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Q&A: Fatoş Üstek on Curating Art Night 2017

Fatoş Üstek, photo by Josh Meeks Rayon Williams

Inspired by Nuit Blanche, Art Night sees London’s East End transformed with art, performance and music by some of the world’s leading artists on the 1st of July. The line-up includes everything from a Jake and Dinos Chapman animated vacant warehouse at London Dock, guided meditation in the Bascule Chamber of Tower Bridge, and a mass dance class hosted in Exchange Square at Broadgate. All events are free and open to everyone. Art Night 2017 is a collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and curated by independent curator and writer Fatoş Üstek. As preparations for the evening are underway, we had the chance to discuss the evening - and its legacy - with Fatoş herself.

Eli Goldstone: How does Art Night take over East London?

Fatoş Üstek: Art Night embodies the festival spirit - it's an embracing festival for one night, in its nature. It's not only bringing new commissions to fore, but also making the already active, visible. We have an Associate Programme that host 60 projects that will be happening concurrently during the night alongside our main programme of 11 artists activating 13 different extraordinary venues. We also have an hospitality programme that will generate free produce such as popcorn or matcha tea.

Eli: Where are some unexpected places we can discover during Art Night?

Fatoş: The whole trail will be a route for discovery. Bascule Chamber of Tower Bridge being the most spectacular venue, we also have a masonic temple at a five star hotel – Andaz London, and inserting works at Denis Severs House' curious furnishings that span almost three centuries back in time. We are also activating Christ Church on Spitalfields, or charging Exchange Square with a plethora of dances practiced in the East End. Moreover, one of the few remaining large scale warehouses – Nicholls & Clarke Building will be transformed by Anne Hardy, components and elements of Avery's Island will manifest themselves at around St Katharine Docks. Lastly the storage unit of Docklands trading will host Chapmans enthralling installation which once cumulated ostrich feathers, various types of rum and baby elephants for aristocracy. Beyond venues, be prepared to also discover multifarious narratives that East End has to offer, such as speculation about future of employment by Lawrence Lek produced in Virtual Reality or the banner by Gunes Terkol which is an outcome of a collective production that has taken place as series of workshops during the course of May.

Eli: The theme of the night is ‘Fusion of Horizons’. How do you see horizons shifting?

Fatoş: Indeed there is an underlying theme for Art Night 2017. Fusion of Horizons is a term that I borrowed from German Philosopher of hermeneutics Hans Georg Gadamer, who wrote one of the most seminal books on truth, bringing together theosophy, philosophy and arts. Fusion of Horizons do not refer to merging of all possible beings into one, that is a dominant horizon; on the contrary it is evocative of the evolving transformation that takes place when subjects in conversation arrive at a true or genuine understanding of each other. Horizon, has a visual and epistemic meaning that it not only allows us to see by providing a perspective, but also allows us to understand the world around us. Hence it is a marking of our limit for imagination, dreams, desires, aspiration and most significantly our individuated knowledge. If we were to imagine us as subjects with individuated horizon lines, the merging of which happens when we co-exist and pay attention to one another, embarking on the differences that pronounce the nuances of being a social entity. In London, this is already taking place, thus Art Night is not suggesting a new concept, but amplifying what is inherent.

Eli: Is it alarming as a curator to witness a political shift towards ending freedom of movement? How will that affect the art world?

Fatoş: This is a very intense question. It is impossible not to attends what is happening in all around the world weekly and the casualty of inserting violence on public is such a devastating act. The political shift you mention is not only geared towards the regulation of freedom of movement, but also freedom of speech and vitality of being. I think we have to arrive at a consensus that mono-culture is an impossibility, as we only learn about the world around us through differences and if all beings were to be the same there would be no knowledge, no understanding, no culture as it were. We would as human race be emptied out of our essential mode of being in the world.

The effect of recent political changes and currency shifts on the art world is not a simple answer, but my belief in the fact that art produces gestures that implements social change, it does not embrace the force within but beyond itself through its points of interaction and triggering affect.

Eli: London is built on immigration – tell us about some of the international artists represented.

Fatoş: All our artists this year have an international remit, most of them are based in London and come from various socio-cultural backgrounds. For a festival that is taking place in the East End I thought it would be important to pronounce the multiplicity and hybrid social texture of London, thus concentrated on artists with an internationally acknowledged practice who are also based in London. Only Gunes Terkol and Carsten Nikolai are visiting from Istanbul and Berlin to take part at Art Night 2017.

Eli: What is the Art Night Legacy scheme?

Fatoş: Inspired by the ephemerality of encounter that Art Night fosters as a one night only festival. I thought it would be exciting yet significant to introduce a life further than the festival, hence the thought of Art Night Legacy emerged. We have approached three main charities in the UK which foster production of new art. Outset Young Production Circle, Contemporary Art Society and Art Fund came on board sharing our excitement and I am proud to announce that new commissions by Anne Hardy, Melanie Manchot and Lawrence Lek will be joining public collections nationwide such as Leeds Art Gallery Collection and Arts Council Collection. Moreover, with the support of city of London, we are commissioning Gunes Terkol for a permanent mural on one of the exterior walls of Middlesex Street Estate.

Eli: Could you describe for us your ideal day spent in the East End?

Fatoş: My ideal day would be spent at bookshops, browsing through new literature and second hand ephemera; and also I am a member of Shoreditch House as I organise Art Talks there, so would be attending gym classes and meeting close friends for dinner.

Art Night 2017 takes place in various venues around East London on the 1st of July