ILYSM ZINE: No. 006
Interview by Jenna Elizabeth, artwork imagery courtesy of Noa Ginzburg
"Noa's compositions of color and form in both two and three dimensions are phenomenal. I especially love her large scale sculptural work which incorporate diverse elements that are perfectly assembled. Also… I think we all need a Radical Coziness hat these days." - Casey Fremont, ILYSM4Artists Judge
♡: Hi Noa! Congrats on being our second grant recipient!
For those just getting to know you, and familiarizing themselves with your work, how would you best describe it?
NG: Hi Jenna! Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. I am an artist and educator, and my work is usually displayed in spatial assemblages, site responsive installations in which all surfaces are prone to have sculpture, drawings, and other objects suspended from. The objects I assemble are often interactive in way that folks can touch it, look through and activate in different ways. I am thinking nowadays about what that means in this new world we live in.
♡: Yes, a great question. When I was reading your submission entry about your work I was taken with this description, “Installation work aims to disarm anthropocentric points of view and speak of temporality and dis-placement. Her installations are spatial assemblages where elements play to-gather” How are you thinking about these themes now in relation to social distancing and isolation?
NG: It definitely brings a whole new layer to it.
When I assemble objects and installs I use only threads, ropes, and knotting etc to create the shapes, in this way everything can be dissembled back to the its components, piled up and carried away if you suddenly need to pack up and go. And even when the spatial Assemblage is installed in a space, it’s constantly in flux, and I often add and subtract during a run of an install.
I think a spatial assemblages is a time based work, it’s a living organism and therefore it must change, and as an artist and a creator I accept its temporality. In a way, you can never BE In the space as it does not exist as a constant.
The space can be activated by a person, but also by a light from the street that reflects and changes it for a moment, or by the wind chiming in.
The Extra Ocular objects I’ve been making are used as a tool for concentrating and identifying these moments, cues and clues in space, slow down time of you will, and by doing that, you as an activator are becoming an extension of the sculpture as you perform/puppet it. In that way there is no hierarchy, not between you and the objects and not between the objects themselves.
So in terms of isolation and social distancing, there’s a practical question- will we ever go back to being able to touch and collaborate? will we be able to distinct between affect and infect?
We are experiencing a meltdown of our understanding of time, days are mashed into an unidentifiable structure...
There is this ultimate object we can’t see, the virus, that is changing our perception and our way of life completely.
♡: I’d like to talk a little but about your family history in relation to your work, and how you integrate “multiple migration stories” in relation to “makeshift structures” - can you expand on this?
NG: I think of what’s between an immigrant and expat. What’s left behind, personally, spiritually and materially, and what is gained or lost from being between places in the state of migration. Maybe you are living in two places at the same time.
Can you (or I) really arrive in a new place?
In the past century, every generation in my family had to migrate, losing family members, their belongings, memorabilia and their connection or relationship to a place. the people who survived often found it too painful to share their stories. So there’s a lot of details and knowledge lost.
After moving to NY, I found out that my great grand father, that was born in Galicia, had lived in the lower east side for five years, 1913- 1918, moving to Palestine. That simple revelation had influenced my work, my understanding of found local materials.
*before moving to...
♡: This resonates on many levels.
That in between of belonging, and challenging one’s identity in relation to material lineage and having a story component
NG: I think migrants are at most risk right now- in the US and around the world. Extremely vulnerable, in limbo...
♡: There’s a piece you shared on your Instagram from The Lonely Eclipse - where you mentioned having this very specific connection with your grandmother speaking to you as you were creating. Can you tell us a little more about that story?
NG: My grandma was a pediatrician and an incredible force in my life. In the past few years, as we were living on different continents, we were talking every week for hours with phone and video calls.
In the weeks leading to the Lonely Eclipse As I was assembling the “Speculative tabulation” sculpture, I was thinking about her a lot, trying to make sense in the stories she shared, thinking how strong she needed to be to survive what she did (war, lost, hunger, fear) how soft she was as a caregiver. I felt that tension has trickled to the sculpture.
She passed away as I was installing the show, and I flew in to the Shivaa right from the gallery. In a way, I’m happy I had this extra time with her in my studio. I miss her a lot.
♡: That’s wild. Have you ever experienced a connection of that magnitude while working on any other pieces?
As I’m writing this the sun suddenly came out of the clouds and washed the room with light :) (grandma says hi?)
I think a lot of the time this understanding comes in retrospect.
And in that way, as my installations are responsive to sites, every work is affected by an event or a person, I feel that greatly when I crochet and embroider, as I don’t follow a patterns, and the shapes that come to be often reflect a connection. Does that make sense?
♡: I love that concept of shapes becoming a form of connection. There’s an element of play in your work, as a viewer there’s a sense spontaneity on the viewer in terms of approaching and interacting with your work. That must be interesting to watch from afar, those variances of engagement.
How much of your process do you dedicate to watching how people interact with your work? I imagine it must be interesting seeing different ages and people engage differently. I feel like kids are more open-minded to touch, adults you have to tell them it’s permissible in a way.
NG: The object facilitate passive and active performance, and It’s important to me that the interaction is completely voluntary and not imposed. Some folks chose to interact only with their reflection, via looking glass segments...
I’m a big fan of narratives with non linear timelines, it’s one way to grapple with what I can feel and not understand, and for me viewing other interact is learning a new story line that’s different than mine: where do they enter (if they do), what makes them stay, how they move within and how and when they exit...
And true, kids jump right in and play and I need to calm their adults that it’s ok.
I experiment with what calls for touch and what impedes, but of course that’s very subjective
♡: Wow I love that. What’s your relationship with color in relation to the narrative experience - I imagine being drawn to certain colors as a viewer also is another form of breaking a traditional linear approach- gravitating towards impactful color etc
NG: I am drawn to hi-vis and saturated colors. For a while I wished I was tetra chromatic so I can see all colors to their fullest potential :) ...
I use color (as sounds, as words) somatically, as a way to complete a spectrum or to shift perception...
Some of that can be nurtured by focusing attention, but some of it happens via a parasympathetic mechanism, like when we are in a room saturated colored light, our neurons stop firing all that info to the visual cortex, and after while the color changes for us, leading us to see things differently. I have played with that in some of my installations.
♡: For an artist focused in installations and spacial interactive qualities, how are you translating your work digitally to viewers, has that been challenging at all?
NG: This goes back to when and where the work is.
It’s hard do document a personal sensory experiences, especially when objects continue to change.
Its kind of like where are “you” in you? Is it your brain, your hormones, your heart? ...
During a run of a show, I tried using a screen with a video call as a component of the install to expand the reach beyond the geographic location.
I tried using video documentation but it will Always be a representation of others’ interpretation or a specific read.
I end up taking tons of photos, taking notes: photos of details, of tableaux, negative spaces. What’s left is a poem, you can read it however you like.
♡: That’s super cool. Would love to see any notes if you have any saved or open to sharing *can send later
One of the ways I was also interested in seeing how you challenged traditional conventions of engagement was through your approach to language. You mentioned to me on the phone that English is not your first language. One of your pieces “Catchat” deconstructs language and syntax structure by assembling variants of other languages. Can you talk about your perspective of secondary language in relation to the creation of a new language?
NG: Ooh thanks for bringing this up! 🐈🐈🐈 Catchat is a collaboration with two scholars and friends, Hannah Bruckmüller and Michal Ron that was published on PROTOCOLS in January. Being in different countries (Hannah is in Vienna and Michal is in Berlin) we worked remotely- we had hours of video chats and google doc editing. The new normal.
In this essay, which started as critical reading in Marcel Broodthaers’ 1970 receding “interview with a cat”, became a hyper, visual structure playing with our various levels of fluidity in Hebrew, English and German, fictitious French, and of course “Cat”. It’s an amalgamation understanding and misunderstanding each other in many languages, Trying to address legibility and agency...
I think of the silent parts that lie between written, signed and spoken language, given the different pace of translating and transcribing
Oops sorry for the messy reply 🙀
♡: The in between is so telling! Even on texts when you know someone’s rhythm for awhile the in between I feel like always gives clues and deeper meaning to someone’s psyche
It’s a great idea
NG: Yeah. And so much of it we fill and feel on our own
It’s more about us than them
♡: As a young artist what has been the most helpful in getting your work recognized professionally?
NG: Personally, I apply to shows and residencies, and do a lot of studio visits. Honestly, I think a lot of opportunities rise from being active in a community of artists, doing collaborations and organizing things yourself.
♡: Any communities you would recommend joining
NG: I would look for artists’ run galleries in your city. There are so much happening at these spaces.
In that note, if that’s ok, I’d like to mention Ortega y Gasset Projects, an artists run gallery in BK that are doing an a lot of work promoting and showing artists from marginalized communities in their programs, and that have just lost all of their yearly benefit auction funds raised when paddle 8 went bankrupt last week and could use any support.
♡: We talked about the philosophical aspects of COVID 19 affecting the creating process, but I want to discuss the immediate ways it has impacted you of having resources, tools to create during this difficult time. How has the ILYSM4ARTISTS grant been able to help you?
NG: Thank you so much. It’s such a boost during this time of turmoil, to be supported by ILYSM’s artist grant and the team!
So many things are shifting, moving online, being altered... There’s a lot of negotiating and adjusting in terms of how to operate projects that have been planned for month and months in a certain way and now must change.
I was supposed to open a site responsive installation of interaction-based sculptures at Langer over Dickie in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and due to COVID we decided to present it as a Hybrid of physical work and a digital space later this year.
The grant, and these alterations are allowing me to put my attention and intentions into new areas, to advance my work, and to support others. I’m so grateful for these opportunities.
BTW KT Duffy, the director of LoD, is currently printing face shields for medical workers with their 3D printer. I think that’s Incredible
♡: Another link we’d love to help get the word out and connect with other people trying to assist at this time.
It must be challenging to say the least to have family so far away. That connection right now is so important, and also so frustrating not being able to directly help or care for loved ones. Earlier we talked about this idea of home as a somewhat transitory construct... Where was home for you originally? Where are you based now - and what have you defined home to mean to you today?
Funny this just came up in my feed ...
NG: Here are two links I have available for people doing incredible work:
When are ever at home?*
*Barbara Cassin wrote (as my friend Hannah told to me)
“When are ever at home?... Rather than cultivating roots, I would cultivate the elsewhere, a world that does not close itself off”.
It could be that being far away from family made me more prepared mentally to being socially distant- I already had regular video chats with my family, friends, my therapist too.
I have grown very dependent on remote communication platforms, and WiFi accessibility. As these can be affected politically (and relays on infrastructure), this is one source of anxiety.
I’m staying at home in Brooklyn. It’s over 5000 miles from where my family is, but even if I were closer physically I wouldn’t be able to see then given COVID-19 travel restrictions. I am surrounded by books and plants and cats and there’s a fire escape. Right now, it’s a lot.
There’s a factor of uncertainty that had grown excessively, I’m literally taking it a day at a time.
♡: Your Instagram has a variety of these “Radical Coziness” hats you personally hand embroider! What is the story behind “radical coziness” and how/what is the best way for people to contact you about commissioning one?
NG: Radical Coziness speaks for the right to have a safe and comforting space, where one can be at ease and put her guards down.
quite like the house cat ability to sleep just about everywhere.
It’s the title of a beautiful and funny text that my friend James Chrzan wrote about perceptual shifts in the Full Moon Saloon, a purring interactive installation I collaborated on with Amra Causevic last year. You can see photos and videos, and read the text on my website.
Every hat is made to order and is different, it’s such a slow process but I love making them!
I’ll be donating 50% from the proceeds for every hat I’m going to make during this time, for local PPE makers-initiatives.
DM @noaginzburg , I’m expecting you xo
♡: Final question!
What are three things you’re loving right now that others can explore at home (books, film, recipes, podcasts etc)?
NG: 1. Read: Ursula K Leguin and Octavia Butler, because science fiction is very much about the present
2. Look at: Mierle Laderman Ukeles because Maintenance Art takes even stronger meaning these days
3. Watch Adventure time (note to self). And check on your friends!
♡: Noa, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you and I’m happy to be introduced to your work. Looking forward to sporting my Cozy cap!
NG: Thanks so much Jenna!