Nicolas Vamvouklis in conversation with Chara Stergiou
Γλώσσα πρωτότυπου κειμένου: Αγγλικά
Nicolas Vamvouklis (NV): Chara, it’s funny how we first met on a taxi from Rimini to San Marino, where you participated at the Mediterranea 19 Young Artists Biennale. We had this absurd conversation blending popular lyrics with Nicolas Bourriaud’s theories. Do you have any recollection of that ride?
Chara Stergiou (CS): Absolutely! We started chatting about our mutual interest in using popular culture while the radio paid tribute to Raffaella Carrà. It was her funeral day. What stayed with me was talking about this sense of guilt when it comes to taste-making, mostly in institutional frameworks such as the art world or academia. At that time, we were both working through “post-production” — as Bourriaud says — on the broader sense. Working with other people’s words, works, or even songs by making different playlists and producing new meanings.
NV: That evening, you also presented a DJ Lecture outside Galleria Nazionale. Again, it was a thrilling momentum with this vibrant sense of freedom right after the quarantine. Could you tell me more about this new format you’ve developed? Do you consider yourself a DJ?
CS: The DJ Lecture belongs to this kind of endeavour that combines the essay form with other media, this time with the sonic. It all started — sarcastically enough before the COVID outbreak — sourcing from a feeling very similar to what we’ve lost or repressed during confinement: the live sense of togetherness. So, in my very first DJ Lectures, I was led by this urge to mediate and transmit sonically to audiences a certain social experience I was talking about then. Montaging a weird mix of songs, voices, lyrics, recorded authorships, translations, bibliographical references, and citations while “sampling almost everything.” A pursuit to deploy theoretical thought to an embodied experience and connect it intrinsically to art practice.
I am certainly not a DJ in its common sense, but they are a very interesting persona. Both a magician playing with the feelings of an audience in a room, “a meta-producer,” or, as it has been noted, “the epitome of the post-modern artist” (Brewster & Broughton, 2014).
NV: To what extent does this methodology relate to curating?
CS: I suppose that selecting existing material, inserting it into a new context, and in meaningful company with other works would be a point of convergence.
NV: Let’s brighten the mood — what kind of music do you prefer? Name your top 3 songs of all time.
CS: To be more accurate, I must rephrase your question: what artist have you listened to non-stop for the past few years? And the answer would be Florence Welch. Such a gifted performer, poet, and songwriter! She has greatly influenced me in many ways and inspired my latest research on the common living spaces where we exist together and the collective experience of audiences, the empirical and social spaces where audibility functions unexpectedly. She’s the definition of an audience witch. Thus, the list would be as follows:
1. What the Water Gave Me
All songs by Florence + The Machine.
NV: That’s a cool selection! Well, it’s refreshing how your multidisciplinary practice centres on the overlap between scientific and artistic research in surprising paths. What is your idea of hybridity?
CS: We often associate hybridity with an unconscious imperative for newness or strangeness. Instead, I see it as a radical act of experimenting towards categorical inconsistency. This remains quite critical both in creating and perceiving. But mostly in trusting your own ways of working. A fruitful — and sometimes seemingly chaotic — mode of engagement based on method, not the result.
NV: In the past year, you’ve set up various workshops on sound and design as expanded fields. How do you approach teaching in these cases?
CS: It is hard for me to use the term “teaching” as it is loaded with a coat of unbearable authority you must have on others. In the framework you described, I want to see my role mainly as a mediator, a moderator that forms a collective call to action and then takes part in it. I owe a lot to “Practices of Attunement,” a collective/study group with whom we participated in wonderful experiments while preparing and leading workshops or even when reading, walking, and studying together.
NV: I’m actually checking now on the encounters you led at the Athens Open Studio. Your first session was entitled “Alles ist Arkitektur” inspired by Hans Hollein. I’m curious about how your architectural studies inform your projects.
CS: I obtained my degree in an extraordinary school born from the significance of transdisciplinarity in practice. I’m referring to the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly, and I wonder how many of us ended up working in architecture. In the homonymous manifesto, Hollein does not advocate that everything is architecture. Rather, he challenges perceptions related to tools, media, and critical thinking to conclude that some issues will continue to be solved traditionally. However, is architecture the answer as we understand it? Such a manifesto has stigmatized me, and it feels like we can replicate it in almost everything. Replace “architecture” with anything related to tools, media, and a new world of different affect, to ask: do we still have adequate answers to respond to new conditions? Does this sort of response feel comfortable? This is what motivates me to delve into what I work on. At the same time, it gives you a sense of relief to think of such matters even when you don’t have the answer.
NV: That’s true! You may not have an answer, but I guess the work can evolve organically in an open, collaborative spirit…
CS: Sure, I really enjoyed the turn from the loner space of the DJ Lecturer to the collective address and the invitation to “remix” projects and seminars at State of Concept and Haus der Kulturen der Welt. From the seemingly passive lecture format to more comprehensive “sonic modes of study” and “sampling everything.” I am still working in this direction.
Listen to Chara’s Stergiou ‘Undercommonings in the Remix’ audio streaming, part of the ‘Commonings’ last edition of The New Alphabet School, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 15–19th September 2022.
Chara Stergiou is a research-based practitioner and artist whose interests focus on a theory-through-practice approach. Dealing with knowledge production through possible artistic hybridities, she works independently in projects and programs affiliated with institutions and collectives while conducting workshops, seminars, and presentations of research in several organizations (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Swiss Artistic Research Network, Biennial of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, PACT Zollverein, and State of Concept Athens). In 2020, she was awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS.
Nicolas Vamvouklis is a curator and arts writer. He is the artistic director of K-Gold Temporary Gallery and has curated exhibitions at Mediterranea 19 Biennale, 7th Thessaloniki Biennale, and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. Since 2016, he has served as senior curator at the Benetton cultural panorama. He has also collaborated with Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Marina Abramovic Institute, Prague Quadrennial, and Triennale Milano. Vamvouklis contributes to art magazines and publications, including The Art Newspaper and MIT Press. In 2021, he was awarded the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Artist Fellowship by ARTWORKS.