Fresh from the Netherlands to make his start as Para/Site Art Space’s new executive director/curator, Cosmin Costinas tells Edmund Lee about his visions for the future.
When Cosmin Costinas came to Hong Kong for the very first time, in 2006, as an editor for the Documenta 12 Magazines project, he found Para/Site Art Space ‘a small, somehow unpretentious and flexible institution with a great programme of working internationally’. Having recently started as the executive director/curator of the non-profit contemporary art organisation, the 28-year-old writer-critic is planning a series of ‘town hall meetings’ with local artists in October to discuss the role of Para/Site, before its new programme officially kicks off in mid-December with a group exhibition.
Cosmin, can you give me some ideas about the December show?
Very modestly – but still confidently – I’d say [it will] give a sense of my work as a curator, of [the question] ‘where do I come from?’. There will be some [artists] that I’ve worked with in the past, but there’ll also be artists that I’d like to work with in the future of Para/Site. And [with] the way the exhibition will be constructed, we’re trying to comment on the space as well. We’re gonna try to actually make the space as small as possible, realistically, to show what we want to show. It should be a statement of the fact that size doesn’t matter in this context. So rather than trying to extend the space and sort of pretend that we’re bigger than what we are, with this first exhibition we’re actually gonna decrease the space.
And how are you going to do that?
[By] closing it off. We’ll probably build an architectural intervention that will reduce the actual space. Together with the exhibition I’m planning to make a conference: a gathering of people – writers and curators mainly – from all over the world and from very different contexts. I’m planning to have, in the future, a kind of family of Para/Site. This should be the first moment, the basis, in establishing an international community on Para/Site.
What new directions should we be expecting of Para/Site?
I think the beginning of my stay here will not so much be connected to a programme as it should be understood as more of an attempt to rethink the institution. At Para/Site we’ll stop being an art space as such, or just a space for art. I think it should be more of a centre of a network and not completely defined by what you see physically in this space. The reason why I decided to move completely to Hong Kong is that I do think that the contemporary world in which we’re living in is changing dramatically. There’s an old model in terms of politics but also in terms of culture and arts: the model was being generated in the West, and then the rest of the world would somehow copy it and adapt it to a certain extent. This model is not functional any more, and I think we’re seeing a more decentred world with different hierarchies of power, of creativity, of ideas. In that sense, Para/Site will not copy the model from anywhere else. It should all be Hong Kong. [We will] try to imagine a model that makes sense for this institution, for this place and for this moment in time, and Para/Site should itself become a model.
How are you going to find the balance between Hong Kong art and international art?
Here, I want to bring Para/Site much closer to the Hong Kong community of artists, because Para/Site started as an artist-run space. It was a very grassroots exercise. I think this is a history that I would like to reconnect with. But thinking in a different way, and I think this is something that the scene would agree [with], is that it’s not so much about making it again an artist-run space, but making it again relevant for the Hong Kong art community. The extent to [which] we’ll show more or less Hong Kong artists, I don’t know at the moment. But I think that’s not the most important thing for the discussion, because also, when [Para/Site] was created, it wasn’t so much created for the local artists to show themselves, but rather to create this platform for communicating with the outside world – I mean, in both directions. So, this is a component I’d like to bring back again.
What exactly will the role of Para/Site be to the local scene?
I think it should, again, belong to the scene. I think the artists should be more present here, that they will actually come and be interested in what’s happening. I’d like for the events that happen here to respond to things that the art community here is interested in. So even if I were to show an artist from Brazil, the choice of why [to] show that particular artist now in Hong Kong should be based on discussion or expectation or style or trend or concerns that are very Hong Kong-based. And I think showing these artists at this moment in Para/Site would contribute something to the scene at this particular moment. So, certainly Para/Site will not be imagining in an isolated way something that could be anywhere [else] in the world. In that sense, I think it should be very relevant to the local community of artists.
For more updated news on Para/Site Art Space, visit www.para-site.org.hk.