Aleksandra Mir

Interview

Interview with Aleksandra Mir, Love Stories, Catalogue, NMAC Foundation, Cadiz, Oct 2005
By Jimena Blazquez Abascal

Jimena Blazquez Abascal: In this interview we are mostly interested in talking about your public art projects. Do you feel that through your art projects you create new ways in communicating with the public?

Aleksandra Mir: I rarely feel I am creating anything "new". I think everything I do as an artist exists already in a popular format, but I am able to combine existing situations in new ways, shift the meaning or highlight particular practices through my work. The carving of hearts, for example, exists already as an age old tradition that is built into our collective consciousness, maybe as a slightly obscure romantic notion that few people actually do experience today. So in the case of the Love Stories project, I am taking this tradition of an intimate act of carving a tree between two lovers, and turning it into a mass media project of sorts, utilizing 1000 co-existing and interlaced narratives that are solicited throw modern means of communication, email, the postal system and direct outreach to a desired audience.

What is your main concern in working on a public art project? In what ways do you feel responsible towards society on these projects?

I feel responsible in as far as I like to finish what I start. This is not always the fact since a public art project is contingent on so many external factors. I also feel responsible in terms of educating myself, doing research and being informed as much as I can about the situation I will be working within. I feel responsible towards the environment so in the case of the tree carving I made test to make sure the bark is thick enough and we do not create any permanent damage on the trees. I feel responsible towards the people who are hired to work with me on a project, to respect their schedules and working conditions, to make their tasks as easy and enjoyable as possible. I feel responsible towards protecting my own integrity when I work, on deciding when it is appropriate to invite the media and when it is not, when the right moment for the curtain to go up is, and when it is best to wait for a project to mature internally first. 
The area in which I feel completely irresponsible, is in the effect of my art as such. This is the job and the responsibility of the recipient.

What is your main concern In the Love Stories project? What is the symbolism behind the idea of creating a love forest?

It is as banal and as intense as it sounds. A forest, literally, where you are surrounded by the residue of thousand feelings felt, an inventory and archive of emotions. It is up to each and respective recipient of the work to decide how far one want to immerse oneself, you can quickly walk by all the 1000 trees in less than 1/2 hour, or you can spend an hour or more with each story and let it touch you, or not.

Do you realize that with this project you are touching the intimacy of people all around the world? In what ways does this affect you?

I realize that asking people for their personal stories is asking for a lot and reading them all is completely overwhelming. There are stories of birth and death and everything in between, written as confession or catharsis or just plain narrative interest. 

It is enough to carry your own personal story around but to be immersed in 999 more is what priests are trained for, not artists, so yes, it is a challenge for me. With some distance however this project is very liberating. You realize that everything everyone does and think of is multiplied of by the millions all around the world every day and so it lessens the intensity and drama of the separate parts. Every story is unique of course and I am taking care to save the particularity of each one, but as a whole, there is definitely a sense of hitting the note of the universal.

I see that this project, because of its universality, has an endlessly relation with time and space. How do you see the evolution and future of this project?

Yes, it is potentially endless. You can keep carving new trees as long as people will contribute stories and you want to keep up the production. In time, as the trees grow old and the bark will fall off, the hearts will disappear back into nature, and so you can use the tree again and again for new hearts or simply expand on the area of the forest. The "end" of the project will be a pragmatic decision that can occur at any time because of disinterest or limited resources. In any case, 1000 is a good number, it simply means "a lot" and from there you can hypothetically imagine it endless.

Recently there have been public discussions about the new ways for working in nature and on public art projects in remote places. For example Andreas Zittel project or Rirkrit Tiravanija’s project in Thailand show a new concern about the relationship on art and nature today as opposed to the ideas of the 70’s of land art. How do you fell about this and how do you position your work in this context?

I am following the reports from Rirkrit's Land in Thailand, I have visited and contributed to Andrea's project in the California desert and I participated in Pierre Huyghe's sailing trip to Antarctica. I feel very influenced by them and other artists of my generation that are doing art in this area today. They have taken personal initiatives to move, live, travel and produce work where there is no infrastructure waiting for them and they are outlining their own territories themselves. This should have enormous impact on every institution concerned. Surely this is also similar to a 70's incentive, but when I did my First Woman on the Moon piece in Holland in 1999, I was laughing at the legacy of the 70's, which with its grandiose pioneering ventures seemed both an incredibly intimidating and slightly ridiculous era to me. I think perhaps with Land art history at hand, and the many layers of mediatization that we operate with today, my generation is not just dealing with Land, but with the total sum of the Land + the History + the Money + the Practitioner + the Visitor + the Journey + the Publicity + the Documentation + the Movie+ the Show + the Fiction = the circular effect that all of this has back on the Land and on oneself. A private, one sided and linear confrontation with "Nature" seems almost impossible today. For one thing, there is no such thing as "remote" any longer, the connectivity, communication and access to and with every corner of the planet is guaranteed the second an artist of Rirkrit's or Andrea's or Pierre's calibre decides to set their foot there and it is hardly dramatic at all. Last week in London, I was invited by the technology and art organization Art Catalyst to help drafting the first policy on cultural utilization of the International Space Station. Is a space station Remote? Is it in Nature? Is it Land? What matters is that it is becoming accessible and it is man made already. As artists we can only contribute so much, most of it is already in place.

How do you see NMAC Foundation in this new context of the tradition of Land Art projects today?

I don’t know, we will have to wait and see how NMAC decides to use its land in alliance with this type of art and how the next generation of artist will push this question further. One thing is certain about NMAC and Land - there is a lot of it - so the future looks very interesting to me.