Fresh from Texas, where she led a critically celebrated program at Dallas Contemporary, Justine Ludwig speaks with The Armory Show about her new role as director of Creative Time. — Interview by Audrey Rose Smith
“Context is a critical factor in curation”
Firstly, congratulations on your recent appointment as Director of Creative Time. You’re known for supporting emerging and under-represented artists, curating Francis Upritchard’s first US exhibition at Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and putting on a number of exhibitions with emerging artists at DC, including Anila Quayyum Agha, Nadia Kaabi-Linke and Bani Abidi. Can we expect to see this spirit carry over at Creative Time?
Thank you! As a longtime admirer of the organization, I can say it is truly an honor to take the helm. I believe it is important to present a balance of highly established and under-represented artists. Creative Time has a unique role to play in creating ambitious platforms for artists at all stages of their careers. Some of my most rewarding curatorial experiences have stemmed from supporting challenging new work, such as Pia Camil’s Divisor Pirata or Aura Satz’s Her Marks, A Measure. Where the artist is in their career is secondary. The focus is on supporting ambitious visions and powerful new productions.
While at Dallas Contemporary, you staged exhibitions that had a unique resonance with the Dallas community—Kaabi-Linke’s Walk The Line performance comes to mind where visitors wrapped string the length of the border separating Texas and Mexico around two of the building’s columns. Are there particular topics that you feel are important for Creative Time to address in New York City?
Context is a critical factor in curation. Projects should speak to the location in which they are staged. Many of the issues that we face here in New York are pressing social issues nationally, such as homelessness, global warming, gun violence, immigration, etc. We are interconnected and interdependent as a country. Regions do not exist in silos.
It is important that in this moment we are mindful of sincere and continued engagement with social issues. That said we are a truly artist-centric organization. It is our responsibility to follow artists’ lead and to help realize dream projects. We must also not lose sight of projects that offer us transcendent moments that disrupt our quotidian rhythms like Vik Muniz’s Clouds, David Byrne’s Playing the Building, or Spencer Finch’s Sunset (Central Park). It is also our responsibility to bring magic, to bring the unexpected to our day to day.
"Creative Time’s heart and soul is in New York. The city offers an ever-changing landscape to engage with"
Creative Time has done well to knit itself into the fabric of New York with agility and ambition, staging projects at notable sites including Brooklyn Bridge, Governors Island, Essex Street Market, Coney Island and the High Line to name a few. What uncharted part of New York would you most like to stage a Creative Time project in?
It is not just about exploring the uncharted, but also about making locations anew. Over the few weeks I have been here I have loved hearing New Yorkers tell me that they have visited a part of the city for the first time due to a Creative Time project. Bringing attention to unexpected parts of New York is part of the fun of what we do.
As you have spent the last several years in Dallas, and prior to that in Cincinnati, can we expect to see Creative Time engaging more with a wider array of cities and communities outside of New York?
Creative Time has a history of realizing projects outside of the context of New York. Our most recent project, Basilea, took place in Basel, Switzerland. This year’s Summit will take place in Miami. It is about the relationship between project and site. Waiting for Godot in New Orleans is the perfect example of this. Paul Chan’s restaging of Samuel Beckett’s seminal play was completely reimagined and invigorated by recontextualizing it in post-Katrina New Orleans. Godot became a stand-in for promised aid and support that never arrived. Again, it is paramount that there is an authentic dialogue between artist, project, and location. I believe it is important that we establish wide reaching dialogues that drive national exchange.
Creative Time’s heart and soul is in New York. The city offers an ever-changing landscape with which to engage. There are countless communities and environments we have yet to engage with as an organization.
“Art plays a critical role in engendering empathy. It enables us to place ourselves in someone else’s position”
In this state of political and social divisiveness, there seems to be an ever-more urgent need for public discourse and exchange between people of different cultures, locations, socio-economic strata, and political beliefs. Can public art help mitigate some of these divides?
Public art drives many conversations around accessibility. Creative Time programming is free and I see that as an important element of our DNA. As we collectively face issues of equity and belonging, public art plays an important role in occupying space outside of the codified structure of the museum, which, for many, reinforces exclusionary social hierarchies. I see public art as establishing discursive space by disrupting our routine existence and positing something else. Art plays a critical role in engendering empathy. It enables us to place ourselves in someone else’s position.