Alex Turgeon lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He received his BFA from Emily Carr University (CA) and Kunsthochschule Weißensee (DE) in 2010 and has since participated in exhibitions in North America and Europe. In 2011 he participated in the visual arts residency From Tool Box for a Serving Library lead by Dexter Sinister at the Banff Centre for the Arts (CA). From 2011 he has been presenting poetry projects in the form of readings, performances and publications. He is also the founding editor at General Fine Arts, a quarterly e-journal focused on poetry, prose and fiction.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada. I moved to Vancouver when I was thirteen and studied sculpture at Emily Carr University, as well as a year stint as an exchange student in Berlin between 2008-2009. After finishing my degree I moved back to Berlin, where I have been based sense 2011. Recently I have been focusing on poetry and photography in my work, and looking at how to combine the two mediums through publications or video. That being said my work is not medium specific as it can range from installation to readings and performance. I am more interested in exploring relationships between formal and social systems in my work, such as gender, sexuality and capitalism.
Best Friends (Diptych), Chain with Pendant, 2013
How long have you lived in Berlin and what brought you there? About three and a half years in total. As I mentioned earlier I originally came here to study, but fell in love with Berlin quite naturally, which appears to be an epidemic here…Berlin seemed like the most appropriate place to try out being an artist after school, I had a base here from studying and it was a big enough city that things were still in flux, Berlin still gave the impression of possibility. It was also much easier to move to Berlin, then say New York. The romance of living in Berlin has kind of faded away for me, but I still enjoy living here. I guess it is home for me to some regard.
Best Friends (Diptych), Chain with Pendant, 2013 (Detail)
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Since last summer I have been working with Berlin based e-publisher Version House on developing a quarterly e-journal with a focus on poetry, prose and fiction. The e-journal is titled General Fine Arts and we launched the first issue this past September in New York at Cleopatra’s. The publication’s mandate is to incorporate newly commissioned works from writers, visual artists, musicians, etc. with republished works. Each issue is loosely thematic, however my interest in producing this publication is to foster relationships and connections between style and thematics from the past, present and future, rather than be a surgery of the now. General Fine Arts also is focused on expanding the field of creative writing through the platform of e-publishing, looking to challenge and expand how writing is published as well as presented. I am currently working on the second issue which is slated to be launched sometime in end of January 2014.
Best Friends (Diptych), Chain with Pendant, 2013 (Detail)
What past trends in art do you think should never come back? I find the term “trends” in art rather problematic. I think that in historicizing art, works have been canonized as a way of understanding where they come from, rather than being something styled to keep up with an aesthetic sensibility. Of course there are artists and markets that feed of the idea of “newness”, as well as artists that become factories to produce variations on a theme to feed supply and demand. I am really against these models in my work, I am interested in responding to my environment, my experiences, and how these are filtered through my artistic language. If for some reason a fellow artist exists within the same environment and shares similar experiences then perhaps there would be similarities. However I feel the pressure for young artists to keep up with the aesthetics of an idea of “now” rather problematic.
Thoughts for Food, C-Print, 2013
What are you currently watching on Netflix/what’s on your Netflix queue? I don’t have a Netflix account.
Installation view, Room with a View, 2013 (Detail)
What are you reading right now? Aliens & Anorexia by Chris Kraus, Visions of Excess by Georges Bataille and also snipping in and out of The Dream Police, Selected Poems 1969-1993 by Dennis Cooper. I have this problem where I will pick up a book and read half of it then pick up another one at the same time and read a bit then go back and forth. I just go through phases of interests. At the moment am exploring more fiction and creative writing. I feel it nourishes my creativity.
Installation view, Room with a View, 2013
What artists are you interested in right now? Paul Thek hands down, his work has really been resonating with me right now, its very visceral. I first saw a show of his work at a group show with Luc Tuymans in 2012 and was quite mesmerized by this weird queerified Beuysian future-past tomb aesthetic to the work. As if the treasures of some pharaoh’s tomb from the future where unearthed and placed within an exhibition space. The artist as subject, but also as representation. It really showed the breadth of this work. Also I have been rethinking/rehashing my interest in David Wojnarowicz and the subsequent New York scene in the late 80’s, including Jack Smith. I read Wojnarowicz’s “Close To Knives” some years ago I remember his aggression and sensitivity really coming through. Around that same time I was also reading “Safe” by Dennis Cooper. I feel like these two pieces are really vibrating for me, like some sort of Pandora’s box. I would like to look at them again, I think its a good time to look back at these works.
But on a more contemporary note I recently saw a show of Henrik Olsen’s work here in Berlin which was probably one of my favourite shows I have seen in a long time (at least all year), he has such a way with subtleties. I feel his work (or at least this show) was so fantastically poetic and romantic, but also very sinister. I like the way he thinks about the whole architecture of the space, down to the holes in the wall.
There is this Paul Thek quote that Kraus brings up in Aliens & Anorexia that I feel is a great way of responding to this idea of “trend” that was brought up earlier:
“The name of the game seemed to be ‘how cool can you be’ and ‘how refined.’ Nobody ever mentioned anything that seemed real. The world was falling apart, anyone could see it. I was a wreck, the block was a wreck, the city was a wreck; and I’d go to a gallery and there’d be a lot of people looking at stuff that didn’t say anything about anything anymore” – 1981
Marble Tongue, HD Video 6’00” Loop, 2013
Tell us about your work process and how it develops? My process is somewhat convoluted, but I have been pulling mostly from a personal history and abstracting it. I have an interest in painting, but have such a difficult time believing in myself as a painter. I feel that my compositions are based on abstract painting, a tendency towards formalism, looking for meaning in abstraction, allowing for it to become illustrative and vice versa. I am interested in modes of translation, not just between different languages, but also dialects and how words, or texts, function both as a written and spoken language. When I was doing my undergrad in Vancouver I had a studio visit with a visiting professor and he said something that will last with me forever: “you have to create your own cosmology”. This is something that has really influenced how I conceptualize ideas and think about formal and thematic connections in my practice.
Bonfire of the Vanities, C-Print, 2012
Describe your current studio or workspace. For the better part of the year I have been working somewhere between the library and my apartment. This has been a very positive as well as frustrating experiment for me, as I have been with a studio basically since art school. Mostly it has allowed me to take more of a step back and think of alternative ways of production, focusing on the planning exhibitions and works, working through problems mentally. Just recently I acquired some new studio space, which I have yet to move into, but I am really looking forward to finding out what will come from it.
Serviette 1, C-Print and Hanging Materials, 2013
If you were a drink what drink would you be? Although I have never tried it, there is a brand of soda in Germany called Schwip Schwap which is a product of Pepsi that is a mix of Cola and Orange Soda. I think thats sort of a way of summing me up in a beverage…
A rose by any other name, C-Print, 2013