Note: This conversation has been edited for length and content.
Emelie Chhangur: As a curator who has often worked at the intersection of disciplinary edges. But also, with the idea that it is not to participate in one another’s disciplines so much as to think of like what comes out of these experiments. And it is so difficult sometimes to translate the process — — into — like to reveal the process to a public or to make a process known to a public. Because the process and these strange synergies or these, — like what I like to also call like these, like electrified moments where it is like, ‘right, this is what we’re doing.’ And it is like building organically and over time. Itis really hard to translate that process into — to a public without already, — like killing something about how exciting the process is. You know, just by putting it into language even.
>> And for me, the curatorial is always about how you bring things into relation and bring new things into the world. I’m not completely tied to the idea of the curatorial as curating as in an exhibition-making. But like even the drift project is curatorial in its very sensibilities of how it brings various disciplines together and brings new forms of thinking into the world. For instance.
>> Thinking about what it means to be in relation, to — — something that we do not know and then articulate something about it. The question for me always comes up around the how of doing that. And whether that means changing one’s methodology of making artworks when one encounters other disciplines — — in which, Mark, is reciprocal. Because we would really hope that artists contributing research in other fields also means those fields are adopting the methodologies of artists as well. So, to me, it is like a – it is both an ethical question and it is a question of doing.
Sunny Kerr: Emelie, I was reflecting on something you had said earlier about, — you know, this problem with the film [My Octupus Teacher] which is about projecting really your own stuff onto the unknown. Just thinking about the project that we are all working on the drift art and dark matter collaboration and residency and exhibition and set of processes — it occurs to me that the, — you know, the dark matter itself is a kind of a rich space there because it is already imperceptible matter. And, — you know, the notion of projecting your own stuff onto it is already there. It is kind of like the obvious thing. In a way, it’ is like, nobody knows what it is, — let’s, — you know, get the artists to tell us what it is. But the — I think what it really does is, — you know, instead of calling on people to insert an image it is really turning us back to this methodological aspect that you’re describing. It is kind of pointing to — — contexts of how the work is being done. Itis pointing to, — you know, the question of why is it called dark? It’s, — you know, how is the science being done? Where is the science being done? And what interests me especially, are the kind of dark spots or the kind of shadows that we are creating between each other’s disciplines. Or in a way that we, — you know, between indigenous knowledge, art, and science which are kind of overlapping and in, — hopefully, in this kind of hybrid way in the project. Revealing, — you know, these kind of epistemological tensions or places where we do project and or do not understand each other. That are — they are kind of revealed in the process. So that is not to really take up, — you know, your last provocation, which is, — you know, ‘what are we taking from it?’ It is more just kind of stating the place where we are with the project from my perspective.
Emelie Chhangur: Yeah. And — but I think this is beautiful because what I take from that is this permission that it continues to get — to be dark. Or this permission that opacity is a trajectory that’s worth taking. So, it is not this commitment to elucidation all the time or this commitment to — on the one hand getting at some knowledge thing that we can barely get at. Or wrapping a formula around it so that we can understand its fundamentals. Or on an artistic side giving an image to it so that we could see something more. It is actually like, what do we learn from dark matter — is like, the beauty of unintelligibility, or the beauty of opacity. And is that — can that then become not a subject but a methodology?
>> I love this. I love when a project is both about something and is the thing itself. So, if it’s like this, — you know, you are drifting. I mean, I could not help but sit here and I was like, I feel like we are all like on a spaceship and we are all like we have all come in, like checked in and we are like talking from different time periods. And there is this sort of portal sensibility of this particular Zoom call, and I don’t always feel like I’m in a portal on the Zoom. Sometimes I am like, ‘yeah, that really was time passing in a linear way.’ But, you know, it really does feel like a portal and I — like always being like, sort of attuned to even, — you know, what Zoom presents to the drift. And that this — and that, like, sometimes projects never have to really culminate. You know, like, you could continue to drift and it can continue to morph and change, and people come and people go, and that in and itself, I think takes up very deeply this relation to dark matter, not the occupation of dark matter or the need to like, — — create something about it but just to be it.
Anne Riley: Thank you so much for sharing all of those thoughts about your work. And it is so refreshing to hear those things be talked about. It is not often that I hear those kinds of thoughts in the art world. Yeah, I’m thinking about how, — like, even dark matter if we think of it as a spirit. It is — because it is. Everything has a spirit; it has an energy. And so, when you are talking about — and something I think a lot about is the way we are taught to make art, which is to extract. You know, like to take things and the way I’ve been thinking through dark matter is to treat it as a spirit. You know, it is like it is not something that I need to possess. And I treat every project like that. But I’m thinking through how is this — how — what is my willingness to be changed by this thing? And that’s not often the way we are taught to make or be in the world.
>> For me, a project never ends with an exhibition, it is like I have committed to that thing for the rest of my life. You know, like, it’s not something that, — like for example, like, with dark matter I — when I say yes to a project, I am committing for the rest of my life to be asking these questions. So, I don’t take these things lightly. So, my commitment to being with a thing and a spirit is not — and that kind of commitment is not something that — because that commitment involves a consistent transformation.
Emelie Chhangur: Mhm.
Anne Riley: Like, I have to be committed fully to being changed by this thing. And I will be — that will be because of those thoughts that — and I think of this in the line of like I love ethic. Because it involves an ethic, it involves my ethics and values and what I think, — who I want to be in the world. And like who do I want to be in relationship with. So, it is like, — I am thinking of dark matter, or gardens that I am planting, every flower that I have planted for a project is like, I am committing to loving that thing for the rest of my life, — you know. And the challenges of that which is quite contrary to the way I was taught in art school to make, — you know and I have also been thinking so much about, — you know, I’m like, I really have been thinking about this thought within, — you know, the conflicted reality of being in a place like the art world. And I’m always thinking, like, ‘is this a place I want to be in, continue? Like, what does sustainability look like for me? As someone who does not fit the norm, who is a queer, indigenous person? And where do I find the places that are sustainable for me, you know? So, for me, it is about creating projects that offer some kind of alternative. You know, where it is like whatever little bit I can offer that is an alternative to. And I know only certain folks will see that alternative. But it is like, no, we can be here and we can exist and our love can exist and like we can be sustainable. We just have to be really picky about the places that we desire to make in, who we want to make with, who we want to be in conversations with.
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