Italian actor, artist and cultural entrepreneur Giovanni Morassutti and Bangladeshi curator and researcher Sadya Mizan have been collaborating in 2019 in the International project Uronto – an Artist-Led Open Collective in Bangladesh with a residential exchange program. In the following interview, they share its outcomes for international arts management, curatorship, cooperation, and similarities and differences between art practices in the Western and the non-Western world.
Sadya: What is your understanding of the intersection of curation and arts management in the European context? Giovanni: I have the feeling that curatorship in Europe is becoming more and more an academic field confined to institutional settings. The problem is that the process tends to be very analytical, requiring to apply the knowledge of contemporary art theories, mainly connected to criticism of visual art forms. This can lack a more intuitive interpretation of artworks, which in my opinion would allow a better understanding of the artistic process. I also believe that it is important to integrate the knowledge of different disciplines in the development of creative communication between art and society, as well as it is fundamental to learn how to communicate with the audience. In terms of arts management, I see, especially in Berlin, many people and art collectives inventing and testing new formats. Many project spaces, including my pop-up gallery Art Aia – La Dolce Berlin, are interested in opening up intellectual borders between different cultures by independently managed residency programs and cultural exchanges. The intersection happens when there is an interest in interpreting art production in a wider context.
Sadya: I completely understand the consequences of the academic process focusing too much into art history and feeding art critics while ignoring the need for interactive communication. In Bangladesh, on the other hand, there is only a very poor presence of curatorial practice, no curators in art infrastructures, no curatorial studies in any art institute – matter of fact, we have such few numbers of such institutes at all and all of them with a classical colonized curriculum. Some of the artists with strong passion and dedication are coming in front line action as independent curators or arts managers, mostly learning by doing. I look at this also positively as a kind of freedom but in the long run we do need institutional training, not necessarily in art history but in other related segments. Especially nowadays the freedom of self-taught curatorial positions in Bangladesh is being corrupted by few practitioners to survive in the shrinking pot of opportunities ultimately contaminating the importance of a curator and arts manager.
Giovanni: You have also been working in the USA and Europe. What is your perspective on these countries and on their ways to deal with arts management?
Sadya: I think the USA and Europe have two different processes of dealing with arts management as they have a different range of facilities to operate. The common fact, however, is that both regions have the infrastructure to train arts managers and identify creative leaders. A well supporting financial structure gives them the privilege to hire arts managers for their projects. In Bangladesh it is mostly one person doing it all, and even if you have funding it is very difficult to find good arts managers as there are no opportunities to train or motivate possible leaders. In Western countries, if you want to start a project and if you spread the word you can expect to have professionals to reach out to you. You do not always have to spend time and money in trial and error just to figure out the strategic planning and the primary team. Arts management is a less challenging position in Western countries as it is backed with knowledge and training. This made me realize that if we had such infrastructures in Bangladesh – where we have achieved so much without any of those facilities but only with a little bit of motivation and learning programs – we could go far in the future. I would love to work with European arts and cultural professionals more often. First of all, it is easy to get funding for them, honestly. I think Europe provides you with many opportunities to explore, adapt, and innovate. Then it allows learning about many professional aspects that I won’t be learning anything about in other regions. Though in terms of creative solutions I think developing regions are more exciting to work with as they face more challenges and are forced to come up with new approaches. Working in Europe is more sustainable, for sure, but I also like the professional aspect there. When I collaborated with Art Aia – Creatives / In / Residence and with you as a co-curator for Uronto’s latest project, we had very clear communication, very simple straightforward processes and approaches. In some South Asian region’s professionalisms in arts management are sometimes so obsolete, this completely kills the energy and motivation. So, if I summarize, sustainability, professionalism, and clear commitments make me very much interested to work in Europe more in the future. Following that, I am interested to explore the mix of cultures due to the migrations in the region and some of the contrasting social realities through artistic investigation.
Giovanni: How do arts and culture in Bangladesh ensure that Bangladesh is not an icon of poverty?
Read the full interview on Arts Management Network – State of the arts.