Interview: Hans Ulrich Obrist, Serpentine artistic director, on AI, art and the critical role of cultural spaces

Left to right: Roman Ole, Evelyn Saylor, Jules Left to right: Roman Ole, Evelyn Saylor, Jules LaPlace, Holly Herndon, Josa Peit, Mathew Dryhurst and Albertine Sarges (C) Boris Camca 2019, curtesy of Holly Herndon
Left to right: Roman Ole, Evelyn Saylor, Jules Left to right: Roman Ole, Evelyn Saylor, Jules LaPlace, Holly Herndon, Josa Peit, Mathew Dryhurst and Albertine Sarges (C) Boris Camca 2019, curtesy of Holly Herndon

I had an interesting conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, the curator and art critic, and artistic director of Serpentine about the age of AI. The cultural institution is deep diving into the world of AI with its support of digital artists as well as through various research projects and papers that investigate the impact (positive and negative) of the technology on the arts and artists.

I asked him what he sees as the role of museums and cultural institutions in engaging the public in understanding the impact of AI on our lives, acting as a bridge to almost demystify it for the public. He replied: “Technology often creates separation. Social media creates filters. With art we can hopefully break that filter bubble, and be an intermediator between culture, art, science, technology. It’s about togetherness.”

Full interview here

New York Artist Julie Mehretu discusses her approach to the BMW Art Car #20

Julie Mehretu and the BMW Art Car #20. Photo credit BMW

‘There is something investigatory and playful about motor racing. It’s a form of sport, a form of imagination, a form of creativity. It’s an important place in the imagination. I was fascinated to play in that place,’ says the Ethiopian American artist Julie Mehretu speaking of the latest BMW Art Car #20 she designed for the carmaker before it hits the racetrack at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Artist Sara Sadik explores loneliness, anxiety and marginalised youth through gaming and visual storytelling

A still from “La Potion (EH)” © Sara Sadik

Occasionally you meet an artist who surprises you. Marseille based Sara Sadik is one. Informed by video games, anime, science fiction and French rap, her artwork and visual storytelling examines loneliness and anxiety among young men, specifically marginalised French youth.

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Shirin Neshat latest body of work, ‘The Fury’, is a timely politically charged artwork

Still from The Fury by Shirin Neshat, 2023

Upstairs at the Goodman Gallery in London hang large-scale black-and-white photographs of women. Look closer at their naked bodies, parts of which are symbolically covered, and these women of various ages and ethnicities bear signs of abuse and mutilation. Meanwhile, downstairs in the gallery, the video installation tells the stylised, fictional story of a woman struggling with her memories of imprisonment and rape.

‘The Fury’ is the latest body of work by the New York-based Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat, who, since the 1990s, has captivated viewers — and in some instances caused controversy — through an art that investigates gender and society, time and memory, the individual and the collective, and the complexities and contradictions of Islam, told through a personal and diasporic lens.

Neshat’s mesmerising, cinematic, large-scale black-and-white photography is overlaid with handwritten Farsi calligraphy — poetry, prose — inviting the viewer to read more than the surface image. Likewise, with her feature films and film installations, she has created her own unique moving image language.

‘The Fury’ was shot in June 2022 near Neshat’s Brooklyn studio. In the film, the female protagonist is played by Iranian-American actor Sheila Vand, while the remaining cast are Neshat’s co-students from her African dance class. In the film, dance expresses liberation — it is fundamental to the storytelling. Choreographed by Neshat’s teacher, the climax scene is a stirring ritual of movement expressing protest and rage, performed to the haunting vocals of Tunisian musician Emel Mathlouthi, singing “Soltane Ghalbha” (meaning king of hearts, a heartfelt Iranian love song from 1968), the melody slowed down, and the lyrics retold in Arabic.

I spoke with Shirin Neshat to see what she hopes the viewer will take from this body of work.

See the full interview here

Shirin Neshat Flavia #2, from The Fury series, 2023 © Shirin Neshat/Goodman Gallery

Insight: Hauser & Wirth partner and global creative director on experiential gallery spaces

Camille Henrot “Inside Job” 2019 at Hauser and Wirth Minorca, summer 2022

What happens to art and the artist when their work is exhibited outside a traditional gallery space? And do unusual venues and experimental curations set culture free to be explored and experienced in new and exciting ways, and by a public way beyond the original borders? What are the limits and the possibilities?

I put this to Neil Wenman, partner and global creative director at Hauser & Wirth, the leading commercial gallery which has been exploring unusual spaces to present art since opening the Somerset gallery on an old farm in 2014.

Read the interview here