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New director of Bern's main art space wants to start a conversation – SWI swissinfo.ch in English

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Kabelo Malatsie will run the Kunsthalle Bern for the next seven years. George Mahashe

In May, South African curator Kabelo Malatsie arrived in Switzerland to run one of Bern’s main art institutions, the Kunsthalle. SWI swissinfo.ch met her to talk about her concept of curating and what she thinks should change in the art world.

This content was published on July 10, 2022 – 10:00

Aoife Rosenmeyer

The appointment of South African curator Kabelo Malatsie to succeed Valérie Kroll as head of the Kunsthalle was intriguing. Not only is she the first non-European to head a public Swiss art institution, the former Johannesburg resident also followed an unusual career path.

Malatsie first studied marketing management before moving to art history and ultimately curating. She began her professional life in the arts as acting director of the Stevenson in Cape Town, a commercial gallery, before bringing her expertise to an artists’ rights organisation. She is best known curatorially for her work within the Yokohama Triennial 2020 (Japan). She was asked by the curators of the Raqs Media Collective, Michelle Wong and Lantian Xie, to curate a discrete and complex programme called Deliberations on Discursive Justice.

Her appointment as the new head of the Kunsthalle – an art space without a permanent collection – is part of the institution’s long disruptive tradition. In the 1960s, it was the epicentre of radical experiments led by its head Harald Szeemann – which eventually cost him his job. Decades later, in 2015, the Kunsthalle appointed a woman for the first time to head the institution, Valérie Knoll. Malatsie, as a non-European, brings to Bern a new perspective on what curating and art spaces can mean.

Valérie Knoll was the first woman director of the Kunsthalle Bern; Malatsie is the first non-European. Florian Bachmann

SWI swissinfo.ch: You’ve scarcely had time to unpack your bags. How do you intend to explore the city of Bern and its arts scene?

Kabelo Malatsie: I’m letting people who have been working in this space and who live in Bern help me navigate it. I will be walking a lot.

SWI: In the art world, the Kunsthalle Bern is known for experimentation in the contemporary field; nonetheless, Bern is quite conservative. How do you perceive your audience?

K.M.: To be truthful, I haven’t yet met the audience. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I’m going to curate with the audience in mind. My approach is to do shows that I’m interested in and hope that this will generate conversations. This is what I’m interested in: having a platform for ideas and a more dialogic approach to curatorial practice rather than ‘I’ll show you something that is finished and closed’, closing off any potential for feedback and conversation.

The other thing that I’m interested in is working with young people, especially for them to challenge the Kunsthalle. Even though it’s known for experimentation, I’m sure it’s now old and institutional, and [this condition] can stifle critique.

SWI: What was the appeal for you to work in the Kunsthalle?

K.M.: It’s somewhat of an empty container; it has no permanent collection and as a director, it comes down to your own curatorial interest to fill the space. Though we will be working with artists over a relatively short time, it would be great if we can define working models we can test out together, and that artists can take with them in their future work. 

SWI: You once remarked that your early conception of curating was putting objects on walls. How has that concept expanded since?

K.M.: At the beginning of my understanding of curatorial practice I was thinking more along museum curating, which can be very conservative. Now I think that even administrative work can be curatorial. One can think about Excel spreadsheets creatively, and go beyond balancing money; we can think of different resources that go into making an exhibition.

When you’re doing a project you start ambitiously, conceptually, then the concept starts sinking when day-to-day issues take over. I’m hoping that, as the administrator, I can encourage a working practice where the conceptual stakes are always high and I am not reducing concepts and getting bogged down by practicalities.

The Kunsthalle Bern was the most radical art space in Switzerland during the 1960s. During the exhibition When Attitudes Become Form in 1969, the art expanded on to the street, literally breaking the pavement. Keystone / Str

SWI: How would you define an art space?

K.M.: Creativity is everywhere. Space for art is everywhere. I read an interview a long time ago where [Brazilian artist] Paulo Nazareth said that even if he stopped making art objects and was a fisherman, he would still be an artist as a fisherman. The curatorial practice can go into multiple directions.

SWI: I can understand your perspective, but is a gallery, or a museum, still the privileged space for art?

K.M.: There’s the old-fashioned Western way of doing things: things are [categorised] in neat boxes. This is where we have art, this is where we have medicine and so on. (When I mean Western, I mean colonised places as well.) So, in South Africa things are in boxes, too, more so in formal institutions.

For me these boundaries are no longer important, so long as what you’re doing makes sense. A good example is Stephen Alexander, a physicist and a jazz musician; you can be thinking about scientific questions whilst doing an artistic activity. So, I am not really caught up in defining what is curating, or what is art.

SWI: I guess we’ll have to see what happens in the Kunsthalle… 

K.M.: There will be art objects, there’ll be performances. There are a set of questions that I’m trying to answer with each exhibition. Each work will be trying, not to answer, but to grapple with a question that I have.

SWI: For many art institutions and galleries Covid-19 meant slowing down and a refocusing on how exhibitions are produced and mediated. Did this affect your thinking?

K.M.: When museum and exhibition spaces were closed, the art world was putting their artworks online, and there was nostalgia for being in a physical exhibition space. And I was thinking back to the conceptual art of the ‘60s and ‘70s and how the idea was more important than the object. The idea of moving from the fixation with the art object, into a space of ideas, hasn’t really evolved since.

If we are closing galleries and exhibition spaces, then the ideas should really be able to live on. There was this dissonance around the art object’s importance and that the object carries ideas beyond the fact that it is an object. Some of the online interventions were trying to recreate the exhibition space. I felt like we were missing an opportunity to push the idea introduced by conceptual artists many years ago.

Whereas the music scene has always been able to adapt to every technological change without losing its essence. Art, on the other hand, seems stuck technologically, it doesn’t move.

SWI: I fear that it is hampered by the market.

K.M.: Yes, but the thing about the market is that it’s such a small group of people.

SWI: But it’s often the way that art gets in the public eye.

K.M.: We need to find a way out, no? Otherwise, we have to accept that things don’t move.

Edited by Eduardo Simantob

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Nanaimo lawn bowler turns sport's 'bowls' into art | CTV News – CTV News VI

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NANAIMO, B.C. –

Judy MacNeal will never forget the first day she tried lawn bowling.

She learned that the balls were called bowls, and that they didn’t roll straight. And then, one of the members of the Nanaimo Lawn Bowling Club threw Judy a metaphorical curve ball.

“She said, ‘Maybe you could paint a little flower on there,’” Judy says, recalling the woman pointing to her bowl.

The woman wondered if Judy could put a blossom on an old bowl after hearing that Judy had had a career in graphic design that began with creating pages as a paste-up artist for Sears catalogues during the late 1960s.

“You got all the little photographs and you had to cut them out with scissors and stick them on with rubber cement glue,” Judy recalled.

The pre-computer design process sounds similar to Judy’s post-game bowl transformation.

Instead of simply painting a little flower on the sports equipment, Judy used clay to turn the bowl into a bountiful bouquet.

“You have to make each petal out of clay, paint it, and stick it on,” Judy laughs, simplifying a creative process that can take up to 15 hours.

Judy was so inspired by covering that first bowl with bespoke flowers, she threw a curve ball of her own, after seeing a shed-full of used bowls at the club that were destined for the dump.

“I took home 120 bowls!” Judy laughs.

Judy set-up a studio in her garage, where she proved to be a prolific bowl painter.

“They were a good thing to have on hand during the pandemic,” Judy laughs.

Judy has painted about 80 bowls so far, ranging from blond bowls (Marilyn Monroe), to dog bowls (a pair of bull dogs), to Christmas bauble bowls (Santa Clause and a nativity scene).

Dozens of others (including bejewelled mandalas) were given as gifts to friends and family.

“I have about 35 to 40 (unpainted) bowls left,” Judy says before laughing. “Then (the club’s) shed will have to be cleaned out again!”

Perhaps Judy will use her catalogue-creating skills to sell them. After being bowled-over by the pleasure of making them, she has no intention to throw another curve ball and stop.

“I’ve learned to do your own thing,” Judy smiles. “And make yourself happy by doing it.”  

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New show at Art Gallery Kimberley | Kimberley – E-Know.ca

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Second Chance – Journey to the Butterfly: soapstone sculptures, flipstones, drawings and paintings that invite contact, interaction, and introspection.

Born on the prairies, Barbara Maye found herself moving and travelling as a nomadic seeker for decades. But when she hugged her first Giant Cedar near Radium in 2005, she knew she had finally found home in B.C.

Inspired by Indigenous beliefs from around the globe, and the spiritual wisdom of healing energies both in our bodies and in entities of nature, Barbara’s artworks acknowledge the origins; wood as tree, stone as mountain, and body as spirit.

As a multimedia artist, sculptor, and art instructor based in Revelstoke, Barbara has dedicated more than 20 years to creating art that invites contact, interaction, and introspection. By presenting close-up perspectives of figural movement, pure abstraction and objects from nature, her method invites the passive observer to interact and self-identify with the art.

This summer, Barbara is presenting not one, but two art exhibitions in Kimberley. After a successful solo art exhibition at the Centre 64 Gallery where she filled the main gallery with her soapstone sculptures and paintings, Barbara’s journey continues with a completely new art exhibition at Art Gallery Kimberley.

“Second Chance – Journey to the Butterfly” will feature Barbara’s soapstone sculptures, as well as multi-media/multi-genre paintings and drawings inspired by the story of soapstone.

According to Barbara, soapstone is the result of a metamorphosis. “Like the transformation to a butterfly inside the chrysalis, soapstone undergoes a complete physical restructuring when the correct environmental conditions are present. The resulting rock is coloured uniquely by the minerals present and the flow of the molten experience. It is understandable why many honour soapstone for its healing properties associated with openness, flexibility, communication, imagination, and change,” said Barbara.

Emulating this rolling, molten formation, Barbara created her innovative Flipstones, which are interactive sculptures that you are encouraged to pick up, examine closely, and ‘flip’ into a new resting position. By changing the position of the Flipstones, you shift the initial perspective for the next person and create an ever-changing art exhibition.

“When carving stone, I am deeply aware of the release of energy stored in the stones over millennia,” said Barbara. “My free-form style of carving is a co-creation process with the stone, during which my role is to help the stone take a new form

to express itself. I see myself as merely a channel for creative energy to flow through.”

Barbara uses soapstone dust and rock chips from her carving studio to create rich textures in her paintings. This texture can be found in her Landscape paintings – which are memories of locations visited in search of soapstone; her Lava Study paintings exploring the stones’ metamorphosis; and in the Emergence series paintings, where she expresses the euphoria of post-transformation.

Immediately after graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction, Barbara studied with Chaka Chikodzi, a Zimbabwean Canadian master stone carver. He taught her the Shona people’s way to carve; approach the rocks with respect and no expectations then co-create the form intuitively. This ignited a passion for stone carving and the free-form style Barbara practices to this day.

Deeply influenced by the generous teachings of Noreen E. Saddleback of the Samson Cree Nation and Elder Bart Thomas, Splatsin Band, Guardian and Knowledge Keeper of the Secwepemc First Nation, Barbara’s artworks respectfully explore Nature for the arcane wisdom she holds.

It took 10 years to realize Barbara’s dream of harvesting stone directly from the land to carve, but Mark McKay, a retired carver and prospecting took her on a mentorship in the mountains surrounding Revelstoke. Understanding the tectonics (earth processes) that form soapstone, locating and respectfully harvesting the raw stone and the original locations of the rocks all inform the creation process of Barbara’s abstract sculptures – some carved into Flipstones and some in the traditional pedestal style.

When asked what she enjoys most about creating art, Barbara says “I think what I like most about art are the gifts found in the ‘happy accidents.’ If we can stay open minded during the creative process, a mistake can be a generous reward. It’s how the Flipstones came to be. I was carving a large stone and at the very end, it broke into five pieces. Yes I was upset, but it taught me about stone fractures, and acceptance that the stones were in charge. Later I picked up those pieces and turned them into multiple-position, interactive sculptures … and the concept of interplay and changing perspectives is the language of my work today.“

Barbara says the greatest challenge she faces during the creation of her art is her mind getting in the way. “I try to approach my work like meditation, keeping my critical mind quiet. But overthinking and self-criticism are my nemesis. The techniques I discover and practice to overcome this challenge are the methods I teach in my art classes.”

As an art instructor, Barbara strives to make the language of art more attainable to everyone. She began teaching while in university and continues today as a freelance and on-line instructor of primarily adult art education classes in several media. Barbara’s teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that anyone, given a fresh perspective, can recapture their creative voice.

“I think my greatest pride as an artist comes from teaching; seeing the opening in a student as they recognize their creative self; sharing what I have learned in my own creative journey; and the genuine friendships that have evolved from the classroom,” said Barbara. “I have many students who have continued classes with me for years, just to keep their practice going, and several who have gone on to exhibit and sell their work as much better artists than me. It’s so rewarding to be a small piece of their growth.”

Barbara’s exhibition will be in the art gallery from August 3 to 27. The art gallery will be participating in this year’s Columbia Basin Culture Tour on August 6 and 7.

As part of this tour, Barbara will be presenting a slide show on Abstract Art and she will set up art creation stations introducing visitors to: Upside Down Drawing; Drawing on our Senses; Surrealist Inspired Abstraction; and Fauvist Inspired Abstraction. More information can be found at artgallerykimberley.com.

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Art, not arch, proposed for downtown Collingwood – CollingwoodToday.ca

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After an overarching negative response to a proposed archway in downtown Collingwood, the local business association is proposing public art instead. 

A report from Downtown Collingwood Business Improvement Area (BIA) general manager Susan Nicholson headed to council on Aug. 8 proposes a gateway feature, that is not an archway, to be designed and chosen through the use of the town’s existing public art policy. 

This new approach, states Nicholson’s report, is meant to provide an attraction that encourages customers downtown without losing the federal grant of $215,000 earmarked for the archway project. 

The proposed archway was presented to council in early March 2022. The design showed two tall poles with a black metal archway between spanning Hurontario Street at the intersection with First Street/Huron Street. On the arch were white letters reading “Historic Downtown Collingwood” on one side and “Historic Harbourfront Collingwood,” on the other. The idea, according to the BIA, was to help people find the downtown and encourage them to turn onto Hurontario Street. 

The proposal was immediately and vehemently rejected by public opinion. Letters to CollingwoodToday.ca decried it as an eyesore and the BIA received dozens of emails and submissions opposing the design and concept of an archway in the downtown. 

A public survey put out by the town in April received nearly twice as many responses as the 2022 town budget survey with 727 responses to the archway survey and 529 of them (72.8 per cent) against an archway altogether. 

Town council was also bombarded with opposition from residents culminating to a meeting on May 30 when Mayor Keith Hull (then acting mayor) said he was surprised by the ferocity of the response to the archway. 

At the May 30 meeting, council told the BIA and town staff to go back to the drawing board to find a different way to spend the $215,000 federal grant. 

Nicholson’s proposal to use the town’s Public Art Policy to commission a gateway feature that is not an arch is in response to council’s May order.

Based on a plan approved by the BIA board, the process for the public art gateway feature, if it is approved by council, would begin with planning by an ad-hoc committee to come up with a budget and theme with an invitation to the community to participate on the committee. 

Later there would be a call to artists, a selection process with interviews, and, ultimately, the installation of the piece. 

There would be a public art working group selected for the project including town staff, BIA, community members, and representatives from the Collingwood Museum, the historical society, and the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts. 

The BIA’s goal is to move quickly through the process to have a final design and artist contracted by the end of January 2023. The federal grant must be spent on a project that is substantially complete by March 31, 2023.

If council approves this approach to commissioning a gateway feature that will double as public art, the BIA will be asking the town to cover a loss of $35,350 spent to design and commission the former arch design. 

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