GAMeC_Spazio Zero - photo credit è di Giorgio Benni

GAMeC_Spazio Zero – photo credit è di Giorgio Benni

Valentina Gervasoni interviews Sam Korman (independent curator and writer), the winner of  Premio Lorenzo Bonaldi per l’Arte – EnterPrize 2014.

Valentina Gervasoni: Mississippi it is not only an exhibition but also a kind of journey, a itinerary, in the same way that Giacomo Costantino Beltrami has done to discover the head of the american river in 19th century. After the win of your project at Bonaldi Prize, this journey is started also for you, and this is your second time in Bergamo. Which objects are following your moves? What have you kept with you for your coming in Italy? (I’ve glimpsed a skateboard, for example…) 

Sam Korman: Before I answer these questions, I want to discuss the link between Mississippi,  the exhibition and the explorer from Bergamo who supposedly discovered the actual river’s headwaters in Minnesota. During the early 19th century, several men claimed to have found the source, but regardless of the historical conflict surrounding this subject, the link couldn’t have been farther from my mind while organizing the show. The exhibition’s title originates in Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, in which the Mississippi is a place of change, conversation, flux, and freedom from the social mores and politics of the American South. I can say that if you do want to use Beltrami as any kind of reference point, it would be in this exhibition’s ability to embrace accident; and, with regard to the site-specificity that this coincidental association might suggest, I would proffer an alternative: my thinking about the title also began as a joke (not unlike the humor that is found in Huckleberry Finn), that it would be funny to call a show in Italy Mississippi.

To answer the second half of the question…or the actual question part: yes, it’s now my second time in Bergamo. It seems like the hills surrounding the city are bigger than I remember. Doesn’t memory usually work the other way around? Maybe it’s indicative of the type of visit I am making: I visited for a week last time; I’ve moved here for almost 4 months this time. But I came here to work and so I would rather keep my personal articles and life out of the public discussion of the exhibition. It’s more a question of making and continuing relationships with the community here and I don’t want to place too many expectations on that. Ask me when it’s over. And the skateboard might have something to do with the community and public/private thing, too. It’s important to remember everything isn’t meant for everyone. So, if anyone wants to talk to me, come find find me at GAMeC. I would much prefer to have a conversation here.

VG.: I think that Mississippi it is a kind of itinerary exhibition, but the word “itinerary”, in this case, means that the stage are not in different cities or in different spaces, but it’s being a work in progress, it is a temporal itinerary… 

SK.: I would not use the word itinerary, because it implies a particular destination, even in time. Yes, there is a schedule, one artist arrives, works, leaves, and then another artist arrives, works, leaves. And they all work in the same space. But beyond that, what happens is rather open. Let’s say it is a venturing through or an investment in time. Both of these imply a level of risk and that is what is exciting about this exhibition. At the same time, it also requires a level of trust and responsibility, to respect that risk and ensure that it is somehow productive – not necessarily in a post-Fordist, always-working, spectacle-of-labor sense, where time is the way we promote and regulate production; but rather that it returns some of the generosity and humanity to an exhibition and activates time through these relationships. And this is required on all levels – time taken by artist, viewer, curator, institution, etc. It’s itinerant, but with an ethos. Anarchic, but also human.

VG.: In the last weeks, some materials for the exhibition are already arrived. Could you give us a preview about the first steps that the artists and you will do here?

SK.: No previews. It would be a lie to say that we haven’t discussed what might happen, but really we won’t know until end of the show. So, readers, you don’t get to know before we do. You just have to come see things as they develop. I ain’t tellin’.

VG.: Why do you have chosen these artists?

SK.: The ongoing theme of my answers revolves around trust. I’m putting them on the spot and that is a hard proposition to make. The exhibition takes some control and privacy out of the artists’ hands – it’s a bit more revealing. But, I would not have done it if I didn’t think it was going to lead to something worthwhile for them, the exhibition, and the audience.

Each of these artists’ work is somewhat aesthetically complimentary, but Mississippi doesn’t really have a theme. I asked Jacob, Elaine, Josh, and David to participate, because I believe in their work, practice and ideas. And I respect them. So, I wanted to give them the resources to make work in a new context geographically, temporally, and socially – each for specific reasons. I’m very excited to see how it all happens.

Mark Twain's The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn

Elaine Cameron-Weir -  courtesy of the artist

Elaine Cameron-Weir – courtesy of the artist

Josh Tonsfeldt - courtesy of the artist and Rowhouse Project,   Baltimore

Josh Tonsfeldt – courtesy of the artist and Rowhouse Project, Baltimore

Premio Lorenzo Bonaldi per l’Arte – EnterPrize, 7th Edition: Mississippi

3 October 2014 to 11 January 2015  — Curated by: Sam Korman

Artists: Elaine Cameron-Weir, Jacob Kassay, David Knowles, Josh Tonsfeldt