Constanza Valenzuela

Curator Interview

July 8, 2019
De:Formal Gallery and Constanza Valenzuela are pleased to present an online exhibition of new video works by eight emerging artists. The selection of videos explores a new kind of subjectivity, pairing humor and playfulness with social critique and the persistent questioning of existing values and hierarchies. The artists in this exhibition subvert common archetypes with a surreal and playful tone, distorting the familiar in order to comment on pressing social and political crises such as exploitative labor practices, a critique of language from a new materialist perspective, the persistence of colonial racial stereotypes, and impending climate catastrophe.

Hi Constanza! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself and your practice?

I am an artist and a curator. I work as a Programming Assistant at Creative Time. I have a BFA in Sculpture from Pratt Institute and a Masters in Visual Art Administration from NYU. In the past couple years I have dedicated more time to independent curatorial projects. I mostly paint and draw in my studio these days. In terms of curating, I am very interested in time-based media such as performance and videos. I am a big fan of camp and humor in art, especially when it challenges tradition and conventional standards of taste.

You went to Pratt Institute for BFA in Sculpture before you got your MA at NYU for Art Administration. How did the change of focus come about? Do you identify as a curator, an artist or both?

I strongly identify as both, but these days I introduce myself as a curator, because that’s the direction my career is headed in. However, I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was very young and that’s how I got interested in curating. I always knew I loved art and museums, but I didn't really understand the role of a curator until I was in college and I started organizing exhibitions in my loft in Brooklyn. I became more interested in figuring out how the art world worked as a system and economy, so I decided to pursue this interest in grad school.

Artist Brianne McKain performing as a Cone for ”The Connicals” 2017 at 567 Flushing Ave. NY. Other work by Christina Nahas and Mira Brunner.

What is the most difficult thing being an independent curator in New York City?

If I am being frank, I would say it is very hard to make a living as an independent curator.

Is there anything you wish you knew when you first started as a curator?

Something I wish I knew before was the value of the entire process rather than the end result. The entire process is an opportunity for growth and establishing collaborative relationships and friendships. I think my approach to curating when I was a junior in college was very DIY, and I still find so much value in DIY art exhibitions and I wish more people organized art shows in their apartments. I learned a lot from each show I organized. I would just say that whatever the circumstances are, it should be fun and enjoyable for everyone involved.

The birds and the butterflies”, 2019 in POND, a group exhibition curated by Constanza Valenzuela and Emilee Graverson at Commons Gallery, NY.

How do you come about the themes and titles of your shows?

I love themes in general. I love how cheesy themes can be. I try to go out and see art as much as possible and pick up on whatever themes are present. I noticed there was a superficial obsession with traffic a couple years ago, and I curated a traffic cone show. I did the same thing with fan art. I see people reflecting different cultural and artistic trends across mediums and want to try to bring them in to one place, often in a fun and campy way. Since my exhibition on fan art, I have become obsessed and hope to put together another fan art exhibition in the near future

Look Alive! Exhibition Poster by Christina Nahas

We love the selection of artists you bring together in The Equivalent Flow. What is your process of choosing artists/artworks like? Where do you discover art and what qualities do you look for?

I am lucky that I went to art school in New York and I'm friends with local artists that know other artists or have gone on to get an MFA in other universities across the country. For the Equivalent Flow, I asked my friends who make videos or are in programs if they could recommend video artists that I could look into. I spent a lot of time watching videos online for this exhibition as I narrowed down a theme and narrative for the exhibition.

Any advice for emerging curators/artists looking for show opportunities?

Make it easy for people who are interested to view your work by having a website or social media or however you wish to display your work. Try to put yourself out there as much as possible. If you are really eager to show a new body of work, invite some other friends who are artists and have an apartment show. I see lots of new art and meet new artists that way.

Image of Lily Chamber performing “You Looking At My Butthole Looking At You Looking At My Butthole ∞” at Look Alive! 2018. One Night Performance show at 80 WSE Gallery.

Do you have any bad habits? How do they affect your daily life?

Not more than your average New Yorker. I have my vices and flaws and neuroses, but I think I try to be very moderate.

Are you working on any new projects these days?

I just started a pretty demanding full-time job as a programming assistant at Creative Time, so I am giving curatorial projects a rest for the time being. I have also gotten back into painting recently and I've been trying to invest a lot of my creative energy into my own work

Anything else we should know about you?

I love funny art more than anything. I take art seriously, of course, but I do like art that has a sense of humor, both about itself and the world it’s reflecting.

More of Constanza Valenzuela:

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