During a trivial and non-documented conversation between one of Hugo Zorn’s editors and the curators of AETHER they started discussing that demons, in fact, share their unnameable otherness and status as myth or imagination with disparate entities which are equally labeled as unfamiliar, disturbing or distasteful.
AETHER is the name of a curatorial project by Philipp Pess and Lisa Jäger in which they take over the space of Kunstbuero by Wiener Artfoundation in Vienna, Austria.
Their activities in the gallery are based on a series of shows, workshops, and events meandering around the topic “Alien”.
The first show, as part of their program, is titled “self conscious”, presenting works by Berlin-based artist Sam Siwe and Olga Pedan who is currently living in London.
Since the self, as opposed to the other, builds a second, highly important keystone in investigating conceivable sources of demons, Hugo Zorn then invited them to talk about the ideas behind this exhibition.
What follows is a conversation the curators had with the participating artists before the opening of the show:
AETHER: We chose the theme “Alien” in order to open up the discourse on otherness in times of negotiation for integration and disintegration, regarding the question what is considered different and to what extent does otherness find acceptance. You came up with the title “self conscious”, do you refer to being alienated in society?
OLGA: I think so, feeling self-conscious seems like such a normal state and also posture. We were talking a bit about how you exist in relation to your environment, that there are so many possible levels of relating that it’s basically infinite. Maybe self-consciousness creeps into that and disrupts it, makes you feel individual. I also thought about how self-consciousness is part of a kind of development myth, that people evolve when they become self-aware. I learned in school that this was what made homo sapiens special, that he was “man that knows he knows” and I guess that served some ideological purpose.
AETHER: Does feeling alienated create empathy or detachment and preservation of the self?
OLGA: I read this text the other day that was about how self-enjoyment is a basic condition of being alive, but then at the same time concern is as well. It's like you're involved with something but then concern creeps in, and it has to because that's what moves emotions. I think it's a bit like with family, you move between being part of and separated from it.
SAM: I see self-consciousness as a strong bodily feeling, that can happen in relation to other human beings or just to the physical presence in a room. Spatial. The awareness of one's own presence. When you enter, for example, a gym hall – you can be alone there, but still you will have memories that evoke connotations. Being self-conscious is somehow seen as something positive in psychology. Like you said you learned in school Olga; being this awake human being, homo sapiens. But then as soon as one is in this state of self-consciousness it's actually an uneasy feeling, that often provokes anxiety.
OLGA: Being self-conscious in an embarrassing way makes people say stuff like they want to melt into the wall or sink into the floor.
AETHER: Do you think being self-conscious is the opposite of intuitive behavior? How do these different states of mind play a role in your artistic practice?
SAM: I'd say it's preferable to have both while creating. One does or creates something because of the need to do so, and this, I would say happens more in an intuitive mindset. But then the next day, for example, one looks at it in a more conscious state and might be overly critical and embarrassed with it. It is almost as if two different persons look at the same thing.
OLGA: I think I enjoy making things uncomfortable, creating an uncomfortable situation for myself. There are things about my work that make me cringe, but I mostly decide to still allow myself to make it like that because it's what I do and then I can feel uncomfortable about it. I thought it’s masochistic but it's probably practical, it’s like knowing you will end up feeling discomfort means you don’t need to be as surprised and agonized by it.
SAM: It's a bit like showing your ugly handwriting. There would be easy ways to train away ugly handwriting or find other solutions.
AETHER: I like it when one can tell that a person put a lot of effort into writing something in a beautiful manner, but then, in the end, it still looks shitty. One often sees that on these chalkboards in coffee places.
OLGA: That's what I meant with creating uncomfortable situations. Like, being expressive has to be embarrassing. The choice of the title for this show is also kind of uncomfortable as it implies that it is something we are aware of and trying to cancel that out when that's impossible anyway. It’s like trying to be smart about being stupid.
SAM: But that’s why I think it's good, also the works are not fully articulated, there is the idea of a tanning bed, fragments of bodies, not mutilated but growing organically. I don't think it doesn't matter if there are three arms or five. I mean it's borderline funny, I know they are having the aesthetic of being comical. The tanning beds were thought of as some kind of charging-stations and I was thinking of the feeling of being in one. Its seen as superficial and gives you cancer, but it's also a warm, intimate place for contemplation. I also think it’s a bit embarrassing creating such an overly confident gesture, but sometimes it's important to do this on purpose.
OLGA: There is also the bright light, that's what people complain about at openings.
SAM: Actually they are not tanning lamps, they are the same lamps that one has in the Gallery, so it's a multiplication of the gallery lights.
OLGA: So you get charged up with an overdose of the art environment.