The Opening Response: Valerian Goalec

The Opening Response titles a special series of interviews with artists, curators, writers, composers, mediators, and space-makers around the world. Dialoguing within and around the thematics which have rapidly emerged as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we offer within this frame a differentiated, honest, and beautiful bid at understanding. Weekly, distinct doors are opened into the lives of the contributors; into their experiences dawning on pleasure, productivity, metaphysics, and paradigmatic shifts. Hopefully, these conversations can act as way-posts and lead to furthered empathy, unison, and co-creation. The Opening Response meets the need for weaving the autonomy of a web of conscious communications in times of extreme perplexity.

Valerian Goalec (France, 1986) is a Brussels based artist. He uses existing forms which he borrows, alters, and brings further. Elements in his work can be understood by themselves or as a whole; a coherent and solid set of objects that can be interchangeable. Starting points for abstract sculptures come from elements of architecture, daily life, modulations, serial variations, units of measure and of report. The forms in his work are extracted from their context in order to appropriate and multiply them to obtain new rational forms. He has worked with and exhibited with institutions such as Kunsthal Charlottenborg (Copenhagen), Art Brussels (Belgium), DASH (Courtrai), Levy Delval (Brussels), Salon Montrouge (France), 221A (Vancouver), residencies at Aldea (Bergen), CCA Andratx (Palma) and he is actually at Cité Internationale des Arts de Paris (France).


Josseline Black – In this phase of forced isolation, how are you articulating your response in a public discourse? What is your role in this larger conversation? How are you communicating with the public sphere? Are you entering into larger conversations than you normally would be? Do you feel yourself a part of a global effort?

Valerian Goalec – Of course, there is a point that must be addressed in this question, which is the relationship we have today with people digitally. I have the feeling that this forced isolation brings with it a good side; people take the time to talk to each other if even from a distance. There is, I think, more discussion around political, cultural, ecological and relational phenomena. It is therefore a question of time. This pandemic takes a lot from us but forces us to perceive a different temporality and to look around us at what is happening, therein to look beyond our habits.

JB – Has your artistic practice changed through isolation?

VG – I do not think there is a real change in my way of working; in residence at the Cité Internationale of Paris for several months, my accommodation is above my work space, and I have access to a courtyard, I am mostly socially confined but not productively.

For an artist, isolation is important for certain periods: I do this sometimes when I go abroad for a residency, and I know very well what it can bring about after several weeks of very productive creative mediation. However, here, the situation in the world is such that the questioning of the status of “artist” during a global disaster arises in addition to confinement- what should or what can we do as artists? This is a question that comes up every day and I am sure that this pandemic will have an impact on all future creations in the world.

JB – How has your practical capacity to produce work been affected by the pandemic?

VG – I think the first problem is that of concentration, and the frustration of not being able to do something with the pandemic situation. Of course, there is obviously the lack of real contact with the people we encounter regularly which is quite frustrating over time. Fortunately, social networks are there and they work perfectly to keep in touch with the outside world. I often tend to work with intermediaries, which often requires me to go out and meet these people, visit their company or workshop and make production choices. Isolation requires working differently-with photos and by email- which works but is less instinctive.

JB – What is your approach to collaboration at the moment?

VG – My practice functions more and more with collaboration, both in terms of production and in the reflections on the pieces. So, as I said above, I have already gotten into the habit of working remotely to maintain a primary relationship by email or telephone; the only frustration is the fact that everything is decided behind a screen. I also see many spaces, curators and artists proposing new forms of production and collaboration during the pandemic. I think this is a good reaction to the situation and initially interesting response.

JB – How would you define the present moment, metaphysically/literally/symbolically?

VG – I have the feeling that we humans have been stopped in a movement of inertia, as if the world continues without us, as if a global punishment was inflicted on us. The object “we” who watches this inertia continues giving us the perspective to step back on what we leave to the planet, providing us with very strong morale for our future.

JB – How is this time influencing your perception of alterity in general?

VG – As I said above, this movement contrary to inertia, is the ideal moment to realize how much we are all human with the same weaknesses and strengths. Borders have never been so closed physically but also open virtually. I think that there is a recognition of the otherness between us all.

JB – How is your utilization of technology and virtuality evolving the paradigm within which you produce work?

VG – I think you have to know how to play with and without. I realize that I often need to move on to things more directly, manually, in contrast to technology. At the beginning of my practice I quickly thought of my work via technology, without having gone through the manual step, but over time I realize the importance of both. By this I mean that do not dive fully into a technology because it evolves so quickly such that it sometimes dictates too much our desires and choices; yet, it is sometimes a fast and economical way to produce a work without investing too much body and soul in a concept.

JB – What is your position on the relationship between catastrophe and solidarity?

VG – Here again we have to talk about the role of the artist but also of the person, how each of us could evolve our practice for any help or produce an action in response to this disaster. Where and how we « artists » can respond in the cultural sense in these cases? I think things are already evolving in each of us and that the next productions will be affected in one way or another by this pandemic. For ArtBrussels (normally in April and postponed in June), I have to present a personal exhibition where the question is raised of sharing public space: how the elements that we share connect indirectly and produce links and sometimes invisible fluid, heat, bacteria and knowledge. This project was obviously conceived before the pandemic, I have for a long time given importance to reporting on the public and the relationship it has with objects, rooms, space, acoustics, light etc. Art without spectators, without visibility will have little chance of emanating and producing meaning and questioning.

JB – What is your utopia now?

VG – Decelerate, maybe everything is going to fast…


Josseline Black is a contemporary curator, writer, and researcher. She holds an M.A. in time-based media from the Kunst Universität Linz and a B.A. in Anthropology (specialization Cotsen Institute of Archaeology) from the University of California Los Angeles. She operated for five years as in-house curator of the international artistic residency program at the Atelierhaus Salzamt (Austria) wherein she had the privilege of working closely with a number of brilliant artists. Included in her duties within the institution she allocated and directed the Salzamt hosting of the E.U. CreArt mobility for artists program. As a writer, she has reviewed exhibitions and co-edited texts for Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea do Chiado, Portugal, Madre Museum Naples, the Museums Quartier Vienna, MUMOK, Guimarães Gallery, Gallery Michaela Stock. She is regular theoretical contributor to the Contemporary Art Magazine Droste Effect. In addition, she has published with Interartive Malta, OnMaps Tirana, Albania, and L.A.C.E (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). In tandem to her curatorial practice and writing, she has for the past decade used choreography as a research tool inquiring into the ontology of the performing body with a focus on embodied cartographies of public memory and space. She has held research residencies at the East Ugandan Arts Trust, the Centrum Kultury w Lublinie, the University of Arts Tirana Albania, and the Upper Austrian Architectural Forum. It is her privilege to continue developing her approach to curatorship which derives from an anthropological reading of art production and an ethnological dialectic in working with cultural content generated by art makers. Currently, she is developing the methodology which supports the foundation of a performance-based trans-disciplinary platform for a spectral critique on art production.

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