Collective Journaling and Curatorial Round Tables — Session 3

This project is designed to create a curatorial round table and collectively journal to get to know each other and ourselves. Every week one participant will ask their questions to delve into each other’s thoughts and create a form of conversation that we all listen to instead of forcing someone to accept/understand our perception.

Eeva-Lisa Puhakka, Every August, 2015

This week’s questions are asked by Eeva-Liisa Puhakka.

1. How do you see the confrontation between commercial art (here I don’t mean commercial art as advertising, graphic design, branding but art presented in commercial galleries, etc) vs. non-commercial art (community artwork, etc)? Could an artist do both? How to value these different kinds of work?⁣

Ada Zielińska

In my opinion, being represented by commercial gallery is a step further from being a non-commercial artist. If you are good and work a lot the gallery will come one day to help you with that.

Jess Cross

I believe an artist can do both commercial and non-commercial art. This question made me think less of myself and more of my husband who does a lot of public sculpture and currently has a piece in a very commercial gallery. He told me that the gallery owner asked him if he felt he may be selling out as an artist by showing his work there. He doesn’t feel that way and I do not either. I feel we should not have to choose but just be true to ourselves in what we are creating.

Nadia Petković

I have a lot of existing personal inner conflict here. This is mainly because a lot of gallery settings make me feel uncomfortable and even unwelcome. Yet as an artist, they are one of the only available platforms to show and share plastic arts, in particular — paintings and sculpture. I paint and draw on canvas, and therefore the gallery setting is kind of a portal to showing the work in physical space, rather than online, and for this I respect it. It’s one of the only ways for viewers to get a sense of scale and detail. I am just resistant to the scene around gallerists and collectors and I prefer more casual settings. Depending on the gallery, they can be quite exclusive, gravitating towards a high-income population. Community art, street art etc. offer a great alternative to this — where interaction with the art feels a little more honest and connected to the daily experiences of various people. It becomes about something bigger than yourself. Meanwhile, as the creator, you don’t necessarily get the pleasure of intimately painting in your workspace, later to show it outside — it’s just all happening outside. But the reach is far broader than the select few that get to enter the space of the gallery.

Petra Martinez

Well, I think that in this reality where we are living in, there is an order for both, but personally I see immaterial things more valuable in life. So for me, it goes the same way with art as well.

Zeren Oruc

I worked in both sides of the spectrum as a curator and/or a producer. Based on my experience, I would say that this depends on the gallery, the community, and the artist’s approach. If the artist is creating art to get through a message, a white cube gallery or a public art piece is just a channel to broadcast that. Similarly, depending on the gallery’s vision/mission, the gallery could be a facilitator of the conversation and the community engagement. On the other hand, I know some art is created only for a certain social class and some spaces only exist for this type of art, but I think this would not be a suitable place for an artist who wants to practice both. In the end, I think an artist can do both if they can find environments that are parallel to their values. To me, the issue is not really choosing one over the other, but the lack of a suitable environment to do both. As for valuing artworks based on their commercial status, I don’t have a clear answer for that, but maybe the value should be left to the respective audiences to decide.

Maybe dividing art into categories like commercial and none-commercial isn’t right. Maybe we should look into the real impact that they have on their audience. There are art scenes that don’t have any commercial environment, but this is not by choice, it happens because there is no market. So, everyone does non-commercial art by default, but if you would actually look into the real community impact you won’t see a difference, and the art is still detached from the public. All of this makes me think about the labels we have around art and people. I think we need to question how many labels do we actually need and how many of them are there to make our lives easier.

San Juan De Los Terreros, Photo by Jovana Banović, 2019

2. In your country/the place you live or are located — is there an idea that life in the countryside and cities/ people in the countryside and cities are somehow opposed to each other? If yes, why?⁣

Ada Zielińska

Well yes and no:) In a big scale politically, because most of people living outside the cities are right sided, and most of us in the cities are on the left wing. But during the pandemic, a lot of people and a lot of my friends migrated to outside of the big cities and they are living in small villages.

Jess Cross

We don’t really have a country versus city opposition here but, where I live we do have locals who have been here forever versus people who have come here or actually travel off of the eastern shore. There are locals who live here and die here never leaving this small area in the state of Maryland.

Nadia Petković

I feel that when I lived in Canada, there were three almost distinct realms: the city, the suburbs and the countryside, all of which seem to be in conflict with each other. People tended to talk about “personal freedom” each from a unique perspective. Someone from the countryside might associate freedom with vast space and access to nature, the ability to feel present with the earth. Someone from the suburbs might associate it with easy access to the city with the comfort of a large home — complaining that apartments in the city are too small or located too close to others, or that driving and parking is a nuisance. The car in a suburb seems to be the symbol of freedom dating back to the American dream. In the city people might associate freedom with indepence from a vehicle altogether, not needing to go far to access necessary amenities, and perhaps valuing daily interaction with social and arts spaces. Moreover, there’s the idea that in a big city you have a possibility to be anonymous and reinvent yourself all the time. The neighbours don’t always know you and pin you to your existing life story.

I moved to Berlin with exactly those values about the city as “free” space. More and more I see that people here have varied beliefs about this. And the older I get I also turn to nature when I think about freedom. I think about the breath — where can I breathe? Maybe this thought is provoked by the corona crisis and the notion that crowds kill. More and more I find myself going outside of the city on the weekends if I can, and I see a lot of people doing the same. I feel like a step into nature gets my back to myself, more grounded.

Petra Martinez

I think that lifestyles, landscapes, etc. affect a lot in identities when growing up in rural or urban areas so they are quite opposite. But maybe when living in small towns there might not be so many differences at all.

Zeren Oruc

I can’t really say that I’m based in Turkey, but that’s the place I know the most to make such comprising… Usually, we’re raised with the idea that we reliant on the people in the villages (countryside) to survive and have food to eat, so people in cities are not really looking down on the countryside as a whole, though we do have bad apples, though that’s more of a social class issue. Most of us (I grew up in the city), have respect and admiration towards them knowing that we couldn’t be in their shoes and do the same work. As for the countryside’s approach to cities, I can’t say that there’s averseness but I could say that there is a fear. Not fear of people necessarily, but fear of the system. They know that cities are expensive, people have different codes of honor, and this scares them but not to the extent of opposing the other. I assume that being so reliant on each other and everyone having a relative in a city or in the countryside prevents this. However, we do have some issues when it comes to the countryside moving to cities and trying to live the same life they had in the countryside. In the 70s, Turkey experienced mass domestic migration from the countryside to the cities. The cities weren’t prepared for this, not legally not infrastructurally, so there was room to be flexible. This resulted in unplanned urbanization, unequal distribution of wealth, and many other social issues between these groups. We might not have a conflict between the city and the countryside, but neither of them is functioning properly right now. The countryside being deserted while a handful of cities are “developing”.

At Montemero Art Residency, photo by Jovana Banović, 2019

3.Arts vs. Engineering?⁣

Ada Zielińska

I don’t really get this. It depends on how you read “art” in this question. Do you mean classical arts- like painting or sculpture? Or contemporary art in general? — if so, I think an artist should take into consideration all the tools and possibilities from the world to complete the artwork, it doesn’t matter if its engineering, cooking or medicine…

Jess Cross

Art. More so “creativity” and you can be a creative engineer but creativity is the thing that makes humans more capable than robots.

Nadia Petković

I used to think about this all the time as a student who was studying both, by demand of my trade — I am an architect. I feel like in this profession we are, somehow, mediators of art and engineering. Engineering is the bottom line. If it doesn’t hold up, it can’t exist. I think this is true for any medium. There is a constant negotiation between imagination and the limits of physical reality. We need knowledge behind material, even when we forget it and can’t see it. Everything is designed, and everything is measured — from the chemistry of your paint to the canvas you paint on; to the system of distribution which got it into your studio, and the system with which it will eventually be disposed of.

The challenge is to motivate change within these systems, to innovate, to improve the long run, so that the art can come through engineering and be bigger and more present. And so that in the future we can create better, more sustainable products, and systems.

Petra Martinez


Zeren Oruc

This question is really broad and I don’t think I can actually compare them with each other, because arts and engineering have different mindsets and approaches. So for the sake of the question, I will take this as choosing one profession over the other. If I’m forced to choose between these things, I think the answers (or the issue) is in how society sees them and how we develop our financial systems around these professions. An untrained mind tends to classify and value things based on their functionality, which puts art in “an unimportant” position. This makes us choose something that is either financially sustainable or highly regarded in the eye of society. I think these types of dilemmas come from our need for acceptance and understanding. This is in human nature but there are things we might have to let go, in order to find who we want to be and what we want to do with our lives. As someone who has a different educational background than art and as someone who is driven by interdisciplinary projects, I would never be able to compare these two and choose one.

Eeva-Liisa Puhakka, photo by C deBoom, 2018

Next week questions are from Jess Cross:

1. How do you feel about Facebook and Instagram banning nude art that is too photorealistic or banning art that is too graphic and violent? (This one comes from a podcast I was listening to today on the many things that Facebook has had to ban from posts.)

2. How old were you when you realized you were an artist? Was there a particular moment?

3. If you were to choose the location for your next month-long artist residency where would it be and why? (Excluding Montemero)

This session is edited by Hatice Gülseroğlu, in order to retain the “real round table” format and allow participants to be surprised by answers.

Find out more about the project and the participants

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