Here at Site-Specific Conversation, we have initiated a collaboration with Barcelona Gallery Weekend 2022, offering a series of conversations that will be published weekly over the summer.
The proposal takes Lucy Lippard’s novel, I See/You Mean, as a reference and uses its title to talk about affinities in the choices made by artists and gallery directors and about practices, projects and work dynamics. During the writing process, Lucy realised she was ashamed of being a woman. This same feeling has been experienced by many over the years, and still is to this day. For this reason, we have selected eight galleries exhibiting works by women at this edition of BGW. Throughout this series, we will be conversing with artists and gallery directors, focusing on the relationships generated in a field like this, where the creative is often mixed with the affective.
To close out this series, we talk to artists Momu & No Es (Lucía Moreno and Eva Noguera) and Ismaël Chappaz, director of the gallery House of Chappaz. Between them is a beautiful love story they share with another gallery: Joey Ramone (Rotterdam). They make a great trio, working well together and helping each other to grow. These are new ways of understanding this profession. Younger generations of gallerists are seeing that we are stronger together, and that support networks are becoming increasingly necessary.
Alongside the owners and founders of the Toormix studio, Oriol Armengou and Ferran Mitjans, Ismaël Chappaz is presenting the collective exhibition House Of Chappaz Mixtape Vol.1, featuring work by Momu & No Es, at his Barcelona gallery, House of Chappaz Basement.
How did your relationship begin?
Ismaël / It started with the solo exhibition you put on at ARCO 2018 with Joey Ramone. I loved it: so much so that I made a move in the least subtle way possible.
Momu / And in front of everyone!
Ismaël / For me, it’s a ménage à trois or nothing.
Is this exhibition for Barcelona Gallery Weekend the first time you’re working together?
Ismaël / We’ve done several things together in the past. That first meeting in 2018 led to us collaborating on a collective exhibition curated by Francisco Ramallo, it was the second exhibition in the new space in Barcelona. In 2020, we went to ARCO together, sharing a stand with Joey Ramone. That year, we had a second stand with them, within the special programme. We’re a love triangle where these two are the stars.
As you say, you’re a trio: a team made up of two galleries, one based in Rotterdam and the other in Valencia, and then the artists, two of you who also live between Rotterdam, Madrid and Barcelona.
Momu / We’ve brought a project that opened in Valencia to Brussels, and now (September) it’s being shown in Rotterdam. The piece has gradually grown this way.
Ismaël / And it’s going to keep on growing because we’re taking it to Art Cologne. Both galleries are going together. For next year’s ARCO, we want to present a project together again. It’s a formula that works, and we have a wonderful friendship. For instance, when I go to the opening of an exhibition at Joey Ramone, I stay in their house. On other occasions, I’ve stayed at Eva’s.
This level of mutual understanding is interesting, all working together. There are five of you thinking about every project, and this way, they go further.
Ismaël / That’s the feeling I get. A lot of things are happening and doing it together just works.
Momu / It’s teamwork, really.
No Es / We work on the premise that we’ve always been a tandem. We’ve never made art separately; we’ve been a collective since the very beginning. We collaborate with others on our projects, because we really focus on storytelling, with audiovisual media, with performance, creating staging, with music… We don’t limit ourselves to one format, and that makes you seek out collaboration channels. For us, working with a gallery that collaborates with another, and they are based in different places, and coming into contact with other people… All of that is really interesting. Translating that story, moving it, and turning it into a road trip really suits our practice.
Those kinds of relationships aren’t so common. Do they come to you because you’re open to them?
Momu / We’ve found a mutual understanding with Ismaël. There are a lot of similarities in the way we see the world, the way we work. You work well when you get on well with each other. And when you enjoy working, all of it is much more stimulating. We’re all heading in the same direction.
No Es / It’s also a generational thing, something to do with synergies, strengths…
Ismaël / Yeah, we’re from the same generation, and it’s true that it’s also related to having the same tastes. Their work resonates with me on many levels, and we coincide in so many things. When you feel at ease, the relationship become much simpler and what might seem like a mountain of a problem gets sorted out in no time.
Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Many young galleries place a lot of importance on care and generating support networks. They tend to have a profile more like a curator.
Momu / There’s no hierarchy, it’s the opposite: it’s very horizontal. It’s not about one person working for another. It’s something more organic.
Ismaël / Things work because we work. It happens with these two and with other artists. In fact, when things have gone wrong, it’s been because someone has wanted to go off on their own. Of course, there are roles one person or another needs to take on, but the conversation must be constant. Everything must be totally transparent.
In fact, for BGW, you’re not presenting a project by a single artist, but rather by all the artists who work with you.
Ismaël / Both the Barcelona team – the Toormix studio – and I love music, and that was the common link. Eduardo García Nieto, a friend and the curator who is writing the text for the exhibition, has already worked with Momu&NoEs. All of us together came up with the idea of something like a mixtape. So, we are presenting all of the gallery’s artists together. There’s a consistent feel. This proposal, with very specific pieces by each artist, aims to provide a general reading of the gallery.
And what are you going to present?
Momu / A sculptural piece that’s part of the F.A.T.A.L. project. We’ve reproduced the inside of a cave where, somehow, time has stopped, but at some point in the future. We’ll present one of the sculptures resulting from a Mentos and Coke explosion. From a single explosion, we made different sizes, and when we put them together, they took the form of stalactites and stalagmites: these really geological, organic shapes.
No Es / Most of the pieces in this project are objects, foods, materials, that have somehow been isolated in a place and started to emulsify spontaneously. They’ve materialised as a futuristic thing that ends up as a material that is inert or not inert, shall we say, without human understanding, but they take and keep centre stage on their own. In these evolutions, each one has created itself, it’s stayed there, and it’s started to mutate. The recording we made to get images of the stalactites was a lot like a documentary film.
Is part of this project what you presented at Art Brussels?
Ismaël / Exactly. And Joey Ramone is going to show this project very soon, too. As they’ve said, it’s a project that’s growing, mutating.
Now we’re going back to a question we like to ask in this series of conversations, based on a declaration made by Lucy Lippard when she finished her novel I See/You Mean. She said that, when she was writing, she got to the point of feeling ashamed because she was a woman. In terms of your practice, have you ever felt intimidated, ignored, misunderstood, because you are women?
Momu / Looking back and recently, we think we have been questioned a lot more than male artists of our generation. We have the advantage of there being two of us and having a constant dialogue. We’ve never doubted ourselves and we give each other strength to carry on. It’s probably because we’re women – we’re not the first artists to work with irony or humour – that we’ve been treated differently. We’ve been forced to prove our worth constantly.
No Es / It might be down to the type of aesthetic we’ve always chosen, too. We’ve been working together for almost twenty years, and for a lot of that time we were very young, or we were treated like little girls. In one of our first meetings, I remember they offered us sweets…
Momu / At the beginning you don’t question things as much and you just accept it, even though you think, ‘that guy’s an idiot’.
Ismaël / I get patronised a lot, and given that I’m gay too, it happens even more. I feel the heteropatriarchy like you do. All that about having a penis and therefore more advantages… I’m not so sure about it because I’m deemed a second-class man. But I’m glad I’m seen this way. In fact, the gallery is intentionally feminist and queer because I need these issues to be reflected.
No Es / There’s no point denying it. But then you have to get on with it, you can’t let it consume you. That generates frustration in the end, of course.
Ismaël / This seems so weird and at the same time old-fashioned to me, because modernity/the avant-garde should be a MUST when it comes to consumption of contemporary art. Using this terminology to justify indifference is a clear sign of conservatism and a lack of culture.
Momu / We’ve been told: ‘You’re women, so you can’t really expect things to go well for you’. We’ve always been made to believe that.
No Es / The Netherlands is an excellent country in terms of feminist and social policies. It gives you another perspective. It has an enormous fabric of networks, with lots of associations and organisations. There’s also more mixing of institutions and self-managed spaces. The circulation is a lot more permeable, and you work with everyone.
Momu / Exhibiting in self-managed centres is just as valuable as exhibiting in institutional centres. Being an artist is valued in the Netherlands; you don’t have to constantly be fighting like you do here. There, you can make a living creating art.
Barcelona Gallery Weekend seeks to reinforce and make visible the rich and varied artistic scene of Barcelona, promote art collecting and highlight the work of the galleries, as culture generating spaces open to citizens, and the artists they represent. From 15th to 18th September 2022, we celebrate our 8th edition in 32 galleries, presenting the work of more than 60 artists.