Interview with Jeanne Graff — ANGELIC SISTERS

This church is also known for its exceptional acoustic - Maria Callas used to make disc recordings there - that’s why I wanted to organize performances and concerts.
8 Maggio 2015

  • Mai-Thu Perret- Figures- in Angelic Sisters, courtesy 186f Kepler
  • Jeanne Graff, portrait by Mathilde Agius
  • Anne Imhof- Rage, courtesy 186f Kepler
  • Stefan Tcherepnin, Angel Music; scarf pattern #1, courtesy 186f Kepler
  • John Armleder, pattern for a necktie, courtesy the artist and 186f Kepler
  • A detail of Chiesa di San Paolo Converso's altar, a view from the exhibition’s space through the grid on the CLS architetti’s studio - formerly the space devoted to the nuns’s use, courtesy 186f Kepler
  • John Armleder, Astro 5, 2013-2014-2015 photo by Mathilde Agius

Angelic Sisters is an exhibition composed by a series of performances organized by the swiss no-profit institution 186f Kepler in Milan’s Chiesa di San Paolo Converso, a deconsecrated church dating from the XVI century, now hosting the studio of CLS Architetti.

Matteo Mottin asked some questions to Jeanne Graff, who curated the project.

Matteo Mottin: The exhibition space alone is a must-see. How did you manage to turn a baroque deconsecrated church into an exhibition space?

Jeanne Graff: I’m always working according to the circumstances: this show has been thought with the artists in response to this very particular place, a baroque church from the XVI century and its adjoining convent for the Angelic Sisters Order that has disappeared about tow hundreds years ago. This church is also known for its exceptional acoustic – Maria Callas used to make disc recordings there –  that’s why I wanted to organize performances and concerts. The exhibition, that will be there all summer long, is very simple, meant not to compete with its decors – the baroque architecture and the wallpainting made more than 400 years ago by the Fratelli Campi – but lighting it in a bit different way, as for example with this LED and laser installation by John Armleder, or Mai-Thu Perret’s hanging spiral neon. I’ve been working last week in New York with Stefan Tcherepnin and Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE on a sound installation that they are currently finishing before installing it in the show in a few days. They actually met for the first time last week, we went to the studio, and it has been working really good, sometimes it does!

MM: Which criteria did you follow for the artists’ selection? 

JG: I’m working with all these artists since few years now. We spend a lot of time together, traveling together, discussing, having walks: this I usually do with Stefan Tcherepnin in New York, we have our small habits – it’s a very quiet working environment. I’ve started to do a series of ongoing exhibitions with John Armleder two years ago, and somehow we’ve never stopped… I’m in a band with Stefan Tcherepnin, that’s how we’ve started working together. I know Mai-Thu Perret since many years, she did the neon sign for the Restaurant in Basel for example. I see her often and we meet regularly with John Armleder in Geneva in this tea-room where he daily goes. I met Anne Imhof two years ago, we did several shows together since then. The artists also have known each other since many years – Genesis BREYER P-ORRIDGE and John Armleder have met in the 70’s, Anne Imhof and Stefan Tcherepnin have been collaborating together already before. They all have a particular approach to the performance in their work. It was then natural to invite them for this exhibition. It’s an ongoing conversation that will continue in the future.

MM: Can you introduce us to your curatorial practice and to 186f Kepler?

JG: I’ve been concerned with finding a form of a working structure and space that makes sense to me as a curator and to the artists I’m working with. If we should create a new institution in 2014, which form would it have? It started for me with this question last year.

“In some ways the exhibition space or the fair stall is already somewhat dislocated from the city in which it exists and is linked more to past present and future incarnations of itself in other points throughout the world. Those spaces linked together create a new kind of virtuality that could be understood as a continuous interiority where one loses track of time and space. What links these spaces together is maybe the names by which we call them and perhaps also the people that we meet within them. People who might work there or be passing through those places in the same rhythm as we do. So does 186f Kepler seek to reproduce this kind of existence and its undefined borders in a more self-conscious way?” It’s an excerpt of a text I wrote with the architect Sony Devabahktuni and I think it describes pretty good an atmosphere around 186f Kepler, or it’s a good start.

186f Kepler tries to response to the intensity of the movings of the art world and its public, and to the hectic exchanges of the globalized information’s flux; a network composed by an infinity of invisible connections, which centre would be impossible to locate geographically. Its structure reflects also what makes the particularity of Europe today, composed by a pendulum crowd, which constantly travels back and forth between its cities,  which borders are even less clearly defined.

MM: You also worked on a publication for the show. How will it be structured? What’s its role in the economy of the exhibitions?

JG: The goal of this entity is to create a workspace, operating independently and following its own temporality. Each exhibitions – that has last untill now from three days up to one year – functions with its own and specific non-for-profit economy, according to its context. 186f Kepler’s architecture has taken the shape of a restaurant run by artists in Basel, of an historical “bar de nuit” in Paris,  a fake fair booth in a cellar in New York, and now of a deconsecrated church in Milan, used as an exhibition and performance’s space: those places are composing an architecture that is inspired of the collage’s system. They are linked together with a story that I’m currently writing, one chapter for each exhibition, among many other things…

I’m really interested in this cohabitation with the CLS studio, that is allowed by this very special architecture: the church is split in two parts, formally one for the nuns, one for the public mass. It’s now half office, half exhibition space. I’ve never done that before. I’m interested in sharing spaces, how a space can be inhabited, adding other layers to a space, or in the Airb&b system. There are many different ways of doing this. I had a space for 9 years in Lausanne, then a second in Geneva, then a third in Basel, I had too many keys! So I wanted to think a bit differently. I was fascinated for example last year when I was in England, in the suburbs, by a restaurant, which was an English restaurant during the day, and a Greek restaurant at night. First I thought I’ve been mistaking going back there after a nice dinner for lunch, but it was the same address, it was just completely different at day and at night, the crowd, the atmosphere…

Massimiliano Locatelli, when he moved with his studio in this church last year wanted to have a busy space, and share it. He invited me last summer to do a show, and I thought it was perfect to try something new: CLS architetti is now hosting 186f Kepler. The show is financed by public and private funding, Pro Helvetia and the City of Geneva is supporting the Swiss artists, then we’ve been collaborating with Brioni, since I’ve met Brendan Mullane, its creative director few years ago and I have a great respect for the way he’s working, as he’s as well an admirer of John Armleder’s work since a long time; they are collaborating on a necktie together, with a pattern made by John Armleder: it’s right now being produced in Brioni’s workshop in Penne, to be ready for the opening. There will be an advertisement page in the publication with this necktie, as it was formerly often the case in catalogues, I always wanted to have an advertisement page in these small books. It’s somehow one more link to the reality next to these stories. And I think that it’s an interesting way of reflecting the show’s economy: a necktie!

MM: Are you working on any new project?

JG: The next show will be in Basel in June, with Juliana Huxtable, Marie Karlberg, Mai-Thu Perret and Anina Troesch, following the restaurant we did last year. This summer on Fire Island with a lawyer, curator, and currently also building a vodka company: a bar project where you will find the vodka she’s currently producing on the Lost Coast in Northern California and my uncle’s wine made by the Lake Geneva. I’m currently working on the importation’s rules from Switzerland to the US: so producing and importing your own supplies. In October a film screening and a talk by Sylvère Lotringer, three films, including Violent Femmes, a really great film he shot in New York in the late 90’s, very simple framing,  a mirror situation: with Catherine Robbe-Grillet from the back and Mlle Victoire face on, speaking to each other of their dominatrix practice, each in her own language, french and english. I was looking for a real cinema for this, so it will be hosted by Anthology Film Archives in New York, this building was originally built as a courthouse, a very particular space. We’ll go to Vietnam with Mai-Thu Perret at the end of the year.

May 8: 8pm // Stefan Tcherepnin

May 9: 5-9pm // Anne Imhof

May 10: 7.30pm // Mai-Thu Perret

May 10: 8.30pm // John Armleder

September 11: 9pm // Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

Stefan Tcherepnin,   Angel Music; scarf pattern #1,   courtesy 186f Kepler

Stefan Tcherepnin, Angel Music; scarf pattern #1, courtesy 186f Kepler

Anne Imhof- Rage,   courtesy 186f Kepler

Anne Imhof- Rage, courtesy 186f Kepler

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