German artist Ella Görner (1989) is exhibiting her project, Sustainability & Opportunities, at the Konstanet art space. She has created a fictional scenario to reflect on how ‘green’ ideology is disseminated into our everyday life and how this type of thinking is being currently branded. We discussed her interest in ecological issues and also talked a little about what it means to show art online.
To start off, could you talk a little about the background of the exhibition – how it came into being and how you developed an interest in 'eco' marketing & branding issues?
Before this exhibition, I created the fictive brand Nykedas, which was presented as a visual juxtaposition of a fashion brand and an open-source organization.
I have always been interested in how corporate structures create an identity that is of interest to their workers and investors, as well as to their customer base. Much like the construction of a bee hive, the company gives them perspective and an integrated structure or direction. A corporation is just another possible way of structuring organized work, and it is of interest to me as a network and as an example of the evolution of information channels. Is it possible to view a corporation just in terms of its informational spread, and separate from the product and the people behind it?
I am intrigued by eco-conscious branding, marketing and the sustainable approach for business structures because it is subtly solving issues that we, in general, are concerned with in this so-called capitalist era. Corporations that are concerned with eco-marketing have to think about society as a whole, the planet, and their business model. I like how these information networks are changing and adapting to a different routine and exploring a different mode of operation.
And I think that deep down, I have a knack for a modus operandi of spreading information in a new context. I remember when, as a kid, I would draw informative signs that were supposed to make people restrain from littering and to think of the animals in the forest. We were living close to the woods back then, and my mom laminated these signs and I attached them to the trees. I wouldn’t describe myself as an activist of any kind. I am going for the analytical and suggestive. To interfere and undertake statements and viewpoints doesn’t necessarily mean to nest the positioned ideas. I have been following-up how agendas are spread ever since I was young – because I was fascinated by it. I thought a lot about how ideas like buying organic food and living consciously are spread, and how the means of promoting the same idea change over time. I was exploring how the aesthetic representation of organic products and the accompanying lifestyle had changed over time, and how the climate debate was taking over mainstream media.
The issues related to being 'green' and 'eco-conscious' seem to be trendy at the moment, in terms of both lifestyle and art. Why do you think that is?
The term “trending” implies that there is a peak, and then the interest dies away. The funny part about this trend is that it might never fade as a lifestyle in its basic coordinates, which are: 1) use your resources cleverly, 2) care about your environment, and 3) act according to your most basic responsibilities as a human being living in a world of objects that are man-made.
Konstanet, being a gallery, is a somewhat unusual space for an artist to work in. What was the process like – in terms of conceiving the show and working within that space? Were there any particular difficulties or unexpected experiences?
The Konstanet space is smaller in scale than most gallery spaces. The accessible area for coding and decoding (exhibiting) is much more concentrated there. It is a great place to have ideas mingle; it can be like a particle accelerator, like CERN. It is a sensitive space, so it might not always be possible to let visitors move around in the exhibition, but they can view it from the side. The decoding of the space might be experienced as more flattened if you can’t actually get closer to some of the works, but this can be used like a screen, like a more concrete section to position and play out ideas. It is like a cage for art that is open on one side. So, standing in front of it, you might not experience how the objects in the exhibition space are actually positioned, which can eventually be used as an aspect of the show. For example, the visitors might have not been able to catch a full glimpse of the sculpture inside the snow dome, and so on. But the virtual space counteracted that somewhat.
After being installed, Sustainability & Opportunities was physically open to the public only for a few short hours, and it is primarily meant to be viewed online. Do you think there is a difference in how people view your installation online and offline?
Technically, I think that the exhibition is much more controllable on a screen. The screen is fixed. You can decide a lot about how people are going to view it. You decide on the angle of the camera, the lightning, the photoshopping. On the website, you set data around these images and control the way the audience's view of the exhibition changes, i.e. how the pictures are going to slide. I think of these conditions as a controllable benefit. So, the idea can be directed, because I have already decided which perspectives and ideas I want to have underscored. I really like this as an approach because it can make my message much clearer. In the space, you have to move your eyes first to connect the dots of the spread-out information, and then connect them again in order to understand. So, there is a difference in the way we perceive the exhibition online and offline. In both spaces it is important to me how they are occupied, used, inhabited. I think about both presentations together because the show is always set up in the gallery space as well as on the web.
It is quite common for exhibitions that are actually meant to be viewed in person to be simultaneously circulated online as well – as an artist, do you incorporate that possibility into your work from the very beginning, or how do you negotiate that?
Showing my work online means that I am able to communicate my ideas more precisely in a theoretical and analytical framework. I think about it as a platform in which the concept of the show can be closely knitted to the presented works. I develop my concepts for both positioning in the exhibition and for the online representational format. My topics of examination are, in themselves, close to the mode of communication I have chosen to present my ideas; they are closely linked. I think of my work in terms of acting positions, ideas and situations, so the mode of communication is part of the work.
Thank you for discussing your show (and everything else) with me!