“By Any Name: Institutional Memory at The New School,” installation view at The New School, October 2009.
via Ethiopian Review:
5 Questions with Carin Kuoni of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics
by Thom Donovan | November 18th, 2010 at 7:49 pm
For six years, Carin Kuoni has been director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School in New York City. I wanted to pose my five questions to Kuoni because I see her as someone truly in the middle of a discourse about how art may affect the public sphere as that discourse continues to take shape and evolve.
The Vera List Center (VLC) has consistently presented programs that have brought culture workers together across disciplines to discuss a broad range of topics and problems related to cultural politics and aesthetics. Two of the events that I have attended at the VLC, which I found overwhelmingly thoughtful and compelling, were a conversation in the Fall of 2009 between Galit Eilat, a curator for the Center for Digital Arts in Holon, Israel; Chen Tamir, director of the Queens-based Flux Factory; and Reem Fadda, a Palestinian art historian currently employed by the Guggenheim. During this event, Eilat and co-presenters discussed the Center for Digital Art’s project for a Mobile Archive, a traveling archive of DVDs showcasing work by artists in the Middle-East intended to travel across cultural, national, and symbolic boundaries. The event made me think in crucial ways about how archives may intervene in the Middle-Eastern conflict, and how art may play a role in promoting cultural understanding and dialogue faced with impasse.
More recently this fall, I was able to attend the launch of Lin + Lam’s online archive project, Change Encounters, which offers interviews with workers from a broad range of disciplines speculating on social transformation, and which is part of VLC’s current program focus on Speculating on Change. During this particular presentation, Lin + Lam, who developed this project during their 2009-2010 Vera List Center fellowship, presented materials from the archive and read their playful musings about “chance” and “coincidence.” I also heard talks from a philosophy professor who researches affect, a writer who had published a book about the history of the Ouija board, and a person who had worked for a psychic hotline.
Something unique about the VLC – and Kuoni’s approach as a curator (as you will see below) – is the extent to which she has thought through the ramifications of her programming and the VLC’s relationship both within the larger institution of The New School as well as the institutions and communities with which it has worked. I particularly admire that the VLC’s events tend to relate and build upon one another and reflect a curatorial ethos. I also admire very much the evolution of the VLC from strictly organizing programs and events towards more recently producing curricular documents (textbooks, anthologies) and creating a fellowship program intended to bring scholars, teachers, and artists to the university to participate in programs and curriculum.
For universities, institutions, and groups wishing to explore models for programming and curriculum, they would be well advised to pay close attention to Kuoni’s past and ongoing work at the VLC.
5 Questions with Carin Kuoni
1. What’s the history of your involvement with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics?
A disparate collection of stops along a curatorial pathway shaped by seemingly incongruous experiences: early on, for instance, the encounter with one of Jenny Holzer’s Truisms, carved into an Alpine rock at an altitude of 10,000 feet – powerful in absolute solitude. Group Material’s Project on Democracy at the old Dia Art Foundation space in SoHo, just as the art world was returning to the area from the gentrified LES. The Living Museum at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, at the time one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the country and a town unto itself with an entire abandoned building (and lots of patients) committed to art through the initiative of Polish artist Bolek Greczynski. There was Fashion Moda. And Tim Rollins & K.O.S. And Seven Thousand Oaks by Joseph Beuys.
Increasingly, the puzzle became: how to construct arguments for art’s significance to the everyday when immediate concerns about poverty, racism, the privatization of the public sphere, xenophobia, or environmental pollution dominate. How to create – and legitimize – a space of reflection and pause, freedom or respite, to allow for critical thinking? Institutionally, there was first the Swiss Institute, an independent cultural center that I directed for five years and filled, for instance, with a Russian artists’ installation (Inspection Medical Hermeneutics), explosives (Gregory Green), chocolate, or 19th century paintings of Swiss farm maids to both defy and embrace expectations, and to challenge assumptions about culture, citizenship, and identity.
Then came Independent Curators International, an agency for the development, production, and dissemination of curatorial ideas that frames, through exhibitions, pertinent issues in society. There I was Director of Exhibitions. We produced Komar & Melamid’s Most Wanted project on democracy in art; a retrospective of Mark Lombardi’s diagrammatic drawings of the complete intertwinement of corporate and political entities, and lots of other shows on new media and more, albeit always out of an office, without ever seeing the exhibitions.
The Vera List Center is the place where art can be experienced, practiced, studied, and disseminated: kind of ideal. I arrived here six years ago.
2. Why do you feel there is a need for organizations such as the VLC, which provides a forum for many of our politically most astute artists, thinkers, and scholars?
You provide the answer yourself: the center is needed because it provides a forum precisely for such people – who, by the way, include an extremely sophisticated audience. [read on...]