The artist and curator Arthur Clay was born in New York, lives in Basel, and is momentarily working in Seoul. Through Skype and 7 hours into the future we spoke about art and science, his role as a curator and the key to having succes.
You are currently travelling through Asia with two exhibitions in Shanghai and a project work in Seoul. What are you working on?
I’ve spent the last ten years working between Asia, Europe and North America. I have worked in China, Japan, Singapore and Korea. At the moment I have a guest-position in Sogang University in South Korea as a teacher Art and Technologies. I teach sound art, sound design, studio practice, computer music, game music, film music, psychoacoustics, a lot of fun things like that. Exhibition-wise I spent most of my past ten years in Asia with projects that united art and science. We started with computer science, to make the computer and the research that was being done visible to the audience coming to see it. Recently I moved into bio-art, which is art that has its base in biology. This can be bio-mimicry, for example, or art made out of living tissues or living things. The marriage between art and science is a two-way street, which opens up both audiences and venues. You can exhibit in art and science museums or art museums, or you can do private shows for research institutes or universities that focus on technology.
Next to being a curator you are also an artist (or the other way around). Is your practice a hybrid of both disciplines or do you see them as two separate parts of your practice?
I would say that it is a hybrid practice. I like to think that I’m not a curator because I don’t take the traditional curatorial approach, I don’t follow the rules. One of the traditional curating rules is that you don’t exhibit yourself. I like to break that rule. Artists are at the end of the food line and if you’re not also involved in the management of things, the food runs out before you’re up. Also standard curators will exhibit mostly names: the artists that get into the art magazines or exhibit in museums. An artist curating can reveal more about the conceptual basis of the artwork, and the show will document how artists see the subject differently and how they are socially connected as well.
When researching your work I found something called Digital Art Week. What is DAW and what is your role in this organisation?
The Digital Art Weeks is a festival for art and technology that was founded in collaborations with the Computer Science Department of the ETH Zurich. My role is basically co-founder, artistic manager and project developer. I wanted to platform research, my plan was not really to create a festival. The idea was to platform research technologies that had not yet hit the market, and to invite artists that would come and visit us to develop work with the research scientists. Also, we wanted create a dialogue between artist and scientists in a cultural context of shifting. This means going to the host country, jumping in a lot of taxis and visiting institutes where we talk and eventually collaborate. So when it comes to balancing out the interests of diverse parties, it’s a kind of 007 approach to making art festivals: fast, fun and dangerous.
Did you start out as an artist or as a scientist?
It has always been the arts. I think that whatever subject you are interested in, you have to pursue gaining the knowledge for. If you’re an artist who paints and you are interesting in computers you just pursue those interests in parallel. Learn how each has been used, how each is used today, and eventually “points of suture” emerge. The points define a unique path for combining both, and eventually span innovation. Today we have citizen sciences or Do-It-Yourself science. I think the process is pretty well understood there. The bio-art community with its bio-hacking, for example, has really been pushing that everybody can do science. So maybe it is not about being an artist, but more about living our lives with creative intensity. That is why I don’t see much of a difference anymore between being this or that.
What advice would you like to give to emerging artists?
First of all: it’s not the quality of the artwork that’s going to bring them their success. There are artists that produce work that is just above mediocrity and they are successful. It’s going to be more about how they can network themselves in a productive way. The art world has enough assholes in it. So what we need is people that are cooperative, and who are interested being part of something. To understand what the other person or curator or venue wants, and then being able to produce that without silencing your own voice as an artist. It is hard enough, and if we make each others lives a bit easier I think this is the key to having succes. You can’t do it alone. Lao Tzu might have put it “proser through those who prosper from you.”
In aanloop naar de aanstaande Invest Week in juni presenteert Jegens & Tevens in samenwerking met Stroom Den Haag een reeks persoonlijke portretten. Jonge kunstenaars die een Pro Invest subsidie hebben ontvangen en een selecte groep (inter)nationale curatoren worden door Jegens & Tevens geïnterviewd. Het doel van de jaarlijkse Invest Week is dat de kunstenaars feedback en reflectie op het eigen werk ontvangen van een groep ervaren curatoren, critici en kunstenaars uit binnen- en buitenland. Tot aan 27 juni 2016, als de Invest Week start, komen alle deelnemende kunstenaars en curatoren hier uitgebreid aan bod. Meer informatie over de Invest Week is binnenkort te vinden via www.stroom.nl.