Today I am really excited to share this interview with Vanessa Murrell and Martin Mayorga, founders of Dateagle Art and the curators of the sculptural London art exhibition “Prevent This Tragedy” which explores the themes of materiality. If you’r an art lover like me, you’ll find plenty of interesting information in one of our most in depth interviews yet.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got in the art world?
We have both worked for ‘blue-chip’ galleries and art institutions for some time now. It’s very difficult to get a job position within the arts, we all start as interns, and so, growing within these companies is really based in time and patience, having a certain order and speaking with a particular tonality and language to the correct people. Being in the right place at the right moment. Having said this, being a ‘gallery assistant’ can sometimes feel as a useless task… in this role, we didn’t have direct contact with the artists or even with the curator’s or sufficient training on the exhibitions on view in these galleries, and there was no real motivation to continue with such monotonous jobs, other than gaining a stable income.
For us, it’s exciting to visit artists personally to understand their practice and approach, rather than writing about them from information sourced online or in bookshops. Real conversations and real content is what motivates and excites us, rather than overly decorated paragraphs with an extreme amount of adjectives. We decided to avoid the structure system usually implemented within galleries, and opened up DATEAGLE ART as an online platform ad a response to the lack of authentic art content online. Since opening the website over a year and a half ago, we’ve visited, documented and interviewed one artist per week, in their most intimate and personal space: their studios, and this has enabled fluid conversations, both in and out of the studio. Based on our conversations, we began to realise about what’s lacking in the ‘art scene’ in London, given it’s very much driven by a monetary income, and we wanted our platform to be driven by interesting content. Due to this, our platform doesn’t accept advertisements or submissions, we curate it’s content and select artists based on quality rather than trend, being DATEAGLE ART an archival of interviews and visits with UK-based artists, and insight into what’s happening here, and now.
In this sense, curating our platform has led us to curate shows physically, and to be involved in public programming and events, such as talks and performances. In terms of gaining an income, we have recently launched DATEAGLE STUDIO, a creative agency that offers visual services (photography, graphic design, video and podcast production, animation, amongst others) and press services to galleries, collectives and individuals, and we aim to self-sustain our platform through our agency, eliminating the ‘commercially-driven’ approach many publications have, which distracts from the real content, and also discarding the commercial input many exhibitions have, specially in terms of all-drawing shows… and trying to be a bit more ambitious and allow for artists to experiment with site-specific projects.
Greatest inspirations and/or influences?
Martha Graham’s 1930’s dance ‘Lamentation’ is a great influence for us. This performance was a complete break of conventions at the time; given that this ‘dance’ was not only performed sitting down but also hid the body from the audience, as opposition to usual dances at the time. Subconsciously, we refer to this dance with much of our overall approach when curating, which is based in the play of revealing and unrevealing. When curating, we are inclined to position works that the audience has to discover, and might not be visible at first glance, allowing for an illusion to occur. In our recent show, ‘Prevent this Tragedy’, we presented sculptural performances that moved, yet seemed fix, or pieces that seemed hung from beams but were actually self-standing. I guess that Martha Graham’s dance encompassed sound, gesture, movement, silence, tensions, gravity, play… and these are all aspects that we think about when curating exhibitions or even curating our online content. She explores the limits of the body in this piece, and we approach curating through testing the boundaries of the space, the ability to stretch inside of these physical limitations.
Controversial artist Dash Snow’s photographs are also a main inspiration for us. His photographs depict scenes of a sex, drugs, violence, and art-world pretence, documenting the decadent lifestyle of a group of young artists and their social circle. Snow began taking photographs as a teenager, as a record of places he might not remember the next day, mostly due to hard partying… In this sense, we feel quite connected with Snow’s practice, as analogue photography is a strong pillar for DATEAGLE ART, at the time to document artists studios, with a very textured effect. We aim to show the ‘real thing’ within artists’ environments, and in this manner, we don’t prepare any sort of set up, our photography is what it is, we respect that, and embrace it, we are trying to preserve a moment.
Punk music in particular is a reference we always come back to at the time of designing different visual identities for every exhibition or project. What is so interesting of this particular movement for us is it’s shot, fast-paced songs, often political, anti-establishment, and DIY aesthetic. It feels very honest, without too many decorations, and this is an element we try to incorporate within our platform. Kathleen Hannah, from Bikini Kill encouraged women to come to the front of the stage during her gigs, given that these concerts were usually quite male dominated at the time, and involved physical assaults. So, I guess that we take this in mind in terms of the emerging artists, middle-class artists, or under-represented artists and try to place them on the forefront of our platform.
As a last strong inspiration, we are definitely inclined in mentioning performer Freddie Mercury, well known for being the lead singer of ‘Queen’. The band’s renowned ‘We Will Rock You’ was a revolutionary piece at the time, given that the clapping elements the song were actually added for the viewers to be and feel part of the song. In today’s times, with the growth of immersive experiences within the arts, it’s definitely a strong inspiration to consider how Queen thought about and incorporated the viewers in their performances.
Most interesting response to your work so far?
The response from the public to what we do through the internet is great, but as a highlight, it would definitely be the response that the audience showed for our first exhibition entitled ‘The Pink Panther Show’ – in which nearly every member of the public that came to the opening night was wearing pink clothes or accessories. Some members of the public whom we spoke to during the opening night mentioned that there was a sense of community in the underground station heading to Whitechapel, where the show took place, and many visitors followed the people dressed in pink from the underground station to the gallery, due to curiosity, finding themselves in our exhibition by surprise. As a second highlight, we’d say a similar response occurred for ‘Home Alone’, our second show, located in our own house, in which the visitors were provided with blue shoe protectors when entering the space, and it suddenly started making them aware of their own steps. Many members of the public started feeling at home, and some of the people headed off to Tesco’s with the blue shoe protectors on to buy more drinks for the opening, as if it were a home party, again, creating a sense of communal identity. It seemed that the mere act of all sharing the same coloured shoe protectors made the public feel more comfortable in sharing conversations with one another.
What would be a dream project for you at this stage?
We’re really enjoying to curate shows, having done so in homes or industrial sites so far. There are many historical buildings in London set to be demolished, due to the city’s constant re-generation, and this is an approach we’d be very interested in intervening…. Following this, we’d love to explore curation in the public realm, being this in the underground stations, billboards, or public gardens, and open up to a variety of audiences which might not encounter art in a gallery context that often.
We recently visited the ‘NGORONGORO II’ exhibition set in the 6000 square meter studio space of artist Jonas Bugert in Berlin, and we were fascinated by this show’s ‘non-curatorial’ approach, mixing international artists from different backgrounds, both emerging and established in the same space, being this a refreshing approach to the current art exhibitions, as it incorporated art, music, food, events, etc. We’re very drawn to creating this feel in our shows, where people can enjoy art in a non-white cube context, given it allows for stronger and deeper interactions between the members of the public and the art shown.
What do you seek to achieve with "Prevent this Tragedy"?
Ultimately, we would like to raise awareness about the tragedies that we are all involved in - in hope of preventing these or at least making the viewers think about them. The ‘art world’ and how it functions is invaded with constant tragedies, being these, to mention a few, small studio spaces for a high price - which allows for little ambition for an artist to develop; over-booking of art student placements, which leads to a poor quality of arts education, as universities have more students and more income, however less space and room for these students to find their own voice. Moreover, international students are forced to move out of the city due to visa conditions once they finish their degree, and therefore don’t manage to establish themselves within the UK arts scene, loosing everything they originally gained due to lack of being able to exhibit, or lack of networking with their peers. Other tragedies within how the ‘art world’ functions involve systems of power and domination, being the artist the last one in line to consider in many cases... Not to mention a male-dominated system, specially within the ambit of large-scale sculpture; unfair pay and exploitation within the arts, specially with internships; a drive of commercialisation; interesting gallery spaces being replaced by luxury buildings; greedy gallerists, whom think firstly about their sales rather that looking at a wider, long-term scope on what’s best for the artist. Also, political factors such as Brexit have set up a barrier for international artists to present their works within the UK.
In this context, ‘Prevent this Tragedy’ is a take on migration, displacement, artistic uselessness, and other tragedies mentioned above, however, the ‘arts scene’ is just a small mirror of a larger scope, and we aim to make the viewer conscious of the global tragedies happening both in the arts and outside the arts, within our society and how it functions. We have allowed for local and international, emerging and established, represented and non-represented artists to make ambitious work responding to the architectural site, which is set to be demolished soon. These works either foreshadow the destruction of the space or trace its architectural and urban decay and materiality. Being an industrial location, we have played with the curation, involving materials that seem natural yet are in fact industrial, and vice versa. All artists have responded to themes of tragedy through an exploration within materiality, and we hope that the viewers experience a variety of personal emotions, from wonder and engagement to repulsion.
As in all creative fields, there are so many "art trends" are there any you appreciate and how do you stay away from them and keep true to your visual identity?
In terms of what’s currently trendy, we’re definitely inclined in mentioning digital works, as many artists embrace new technologies not only in their final works but also as a tool within their process. Politically driven shows are also quite noticeable throughout London, as a response to the current times we’re in. All-female art exhibitions are quite notorious right now, however in many of these shows it feels that the works are not chosen for their quality, but for the nature of a woman being the artist - it seems as an ‘easy’ way to go to get recognition if you’re a female artist working today, as many females hop onto this trend, however are later not considered in other types of group shows which involve a mixture of genders. Of course, we’re generalising, but shows that reflect on identity, or mental health issues are a must have in the current art scene in London. We support all kind of causes, but we think that there’s no need to push down a male artist to bring up a female one, as we believe there’s a cohesion that can be made, with time and awareness, for any sort of gender that will come.
In our last show, being this ‘Prevent this Tragedy’ we’ve inclined the overall exhibition towards a more sculptural approach, being this a response to a lack of shows that approach sculpture in London, given the small-scale of studio spaces or small range of gallery’s that allow for sculptural practice, so in fact, we’ve approached current trends and responded through what we think is lacking or necessary, from what’s currently not happening around us.
Overall, we dislike trends, and the artists that we usually select to interview, visit and/or include in our shows sometimes have little followings on social media or don’t even use it. We choose an artist based on the quality of their work, and not based on their gender, trends, or popular demand.
Favourite websites, platforms or publications?
Contemporary Art Daily (http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/) is a interesting website which lists the latest exhibitions around the world. What we like from this platform is their curatorial approach at the time to select which exhibitions to display. We sent them a submission and they haven’t featured our latest show, but it’s fine, because we still like them.
Futuro Studio (https://www.instagram.com/futuro.studio/ ) is a fantastic architecture and design studio focused on cultural events, happenings, and their relation with architecture, we quite enjoy their strong aesthetic in graphic design, and they are a point of inspiration for us at the time to create visual identities.
émergent (http://emergentmag.com/shop) is a magazine that showcases contemporary painting through interviews, conversations, and essays, very well curated content which aims to migrate the walls of a gallery into the page of a publication, strong identity and even fresh content. We’re happy to announce that DATEAGLE ART will be working with émergent in an upcoming issue, in which we will document a selection of painter’s studio’s, following our analogue photography approach as seen in our platform.
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Well, ‘Prevent this tragedy’ is on it’s last week and we’ve just launched a publication that will accompany the exhibition, including texts by Jim Woodall and texts by ourselves as well, works by all nine artists, a poster and a set of postcards with the works on view in the show. This will be a limited edition publication of 200 copies available to purchase online through emailing us! As a sneak peak of our next shows, we are in the process of co-curating a show with Anna Souter entitled ‘Darlings of the Underground’ which is going to take place in February 2019 at Subsidiary Projects, a living room which will develop into a non-exhibition space for a week. There will be six artists involved, and the exhibition is going to relate to themes of urban nature which we encounter in our everyday lives yet might not realise or be aware of, within a domestic setting.
Also, our friends Fiona Grady and Tim Ralston of Recreational Grounds have invited us to curate their next edition, happening in May! It’s exciting for us, as we have been following their work for a long time now, and we feel honoured to take part of this interesting project that enables site-specific art in a public setting, open 24/7 to the public for a weekend only, very much about hit and run. We are looking for a space to curate our next show after that, around July or August preferably. We know everybody will be out for holidays by then, so it’s a good time to find an empty space…hit us up if any idea pops by!
I’d like to give a big thanks to Vanessa and Martin for their insight and hope you’ve enjoyed the interview. In case your in London the show is still on till tomorrow at Post_Institute Von Goetz Art , otherwise follow Dateagle Art for upcoming exhibition and information and please show us support by liking and sharing this post. Thanks.
Cover Photography by Jamie Noise © DATEAGLE ART