Letting go of my convictions
I get excited when candidates send me video links for our grants. Looking at the work of emerging artists from Korea, Georgia, Vietnam, the Philippines, or Taiwan is like opening a treasure chest. Not all these treasures may fit our requirements, but it certainly is a delight to find out what moves artists in different parts of the world.
I know what I like, but at the same time I wonder how to look at work that has a rhythm I’m not used to, a subject matter I’m unfamiliar with, an aesthetic that’s alien to my own.
How valid are my criteria that are so informed by my cultural background, my experiences, my prejudices, and opinions?
In 2004, during the Access for All exhibition about HIV/Aids we set up in Bangkok, a Thai schoolteacher who was showing his class the different artworks asked me how one looks at art. I was moved by his question, which touches on the essence of art and of life itself. I told him that we should look with our hearts, but I’m not so sure about the answer anymore.
In fact, I’m not so sure about many answers anymore. As I get older, I start to realise how little I truly know. There are ideas I used to consider my own, some of them installed as I grew up, others I acquired later. These ideas ranged from the meaning of life and my role in the world, to the more prosaic such as which piece of cutlery one should use to cut a boiled potato.
The danger is that when ideas become beliefs, we tend to hold on to them and defend them as if they were our most precious belongings. But beliefs are like a veil that stands between our eyes and the world; if you believe, you cannot see. Therefore, I’ve gradually started to let go of more and more convictions, and to my surprise, I found out how wonderfully liberating this is. Not placing a value judgement and not categorizing gives me the same sense of freedom and expansion I feel when walking the streets of Barcelona under a clear blue sky with not a cloud in sight.
Of course, with the candidates for our grants, choices have to be made, and the directors of the art institutions that will show the new production make the ultimate decision, based, among others, on the body of work itself and the benefit the artist would gain from the grant.
Even though there are always artists whose work appeals more to me than others, I have no agenda during the jury meetings other than guiding the discussion so that it becomes an uplifting exchange of ideas. When that happens, and it often does, I feel just as exhilarated as when I walk under that blue Barcelona sky.