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The Opening Response: Ana Montiel

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.

Ana Montiel is a visual artist and designer currently based in Mexico. Her artistic practice is not medium defined but rests upon two main themes: perception and impermanence.  It can be defined as a reflection on the limits of human experience, questioning how solid is our perception and delving into ideas borrowed from neuroscience and other disciplines, like the notion of reality being just a controlled hallucination. For Montiel, altered states of consciousness are tools to go beyond the easily perceived but she also embraces “normal waking state” ways of working. Her process is different with each project. The ideas behind are the ones that help her choose the most suitable media for each piece, be it a painting, a digital piece or a VR installation.

 

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?

Ana Montiel – I’m not articulating any response in an intentional way and I think it’s not my place to say what’s my role; I just do what feels right. I think that the key during these uncertain times (and always for that matter) is to be as honest, open, and as human as possible. To feel empathy while maintaining an attitude of discernment. To keep our minds as balanced as we can, and our hearts open.

JB – Has your artistic practice changed through isolation?

AM – This temporary isolation is definitely making me deepen my practice. Less distractions and much food for thought.

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

AM – Some artworks and projects that involved other people in the production are on hold for obvious reasons, but the pieces that I do by myself are moving full speed ahead. I moved to this new place last February, it’s a big house in Mexico City that has plenty of different areas that serve for diverse purposes. So far, it’s being very fluid working from here.

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

AM – I’m always open to collaborate and exchange ideas.

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

AM – I see it as a global rite of passage, as some sort of initiation that we need to face with an attitude of openness and a positive mindset in order to reformulate obsolete paradigms and build better and stronger structures for the future. This situation is bringing up our shadows for us to face them, all this can seem overwhelming at times but growth doesn’t happen within comfort.

JB – Do you see the potential for renewed support for cultural production in spite of macro and micro-economies which are currently rapidly restructuring?

AM – Every country is a different story… some regions support the arts more seriously than others. No idea how the current situation is going to impact, to be honest, these are unprecedented times and my opinion would be a mere conjecture… I’ve been living in Mexico for almost six years now; before I used to live in London. When I relocated here, I was a bit shocked at the lack of support from the government—not only towards the arts but with many other things. I feel that this, however, has a bright side as it creates a great resilience among the people and an amazing flexibility to surf the waves amidst crisis and uncertainty. What I see as key in all this process is to not try to replicate old systems but strive to find new ones. This pause is giving us time to think, and maybe some innovative ideas come up to plant better seeds for the future!

JB – E.M Cioran writes: “in major perplexities, try to live as history were done with and to react like a monster riddled by serenity”, how do you respond to this proposal?

AM – It’s important to stay open to the new without forgetting the past, so that it can remind us not to make mistakes from before. We need to be humble and take responsibility for our actions. Own our words, walk our talk. Be empathic and consider as many points of view as possible… in short, inviting equanimity to the party as much as we can!

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

AM – I reflect a lot on the idea of alterity… lately even more as I’m practising meditation more than usual during the quarantine. This might sound a bit out there, but transcending the self in order to blend and merge is a very recurrent thought for me. I feel that if we would be able to blur the lines around the idea of “self” and experience oneness more often the world would be kinder, more empathetic place.

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

AM – Personally, the more I use technology and have a virtual life, the more I crave (and look for) real intimacy and to experience a rich sensorial experience of my environment. I need that balance both in my work and in my life.

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

AM – This is a delicate subject… In the face of a crisis, we humans turn to solidarity more easily. We become more human and our priorities seem to be clearer than before… we are all united against something… but what happens when the “external evil” is over? Does our humanness stay or do we stray amidst our busy self-centred lives? I have faith in humanity, but I feel there’s much work to do on us as a collective and to get to that point we need to do personal work each of us individually. Luckily this time of deceleration and self-reflection is a great opportunity for that 😉

 

Josseline Black-Barnett 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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