Superhost Curators: Every year, one artist or collective is invited to be M HKA’s Superhost. What does it mean for you to become a Superhost, and how would you like to work with this relationship between host and guest in the project?

Falke Pisano: To be a host and a guest, or a guest and a host, is a complex position that lends itself to a very interesting investigation of responsibilities, expectation and desires. Of course, being a good host does not always align with being an easy guest! Especially not when it is actually work, and especially not in a field that is notoriously inaccessible and for a large part held up by precarious freelancers. So, as I don’t deal well with tension that is not made explicit, I have taken this complexity as a starting point for the programme.

Superhost Curators: Could you explain how, as an artist, your understanding of relationships with institutions, but also with audiences, has evolved over the years?

FP: I’d say that this relationship had been fairly consistent for many years – I considered institutions mainly as infrastructures and spaces to show and contextualise my work, in the best situation involving a curator that I had a connection with – until I moved back to the Netherlands after a decade abroad in 2017. Maybe that’s interesting in relation to the role of a guest. I am older, I am in a context I know very well and where I feel supported on many levels. It has allowed me to relate differently to institutions. Starting to teach and having more conversations with younger generations of artists has really changed my perspective and feeling of responsibility as well. And let’s not forget two years of global pandemic and a growing awareness of the structural racism and (sexual) violence that exists within institutions. So, I have been spending less time on my individual practice and more time on different things I usually label (for myself) as ‘institutional work’. This is not work for institutions as they are, but more work that concerns the institutional layer of the art field: How art (educational) institutions function, what the concerns are of the people working within them, and how these concerns relate to institutional ecology, infrastructure, sets of internal and external relations and models of production, presentation, and dissemination and so on.

Superhost Curators: Is it possible to use an exhibition space as a kind of research tool?  The exhibition becomes a medium, a methodology, but also the way we transform some abstract or invisible notions like labour into more physical components like objects. What do you think about this idea?

FP: Indeed, in this project, I use the exhibition or programme as a research tool. In my earlier practice I organised  my work as a research trajectory as well, but it would be at the level of ideas – I would think through certain issues and find ways of mediating this through forms, texts, performative gestures. I approach Superhost a bit differently, as a consequence of the many conversations related to the necessity of change in the art (educational) field and the experience of how difficult it is to actually make concrete improvements. But also because of the possibility that this  very physical infrastructural exhibition programme-as-research offers. On the one hand, the discursive level is still important: the conversations that are taking place, about labour, for instance, care, inclusivity, safety, value, sustainability. But I try to pay very careful attention to  what is actually happening. How are we working together in an institutional context? What are the difficulties? How do we feel? What information can we extract from the tensions, moments of connection and exchange, that what moves within us while we are creating this programme? There’s an unavoidable gap between ideals and reality, and at the moment I am interested in what we can do - and articulate - in this gap, and where the gap sometimes gets closed.When you then mention this idea of hidden or less visible things being transformed into objects, I think it's important to say that these objects are tools to analyse how discursive and actual layers come together.

Superhost Curators: You are starting from the space, and the space will host events and different guests, but there is also a part that is less visible for the public, like your collaboration with Luz Peuscovich, an artist and astrologist and Staci Bu Shea, as project doula. Can you speak a bit about their involvement?

FP: I have asked Luz and Staci to support me, and us, in the process of working together because it is challenging to collaborate for more than a year on such a project, and to understand and respect each other’s capacities, needs, expectations, desires ... I don’t have the knowledge to give this the quality of attention it deserves, but they do. They both guide people through situations that are affectively charged and difficult to articulate. I hope we learn something that we can share in other collaborations. But I like things that do many things at once, so there are more reasons for their involvement ‘behind the scenes’. When I look around me, I see that increased and rightful demands for care (besides fair pay) clash with the available resources and capacities. I’m intrigued by what is happening in – and how we are going to get through – this bottleneck moment. And to investigate I’ve distributed some of the budget that would usually go into a public event or work to this rather specific process-support. But the question of the status of this non-public work also shows that, however much the idea of process, care etc. is valued in the art world, this is often linked to public visibility. Could we say that public visibility is the gateway to value? Which is probably not so strange in the case of art. But when something becomes valuable when it is public … I am really interested in how value systems that really have nothing to do with (for instance) process and care get a hold on it and actually make it into something else.

Superhost Curators: How do these invisible parts of the project become physical components in space?

FP: As you can probably imagine, from my comments about value and visibility and publicness, I feel a certain hesitation towards the representation of processes, because this holds the risk of a kind of disconnect from the actual conditions. But at the same time, I have set up this project to share anything of value that occurs, and I do also believe that certain artistic decisions in this sharing are important to create a meaningful encounter in this context. So, I will share valuable moments and insights, probably mostly in a fragmentary way - to not distance myself in the ambition to give a coherent reading of the process - through short texts, drawings and other media. And I will invite others to do the same throughout the year.

Superhost Curators: Could you sum up the key notions carried by this project? 

FP: Maybe I can put it into the form questions.

One of the questions is: How much does a public programme of twelve months cost in labour?

Superhost Curators: Okay, that’s one.

FP: The second question is: Can we afford it? Another one is: What do we consider labour in the context of such a project?

Superhost Curators: And how do you understand the notion of labour?

FP: In this project I am trying to understand better what shapes the work we do. When we develop and produce public events or exhibitions, what are the forces at play that shape what we do and the decisions we make? We give value to the things we find important, but we also work in a system that gives (often different) value to similar things. What is the friction there and how do we deal with it? And another question is: How to not internalise and individualise the things that are not working in this system of production? How can we share experiences that are related to the working conditions? To me, in the end it is about risk: How do we collectivise risk? We are all taking risks all the time, and we try to keep a lot of these risks private.

Superhost Curators: Your practice is really also about being very transparent and making things visible and sharing attention or a level of attention for things: I understand that your proposal is to be transparent about your concerns, your interests, your doubts, your process and your relationships as an artist.

FP: Yes, I think that’s a very good description. With the objects and methods that will be physically present in the space throughout the year I want to create a certain transparency, but they are also, maybe even primarily, attention tools. They do not mechanically make things transparent, because there is no objective transparency. In the creation of transparency, we still make decisions. So it's also about attention to the decisions we make, attention to the narratives we construct as we try to dismantle a certain division between what is private and public, what is invisible and visible.

Superhost Curators: What could be the dream outcome of your project? Of course, we don't know yet, but we have some expectations. What do we share with our public?

FP:  The dream outcome... What I would hope we could share with the public is an unfolding situation in which a series of questions is addressed, that relates to everyone and serves other realities besides the institutional art context. How do we work? What is demanded of us? What do we demand of ourselves? And how do we try to manage this privately, within a neoliberal system that is not made to make us feel good, supported and connected?  While it's beautiful and interesting  to encounter artworks as they are, as they are supposed to be – public – it feels important to me to share that the work that is going on behind and around it is just as lively, and it creates just as much tension, contains just as many stories, just as many human things, structural things, politics… I hope that this twelve-month-long research, invites audiences to reflect on their own relation to work and value, as we investigate the private and public stakes at play when developing and presenting a work as an artist in an institution to audiences. I think all of us working these days in the different fields of our society are involved in similar mechanisms.