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Art21 Premieres “Artist to Artist” Series

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Last month, Art21 premiered Artist to Artist, a new film series that features contemporary visual artists in conversation with their peers, discussing the inspirations and passions that drive their processes. An artist from the Art21 family hosts each film, guiding viewers through a major exhibition and the city where it takes place.

The first three films were shot at art biennials in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Venice, Italy; and Istanbul, Turkey. As the series creator, I witnessed many unplanned, unprecedented, and incredible moments. Here are some of my favorites:

Shahzia Sikander at Sharjah Biennial 11

Many of the interviews in Sharjah happened spontaneously. For instance, while artist and host Shahzia Sikander was admiring a mosque’s ornate blue façade, artist Lucia Koch stepped out of a small entryway with her hands covered in plaster. She was putting the final touches on her installation Conversion (2013), which occupied a large courtyard and small house adjacent to the mosque. Intrigued, Shahzia approached Koch and asked if they could have a conversation about the installation. Shahzia stepped inside as Koch cleaned her hands. Filming the artists as they casually conversed felt refreshingly organic, a welcome change from my typically formal interview.

Diana Al-Hadid at the 55th Venice Biennale

In Venice, cinematographer Jared Schiller filmed Diana Al-Hadid as she explored artist Kimsooja’s installation To Breathe: Bottari (2013) in the Korean Pavilion. Kimsooja had applied diffraction film to the pavilion’s glass windows, installed mirrors on its floor and ceiling, and placed an anechoic chamber, void of all light and sound, at the center. Because Jared’s camera happened to have infrared capability, we’re able to see Diana’s wide-eyed expression as she feels her way through the chamber—an experience that few others were able to capture on camera. At its best, documentary filmmaking allows us to witness moments such as this that we might not see otherwise.

Shahzia Sikander at the 13th Istanbul Biennial

The Gezi Resistance was well underway when we began to film in Istanbul. Because my goal with each Artist to Artist film is to explore the larger context of the exhibition, I found it helpful to engage local professionals in the filmmaking process. I hired an Istanbul-based camera crew and incorporated photographs taken by a local documentarian. My favorite image shows two young protesters smiling at the camera despite their need to wear facemasks to protect themselves from tear gas. This resonates with what Shahzia describes in the film as a sense of community and empowerment that the Gezi protests generated among Istanbul’s younger generation.

Read more about Artist to Artist in Forster’s introduction to the series.

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