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As the Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Curator and Director of public art at the High Line, Cecelia Alemani is accustomed to organizing exhibitions and initiatives around site-specific locations. This year is no different, as she will – for the second time – curate Frieze Sounds, a project of Frieze New York, a contemporary art fair taking place on Randall’s Island from May 10 – 13, 2013.
Frieze Sounds will stream sound art from BMW sponsored VIP cars and a listening station throughout the fair. Whitewall spoke with Alemani about this year’s special projects and how the fair is staying on the cutting edge.
WHITEWALL: What about this year has changed from Frieze 2012?
CECILIA ALEMANI: Expansion. Frieze Projects features 7 new commissions. Unlike last year, more projects take place inside the tent, and engage with its inspiring architecture. Frieze Sounds will also have a listening station inside the fair, where our visitors can listen to three new sound tracks.
WW: In what ways do you want visitors to interact with Frieze Sounds and Frieze Projects?
CA: With Frieze Sounds, we invited artists to respond to the site and context [of the fair] and to create an experience that is based on listening rather than seeing and looking. It will function as a pause in the very busy rhythm of the fair that can be experienced in three very different ways: on the cars going back and forth to and from the island; on a listening station inside the fair where visitors can sit and put on headphones; and finally as a free downloadable file from our website to listen to on your journeys to and from Randall’s Island.
The Frieze Projects are focused on those communal spaces that bring people together at the fair. Our hope is that the projects will provide the viewers with gathering spaces that will punctuate the grid of the fair and its surroundings and offer a new, unique experience.
WW: How has your position at the High Line prepared you for the site-specific aspect of curating on Randall’s Island?
CA: With both sites, the artworks we commission are likely to take place outdoors and in unique settings that question the site and its audience, so the process is similar. However, at Frieze, the audience is a very specialized art audience; on the High Line, our audience is very broad. Also, in both cases artists work for about one year to conceive and produce their commission. Then at Frieze the work is on view for a very concentrated period of time, while on the High Line the works stay on view for one year.
WW: It is interesting how some of the artists created pieces that reflect or compliment the site, while others chose to interrupt it. Were you anticipating such a wide variety of reactions from the artists toward the space?
CA: Each artist has been invited to pick their locations: some were more interested in infiltrating the grid of the fair or its very architecture, like Liz Glynn, Mateo Tannatt, or Marianne Vitale; others were more attracted by the bucolic landscape of Randall’s Island Park, like Andra Ursuta or Maria Loboda. There is something quite fascinating in being able to react to such a diverse space, spanning from a park to a very articulated architecture, and I think this is what attracts artists to realize ambitious commissions as part of Frieze Projects.
WW: This year’s tribute to past art initiatives recreates Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden’s restaurant and meeting space, FOOD, that opened in 1971. How did you choose artists to participate in the daily cooking performances?
CA: Two of them are original cooks that were working at FOOD back in the day. The other two are contemporary artists who were not there when FOOD was open, but whose practice is somehow influenced by the gathering forces that food and FOOD evoke. Each day, each chef has conceived a different menu.
WW: In the same vein as Rick Moody last year, Ben Marcus has written a short story inspired by the island for the FRIEZE STORY project. Why did you initially decide to include literature as one of the Project’s mediums?
CA: I don’t necessarily see a distinction between visual art and literature, as I think they influence each other every day. It felt quite natural to have a writer composing a narration about Randall’s Island which has such a fascinating history. Ben Marcus has written a story on the long tradition of hospital and medical centers that are present on the island. I can’t predict what will happen in the next few years but we are always interested in expanding our platforms and investigating other ways of commissioning and showcasing the best of today’s art.
Cecilia Alemani is an independent curator and writer. From 2009 to 2010, she served as Curatorial Director of X Initiative, New York, a year-long experimental non-profit space where she curated numerous exhibitions including solo shows by Keren Cytter, Luke Fowler, Hans Haacke, Christian Holstad, Derek Jarman, Mika Tajima, Tris Vonna-Michell and Artur Zmijewski. At X Initiative she conceived and organized more than 50 events including performances, panel discussions, symposia, lectures, concerts and screenings. In June, 2009, Cecilia co-founded No Soul For Sale, a festival of independent spaces, non-profit organizations, and artists collectives which took place at X Initiative, and at Tate Modern – Turbine Hall in London in May, 2010 as part of the museum’s tenth anniversary celebration. She has organized numerous exhibitions including The Comfort of Strangers (MoMA/PS1, New York, 2010); boundLES (at numerous venues in the Lower East Side, New York); ONLYCONNECT (Bloomberg Headquarters with Art in General, New York, 2008); and Things Fall Apart All Over Again (Artists Space, New York, 2005). Alemani holds a BA degree in Philosophy from the University of Milan (2001) and an MA in Curatorial Studies (2005) from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.