On July 1st 2017, the streets of East London will be transformed with art, performance and music. Encouraging the public to view art and the city through a new lens, Art Night focuses on a specific area of London to explore its distinctive identity, culture and architecture. Few artists are better equipped than Marine Hardeman to create a dialogue between the city and visual arts. For this particular project, she will be spotlighting sewer drains with a ballet of lights. Candid Magazine’s Ariane Belisle sat down with the curator of the installation and CEO of MTArt, Marine Tanguy to discuss the project.
Ariane Belisle: Marine Hardeman seeks to create a dialogue between the visual arts and architecture. How does this manifest itself in this project?
Marine Tanguy: I always felt it was such a waste to continuously create new exhibition stages when the city itself is one enormous (and exciting) stage. Creating a dialogue between art and architecture, our MTArt artist Marine Hardeman aims to do just this, as she responds to functional architectural features like sewer drains. I love to think of art as a bridge into reality and a way to enhance our reality. By creating this ballet of lights, I hope it gets people smiling and engaging with their environment.
AB: Hardeman's public light installations will no doubt lend themselves well to diffusion on social media – namely, Instagram. How do you feel about this kind of fast consumption of artworks?
MT: In this day and age, it’s necessary to help bring awareness to the value of art and artists. Social media is, after all, the best way to engage with people outside our curated group of acquaintances. The visual language has always been the best way to communicate with people who think differently or are from different cultures. Art does this well and whether it’s shared via social media or elsewhere, it should continue to do so. I hope that, through social media, Marine Hardeman will inspire more artists to use their urban environment as a creative platform.
AB: You filled out countless Health & Safety forms, called the Council and Thames Water 65 times, and sent a total of 80 emails to secure this public art project. Can you talk us through the logistics involved?
MT: Sadly to get a public art installation approved is still a very challenging process. This project is part of a wider festival, Art Night and I cannot begin to imagine the amount of administration that these amazing ladies must have to go through! I am currently in the process of writing an academic paper on how to implement cultural projects within the urban realm; I truly believe (and hope) this will get easier over the next few years. Art is still marginalised; public art is a key element that will allow us to shift this perception. The more people get exposed to art, the more they will benefit from it and appreciate creativity.
When I was down on my knees measuring the sewer hole, some locals came up to me and said: ‘Oh you are implementing an art project, it's cool, you just come, do it and leave, right?'. Well… no. The process is a little more convoluted than that. You need to start six months in advance, fill out countless Health & Safety forms (this includes lighting prolusion and air ambulances concerns… as if the tiny LED lighting would ever reach a helicopter!). Then, as you work with artists, they send you back to measure the drain (and open it) five times as new details come to light and the creative process unveils. Finally, you also need to clean the drain… oh yes, working in the arts is very glamourous!
AB: Could you tell us about any illustrative (or amusing) anecdotes or conversations you had with the Council?
MT: I guess the main anecdote for this project is that I spent two months liaising with Thames Water on every health and safety issue they were concerned about and a few days before launching the PR, they realised that they didn't own these drains and that I should have talked to the council directly (who put me in touch with Thames Water in the first place). The real issue is that there is no dedicated department for cultural projects and when there is an ”arts and events” department, they don't have they authority to grant approval for projects like this. You feel a little like Sherlock trying to understand who is in charge!
AB: How would you reframe the conversation around art to get more people involved?
MT: Art is life. It sounds very cliché but we all need to be exposed to inspiring visuals, content and creativity daily. You cannot behave like a robot, setting your alarm at the same time, working, drinking and sleeping. This does not benefit society. Art gives you empathy; it opens your mind to other cultures and people. It inspires you: for a few minutes, you may forget that you are a hamster turning madly in your tiny cage. We need to change our perception towards art and view it as a necessity and not a luxury. Everyone should be involved – the councils, the corporates, the investment structures, etc. While we may think that critical thinking is a necessity, visually understanding our reality is also key. I want people to start looking at things so drop your phone right now!
AB: What sector would you see benefiting the most from the arts?
MT: All of them – without a single preference. Art can massively benefit sustainability through its exploration of complex themes like climate change and make these conversations more accessible/engaging. I also feel that art and creativity can truly further the conversation on mental health. The arts teach you to think differently which is a key skill when it comes to creative thinking for your own business and coming up with solutions.
AB: In 2015, you established MTArt, the first agency and fund for artists. What was the impetus behind creating the company?
MT: I never imagined how fascinating the journey would be when I started the business. I actually failed my first venture and having a French analytical character, I got to the bottom of why I didn't succeed. That's why MTArt is so solid today (without sounding too American about it). Early failure is amazing when you are an entrepreneur as it gets you to ask yourself the real questions: why do you want to do the things that you are doing? What are your values? How can I accomplish my goals? I guess MTArt is just that: I wanted to support artists, not within a pretty shop but being entirely behind them to give to these talented individuals a chance to excel in the field. My boyfriend always compares me jokingly to Jerry Mcguire which is true in a sense: MTArt is a full accelerator supporting a small group of artists whom we believe are incredible. The influence that we are establishing is within but also beyond the art world. After I failed I realised how important it was to me, my mother being a teacher, to support artists and projects that engage wider demographics.
AB: What does the future hold for MTArt? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
MT: So much! We are currently working on a walk with Euston Town commissioning a set of artworks to get people off the main roads and onto the ones full of character. We are also launching a fashion collection with our artist Jennifer Abessira and The Central Square, an art advisory service with AIB Art Advisory, an art festival with Subject Matter & Predella House called Unfold and a TV show! That's all I can reveal for now! It's a quirky thing that as you do what you love in the exact way that you love time starts stretching and you can fit everything in! I am literally living my five year old self's dream and I can't let this little person down.
Words by Ariane Belisle
Art Night London, Saturday 1st July , 6pm- 4am.