Exhibition interview 24. 46. 50. 97.
Interviewed by Ann Dingli
Four artists – Carlos Garaicoa, Gerold Miller, Jurgen Ostarhild, and Yeoul Son – bring their work to Valletta Contemporary under the curatorship of Norbert Francis Attard, in an exhibition that pushes the boundaries of the aesthetic by either experimenting with media, incorporating new technologies and digital realities or addressing social, political and economic issues. By pushing the limits of the known, these four diverse and seemingly disparate artists bring new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the forefront. Ann Dingli speaks to the shows’ curator and artists about their work showing at Valletta Contemporary (VC).
Ann Dingli (AD): Norbert, were you aware of the work of these artists before this collective show? What resonates as a common thread between them all, if any?
Norbert Francis Attard (NFA): I have a very different history with each of the four artists. Carlos Garaicoa, whom I have known the longest, and who has been established since 2004. I first met Carlos in 1999 through an exhibition we were both participating in. It was a huge collective show titled DIASPORA, International Art Meeting, and it was held in Ciudad de Oviedo, Spain, curated by Javier Baron, Orlando Britto Jinorio, Luciano Escanilla, Anke Mellin, Andres Pereiro and Cuco Suarez. The second time I met Carlos was again in a very large show when we were participating in the Echigo Tsumari Triennale, curated by Fran Kitagawa, in Japan, in 2006. I’ve followed Carlo’s career as artist since, and we kept in contact throughout the years. Then in 2022 and 2023 I visited his new studio in Madrid and things followed from there.
I met Gerold Miller a few years ago, I believe around 2018, when I first visited his studio in Berlin. Ironically, it was Gerold who first noticed Valletta Contemporary through our Instagram account. He wrote a short message with a positive comment about the gallery. I liked his work so the next time I was in Berlin, he invited me to come over. I must have visited his studio at least three other times in the last few years.
I met Yeoul Son and Jurgen Ostarhild around the same time, a bit over two years ago. Yeoul applied for a three-month artist-in residence term at Gozo Contemporary in 2021. I got to know her more during this period, as well as when Chris Meigh-Andrews was in residency at the same time. I invited Chris to curate a show at VC called Meta Landscapes – it was a media show held in 2022 comprising 11 artists and Yeoul was included in this collective. I followed Yeoul’s beautiful work from then on, which inspired me to include her in this current show 18.104.22.168.
I discovered Jurgen’s work before I met him. I had never heard of him, but when I first saw his pieces being shown at Art Basel, I had to purchase one immediately. His gallerist introduced us via email and since Jurgen was based in Berlin, an appointment to meet was easy to set up. After our first meeting in Berlin, Jurgen visited me in Gozo. From then on, it was easy to organise his participation in this show.
When I toyed with the idea of putting these four artists together, I had no particular concept, except that I knew instinctively that they would complement each other in the spaces I knew so well at VC. It is common practice that most people want to see a common factor, a common tread, running through the participating artists – a failure to do this, could be considered disastrous. I tend to think otherwise because, in a wider and holistic sense, I consider everything to be connected in some way, even when apparently it is not as obvious. I believe that different and diverse works can work together in magical ways, sometimes better and more stimulating than when the common treads are obvious and clear. This show is definitely a case in point.
Installation view of 24. 46. 50. 97. featuring work by Yeoul Son.
AD: From a curatorial perspective, the element of ‘geometry’, is identified as a commonality between the four bodies of work. What role does geometry play in each of the artists’ personal practices?
NFA: All of the artists’ work is physically diverse – their process of making art is different and each artist is also exploring different concepts. I’m quite sure that geometry or mathematics might be a basic inspiration to all these artists, but it wasn’t this idea that brought them together. In fact, all four artists included in the exhibition push the boundaries of the aesthetic by either experimenting with media, incorporating new technologies and digital realities, or addressing social, political and economic issues. By pushing the limits of the known, the artists bring new ideas, perspectives, and experiences to the forefront.
Throughout history, numbers have been known to have cultural and even magical associations. In contemporary times, numbers are fundamental to statistics and are often associated with colours in pie charts, line graphs, heat maps and other forms of data visualisation that simplify complex scientific results for communication purposes. The numerical title of this exhibition draws inspiration from a much humbler origin: an old telephone dial with numbers and letters that ‘spells out’ the initials of the four artists participating in the exhibition. Hence, Carlos Garaicoa becomes 24, Gerold Miller becomes 46, Jurgen Ostarhild is 50 and Yeoul Son is 97. The title replaces one form of identification (names) with another (numerical codes), but this seemingly arbitrary system of categorisation helps to bring to light visual, conceptual, and other lines of convergence.
Dance Floor (2023) by Jurgen Ostarhild
AD: You all hail from different parts of the globe and have vastly unique formative backgrounds. How does it feel to be exhibiting in Valletta – what role did the gallery itself in the heart of the capital have to play in the way you presented your work?
Carlos Garaicoa (CG): My practice as a sculptor and installation artist always tries to establish a dialogue with the city in which I exhibit. Although the works were not made for this space, we have tried to find a way to adapt them to it.
Yeoul Son (YS): Valletta's charming cream-colored bricks and the intense, radiant sunlight that bathes the city create an enchanting environment. Exploring the streets and alleys of Valletta is a true delight, as I find myself captivated by the weathered surroundings and the historical fortifications. The combination of these elements instils a sense of joy and inspiration within me.
Along with outside environment, the gallery’s inside space, its interior design, artfully blends elements of the past and the present, showcasing a perfect harmony between old and contemporary aesthetics.
The white walls and warm-coloured bricks, rooted in the cultural heritage and history of Malta, create a captivating backdrop for artistic experimentation. What is truly remarkable is how the gallery effortlessly integrates my artwork into the broader contexts of culture and life. By exhibiting within this space, I feel that my creations naturally become part of the cultural narrative of Valletta.
Installation view of 24. 46. 50. 97. featuring Data Drawings by Yeoul Son (foreground) and The Roots of the World (2016) by Carlos Garaicoa
AD: Finally, can you talk about how your work in the show incorporates “new technologies and digital realities or addressing social, political and economic issues”?
YS: Over the past decade, I have developed a keen interest in exploring the coexistence of humans and technology. Consequently, my recent focus has been on creating artworks derived from data – particularly in the context of the Anthropocene, the geological term referring to present era when human impact on the Earth.
The most hotly discussed topic of the Anthropocene is environmental issues such as global warming and high-tech under the logic of advanced capitalism. These discussions centre on the problems in the process of converting phenomena into data. In his lecture, Bruno Latour criticised the unwavering belief in science’s ability to solve every problem through technology. This belief also extends to the idea that digitising Earth’s information can capture and predict various phenomena. Latour emphasised the vital role of artists and intellectuals in expressing phenomena through data.
My artistic journey begins with a critical examination of the process of converting phenomena to data. I contemplate about the way or process of comprehension of phenomena with data and technology. In my Colors from Data project, I collect humidity and temperature data at various locations every 10 seconds over the course of an hour using a wearable location-based sensing device. I then translate this data into colours and share it through Google Maps. The transformed colour data is presented through monitors. As a point of comparison, I also represent the colour data derived from public weather information for the same time and location on a canvas.
Data Drawing, which is a series derived from Colors from Data, involves a drawing practice on Google Maps with coloured points created from real-time temperature dataset uploaded and collected while roaming around the place to collect it.
Through the Color from Data series, I explore the possibility of enjoyment with colour and the wider and more various perspectives in ways to understand phenomena through data blurring the boundaries between public and private, experts and non-experts, specific and average and subjective and objective use of data.
Detail from Counterweight (Plumb City) (2022) by Carlos Garaicoa
CG: The three works I present do not depart so much from the technology and media point of view, which for me will always come from conceptual art, as much as from a social interest. Media for me is always like a painter's palette, it adapts. For example Contrapeso/ Counterweight is made with 3D molds from my drawings, it is a very technological process but ultimately it is born from a hand drawing and ends in a lost-wax in the old style. They are, more than “high” or “low” technique, a tool to discuss issues inherent to the human being.
Jurgen Ostarhild (JO): Numbers as numbers have only 10 signs. Modern computers and cryptography use 16 signs. My work takes Hexcode from cryptography (blockchain technology) and interprets it as colour fields.
I have always used machines to show my reality. The focus on my reality, as well as the machines, has changed over the last few decades. In the 20th century I used mechanical cameras, now I use virtual machines – algorithms. Blockchain technology and smart contracts or NFTs are the base of Decentralised Autonomous Organisation DAOs, which I believe will have the most impact in social, political and economic issues in the future. In DAO and decentralised structures such as ‘quadratic voting’, a democracy 3.0 seems possible. This meaning having post-democratic structures through decentralised organisations.
NFTs and the art world represent just a simple, avantgarde use of blockchain technology. My own research on blockchain technology has led me to question the relationship of art and money. My latest body of work develops minimal, volatile regenerated colour representations of crypto currency blocks, continuously produced from bitcoin and ethereum blockchains. The piece I will show now called DanceFloor, speaks to the fluctuating value of bitcoin as a camouflage pattern of bull and bear markets in red and green, real-time.
Blockchain technology, the most recent stage of digital evolution, was originally a finance instrument. My new work from the cycle ColorHueState interprets data produced in this way. In this way, sustainable digital compositions are generated – my work has its roots in photography, the first technology for automating images. The revolutionary aspect of my blockchain based image creation cycle is that art is created through the means of production intended for monetary value.