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With a little help from some accomplices and supporters, the twelve HISK laureates of 2018 have co-curated their final show without a captain-curator in control. The result is a rule-breaking exhibition conceived as a Gesamtkunstwerk sprinkled with a chilly haunted house vibe. We sat down with Elena Sorokina, curator at HISK, who was happy to talk about this year’s exhibition making process.
Interview by Isaline Raes
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms
What’s the difference between this laureates exhibition and previous shows?
The exhibition is being finalised as I speak, and I can only talk about our process. It’s an artist-curated exhibition. This tradition existed in the early years of HISK, but since 2002 final exhibitions have always been organised by a specially invited guest curator. The difficulty at HISK, however, always remained the same: the artistic positions here are very diverse because it is part of the identity of the institution. During the selection process of the candidates, we never select according to trends. We focus on the strength and potential of individual practices and try to ‘predict the future’, figuratively speaking. This results in a selection which is always very diverse, with artists working in different media and in different fields.
How did the expo came to being?
It’s much more interesting to work as an overseeing participant. It feels less artificial
Curating an exhibition in the classical way reaches its limits in this situation. Last year I already started a discussion with the artists on what connected their practices and what ‘connection’ means at all in our world of hyperconnectivity. This year, we decided to completely change the structure as the artists themselves are the organisers of their own final show. The main decisions were made collectively, which was of course difficult, but felt more true to the situation. And for me as a curator, it’s much more interesting to work as an overseeing participant rather than to act as traditional curator or to invite another guest curator. It feels less artificial here at HISK.
The final show is the result of a year-long process of intense exchanges between the laureates and others involved
The final show is the result of a year-long process of intense exchanges between the laureates and others involved in the production of ideas and structures that underlie this exhibition. One of them was Wilfried Huet, editor of Gagarin magazine. He edited and produced a special publication based on the magazine’s principles, featuring ‘artists in their own words’. In parallel, there was a writing workshop led by Natasha Soobramanien. She opened up the manifold ways of what an ‘artist text’ could be. Inspired by these artists’ texts, Soobramanien wrote ‘Beyond the Wild Beyond’, an atypical exhibition text. It does not explain nor comment on anything, neither does it reflect on a topic, nor frame any theme.
Where will the exhibition take place?
It is as much about exhibiting as it is about concealing
The exhibition space is a mirror image of the HISK’s studio building. A thin wall separates the studios from the former storage of Design Museum Gent which has the same amount of floors and a very similar layout and size. These spaces will be used for the final show. In this constellation, an intriguing encounter occurs between the artists studios as sites of art production, the exhibition space where art becomes public and visible and a storage space, where art is ‘preserved’ and hidden. In terms of site specificity, the space provides an interesting context for the artists. Since the space is very big and wonderfully layered, with a lot of traces left by previous owners, the show is as much about exhibiting as it is about concealing. Every artist has to decide how to work with it: what to keep, what to exhibit and what to obscure. Opacity becomes as important as visibility.
I would rather say that we have three spaces in which the exhibition unfolds – the physical space of the exhibition, the space of the publication by Wilfred Huet and a fictional text space by Natasha Soobramanien. These are all bound in a prismatic relationship undermining the idea of a classically curated exhibition.
So, the final show is conceived as a Gesamkunstwerk?
Perhaps I could claim that the exhibition is created according to the principles of an artwork rather than an exhibition … The artists will tell you more soon!
Inspired by Bernd Lohaus’ BLUMEN watercolours, one of the exhibition spaces will be fully devoted to the display of contemporary watercolours. The candidate laureates launched an open call to people connected to the HISK – alumni, visiting lecturers, staff, artist friends – inviting them to contribute a water colour to the exhibition.
HISK laureates 2018
Show me tomorrow, we will go there
23 November – 16 December 2018 (opening on 22 November)
HISK – Higher Institute for Fine Arts