Interview #63

Alek O.

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).

Alek O. (Buenos Aires, 1981) studied at Politecnico di Milano (Milan). Her work has been exhibited at Jeanine Hofland (Amsterdam), Meessen De Clercq (Bruxelles), Gallery Vela and Laura Bartlett (London), Royal Institute of Technology (Melbourne), Galleria Lia Rumma (Naples), Francesca Minini, O’ and La Triennale di Milano (Milan), Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York), Frutta and MACRO (Rome); Carl Kostyál (Stockholm), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa (Venice), MOSTYN (Wales).

How and when did you arrive in Milan?

I arrived in 2001 to study at the Polytechnic University.

In 2009 you participated in As you enter the exhibition, you consider this a group show by an artist you don’t know by the name of Mr. Rossi, a group show at the ex-factory Minerva. How was this experience, and how has it influenced your work?

Actually rather than participating, it was an exhibition that I organized together with other artists… Two years had passed since an exhibition like this, which was called A Certain Ratio and had been born after a summer spent in Milan with Charlie Lioce, Matteo Rubbi, Mauro Vignando, Santo Tolone and Matteo Mascheroni… It was a brilliant experience. So we thought of continuing to work like this: simply by organizing an exhibition for the pleasure of working with other artists. Since then, at irregular intervals, I work on this type of projects.

Since this exhibition, you have collaborated multiple times with the same group of artists over the years: you haven’t established yourselves as a collective, yet the synergy has never been lost. What is the common denominator?

There never was the intention of working as a collective, with a name and a defined identity. We are all artists with very different paths, and I think the strength is exactly in this. We work together on some specific projects, based on our similarities.

Your work begins with the research of ordinary materials – towels, window blinds, umbrellas, types of glass; once the collection is completed you proceed with a geometric assembly based on categories, following an almost taxonomical classification. Did this exercise in composition begin as an aesthetic research or become that in the course of practice?

First there is the material, its charm… Or rather, the fascination it exerts on me. Then I transform it so that it may have value even in the eyes of someone else. During this passage, there is an emphasis on the shape. This becomes the medium to thus make the previous step effective.

In any case, this is an abstraction of the everyday life, where the line between the familiar and the unrecognizable is very thin. What is the aim of this ambiguity?

I hope that this little distance between what you see at first – a geometric figure due to the imagery of the art – and the perception of the ordinary material that composes it, would create a doubt, a movement between what you see and what you are supposed to… A vibration between A and B that generates a tension in the viewer of the work.

You also used personal items, by decomposing them and recomposing them under other guise: you said that for you it’s a way to not delete, but instead to add a story to objects of common appeal, that appear without personal connotations: a kind of ritual in which you load anonymous elements with added meanings. Is it possible to define a comparison of the public/private dichotomy?

Sometimes the choice of using personal items is caused by the desire to keep them ‘alive’ a bit longer. It’s a way to give them a second chance when I’m ready to discard them. So I transform them. We are now accustomed to the private that becomes public, in real time. We are immersed in a continuous voyeurism. It is not unveiling the private tout-court what interests me. In that case I’d probably be prepared to make some ready-made. My effort is to share something that until then was ‘publicly’ uninteresting.

And what brought to the reiteration of such a methodical approach?

It a way of organizing the reality, as you do with a cupboard, or when cleaning a room: in an intuitive and logical way.

Yet in another series you focused on the concept of interference, creating light installations where one of the light bulbs is ‘out of line’.

The order that I acknowledge in my works is often filled with errors. They are imperfect orders. In You Can Dance I gave more room for error. Three light bulbs are identical when you see them off. But two of them are lit with a warm glow, while the third tends to blue.

In fact, the glitch aesthetic can be observed in the frames of your embroideries, in the wear of the shutters or in the inaccurate joints of the fabrics. Is it a coincidence or is it a subject that specifically interests you? 

As a principle, I try to minimize imperfections. But you cannot delete them. The imperfection is already at the origin of the materials that I use, and also in the way I work, similar to DIY. The presentation has to be flawless, but the work can be full of uncertainties.