Exchange Rates Preview
Rosanna van Mierlo
Sluice_magazine is proud to partner with the second biennial international collaborative exposition of galleries and projects in and around Bushwick, Brooklyn, NYC. The Exchange Rates expo was first staged in 2014 as a result of discussions between Paul D’Agostino of Centotto and Stephanie Theodore of Theodore:Art (both Bushwick-based galleries) and Sluice__. As the expo was born out of exchange and is defined by exchange we thought it apt to preface ER2016 with an exchange from the expanded team responsible for developing it.
Paul D'Agostino What’s the what? The where? The for whom? The when?
Karl England When disparate, diverse galleries and projects act collectively in a temporary coalition to create something bigger than the sum of their individual parts. Where a shared DIY ethic acts out on a global stage. The Exchange Rates expo confronts the questions of how does the art world work for us and what do we want from the art world?
Tash Kahn To eschew the pretentious in favour of the genuine. I want to be able to create networks and develop connections through discourse. It’s about feeding each other with new ideas and collaborating. Little tentacles spreading outwards so as to establish new environments in which to experiment with new ideas.
KE The workplace, especially for artists, is one of post-Fordist precariousness: a stitched together existence of self-employment; multi-employment; decentralised working environments, zero-hour contracts, non-unionised labour etc. The artist/curator-run art world is defined by its preoccupation with exploring ways in which art in a post-romanticised world can function and find agency.
TK And it needs to be. Artists have to think that way because they are the foot soldiers of culture. All the really exciting stuff starts at that grassroots level and learning how to survive is integral. Lack of funding forces artists and DIY spaces to think left-of-centre just to keep going. And the work is often more exciting as a result.
Rosanna van Mierlo Money is not the driver: it’s always the challenge of trying to make something happen, whether through making a magazine, staging an expo, a fair or whatever. I enjoy the exchange of ideas, the banter. We all know that the art world is saturated, but this also provides a challenge: to create a conceptual format that pushes the boundaries and becomes more than just words on paper or just another expo or fair, but rather a manifestation of collaboration.
PD Was art ever Fordist? If not, how can it be post-Fordist? If it was Fordist at some point, might it now be even more so? Hyper-Fordist? Was Ford merely an artist overseeing so many studio assistants? It seems that art is always and ineluctably the cumulative whole of all things it has always been, which is both axiomatic and a possible reason for us to never consider art to be post-anything. Perhaps art exists to consistently posit the pre- of everything. Avant-gardists would surely agree, though they might prefer to be called avant-gardians, which nonetheless sounds much less progressive. Also slightly martial. Was Ford avant-garde?
RvM It is a little like a virus, spreading and affecting its surroundings by merely being there, transported through touch and being open to be changed, whether you like it or not.
KE Many artist/curator-run and emerging galleries focus on the local, either as part of a socially activist remit or simply due to a lack of funds. The limited financial resources of many grassroots projects often precludes them from entering the national and international playing field. Exchange Rates encourages us to consider what other resources we have and deploys them to maximum effect. Collectively we can leverage ambitious projects to make an impact. Collective DIY – do it yourself together, or as Furtherfield formulated it: ‘DIWO’ (‘Do It With Others’).
PD The Collective DIY, that’s interesting. DIY approaches to certain activities destined for an audience make them also DIYFO (Do It Yourself For Others), so Exchange Rates is a kind of DIYFOWO. You know, writ large.
KE The words ‘globalisation’ and ‘commodity’ are seen through a financial prism as dictated by capitalism. On the ‘left’ the idea that globalisation is anti-community seems to almost be taken as a statement of fact. But globalisation is not capitalism, capitalism uses globalisation for its own ends, likewise commodities, it’s in the interest of for-profit business for everything to be valued via the market. This expo questions these value systems, and posits alternative priorities, those of cultural capital, social capital, experiential and intellectual capital. Exchange Rates asks what is being exchanged? What do we value? It presents the local on a global stage because only by exposing yourself against the world stage can the local be defined. Much of the rhetoric emanating from the Republican Presidential campaign in the US and via the newly #brexited UK is highly isolationist, but there’s a whole world out there and it’s more important now than ever that we engage with it.
PD Exchange Rates does indeed help us to place greater value on the various non-capital ‘capitals’ you suggest – and all together and all at once, and all under the aegis of art. Yet what we’re also doing is producing very specific things that do not exist in the absence of working collaboratively: exchanges. This is not a throwaway thought. Only once things have been exchanged does the thing called the exchange come into existence. It is a noun that depends upon collaborative, i.e. co-working agents to engage in its verbal act for it to come into describable being.
KE As a platform the Exchange Rates expo aims to non-thematically allow the space for individual artists and galleries to breathe. How is art perceived by different people in different contexts?
Ben Street And how do these contexts come into play - not just as new frames for the work, but as generators of meaning in and of themselves? Maybe the exchange is the work.
PD Also, how do common themes arise out of disparate activities? Or how do common activities suggest operable themes out of disparate interests? If painting-centric galleries, for instance, come together in Exchange Rates, where do they find common thematic ground? If concept-driven projects work together for ER, what then become their media of mediation? It was so pleasing to see how these things played out in the first expo in 2014, and it has been interesting to follow certain projects that have continued to explore these questions together since being introduced to one another through paticipating in the previous expo. The real virtue of ER is that it both creates new partners for exchanges that might then continue to bear fruit on their own, and serves as an impetus and broader platform for exchanges that might’ve happened anyway.
KE All the stakeholders have their own agenda, which is why Exchange Rates is an unstable coalition, brought together for a fleeting moment, ready to fall apart in an instant. This is not an indictment but a srength. Exchange Rates is a critique of the calcifying risk averseness of the institution. The creative conservatism of the commercial space. The ambition limiting control of state funding. ER2016 is confrontational and challenges the various positions held by all of its participating galleries as well as the positions it finds itself adopting.
PD Agendas can also be so rigid as to hold a stake in the heart of creativity, and creativity can be vampiric by sucking the lifeblood from those who possess it, and by being passed along to those who are bitten by it. Creativity is also in some way immortal. Daylight? Garlic? Crucifixes? Not sure. How might this pertain to zombie formalism? Also, I used to know a very pretty girl with real fangs. There exist clutches of people who have fangs implanted and live according to the ways of vampires. Is that creative? Is it DIY? I have a friend from Transylvania who works all night and sleeps most of the day. Truths from lore, sure, but what I’m getting at is this: liber librum aperit. That, for me, is Exchange Rates in a nutshell.
BS And finally, how is all this expressed and mediated. And how does the means of delivery affect the public’s experience of the art? How do the structures we create to deliver and present the art affect its perception? What role does networked media have to play in disemination and articulation?
Exchange Rates: the International Bushwick Exposition
20 - 23 October 2016