REPORT RESEARCH TRIP AND INTERVIEW WITH NYE FFARRABAS BY LOLA DIAZ CANTONI.
Thanks to the generous contribution by Groot Brugmansfund Foundation I have been able to travel for two weeks to America, from the 29th of August until the 12th of September, 2018. This trip has been an enriching experience for me, both, for my artistic practice and personal development. My main reasons to travel were to start my research for the final thesis of bachelor and to meet and interview Fluxus artist, Nye Ffarrabas (with whom I got in touch last April). As part of my research (which is focus on how art institutions engage with the public) I visited a total of eight museums (Neue Gallerie, MET Breuer, MET, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, MoMA, MoMA PS1, Solomon R. Guggenheim and The Whitney), several commercial galleries and non-profit art organisations. In every institution I visited, I tried to get an overview of their program and activities they provide to relate with their audience (families, children, schools, disabled, senior and foreign people) and which form do they take (Yoga lessons, 30 minutes tours, crafts activities, poetry readings, film screenings, debates, extended opening hours, guest speakers, etc.). From the beginning I was personally more attracted to get in touch with independent spaces, run by artists or collectives who are committed to address and engage with their immediate surrounding. Before travelling I researched upon this kind of spaces and I emailed them to try arrange a personal encounter to talk more about it. In the end I meet up with Vincent Como from Tiger Strikes Asteroid, a wonderful space which is also based in Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles and next year will have their first 10yrs anniversary. They are a non-profit organisation based in Bushwick, Brooklyn; run by 9 people (artists, curators and friends) who curate and select the artists on show on the gallery. Shows last for 4-5 weeks and each member gets to organise and curate each show along the year. What I found most interesting about this space was their ‘’flat files’’: a small cabinet consisting of a number of drawers that host a yearly collection of 3D works from artists who can apply to be part of. Each year they select a new group and they are for display and sale (70% for the artist, 30% for the space). I thought that this is such an innovative and great idea for spaces to adopt as another way of sustaining themselves, monetarily! It does not require them to invest money on it, as the works are left under consignment, and what is not sold in the end, they send it back. Out of this project, new collaborations and even exhibitions had arouse, which I think it is great, being an alternative to their own circle of acquaints.
I also visited Mrs. gallery a space managed by Sara Maria Salamone and her husband. This relatively new space, opened in 2016 and is located in Maspeth, an unusual neighbourhood to have a gallery, as it is a more residential and industrial part of Brooklyn. Their criteria for selection of artists on show is that they should show a certain degree of engagement and reflection towards politics and current social issues, without being ‘’to difficult’’ for the people of the neighbourhood to grasp and understand. They want to show and share contemporary art to stimulate and create a dialogue among the residents of the area. Sara worked as a curator and manager for over ten years in commercial galleries in Chelsea after she got tired of it and decided to open her own space, where she could decide for herself (together with her partner). They survive through the sales of the works and they also participate in art fairs locally and internationally. Sara was very open and shared her experiences and professional knowledge related to the space (she even opened the gallery just for me to see the show and have our meeting!) and was very keen on keeping in touch for further collaborations in the future.
The second part and reason for this trip, was to meet with Nye Ffarrabas in her hometown, Brattleboro, Vermont. Hosted by Adam and Cai Silver, owners of CX Silver Gallery. I spend 3 days is that wonderful town. On my first day I meet up with Nye on the afternoon and we had a conversation of 3hs! Something between us immediately clicked and we could not stop talking and sharing experiences and memories. It was very special. Even though she is 86, she recalls all of her artistic practice, having been part of the FLUXUS group in the 60’s and after that, keep working on her own until the present day. On the second day I visited on her apartment, where we kept talking and I saw more of her works, even the ones she is at the moment working at!! And on the third and final day I managed to record and carry out a formal interview with her, that lasted for 2hs. I strongly believe that this interview, once it is edited and finished, will serve as a good overview of this artist’s vast body of work and her visionary ways of seeing the world. Due to her change of name after her divorce with artist Geoffrey Hendricks (she used to call herself Bici Hendricks, Bici Forbes Hendricks) there is hardly no material of her to be found. This interview and encounter is just the beginning of, what it feels like, a lifetime collaboration to bring back and about her work back to the world. As I also stayed with Adam and Cai Silver, owners of the gallery that represent Nye, we also got to know each other and had several talks and discussed the possibilities of bringing Nye’s work to The Netherlands and Europe. Due to this encounter and because of the WKB18 (week of the artist book in October 2018) they will come to Groningen and I arranged for Nye to give a public lecture, open to everyone, on the 18th of October at 19hs, Groene Zaal, Praediniussingel 59.
I would sincerely like to thank everyone at the Groot Brugmansfund board, for trusting me and contributing to this fantastic trip. What I lived and experienced in America really opened my horizons and also brought a lot of joy and inspiration to my own persona and work.
Lola Diaz Cantoni, 25 september 2018
Bron: Academie Minerva Beeldende Kunst & Vormgeving.