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ARTIST INTERVIEWS

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Elise Beuke talks
with

  August Lantz    
   

Elise;

Dear August,
I wanted to start this email correspondence by saying thank you on behalf of the Metaxy team for being a part of this show! We are super honored to have your work both physically in the show and expanded digitally on our website. It is always exciting as curators to have the opportunity to encourage development in an artists process so thank you for that and for being so on board with all of the elements of With.In. a note to the reader August ( artist name S. Lantz ) is also a lovely amazing human to work with in general and, speaking for myself at least, I leave conversations with them moved towards pondering and most always smiling.


To give some background context August and I first got to know each other over the summer of 2019, where we rode bicycles to bunkered music venues, sweaty gay clubs and the occasional Dutch museum as we studied maybe a little more De Stijl than humanly necessary. We cut hair in too small apartment bathrooms using travel scissors, we walked through dreamy glass domed gardens, we shined our shoes on the hotel floor. I had the privilege of first seeing August's work when they created critical, informed and personal pieces responding to the context of Amsterdam, the city that at that time we called home. And now I have the privilege to get to pose my questions and start a nice little conversation about their work, thoughts, and what the theme of this show means to them. So without subjecting the reader to anymore of my nostalgia let the interview begin...


Firstly I wanted to open with something basic to get acquainted. What would you say called you to art making and how has that stayed present in your work throughout?


August;

Dearest Elise,
The honor is all mine! So many thank yous to you and everyone involved at Metaxy for the invitation to participate in this show.

Ah what a question this is!

I’m not sure if art making ever felt like a call or summons as much as it feels like a necessity! Making is something that must happen if I am to think or process or live.

Some of my earliest memories are of drawing or rock collecting or digging holes in beach sand- all of which feel like making to me. So I think a part of that call to make is something very old and something beyond my articulation. I often understand art making as a way to offer a perception, an opportunity for a maker to bounce an experience back into the world in a similar sort of gestural or three-dimensional means that they perceived it. It’s a reflex or way to talk.

As time and contexts shift, the things I talk about in my work do too- but the constant of it all seems to be the energy and intensity that I invest into the act of making. The trust in the work, and the understanding that it is something that I require of myself.


Elise;

I like the word "reflex" when thinking about this because it has the power to encapsulate the response of art making as an almost biological/evolutionary thing a verb right? Also the parallel between reflex (from Latin reflexus ‘a bending back’) and reflect (Old French reflecter or Latin reflectere, from re- ‘back’ + flectere ‘to bend’.) , if artists are making work that responds (reflexes) to the context it is made in I think we can say that this work in a sense also reflects that context no? I really like this Nina Simone quote where she says  “You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times.” Your work, in my opinion has a really intimate, personal, almost biographical air about it ( which makes sense when you say that making is something that must happen in order for you to think/process/live) but how do you think , if it is the case, that this necessity ties in with "the times" as Simone says? How much weight does personal, social or political context have in your making process?


August;

You’re right in that this work is, at least in part, about biography and telling stories, and the structures of power and oppression that are tied to that sort of representation. And so with that understanding, political and social contexts have a lot of weight in the porcelain wearables I’ve been making. By addressing my – or someone else’s – queer/trans/otherwise liminal body through the making of a wearable, I am documenting a time and experience and a physical and bodily existence. The act of acknowledging or proving those existences real is, by default, political.

Even though those things are constant considerations in regard to why I make, I think they present themselves subtly (if at all) in the visual appearance or experience of the work itself. It’s odd how these things translate or reflect, or who notices those reflections.

It seems like an impossible task to parse my making from “the times”- I wouldn’t be making work about what I do if it were not for the social and political contexts I have grown up in and find myself in now- the situations, events, privileges, complexities, all of it. What I deem pressing about discussions of identity or presence or self-representation shifts with “the times”. Simone is very right in that making art as a reflection of the times feels inescapable – as in one can’t help it – but that also doesn’t mean artists and makers can’t be intentional or specific about what truths or inspirations “the times” make them aware of.


Elise;

Yes!!! In regard to "the times" and the reflection of such; in work and practices I think it is important to be intentional about the responsibility that deeming such parallels can put on makers. Though personally I am drawn towards work that has more of a weight than say the "art for arts sake" type of theory, to ask the artist to do more work for society is an elevated position that isn't always fair to place creatives in. I wanted to talk about two things specifically that you mentioned ; 1. What things have you recently been "intentional or specific" about in your practice? and 2. you mention your wearables series the work that is present in the show, could you talk a little bit about those works in relation to With.In, how do you see them in conversation with the theme of this show? 


August;

Definitely. In regard to intention and specificity: I’ve been focusing in on wearables, what they are, why I make them, who I make them for. The principles and motivations of wearables and ornamenting the body has a long and complex past- and because of that, I’ve been specific about research, working to do the right research, to be incisive and nuanced and aware. Ceramics and clay has been at the forefront for me in the last few years, but I’ve been incredibly intentional about letting these inquiries on wearables guide material. It’s exciting to think about what the logic of wearables extends to. Personal belongings? Clothing? Tattoos?

And the wearables themselves: When I think about the show, it’s impossible to not consider fitting and belonging in a space, about presence in a place, about imagining what home feels like in a queer + trans + biracial body. Processes of building home and building identity often feel tangled up in each other; home is a pretty nebulous and challenging thing. These odd little bits of porcelain keep me hopeful for home, for searching for it or finding it or forming it or to define and redefine it.


Elise;

Do you have a specific personal wearable (extensions included) that has come up for you recently or that has a monumental significance right now for you?

and can you imagine how maybe a home could house a wearable, what type of spaces do you see these works placed in what things would you imagine them surrounded by?

It is interesting in a sense because often we see or envision art housed in relation to its architectural or the interior context. For these works though the context and spaces for them primarily is the body.


August;

I have a little upper-arm tattoo made by Avery Osajima that has been surfacing in my mind- much like other wearables, tattoos aren’t what we know as tattoos without their connection to body. Maybe I’m thinking about it due to a COVID-era yearning for tattoos, maybe it’s just thinking of different manifestations of wearables all the time. Either way, it’s a good reminder and motivation for me to keep making things.

And as for imagining spaces for the wearables I have made- the most “at home” they are is when they exist on the body. Something that I’ve really struggled with is finding spaces for these wearables to exist in, for people to experience them in. I have few answers about what this work really is and why I remain so possessed to make what I’m making. But I do have confidence in my pursuit of finding ways to represent the experience of the wearables – which is why photo, audio, video, drawing have all become more important as I continue to recognize how the experience of the wearables being worn is an integral part of their existence.
I like the quest for making work about home that we can envision in contexts beyond what we typically expect artwork to be housed in. How flexible or dynamic can our spatial understandings of home be? And how far can we push those understandings with the work we make?


Closing Statement Elise;

Re-reading through this exchange I am reminded of the particular clarity that can grow from being “incisive and nuanced and aware” as August puts it. Intensions that we all deserve to house space for. In the whirl that is curating a show it is easy to lose sight of the foundation of a thing as you are spread between picking out curtains and installing drywall. Every time though that I return to the elements that surround the wearables a solidity and certainty tends to envelope me. Two qualities of August’s that are particularly infectious and in my opinion also ever present in their work. How things so small in stature and fragile in materiality can make me feel so firmly planted I believe has to do with the purpose of the thing and the action that their conception is fostered from.  To make space seen is a feat. August does so with grace and care.

Thank you again and again for all that you have done for this show and with your work. Ever honored to get to see how you and your work grow.

Fondly, Elise 





The mediated group, Chinese communities naturalize in the issue of European immigration

Peng Shuai Paolo’s Works of Art 


Written by Katherine Yixuan Dong

Thur 5th, FEBUARY 2021

 



A hybrid community can be used to describe the current state of the demographic composition of Europe, at least in representative European cities, a generality. No one would be surprised by people of different skin color on the street, but this does not mean that they fully accept this shared community. On a macro level, the multi-ethnic composition is an embodiment of the trend of globalization. People from different countries with different cultural backgrounds flock to the same place that symbolizes the internationality of this city. It may be equated with advanced development and the possibility of a better future. Contrary to the scene of the colonial period, the dominant colonization of Europe gradually withdrew, the colonists exploited the territory of the colonized until the end with a relationship of oppressor and the oppressed, now most foreign migrants are not forced. However, the natives seem to feel forced to accept them. Hence the hybrid community in reality does not compose of native residents and people of other nationalities who have legal residence. For example, in Milan, the community is essentially classified into Italians and others. The question of who the other people are is not interested in the natives. I used “native” instead of “local citizen” because both Italians and foreigners with legal residence are local residents, and the children of foreigners are even born here. The natives know that these other people will always form smaller communities in their own groups with people of the same origin, which is regarded as marginal alienation. For example, China Town can be regarded as a representative commercial street for Chinese people. It is different places have formed a local mediation that is the in-between ground between the foreigner culture and the local culture. In addition to being a small Chinese community and a commercial street for foreigners, people have overlooked the core capital construction. This kind of inclusiveness given by the government is just another form of capital operation that enables foreigners to develop their own trade in a certain area, thereby stimulating the development of surrounding communities, and finally forming a superficially harmonious foreign community. This imaginary harmony is obvious because exclusivity can be seen everywhere, which is what we call discrimination. Here I take the Chinese as an example, First of all, because I come from China, it means that I have a complete Chinese cultural background with a neutral standpoint. Chinese living in Italy and Chinese living in China have different cultural attributes despite we have synchronicity. This difference is particularly obvious among young people, due to the rupture of the same historical memories and rapid changes in life experiences. For example, some Chinese born in Italy cannot speak Chinese, but most parents will let their children learn Chinese or even find a Chinese teacher. Language is the medium of thought output and the embodiment of identity recognition. If you don't speak the other party's language, it means you automatically lose the right to speak not just lose the discourse. This isolation happens naturally. For the parents of these children, language is a tool for their livelihood. For children, the multiplicity of culture is forcibly installed in their own language system, and the heterogeneity of multiple cultures is entangled to shape self-cognition. Returning to the field of art, looking at the issue of globalization, it is undeniable that China's art market is gradually appearing in Europe. The proportion of Chinese artists’ works and exhibitions is continually increasing, and Chinese contemporary culture is also understood by more people. So how should Chinese artists in this immigration status express their identity and particularity that is the actual tipping point between Chinese and Western.
Chinese born artist Peng Shuai Paolo is engaged in exploring the relationship between individuals and others. The contradiction in identity recognition is a swamp he cannot escape. Instinctive patriotism has become a kind of pressure and contradiction for him. He found that this complexity exists in many people with similar experiences, some people are victims of racism and some others choose to use violence to resist. Living in such a multi-cultural environment, he is sensitively aware of the dominance of the other’s discourse. Seeing his work “Untiled”, a collection of screenshots of 102 languages, we may intuitively think of the earth and globalization. On further observation, the blue sphere is a kind of indigestion. The Text shown is a quote from "The Fortress of Solitude" written by Jonathan Lethem, a novel agains racism:

"Like a match struck in a darkened room: Two white girls in flannel nightgowns and red vinyl roller skates with white laces ..."

By using Google translate, all the languages can be told and understood, but is it the real freedom of language? The algorithm behind the translation alludes to the hegemonic mechanism, the preset has been inserted into the established ideology. The widespread use of Google translate is a universality that is accepted by the public, which means that people do not need to think much about the acceptance of social mechanisms. Then we finally understand that this pure blue is not the blue represented by the earth but the invasive color of Google translate that continues to expand and spread to the entire sphere, the languages from other cultures are overwhelmingly covered by foreign definitions, which itself is a kind of racism. Opposite the blue sphere is the work “I am (2019)” that expresses different nationalities in a colloquial form that is a ritual, "I am..." speaking of one's nationality in different languages is a mantra, dialogue, transmission and declaration. The artist exposes his skin to show the purest ego at the same time the footage gradually blurs until it is completely invisible, blurring all the characteristics of an individual and returning to the essence of being a human.

It is inappropriate to view Peng Shuai's work as a Chinese contemporary work. We should not ignore and generalize his multiple identities so that it only becomes a reflection of globalization. The established thinking is dangerous and irresponsible. We should realize that his work can be regarded as a manifesto of immigrants whose complexity comes from different ideologies and rooted in China’s long cultural history. At the same time, he is also a representative of the diversity of young artists, adding possibilities to local art. In the post-colonial context, the external problem of immigration is trace back to colonial history, although China’s territory is remote and now basically free from Western colonial aggression. Compared with many other Third World countries, China’s rapid economic development becomes part of the conspiracy that theorists see it as a competitor or even a threat. In Europe, the inner problems of Chinese immigrant community come from the compromise and self-contradictions of individuals living. The immigrant group is caught between internal and external problems. Decolonization seems to deviate from the nowadays Chinese context, but the deep-rooted West-centrism has embedded all these problems. In our time, decolonization is a long-term struggle that is not just about independence but to build a real inclusive collective. Reflecting on Peng Shuai's work, all personal characteristics such as skin color, gender, race, etc are no longer distinctive. Let us meet naked!

Author info:


Katherine Yixuan Dong is a critical researcher, curator and writer in the field of contemporary art. She has Chinese background and European study experience currently working in Milan. Her research engages in various directions in the field of contemporary art, such as the analysis of society, the coexist relationship between humans and non-human in the context of globalization. Her studies intervene between the artist and the curator, non-binary identity makes her work more flexible and extends the borders out of the convention. Read more HERE︎︎︎INSTAGRAM︎︎︎  







Luna Sue

responds to visitor questions about domesticity in the context of her work Outside of the Window.



这次展出的作品里,我的画面内容灵感很多是来源于2019我在摩洛哥旅游时看到的场景,非洲的阳光是如此的热烈和耀眼,我就像置身于另一个世界。

作为女性,或者说作为人,我们都有自己不得不需要背负的责任,来自家庭和社会。比如在中国,有些女人生了孩子,她就会叫自己某某妈妈,而不是自己的姓名,甚至连她的爱人也这样叫她,她会觉得满足,幸福,但是慢慢的,她可能会忘记自我。

但我想在这个作品中表达的是,永远不要怀疑自己的可能性,永远不要被眼前的现实给压垮,这不是世界的一切。你依然拥有很多可能性,可以成为任何人,可以去很多地方,看很多你想象不到的风景,人生并不是只有从你的房子窗户望出去的那一窗风景。

我最近开始觉得, 每一个人类不是单独的,所有人类在一起是一个生命,我们就像一个不断前行的巨人身上的一个细胞,单个生命的落,会有另外生命的起,人类是不死的,他们身上发生的独一无二的事,也会在其他人生命中重演,他的性格,喜好,他和他的一切,就像他消逝了,但他变成了无数分子,所有情节和追寻还有细节都分散在从前或未来的人类的身上,一遍遍重演。在这样的角度上思考,我们不必为单个生命的死亡而觉得悲痛到不可挽回。

那哪里是家呢,我们属于哪里呢?

从微观的角度看,我们只是巨人的细胞而已,在不伤害他人的前提下,没有什么可以束缚我们,任何地方都可以是家,没有任何人真的要求我们只能一辈子看这一扇窗的风景;从宏观的角度看,我们就是巨人,我们是每个人,是所有人,我们既是细胞,也是宇宙。我们就是家。
Many of the contents of my images in this exhibition were inspired by scenes I saw during my trip to Morocco in 2019, where the African sun was so warm and dazzling that it felt like I was in another world.

As women, or as human beings, we all have responsibilities that we have to carry, from our families and society. For example, in China, some women get married, had a child, then she will call herself as someone’s mom, like Luna’s mom, instead of her own name, even her husband will call her someone’s mom as well. She feels satisfied and happy, but gradually, she may forget about herself.

What I want to express in this series of work is that, never to doubt about your possibilities, never be broken down by the temporary reality that it is not all about world. You still have many possibilities to be anyone, to go many places and see many sights you could not imagine, life is not just what looking out of your house window.

I have recently begun to think that each human being is not single, all human beings together are one life. We are like cells in a giant that is constantly moving forward, where a single life falls and another life rises. Human beings are immortal, and what happens to them uniquely is repeated in the lives of others, his character, his preferences, him and everything about him, it just like he fades away, but he becomes countless molecules, and all the episodes and pursuits and details about him are scattered over and over again in the human beings of the past or of the future. Thinking in this way, we do not have to feel irreparably saddened by the death of a single life.

So where is the home? Where do we belong?

From a micro perspective, we are just cells of a giant, on the condition that we do not harm others, that nothing can bind us and any place can be home, no one is really asking us to see only this one window view for the rest of our lives; from a macro perspective, we are a giant, we are everyone, we are all, we are both the cells and the universe. We are home.

SPARC* GALLERY
FEB 05 ︎︎︎ 12th 2021



 SPARC* GALLERY
 FEB 05 ︎︎︎ 12th 2021