Michelle Ramin | in real life

Michelle Ramin, 'Mona Lisa IRL' [Oil on Canvas, 26" x 38", 2016]

Michelle Ramin won the San Francisco Bay Guardian 2014 Goldie Award for Excellence in Visual Art. She has exhibited her paintings in San Francisco, New York, Portland, Nashville, New Orleans, and in the UK. She was born in North Central Pennsylvania and currently lives and works in San Francisco. Ramin studied at Penn State University and received an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has appeared in New American Paintings, SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, Beautiful Decay, 580 Split, and is included in the Jimenez-Colon permanent collection in Puerto Rico. A solo exhibition of Ramin’s work opened at the Duplex Gallery in Oregon on 2 June 2016.


Williams: I was in the Louvre probably decades before you, and before the space in which the ‘Mona Lisa’ is hung was renovated. Nothing important about the experience appears to have changed. There were no ‘smartphones’ then, but there were lots of cameras. A large group of people, which seemed to be moving as a pack from room to room, ignored every other picture in the Denon wing. Your painting, ‘Mona Lisa IRL’, does a number of interesting things with this scene, which must now be familiar to most tourists who visit Paris. To my mind, the most important thing you do is confidently announce that paintings are as good or better than photographs at contemplating our now surreal relationship with images and art. The virtual ‘Mona Lisa’, one we might see on the Louvre website, is somehow more real than the ‘Mona Lisa’ in real life.

Michelle Ramin
Michelle Ramin

Ramin: Yeah, I think that’s interesting—the idea of the ‘Virtual Mona Lisa’ vs. Mona Lisa ‘IRL’. She’s more famous as a replicated digital or printed image than as an actual painting. When I got into the room, I kinda stopped caring about the painting itself. In that moment, I was able to check it off my tourist list of things to see. I didn’t get very close and could honestly barely make out that it was the ‘Mona Lisa’, except for the huge crowd around her. It mattered to me more to be experiencing the way in which people experience her rather than getting close to the actual painting and observing the brush strokes, colors used, composition, size, etc. I studied all of that in school but all that knowledge didn’t mean a thing when I got into that room. It was then that I realised I wanted my next body of work to be about crowds of people observing famous pieces of art. It’s interesting to me that some people find the need to check certain famous pieces off of a list—as in the Louvre brochure—while others spend minutes or sometimes hours studying the same piece. It’s like this at concerts, too, and other cultural institutions and happenings. Something about hype and fame—the bragging rights involved—that really draws people, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Then again, who am I to judge how people should and should not experience something?

Williams: Digital photography has become the standard method of certifying experience in a way that seems more reliable and objective than memory… until the drive fails or your cloud is hacked. Your paintings of subjects inside the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are also about the spectacle of art and the hype surrounding it. To experience this as a tourist or art lover is one thing, but artists experience the spectacle and hype of the art world in a different way, as I suspect you are finding now you have several exhibitions of your own coming up.

Ramin: Hype is a very real and intimidating phenomenon, especially now with the advent of social media. As young as I am (thirty-four), I still remember the days without computers, cell phones, internet, etc. Word of mouth and the printed word were the only way to get information out there. Now, there are so many ways—so many websites, blogs, apps, etc.—I can’t keep up, nor do I want to. The popular way to virtually socialise changes constantly. A week out from the opening of my solo exhibition ‘Jet Lag’, at Duplex Gallery in Portland, Oregon, and I find myself full of anxiety over whether or not I sent press releases to the right people. Who are the ‘right’ people? Even a few years ago, it was so much clearer. All I’ve been seeing this week is an ocean of faceless art blogs and Instagram accounts. I find myself feeling very much like I did in the congested museums of Paris—alone in a crowded room, and very overwhelmed. This is all part of the process, of course. The art making is the easy part for an artist. It’s everything else that is so difficult.

Williams: The recent gallery paintings are unusual in your body of work because they have not edited out the architecture and environment of the subjects. In much of your other work, for example ‘Ben and Travis Find a Tube’ [Watercolor on Paper, 22″ x 30″, 2015], the setting is missing and only the subject and action is left. Something that may have started out being a photograph or a memory, or both, ends up being a pictorial distillation. Can you tell me something about your editorial process, about how you decide what gets left in and what gets cut out, about how you decide what your real subject matter is?

Ramin: I’ve always been a very focused person. I have a tendency to focus so much on one thing that I miss all the details surrounding the thing. Most of my work over the past five years has been intentionally editing out the background or surroundings of the figures—mostly because I, myself, only really cared about the subjects and their actions. The rest seemed superfluous. I wanted the viewers to see what I was seeing, which was the interaction and relationships between the figures, and nothing else. My newest body of work is about something a little different—still about people, their interactions with each other, but also their interaction with the unique space that constitutes a museum. There’s so much weight to a museum—historically, of course, but also architecturally. It’s contextually important for me to include this unique environment in the paintings. I didn’t want to introduce backgrounds again until I knew for sure it provided something important and relevant to the works’ content.

Williams: Some of your other projects, from 2011 and 2012—the installations ‘Mask Booth’ and ‘Try it on’—appear to invite or challenge people to try on something that in Australia we call a ‘balaclava’. It makes everyone look like a criminal, or like they’re on a polar expedition. What is this about?

Ramin: When I was in graduate school, I took up the mask, or balaclava, as a multi-layered, politically-charged symbol representing various identities. I used this metaphor as a way to discuss hidden identities, subcontexts, in each of our personalities. By putting on the mask, one takes on a new and very different identity. The body of work relating to masks centered around private vs. public personas and the existence of this doubling in everyone. This theme can be extended to include social media personas and public branding as well. At the time, 2011–2012, the Occupy Movement in the Bay Area was ramping up, the punk band Pussy Riot was very active politically and the film ‘Spring Breakers’ had come out. When I began the mask series, these cultural icons weren’t present, but by the time I was in the midst of the series they were. A form of the collective unconscious, I suppose. It seemed like the balaclava was on everyone’s minds, so it felt like a very relevant representation of that moment, especially following the 2008 recession and being an election year here in the U.S.

Williams: Yes, and by the time this zeitgeist filters through to your watercolor and pencil drawings, something else has happened. The hidden, masked self is perfectly domesticated and comfortable on the sofa. ‘Three aliases’ [Colored Pencil on Paper, 22 x 30 inches, 2011] is both funny and disturbing.

Artists have to be concerned about what other people think. At one end of the spectrum it’s ‘Will they like my work?’, and at the other it’s ‘Will they understand what it means?’ Are you a worrier? Are you on the side of authenticity or on the side of sincerity?

Ramin: I am absolutely a worrier! —In all aspects of my life. At this point in my career I care very much about what people think and how the work will be received. I want it to be accessible to everyone but I also want it to function on a higher level, where artists, critics, historians, etc., can gather more information from the work. I don’t want to choose sides. I want it all, really. Doesn’t everyone?

Williams: Maybe. The path we take to get to where we are seems less important at the start than when you get to near the end. That’s the difference between being thirty-four and fifty-eight.

We’ve touched on how technology now mediates how we experience art. This means that art is made by people who have seen more art than ever before. What have you been looking at recently? What have you discovered?

Ramin: The last art I went to see was at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) and California College of the Arts (CCA) MFA thesis exhibitions. They are the annual displays of graduate students’ work. I love checking out the work of emerging artists coming out of graduate art programs. A lot of the work is missing steps but some is extraordinary. There’s such a refreshing feeling to young (in career, not necessarily age) artists’ work: the best of the showings can be invigorating and inspiring, like Laura Rokas and Robin Crofut-Brittingham. The worst is still really intriguing because it’s candid in its failure: no censorship, just letting it all hang out. I appreciate that on a lot of levels. That’s what graduate school is for… Experimentation and failure: something that should be encouraged more in post-graduate work and, honestly, in our daily lives.

Related links on other sites

Conversations

  • Victoria Contreras Flores | correspondence - Victoria Contreras Flores received her degree and PhD from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. She was born and lives in Valencia, Spain, and is the creator of ARTNATOMY, and a great variety of other artistic projects.
  • Santiago Cañón Valencia | interview - Santiago Cañón Valencia is a cellist. An emerging solo artist of great technical brilliance, he was born in Bogotá, Colombia, completed his bachelor degree with James Tennant at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and advanced studies with Andrés Díaz at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Winner of many awards, he has performed with orchestras in Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, and Hungary.
  • David Hensel | interview - “I cheered on reading Brian Sewell’s scathing article about the Summer Exhibition, because I read it returning from going to the preview, where I’d hoped to find my own sculpture. Instead what I found was the empty base, without the sculpture. We know the art market prefers obscure art as somehow more advanced, and anything …
  • Victoria Contreras Flores | Art~natomist - Artnatomia is a tremendously clever use of Flash and a great educational tool. It is the inspirational work of art teacher and artist, Victoria Contreras Flores, who, with a contrary view of the demands of the art market, has decided to concentrate on using new tools and media to express herself and teach her students. Her …

Victoria Contreras Flores | correspondence

Victoria Contreras Flores received her degree and PhD from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. She was born and lives in Valencia, Spain, and is the creator of ARTNATOMY, and a great variety of other artistic projects.


Williams: Victoria, it has been about ten years since ARTNATOMY. It is a beautiful and practical tool for students, artists and illustrators. Has it been doing well, and getting the attention it deserves?

Contreras Flores: Yes, ARTNATOMY will celebrate its ten-year anniversary in September [2016]. I’m preparing a celebration! My little virtual pedagogical toy fulfilled and exceeded all my expectations: it is still selling an offline version, although it remains free online for students. It has also led to derivative commissioned works, interesting collaborations and international contacts and friends. It has exceeded the user target I predicted and the application is avowed useful not only by artists but by psychologists, neurologists, plastic surgeons, coaches—even criminologists. It has received international awards, been featured in magazines and cited in books and academic papers. I could not be more satisfied. For it to be a more popular site and tool I would have to overcome my laziness for business and social media marketing. But I have other interests, too.

A screenshot of ARTNATOMY by Victoria Contreras Flores.
A screenshot of ARTNATOMY by Victoria Contreras Flores.

Williams: You refer often in your correspondence, sometimes by way of apology, to what you call your ‘dilettante-ism’. To be an amateur is not such a bad thing. But you have made it your style to be a professional non-specialist, a dabbler who is also a discoverer of new things. I can see an advantage in this, if a way must be found to pay the bills. It also means, does it not, that some of the brief artistic commitments do not work out the way you planned?

Contreras Flores: Let’s see… First, I distrust works that ‘need explanations’. I produce objects, works, music that do not belong to the realm of language. They can simply thrill you or not, make you feel, identify with them, or not. When a work comes to us, we do not mind the author. I am much worse than my best works and I should not matter.

Victoria Contreras Flores
Victoria Contreras Flores

I understand, since I am also a spectator, other people have an interest in the person behind the art. When I have to introduce myself, to define myself, to be honest, I can only do it from the dilettante-ism which is neither more nor less than the result of my curious nature and my heterogeneous interests. I tend to emphasise—not in a cynical way—I work hard and humbly in learning everything I try. I’m a professional player. I accept me as ‘numerous’ and enjoy it. In this way, I think people understand why my production is so diverse.

This makes me an outsider within the art market. It is a sign of the times because ‘experts’ frown on unskilled labor, but I am sure that culture is the antithesis of specialisation. In any case, in me, this is not a theoretical starting point, not an a priori, but the result that I work by passion and curiosity: there is never much planned and the result always surprises me, and in a positive way.

None of my inventions, it is true, manage alone to pay the bills.  I have to accept commissioned work such as programming, or teaching. There are other costs, too: being free of children, luxury and property. I prefer to live this way to dedicate my life and efforts to make a business from my creations. I do not serve as a businessman. I did not choose that profession. I could, perhaps, get better economic results devoting all my efforts to a single thing … but only by being as bored and as sad as if I were working in a bank or living in a jail forged with my own hands.

Williams: … “Mientras voy, y vengo, por el camino me entretengo” [“I go, and come back, by the way I enjoy”] is the phrase you have mentioned. It seems like a good philosophy, and one way to prepare for any surprise from the Nietzschean demon.

Your interest in putting new technology to work in artistic projects appears to have led to the creation of some beautiful necklaces. They are made with 3D-printing, I think. The project combines the decorative, the literary, and a little eroticism.

Contreras Flores: They were created playing, by mixing things I love: reading, calligraphy, typography, arabesque, and ajouré. I suppose I am not immune to the fact that my birthland mixes seven centuries of Muslim heritage with Spanish baroque. I design working on paper, getting a single, quick piece that must be legible. After that, I order the laser-cut from a supplier, and finally I hand-mount it. This is one of those inventions for those I would love to find a producer. I am interested in the field of jewellery because it mixes again l’objet d’art and applied art and allows sculpture in small sizes, experimenting very freely with materials and shapes.

I hope I will not be lost in translation but I am flattered to be related to ‘the smiling and playful’ Nietzsche. He aims and encourages us to be free from time-calculation—the furthest thing from a megalomaniac—facing our ephemeral insignificance should help us to live more freely, more calmly, and to enjoy more. In this way, too, I am just an ‘amateur’ who will die learning. So, I am glad if you find some eroticism—another of the simple good things of life—in my necklaces, which I could not prescind from formal exuberance to transmit their passionate messages.

The phrase ‘I go, and come back, by the way I enjoy’ has a good dose of black humor, by reducing life—‘el camino’—to a short, and not very serious, trip. This idea is also in the Spanish reflexive verb ‘entretenerse’, which is more like ‘to amuse oneself’.

Nietzsche is a key philosopher for me. It is interesting you mention him though we have never spoken about him before. People sometimes refer to Nietzsche as a severe, permanently angry, megalomaniac. Very different from the Nietzsche I know. I am flattered if you associate, at some point, some of my statements with the Nietzsche of ‘gaia scienza’: ‘superman’ is an ideal of courage to face life, which is facing death;  active thinking, not-condescending. A ‘logos’ strengthened in the consciousness of its insignificance, should manifest itself in a rigorous ethical demand, auto-immune to self-deception and, paradoxically, liberate us from false responsibilities and illegitimate ambitions. This makes life light, encouraging us to live in a more lucid, more laughing, and more vital way…

I will say that the human is my only theme and my inexhaustible source. The senses are instruments of knowledge for me (in Spanish, ‘sentido’, can mean ‘sense’, ‘felt’ or ‘meaning’ ) and I’m glad if you perceive any kind of sensuality in my work.

Williams: Yes, there is something about the choice of quotations, and the writers, that invites that interpretation. There is also the simple fact that in order to read the text of the necklaces it is necessary to gaze at the bare neck of the wearer. Imagining this moment invites erotic interpretation.

When you wrote to me of ‘the brief trip by which we amuse ourselves,’ I was reading The Gay Science. The allegory of the demon is a striking idea. I wonder why it is not taught in schools. (It may be because it is a dangerous idea; and perhaps because we now have a complicated relationship with the character that Nietzsche has become in our imaginations.) I am thinking of ‘eternal recurrence’, now, not in terms of its meaning to our isolated selves but as either rebuke or praise of the way we treat other people. Am I prepared for the violence, judgments, and wrongs committed against others to be endured, by them, over and over again?

In Australia it seems a majority of the voting population supports harsh measures—I would say inhumane measures—to prevent asylum-seekers reaching our shores.

Contreras Flores: Valencia is a wide-open mediterranean sea town, but there are no boats of people arriving on the beach. The refugee situation remains ‘someone else’s problem’, in Valencia as for most of Europe. I could not be more ashamed by our politicians—applying inhuman laws on our behalf, fomenting fear and nationalist discourses that only conceal ignorance and fear of ‘the other’ and the unknown. As a political subject—as we all are—I try to ‘Think globally, act locally’, I am involved in civil associations, and personally try to fight with my humble weapons, which are just pencils and thinking. It is always insufficient.

Williams: What are you working on now, Victoria?

Contreras Flores: I have been focused on music, learning amazing software that allows me to record and produce my own music with an acceptable quality. In the realm of soundtracks and music for shorts films I collaborate in projects by talented people and continue to mix all the disciplines I am interested in—films, literature, images, and music.

Contreras Flores’s necklaces can be bought directly online from her website, where there is also a short list of retailers, information about her experiments with 3D-printers, and other design objects for sale.

Santiago Cañón Valencia | interview

Santiago Cañón Valencia is a cellist, and an emerging solo artist of great technical brilliance. He was born in May 1995 in Bogotá, Colombia, completed his bachelor degree with James Tennant at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and advanced studies with Andrés Díaz at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Winner of many awards, he has performed with orchestras in Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, and Hungary, and given more than a hundred concerts with pianist Katherine Austin. Cañón Valencia’s first album, ‘Solo’ [iTunes link ⤴︎], recorded works by Gaspar Cassadó, Alberto Ginastera, György Ligeti, and Zoltán Kodály on the Atoll label.

Santiago Cañón Valencia
Santiago Cañón Valencia

Cañón Valencia will soon have two new compact disc recordings published by Atoll: one a selection of twentieth century Russian sonatas (Shostakovich, Schnittke and Prokofiev); and the other of short and virtuoso pieces for cello and piano.
In January 2016 Cañón Valencia will perform in the Cartagena International Music Festival with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. He will share the stage with Maxim Vengerov and others in the Plaza San Pedro of Cartagena, Colombia.

Arrangements are also underway for Cañón Valencia to play with the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia, in April 2016, at a concert to celebrate the centenary of Alberto Ginastera’s birth.

Since 2011 the Mayra & Edmundo Esquenazi Scholarship has sponsored Cañón Valencia through the Fundación Salvi.

Williams: The special nature of education for elite musicians is mano a mano, so to speak. Who are your musical antecedents, and what have they given to you?

Santiago Cañón Valencia
Santiago Cañón Valencia

Cañón Valencia: I come from a family of musicians, my father is a clarinet player who works at the Bogotá Philharmonic, my sister is a violinist, and my mother used to play the cello. She was in fact my very first cello teacher and the one that got me to play the cello. Because of my family’s background, my life has always been surrounded by art. I believe being an artist in any discipline was always meant to be, though, I am sure that if I wanted to do something non-art related my family would have been just as supportive and encouraging as they have been with what I am doing now. From all of this I have learned to love, value and admire not only music but art in general and I am proud of being an artist.

Williams: Anyone who watches and listens to your performances closely will have noticed your father’s immense pride when you perform with the Bogotá Philharmonic. It’s clear he gets a buzz from it.

Cañón Valencia: Yeah, I am happy I make him and the rest of my family proud.

About my teachers… I’ve only had three throughout these almost sixteen years of playing the cello and I believe each one of them has had a huge impact and influence on the way I approach the cello and how I play it, of course.

My first teacher was Henryk Zarzycki, I studied with him for about eight years and he is like a musical grandfather to me. He was the one that basically formed me musically and technically as I started studying with him since the age of four and a half. Not only was he an amazing teacher but he also encouraged my other interests, aside from music, like painting. His teaching was truly inspiring, he always had a way of coming up with different stories for every piece I was working on. Apart from being entertaining, it really opened my mind to think of music as just another way of communication, much like a book you read or a person you listen to speak or sing.

Santiago Cañón Valencia's first album, Solo, published by Atoll.

My second teacher was James Tennant, with whom I studied for five years. This was an amazing time, not only because that is when I was introduced to the beautiful country of New Zealand, but because in those five years James developed my musical and expressive side so much. Those five years were spent mostly focused on really delving inside every piece of music I played. It did not matter whether it was a big work like a sonata, or a short concert piece, the point of it was to really give meaning to every note in every work I played and to think beyond just playing everything nicely without mistakes.

My third teacher was Andrés Díaz with whom I worked for two years. The time I got to spend with him was very interesting as he provided me with an inside look of what it was like to live the life of a touring soloist. This for me is very valuable as he not only focused on cello playing but he also focused on teaching me how to be smart in the professional music world.

I have nothing but admiration and respect for these three amazing musicians.

Williams: Musicians of your age and younger are the first ‘generation’ to learn about music, performance and technique with the additional aid of both audio recordings and YouTube. Do you think it has it made a difference?

Cañón Valencia: I think YouTube has had the biggest impact on music students as it gives all of us the opportunity to have all the great performers in front of us and watch them play whenever we want. However, for me, YouTube is also a great platform to promote myself as a musician because it gives me the opportunity to share all my performances with the world. Many people do this because it is a great way to gain a worldwide audience.

Williams: You answered a ‘dinner party’ question recently with a list of ideal guests that included Casals, Chuck Close and Arvo Pärt—but left out Rostropovich! This is your chance to explain yourself, and maybe to tell us about the kind of art and artists you like …

Casa Batllo (Barcelona, Spain). Architect: Antoni Gaudí.
Casa Batllo (Barcelona, Spain). Architect: Antoni Gaudí.

Cañón Valencia: In that answer I thought that for me, it would have been a more interesting dinner party if it wasn’t just centered in music. I chose a variety of artists that I really admire. For example, I always think of Dalí and Gaudí together because Gaudí’s constructions look like something that could have easily come out of a Dalí painting, or, a Dalí painting looks like something inspired by a Gaudí construction. For me, those two are some of the most interesting and innovative artists and their works just have a way of getting inside my mind without ever leaving. Another one is Arvo Pärt, who’s music I have always loved and he is one of the very few minimalist composers who always keeps me listening carefully with never-ending interest. I chose Casals as the only cellist simply because he is like the father of all modern cellists and definitely one that I admire the most, not only because of his artistic qualities but also because of his human qualities. I could have chosen so many cellists but I admire so many that if i was to list them all, there would be too many. Of course I admire Rostropovich and if he wanted to join the party I wouldn’t dare say no.

Williams:  Rostropovich would have brought the vodka; I’m not sure about Casals. I agree wholeheartedly about Casals, though.

I mention Rostropovich because he used his status and relationships with composers to create new music; and I wanted to ask you: Where do you think new music (for the cello) is going to come from now? We are living in a difficult period for composers, aren’t we? —More difficult for composers than performers?

Cañón Valencia: I think that as long as there are great musicians, there will always be a big open door for great new music to come. I also think that the popularity that the cello has gained over the years is constantly inspiring more and more young composers to explore the instrument and its vast tonal range. Like you say, Rostropovich, more than any other cellist, brought so much great music to the cello repertoire from great composers like Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Ginastera, Dutilleux (just to name a few). I think that in the present there many great cellists still promoting new music and I hope I can also become a part of that.

‘Nightwind’ (for two cellos, composed 2011) is from the album Toru (ACD143, Atoll), a collection of chamber works by Martin Lodge. In this recording Santiago Cañón Valencia and Edward King are the cellists. The producer was Wayne Laird.

Williams: It is a fairly common view among musicologists—and competition judges—that “recording has directed performance style into a search for greater precision and perfection, with a consequent loss of spontaneity and warmth”. Trying to negotiate an audience’s desire for both perfection and spontaneity becomes a high-wire act for solo performers. Lucas Debargue’s performances in Moscow show how interesting—and divisive—this act can be.

What is your opinion about this, and do you have a strategy for coping with it yourself as you prepare for performances or recordings?

Cañón Valencia: This is an interesting question. I’ve always been in a search for balance between both, musical spontaneity and technical precision. I believe that both are important when presenting yourself to an audience in any concert hall.

CD recordings for me should be the same, they need to have the excitement and spontaneity that comes with the adrenaline of performing live. I think listening to mere technical perfection would eventually get a little boring.

When it comes to competitions it is really difficult to know what the judges want exactly. I say this because I’ve had personal experiences in international competitions where personal expression and spontaneity is actually looked down upon. Some judges are very literal with the score and a ‘perfect’ performance for them might just mean playing exactly what’s written. Whereas some others encourage individuality and may think that there is more to the music than what is printed on the page.

In my personal opinion, I like to take both points of view into account and address pieces with my own individual approach but still find a way to keep true to the work. I believe in being true to the style of every piece too. If it’s a work by Bach I would not play it like I would play Dvořák, and I would not play Dvořák the way I would play Shostakovich. Apart from the individual musical language from every composer, I think it is also important to take into account the musical style of the period in which they lived in.

Williams: If you were a writer I would ask you what you were reading. But you’re a musician, so you should tell me what you are listening to …

Cañón Valencia: I’m listening to quite a lot now. For study: Il Progetto Vivaldi: Sol Gabetta and Sonatori de la Gioiosa MarcaSix Suites for Violoncello Solo: Pieter Wispelwey (this recording is his 1998 version of the suites, I believe). Truls Mørk’s recording of the sonata for solo cello by George Crumb. And the Ginastera Cello Concertos: Mark Kosower, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and Lothar Zagrosek.

As far as music that I listen to in my free time, there are too many albums to list but mainly I like to listen to post rock, ambient, shoegaze, noise rock and a bit of prog metal.

This interview, conducted in writing between 3 October and 21 October 2015, is copyright © Santiago Cañón Valencia and Stephen J. Williams and may not be reproduced without permission of the authors.

Related links on other sites

Music and videos related to this interview

Ginastera: Cello Concerto # 2, Op 50, Santiago Cañón Valencia

Lucas Debargue performs Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Six Pieces, Op. 51 No. 6 in F Minor, ‘Valse Sentimentale’.

Cañón Valencia performs Niccolò Paganini caprice number 24

Cañón Valencia at the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition


Conversations

  • Michelle Ramin | in real life - Michelle Ramin won the San Francisco Bay Guardian 2014 Goldie Award for Excellence in Visual Art. She has exhibited her paintings in San Francisco, New York, Portland, Nashville, New Orleans, and in the UK. She was born in North Central Pennsylvania and currently lives and works in San Francisco. Ramin studied at Penn State University …
  • Victoria Contreras Flores | correspondence - Victoria Contreras Flores received her degree and PhD from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. She was born and lives in Valencia, Spain, and is the creator of ARTNATOMY, and a great variety of other artistic projects.
  • Santiago Cañón Valencia | interview - Santiago Cañón Valencia is a cellist. An emerging solo artist of great technical brilliance, he was born in Bogotá, Colombia, completed his bachelor degree with James Tennant at the University of Waikato in New Zealand and advanced studies with Andrés Díaz at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Winner of many awards, he has performed with orchestras in Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, and Hungary.
  • David Hensel | interview - “I cheered on reading Brian Sewell’s scathing article about the Summer Exhibition, because I read it returning from going to the preview, where I’d hoped to find my own sculpture. Instead what I found was the empty base, without the sculpture. We know the art market prefers obscure art as somehow more advanced, and anything …
  • Victoria Contreras Flores | Art~natomist - Artnatomia is a tremendously clever use of Flash and a great educational tool. It is the inspirational work of art teacher and artist, Victoria Contreras Flores, who, with a contrary view of the demands of the art market, has decided to concentrate on using new tools and media to express herself and teach her students. Her …

David Hensel | interview

David Hensel“I cheered on reading Brian Sewell’s scathing article about the Summer Exhibition, because I read it returning from going to the preview, where I’d hoped to find my own sculpture. Instead what I found was the empty base, without the sculpture. We know the art market prefers obscure art as somehow more advanced, and anything can be aesthetic if presented well, but selecting an empty plinth seemed to typify the vacuity of a lot of the work in the exhibition.”


David Hensel, an English jeweller and sculptor, submitted a sculpture of a laughing head on a plinth to the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy earlier this year. When he went to the exhibition, only the plinth and bolster were on display. After he released news of the mistake to the press, RA spokespersons asserted that the plinth had been accepted for display, because it had merit, and the head rejected. While the Academy turned error into insult, Hensel has been publicly pondering what the mistake really says about the state of art and art criticism. I contacted him by e-mail and the following interview goes over the facts of the RA story, as Hensel recalls them, and looks at Hensel’s work.

Williams: Let’s start by going over the facts of the Royal Academy (RA) incident. I have only read media reports on the internet. Sometime earlier this year you submitted a sculpture that consisted of a head, a plinth and a wooden bolster to the Royal Academy for its June 2006 Summer Exhibition. The RA has claimed, in the reports I read, that the plinth and bolster were submitted separately to the head. It’s not clear why that should be so. Were they in separate boxes? Was there one or two application forms? Did you receive an acceptance letter or acknowledgement of some kind? Eventually you went to see the exhibition and noticed that the plinth and bolster were exhibited without the head. What happened next? Did you speak to the curators? Was it you, or the RA, that notified the media of the circumstances about your sculpture? How did you, or they, do this? If it was the RA, did they show you the media release before sending it out?

Hensel: In May 2006 I delivered to the Royal Academy a single sculpture which, as you say, consisted of a head, a plinth and wooden bolster. The bolster was tied to a loop in the plinth, and the head was loose. They were delivered as one submission: the entry form gave three copies of the same self adhesive barcode, one of which was stuck on the bottom of the plinth, one on a provided tie-on label which went in a rather ungainly manner round the head, and the third went on the entry form. It isn’t true that they were submitted separately: this idea was apparently devised by the self-protection department of the RA and issued broadly in a press release a few days after the start of the furore. I wasn’t consulted or shown it, it just appeared in some of the press. Most of the papers I saw that carried it also mentioned my more honest version. I recently asked the exhibition co-ordinator about this point, but she didn’t respond.

I received an acceptance letter a few days before the show, after the whole selection process had taken place. This just said my sculpture, ‘One Day Closer to Paradise’, had been accepted for the show.

When I went to see the exhibition at the third preview (The first was the ‘Varnishing Day’, Monday. I would have gone then but I was teaching. It was pointed out to me that this is where they pick up glitches. The second was what they call the ‘Buyer’s preview’, Thursday. I went on Friday. The show opened to the public on the next Monday.) and noticed the error. I went to talk with the nearest staff member who was a girl at the desk. She said she remembered handling the sculpture herself for the selection (because it is heavy) and it was just the plinth at that time. She tried to contact the appropriate office but no one answered; so I left it that she would contact them the next day and they would contact me about it. It was Wednesday before they did contact me, by which time the papers had the story. The way this happened is this…

I had found myself dissatisfied with the show, and becoming more and more depressed as I went round. I hadn’t found my sculpture yet, but that wasn’t the issue. The work from the Academicians seemed far more repetitive, old and tired, than usual. An RA member is allowed to enter six without selection. Everyone else, anyone else, can submit up to three pieces to go through the selection process. No problem with that—just the tedium. I don’t know if you know the annual show—it’s huge: one thousand items selected from ten thousand. Usually—I try to go every year—it is inspiring in it’s variation and the quality of the real among the fake among the routine. Why was it different this year? I have to go again and find out (but perhaps I’ll wait until my name is no longer dirt). As I went on round, there seemed to be more and more work that may be innovative or would-be subversive. Towards the end there were a lot of items by the famous Britart brigade [Hensel is referring to Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, Tracey Emin, etc.], who it appears had been invited in to give the show a boost because the BBC were doing a three-part documentary and not because of artistic merit. I found my sculpture in the last room, on a pair of shelves like a store room. Or rather I didn’t find it. Only the plinth was there. OK, some people can discard a paper bag with such style that it’s almost art, and I agree that my plinth has some presence as an object, especially when viewed in light of the title. (I don’t know whether they saw the title but I’m assuming they did.) It is a monumental task mounting the show. I have huge respect for the organisers—the group of selectors—but there did seem to be rather a lot of dubious quality work there. And you should see the prize winners!

On the way home in the train home I read a terrifyingly scathing article by Brain Sewell. He is usually acerbic, but this time I found I agreed with too much. Something wrong at the Royal Academy, connected with their attempted pose as ‘up to date’. The usual way to sell difficult work is to put it in the white gallery. —But put it, instead, in a context of scholarship, traditional values of excellence, and it doesn’t make it easier to understand.

Anyway, Brian Sewell it turns out was a friend of my late brother in law. Too late.

I told a number of my friends about my missing sculpture. Most just held their heads, some gleeful at the ammunition potential against the fat heads who run the art world. The laughter matches so well the range of expressions of the missing sculpture, including the horror that it has from one angle. I decided to try to contact Sewell to see if he wanted to follow it up. Also I got, from a friend who knows him, the e-mail address of David Lee, who writes a magazine full of unusually well-observed criticism called The Jackdaw. I tried to contact Sewell by e-mail through the Evening Standard, the London paper which had his article. I was thinking about it a lot, somewhat aggrieved but also fascinated, wondering whether it could become a way to say something useful and air some of my views about it.

After the weekend I had heard from no one, but on Monday I was phoned by the Standard, which wondered if I would like to write letter to the paper, for publication on Tuesday. They hadn’t managed to get my request to Sewell or he hadn’t replied. He had been ill. He is 70 or more. So I did, and sent it in the evening. On Tuesday they phoned me again saying they would like to carry the story, as it was, in Sewell’s absence. —Which they did, on Wednesday. The rest is history, as they say.

Williams: Is the sculpture now on display, in part or reunited with its head?

Hensel: The RA did phone me after the Standard’s story, apologies and all that, but they had to ask the selecting artists for their opinion before they could do anything, again relying on experts, and on Friday they still hadn’t been able to get them in to decide, so they started insisting the plinth had been selected on it’s own.

By that time I had seen that there would be more in this by keeping it empty, though I would be willing to reunite them if they insisted. Eventually they said both parts had been viewed separately and the head rejected. I imagine the head wouldn’t come across without a base to stand on, but I know these artists by their work which is very different from mine. Inevitably when selecting from thousands, snap decisions based on taste are made, and if it has presence it can get in. Just because it has presence doesn’t mean it is art: that needs to have something more. Though, I do think it works well in this empty version—and I wish I had thought of it myself! Would have saved a bit of work. An afternoon instead of two months, more if you count learning the new medium I wanted to use.

At no time did I get angry or upset about it because already the words were available to describe the event as an example of cultural theatre in which we in the arts are all actors playing roles self-scripted, inherited from personal background or determined by personal awareness of context and audience and education. If education systems have flaws, they show up in styles of art: thus they are roles which describe the real world through the safety-net of the arts; and I feel this idea is one that can reunite us and save face all round. It’s a difficult concept for some it seems, but we’ll see. (An actor doesn’t need to get upset or embarrassed if his character is unable, slips up, or proves to be unaware.)

Now it is going to remain separate, just the plinth on show, and that suits the next development, which is that The Times is going to auction it as it is, accompanied by a documentation of the event so that it can be seen as a new work of art about the failed one.

Williams: In general, what would you say the public reaction has been to the news of what has happened to you, as distinct, say, from the reaction of the media and the RA?

Hensel: Most people I know have responded with laughter, by clutching their brow in disbelief, or been excited at the potential of the attention. I haven’t met many who are on the side of the contemporary art world, who are generally seen as somewhat fraudulent or stupid opportunists. There’s a recognition that, for dealers, the avant garde is a form of currency that is easy to forge. Of course, there are good artists, but there is a broad recognition that you don’t get fame and fortune by being good or relevant: there are other, esoteric criteria…

A fair proportion of the people I know are artists in one way or another, and they all seem to be delighted, as though it’s a justified come-uppance. There’s a generally held sense that these people deserve it—not the RA really, they’re respected, but the charlatans. Many artists play to the market, but that’s only healthy greed. The cheering is nothing to do with the handling error that caused it, obviously. We all feel the embarrassment they undoubtedly feel.

Williams: Had you ever submitted a sculpture to the RA Summer Exhibition before? I notice there is a piece on your website on a page referring to a previous Summer Exhibition, but it’s not clear whether that sculpture was accepted. It looks like an auto-fellating cherub.

Hensel: Exactly right, that’s what it is. It was accepted for the 2003 exhibition. It was the first time I had submitted anything, so that was pleasing. I couldn’t find that when I went either, but it was there, just high up on a bracket on the wall, presumably out of respect for the old ladies. The title I gave it had reached the stage of ‘The Old Bush Award’, and I saw it as a design for a trophy which would be given annually some time in the future in the name of G.W. [Bush] to worthy world leaders. I had first called it ‘Jerusalem’, after Blake, honoring his wonderful song against the British Empire’s use of Christianity—hence the religious aspect. The foundry called it ‘Angel’s delight’. Later, I changed the title to ‘Fountain’ thinking of Duchamp’s urinal.

Williams: I’d like to know how you describe our own work. You’re a jewellery maker and sculptor, making both indoor and outdoor pieces. Your jewellery appears to be more in the nature of ‘personal sculpture’: many of the pieces are very—how to put it?—visible. They would be hard to miss if someone were wearing them.

Hensel: I once many years ago recognised I couldn’t happily call myself an artist because I didn’t know what art was, so I decided to try to come up with a new definition every day. It’s a useful discipline—keeps the intellect out of the creative process when working. I still don’t know, though, but recognise that the desire to categorise and label is what all artists are trying to subvert, to find ways to get under someone’s skin. So, yes, my jewellery is personal sculpture. I always liked whittling as a child, but that doesn’t make traditional ‘sculpture’ because decisions are made hand-held, not placed on a plinth where they can penetrate the ground and permeate by impersonation into the viewer.

An inspiration in small sculpture was the way I like to find scraps of stuff that had presence, that looked as if they were something monumental, something huge and far away, or I was a giant looking at them. Anyway, it turned into jewellery as a way to have something saleable, and then it made sense to try to make more and more of the found items and to make them out of precious materials. I like finding out how to do the technical parts, getting better at making expressive carving, most of it has involved carving of some material or other—and especially I like the discovery that doing it as jewellery is a way to connect with certain people.

I have to find new ways to work now. It’s getting so disagreeable to work on this tiny scale because of age-related eyesight problems; but also one needs to change because each kind of work supports it’s own kind of thought and I need to move on.

Williams: I don’t want to get bogged down in questions of taste, but staying on question of how to describe your work for a moment, I certainly wouldn’t put you anywhere in the lineage of Brancusi. A lot of your work seems to have a highly stylised, ‘Druidistic’ look to it—possibly in the Blakean sense of the word, relating to a universal, non-Christian proto-religion. Is it something like that?

Hensel: This has happened without any intention on my part. I didn’t study jewellery-making at art school. All my processes have been made up. I am not able to do the fashion thing, the up–to-date style, because you can only work from your own background, in my case rural English, and you can only work towards you own society. I don’t live in a stylistic stratosphere. I don’t design what I do in the way some people work—as adornment, as graphic design, using images and dynamic qualities from advertising, fashion, etc. What I want to do is to make the next thing, allow the fact of making some object, which has it’s own place in the world, to be a way of looking at the world, at people, at myself. I see this is basic to the way art works anyway, it’s a way of looking at the world, provides filters and templates which are the shape of your methods and skills. That people call it druid jewellery (and I was amused a while ago to discover an American agent of mine was calling it just that) is fine. We need to label things both to make them available as well as to protect ourselves from them. What I am most inspired by is being told—and it happens regularly—that what I’ve made for someone is their most beautiful possession. I think it works to make a personal, private mythology for the owner.

Art can work in many ways. A piece of jewellery can be something to hide behind as well as to show off with. Jewellery particularly can be a social way of demonstrating mastery of some aspect of the world, your bank balance, your self image, your emotional depths, and it can be a way of holding in place questions that you need to discover or explore.

Williams: I’ll be honest and admit that my instinctive, first reaction to your work was not positive—I thought it looked like a not completely integrated mash of visual styles and attitudes, including Druidism, pre-Raphaelite and Art Deco. However, as I looked through over a hundred works photographed and presented on a jewellers’ website, I began to sense a very strong imaginative impulse in your work that is both impressive and affecting. There are some smallish pieces, for example, that for the sake of a taxonomy have to be called ‘rings’, but in fact they are more like cabinets that can be ‘unfolded’ to reveal a secret interior design and subject matter. Is it correct to say that you (and your work processes) concentrate more on the imaginative work in creating your art than on resolving stylistic problems?

Hensel: I think you are right. It’s relevant to think about what style means, how much it is a starting point determined by awareness of market fashions, how much it is a set of accepted constraints that represent your sense of where and how you live, within which your personal imagination can flower, how much is it a measure of the balance between your awareness and unawareness. That some people value that handmade quality of my work is possibly an indication that they feel deprived in their own lifestyle. That’s an important function of art: that all art has a bodily or personal purpose.

Williams: I’m interested in what has happened to you from the point of view of ‘intentionality’. That is, is what artists mean important, even if we have difficulty getting access to what they mean? It strikes me that what has happened to you is an interesting example of how easy it has become to brush aside the intentions of artists, as though it were both theoretically and personally unimportant what you meant or wanted. I also think it’s interesting that it was, possibly, not an artist or curator that came up with some of the (what seem to me) insulting remarks from the RA, but a publicity spokesperson. Maybe we’ll never know for certain.

Of course, the other side of this situation is that you appear to have been quite open to the comic and creative possibilities of the moment, so that what seemed to be an insult has been turned into a conversation about what art is. This says a lot about you as a person and as an artist, though how anyone could separate the two, I don’t know.

Hensel: I don’t think you can separate them. One of the long-term processes is the integration of the art and the person. One of the skills in any creative process is knowing how to respond to chance. I just applied that in the real life situation. It wasn’t difficult to agree to the new form of the sculpture, and I will learn from that. If something is stuck, you try to reverse it, and thinking how to reverse the possible insult took a while.

I cheered on reading Brian Sewell’s scathing article about the Summer Exhibition, because I read it returning from going to the preview, where I’d hoped to find my own sculpture. Instead what I found was the empty base, without the sculpture. We know the art market prefers obscure art as somehow more advanced, and anything can be aesthetic if presented well, but selecting an empty plinth seemed to typify the vacuity of a lot of the work in the exhibition.

However, one important way the art world functions is that it is in itself a satirical, staged, cultural performance, a parody of the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of our government, our commercial pressures and their propaganda (sorry, public relations and advertising), with their approach of making us feel inadequate so we’ll go out do more shopping and vote for greater protection. To be effective, propaganda must be invisible, must reduce awareness, and thus selecting an empty plinth could be a taken as a warning.

The conscious intention of the artist, the subject’s story, is only a part of what will go into the work of sculpture. A sculpture can work by choreographing spectator motion, holding out new gesture or stance, which carries attitude or expectation towards new perception. Brancusi was important in clarifying the function of the plinth, which reaches down to the ground, so the sculpture can penetrate through and up into the spectator, hopefully catching and moving them before the intellect is stirred to ‘interpret’. People often go round an exhibition and at then end find the world looks different.

The refinement of a work involves working with these factors. It’s an important part of presence, and the various forms of abstract have been explorations of this.

The idea the artist uses—the meaning or subject—are vital for keeping the work process in focus, but because the end result is going to act through different sense channels, this subject can dissolve as the work progresses. One wants to arrive at a resolution where all conceivable aspects that the spectator might perceive have been considered, seen. The aesthetic balance of all these aspects can mean some aspects are reduced to mere hints and suggestions, and include not just the usual sculptural aspects of awareness of volume, forces, scale, etc., but a respect for the likely familiarities of an audience. The artist’s intentions evolve as potentials unfold.

I feel comfortable with this: I see a subject as a question. One can only work from one’s own background and speak to one’s own society; and any work of art is at some level an attempt to discover more about these. The question is a vehicle used to arrive at something special, something which holds a focussed awareness of life in place, and this only has value if it has a presence for others.

This is quite difficult in our time where we have a very sophisticated ability to find meaning in anything has that quality, where we can project meaning and then believe we have found it. The challenge for the artist is to try to rise above this.

I feel lucky that the ‘new’ version matched beautifully with my original subject. All I have done now is to see this and accept it.

Back-tracking a little—I don’t feel it is correct to say I make Druidic jewellery. I had never heard this term, until about 1990, when it was used to describe my work by an American agent. Now, apparently, I make Gothic jewellery as well—when what is really meant by that label is that I make some pieces that might appeal to a segment of the market called ‘Gothic’! These terms just are not within my conscious awareness. In my own perception, my work is ‘handmade’. Societies and tastes change. One adapts to new markets as far as one’s constitution will permit. Labels are presumptive. I recognise some of the influences you mention. The work of an artist is to explore the invisible within themselves, as a prelude to engaging with something more socially conscious.

One of the primary urges of the artist is to be up to date—a responsibility as well as for fun—to keep the wave-front of consciousness free of opportunism and bias. I feel this mistake in the RA, the one we have been discussing, means they are not paying attention.

Williams: Did we rush to conclude that the person and the artist were inseparable? I remember my feelings of outrage whenever an academic industry develops to point out the political and other defects of an artist who, for one reason or another, has become a target. Virginia Woolf, for example, whose diaries occasionally show her to have been class-prejudiced in a very mean and blinkered way. Artists, though, are often on their best behavior in the act of creation, where an empathic impulse drives the work towards universality. Can we agree on that?

Hensel: This is an interesting question. I think you could say that the artist and the person are inseparable in the same way as an actor and his character are inseparable when he is committed to playing his role for life. Rather than “best behavior”, I would say honest behavior. I feel that the artists who become significant are on one hand the people who reveal in their own awareness, background and obsessions a correspondence with a broader cultural awareness, who are able intuitively or knowingly to explore within themselves and through their technical skills questions that are relevant to others, and by that means to come up with the questions that need to be asked; and, on the other hand, those who manage to make the most eye-watering expressions of being alive. It depends who you work for, though, and what sort of status symbols or control devices they pay you to animate.

Some art commentary tends to blur the relevance, trying to invent and impose their own significance, trying to be seen as interpreter and exponent of desirable taste, and probably being paid to obscure uncomfortable questions. Similarly, historians devise art movements in retrospect, imagining influences, connections and interactions that often seem to confuse, for example, there’s synthetic internationalism, or a demand to be post-modern, labels which I see as divisive, separating an artist from their own native background and natural audience, from their own intuitive engagement with their time and place, which can result in an artificial—although evidently profitable—quality of imitation and fashion.

It’s only through the many stages of working that one can arrive at an expanded sense of universality within oneself. The actual work of an artist is finding what their work is, what their genuine concerns are, shedding adopted influences and assumptions and becoming able to reveal the self as universal, and this is a process that that can be personally agonising, time consuming and difficult.

I want to convey the idea that there’s a sense of responsibility that defines the artist, and I think it’s the artist in each of us who can recognise and respect breath-taking cultural achievements as responsible opportunism. ‘Culture’ is more than party time for the arty: it’s a shared creation of where and how we live.

I know this whole event has been hugely amusing. —Punctured dignity often is. But, looking at the discussions about art, in the press and on the Internet, it’s clear there’s a lot of thought about it. I’m hoping that the interest can persist for long enough for the questioning to turn to why it’s like it is, not so that we get better art—it’s perfect as it is, in that it reveals negative sides to our nature—but so that we can understand a little more clearly how the world works and how the arts reveal that. And I think that’s something we agree is necessary.


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  • David Hensel | interview - “I cheered on reading Brian Sewell’s scathing article about the Summer Exhibition, because I read it returning from going to the preview, where I’d hoped to find my own sculpture. Instead what I found was the empty base, without the sculpture. We know the art market prefers obscure art as somehow more advanced, and anything …
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Victoria Contreras Flores | Art~natomist

Artnatomia is a tremendously clever use of Flash and a great educational tool. It is the inspirational work of art teacher and artist, Victoria Contreras Flores, who, with a contrary view of the demands of the art market, has decided to concentrate on using new tools and media to express herself and teach her students.

Her web site is at http://www.victoriacontreras.com.

Victoria Contreras Flores' animation 'Another Day' can be viewed at her web site.
Victoria Contreras Flores’ animation ‘Another Day’ can be viewed at her web site.
From Victoria Contreras Flores (in very expressive English) to Stephen J. Williams:

In fact I begun to project this ARTnatomy tool just by necessity, as a ‘war tool’ for my pupils, by the time I taught at a little University which had not any subject in Anatomy (during a five years career!). In order to provide them the minimum information, and also make my job easier, I begun this work, which finally I have presented as an academic investigation.

I don’t have any agent or gallery. I broke my relation with last one two years ago.

By the time I was a fine arts student, abstract expressionism worked as the real academicism at the Universities and the Art Market. In this lineal and scientifist (and mistaken) conception of progress applied to art, figurative art was despised as old. Nevertheless, I have always be interested in the representation of the world and the human being, and my readings, in the tradition of heterodox thought. I have always been an outsider (I don’t like vernissages… [A ‘vernissage’ is a private viewing of paintings before a public exhibition—SJW.]) very critic with the art market: as you see, this is not the best way to become a successful artist.

By the time I discovered digital tools, I begun to find another way to pay my bills and a powerful medium to experiment and mix all of my other interests (music, narration, movies). Nevertheless, as guarantee of ‘seriousness’, the ‘modern critic’ tends to demand to the author a specialisation, for me narrow and suspicious: it is supposed that if you make oil paintings, you cannot be a good escultor, or work with computers, or vice versa; nevertheless, the incursions of Leonardo or Picasso in any scope are well understood as virtues and richness… Far from trying to compare myself to them, nevertheless, I do not put any limits to me, because I work by passion and curiosity (the rest, concerns nothing to me and I am sent to results). Rather than this, I brush often the most unconscious audacity, putting me in lands where still I am only an apprentice (3d or writing, for example. The section ‘Toxtexts’ in my web is where I put my ‘essais’ and my ‘poems’, sorry just in Spanish).

As you see, in this way, I have preferred to have my name forgotten by art critics (as I forgot theirs), to work in freedom. I think the Internet is much more alive than the market of the traditional arts and less won by the ‘intermediaries’. Find more interesting artists in the network than in Arco or Basel, and I do not have any doubt that if Leonardo da V. were raised again, he would be hooked to his computer, ‘playing God’ gladly, with tools that include supports, brushes, pencils, music and movement. If to similar playful possibility we add the reproductivity and accessibility advantage to him to be—not only economically—for any bourgeois, the computer opens for the creation a new door of revolutionary consequences: the real possibility of insurgency of ‘I do all by myself because I don’t need anybody else’. As always, another thing is the use that everyone does of the instrument: the new tools raise the challenge to combine with sense creation and technology, to produce an art of quality that assume applications, utility; the objective would have to take care of recover for the creative activity the place and the function in the society (more natural, less sacred) than narrow dichotomies and bad interpretation of history, snatches to him.

—Victoria Contreras Flores