Interview with 3137 – Organisational Experimentation, Infrastructure and International Networks

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For this interview with two of the three co-organisers of 3137, one of the Artist Run Organisations of the Transformer project, Paki Vlassopoulou and Kosmas Nikolaou (also one of the project’s artists), we returned to some of the issues raised in the various panels — policy, international networks and local infrastructures — this time considering them specifically through the lens of 3137’s curatorial practice, working on what they describe as “the periphery” in Athens, Greece.

While this is a situation with quite a different set of existing circumstances to many across the rest of Europe — Greece has been undergoing a set of transformations which have necessitated innovations and experimental practices that could have only taken place there — but with little current infrastructural support for small artist run organisations this was still a relevant conversation to Malta.

The experiments at 3137 began with exhibition forms but moved onto structuring the organisation as a sort of performed narrative, as they sought new ways of working together and developing their curatorial practice and audience. As the organisers confronted the real challenges of sustainable practice in the context of the politics Greece was undergoing, 3137 describe how they found agency and critical position in remaining at a small scale. That is, a position which allowed the group to focus their values on care and friendship rather than simply scaling up and attempting to access the art market as is the case for so many Artist Run Organisations.

Before speaking, we had picked up on architect Keller Easterling’s recent talk at the Strelka Institute in Moscow where she had discussed what she calls ‘medium design.’ That is the spectral and hard-to-grasp practice of trying to work on the matrix of rules and protocols that define how forms like politics, buildings or cultural institutions can come into being. These might be policies, design standards, or habits ingrained in one culture’s beliefs as it interfaces another. Together these come together in a medium that cannot be pointed to as one thing, and which takes novel forms and brings indeterminate or time-based practices to change and design.

We picked this up in our conversation, beginning with how an arts organisation can have an effect locally, as well as begin to think about how this might connect to wider infrastructures and networks. In the end, however, we return to the practical questions: how to build those infrastructures and discussion in the first place — through art, curating or otherwise.