Meeting with Nathalie Ergino, Director of the IAC de Villeurbanne
We met Nathalie Ergino, director of the IAC (Institute of Contemporary Art) of Villeurbanne on the occasion of the new exhibition”The Middle Earth, Mediterranean Project” by Maria-Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham
Mowwgli: The IAC is a double entity: an art centre and the FRAC, right?
Nathalie Ergino: The IAC is the result of a merger in 1998 between the Nouveau Musée, one of the first art centres in France (1978 – 40 years this year) and the Frac Rhône Alpes which was born a little later. So there is only one structure called the IAC (Institute of Contemporary Art). To speak again today about this double dimension is not the subject any more since for us it is a whole. An ensemble that puts creation in the foreground, which has also been added to a collection and the distribution of this collection in local territories. Or sometimes further away.
Mowwgli: It seems like a trend for the Frac to produce and participate in creation?
N.E.: Actually, we are probably one of the first new generation FRACs. We can consider ourselves an art centre with a collection. In my mind the collection is the fruit of creation. An art centre is in fact a production centre even if we do not have a dedicated place of residence. That the Frac today join this question is very probable but not systematic from my point of view.
Our collection is not intended to be exhaustive or representative. It is the reflection of the processes of creation set up here and among the members of our purchasing committee some people are also in charge of curatorial projects in their own structures. It is a collaborative work that does not prevent prospecting. We really put the principle of creation and collaboration with artists as a starting point.
Mowwgli: Is there a guideline for acquisitions?
N.E.: If creation is a foundation for us, it is not the case in all structures. There is no thematic axis in itself because it is not something we like. Neither from my predecessor nor from me. We can still identify thematic sections but today the proximity with artistic production mainly influences our choices.
A few years ago we were really on very immersive creations, perceptual, very oriented towards all these questions on the programming of exhibitions. Then we created, initiated by Ann Veronica Janssens and myself, the space-brain laboratory on the questions of”spatialization”, of space as a perceptual experience, of alteration of consciousness, of loss of reference points… This period is rather behind us, not in the sense of no longer using it. For this perceptual experience has served as a tool that brings us more acutely into this period of ours. For about a year now, we have been much more in an approach that tends to get out of anthropocentrism. It is not a question of panicking with the question of the anthropocene, but of proposing what we call, within the framework of the laboratory, the cosmomorph.
I really work on notions that allow us to consider art in research in a transdisciplinary way, with the human sciences, neurosciences, physics, astrophysics… but also with less recognized sciences like telepathy, hypnosis, shamanism… The sciences in the broadest sense possible so that these irrigate the projects of creation and exhibition at the IAC. So obviously, because we are in a research process, it is a little complicated to make a precise and definitive summary, but these are the orientations of a cycle that has been underway since November 2016.
Mowwgli: Could you be more specific anyway?
N.D.: The laboratory develops in stages, in the form of stations. Exploration units, which consist of study days, conferences, works under study, whether they take place in-situ or ex-situ (as for example at the Centre Pompidou Metz on the occasion of Jardin infini. From Giverny to the Amazon). Biological, geological, political and climatic upheavals, as well as recent scientific research, force us to rethink and recompose a global human and non-human world;
From a strictly artistic point of view, we remain on his concerns: what is this moment we are going through? Towards a cosmomorphic world, what is it? What can we build together that leads us to think and look at the acceleration of our society and the world. Literality is not appropriate but on the other hand to advance together with artists and researchers it is also a way of, without deluding oneself nor putting oneself in the place of politics, considering that one contributes to this change of civilization.
Mowwgli: Art and science in the same movement?
N.E.: It’s true that science confirms our intuitions and it’s wonderful. The idea is to share imagination rather than each discipline keeping it to itself. We feel that this transdisciplinarity allows us to extend this sharing of imagination to more people than at a certain time. It is therefore a form of revolution that is in place with these notions. For example, until recently, neurosciences dominated research, since then, other knowledge such as brain plasticity, neuronal VAMP, microbiota research and so on have enriched our knowledge and we can see that there are new interactions or interrelationships between disciplines. In this context, man can no longer be at the centre of the system, he is one of the constituent elements of this whole. The artists are working on these questions and, even if it is not our specific selection choice, it is still an orientation that is at work in our project.
It is certainly no coincidence that the exhibition we are currently presenting is by Jimmie Durham and Maria-Thereza Alves. They are artists who, beyond their artistic practice, often multidisciplinary, have a political, humanitarian and ecological commitment. The exhibition, through its narration, addresses themes such as the land, the sea, the plant, the human but also knowledge, beliefs and shamanism as a watermark.
Mowwgli: What are the future projects?
N.D. : The current program we wish to continue at least two / three years. It’s hard to project yourself further and it wouldn’t make much sense or interest. From a structural point of view, we’re not bad. Certainly our premises are in a small street but they are rather extensive. It is more a tool than a building. This tool has the merit of having existed since the 1980s and was revisited in 1992. For the reserves, they are here, for everything that is 2D and fragile works but everything that is in volume, is stored twenty minutes from here. It is not envisaged to build a contemporary building for pleasure. It is possible to work in museums without the constraints of a museum. I ran a museum and I can assure you it’s very simple here. We have the advantages of our association status. We really endow ourselves for the collection of museum approaches without having the constraints.
Mowwgli: What are the synergies with the region?
N.E.: First of all, I must say that the Auvergne Rhône Alpes region is a very large territory and certainly has the largest number of art centres. So it’s very important for us, as Frac, to keep our collection alive. It is true that the old Frac is linked to the origin of many of these structures, so we are really at their side and united on common projects. Every year, we have a highlight of a shared collection on a place in the territory. We have another creative project with five art centres that we are bringing together around a common project. Five artists that we choose together, that’s a pretty strong mutual commitment.
More locally, there is a collaboration that was established before my arrival so that the IAC would be one of the venues of the Biennale. The idea that the IAC should find a more specific place than simply a place of welcome has been considered. This is why since 2009 we have been welcoming a project set up together, inspired by Thierry Raspail from the MAC, a young international creation meeting. In this context, the IAC became the section for emerging artists during the Biennale and the art school joined us from the beginning. It is really a common project: MAC (Museum of Contemporary Art), Biennale, School of Art and the IAC to promote young creation. Ten curators are asked to select 10 artists resident in France and ten others are nominated by biennial curators from around the world. It’s a very cooperative approach.
We are very happy because I must add that the years out of biennial we continue to work together notably to export our French artists. For example, in June we go to Cuba.
Mowwgli: Are there many operations like this abroad?
N.D. : We program it every other year (interspersed with the biennial). We accompany these artists so that the experience is interesting, rich and of course they can meet a foreign artistic scene. They’ve already been to Shanghai, Singapore, South Africa. We really enjoy working directly with artists.
Thank you Nathalie.
Tomorrow, find the article on the current exhibition: The Middle Earth, Mediterranean Project by Maria-Thereza Alves and Jimmie Durham
Middle Earth, Mediterranean ProjectMaria-Thereza
Alves and Jimmie Durham
March 2 to May 27, 2018Institute of Contemporary Art
11, rue Docteur Dolard
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