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Interview with Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Curator of "Mathieu Mercier: Neither / Nor" at Osmos Address

Dorothée Charles (DC): Could you present OSMOS ?

Cay Sophie Rabinowitz (CSR): OSMOS was initiated 20 years ago with a project space in Berlin and it has since developed into a fully integrated set of curatorial and editorial platforms based in New York.  In general we nurture haptic, physical and concrete encounters and products for an in the art world. OSMOS Address, the project space, is located in the East Village, in the former Schwab’s Tavern, where 19th Century radicals like Emma Goldman and Ambrose Bierce gathered. Their anarchist newspaper was printed on site in the backroom. Like Schwab and his friends, OSMOS aims to let the space fulfill many purposes. Together with architects Leong-Leong, we realized a design in 2013, where the space for exhibitions and gatherings in front is separated by a sliding wall from the editorial office in back to be able to open one onto the other depending upon the activity.
Before establishing the expanded program for OSMOS in New York, my professional experience in the art world has been amazing. I have been Senior Editor of Parkett, Founding Editor of Fantom, Artistic Director of Art Basel, CEO of the fashion brand Giulietta, and as a consultant building partnerships between brands and institutions. I didn’t grow up in an art family nor was my Southern American home town close to any urban center, so I feel blessed to be doing all this.
Our quarterly, OSMOS Magazine is the most recognized art publication in the market fostering contemporary perspectives in photography as the medium crossing industries -- art, design, fashion, journalism and even advertising. With OSMOS Books we edit and publish content rich and beautiful books with artists – the next being Leslie Hewitt’s first monograph. We produce public art programs in a park with First Street Green; we make preserves from farm-raised produce and in 2014, artist Austin Thomas even made us an OSMOS Beer. We think of our lives and our space and our production as being osmotic, which metabolically involve the flow of molecular information across a selectively permeable membrane.


DC: Mathieu Mercier: Neither / Nor is the next show. How did you discover his work and have you collaborated with him on previous projects?

CSR: Mathieu Mercier was introduced to OSMOS by his professor, Anne-Marie Jugnet, an artist who exhibited at OSMOS in Berlin in 1997. Jugnet’s work in situ was a large-scale single-image projection entitled oh, oh, oh, (1997), which cast a vast shadow onto the converted industrial venue founded by Joachim Abrell and Christian Rattemeyer.
In 1998 I purchased from Galerie Mehdi Chourakri in Berlin a little 5 inch ring -- think flat cardboard donut – a stencil housed in an unassuming brown envelope. Certainly, I did not understand the potential it contained until Mercier rendered its result in my Berlin apartment while I was away on vacation. In advance of my departure, the artist came to get keys and some leftover paint I had been keeping for no intended reason under the sink. I came home from vacation to find that all of those conditions: the stencil, the light switch, and the left-over paint were part of the work, which to this day remains fully executed in the form of a perfectly defined color circle around the light switch in my dining room.


DC: In Mathieu Mercier’s exhibition, you will present a survey of work. Could you describe the series presented?

CSR: For his Pantone series, Mercier scanned flowers from parks he frequents in Paris arranged next to Pantone color cards of a comparable palette. His foliage references a long history of the still life genre while the color cards wryly (and hyperbolically) point to a seductive yet insufficient function.
Mercier has been known to render installations and interventions that require extensive production but when finally installed can remain barely perceptible. Sometimes, this might be the result of the viewer being uninitiated, in other words, unaccustomed, to discern extra painted columns or pipes in the exhibition space.


DC: Neither / Nor is the title of the show. Could you explain this reference?

CSR: Mathieu Mercier’s work operates somewhat whimsically between Walter Benjamin’s revolutionary exegesis and Duchampian transubstantiation. Mercier’s dialogical juxtaposition of visual systems and frameworks from art history, design, and architecture indulges viewers the opportunity to question a common object’s potential for authenticity in times of evident over-production while contrarily conferring value back onto such objects.
The exhibition title intends to playfully refer to Soren Kierkegaard’s first published work entitled Either/Or. My intention with this title was to add both weight and lightness. Mercier’s work demonstrates the powerful rhetoric of repeating or remaking something (as in his recent book re-make of Ducamp’s famous Boite en Valise). His mimicry of design elements, his manner of replacing or adding only a slight variation, enacts for the viewer a measurable paradigm shift for possible meaning. And at the same time that same change can result in no real change at all. Just as Shakespeare reminds us with Much Ado About Nothing to suggest that it is nothing suggest quite a matter of substance in the forest behind the trees. But all this is accomplished not by science or philosophy but by art and literature and for that reason, Mercier’s exhibition title, Neither/Nor belongs to art rather than science to make a space for a gathering of aesthetic experience.