Interview with Irene Campolmi, curator of the Talks, Film & Performance Program of Code Art Fair 2017

2017 marks the second edition of Code Art Fair. This year, the ambitious fair not only presents some of the best galleries worldwide, but also a program of talks, performances and film screenings focusing on the capacity of art to react in a contemporary context. Titled ‘ArtReActs’, the program explores the different ways artists and curators are reacting to social, political, environmental and technological changes in contemporary society. The Talks, Film & Performance Program has been curated by curator Irene Campolmi, whom Artland met for a talk about the idea behind the ‘ArtReActs’ program, her role as a curator and the vision to put something meaningful into the world.

Irene Campolmi
Irene Campolmi

This year’s Film, Talks & Performance Program is titled ‘ArtReActs’. Can you tell us a bit about the idea behind ‘ArtReActs’ and why you choose this as your curatorial focus?

As a curator, I guess one of your primary objectives is to say something meaningful – not necessary for the public – that adds to a larger art historical, sociopolitical or cultural discourse. This happens when you create the conditions for things to happen and to be said. In my practice as a researcher and a curator, I have always tried to facilitate this operation so that any discourse or statement could emerge as the picture of a contingent situation. In this way, you operate to create some sort of impact on what art does or potentially could do, either your peers or the general public. By curating Code Art Fair’s artistic program, I wished to point the attention on a recent tendency that pervades the art world. This is the urgency to react to sociopolitical, cultural, climate changes of the world surrounding us through gestures which use art as their language and vehicle of communication. The program title Art ReActs draws on this reflection, namely, how artistic practice constitutes a language to speak about the life we live and the context we inhabit as human beings and communities but from a detached point of view. The program, you could say, includes various issues and subjects I touched upon in my PhD research, namely, how artistic and curatorial practice offer means to act upon (or react, if you wish so) social, cultural, political, and ecological changes. This is not by reflecting or commenting on what happens in the surrounding world, but by creating new structures and reinventing the existing ones through art.

The program is highly international, supporting the general scope of Code Art Fair. What does this international perspective bring to the fair and the Copenhagen art scene at large?

Art fairs happen every now and then and almost everywhere. These kinds of events serve as a gathering moment in which artists, curators, collectors and gallerists from all over the world go to see ‘what’s new’, basically like in every other commercial fair. Art fairs differ from the fact that the value of what is presented is not just in the ‘product’ but in the discourse that the context of reception develops around it. What makes each art fair different are the synergies created by the encounter of different people who, by bringing the different perspective of their backgrounds, construct (and deconstruct) this value.

Speaking as an ‘outsider’ who comes from other artistic scenes, but who’s now completely immersed in the Scandinavian one, Copenhagen has already an established vibrant artistic and curatorial scene which is well-respected abroad. Many significant initiatives – research groups, exhibitions, curatorial projects with not-for-profit institutions and museums – have both a local and an international scope, but might have a stronger impact if they would be conducted in collaboration with organisations outside the Scandinavian context.

With this edition of Code Art Fair, we wished to create synergies by presenting a selection of established and emergent talented international artists and pointing the attention of international curators and collectors to local artists.

Marinella Senatore is one of the headliners of the Film, Talks & Performance Program, “ArtReacts”. For Code on Sunday on September 3rd, Marinella Senatore will stage a collective performance in both Eataly Copenhagen (in ILLUM), at Højbro Plads and in The King’s Garden called “Copenhagen Symphony”, bringing together musicians, dancers, poets, activists, local communities, choirs and more to explore the many contemporary and historical voices that characterize’s Copenhagen’s social and cultural community. Photo Stefanie Berger, taken from a recent performance at the Queens Museum, NYC.

The Talks Program presents an impressive line-up of world-renowned names alongside emerging players on the art scene. What were you looking for when you chose the people to take part in this year’s program?

That’s a nice question. Truly, I wanted to bring together in the same forum a substantial number of people who have inspired my curatorial and research practice over the years. The whole program was put together quite organically and, I would say, naturally. I wanted to raise debates on crucial aspects in the art scene such as online collecting, the emerging leading role of private museums and collections, the ecological paradigm, museums collecting and displaying, and the entanglement between sound, music and visual arts.

The program presents different focuses, spanning from Collectors, Practice, and Museum Collections to Art & Ecology and Art & Society. What were the main criteria when putting the program together?

I wanted to talk to different audiences which could potentially have different interests. Each of Code Talks sessions touches upon a topic on which I have focused either on my PhD research or practice as a curator. Choosing the speakers for each panel has been quite a ‘natural’ operation, as I just invited those people who, in my humble opinion, had proposed a significant contribution to the field. For example, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo will share her experience on the making of an art institution such as Fondazione Sandretto; Sam Bardaouil, Till Fellrath and Sarah Lokoofsky, will present their experience discussing how modern and contemporary art museums are reconsidering the narratives suggested by their collections and what collecting strategies have institutions recently endorsed. Matteo Lucchetti, Antonia Alampi, Jacob Lillemose, Jason Waite and Natasha Ginwala will address the ecology paradigm, specifically in the metaphorical use of the term. By using ecology as a metaphor, I wished to bring attention to curatorial reactions in times of a ‘climate change’, looking at either political or environmental change which, as you know, are completely entangled. In my mind, these people had been in conversation way more before Code, so I look forward to seeing them together in reality.

Code Art Fair

The Film Program, screening every day during the fair, features video projects by 20 different artists. Are the artists somehow related in their artistic practice?

Of course they are, at least to me. Curating is all about creating a critical audiovisual operation, so by putting together this list of artists, I wished to propose a perspective on ways artists ‘reacts’ to what happens in their political, cultural, social and technological surrounding.

I didn’t want to encapsulate each film in a thematic section for this would distort the original intention each film. Thus, each day presents a selection of artists whose work focuses on particular themes, contents and reflections.Thursday, August 31st is dedicated to female artists such as Barbara Hammer, Keren Cytter, Danielle Kwaaitaal, Sofie Thorsen and Larissa Sansour, whose work explore multiple layers of desire, anxiety, conflict with social norms in a way that seeks to break free from patterns of representation, or normative sexuality like the case of Barbara Hammer.

Friday, September 1st is dedicated to ‘socially and politically engaged film projects’ with a focus on Hiwa K, Stine Marie Jacobsen, Rainer Ganahl, Moataz Nasr, Raúl Ortega Ayala, and Søren Thilo Funder. Saturday, September 2nd investigates the theme “Sound & Vision” also explored by Chp Art Week this year, and presents artists such as Basim Magdy, Jesper Just, Ra di Martino, whose work plays on different levels the combinations between sound, music and visual arts.

As a curator and scholar, the focus of your research has been the influence of ethics on curatorial practice, leading to new forms of engagement and social impact. How has this subject of interest defined your curatorial process leading up to Code Art Fair?

The program collects and unfolds some of the themes and issues I have investigated during the past years in my PhD research and curatorial practice. Curating is a means to produce a visual and epistemological discourse. It’s an audiovisual operation that can mobilise materials to which the general public might react to more effectively. Every curatorial project that wishes to touch upon social, political, cultural and ecological issues that impact society, has an ethical scope. With Code Talks, I pointed the attention towards a few of these matters.

With Code Performances and Code on Sunday, which features Marinella Senatore’s procession performance, I wished to touch upon a delicate topic primarily discussed over the past two years with the change of government, which is cultural diversity and policies of cultural and social integration. By deciding to work with an artist such as Marinella Senatore, I wanted to bring something that I have never seen in a Copenhagen, except during the Pride parade: a procession that celebrates racial, cultural, social and physical diversity as the means for creating the city most characteristic Symphony. Copenhagen Symphony will be a celebration of the many-layered community of Copenhagen. Among the groups of participants, there are Recoil, Clash CPH, CISPA; AfroHouse, Kompanie B- Det Kongelige Teaters Balletskole; Det Kongelige Opera Academy; Sceneindgangen Studio; Den Frie Fys; Trampoline House; Laptop Orchestra; Ghetto Blaster Ensemble; VDU – Vesterbro Dragudlejningsservice, Cyclen uden Alder; and many other talented Copenhagener.

I hope Marinella’s performance will have some sort of impact on the local community, by showing the talents of different local communities. Art offers chances to look at the world and our lives as individuals differently. It’s our choice (and our government’s that should keep subsidising it) to decide whether to take or leave these opportunities.

What defines the contemporary art scene in your opinion and how is that reflected in this year’s program at Code Art Fair?

That’s a crucial question. It’s definitively a vibrant, vivid moment the one we are living in. Artists are reacting to the global political situation through their artistic practice. Look at how some artists are producing works against Trump and his political line, or how others are responding to climate change or to the refugee crisis that has occupied the European politics over the past year.

Artists, curators, institutions are responding to global political, ecological and social issues through their practice. Their response is a reaction dictated by the pressing urgency of the circumstances. One could underline both positive and negative aspects of these straightforward reactions to the current political or social situation, but they are the thermometer that registers the current conception of the role art could (more than should) have within our communities of people.

It’s out of these thoughts that I conceived the title of the artistic program for this Code Art Fair edition. The title Art ReActs stands both as a registration of facts, but also as a statement.

Irene Campolmi

About Code Art Fair

In 2017, Code 2, the fair’s second edition, will present leading as well as emerging galleries from all over the world. The exhibiting galleries are selected by a curatorial team in a mission to exhibit progressive and thought-provoking presentations, providing the viewers with enriching artistic experiences.

Dates & Hours
August 31 – September 3, 2017
Code 2 (in Bella Center):
Preview: Thursday, August 31, 11-16
Public Vernissage: Thursday, August 31, 16-20
Fair: Friday, September 1, 11-20, Saturday, September 2, 11-18
Code on Sunday (in central Copenhagen):
Sunday, September 3, 11-16

Address: Center Boulevard 5 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark

About Irene Campolmi

Irene Campolmi is an independent curator and a scholar currently curating a few exhibition projects, and the Talks, Film and Performance Program of the Code Art Fair in Copenhagen. Also, she is completing her PhD thesis in art curating and museum studies The Art Museum of the 21st Century. On Curatorial Ethics, Sustainability and Research in Contemporary Curating in collaboration with Aarhus University and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Denmark).
Website: Irene Campolmi

The ‘ArtReacts’ program has been generously supported by Det Obelske Familiefond and Statens Kunstfond

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