite technical development, traditional techniques (like painting, sculpture, photography) still predominate. We are convinced that this will continue to be the case as it has to do with the nature of “making art”.
Nevertheless, we firmly believe that virtual space is not a substitute for museums but rather a complement. The advantage of the former results on the one hand from the permanent availability – adapted to today’s times – and on the other hand from the transnational access.
Sumac Space is a venue for raising questions and conversations.
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Fabrizio Ajello graduated from the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy in Palermo with a thesis on Contemporary Art History.
In the past, he has actively collaborated with the magazines Music Line and Succoacido.net. Since 2005 he has been working on the public art project, Progetto Isole. In 2008, together with the artist Christian Costa, he founded the public art project Spazi Docili, based in Florence, which in recent years has produced explorations of the territory, interventions, workshops and lectures in public and private institutions, exhibitions and artistic residencies.
He has also exhibited in Italian and international galleries and museums and participated in various events such as: Berlin Biennale 7, Break 2.4 Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Synthetic Zero at BronxArtSpace in New York, Moving Sculpture In The Public Realm in Cardiff, Hosted in Athens in Athens, The Entropy of Art in Wroclaw, Poland. He teaches Literature at the Liceo Artistico di Porta Romana in Florence.