Kadist Art Foundation’s Zhou Tao show – interview with Emilie Villez & Léna Monnier

by Chris Moore 墨虎恺
translated by Gu Ling 顾灵

“The Training”, Zhou Tao’s solo exhibition.

Kadist Art Foundation (19 bis-21 rue des Trois Frères F-75018 Paris ) Feb  2–Apr 14, 2013

Kadist Art Foundation is one of a small but influential group of art foundations redefining ways of supporting art making. Among KAF’s strengths are time based art projects, such as video, tied to residency programs in Paris and San Francisco, and with strong curatorial support.

Chris Moore: What is Kadist? 

Emilie Villez & Léna Monnier: Kadist is a private foundation that hopes to encourage the contribution of the arts to society. Our programs – residencies, exhibitions and events – are based on the collection and oriented towards production. We try to work within our local contexts through close collaborations with artists, curators and art institutions worldwide.

CM: What is the connection between Kadist’s two homes, in Paris and San Francisco?

EV&LM: Kadist first started as a collection without a space, and still tries to stay a mobile institution. Kadist Paris opened in 2006 and Kadist San Francisco in 2011.

We conduct similar programs, for example residencies. Paris and San Francisco both contribute to the collection.

CM: And what about China – have you visited?

Zhou Tao, “The Training,” exhibition view, 2013
周滔,展览场景, 2013

EV&LM: Since Kadist San Francisco’s inauguration, we have developed a special relationship with China, firstly through the collection. Hou Hanru, who was Director of Exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Institute, is an adviser of the collection.

Then in 2012 we organized an exhibition of the Kadist collection, curated by Inti Guerrero, artistic director of TEOR/éTica, Costa Rica, at the Minsheng Art Museum of Shanghai.

Xiaoyu Weng worked with Inti Guerrero on that project. She is in charge of Asia Programs at Kadist. She also contributes to the collection with proposals of emerging Asian artists.

CM: Your recent Paris exhibition involved films by Zhou Tao. What were the origins of the exhibition?

EV&LM: The residency program is a way to support and collaborate with artists, whose work is part of the collection, by producing a new piece. We were already familiar with the work of Zhou Tao and had two films in the collection.

CM: One of the films, “After Reality,” draws connections or parallels between Guangzhou and Paris. What is the nature of those connections?

EV&LM: It was really interesting to see Zhou Tao’s process of editing on this film. When he arrived in Paris, he already had a first edit of images shot in Guangzhou. Then, he started to film in Paris and to insert images into the existing edit. It was as if he was trying to stretch or to extend spaces filmed in China.

Through that process, he was actually building a third space, the one of the film, composed by different chosen moments coming from Guangzhou or Paris. Sometimes, it is hard to say where an image has been shot, except that the vegetation, and climatic conditions give you clues.

Zhou Tao shows how human presence marks its territory and how urban populations remain dependent on nature.

Zhou Tao, “After Reality,” 13’08”, 2013
周滔,” 现实后”, HD视频, 13’08”, 2013

CM: How are liminal or marginal urban spaces, such as those that Zhou depicts, relevant to identity, whether local or international?

EV&LM: In an interview we made with Zhou Tao, he says:

“I was interested in the way people arrange and organize their living environment. Parisians and Europeans share different notions of gardens and landscapes with [sic] the ones we have in China. Once you enter into a Chinese garden you tend to disappear. You get lost in the scenery but the gardens in Paris are more ornamental and show a kind of relationship to the notion of a garden that is straight and clear. For me, it’s a confrontation, and some of my performances are related to it. The fact that people like to plan and control the environment helped me to find a way to dialogue with the landscape. This relationship had some influence on my performances.”

CM: Do you think Chinese art is still largely seen as a niche in the West? Or worse, a ghetto or cul-de-sac?

EV&LM: Regarding the program, we always try to focus more the artistic proposal than on the artist’s nationality, in order to escape possible clichés. The residency offers time for discussion with artists. We prefer to discover during that experience, what it means to be “Chinese” and what concepts or references can be evoked in the artwork or art production that can refer to this identity, rather than to speak of “Chinese art,” which could mean a form of essentialism.

Kadiview with Zhou Tao from Kadist Paris on Vimeo.

CM: How do you deal with issues and histories of nationalism and imperialism, on both sides?

EV&LM: Our role is to create links between artists, art scenes and the audience. The more we work with artists coming from different regions, the more we can rethink our own political, social, historical and geographical vision.

Exchange and collaboration are key words. Our upcoming residents Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma are curators at Clark House Initiative — a space they created in Bombay. During their residency they will realize an exhibition in Paris and we will work together on a curatorial project for their space in India, using the Kadist collection as a starting point. The idea is not to impose our vision of what is Western art, but to elaborate with them a choice of artworks, artists, projects, which could be relevant for their space and their audience.

CM: How can we situate Zhou Tao’s work in a broader international context of video art? And how can we not?

EV&LM: Zhou Tao’s work is not about video as a medium. This work is based on performance and circulates both in exhibitions and festivals, which shows that you can have different readings of it.

Interview with Emilie Villez and Léna Monnier by email, March 2013.

Note: Founded by Vincent Worms in 2007, the founder-director of Kadist Paris is Sandra Terdjman. Emilie Villez recently became the new director of Kadist Paris, while Joseph del Pesco is Kadist San Francisco’s director. The foundation’s advisory committee includes leading art curators and museum directors, among them Jens Hoffmann and Hou Hanru.

Kadist Art Foundation
19 bis-21 rue des Trois Frères
F-75018 Paris
Tel. +33 1 42 51 83 49

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