Artist And Filmmaker Karin Schneider Discusses Her “Situational Diagram” At Parapet Real Humans Gallery

Born in Brazil and based in New York, Karin Schneider is an artist whose eclectic creative output resists easy classification. In 1997, she founded the experimental film company Union Gaucha Productions with Nicolás Guagnini. From 2005 to 2008, she was a founding member of Orchard, a cooperatively organized artist space in New York’s Lower East Side. In 2010, Schneider co-founded Cage, a radical zone for creative work and performance that, by rule, lacks an audience. Her most recent body of work is Situation Diagram, which she first presented as a text at the Centre Culturel International de Cerisy, France, in 2015. On Nov. 11th, her latest Situation Diagram was exhibited at Parapet Real Humans, the Tower Grove East gallery founded by artist Amy Granat, at which Schneider presented an artist talk the opening Friday. This Situational Diagram will be on view until Dec. 12th.

During your talk, you were vocal about how important it was for you to redefine the concept of “exhibition.” You call your current installation a “Situation Diagram.” Can you say more about what that means and how it applies to your work?
After many years of doing exhibitions, I decided to experiment with other forms of productions that can take different directions. Situation Diagram is a concept that challenges the idea of an exhibition as a fixed frame—one that has to exist in a certain architecture, during a certain time, having a specific format, etc. At Parapet Real Humans, I am presenting the letter Y out of a series built on an A-to-Z Lexicon that I am slowly producing in different locations. This Lexicon is an expanded work that reflects on the economical, social and cultural history of black monochromes.

The yoga mats and exercise balls of this Situation Diagram invite a more meditative and reflective approach to the space. But their black hue mirrors the images of aircrafts on the walls—granting a rather somber or funereal feel. How do these types of emotive tensions inform your practice?
I come from a formalist background. I see the color black as both a color and as a material. In this Lexicon, I already used Mars black, coal mixed with Mars Black, and a derivative of petroleum mixed with Mars black. I work with a very reduced pallet, in which the color black has different connotations.

As far as tensions, sometimes I sense this Lexicon comes across as very nihilistic. But I think it is time for us to assume we have a globalized body—what is happening around the world affects us, independent of our capacity to see it or to identify with it. Our bodies are constantly experiencing different processes of diagrammatization. Bank cards substitute cash, our data is secretly compiled, cars self-drive, etc. However, these abstract processes have concrete consequences. The letter Y addresses the concrete aspect of how these abstract airplanes are in reality flying in the air space of St. Louis. They are literally produced in St. Louis. Our ideology of safety and peace should not be based on the construction of walls and/or the listing and controlling of people.

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As an internationally recognized artist and filmmaker, this was your first time in St. Louis. How did your visit here affect this Situation Diagram? How do you hope visitors interact with the space?
I am very grateful that I was invited by Amy Granat to participate in her program. I think the letter Y adds an important aspect to my overall Lexicon. The specific situation I experienced in St. Louis is part of a much bigger picture we have to reflect on. The (nuclear) militarization of our society is a global phenomenon.

We have to also consider that global warming is drastically changing our climate. Certain parts of the planet are experiencing a lack of water; meanwhile other parts of the globe, the ocean is rising every year, meaning that entire populations of small islands will have to evacuate. The number of refugees in the world is now around 65 million people. These changes are concrete changes in the world order, and they should be addressed collectively across the world; St. Louis is just one location.

You’re outspoken about the merits of working within institutions, like galleries and museums, to consciously disrupt traditional modes of buying and selling artwork. Was this always your approach?
I think institutions have an extremely important role in our society nowadays. They can contribute enormously to activate people’s minds and bodies to practice other forms of thinking and other forms of exchange. It is not just about showing, buying and selling art. Art is a bigger phenomenon that encapsulates many layers of meaning. I think just addressing circulation and production is not enough. The economy that is generated from these multiple forms of exchanges should be used as artistic material as well.

What artists bring you joy as a creative human being? “Artist” may be interpreted however you see fit. 
That is a very good question. I tend to like musicians, artists, thinkers and practitioners who have a thinking process based on their own practice. I prefer when thinking is generated from trial and error, as that is the way science works. One of my role models is artist Lygia Clark. She produced a body of work based on her own thinking process. Her Bichos series, for example, brought to the world a model of art production that united the object with the subject. It was a turning point in the history of art. I think at this moment in history I value people that encounter ways to practice micropolitics. We need these forms of interactions more than ever.

Parapet Real Humans is based at 2901 Sidney Street, St. Louis, MO, 63104, and hosts exhibitions and an ongoing calendar of events. Viewing hours are by appointment only. For more information contact gallery@parapetrealhumans.com.

Photo courtesy of Karin Schneider.

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