Artist Julieta Aranda was born in 1975 in Mexico City. In 2006, she earned a Master of Fine Arts at the Columbia University School of the Arts, New York.
Her work revolves around the notions of circulation, time, power and politicized subjectivity. Open to different kinds of media – from 3D printings to installations, video, performances and community organizing – it has been exhibited worldwide.
As co-director of e-Flux with Anton Vidokle, she developed the projects e-flux video rental; Pawnshop; Time/Bank; and most recently Supercommunity, within the frame of e-Flux’s participation to the 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Supercommunity is an editorial project launched on May 5, 2015 and supported by the Wuhan Art Terminus (WH.A.T.) contemporary art center (China), the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan (Canada), and Microclima, a cultural project of the Giardini’s Greenhouse, Venice.
Conversation transcription below
Here is Supercommunity’s statement:
Having no body and no name is a small price to pay for being wild, for being free to move across (some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies. I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me. I grew out of something that used to be humanity. Some have compared me to angry crowds in public squares; others compare me to wind and atmosphere, or to software. Some say they have seen me moving through jet-lagged artists and curators, or migrant laborers, or a lost cargo ship that left a trail of rubber ducks that will wash up on the shores of the planet over the next 200 years. I convert care to cruelty, and cruelty back to care. I convert political desires to economic flows and data, and then I convert them back again. I convert revolutions to revelations. I don’t want security, I want to leave, and then disperse myself everywhere and all the time.
Michela Alessandrini: Let’s start with a complicated question. What interests you as an artist?
Julieta Aranda: I work on very long projects, and within them I see that there are threads that keep returning. The things that interest me a lot are issues related with time and the idea of reformulating the notion of subjectivity, not only in terms of a formal approach towards art making but actually in an almost politicized way, which then applies to art. Of course it changes, depending on what project I’m working on. Recently, I’ve been interested in revisiting the space race, in trying to understand and give form to the reconstitution of the desire to conquer space and how it has changed from the 60s into what it is today. That’s something I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. As I was telling you, I work on very long forms, many different artworks come out of one idea and they come to be quite complex — they hover between photographic images, videos and sculptures: these are the three media I tend to work with. Another thing I’ve been quite interested in is the issue of the representation of the human figure, especially when it is fragmented. This is very much in terms of artistic conventions. So I have been looking at a lot of classic forms of sculpture, focusing on the cut-off lines in which representation happens. What does that mean? How do we choose what to highlight, an elbow, or a torso? How many readings can one have of them? This has become an ongoing project, “If a body meets a body”, and I’ve been working with a variety of supports and materials for it, from very classic sculptural materials such as marble to 3D printing, to try to think how one can handle this fragmentary representation and whether materials affect the final result or not and, if they do, how.
MA: I was very interested in knowing more about Supercommunity, the project you are developing for the Venice Biennale this year.
JA: That’s interesting because it was something done not even as e-Flux but as e-Flux journal. Maybe I should also explain what kind of approach and relationship I have with the e-Flux journal, because it is rather peculiar. Most of the times, as an artist, what tends to happen is that one reads texts and then is influenced by them. What becomes an interesting procedure for me is that, because of my editorial involvement with e-Flux journal, I can actually commission texts according to the topics and issues that I’m interested in. It’s a very active relationship in connection to text, and it allows my ideas to expand in latitude, which for me is very productive. The three of us, the three main journal editors, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle and me, have probably different points of attachment to the project. Therefore, I can only speak fully for myself. I know that, when we were developing the umbrella structure for Supercommunity, it was quite important for me to bring up topics that were very present and urgent and to start experimenting with formats other than the ones that we use for the regular editions of the journal. It has been really interesting to do this, as well as exhausting, because it’s a lot of work and we are only half way through it. Still, it has been very rewarding to see all these ideas taking shape, taking form and entering the world. What we have been doing with the journal, up until Supercommunity, was mostly about academic texts in a very precise form, which is a kind of format full of citations and so on. Something that happened with Supercommunity is that we started taking chances with the form of the texts that we publish: we are incorporating poetry, conversational format, short fictions, things that are a step away from regular academic texts, and I think it brings back a sense of poetics into the discourse, which sometimes can be very dry. You can tell I’m very excited about Supercommunity.
MA: I was reading some of the topics:
POLITICS OF SHINE
THE ART OF WORK
THE SOCIAL COMMONS
Which one do you like the most?
JA: I feel like if I had 7 children and you were asking me which one I love the most.
MA: OK. So what is the one you are involved the most in, then?
JA: Particularly in Corruption, Planetary Computing and Apocalypsis; and because I’m the only Latin-American in the team, I also have an affinity with Cuba, even though that will only be fully developed later in the year, outside of the Venice Biennale framework. Corruption is guest-edited by Natasha Ginwala, an incredibly brilliant curator, and it’s also going to become an exhibition soon. This is something that we have been discussing together, and I am really happy to see the conversation taking different forms and move so fluidly from text to exhibition format. It is also part of my artistic work; I don’t see a difference or a distance between my work with text and my work with forms. I think they really inform each other, they are deeply related.
MA: How do you consider e-Flux? To you, what is its biggest strength or feature today, the one you are most involved with?
JA: I cannot partition it. Basically, it’s working in several fields at once. It’s the balance that it keeps between all these aspects. It’s like a little ecosystem, where the announcements are related to the projects, to the exhibitions, to the journal, and it all sort of takes shape together. This is because of how we grew. It started with a very simple idea: the beginning of e-Flux was basically just Anton. I came in a couple of years later and there was nobody else involved. Over time, other people have come in that work on different aspects of the platform, let’s say – I would call e-Flux a platform – but the large view began with Anton and me. Now it has so many elements that of course people would ask me “how did you come up with such a complex idea?” We didn’t, of course: it started very small and the process was very rhyzomatic, very organic. It was very clear that certain things needed to happen. For Anton and me it’s very easy to work together, we kind of read each other’s minds, we have the same nose and we smell the same things at the same time. It’s like if we were different aspects of the same person, in that sense. The fact that we are able to balance all these elements that normally wouldn’t coexist is what makes e-Flux strong. If it was just the announcements or just the journal or just the projects, it wouldn’t be as strong as the whole thing is today.
MA: This complexity…
JA: Yes! It’s not about relying on one specific thing rather than the other: it’s a successful system in terms of the relationships that it has set within itself.
MA: It’s complex and democratic… Is it horizontal?
JA: We have been trying very hard for that, and so far, I would say it is, we are really happy with how it functions and what it has become.