Victoria Mendrzyk was born in 1981.
She Graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2008, with
an MA in Curating Contemporary Art.
She is currently the Gallery Manager at Laure Genillard, London.
A conversation between Liz Ballard and Victoria Mendrzyk, May 2009.
EB: Hi Victoria. Inviting a curator to present a show at OUTPOST is a new departure for us, compared to our usual format of a solo show. This exhibition has a very strong theme around real and fictional historical changes. Was this a concept that manifested through your selection of artists, or is ‘Turning Points’ based on an idea that you wanted to explore through particular artworks?
VM: Hi Liz. First of all, I am so delighted to curate an exhibition at OUTPOST; it is also a new departure for me since it is the first exhibition that I have curated after the MA. I am very honoured that OUTPOST accepted me as the first guest curator. OUTPOST is such a dynamic and harmonious contemporary art space to work in.
The idea of the exhibition started when I discovered Andreas Bunte’s work at the Kunstverein Hamburg. The video exhibited there was about Frank Lloyd Wright and I discovered La Fée Électricité later. La Fée is a subtle mixture of fact and fiction, of archives and graphics drawn by Bunte. I very much liked the way the grand narrative of the discovery of electricity intertwines with small anecdotes. There is no sound apart from that of the projector and there is a succession of still images, moving images and texts. There is an interesting tautological aspect in this film. It is about the discovery of light and the projector functions thanks to the light.
Then I remembered La Révolution des Crabes by Arthur de Pins which I had seen in an exhibition at Parasol Unit, London. It is a beautiful animation, which plays with the idea of change in both a literal and a metaphoric way. This work reminds me a lot of Orwell’s Animal Farm in the way Orwell’s animals and Pins’ crabs gather to create a society which parodies certain aspects of our society, with irony and philosophy.
Finally, I discovered Lisa Oppenheim in October. If Oppenheim’s work is based on archives, documentations and historical facts like Bunte’s, the two artists reconstruct a story in such different ways. Both are very contemplative and poetic. With Lisa’s work 100 Photographs that Changed the World, I was interested in the contrast between the changes mentioned in the titles and in the captions and the immutability of the sky, of the stars. Each photogram of the sky looks so small individually, and then creates an ensemble/ a cosmos when assembled.
I would say that the concept was manifested through the selection of artists. The concept is then stretched and manifests itself in different ways through the artworks.
EB: Your comments about OUTPOST are very generous Victoria, especially ‘harmonious’! Our usual programme of exhibitions invites an artist to ‘curate’ their own solo show. I think for some artists this freedom is extremely useful in terms of developing their practice, yet for others there is a stronger desire to work with a curator to offer new perspectives. How much do you think your decisions as a curator effect and direct the viewers’ reading of the individual works and the exhibition?
VM: It is really a chance for the artists to be selected for their practice rather than a specific artwork and to have the freedom to make a new work.
Regarding the display decisions, I want to be close to the artists’ wishes and to communicate about the possibilities provided by the space. We had one 16 mm film and one animation and Arthur de Pins was happy to show La Révolution des Crabes on a monitor, which contrasts with La Fée Électricité as a projection. The three artists were very precise about the presentation of their work. The display is important, in particular, artworks have to breathe and be seen individually, even in the context of a group show. On the one hand, it is important to leave the work its own space but on the other hand, the works should not be isolated. Maybe in theory, the best is the balance between the two.
Also, the risk is probably that the exhibition concept reduces the interpretation of the artworks to a single reading and encloses them into the concept of the exhibition. I hope the idea of Turning Points is open enough to offer multiple layers of reading for each artwork.
EB: The preparation and installation has brought up new experiences and challenges for us, especially as the artists were not here themselves to install which is a very different way of working, and wanted to ask how this process has been for you?
VM: I enjoyed very much installing the show with you. Display decisions are difficult to make without the artists, especially in these cases where the artists have made several exhibitions before. They know exactly what they want. I hope we are close to their wishes.
EB: This exhibition came from a proposal you sent to the committee, do you feel that it is difficult as a young curator to find opportunities to present exhibitions, more or less than artists?
VM: I am just starting with you, so let’s see how difficult it is. My assumption would be that they are possibilities offered to freelance curators, especially in the UK, as long as you make another more stable job for a living. From that point of view, it is perhaps, quite close to the situation of young artists.