Becky Campbell, Curious Artefacts, The Artwall / Athens Project Space
The photograph above shows finds from a Shipwreck near Antickythera Island, Greece, taken after the excavation and it was presented in the periodical exhibition “Antickythera Shipwreck” held at The National Archaeological Museum in Athens in 2012. This photograph was the starting point of Becky Campell’s poetic concept for Curious Artefacts, an exhibition-excavation of contemporary art objects.
Eighty artists, architects, designers and writers were invited to contribute experiments, finished works, found images, found objects, maquettes, notes, photographs, sketches, texts and works-in-progress that would be arranged at the exhibition spaces on tables and walls, resembling and referencing objects of interest and curiosity coming either from an archaeological excavation or a flea market…
Curious Artefacts will be hosted at The Artwall exhibition space in Athens from 16 September until 14 October 2015.
Becky Campbell talked to Eleni Zymaraki Tzortzi about this exciting project, the concept behind it and her expectations and also about her stay in Athens, her work as an artist and curator and her course in the art world in general.
E.Z. Curious Artefacts’ starting point was a photograph of archaeological finds not yet fully understood or categorized.
Is it liberating for an artist not to have to explain and categorize his work?
BC:I know that with my own work I can look at certain pieces – finished pieces or studio works – retrospectively and comprehend something that was unclear at the time of making. Not having to tie works to words, giving them time to develop is so important within the studio for artists. These lingering thoughts often only stay within the artist’s studio and are edited out into certainty for the final work so it has been exciting to build a show on the premise of things not fully understood. What I was especially interested with during the exploration of gathering artefacts for “Curious Artefacts” was the speculative and expansive conversations that come from speaking about objects directly in front of the participant and me. The conversations would often go to the outer reaches of their practice. Allowing that space for exploration within an artists’ work can be extremely productive in moving forward. Those conversations were able to be so broad because of there not being clearly delineated categorizations already in place for many of the artefacts.
E.Z. What about the audience – contemporary art is often unapproachable, conceptual and exclusive; is it easier for the audience to approach and connect with a work of art that does not have a specific meaning or concept or theory along with it?
BC: There has to be something that generates a guttural response: sometimes it is a hard hit and at other times a slow, creeping fixation. Art that is more difficult to grasp needs to give me something to tag onto and follow, it has to stir curiosity. Also some work needs time. I don’t believe that everything needs to be understood immediately or even quickly; some of the most powerful art demands hard work from the audience. Ultimately great work affects us whether we fully comprehend it or not. Maybe it will only be quite a long time after experiencing a work that we realise it has affected us.
E.Z. At the exhibition the artefacts will be arranged like ‘objects at a flea-market or a cabinet of curiosities’.
What role does the context play when exhibiting contemporary works of art? does the work alters when the context of its exhibition alters?
BC: The most influential encounters I have had with works have had something special in their relationship to their context. Being able to experience a work extending beyond its own physical parameters into the context of its physical or theoretical surroundings adds an underlying layer of sensitivity or nuance. I am excited by works that increase my sensory awareness, either happening instantly whilst with the work – noticing the architecture of the place, suddenly becoming aware of the temperature at one’s wrists – or we may notice something later on the next day as a result of a new shift in perception from the sensitivity encouraged from a work.
E.Z. Could you discuss further the main comment you intend to make with the concept and the layout of Curious Artefacts?
BC:I aim for “Curious Artefacts” to create a scenario for explorative curiosity as an instigator for increased awareness and continued discussion, with the artefacts and the relationships they make as the starting point. The discussions and connections I have made with the participants have been tangible and dynamic. This show is a pause on an ongoing and expansive process of connections between the artefacts, the participants, viewers on-line and to the show. The limits of possibilities of connection are beyond comprehension.
E.Z. Becky, talk to us about you – who is the person behind Curious Artefacts?
BC: I trained in drawing and painting at Edinburgh College of Art, moving smoothly into installation work by the end of my undergraduate then into small scale sculpture during my MFA in Intermedia. Since then I have continued to make mostly small works and to draw on paper or directly onto walls. I also gather artefacts and materials and re-arrange or modify them. There is a blur between the way I lay out my studio and how I arrange works for exhibitions. There is always a sensitivity and obsessive quality I am aiming for in my work, as well as creating something hinting at beauty with a glimpse of something to pull back from, something that is captivating and seductive yet resistant. My curatorial practice is moving closer and closer to my practice as an artist. “Curious Artefacts” has been partly about bringing together artefacts that I personally want to ponder further; things that inspire continued dialogue and wonder, an increased sensory perception.
E.Z. You come from Scotland and you have been living in Athens since 2012. I would love to see Athens and its people through your eyes…
BC: The dry softness of the palette of Athens versus the harsh realities that softness tries to cover over, as well as a sense of being explorative and inquisitiveness all feel palpable to me. The longer I am here the more keenly I feel ingrained within a scene of artists and curators making projects with passion and dedication, at a time that creativity and expression is vital and powerful.
E.Z. Could you be more specific – If you had to describe Athens and its people to someone who has not been here, what would you say?
BC: Athens and its people are exhausted yet they still keep going: there is an underlying hope and energy that is crucial to survive. Athens is an incredibly diverse city with so many different facets: the longer I am in Athens the more sides I see. There is also openness to discussion here that I had never experienced before: conversations that continue for hours, and debates that can become very heated yet everyone leaves the table still friends. The influence of such direct and open discussion is powerful.
Curator: Becky Campbell
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