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»Curated By« Interview Series: Katherine Pickard

September 22, 2019
Text by Pia-Marie Remmers
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Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruz

The annual gallery festival curated by is again a guest at 22 selected Viennese galleries. For this year’s theme »Circulation« we asked five of the participating curators about their exhibition concepts and their perspective on the city.

You predominantly work in the print sector and deal with books and publications. What are the differences to curating an exhibition?

As the director of Sequence Press I have occasion to operate as a representative of a larger identity. Before Sequence was founded, I worked in film production, and book publishing is not an entirely dissimilar endeavor. First and foremost, it’s group work. Although we all know that the practice of writing is essentially a solitary activity, as publishers we work with philosophers, artists, writers, filmmakers, poets, mathematicians, and also graphic designers, copy editors, printers… as part of a whole that we have gathered and nurtured, all of these people work together, one idea or process reinforcing the other. This allows for us to build upon a continuum rather than work from project to project. Organizing an exhibition can be, and should be similar. Installation and presentation of different forms and media in a gallery space, as opposed to a book, present unique challenges, and to address those nuances is something else… But at the basic level of production and exhibition construction, similar sets of rules can be applied, cuts can be made that guide the viewer and manipulate materials to render effects. These modes of execution allude to cinematic sequencing, or it is at least my preferred way of thinking about them in order to generate excitement.

In fact, all of the artists in this show inhabit different roles as cultural producers. For example, Aaron Flint Jamison, the conceptual artist and sculptor, co-founded Yale Union, an art space in Portland, Oregon, where the work of many artists is supported and nourished. He is also a renowned bookmaker, printing and publishing the work of others, including an essay by the New York-based artist and poet Jimmy Raskin, included in this exhibition. The painter, Tauba Auerbach, founded Diagonal Press as a way to more immediately connect with and disseminate her abstract designs and artist books to a broader network. And Felix Gaudlitz – who invited my participation – is a gallerist and publisher himself, and aptly manages simultaneous activities.

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Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruz

The title of this year’s edition of »curated by« is »Circulation«. How did you approach this topic?

One could say that the notion of circulation is at work everywhere, and all the time. However, specifically, the show addresses the fluidity of identities at the level of practice of the artists themselves, as well as of objects, incorporating graphic design, diagrams, film, poetry, sculpture. As a whole, the exhibition attempts to suspend the definitions of what an art object might be, allowing these flows of meaning to circulate.

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Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruz

Many of the artists you have chosen address anthropological questions in their practice and use language as an artistic tool. Can you tell us more about how they connect these fields?

Each individual in the show is engaged in rigorous work which is found outside of the objects they produce. As far as an anthropology of language might be concerned, Jimmy Raskin’s entire artistic enterprise rests on the moment when Arthur Rimbaud decides to stop writing poetry once and for all. That moment is located precisely when Rimbaud realizes that with the birth of critical distance, language becomes a tool for postmodern play and what Raskin describes as »infinite juxtaposition« with nothing more at stake. Language has lost its fundamental innocence, the innocence required for the poem pure that precedes the mode of infinite juxtaposition. At the beginning of Rimbaud’s »Voyelles,« a key poem in this realization, he assigns colors to the vowels – »A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue« – and therefore points to the arbitrary nature of language. From then on, there is no need and no possibility to write a poem which requires this by now lost innocence. Raskin’s work is about differentiating Inseparability (the mode of the poet pure, easy target) from Simultaneity (the mode of the new poet philosopher, always moving). Here, of course, the poem is a stand-in for the ultimate work of art, and the diagrams on display in the show directly engage this crucial problem.

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Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruz

One of the goals of »curated by« is to bring international positions to Vienna in order to make the local scene more internationally visible. What kind of image of Vienna do you personally have and has it changed through your work for the festival?

One of the distinctive aspects of Vienna is that it is a beautifully laid out city that does not seem to have the density problems that tend to crush the masses of talented people who exist in the major art centers like New York, London or Berlin. It seems to afford the necessary time and space to artists to rigorously develop and execute work. As a testament to those circumstances, Vienna-based graphic designer Martha Stutteregger, whose work is included in the show, is known for the attentive and sensitive quality of her exquisite book designs.

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Photo by Marcella Ruiz Cruz

Through the festival, the galleries can also expand their international network. In your opinion, what other sustainable opportunities could such a festival offer?

I’ll say that Felix Gaudlitz has already started his gallery with a particular vision that carefully incorporates artists and ideas beyond the local. With regard to the festival, this is a great opportunity and a rare opportunity to have the art world and galleries participate in a common effort, commissioned and sponsored by the city’s Business Agency itself, something that couldn’t be imagined in a city like New York. However, the danger of a festival structure is that it can be absorbed too quickly, yielding the more negative results of the promotion of cultural tourism, which is something I don’t embrace with any hope. Any art worthy of the name should resist this more abstract umbrella of culture, and my position is rather ambivalent vis-à-vis this problem. Let’s take Mozart, the quintessential Viennese artist, as an example, his radical music in its time, now reduced to easy listening. As Jean-Luc Godard said: art is the exception while culture is the rule, and it is part of the rule to want the death of the exception. When Mozart wrote his Requiem on sheet music he was making art, when the score is performed there is music, and when the performance is recorded on CD, the result is culture. And so, with guarded enthusiasm I look forward to seeing what surprises might be in store while encountering the program and the city.

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PW-Magazine is a bilingual online magazine for contemporary culture.