Product is a word that shifted from being suspicious for triviality to being the confirmation of existence of nearly everything. The shifting happened so easily that whatever did not get the stamp was aborted as not recognizable; in any case as a thing or activity not acknowledged by the connoisseurs of the field. I cannot recall when this word accompanied by the cheering of the conversant first hit my brain. It is sure though that nowadays the word “product” lives glorious moments, rather years I should say. Is it the era of product and for how long is something to be decided later by historians; my concern is art as product: produced, packaged, tagged and sold.
In the same way as the artistic field became part of the culture industry (a product is attached to an industry), the artists are renamed art professionals; however it is not clear if this is just a matter of having a VAT number* or it goes deeper to the substance suggesting that we have to eliminate every amateurish element. Which again brings up a long conversation on how to justify the seriousness of someone who claims to be freed (and by her/his work is stimulating the brain, etc. of the spectator) from the pettiness of repetitive actions (called routine on professional ground) and in the same time is able to push a product in a highly competitive industry which merely targets the petty side of humans. It sounds complicated; and it is. So the curators filled the intellectual gap by letting the artist work at the production level and took over the actual end product, the synthesis of an exhibition. Some of us try again and again to persuade the artists that they can re-position themselves, but naturally we mostly fail, or our success is only temporary and sporadic.
Funny to see this written: the end result is not the final product. I will contemplate on this while putting in words the next article about how the notion of art as product leads to shameless exploitation of the artists.
* European tax number for freelance work, in this case
P.S. The images are from the geborgen kamers no 1, in Brandtstraat 158, Transvaal-The Hague, demolished in 2008. The exhibition itself was titled “geborgen kamers” (secured rooms) and presented as a dark space with objects/ shards. In one of the photos it’s me less than a week before giving birth to Mickey in front of the “mirror newspaper”, a wall covered by newspaper articles of socio-political nature with small mirror-paper interruptions and the painting “do not press”.
Regarding the Symposium during the 7th “from Lausanne to Beijing” Fiber Art Biennale: two panel discussions with fiber art experts from China, Korea, Japan, Australia, US and Poland. I had expected presentations from countries with images and information about the practice, something more like a conference, but hey, let’s get the best of what is offered. The discussions went about changes in the textile art practice including the spreading uniformity concept wise, decrease of the sizes of the works, incorporation of other materials and methods and a unanimous observation that visual artists have stepped well on board of the textile world.
I don’t know how much this is news, since I come from the fine arts field. I did realize though that by textile art they mainly meant until recently weaving or fabric dying/making without (or rather not) excluding functional pieces. In the same concept, moving away from tapestry is accepted with a question/ exclamation mark. Whereas in our own first attempt to show textile art under the “geborgen kamers” project, the direction chosen was clearly away from functionality; only pure art pieces were shown at “mama’s arts” exhibition back in 2008. Then, it was a burning idea that created the show; now, having seen quite a few big textile art shows and with the recent experience in Nantong, I want to thank again the artists of “mama’s arts”. It was a top exhibition; some of the artists are well known, some I see in exhibitions around the world, some through social media; some I have lost but hope to work with them again. An idea is starting sparkling, but now we have to find the space too. The old pharmacy and old butchery at the outskirts of The Hague were given to commercial users sometime at the beginning of 2012.
P.S. The printable version of the “mama’s arts” catalogue was lost in a laptop crash. The few copies printed then are actually collector’s items. Luckily, the e-version survived and is downloadable: mama’s arts catalogue e-version
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I sat down to write something about myself and my work and the very beginning in an unstable, shameful as well as ridiculous time came to light, as important. Maybe it is time to write more about those years when Greece sunk in a compulsory tidiness, then woke up with the nostalgia of a lost path before surrendering to the lustrous promises of the life style. All this of course will come connected with a personal art story. For the moment, a basic text:
The blog artB is created and maintained by Sofia Kapnissi, an artist interested in under the surface and between the lines findings. Born in Athens, Greece, one year before the dictators subverted the country; grew up in the center of a city where all the important matters had to be said in secret and while covered by a conservative good family image. At the age of 17 she started her artistic training at a fine arts preparatory school and two years later passed the exams for the School of Fine Arts of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1985 – 1990). In 1991 she went to the Netherlands to continue her artistic development, later also with a NUFFIC scholarship. She shares the years since then between the Netherlands and Greece, organizing and participating in exhibitions. She has been one of the founding members of the group Gaidaro which from 1999 presents projects advocating for non conventionalism in the arts and self sufficiency of the artists. Painting is always her reference point, but her work expands to other means and materials like engraving, video, photography and textile. In her work there is an element of rebellion against all compromises in the art practice and the dominating hypocrisy, to such an extent, that she goes to the other end, breaking everything that can embellish art creation, including her own career.
It is not surprising that a Greek artist together with a Dutch artist grown up outside the Netherlands were treated as intruders when they came back to Holland five years ago. Everyone we knew was telling us that things had changed for the worse in the Dutch common life: unemployement had risen, tolerance had shrank. One would think that the art world is not affected by such things. Indeed, those who know how to work independently do their work under any circumstances. Those who wait for subsidies, have to wait. We landed in Transvaal and spent three years living and working in houses and streets that have already become images for the National Archive. Our publication project of 2007 can already be seen as documentation of a past chapter of The Hague.
It was printed in Dutch and published on the Internet in Dutch and in English.
excerpt from my chapter “How to survive success”:
‘I became the race horse of the talking media. 581 words per minute was a record that could not be ignored. At last could I talk; listening had suddenly become not applicable, or at least that became my starting point, and very soon my contribution to the rising media era. Again on travelling, on thanks and bravo’s with a fan club and a limousine added, I should be content. However, the more I kept talking during the day, the worse became my sleep. I had no nightmares; only a constantly repeating dream wherein I was walking through the hidden rooms of my life. They were rooms where I once had lived, with furniture and curtains that I couldn’t recognise, empty from people and sounds, every night a new room. Day after day I became obsessed by the hidden rooms trying to identify them. My famous blabla – without losing tempo – became blurred through intervening jumping words of other languages. I went to the psychiatrist seeking a meaning for all this. She generated no meaning but came to me with an advice: “stop talking”.
To my ears that sounded then as “stop smoking”, “stop drinking”, go to the monastery. Instead of that I took off to become an artist.’