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TEXTS

On artists' processes

Throughout the duration of the project In the Process of... texts have been written  by project artists as well as external collaborators. Published here they contribute with observations of our travels through the foggy realms of creative process and the making of art.

Coauthors Don’t Conclude Agreements

By Viktor Misiano*

The name of this exhibition was inspired by the line of John Ashbery and has several notional tiers important for understanding this project. First of all, Coauthors Don’t Conclude Agreements emphasises the obvious fact that the two artists tied by the matrimonial bonds — Nelya and Roman Korzhovs — for many years share their path in art. Personal and creative aspects of their multifaceted activity are inextricably intertwined, and the task of organizing these relations, and more over — to deplete them with any sort of contracts seems to be overwhelming and inappropriate.

However, a much more important aspect is that the creative work of both artists is an open-cycle system. It is their main concept: each of them shares his/her authorship (so demonstratively and brightly displayed in their works) with The Other One. Thus, Nelya Korzhova in her figurative paintings recreates the reality running back to the feature films frames, i. e., she shares her images with those of Michelangelo Antonioni, Jim Jarmusch, and Bernardo Bertolucci. In his turn, Roman Korzhov is basing his video works on the lengthy static documenting of a fragment of the reality. When switching on the camera, the artist cannot envision for sure, what exactly will happen in front of it: the reality becomes his coauthor. When exhibited side-by-side, the figurative canvases running back to the feature films frames, and videos resembling easel paintings form a certain “intersection of different languages”. Hence, the exhibition space becomes also a cinema hall: the

area is darkened, and the canvases are lit by the spot light.

At the same time, this “meeting between the languages” of Korzhovs does not come down to direct citing of the images or genre formats: such an approach would be an example of not the co-authorship, but of direct “borrowing”. That is why Nelya Korzhova, when putting the cinema images on the canvas, significantly transforms them, so that from the stop-frames of the great films they turn into art — the pieces of her authorship. Many of her artistic pieces are not directly linked to the cinematography, they were created based on real-life impressions. But such images are not organized as completely finished works, but rather as cut-out fragments of the non-existing movie. Meanwhile, Roman Korzhov does not limit himself to fixing the reality with a static camera, and the reality fragments he selects only seem to be random, but they are not. Working with the colours and hues, he brings his images up to the quality one could define as “fine art”. His visual sequences start looking like finished assemblages, provoking minds to search for some original pictorial source, which may not exist. In other words, Nelya Korzhova makes a movie by means of an easel painting, while Roman Korzhov creates paintings by means of video.

*The text was first published as foreword to Nelya and Roman Korzhovs' exhibition catalogue Coauthors Don’t Conclude Agreements at New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, 2023.

In the Process of Caring

By Maraya Takoniatis*

The moment an artist gives their work to an audience there is a snap. Suddenly, what has been preciously held by the artist’s worshipping attentiveness is catapulted on a new trajectory. The art object finds itself being thrown between greedy hands and flippant disregard — whisked away by eager theorists and art historians, put in the dock by the zealous art critic, and scrutinised endlessly by a procession of spectators. For many established artists, there is no hesitation to give one’s work to such chaos. Sharing one’s creative work is often driven by a desire to spark debate, to bring something new to attention, and to generously share what one has found intriguing enough to dedicate hours of their time.

 

As willing or perhaps natural it is for each artist to place their work in a public forum, this is rarely done lightly. Even those pieces designed to be spontaneous or improvised are held up by a sturdy scaffolding of meticulous planning. Artworks take form incrementally, through trials of process and a great deal of physical and conceptual labour. If one scoured through the visual diaries and piles of discarded ‘junk’ in the corners of artist studios, a treasury of archival material chronicling the creative process would be uncovered. And yet, it is very rare and often a great extension of trust to be given access to these lairs of production. Offhandedly, artists may keep their processes concealed—self-consciously attempting to safeguard the reverence of their final work from what could appear as a guiltily simple process.

 

Setting their own path, the collective In the Process of… maintains a common virtual platform that publicly shares the creative developments of ongoing projects. Far from leading audiences to believe that artworks spontaneously spawn into existence, the collective’s open presentation of process as the ground and heart of their creativity has shared equal importance to the presentation of the collective’s resolved works. For each of these ten artists, the role of process should not be judged as a mere set of productive means for a valued end. In the group’s philosophy, the creative act is grounded in a deep engagement with process as a constantly regenerating source of creativity. It is this shared emphasis on process in each individual’s way of working that has laid the foundation for the group’s collaborative exchanges

in the development of new and continuing projects.

 

The collective In the Process of… — consisting of co-founders John Carberry and Gustav Hellberg, as well as a selection of across-the globe contemporary artists — held its first group exhibition Startpunkt at the LUX gallery in Östersund, Sweden, last year. In addition to the collective’s private online space which functions as a virtual studio, the group manages a public

platform designed to share with audiences the transitory stages of each project’s development. Many of the works from the Startpunkt exhibition are antecedent iterations of the pieces set for display in Mediated Process at Cullity Gallery. The collective’s emphasis on the creative process over finalised creative objects has endured in the gallery space with each consecutive exhibition offering an opportunity for the artists to share new developments in their concurrent, individual projects.

 

Process is not only apparent across the group’s exhibitions, but is also observed within the exhibitions. The creative process presents itself in overt and subtle ways through the curated artworks, each revealing the distinctive role process plays in each artist’s individual practice. One of the artists who overtly engages with process is Borahm Kim, whose participatory game-work, Moving Forest, unfolds in the exhibition space as an interactive activity that draws from participants their values and social modes of thought. In previous game setups, inter-player deliberation revealed the unique characteristics of collective mindsets from site-specific localities. The data extrapolated from each play of the game feeds back into revelations from historic plays, accumulating in an international dialogue about problem-solving methodologies that Kim uses to inform future gameplays. In contrast to the globally focused project that Kim’s work incrementally builds, the process element in John Carberry’s film work retains a reserved demeanour.

 

In Carberry’s resolved work Pinioned, the impact of process appears as a subtle visual element in the cumulative layers of footage fractured on screen. In Pinioned, multiple takes of a pair of dancers have been carefully inlaid through Carberry’s detailed editing. As the dancers’ bodies collide, they merge together to create a hybrid human form, generating a new dance and conveying new forms of physical expression through the compounded, humanesque form. Akin to Kim’s Moving Forest and Carberry’s Pinioned, each work has taken shape through individually developed creative processes, subsequently existing within the exhibition as provisionally resolved works that retain space for future development.

 

The collective’s aesthetic and methods of working derive from the process art movement of the 60s and 70s. One of process art’s formative figures, Robert Morris, associated process art with anti-formalism which places its emphasis on process and methods of creation. The antithetical — and somewhat more traditional — concept of formalism, worships the final, completed object-form, treating the processes of production as a priori to the work itself: the means are pre-determined by the final form. In opposition, anti-formalism allows the creative process to be the driving force guiding artworks forwards, though not necessarily towards a point of completion. This treatment of art objects presents a unique dilemma for process art: the continuity of an artwork as it endures minute and colossal transformation. Whilst a single artwork may endure slight transformations, process artworks can undergo massive additions, reductions and alterations without these major aesthetic changes resulting in new artworks. Process artworks have a distinctive character in this sense, and radically test the ontological boundaries of art objects.

From within the context of contemporary art, process art enjoys a readily sound ideological existence. Contemporary art’s emphasis on the conceptual dimension of art objects treats the idea as one of the ontological grounds for the artwork. Whilst the aesthetic dimension of art objects is necessary (for without the aesthetic there is no sensory object to apprehend), the conceptual takes precedence. This gives process art an easy way to face its unusual dilemma. Bound together in union by a shared conceptual foundation, multiple iterations of a process artwork can succeed each other, existing as markers of progress in the overall development of a singular project. Resolved works emerging from process art preserve the historicity of art objects by retaining recognisable traces of historic developments in the present form of the work. In this way, process art carries the past iterations of the work into its present and future versions, facilitating the long-term continuation of creative projects. Process art, then, is the constant rumination of a central thought, the interrogation of an idea from multiple angles to create and recreate artworks.

 

Exemplar of this characterisation of process art is Håkan Carlbrand and Peter Ojstersek’s video, Staircase to Dollhouse. Placing a personal lens on Carlbrand’s childhood friend Martin and his wife Maja, the video looks at the ending of the late Martin’s life as he faced a terminal illness. Retaining the singularity of the work across multiple formulations, Ojstersek and Carlbrand’s project has developed through an expanding meta-dialogue of layered documentary film work. Progressing towards an increasingly omniscient and insightful perspective, the current version of the work included in Mediated Process encases the original documentary film of Martin and his wife Maja with added footage from the film’s first premiere in Sweden. Building upon the work even more, the artists’ have added a written piece expressing their experience in the context of the project as both Martin’s personal friends and as impersonal film-makers.

 

It is within this working context of process art that collaboration—such as the partnership between Carlbrand and Ojstersek — on a digital platform can be successful. Collaboration is not new to art-making; however, when collaboration occurs between isolated localities it takes on a new character. Whilst collaboration traditionally occurred at the material level with artists trading skills and resources, working from within isolated places situated at the fringe of art-centres makes this sort of collaboration impossible. Instead, collaboration in this context requires greater dedication to detangling conceptual ideas through constructive discussion and review. It is not so surprising that through combining their contemporary art practices, In the Process of… have managed to build a strong collective that excels in both process art and glocal collaboration — skilful engagement with conceptual thought requisite in both.

 

The exceeding value of process art finds expression in the meaningful words spoken by Gustav Hellberg, another exhibiting artist and one of the collective’s co-founders, who said in an arts talk: the dilemma for art is that “we can only look at a little bit of the world at one time”. Like a kaleidoscope image which always remains fragmented, each rotation of the gear reveals new visions, creating a growing sense of what is there despite the impossibility of seeing everything at once. Carlbrand’s video is a matrix of kaleidoscope imagery — with each new revolution there is a new framing, a new insight into the same story. Not only is this true for Staircase to Dollhouse, but each of the works presented in Mediated Process share in this constant revisiting of longstanding projects to make new discoveries. The expert artistry of In the Process of… has not only developed a world-class body of contemporary process art, but the group itself — consisting of globally dispersed artists who deeply care about the world and the people around them—are an inspiration for us all to look into our own lives, to uncover new angles to discover from, and to collaboratively forge new pathways forward.

 

*The text was first published as foreword to the Mediated Process catalogue, Perth 2024.

1 Robert Morris, “Anti-form,” in Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1993), 41-47.

2 Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not At All (London, UK: Verso, 2013), 48.

3 Gustav Hellberg, “9 Evenings Revisited: In Theory, as in Practice…” (lecture, Kunstkraftwerk, Leipzig, Germany, April, 2016)

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