Hans + Marina: Installment II / by John McGurk

In our second installment of the McNally Jackson sit down between curator Hans Ulrich-Obrist and artist Marina Abramovic on the occasion of the launch of his new book Ways of Curating.  This second installment has been transcribed directly from the event by McG to be shared with you. The talk is light hearted, but the two are able to touch upon some pretty concise ideas about some of the things contemporary art is trying to engage in, from their perspective. 

Work by emerging artist Joe Brittain.

Work by emerging artist Joe Brittain.

From here it looks pretty good, Obrist is an engaging speaker and personality, it is obvious why he has become such a force in the contemporary art world.  He is deeply knowledgeable on his subjects and has a broad base of knowledge to draw from in his rapid fire speaking habit. Below is a brief exchange, but a lot is said:

Hans-Ulrich Obrist: Exhibitions are obviously rituals. As a curator of exhibitions I always felt that they are, you know, rituals. Actually, as opposed to other rituals, for example: cinema or theatre where, in a way, there is a time you have to attend and in this sense it obliges the viewer to stay. Exhibitions are a very free ritual, you can stay for just a minute or for a whole year, its a very free ritual. As Margaret Mead said, its a great ritual, because it is such a liberal ritual, but it also has these kinds of limits because it only appeals to the visual sense. This is why Margaret Mead said we needed to come up with new rituals that appeal to all the senses, and I always thought that from curating it was an interesting way to think about exhibitions as rituals. But then: I also think in lives it is interesting to try and reinvent other rituals. Tarkosky, a Russian director, always said that our lives are getting poorer because our rituals are disappearing. So he always believed that... (Inaudible) ... and so he would always have a glass of water everyday in the parlour just to have a ritual.

(Laughter)

Abramovic: I just love this... (Friendly, quick banter back and forth) How big was the glass? Was it transparent, or a cup? I want to know all the details. 

Obrist: We can probably find it in his diaries. It was around this moment I thought because of my sleeping rhythms it would be interesting to do these morning rituals. It also came out of this idea that cities, you know, there is a problem in cities, particularly when I moved to London, that it is a great difficulty to get friends together because the city is so big and there is always traffic and one has to plan meetings a long time in advance.  We thought that if we do these meetings at 6:30am...

(Laughter)

Obrist: Firstly, no one can say they have prior commitments, and secondly, no one can say they hit a traffic jam because the city is completely empty. But we started one and it actually went really well and the second week, you know, up to fifty friends showed up. It was obviously a homeless club, it didn't have a home, it would just be in the cafes where they would be open at 6am. We then started doing it in other cities. Then we met the artists Felix Melia and Josh Bitelli, who were a part of 89+ and Josh and Felix said that it was completely wrong because London is extremely boring at 6am, all you see in the city is people going to work and cleaning. A much more magical time is 3am, and I said... (Inaudible) ...so then this new meeting was born.

(Laughter)

Obrist: Which we are doing now. It is always a gathering at three o'clock in the morning. Its quite magical, the places Josh and Felix choose, the last one was on Tower Bridge, on the bridge and then we went straight into the nearby neighborhood and there would always be a film premiere. We would have a film maker premiere his or her movie with a projector and project the film into urban space. The rules of the game were that it was a "World Premiere". Next one will probably be in December and is a homage to J.G. Ballard at the Hilton at Heathrow Airport. Ballard loved the Hilton at Heathrow, it was his favorite hotel ever. 

Abramovic: Which is why I love Hans so much, because he is always looking for the new ways of exhibiting, that people have never done before. And also, he is kind of getting into the places, which I call the "Places In-Between", which is also part of my own interests. Which is: the "Place In-Between"is when you are leaving from your own comfort zone, your own house, your own city, the friends you know and then your on the way going somewhere and it can be airports, bus stations, fast trains in Japan, it can be anything. Then from that place to go to the other place to again create your own habits, your own kind of set of rules. It is these "Place In-Between" where you are completely open to destiny. Anything can happen, anything is possible. Also, your perception is so sharp, so clear. Your know, you see more things at that moment that you are vulnerable and not in your own place. If somebody asks you to describe the door to your house, maybe you don't know the answer, because your senses are just working very differently, and it is the "In-Between" places where he (Obrist) is curating the most.