We will continue to promote international exhibitions, offering opportunities to artists from countries that are under represented in the art world

                                                                 - Grazia Peduzzi

Founded in 2012, Emergent Art Space is a non-profit organisation and online network.that supports young artists from around the world. Emergent Art Space promotes cross-cultural exchange and geographic diversity in the arts. It encourages diversity, values traditions, welcomes the new and experimental. In February 2016 Emergent Art Space, in collaboration with Kolkata artist Samindranath Majumdar, held an international young artists exhibition at the Rabindranath Tagore Centre, Indian Center for Cultural Relations. Grazia Peduzzi, Executive Director at  Emergent Art Space shares her thoughts.

Your organization states that its mission is to contribute to the conversation about the evolving role of art in the contemporary global society. What can you tell me about how the role of art is evolving in today's global society? 

This is a broad and important question, and I can’t pretend to have the answer. We are all witnesses to the changes that are taking place in the contemporary world. We know that, historically, art has played different roles at different times and places. The relationship between art and society has always been dynamic, has changed with changing political, social, and cultural realities. What is new about the contemporary world is that it is interconnected in unprecedented ways. The interconnectedness does not regard only the circulation of material goods and products, but also the circulation of people and ideas, of cultural and artistic products, with enormous potential for growing and expanding exchange and connections.

We live in a globalized, connected world, and the circulation of works of art across borders and cultures, now made possible by technology, elicits exchange, communication and understanding in ways not accessible to previous generations… I do believe that art,moving between different traditions and backgrounds, between the local and the global, and enjoying the enormous freedom of expression and experimentation, can play a huge role in shaping the contemporary global culture. Giving expression to a large variety of human experiences, rooted in different cultural traditions, can be a determining factor in avoiding the pitfall of the homogenization of culture, what the critics of globalization pessimistically see as the dystopian future of our globalized society.

Do you believe that Emergent Art Space offers something unique to that conversation? If so, what is that?

We are offering a platform for young artists, and we hope to represent a large variety of artistic experiences, and to encourage exchange and dialogue across geographical and cultural differences.There are many other platforms, galleries and art institutions which host international artists. What is unique about Emergent Art Space, however, is the idea of addressing a specific demographic group, artists under 30 years of age, often still in school, and doing so internationally. The two qualifiers, ‘young’ and ‘international’ are what characterizes Emergent Art Space as an art organization.

Why does The Emergent Art Space focus primarily on the art of youth and emerging artists? What is the difference between these two categories?

I actually use these two categories interchangeably. In Emergent Art Space, young artists are emerging artists, they all have that potential. We focus on this group because we believe that the younger generation is very well situated to take advantage of what the new technologies and the new forms of exchange and communications are making possible. Young artists can also comfortably move across different and distant artistic traditions, cultural backgrounds, high and low cultural expressions and artifacts. This is strongly apparent in music, for example, but it is happening in the visual arts as well.

How do you choose the participants in your shows and programs? What kind of artists and youth are you hoping to engage? How would you define the perfect candidate for your program? Can you recall any particular young artists or artist groups that you found particularly inspiring and explain why?

Emergent Art Space is very open and inclusive. Artists who upload their works on our website, if they meet the requirements, are easily approved. We are happy to engage artists who are eager to communicate with the larger, global community, but also artists who are engaged with their local communities. In general, we are interested in artists who share our belief in the power of art as a vehicle of communication. Particularly inspiring are young artists who have launched their own initiatives through Emergent Art Space, like EinatMoglad, from Israel, who has promoted collaborative projects among artists from different countries, working together through the internet, or artists who are becoming curators and organizers in their own countries and communities, like GadiRamadhani in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, Alejandro Morales in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, or Ramon Blanco in Spain.

It was also very interesting to realize that we attracted young artists with dual nationalities, dual identities: young artists from Mexico or Puerto Rico, now living in the U.S., or from China, South Korea, Taiwan, Iran, studying in the U.S. It should not have been a surprise, given the themes of our exhibitions: ‘Crossing Borders’, ‘Translations’… Our message of intercultural dialogue resonate very strongly for them.  I also belong to this group of people carrying dual nationalities, or hybrid identities, having grown up in Italy and moved to the U.S. when I was an adult. 

Do you believe that all cultures can easily experience and interpret the art of other cultures? What does your organization do to facilitate understanding between cultures that have radically different traditions? Can you give an example of this?

I do not think that understanding the art of other cultures is easy at all. All works of art are deeply rooted both in the experience of the individual artist and in that artist’s historical and cultural context. References, connotations, symbolic meanings, they can be completely lost to the viewer who has not shared those same experiences, who does not share the same cultural context. Misinterpretations and mistranslations are always going to occur. And yet,I believe that we have all had the experience of being moved by works of art that did not belong to our tradition or culture, whose meanings or references escaped us. The aesthetic understanding is different from the intellectual understanding. Both can be communicated and translated, albeit in different ways. The constant tension between what is translatable and what is not, between what can be communicated and what can only be intuitively apprehended is part of every artist’s experience.

Emergent Art Space’s contribution is in offering a platform that gives exposure to geographical and cultural diversity, to the heterogeneity of contemporary artistic expressions. There is enormous talent and richness in young artists around the world, and it needs to be shown and disseminated. The international exhibitions we have organized have seen young artists from different cultures and backgrounds engage on a common theme. They have created conditions of genuine exchange and insight into experiences different from one’s own.The EASwebsite, which offers the artists the chance to write about their works and their projects, their ideas, experiences and points of view, is also a powerful vehicle of communication.

How did you come to be involved with this organization? To date what has been the most satisfying and or exciting program or event that you have experienced through this organization? 

I founded Emergent Art Space in San Francisco in 2011, with the help and support of several friends and family members. The inspiration came form the years I taught philosophy of art at a  Liberal Arts college in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Being in close contact with art students, discussing art with them on a daily basis, seeing their passions and their talents is what inspired me to start an organization devoted to students and young artists.

The organization has grown organically, through the young artists who have become involved. The first exhibition we held in 2013, in San Francisco, was around the theme ‘Crossing Borders’. Among the participants was an artist from Tijuana, Mexico, who was then studying in California. Tijuana is a large city right across the border from California to Mexico, and it suffers all the problems of a location right at the border between two countries at different levels of development. It seemed so appropriate to literally ‘cross the border’ with this exhibition and involving schools and young artists there. We worked for months to make it happen, and it actually turned into a wonderful collaboration between artists from both sides of that border.

Another wonderful event was of course the exhibition we had in Kolkata last February. The challenge in this case was even greater, because India is not as close to California as Mexico is… It took an enormous amount of trust, from both sides, to work together at such a distance, and a lot of work and dedication from the organizer and curator in Kolkata, artist SamindranathMajumdar. The international exhibition at the Tagore Centre exceeded all expectations. It displayed, side by side, impressive works by both international and Kolkata young artists; it was visited and appreciated by a large audience, including art critics, historians, and renown artists. For me, however, the best part was the enthusiasm and participation of all the young artists who worked together to make it happen, and to make it so successful.

What are some future ideas, hopes, dreams that you envision for Emergent Art Space?

Emergent Art Space is a young organization with big dreams, but we want to continue to remain flexible and open, to grow organically, refraining from the top down planning, through the artists who are interested in our mission. We are proud to host the works of so many great artists on our website, and we would like to expand its role in creating connections and dialogue. We will continue to promote international exhibitions, offering opportunities to artists from countries that are under represented in the art world,and to support initiatives that contribute to cross cultural dialogue, wherever they are in the world. 

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