Invest Week Interview #19 Franziska Nori
Franziska Nori is a German-Italian art-historian, curator, and the director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Frankfurt-am-Main. From 2007 – 2014 she was the director of the Centre of Contemporary Culture Strozzina at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Furthermore, from 2000 – 2003 she was head of the department for digital art and culture at the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) Frankfurt, Germany, which conceived the first museum collection for digital artefacts (digitalcraft.org) along with exhibitions devoted to phenomena in digital culture. She graduated at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Romance Philology, Cultural Anthropology and Art History.
Could you, as an introduction, tell me something about your work as a director at the Frankfurter Kunstverein?
My directorship started in November 2014, so it’s relatively recent. I started working from the concept that we would always present two exhibitions in dialogue, instead of making one exhibition in our 1000 m2 exhibition space. With this set-up I want to create two juxtaposed exhibition moments that reinforce each other, but still keep their individual autonomy.
The first pair of exhibitions that I conceived, in May 2015, were two monographic exhibitions dedicated to the Austrian artist Thomas Feuerstein and the American artist Trevor Paglen. What interested me was that they both work with an interest towards disciplines that are almost complementary to artistic or art-historical approaches. Thomas Feuerstein’s knowledge on philosophy, physics, biomolecular sciences and engineering is remarkable. Trevor Paglen has graduated on geography, has a profound knowledge on astronomy and applies this to his investigatory research practice in which he gives us insight into the hidden activities of the NSA, the American Secret Services, and other Secret Services.
The exhibitions of Feuerstein and Paglen were, both aesthetically and with regard to content, very different, and were for me exemplary as a beginning of my directorship and therefore my artistic program in this institution in Frankfurt. One artist was strongly political, and another artist was keen on having philosophical inquiries, thanks to notions that come from current research being done in the natural sciences field.
Our latest exhibition that opened Februari 2016 was a juxtaposition of two monographic exhibitions dedicated to the Guatamalan artist Regina José Galindo and the Italian sculptor Arcangelo Sassolino. Regina José Galindo is a highly politically engaged performance artist. She uses her own body as material, exposing herself to extreme physical and mental situations. Galindo’s politically motivated art particularly focuses on the fight for women and the history of ferocious crimes starting with the violent phase of the civil war in Guatemala. By using her body as a metaphorical substitute for those women’s bodies, the effects of political violence through power structures become tangible.
Parallel to her work we presented the work of Arcangelo Sassolino. He uses industrial materials that he alters and pushes to the limit of their resistance. Sassolino creates sculptures – machines that oscillate between stillness and unpredictable, violent break outs. The objects invade the space with often unbearable sound. His machines overcome the traditional notion of scupture to become allegories of existential states and fundamental questions about the human condition.
When together, the friction of these two almost absolute opposites in the way they work and the way they present their work in an institutional setting, creates a dynamic and a synergy. If you would have been confronted with only on of those opposites, this synergy would not have taken place. These artists somehow reinforce each other in the radicality of the experience that the visitor can have in the physical space of our institution.
When you speak about these exhibitions at the Frankfurter Kunstverein the spectator and the experience of the audience have a very central position in your practice.
That is something that characterises most of my curatorial approach, throughout the more than twenty years that I have been doing this work. I think my main focus is the experience of the visitor. Ideally we would like to present something that is a transformative experience. Because of this I am very keen on site-specific implementations of artworks. The architectonical body is always something that plays a strong role when I conceive exhibitions with artists. We look for a physical impact as much as an intellectual or an emotional experience.
You have curated several exhibitions that react to real and current changes in society, whether in politics, the art world, or digital culture. Do you find it important that art is engaged?
During the eight years that I directed the CCC Strozzina in Florence, my program consisted of thematic exhibitions that functioned as inquiries into the current societal situation. Sometimes in a more abstract or philosophical manner, for example An idea of Beaty (2011), an exhibition devoted to the investigation of the notion of beauty, was less tangibly political, but most of the time my work was devoted to topics such as “what is democracy?”. Declining Democracy (2011), for example, was made in a setting where Italy was still dealing with the president Berlusconi. Or Unstable Territories (2013), which was constructed around the question of borders. In Italy, issues of immigration were faced before central Europe started facing them this past summer.
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.