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Stephanie Seidel assistant curator, ICA Miami

How did you know about the "Focus" program of the Institut français?

I learned about the program through the Consulat général de France in Miami. It was Vanessa Selk, Cultural and Education Attaché (Florida and Puerto-Rico) who pointed out this opportunity to me and encouraged me to apply for the program that host international curators in Paris and introduces them to the French contemporary art field.

Can you briefly describe the steps of your field trip (institutions, people you met)? Who was part of the selected group?

The six-day program took the group of 15 international curators to a variety of art institutions, artist’s studios and initiatives, galleries, foundations and museums located in and around Paris. Part of the – mostly female group – were colleagues running programs in Istanbul, Brussels, Berlin, Beirut, Portugal, Japan, Korea, Urugay and the UK among others. It was also a great opportunity to connect and exchange on their various institutions.

We did not only have the chance to have studio visits with Paris-based artists that were involved in this year’s Venice Biennale but also to visit institutions that make a substantial contribution to the vibrant art scene of Paris, among them the studio center of La Cité internationale des arts, Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard, Kadiste, and Le Jeu de Paume.

We had the chance to attend a full day of various performances at La Ferme du Buisson, a 19th centrury industrial complex outside of Paris dedicated to performing arts. Also outside of Paris, we were able to visit a number of institutions in the Ile-de-France region. Many of them founded in the 1970s by Communist Government as Community Art Center, they now run a committed international program with the involvement of the local community, among them La Galerie in Noisy-Le-Sec where we experienced a subtle but strong performance by artist Miriam Lefkowitz.

  • What were your "coups de Coeur" (favorites/crushes)?

  • We had a lot of great meetings and visits and I’m very thankful for the hospitality that we were greeted with at every venue. A personal highlight for me was the visit to Bétonsalon – Center for Art and Research - that I had been following online and in publications for a long time but never had the chance to visit so far. The gallery - located on a fairly recently developed university campus in the South of Paris - featured an extensive multi-media installation by Emmanuelle Lainé. For me this place is great example of how to an institution can be part of a newly developed urban environment and contribute to a local neighbourhood as well as to an international discourse.

I was also very happy to see the exhibition of Haig Aivazian, which featured the French premiere of his film How Great You Are O Son of the Desert! (part I) (2009-2013). The short film connects the story of the famous French soccer player Zinedine Zidane with the tragic death of two young boys, which ultimately triggered the widespread riots in French suburbs in 2005.

  • Did some art work or artists surprise you?

A discovery for me was the self-organized space La Colonie, founded by artist Kader Attia in the neighbourhood of Gare du Nord. A café and open meeting place during the day, it hosts talks and discussions in the evening and parties on the weekend. The programming is not just implemented by the staff of La Colonie but the majority of evening programming is intiated by 3rd parties. Individuals and groups can approach them and apply for the venue to host their programs free of charge. It impressed me as a place that is open to everyone in the neighbourhood and engages politically with the colonial past of France and its reverberations in the city’s population today.

What were your links with France so far?

ICA Miami organized the first museum solo exhibition for French artist Renaud Jerez in 2016. The artist made a new series of work, partially on site with the support of the French Consulate in Miami.

Before I started working at ICA Miami I was based in Düsseldorf where I worked on a project for the Arts Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia that commissioned 25 artists to produce 25 works for 25 museums in the region. Among them were Paris-based artists Neïl Beloufa, Katinka Bock and Ingrid Luche. Even before, at the NAK. Neuer Aachener Kunstverein in Aachen, Germany, we had collaborated with Benjamin Thorel, co-founder of the project space castillo/corrales and the Section 7 bookshop with the adjacent publishing house Paraguay Press in Paris, for an exhibition project at the Kunstverein.

  • In what way did the "Focus" program change your vision about French contemporary art? 

I’ve recently been researching more on colonialism and aspects of decolonization. For me, the Focus program emphasized that French contemporary art addresses these global issues – especially against the background of its own historically charged perspective. Among others, the visit to the Musée de Quai Branly, the presentation of Marie Voignier’s film at Galerie Marcelle Alix exploring a region in Cameroon that had seen conflicts opposing the German and French colonial powers as well as the studio visit with Thu Van Tran, who showed work and research into the rubber industry in former French Indochina, expanded on my previous experiences and showed that contemporary French art deals with global issues of our time.

How may this experience impact your practice as a curator in general, and at ICA in particular?

As part of my constant and ongoing research on international emerging artists the Focus program has allowed me to broaden my knowledge on French and Paris-based artists. It was a fantastic opportunity to further expand my knowledge on contemporary art in this region and to be in touch with a vibrant international scene in France.

It was particularly inspiring for me to see how various institution seek the close collaboration with the neighboring communities and a variety of audiences that they actively engage in their institution’s programming - a goal that we also pursue at ICA Miami and that we are going to further expand on in our new museum building that opens on December 1rst, 2017 in the Miami Design District.

What perspectives and opportunities do you see for emerging French contemporary art/artists in Miami or Florida?

Miami is a striving, rapidly expanding and incredibly international city. It is not only a large hub for South America but also hosts a large number international communities from all over the world that contribute to shaping the city. Emerging contemporary artists, including French artists, play a vital role in addressing contemporary issues of our time, Renaud Jerez being one example who focused in his exhibition at ICA Miami on the relation of human beings and the increasing technologization of our environment.

Now that you have experienced the Focus program, what does it mean to you now?

Not only did the program allow me to gain a better insight of the French art scene but the Focus program also pointed out the various possibilities of collaboration and support that are offered through the Institut Francais, like the “Etant Donnés” program as well as possible collaborations with French institutions like the Cité des Arts that can be viable resources for future programs.

About FOCUS Art visuel program
ICA Miami website