Do It Right When No One Is Looking is Kali Nikolou’s final residency project at F_AIR – Florence Artist In Residence for summer 2012. It is a reflection on the state of the arts and its politics based on the stereotypical image Italy adopts either to represent itself or present itself to the outside world. It relates to the artist’s observations in her practices of critical dérive in Florence. The exhibit will be changing every day depending on the degree of integration with the Fine Arts Department of Florence University of the Arts, where it will take place. Expectedly, it will bring about new considerations about the artist’s ontology, the role of institutions and administrations and how their choices affect art education in Italian schools.
What happens in a country that boasts a high percentage of world artistic heritage when areas of historical interest are made inaccessible due to negligence, and to the interference of private interests above public good or lack of funding. The obvious result of the intellectual impoverishment of a country cannot be an excuse for the immobility of that very same country and the artist. On the contrary, the title of the exhibit calls forth a sense
of responsibility which concerns many contemporary artists but does not seem to concern those who make crucial decisions in the art field. Do It Right When No One Is Looking seems to be a warning, in particular for, the window city Florence and for cultural facade occasions. With her exhibit Kali Nikolou suggests a subversive act as the only logical solution against the passivity and the conformity of the arts.
Do It Right When No One Is Looking,
a site specific project of interchangeable form
Every time I follow an artist working during the production phase, up to the completion of the residency I deal with elements of a diverse nature, which make me rethink my own beliefs. The more successful the residency is, the stronger the artist’s work becomes, and therefore the final work is even more powerful, which forces em to re-evaluate my own perspective.
With the last two artists at F_AIR – Florence Artist In Residence, Lucas Machalicky and Kali Nikolou, the current resident and author of Do It Right When No One Is Looking , I found myself deeply reflecting not so much on the sense of the art, which I immediately I agree with, but on its presentation.
With Kali Nikolou, I found myself reckoning again with what at first I tend to rejected: the apparent lack of formal research, the otherness of the elements, the interchangeability of spaces. Especially after Lucas Machalicky’s residency I believed I could not easily deal with the work by Kali Nikolou, which, even if deeply thoughtful, was indifferent to the artistic processes and objects. But after my initial doubts and many meetings, the artist and her choices have prevailed through evident reasoning.
I am still convinced that the exhibition of Kali Nikolou (an installation which will be dismantled by the ongoing regular academic activity, made with objects, equipments, tools from the studios in addition to three videos) could have been displayed differently, but even in this case, interchangeability and precariousness are essential characteristics which determine the meaning of what they are commenting on: the vacuity of political decisions, the shallowness of the choices based on appearance – and the docility of who supports those -, and eventually the ridicule of this pompousness that is evident to those who break the “do not enter” sign.
The display of objects by Kali for Do It Right When No One Is Looking, particularly embarrassing for me, since it is a reflection of the backstage of our school, calls for responsibility. It is simultaneously necessary and random without contradiction. It is not the art of Nikolou that is directed by chaos, but what it comments upon: the state of the arts in Italy, in our schools, and our system.
An important note: Kali’s parents used to run a grocery store.
All art is political in the sense that it serves someone’s politics.
August Wilson, The Paris Review, Winter 1999
All Art Is Political
Do It Right When No One Is Looking is a project that collects Kali Nikolou’s reflections on her residency program at F_AIR, reflections that have involved her in the double role of the artist and art educator.
What are the rules of the game that we subscribe to as “political beings”, as citizens, spectators, artists? Why do e follow them? Is it possible to break away from them? How do institutions function (political and cultural)? What is their governing ideology? Their impact on the city, on art institutions, on us?
These are some of the questions posed by Kali towards herself and towards us without providing obvious and consoling responses. The response presents the existing to spectators so that each can openly “see” and be pushed towards an act of awareness. Awareness of, as the artist seems to communicate, what represents the ineluctable condition of any form of rebellion, if not rebellion itself.
In an unveiling process, the artist evidences the social, political, cultural, and existential conditioning that we depend on to tap into a more essential nucleus of truth. Terms and events are undressed, presented nude to the spectator.
The working behind Do It Right When No One Is Looking – an installation and three videos – is the result of the artist’s observations during her practice of critical derivé in the city of Florence. Through this project, the artist interrogates herself concerning the mechanisms, contents, and purposes of art education while seeking an interaction with the public and especially with students of art. On the other hand, she questions the image and the shared sentiment of those for whom Florence’s being consists of exhibiting itself. Is this true? Or what are and how frequent are the opaque, secret, and inaccessible areas of art?
When confronted with the presentation of the existing, whatever its nature might be, we spectators are pervaded by a complex of variable emotions: intimacy, alienation, rebellion.