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On Interdisciplinary Art: A conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Gabo Guzzo: Contemporary art is merging more and more with everything possible, probably reflecting a new, more widespread, phenomenon.


Hans Ulrich Obrist: This is very true. Today many authors believe that art is becoming a hybrid and I can’t disagree with those visions. The phenomenon is linked to the current blurring of borders, disciplines, fields and codes. Nonetheless, I feel that in order to make sense, hybridity needs to be generated in line with a home base. I’m neither an architect nor a scientist and as a curator of contemporary art, I always have a specific home base to which I should refer actions. When I extend the border of art to encompass other fields like music, poetry, architecture or science, I always respect the notion of being loyal to that home base.


Gabo Guzzo: The idea of the return to the home base after the explorative escape sounds like dynamic rootedness combined with orchestration talent. Are those conditions for today’s art-making?


Hans Ulrich Obrist: The past generation of artists has been often inspired by the ideal of bringing the external world into the art world with the intent to decode the outer using the key of the art. Today we are witnessing the opposite approach of production of reality: art tries to enter disciplines placed outside its own field. When I joined the art world, it was common for artists to develop their artistic process following a journey that could open up to a new reality sometimes very distant from the original starting point, while today artists seem interested to explore more parallel realities, being practitioners of two, three or more disciplines. It’s a trend coexisting with a force that tries to link to art many areas placed outside.


Gabo Guzzo: Giorgio Agamben explained that pure is made from impure and impure from pure. So has art entered a de-tox stage or is the opposite true?


Hans Ulrich Obrist: During Experiment Marathon (Serpentine Gallery), John Baldessari presented a demonstration in which he turned water to wine, then back into water using some chemicals. I think it was a great metaphor for showing that in Art the pure and the impure will always be tangled up.

London, 2010

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