Osman Can Yerebakan (left) and Emily Colucci (right)
Photo by Ryan Leach
Installation is currently underway for La MaMa Galleria’s first exhibition of the fall, Party Out Of Bounds: Nightlife As Activism Since 1980. Opening this Friday, September 18, 2015, the show, organized with Visual AIDS, explores the connections between the AIDS pandemic and New York’s nightlife and artists. As pieces from the show’s 29 artists were arriving to the space, co-curators Emily Colucci and Osman Can Yerebakan spent a portion of their night discussing their curation process, the show’s generational aspect, and New York’s gentrification.
1. You’ve been working on Party Out Of Bounds for quite some time. How and when did the project get started?
Osman Can Yerebakan: Yes, when it opens this week, Party Out Of Bounds will be the result of a 2-year long project. We met at performance artist Ron Athey’s automatic writing workshop at Participant Inc in the summer of 2013. We share a certain perspective for art -- especially for the New York art scene -- and this led to submission of this proposal in the fall of 2013 to Visual AIDS’ annual curatorial call. Before that I started to contribute to Emily’s infamous blog Filthy Dreams with my take on various issues from art exhibitions to cronut mania. And here we are.
Emily Colucci: I’ve always been inspired by nightlife, particularly the nightlife in Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s and 1980s with performers such as John Sex, Ethyl Eichelberger, John Kelly and Dean Johnson, as well as artists like Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz and Cookie Mueller. At Participant Inc, we started talking about David Wojnarowicz and that initial conversation led us to where we are now with the show.
2. Have your astrological signs been a good match for curating together?
O: I was born on July 14th, and my sign is cancer. To be honest, I am not sure what Emily’s sign is. I like to ask people what their astrological sign is (I have a crab tattoo on my right arm as a reference to my sign), but we never talked about it.
E: I’m an Aries– a loud-mouthed, opinionated and annoyingly stubborn sign, which are all qualities that Osman probably learned over the course of our two years curating together.
3. With so many artists involved across different generations, was it a very social curatorial process?
O: Studio visits and meeting with artists have been some of the most memorable parts of this experience. As a curator, one gets exposure to so many different lives, apartments, studios and stories that this component becomes a crucial source of inspiration for the show, and this was definitely the case for this exhibition.
E: We started our first conversations and studio visits in the summer of 2014 and then just continued from there. With each studio visit, we were able to gain access to these artists’ memories of the intersection of nightlife and activism whether through ephemeral material they saved from clubs and bars or just through–at times–hours long conversations.
4. New York has undergone a lot of changes since 1980. Was that transition a factor in how you approached the show's theme?
E: I don’t think you could approach this show without recognizing the constant transitions in New York’s cultural, nightlife and just physical landscape whether through the HIV/AIDS pandemic or gentrification.
O: Gentrification is a subtle yet definitely accentuated part of this exhibition. Bygone clubs, bars or institutions are not only commemorated throughout the artworks on view, but also they are studied as territories of political standpoint.
5. Do you think there’s a generational shift in how artists are using their practices for activist purposes? Who is the youngest artist in the show?
O: The youngest artist is Kia Labeija who is in her mid-20s. Although Kia, like many artists in this show and us the curators, did not witness the early days of the AIDS pandemic, there is definitely a sense of unity and sharing of a mutual language between younger and previous generations.
E: Frankly, I don’t see a shift in how artists are using their practices. Rather, there is an undeniable and powerful genealogy of art, activism and nightlife that creates a dialogue between multiple generations of artists. Kia, for example, is part of the House of LaBeija, one of the iconic houses in the ball scene.
6. What does working at La MaMa Galleria mean to you?
E: Working with La MaMa Galleria has been fantastic. I’m honored to be a part of the long and vibrant history of La MaMa through Party Out Of Bounds. As I said before, the cultural scene in Downtown Manhattan has been a source of inspiration for me for years and La MaMa is certainly an essential piece of that history.
O: Matt, Sam and the whole La MaMa staff have been incredibly helpful throughout this journey. We first met Matt and later Sam, and they both have managed to handle our heavy email traffic. We can’t wait to experience the future of La MaMa Galleria together.
in association with Visual AIDS
ACTIVISM SINCE 1980
ACTIVISM SINCE 1980
September 18 - 10, 2015
Wednesday - Sunday 1pm - 7pm
La MaMa Galleria
47 Great Jones Street