Fotini Lazaridou-Hatzigoga works between the realms of art, architecture and urban research to explore the possibilities inherent in the intersections between social and physical spaces. Such context specificity finds working manifestation in curation, artistic production and collaborative organisation, all of which point to an interest in structure as a dynamic of being and working together. Fotini is the co-founder of PROGRAM – initiative for art and architecture collaborations in Berlin, and she was one of the organizers of HomeShop, an artist-run space in Beijing, active from 2008-2013. She was a fellow at the Institut für Raumexperimente in 2012-2013, and has been part of the organising committee of the Public School Berlin since 2010.
Interview led by Caique Tizzi, Photography by Pedro Jardim
Your practice has been always flirting with many disciplines at the same time - specially art, architecture and theory - Why do you choose to work this way?
It's not so much a conscious choice, and to be honest I cannot always so clearly differentiate between these various disciplines or modes of engagement. Maybe this has something to do with having studied architecture, itself a very porous discipline which always depends on collaboration with various fields and requires a more holistic approach. And perhaps it's also a consequence of the fact that I often work collaboratively which pushes me to leave the confines of any sort of discipline and come meet others halfway... A lot of my work revolves around similar questions, around the relationship between forms of organisation and how they are expressed spatially, about the ways we move through and inhabit the space around us, or the micro political possibilities of the everyday. But these questions manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the context or what feels more relevant or urgent at the time.
What excites you the most when you are working within group dynamics?
A lot of things are often triggered for me while in that back-and-forth with others, and I find myself arriving at unexpected places that I wouldn't have reached on my own. I'm fascinated to observe and try to understand why people come together in the first place, what does each person bring to the "table", how are individual voices heard and registered, how does a group make decisions and then follows up on those decisions, how are responsibilities shared and what kind of structures are put in place to accommodate the workings of a group... Out of some of these collaborative practices, communities start emerging that try to develop new forms of life in common, and I'm interested to learn more from and participate in such collectivities. At the same time, there's the questions of authorship, power, inequality that often come up along the way, causing conflicts and contradictions that one needs to find a way to work through or learn to live with... Working collaboratively can definitely be exhausting at times [laughing]... But there's also something quite precious in that commitment, the bond created by the time and effort put forward towards a common goal.
What does it mean to you to moderate AFFECT Module II? Why did you accept to take this position?
The name of the residency program initially caught my attention earlier in the year. Then I found out more about it through our discussions and realised that it does touch upon several issues that I've been working on, and questions that I've also been occupied with... So I'm very excited I was asked to join. I particularly like the experimental nature of it all, as it is only the second time this residency takes place and a lot needs to be tried out and shaped by all of us on the way. At the moment, I am quite curious to see how this structure you've put in place will work—seven artists, five facilitators, one moderator, plus the Agora team—and see what kind of encounters and exchanges can be produced amidst all these people. My first impulse was to think of the role of the moderator as a sticky substance between everyone else, someone who introduces a few new ingredients to the mix and helps anchor some of the ideas and experiences. I'm also intrigued by the idea of seven people coming together to work on something collectively, without really knowing each other before. It requires a certain kind of openness, a letting go of sorts... Let's see what happens over the next couple of months!
What does social art practice represent to you? What is the stage of it today and what direction do you see it going?
Working under different labels such as 'socially engaged art', 'participatory art', 'community art', 'relational aesthetics', 'art/activism', etc, a lot of artists today are trying to find other forms of working, often outside the museum or gallery, within a community. Such practices often start with a desire to imagine and put forward different trajectories outside of or around the current sociopolitical situation, different ways of being together, new forms of life. In a way the proliferation of these practices today can be seen as a response to the collapsing of many other systems within the never ending crisis we find ourselves in. In this context, art still has the potential to raise crucial questions and create small cracks that allow us to look through the fog towards another horizon. That said, I'm also quite interested in the ongoing debates around the aestheticization of politics versus the politicisation of aesthetics that come up in response to some of these practices. Well, I'm not sure which direction it's all going, but we need to keep moving, keep looking for a way...
What are you learning nowadays? What topics interest you in the moment?
Ah, where to start... I was recently in Vienna for a summer school called "Commoning the City" organised by Spaces of Commoning, a research collective based at the Academy of Fine Arts. It was a very dense week and I was excited to listen to and exchange ideas with several people engaged (theoretically or in their practice) with notions of the commons. The week concluded with Stavros Stavrides and Chantal Mouffe debating the agonistic nature of commoning practices and the ways such practices can contribute towards envisioning and inhabiting other possible worlds. These discussions really resonated with some of the questions we were trying to work through last year while on a residency in Hong Kong. There, together with Elaine W. Ho, we worked on a video based on a series of interviews with different groups of artists, activists and people involved in social movements, tracing their daily paths throughout the same neighbourhood where they are all based. We became quite interested in the dual meaning of 'movement', looking into what creates movement—what moves someone to act and how people choose to pursue their desires or goals, as well as the possibilities for sociopolitical change that such movements might bring about. And then, perhaps not so unrelated, there's a long-term interest in various modes of organisation, structure, and coming together. I'm particularly curious about the way these various modes manifest themselves spatially and in return what these spatial arrangements make possible, what they prevent from happening, what they render invisible, and how they get reconfigured along the way. These are some of the questions that I keep returning to these days...