Esther Windsor

Dallas Seitz (co curator and co director with Esther Windsor at 1000 000mph 2002-7)

E.W. Dallas can you tell me about your ‘shit theory’ the one where you tell students to put the shit back in the work?

D.S This was something that came up with a student my first year teaching, which then led to an overall idea about making work. What it was that this very good student was making a type of work that was visually and conceptually all tied up! Trying in its way to be bulletproof. The work was technically amazing and considered and looked beautiful. She spoke very well about every aspect of these pretty feminist sculptures in soft feminine colours. Once the student finished her conceptual dialogue about the work and how long they took her to make and all that I said I thought they were great but maybe they could be better if they had a bit of dog shit stuck to them. The student was mortified. In trying to explain what I meant I spoke to the students about the benefit of the accidental in work, the subconscious actions of an artist and how that can move the work in a different direction adding to it's meaning and risk in your practice. That although they work could be visually and conceptually all tied up nothing is bulletproof in art so there for one should try to be daring and evoke new ways of thinking by more spontaneous and random acts up their practice. Does that make sense?

E.W Yes. In your experience: What is failure in relation to art practice now? What constitutes a failed work?

D.S Failure I think can be tied to the commercial market place, which seems to favour works which feed criteria not beneficial to art making or the freedom of thought with in an art practice. For example works being kept to a smaller scale for art fares, visually stunted works geared for interiors of homes, repetition by the artists (this sells make more)...

E.W Is the subjective position of the curator acknowledged in planning a show? (There is always visibility of the artist’s intention, if only via artist’s statement. CV etc but the curator is often invisible.)

D.S Yes I think overall it has to be as curators have their own range of interests and concerns.

If you look at Hans Ulrick Olbrist or Nicolas Bourriaud (Tate triennial guy how ever you spell it) both are often more present than the artists or the work, that is they give a huge curatorial stance which then works are sometimes shoved into to try and justify their point, this often fails.

E.W Are there examples of times you have worked as an artist or curator where this process, even at a level of personal taste, has been acknowledged or worked with in making a show or even making work?

D.S yes the curation and the art all comes from the same head. If anything perhaps my artist side takes over and relationships between things I curate may not have as strong a connection theoretically as they might when it is a trained curator making choices.

E.W. Nicholas Logsdale once said, (in a conference ‘the Art Racket’ at Tate Britain), that choosing artists for him was like falling in love.  It was like chemistry, it was there or not, it was not a logical process it was personal.  He also said, it was like a relationship, where he would support them through illness, unpopularity, poverty (to an extent) but acknowledged that some artists would have more shows and sales in response to market demand. .  Have you had anything like this experience as an artist with a dealer or curator or as a curator?

D.S Both I think often when you have worked worked with an artist or as an artist with a curator you build a relationship, which is binding.... this, is a normal process. Often it doesn't work and the relationship doesn't continue but in my case it has been more on the side of a growing relationship with artists I work with and curators I have shown with. This seems to help the understanding and growth of the work for both parties.

E.W. One artist described to me his dealer as a father who looked after his money and gave him guidance, like a child.  Do you think personal and transformative relationships go alongside pragmatic and market driven ones?

D.S Yes but I think the role of the dealer as mentor can also be like a bad parent as well.

If we did not make the art what would they sell??? They are after all salesmen ...maybe used cars!

I just think artists can be trapped by their dealer into make the wrong movements with their work for fear of having that dealer drop them. I wish artists weren't so afraid of their dealers and perhaps in this economic black hole we as artists will grow stronger backbones. I am glad dealers exist as we all want to make some money and the economy of art is important but the power relationship dealers and the money side of art have is pretty elitist in it's inclusion of new artists new practices and new ways of thinking.

E.W A pair of curators described curating as a process of acquiring and giving subjectivity.  In my experience of curating I find this to be true of artists I have chosen (rather than ones I am institutionally obliged to show) have you experienced this?

D.S No not really.

E.W Curators, traditionally, are supposed to be impartial and representative but people like Matthew Higgs for e.g. had a little club of artists he showed (Inc Martin Creed) at Andrew Weatley and Martin McGowan’s space Cabinet in the 90's when it was in Brixton. Now a decade later Yinka in ‘three by three’ asks people to ask artists they like to show work in his new space, which he describes as 'an alternate universe and artists playground'

What do you think of this ‘curators club’? Is it like the dealer’s stable now and a consolidating of power?  Is it inevitable and actually always there already, particularly with more fluid types of practice in curating? Does play open up spaces not inscribed with power?

D.S There is always going to be clubs that’s human nature and perhaps it is in some ways good as a way of making pockets of specialized practice which build the whole.... the problem might be trying to find the pocket that you fit into... this sound like high school clicks I know but it kind of true. Perhaps it is best to try to fit into many pockets, or perhaps we make our own pocket. There is always going to be a you scratch my back I'll scratch yours in the art world. I just wish again on the whole curators writers and artists had a broader mind/pool from which they made these pockets as sometimes it gets a little too incestuous.  It is often only artists who can play and who can open up spaces not inscribed with power, this was the origin of the artist-run project space...but in the case of White Columns where Matthew (Higgs) is, it’s long running time and success over the years has given it more power than other artist-run projects...perhaps it is not even knows as artist-run anymore.

E.W. With the prevalence of art bling and the bypassing of artist led spaces straight to dealership, is the place of subjective curation an exercise in taste and style for niche marketing?

D.S Yes but again the economy collapse can give way to open up a freedom and experimentation with in art.... it should also create a Cull in the number of small commercial galleries who may not be needed anyway.

E.W. Assuming we are all engaged in a hegemonic culture, consciously or not reproducing norms, is there the possibility for independence in what kind of space?

D.S Yes I hope so. Everywhere now is an art gallery from student housing cupboards, living rooms Laundromats, pubs, billboards, the street, and the countryside...

E.W.Do you have any strategies for independence?

D.S To make work that can be shown in as many of the above spaces as possible.

E.W How do you think you might be represented in history?

D.S.  AS a twat!

E.W Does the myth of genius persist in individualism of the artist and curator?

D.S Yes we are all genius in our own way...but genius to me is the ability to want to have an interest, a commitment and a life focused around art not some gift.

E.W Are you an individualist or collective, does it matter?

D.S Both. An individualist within a collective!

E.W. How do you think that tension worked, of curator/artist, when we did 1000 000mph?

D.S. I think that’s really important and there needs to be a tension between the two roles.  I think, at best the curator tries to enable freedom, bearing in mind the contexts/places of art as you talked about later, (laundry room, country etc) but the artists and less strong connection part is the accident or subconscious input that gives a 'not tied to theory or formula show.'  I think this may be where the problem with star curator shows comes in as, I am unable to not see the strategy at work and feel like it's a blockbuster, best seller. (You know when a favorite book or film gets done over and made into a Hollywood product, its lost something) that may be a bit cynical as often these shows make brave moves with authority behind them.

E.W. That’s why I was thinking of your shit theory and thinking this applies to curating too (as well as art production) Although I’d never worked outside an institution before 1000 000mph, I could see the level of accident worked.

I'm quite excited by the economic downturn, at least for art.   I'd been teaching political economy of the media a few years ago and trying to apply economic models to the political economy of art, as it had of late become more visible.  I agree 'failure' might see more interesting work and a pruning of surplus spaces, different motivation and modes of address in production of art.