Project Salon at Susak Expo
Chelsea Salon presents:
Project Salon at Susak expo 2016
About Susak Expo
“Susak expo begins as an idea to extend platforms by exchanges of contexts and languages through dialogues between people and locations. It’s an idea on the move, an idea in translation. Translation can slip between languages to structure networks of thought. It enables simultaneous experiences to interact. It is vulnerable and open to incompletion as well as failure and misunderstanding. The project may fail or it may succeed, its outcome and even the idea of its completion is uncertain. And because of this openness it is vulnerable, this is its character.” [Jo Melvin, 2006]
Susak expo is a contemporary art biennale that has taken place on the remote Croatian island of Susak since 2006. The original reason for organising the Susak expo was as a reaction to all the art fairs, biennales and museums of contemporary art sprouting up everywhere, and to highlight the absurdity of this proliferation by staging an international art biennale in the most unlikely of places where, apart from a few people seeing it by mistake and, of course, the participating artists, the chances are no-one will see it.
Since no-one sees the exhibition, the objects created for it (paintings, installations, photographs etc) lose importance, while what becomes central is the whole experience of artists sharing time and ideas. When the Expo is over, some of the objects and traces will still be there for a while, like strange artist droppings.
Sponsorship for Chelsea Salon has been provided by the EXTRA: UAL Enhanced Postgraduate Student Communities Fund.
Project Salon at Susak Expo Curation Team:
Three people… being picked to go all the way to an obscure island in the middle of the Adriatic sea, it will take us a plane , a bus , a taxi, a boat to sleep in and a catamaran to get there (weather pending)…
The premise of this mighty expedition was to be a part of an anti-arts festival/expo on a island that was hard to get to, and was general in the Ten years of its existence was seen by virtually no one bar the artists involved. The idea of the Susak Expo was formed by an art-titan and confidence trickster called Daniel Devlin… the premise of exhibition was to embrace the idea of ‘Failure’.
Weeks previous we had asked various artists from across UAL: to submit ephemeral works of art that might not make it back. We had many submissions with various trip ups along the way. Emailing ourselves replies and getting names wrong on emails … Failure …we were off to a good start. Not being able to get a definite drop off place for students at the college…having to change things at the last minute…seat of our pants. As curators. Fail!
Natalie Anastasiou, Kagweni Micheni and I (Chel Logan) had been chosen by Chelsea Salon to help curate and document this momentous diminutive occasion. The Island itself measures two miles wide by one mile the other way (approx.) .There is a small stone path that circumnavigates the island which takes four hours to walk around, uneven but an adventure so I am told.
Meeting together at Stansted Airport I bade farewell to my two smallest offspring and my good lady wife. To start the games we made a lottery of who got the window seat, I think by default Kagweni won …she had the camera. When we got to allocated seats it was that very special unique row of seats on the plane which has NO window! So we made one, by photographing one with the iPad and stuck it up, to readdress the balance.
Left in the hands of Ryan air hospitality (I have never had a shave on a plane before!) and the prospect of an itinerary that made all the sense of spaghetti junction. We had organised the ferry, bus and taxi schedule down to a tee, or so we thought.
We landed into Trieste Airport and got the first bus out of the airport to the main town of Trieste. On arrival we found to our surprise that the bus had left twenty minutes previous (fail!) and that there were no hotel rooms of B & B’s due there being a marathon and a Karate Contest that following day (Fail!) . Luckily we had befriended the lady from the exchange bureau, who said she had a friend who could get us a reasonable taxi fare to Rijeka where our hotel was waiting for us. It turns out it was her husband, I am not going to interpret the difference between friend and spouse in a cross –Croatian/Italian relationship. The ride to Rijeka took us through the foothills of Slovenia which was nothing short of epic especially at sunset. It was akin to a set from Lord of the Rings, a plethora of colour gently calming our initially worried mindsets.
We arrived in Rijeka at approximately 20:30 down a swirling road to the dock area where our Hotel, the ‘Botel Marina’ was moored. The boat itself had had quite a life initially built in Scandinavia and then used for a passenger liner, until it finally found its home in Rijeka and was only recently turned into a Hotel. The rooms were beset in reds and whites with a lot of nautical elements. It is the first time I have had a portal as a window!
We Finished the night with a meal in the Botel restaurant that was manned by an ex –service man (national service is compulsory in Croatia) who boned our Seabass at the table, a three Rosette meal with humour to boot! A nightcap of the three local liqueurs, it was like a vodka or a schnapps of three different grades. The one we thought divine was the Biska, which complimented the acoustic rock that the two piece were serving us on an audio level.
To be continued….
Sunday: (Because in Croatia, Sundays MEANS Sun day. Nothing is open!)
We awoke to find not only some dodgy footage of last night’s escapades but also , that outside the portal the waterline was literally about 6inches below the glass. We basically slept underwater!
Breakfast was interesting with an urn of tea which seemed to include heal infusion along with regular English style tea bags. Needless to say it was an interesting cross-pollination of flavours to enter ones mouth.
A quick circumnavigation of the boat left me with a revelation, the clarity of the water in the part of the world. The luminescent sunshine reflecting under the Botel emphasising all the swimming lifeforms captured therein.
Our first task of the day was to drop off a batch of Sluice Magazine at the local Contemporary Gallery. We were the main couriers of this tome. (Which by the way got me into trouble exiting UK customs. Fail!) The Musej Moderne I Suvremene Umjetnosti. Which is the Croatian pronunciation. A strange situation happened whilst we were there, the security guard we thought was the best individual tom ask as to the whereabouts of the museum, we had found the right building, but where was it with the complex? So thought that she was the best person to ask… no clue at all.(Fail!) when we got to gallery we had to text where to leave a batch of Sluice magazines.(surreptitiously on chair slid under a desk.)
Another individual came in and said it is on the next floor, nothing quite knowing the environment to which you are patrolling…maybe…??
Another discovery… Sunday when I was in primary school reciting the bible, it did mention that Sunday was a day of rest, well the only thing open in Rijeka was the occasional newspaper stand and cafes, they knew how a day of rest had to unfurl.
The downside of this was getting any food for the possible four hour Catamaran journey to Susak seemed to be a bit of nightmare, we settled for two bottles of water, two bananas, purloined from breakfast and a two packets of crisps.
Due to our chronic food shortage, Natalie and I decided that to stop the rumbling noises of our stomachs, and knowing that an artist can get lost within the process of drawing, we decided to have a portrait off. Not so much quick on the draw.
After three hours I noticed a shack on the edge of an island, with the word SUSAK sprayed onto it… we had arrived at our destination (the water must have been smooth!) we were greeted by a smiling Daniel Delvin and a flurry of tractor people trying to put our bags in their trailers. So what is the first thing we were asked when on this tiny island…? “How much wine do you want?”
The Tractor driver was an amiable man infamously known as “Captain Salty” whom owned a winery that made its own beverages of an alcoholic persuasion. The white wine we agreed was a little ‘cidery’ for our tastes but it became a better beverage once chilled. So we got our prescriptions and went off to find our accommodation.
On the way we bumped into some of the islands new inhabitants, most noticeably a wild eyed Austrian named Igor, whom told us that “we will rock this island!” With our plans and openness to collaborations we did not doubt this.
Susak also followed in the fashion of mainland Croatia with the Sunday rule, but this was a blessing in disguise. As Daniel knew this and Dinner was at his place for about eight or nine.
On arrival we were treated to a smaller dish of Winkles with pasta. Internally I had to chuckle as this is the name that my two small boys give to their genitals. This was followed with a very generous Tomato pasta dish which more than sufficed from our previous intake (nothing since breakfast!).
Meeting Elise Bollazzi from Micro Collections was great, she explained her practice of getting Artists to send her fragments of their work. Once this had happened she would display them in gallery spaces or plant them. A fantastic idea on the growth of art and its gestational potential in a viewer’s psyche. Also to look at work through a microscope really makes you concentrate on the piece in hand … no matter the size.
The night concluded with getting to know the locals as well as the plethora of artists that were here on the island. It became apparent how committed Kagweni was to her cause as documenter, she was instantly in that zone no matter where she was or who she was with, true professional!
An impromptu Jazz session with an exceptional man named Georg, where there was a whole PA set up to play along with instruments. With promises of possible ideas for work and enough Goulash to sink a galleon were in creative heaven.