As today's art world continues to grow at an exponential rate, with groundbreaking exhibitions, and art fairs, contemporary curators’ role have become important. Eda Ozdoyuran is one of the influential curators of our time who has the drive and light to stage exceptional exhibitions.
What attracted you to Galerie Pesko?
I had been curating at major cities such as New York and Istanbul. When the idea of curating in a small town on top of the alps emerged I thought it will be a great new challenge.
Designing the space had become almost intuitive. Urs Twellmann’s natural line of works fits to the environment harmoniously.
The exhibition space is a wood attic and it is far away from the atypical white cube gallery concept. One encounters to the white cube gallery concept n bigger Metropol cities. To keep the exhibition space simple is important yet at times it can becomes un-neutral or even contrived. I prefer site specific venues.
That’s quite a switch between two very different venues, compared to the exhibitions you have previously curated in New York and Istanbul. Would you say that your curatorial interests have changed?
Not really, both in New York and Istanbul, I do not prefer the conventional way of exhibition making. I enjoy exhibiting works without rules, without expectations. I have always been fascinated in different and innovative ways of curation.
What was your expectation for this exhibition?
Firstly the exhibition is taking place in a small town in Switzerland called Lenzerheide on top of the alps, thus I knew it will not have the same number of visitors. Yet, curating a show, without taking in consideration the amount of visitors is exciting and makes one more independent and creative.
Did you work closely with the artist?
It is my first collaboration with Gallerie Pesko yet as far as I have witnessed they are artist collaborative friendly. In most of their past exhibitions, they worked directly with artists and artists took role in installing and organizing the exhibition. I can admit that as a curator working directly with artists is very important and it eases the process. Whenever I worked directly with an artist the result felt sincere and the exhibition had tremendous positive feedback. For this show Urs Twellmann was present in each step of the exhibition, having the artist, the curator and the gallery involved in the exhibition is a great pleasure and leads to success.
Do you think it is important to have a regional focus?
Definitely. I think this is really important to support local artists. It creates a new market and an authentic cultural connection. In bigger Metropol cities it is harder to find such niche pristine artists who reflect their customs, nature, rituals, and likes…
It is fascinating how Mr. Twellmann creates his installations and objects in response to invitations from exhibitions, symposiums, galleries. Did you collaborate with such an artist previously?
I have worked for Protocinema previously which is an art organization that organizes site specific exhibitions around the world. Each exhibition space, location is chosen according to artists’s persona and work’s language. Working for Protocinema was a similar experience. Also in some of the gallery group shows I have worked directly with artists, who made brand new artwork for the upcoming exhibitions. For example recently I had a studio visit with Justin Adian, he made a new artwork for an upcoming exhibition and they turned out great! I think it is much more inspiring when the artists draw inspiration from the material they find on each location and do not plan in advance, rather act more intuitively.
Consolee Nishimwe (32, Rwanda) survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide as a Tutsi at the age of 13. Currently living in New York City, Consolee became a public speaker sharing her own experience as a global civil society agent and as an advocate for other genocide survivors and gender equality. Author of the book “Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor's Story of Pain, Resilience and Hope”, in which she narrates her personal story.
How was life in Rwanda before the Genocide started?
Living in Rwanda before the genocide was very beautiful. I was very fortunate to have good parents and family members and I had a very happy childhood despite all the things that the country was enduring at that time: the discrimination against the ethnic Tutsis, which I belong to.
When and how things started to change?
Things started to change even before 1994, even before I was born. Tutsis were discriminated since the 50’s: most of them fled in exile, and the ones living in the country were sometimes denied certain things. I started to experience this discrimination when I was in school, as a young girl. However, the first time I realized how bad the situation was turning, was when I started hearing on the radio how discriminated Tutsis were: they were calling us “cockroaches” and “snakes”, and explaining how they were going to kill us. It’s really something I would never forget, how some people could use such lame words to dehumanize other human beings that are not doing anything bad, just being discriminated according how they were born. And then, the genocide happened.
How were you living this situation at home?
My parents didn’t want to tell us anything about those kinds of things we were hearing. They managed to get sure that we were safe and they were doing everything to make us feel comfortable but, of course, I could see the fear in their faces. However, at that time I was not very much paying attention to their reactions of certain things. After the genocide, that’s when I thought “wow, they were really scared, they were fearful of what was going to happen”. As a kid, I never thought there would be a genocide. I kept saying to myself “I will go to school whatever is being said!” I never expected what would happen, especially because my neighbors and friends were Hutus: we were going to school together and to each other homes,
And then, the genocide happened…
Exactly, and it really affected me a lot. Every survival would tell you how horrible the genocide was. The headwords through the radio were increasing a lot, and it was really scary to hear how Tutsis were being killed in some areas of Rwanda. We were being told we would be killed and it was very dangerous to stay at home: houses were being destroyed and people would be killed in their own homes or even in the streets. So my family and I, as many other Tutsi families, were forced to run and hide. I remember how scared my parents were, because my siblings and I, as kids, were thinking “this will maybe stop soon, maybe there won’t be any killings”. But of course that was not the case: we spent three months hiding in many different places and during this period of time many family members were murdered, including my father, my three brothers, my grandparents, my uncles, and many other friends. My father was the first person to be killed, followed by my brothers. So my mother, my sisters and I we kept hiding without knowing whether we were going to survive. I also remember hearing the people who chased my father talking about how happy they were to, you know, have killed him… It was one of the worst time in my life, I felt that they could have had killed me too. It was very hard, and my mom, sisters and I begging to be killed too.
Were you in danger, during these three months?
When you survive things keep happening. All of us were crashed emotionally, psychologically, specially my mom. We didn’t want to leave; we just wanted to be killed. It was horrible how Hutus were killing Tutsis, using machetes and torturing people… So we just kept praying and hiding, even though we didn’t know whether we were going to survive. Hutus were also using women and young girls as a weapon. They were raping and torturing women. During that time we were hiding, I was among those many girls who were raped and, unfortunately, I live with HIV as a result of that. It was very hard for me, I can’t find sometimes words to describe how I felt, especially for my mum, and I never thought after surviving the genocide that I would really function and be a normal teenager.
But you have been able to function again. How was this journey?
I was very wounded and I still have some traumas and nightmares, but I had the voice of God that kept telling me to never give up. Having my sisters and my mother, someone I can speak to, helped a lot. Being able to tell my personal story to others helped me in my healing journey. People are still going through these tragedies around the world. Terrorist groups are doing horrible things like ISIS, Boko Haram and many others. It’s very hard and we need to speak up and be a voice for those people so that at least you know we can prevent such horrible things to keep happening in the word.
How do you see yourself as a global civil society actor?
I wanted to be a voice for the genocide survivors, especially for women, who are still not able to share their own stories. When they hear me speaking, they feel there’s someone out there who has been gone through the same situation. It’s a way also of honoring those who we lost during the genocide. We don’t want them to be forgotten, as they were important people in our lives who were doing everything to take care of us. My first experience telling my story, however, was not easy at all. I didn’t have words to describe what happened to me and my family, so it was really difficult. But at the same time I felt comfortable with the environment and the energy, everybody was very kind and it really encouraged me to keep doing that.
Looking at my story or even at other people’s stories repeating itself in many other places where Boko Haram, ISIS, and other terrorist groups are doing horrible things to other human beings I feel obligated like other activist and other social activist to contribute to help prevent and raise our voices to help stop such horrible things. Every time I think that someone like myself, a young girl, is being tortured, raped, and people are being killed I feel I must use my voice in my capacity to help preventing such things. Hopefully our world would be a better place.