Invest Week Interview #14 Anca Rujoiu
Anca Rujoiu is a Romanian curator currently based in Singapore, working at NTU CCA Singapore and co-director of FormContent. With six hourse between us we spoke about her current activities.
When researching your practice I stumbled upon several of your many activities, like your work for FormContent, the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore and an involvement in several academies and universities. Could you tell me more about what you have been working on?
I can imagine it was complicated to research on my work, it’s been a long journey. After working for a cultural foundation in Bucharest, I moved to London to do a masters in curating at Goldsmiths College. During my studies I became very interested in the experimental practice of a curatorial group, FormContent, so I approached them. This lead to a very long-term relationship: over years I became a full member of the team and I am now co-directing FormContent together with Pieternel Vermoortel alongside Bianca Baroni and Ashlee Conery as curators. When I joined FormContent my colleagues and founders of FormContent – Pieternel Vermoortel, Caterina Riva and Francesco Pedraglio – were still running a space in East London, but in 2011 we decided to close the space and continue as a nomadic entity.
FormContent works on a relatively small scale and has a strong focus on curatorial processes. We are interested in working closely with artists and testing different curatorial formats, beyond exhibitions. This has resulted in a range of activities, from workshops to publications to live events. The concept of programming is also very important to our practice. With each programme we redefine the way we work and what an institution can be to the extent that the institution becomes the programme.
In our first nomadic programme, called It’s moving from I to it, we ran the programme under the format of a script composed of different scenes. Some scenes were exhibitions in collaboration with different institutions, but we also commissioned texts, we organised workshops, a school project, etc.. We imagined a series of fictional characters that embody different subjectivities and elements in cultural production, such as the Portable Object, the Becoming Subject, the Host and the Stranger, whom for instance represented the figure of the audience. These fictional constructs were like a working metaphor for us to reflect upon cultural production. Fiction was a tool for us to take distance and let these characters travel and develop beyond us.
When you speak about this fictionalised art production of FormContent, did you fabricate this content yourselves and in collaboration with writers, or were there other artists involved?
My colleagues from FormContent and I started the project by writing an outline. We are all very interested in writing, as a curatorial medium on its own. I have worked as a scriptwriter before, and I use a lot of writing in my curatorial work, also as a structural, narrative device. Francesco is an artist and a writer, so together we came up with these different characters. Then we collaborated with different artists and curators: we gave them a brief and asked them to engage with certain characters, to develop different scenes starting from this outline. We had many collaborators, many voices involved in the programme. The whole idea of the programme was to challenge authorship and the authority of a single voice. This attempt is articulated in the title itself, It’s moving from I to it, we were trying to shift away from our subjectivity, to translate it and to transform it into something else to the extent that we can not trace the journey of a character or an idea to a point of origins. This journey from an “I” to an “it” became most visible in the final stage of the programme. We collected the material – the exhibitions documentation and texts – and commissioned a British playwright, Tim Etchells, to make a play out of the programme. Tim took the last three years of our programming and used it as raw material to write and direct a play that travelled for a year to various art institutions in Europe including Tate Modern and If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution.
What is FormContent currently working on?
We are still working nomadically – from Singapore, London and Vienna – but we try to make it work despite our long distances. Currently we are starting a new programme called The Subject Interrupted. This time we try to explore what are the drives and motivations of an artistic process, how the artistic process is constituted, how much structure it needs–routines and habits make one feel comfortable, they provide a platform to work or think, that’s why one might need a studio, for instance. We just had an exhibition that was called Practising Habits of the Day at the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore as part of the current programme. For this we used the notion of habits to look at some of the rythms and patterns that define artistic production as well as structure our lives. How much structure do we need to do something, when is a structure helpful to organise our reality and when does it become oppressive?
FormContent is very important to me because it has a specific way of thinking – it adopts a self-reflexive and subjective attitude towards cultural production. Whatever we are doing, we are always reflecting on how we are doing it and why, but also we are looking and acknowledging informal factors, and our own vulnerabilities.
Next to FormContent you work fulltime at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore.
Yes, in 2013 I moved to Singapore and joined a very new institution, the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore founded by the curator Ute Meta Bauer. The NTU CCA Singapore is part of one of the main universities here, Nanyang Technological University. It operates as a research centre dedicated to contemporary art, that combines academic research with exhibitions, and residency programme. It is a bridge between the local, regional and worldwide art scene.
In my first two years at NTU CCA Singapore, I’ve been working on the exhibitions and the public programmes related to the exhibitions. For me it was fascinating to be here from the start, in this part of the world and take part in the process of shaping this institution. I feel extremely lucky that I have the opportunity to work with Ute Meta Bauer and be involved in this dynamic process of making an institution and witness how an institution like any living entity grows, changes and solidifies itself. Recently I shifted my role to publications which is an engaging territory for me.Through their mobility, publications have the unique ability to circulate and disseminate the center’s research to a much wider audience beyond the confines of the institution physical parameters: they can travel, they are mobile and they can be distributed. I see publications as a curatorial platform, where you work closely with artists, writers and designers. It’s still a highly collaborative process, and as with exhibtions it takes shape through drawing connections and working spatially, if we think of the physical space of a page.
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.