1989 seems to have been established as a key date in the understanding, comprehension and analysis of the various narratives that conformed present time. A date that is seen as a closure, starting point, rupture or hinged for political, social, economic and symbolic relevant events. 1989 is also the date chosen by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets as a way point for 89plus project: an archive of artists, architects, thinkers, writers, designers, filmmakers and practitioners from any field whose requisite is to have been born in or after 1989. A project that soon we could know more about in ARCOmadrid 2014, through the Professional Meeting that Obrist and Castets will direct during the development of the fair.
ILM: I would like to start with the beginning, how and when did you start the 89plus project?
SC/HUO: We met in Yokohama for the first time four years ago, at the Triennale. The 89plus project started in 2012 when our conversations intensified with several meetings we had in London, Basel, Venice, Hong Kong…. We have put out an open call for creative practitioners in all fields (artists, writers, architects, filmmakers, musicians, scientists, technologists etc.) to upload a submission to www.89plus.com. The only rule is that they must be born in or after 1989. The submissions accepted on an on going basis, and are kept on a private research database. Periodically, we go through the submissions and select people for different iterations of the 89plus project, such as exhibitions, residencies or panels. We receive dozens of submissions each day, and we get in contact and meet with as many of them as possible. We also receive invaluable recommendations from friends and colleagues, and do research trips to different parts of the world to meet with young practitioners and discuss their work face to face.
ILM: You have chosen the date of 1989 as the central point of your project. It was a year in which different events changed the appreciation of the world in a radical way. For example, the fall of Berlin Wall, the end of some Communists regimes in Europe, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini or the repression of Tiananmen Square protests. How these events could be related to this project?
SC/HUO: They are not directly related; their main influence is that they shaped the world we lived now. 1989 is a massive turning point. It is not a random date, the world changed in a global way. We have to think that half of the global population born that year or after it. You mentioned Europe, Asia, Middle East, but also we are working in Africa, doing some research and it was also a turning point. Mandela was freed from jail in early 1990, marking the beginning of the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.
ILM: Yes, and there are also other particular events, of a social and technological kind, such as the use of personal computers as domestic devices and the beginning of World Wide Web.
SC/HUO: The progressive introduction of the Internet in daily life through different devices is a paradigm shift of similar magnitude to the Gutenberg revolution. People who are born with access to the Internet are bound to have a different relationship to information, its aggregation and its distribution, and this undoubtedly has ripple effects in creative practices. It’s so exciting to see these relationships reflected in the work of young practitioners, who are at the very beginning of their careers.
ILM: In the artistic field, 1989 is a year defined by two very important exhibitions: Les Magiciens de la Terre at Centre Georges Pompidou, curated by Jean Hubert Martin; and The Other Story in Hayward Gallery, curated by Rasheed Araeen. Both of them attempted to engage with the colonial and post-colonial past and set out to create a show that confronted ordinary world’s ethnocentrism. In some ways, they changed the way of understanding the artistic geographies from then on.
SC/HUO: A key influence we have on this project is Edouard Glissant and his idea of “mondialité” and polyphone of centres. It is very urgent that Glissant’s works are comprehensively translated into Spanish. Glissant saw early that art in the 21st Century would be about a polyphonic archipelago. The logic of the archipelago is more welcoming and sheltering for us. Also the idea of “mondialité” enables to engage on global dialogues, producing difference and resisting homogenizing globalization. This was the model for “Cities On the Move”, for example.
ILM: Curating a project conducted by generational arguments could pose several issues. It could be read as a statement for a break up in the notions and the understandings of the context, also for the politics and the aesthetics that surround us.
SC/HUO: The project is indeed generationally grounded but at the same time open ended — it is a long-term project, as we aim at embracing the shift in creative practices stemming from a technological revolution. We are only at the very early stages. The 89 constraint is quasi-Oulipian, and therefore opens up to unforeseen possibilities, yet is based on a reality one cannot ignore.
ILM: What it’s going to be seen of 89plus in ARCOmadrid 2014?
SC/HUO: We will be doing a professional meeting with Spanish artists and we are very much looking forward to doing research in Madrid. As over 50 per cent of Spain’s population born in or after 1989 is out of work, double the European average, there is a pressing need for opportunities. Often throughout art history, times of economic distress gave birth to the most groundbreaking creative movements.
Hans Ulrich Obrist was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1968. Since 2006, he has been the Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, London. Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Paris. He has co-curated over 250 exhibitions since his first exhibition, the Kitchen show (World Soup) in 1991. In 2012, Obrist co-curated the following exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery: Jonas Mekas; Hans-Peter Feldmann; Yoko Ono TO THE LIGHT and Thomas Schütte Faces & Figures.The Marathon series of public events was conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist in Stuttgart in 2005. The inaugural Serpentine series, the Interview Marathon was conducted by Obrist and architect Rem Koolhaas with Julia Peyton-Jones in 2006. Now in its seventh year, the latest edition was the Serpentine Gallery Memory Marathon held in 2012.
Obrist has also co-curated the following international projects: 12 Rooms at Museum Folkwang, Essen; To the Moon via the Beach, LUMA Foundation, Arles; Lina Bo Bardi, Casa de Vidro, Sao Paulo and A call for unrealized projects, DAAD, Berlin.
His recent publications include The future will be…China Edition, Brief History of Curating, Ai Wei Wei Speaks, along with new volumes of his selected interviews.
Simon Castets is based in New York, where he works as an independent curator. He holds an MA in Curatorial Studies from Columbia University (New York) and a MA in Cultural Management from Sciences Po (Paris). Recent projects include a solo exhibition of Sarah Ortmeyer at Federico Vavassori, Milan, the group exhibitions Cherry Picking at Karma International, Zurich, A Stone Left Unturned at Yvon Lambert, Paris, and Aftermath at Taka Ishii Gallery, Kyoto. With Julie Boukobza & Nicola Trezzi, he co-curated the group exhibition Champs Elysées, currently on view at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. With Hans Ulrich Obrist, a co-founded 89plus, a series of exhibitions, publications, and panel conversations about the generation of artists born in 1989 and after.
Iván López Munuera (Madrid, Spain, 1980). Is an independent curator and critic. He explores the inscription of Contemporary Art in the critical context of the social sciences and mass media studies. He has realized labours of curator, documentation and management in institutions like Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, ACAX (Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange), Ludwig Museum, CA2M, Matadero Madrid, ARCOmadrid, MAPFRE Foundation, Comunidad de Madrid, Fundació Suñol, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo or Instituto Complutense de Ciencias Musicales. Nowadays, he teaches in IE University and has been tutor of ‘Contemporary Art in Latin-America’ at Georgetown University. He has curated, among other exhibitions, ‘Pop Politics: Activisms at 33 Revolutions’ (CA2M, 2012-2013), ‘El Ranchito’ (Matadero, 2010-2012), ‘Circuitos MMX’ (Comunidad de Madrid, 2010) or ‘Los Esquizos de Madrid’ (MNCARS, 2009; Fundació Suñol, 2009; CAAC, 2010).