Natalia de Campos & Thiago Szmrecsányi

jr / Has there ever been a time when art was sufficient in creating change? I assume when you say “Art” you mean art as object; as factual, cultural remnant; as item to be studied. But you both do so much more. You blur the lines. When it involves social interaction, activism and community leadership, couldn’t we say that your art is enough?

TS / I do believe in the power of art. As an expression or as an object it can have many uses, either practical or subjective. Artists produce art, but they only partially control the way it circulates, and there is even a greater uncertainty about how it is received and understood.

When we initiate our projects, there are always a lot of unknowns about the public or participants that we are engaging. We work creating open ended experiences or structures where different people converge and contribute. It is difficult to anticipate what will be the outcome of these experiences. This is why we have continued working on a subject after the official presentation of each project. Through the process we end up learning a lot about the people and the environment in which we are operating, and I hope that the opposite is also true to some degree.

It is a special honor for us to be invited to go back to places where we have already worked before. The more we know about an environment, the better we can address problems and issues that are relevant to all. I feel that we want to become more effective, to find better ways to move further. The more we dig into real problems, the more we see that art means a lot. Yet, it is never enough…  

Natalia de Campos, Flag it!, 2015
Interactive time-based performance & tour with temporary installation; costumes, research, markers, paper and tape.
At the Meatpacking district in New York, October 2015
Photos: Courtesy of the Artist

NdC / When I say Art, I mean those things you mention, but also expression and existence as an informed and trained “maker”. I don’t mean just formal training as an artist, because we may obtain “mastery” in art in so many ways, outside academia too. I mean it as us being predisposed to living life with an artistic lens through which we see the world. That, I think, is our experience of the world, which is particular to artists.

This thought perhaps creates an entry point for me to think about your question “a time when art was sufficient in creating change”. Because this question is so vast, at least for me; because I always had that question, and always wanted to (and continue to want to) find an answer. So much so, that I think that is the real quest for me, perhaps more than for Thiago. 

In general and simply putting it, yes, it is sufficient. It is particularly sufficient if one can make or even just propose “art”, and be able to create a “spark”. Sufficient in the way that a spark is sufficient to create fire… Fire is what is needed for change, in my opinion, even if it means provoking some type of “death” and “rebirth”. 

With some of our projects, as we mentioned before in the Essex Market, for instance, I think we saw some sparks as results, and in people who weren’t particularly seeing the world through an artistic lens before that interaction. In more specific terms therefore, I wouldn’t say that our “art” is “enough” — because if it is successful at all, it is just a starter.