As with any curated exhibition, what the curators selected and how they selected it is often only revealed either through their catalog writings or talks they give. Because they are not often in the gallery when most viewers are, it is up to the viewers to come to their own conclusions about the work on display. The viewers are also frequently in the dark about what the artist has to say about where they are coming from, where they hope to go, and how they are getting there. With this in mind, the curators Chris Perry and Alice Walsh asked the artists of Freed Formats: The Book Reconsidered (March-September 2019, New York, Connecticut) to respond to a scripted list of questions, the answers were then recorded, and the resulting audio files are here for the viewer to listen to, either while they are in the gallery, or later at their leisure. Select the artist file and click on the small arrow on the left to hear what the artist has to say.
“The Biblical story is just as contemporary as it is ancient. Communication is more important now than ever and the fascination of languages and the diverse peoples who speak them can be a life-long passion.
We live today in an era of technological dominance and mass media, whose is bigger, better, makes more money. World population increases faster than a colony of rabbits, buildings grow higher, closer together, squeezing out the green. There is an increasingly larger gap between the wealthy and the average. The language behind our technology, underlying our cars, our spaceships, our televisions, our skyscrapers is becoming English. The theme of Towers and a single language is not farfetched.“
“The story of the Tower of Babel is well known in most cultures. It is not only a story out of Genesis, the first Book of the Hebrew Bible, it is also an allegory of the human condition. It is particularly interesting to those who deal with language, letters and writing.
The concept of an exhibit with the theme “The Tower of Babel” is especially appropriate following the founding of the European Union. Suddenly packaging is covered with information in not just 2 or 3 languages as previously, but in 20 or 25 languages. From all countries of the world: Europe, Asia, South America. It was a cornucopia of scripts and languages. Rather than throw away the cardboard and plastic packaging, it could make an interesting artist’s book.
In 2015 a group of artists founded VIS – Venetiae Incipit Scriptorium and organised courses, activities and exhibits. After the international exhibit “VOLUMEN ET ROTULUS” The Tower of Babel was proposed to follow the same guidelines. The concept of multiple languages written in multiple scripts could appeal to a broader range of artists: However, the exhibit is open not only to lettering artists, but also calligraphers, painters, sculpters, book artists, printers and even philosophers; and not only to VIS members but to anyone wishing to participate. The choice of text is up to the artists and all forms of artistic expression and in any language are welcome.
The Biblical story is just as contemporary as it is ancient. Communication is more important now than ever and the fascination of languages and the diverse peoples who speak them can be a life-long passion.
We live today in an era of technological dominance and mass media, whose is bigger, better, makes more money. World population increases faster than a colony of rabbits, buildings grow higher, closer together, squeezing out the green. There is an increasingly larger gap between the wealthy and the average. The language behind our technology, underlying our cars, our spaceships, our televisions, our skyscrapers is becoming English. The theme of Towers and a single language is not farfetched.
Towers as art is exciting; languages maintain our diversity, exhibits keep us aware of what is important. It is our way of saying, let diversity live, let differences survive, let us struggle to understand. As one artist put it: The show is very beautiful. 45 artists from around the world, all different from one another: book artists, textile artists, engravers, calligraphers, art quilt , it is all beautiful and all works together in harmony.
As an added quality to the show, a communal tower is being constructed. Everyone, from toddlers to great-grandparents, artist or not, can make a paper brick which folds up and is then reconstructed to build the tower during the show.“
I visited Alkmaar, NL (about 25 km north of Amsterdam) to participate in 100% FEMALE at the Grand Church of Alkmaar (Oct.24-27), a breathtaking Gothic building dating back to the 10th century. I must confess it had been a secret dream to exhibit my work at a church due to its architecture, history and aesthetic appeal.
It was a great experience meeting the Curator, Jeroen Van Paassen, with whom I have been working with since 2015, at different venues and countries. It was also amazing to meet many of the 100 participating artists, from all corners of the globe, and to share experiences and perspectives. I had exhibited together with some of the artists throughout the last years, without meeting personally. It was an honor to exhibit together with California based artist Clare Hebert, who was my oil painting teacher more than 10 years ago in Gothenburg.
The international exhibition “100% FEMALE” aimed to correct the stereotypical representation of women. Curator Jeroen Van Paassen, told RODI newspaper reporter “In the past 10 years I have met many female artists during the organization of international exhibitions. I have been impressed by their strength, militancy and creativity. How these women manage to evade the position in which they are forced by their environment is admirable and above all inspiring.” (2019-10-16)
The 4-day-exhibition-program included a fantastic opening party, music, performances and a political debate, organized by Stichting White Cube. There was good local press coverage, a video on YouTube and a Facebook page with multiple albums and statements from the artists.
Upon return to Sweden I got a letter stating I was accepted by Gothenburg University to study Global Gender Studies, which was another dream (goal) of mine. Overall 2019 have been a great year with many changes, moving back to Sweden from USA in July after 10 amazing years in Busan, South Korea and Houston, Texas. Sweden represents now many new challenges but also new opportunities, dreams and journeys. So many things to be grateful for!
100% VROUW (100% FEMALE) 24 – 27 October 2019 Grand or St. Laurens Church Alkmaar, Alkmaar, Netherlands
“At this juncture in our history, the digital revolution has become so fundamental as to prompt the question: what is the purpose of the codex in our time? The artists in Freed Formats argue passionately for its continued relevance: their work maintains an important connection of mind/body/soul in the act of engaging with a book. We are invited to turn, flip, finger, read, peer, wear, crane, smell, delight, ponder, and empathize…. They help us remember: a book is a universe unto itself.” (From the New Havens Independent Newspaper, 2019-07-01)
Freed Formats: the book reconsidered — an exhibition that presents us with a variety of works that challenge all that we may think about books. This is a traveling exhibition of book art by 53 artists,135 works representing 17 states and 2 countries that will be exhibited in six Arts Centers over the next several months.
Curators: Book Artist Chris Perry of Ridgefield, CT and Alice Walsh of Carmel, NY
Islam Aly – Cairo, Egypt, Pat Badt – Orefield, Pennsylvania, Alicia Bailey – Aurora, Colorado, Anita Gangi Balkun – West Hartford, Connecticut, Ginger Burrell – Morgan Hill, California, Gaby Cardenas – Katy, Texas/Sweden… more
After moving to Sweden, I participated in the Summer Showcase in London, a free two-day festival of ideas for curious minds, held from 21-22 June 2019. The British Academy opened up their beautiful building with 15 interactive exhibits alongside pop-up talks, workshops and performances, bringing the best new humanities and social sciences research to life.
Our exhibition featured artists’ books, aiming to transform the way we think about health, wellbeing and illness: “Since the 1980s, a growing number of book artists have used their craft to share stories about health, wellbeing and illness. These artworks give a voice to those living with disability, chronic illness or cancer, while challenging stigma and discrimination. But can they also help medical professionals to better understand their patients? Featuring multi sensory works by contemporary artists, this exhibit explores the vital intersection between art and science. Handle artists’ books, learn about the lives of the makers and craft your own book to take home.”
These two articles by Dr. Stella Bolaki focus on artists’ books, while my work was featured in the first one:
A few days ago my family and I moved back to Sweden after 10 years of living as expats and exhibiting my work in Asia and USA. Now I will be balancing my studio practice between the city of Gothenburg and a countryside studio by a lake. While visiting Sweden during the last summers the forest was perfect to work on my last 2 series which were exhibited in USA so I feel positive that the Swedish nature, a slower pace and the daily practice of taichi which I learned while living in Houston will provide the space and time to create new work once we settle down.
In the meantime I’m grateful for my upcoming exhibitions this year and in 2020:
So excited about how things will develop for our family and I’m looking forward to meeting new artists, reconnecting with good friends, visiting new places, learning new things and experiencing all the seasons!
Gaby Berglund Cárdenas works in several media and her work often involves depictions of the female body in various forms, serving as metaphors for social inequities with regard to gender.
While studying Buddhist philosophy in Asia, Cárdenas started creating lengthy handwritten calligraphy scrolls as part of her meditative practice. She soon started transforming objects and making installations with the scrolls. It was the morning ritual after long walks in the forest in Busan and the repetitive process involving writing, sewing and assemblage – similar to saying a mantra or a prayer – that gave birth to this series: “The Quiet Thread”.
“The Quiet Thread” was curated by Sabine Casparie and it consists of scrolls, artists’ books, sculptures and installations exploring the role that art can play in bringing to light the power of “mindfulness”. Cárdenas uses Nepalese paper, Japanese ink, thread and Swedish antique sewing and weaving tools that she collected in her trips between 2014 and 2018.
For Cárdenas, the process of slow stitching has the power of restoration, sewing the past, reconnecting with her mother, who used to sew her dresses as a child. Cárdenas’ repetitive handwriting process, meanwhile, is reminiscent of the Zen Buddhist monks, who in the sixth century started drawing Ensō circles after their meditation practice. The circles symbolized the state of mind of the artist at the moment of creation and the acceptance of imperfection as perfect. Cárdenas creates her own ritual with a strong belief that stillness, structure and repetition are what keep us whole.
For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have used meditation to obtain a transcendental experience on the path to enlightenment. More recently, physicians have clinically employed meditation to successfully help treat disorders like depression, anxiety, addictions, and chronic pain. Cárdenas’ Prescriptions series explores the benefits of mindfulness, the role art can play in raising awareness about the value of mindfulness in health treatments and how art can be used to heal and express experiences of illness. We need to talk about pain raises awareness of how addictions often originate in pain; the question is not ‘Why the addiction?’ but – ‘Why the pain?’ Other works explore the power of breathing and meditation in self-healing, such as Finding her lower Dantian (下丹田, Xià Dāntián).
Through Girl Rising, Woman Rising, Migrant books and Los Inmigrantes (The Immigrants) Cárdenas brings awareness of two important issues for social change today: women and migrants. The works explore how social change can be benefited by “mindful activism”: staying grounded when participating in peaceful resistance.
For Cárdenas, “The Quiet Thread” is a natural consequence of her spiritual journey which started in Asia and continues in Houston today.
Cárdenas, is an international multi-disciplinary artist whose work straddles disparate worlds — Houston, where she currently lives as an expat; her birthplace of Ecuador, where her family lives; Sweden, where her new home is; and South Korea, which has influenced her spirit after living there for about nine years. Through her art, she addresses the human condition, the female body and the realms of spirituality. Her work spans mediums from paintings and printmaking to installation, textiles and artist’s books. Cárdenas works from her studio in Houston and is a member of PrintMatters. She also is represented by Grafik i Väst in Gothenburg, Sweden.
For more than 50 years, The Jung Center has served as a nonprofit resource offering dynamic and compelling classes – “continuing education for the human spirit” – on a diverse range of psychological, artistic, and intellectual topics.
The Jung Center’s building was originally designed as an art gallery and mounts approximately nine exhibits of work by both established and emerging artists each year. The Jung Center is an active member of the Houston Museum District. Admission to the gallery and opening receptions is free and open to the public.
This exhibit will be on display February 2-27, 2018 at the Jung Center, 5200 Montrose Blvd. The public is invited to a gallery reception Saturday, February 2, 5-7 pm and to a pop-up installation/performance Saturday, February 23, 2-3 pm.