Interview: Christalena Hughmanick
Luca Curci talks with Christalena Hughmanick during VISIONS, third appointment of CANVAS INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2023, held in Venice at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
“My practice engages with human relationships between craft and labor, and the scaled production systems that have generated these histories. In the process of creating works, I inhabit the roles of the archivist, manual labourer, archaeologist and spiritual medium as a way of investigating the relationships of “producer” to “consumer” and “artist” to “viewer.” I take a theoretical approach related to the field of cultural anthropological studies, which is enacted through research that attempts to capture stories told through vernacular practices that may disappear”.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Christalena Hughmanick – I’ve structured my practice in a way that allows me to follow many threads of interest and draws on my backgrounds in classical music, modern dance and visual art training. My process begins very solitary and ends in a social manner. I take long walks in nature that I call ‘pilgrimages’ in order to clear my mind and formulate ideas. This is where I produce poems, drawings, field recordings and forage materials for plant dyeing textiles. I use all of these elements to create immersive installation spaces that become activated by viewers and myself through performance. For me, the term ‘art’ encompasses all aspects of the creative process from inception to public presentation.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
CH – I like to move between defined structure; implementing timelines and rules for studio time, and play; experimentation and being open to how ideas evolve. Dedication and hard work are also important but I’ve found listening to myself at the end of the day to be the most crucial. I often tell students that they have to be excited to work on the current project as soon as they wake up otherwise consider moving on to a new work. The art world is not easy to navigate and is a long game. I’ve always invested in my ideas first and then sought out a place for them to exist in the professional sphere.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
CH – I am slowly building a conceptual framework and logic for the work that is my own. It can be challenging to meaningfully introduce its complexities to the public, in a world where media is reduced to headlines, soundbites and screenshots. Specifically, social media may convey the essence of an artist’s practice but its motivation, emotion and magic/origin are difficult to absorb through the quintessential grid. I respond to this by engaging people with ultimate presence in the gallery. Within this framework that I am always building, I try to incorporate life experience, new geographical locations and exchanges that I have with people along the way. No matter how many times I carry out a performance that engages the public, I can’t be sure how it will land with an audience. I have performed my Considerations seven times in four different countries so I have to think about how they can resonate with viewers across cultures. My experience on a Fulbright in Hungary really helped me understand the relevance of cross-cultural exchange to mutual understanding and acceptance of others. I find these challenges to be exciting and motivating for the project’s next iteration!
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the exhibition or as a part of preexisting works?
CH – I presented Consideration of a Liquid Nature (Venice) at Visions, which is part of an ongoing series of programming called The Truth Guide for the Beginner’s mind. I write spoken affirmations for becoming different natural elements (ie. wind, trees, lava, gold) and invite others to use them daily. The project looks at relationships between humans, nature and desire. Interactive performances prompt participants to consider the most common and unending of pursuits — to feel satisfied, fulfilled, and complete. In order to make tangible the space between what is being sought after and what is found, we navigate between necessity and beauty by asking ourselves “How does one attain enough distance from one’s own body to interrupt desire?”.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the exhibition’s theme?
CH – Although iterations of this performance have happened in other locations, I tailored my script slightly for the city of Venice. It’s a city on water and our bodies are 60% water; we are liquid. This idea ties into the exhibition’s theme that self-perception is constantly changing based on what is consumed. I aimed to present a clear space where viewers could let perceptions of themselves fall away for a moment of self-reflection on their own desires.
LC – How do you feel when you see your work completed?
CH – A singular work rarely feels distinct or complete, instead one piece of a multi-dimensional puzzle. Its context changes with time, physical distance and redirection into the next creative endeavour. If I were ever fully satisfied with a work, I doubt that I’d be motivated to make more art. It is however possible for some efforts to feel more so than others. One example is my current solo exhibition The Women that plant trees which is up at Liget Galéria in Budapest until June 15, 2023. I interviewed female foresters in Iceland about their efforts to repopulate the island with trees and exhibited these along with photographs taken on film and nature sound recordings from my walks in the forest with them. The show came together seamlessly with Gallery Director and Curator Veronika Molnár whom I really enjoy working. There is nothing I would change about this work because the focus was on the experience from beginning to end. This points to the importance of collaboration and engagement for me, in which you have to relinquish some control over the outcome and make decisions within the boundaries that you are working within. The format allows me to enjoy going deep into the process of creation.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
CH – Yes, of course!
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
CH – I was pleasantly surprised by the size and diversity of the audience. You’re doing something right! They were really open to letting me take them on a journey which is truly the best possible outcome for this work.