“For me, art is an immersion” – an interview with Clara Feder, founder of the “Dreamchain” project

By Anna Savitskaya - Saturday, May 14, 2016
“For me, art is an immersion” – an interview with Clara Feder, founder of the “Dreamchain” project

“What is my place in the world? What have I accomplished so far, and how can I improve things around me?” All of us, from time to time, ask ourselves such questions. Clara Feder, a transmedia artist with a focus on photography and participatory projects, decided to turn these questions into the focus of one of her research projects: “Dreamchain”. The concept of “Dreamchain” is to invite women from the art world to answer the most present and pressing question of all times: “How can we build a better world?”

“For me, art is an immersion” – an interview with Clara Feder, founder of the “Dreamchain” project

“What is my place in the world? What have I accomplished so far, and how can I improve things around me?” All of us, from time to time, ask ourselves such questions. Clara Feder, a transmedia artist with a focus on photography and participatory projects, decided to turn these questions into the focus of one of her research projects: “Dreamchain”. The concept of “Dreamchain” is to invite women from the art world to answer the most present and pressing question of all times: “How can we build a better world?” Each of the women participating in Clara’s project is nominated by someone already in the chain and they respond to that very question by identifying an image that they associate with a better world. In an action which evokes the processes of travel and questing, this chosen image is then projected onto the suitcase that each woman is holding. Some of Clara’s participants are well-known, others are not, but they all create a strong connection between one another. The project aims at drawing attention to women as members of the art world, and assesses women's possible contributions to making the world a happier and better place. “Dreamchain” - a project that engages (with) us all. 

Aside from “Dreamchain”, Clara is involved in other artistic projects, including “Paul and Virginie remix”, “Light Travelers”, “Wall of Temptation”, and others where she questions human abilities, a person’s place in the world, and the role of art in our lives.

Artdependence Magazine talked with Clara Feder about her “Dreamchain” project, to find out more about the initial concept, its development, and how her art piece differs from scientific research.

Artdependence Magazine: Clara, please tell us a bit about your background: when did you realise that you wanted to become an artist?

ClaraFeder, © Matthieu Parent

Clara Feder: My background is very diverse. I studied film-making at New York University Film School, and I am also a writer. I was always involved in cinematography or art in one form or another. I have lived off of my writing, having published around 20 books under my pen name Virginie Michelet. But I was raised in a family where people are very much into visual art, since my mother is an art expert and my grandfather was a keen painter. At one point, I realized that beyond words there were images I wanted to explore and to create.  My art is somehow always linked to literature and it takes many forms, performance, installation, drawing, but most of all I work with photography and video. 

AD: The theme of finding one’s identity and one’s place in contemporary society seems to be central in your artwork - is this so? How can art influence, direct, or help people find themselves? What role does art play in people’s lives?

CF: In my opinion, it’s a little bit like when you read a book: at one point you are struck by something which makes sense to you. For me, art is that kind of thing. I do not pretend to be a person who has answers, but just somebody who gives people the opportunity to maybe discover something within themselves that might help. It was so difficult for me to find my own identity that I really do want to help others with that. It’s almost a question of redemption. I have been doing this constantly across very different media. I did it with the Wall of Temptation, my participatory performances in New York and Marseille. The idea was to provide people with a little space where they had the option to micro-change, if they wanted to. (If you want to know more about this experiment, you can go to www.walloftemptation.com).   

Basically, what I do in my “Dreamchain” project, is that I ask the participating women to find out and describe their dream for a better world, and I let them think about their answer - for me, this is the main thing about art - thinking - and having an epiphany, or maybe not. All of a sudden, they have the possibility of realizing something about themselves. I do not know what it is. I am just a little piece, a small part of that. I ask them to express their dream for a better world, so they ask themselves this question and the viewer asks the same question too. What is my dream? What do I want to achieve? 

AD: What kind of dream do you mean? 

CF: I state that it is a dream for a better world, but I do not specify what kind of dream. People can interpret it in their own way. This interpretation also says a lot about the person. I am not a psychoanalyst, but it is interesting to observe how people react to and answer my question. On a personal level, as well as on a universal level, we all have dreams. It is very interesting for me to let women express their dreams visually and intellectually. Specially in the world of art (all participants are involved in the contemporary art world).

Yoyo Maeght, Dreamchain © Clara Feder

AD: You have many projects that feature women as central characters. What role does feminism play in your art?

CF: I would say I deal with women’s empowerment more than feminism. This subject comes from my observations. As a writer I never encountered any problem being a woman, because the literary market is a different market. Nobody will put all his or her savings into a book, but people will invest a lot in art, and so the stakes are much higher. In art, women are less shown, less talked about, less present. I was struck by the figures in an article about sales of work valued at over one million dollars on the secondary market: 93% of the sales are of works by men and only 7% by women. It shocked me. Coming from the world of writing where it was not an issue, I realized being a woman in the world of art is another story. This fact made me conduct this research, to ask - why is it so? 

In Dreamchain, women express themselves, are shown shedding light over darkness, and can share their reflections about this gender disparity if they wish to do so. With the help of this transmedia project on the internet and in real life (I aim to make it into a book and exhibitions as well), I try to find out the reasons for all this, and how women feel about it. I know that there is an emerging conscience of it in the world of art, mainly in the USA, where they are always leading the way. At the Museum for Women in the Arts, in Washington DC, they started this #5womenartists, because when you ask “can you name 5 women in art?” it gets you thinking. I see that this theme has drawn lots of attention lately.  

Danielle van Zadelhoff, Dreamchain © Clara Feder

AD: How do you select these women within the contemporary art field? What qualifications do they need to possess? From the site it is clear that your project’s group is quite diverse. 

CF: They are indeed very diverse, simply because I do not chose them, they nominate each other. That is why it is like a journey for me as well. Most of the times I do not know them. It’s due to chance, it’s random. I like this feature, because through this chain I meet absolutely different people, not only stars but everybody - from artists and gallerists, to art collectors and experts, art historians and curators. Some of them are more high profile than others, some of them like to talk in front of the camera and present themselves strongly, others hate it. So, the main criteria is that they are nominated by somebody else and they accept the nomination, that is why it’s called a chain.

Here are some examples from the chain:

Yoyo Maeght, curator and editor: “I chose a drawing by Aki Kuroda which symbolizes the place of a man in the universe. Is it the universe which gives us our dimension or is it man who tries to define the place of a man in the universe?"

Anne-Sarah Bénichou, owner of Anne-Sarah Bénichou Gallery, Paris: “On my suitcase I chose to write a quote by Francois Rabelais: “laughter is proper to Man.” For me laughter and humour have a liberating aspect but also relate to solidarity and independence." 

Danielle van Zadelhoff, artist: "I put my photo with a key on a suitcase. I think that the better world is not outside, it is inside and we must have self-reflection to find it and bring it into the world." 

Jo Dennis, artist: “I have put a felted drawing of a vintage truck, drawn by an elderly man who classes himself as a non-artist; This drawing really appeals to me because it pulls me back to my younger times, when things were much simpler and more honest. And I think there is a lot of honesty in the way he draws stuff. Honesty - for the better."

24 women in Dreamchain © Clara Feder

AD: What makes your research a participatory art project? What are the creative and artistic aspects of it? Where do you see the difference between a scientific research and an art project? 

CF: It could be backed up by Nicolas Bourriaud’s book on Relational Aesthetics. For me, art is an immersion, so there should be some food for thought, food for growing up, food for the eyes, for listening. Art is all of that. It’s an immersion in something that, if it does not change you completely, at least makes you see and understand things differently. The aesthetics of the project is about having a light directed onto the heads of those women, as if they are lighting the world around them and, since the project is about the empowerment of women in art, this light makes a lot of sense. The suitcase part means that this is a journey. Also, it’s not only about having these women linked together in the process of nomination, but about them being spiritually open. For me, this is the aesthetics around this, that makes this art. I am also constantly thinking how to show this project. When you come to my site you hear voices. They have something to say, so when you put them together and listen to them, it makes you think of what they say and it brings resonance to the question: how would you change the world for the better? 

Read the full version of the interview in the upcoming printed version of Artdependence Magazine.

More at : www.dreamchainproject.com

Anna is a graduate of Moscow’s Photo Academy, with a previous background in intellectual property rights. In 2012 she founded the company Perspectiva Art, dealing in art consultancy, curatorship, and the coordination of exhibitions. During the bilateral year between Russia and The Netherlands in 2013, Perspectiva Art organized a tour for a Dutch artist across Russia, as well as putting together several exhibitions in the Netherlands, curated by Anna. Since October 2014, Anna has taken an active role in the development and management of ArtDependence Magazine. Anna interviews curators and artists, in addition to reviewing books and events, and collaborating with museums and art fairs.

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Image of the Day

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).

Roman Pyatkovka, “VELVET SADNESS”, (1996), photograph glued on velvet passe-partout (paper).


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