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Bwg_tk_front_final Abacus_02 Bound Malice Mast One_and_a_half Map_of_truth Map_of_truth__detail Hairmap
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Abacus, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Abacus,
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, ink, shellac, polyester batting and meat hooks , 90 x 46 x 21 inches/each
© Photo credit: Sol Aramendi, Courtesy of the artist and Black & White Gallery
Abacus, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Abacus,
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, ink, shellac and meat hooks., Each piece 96 x 36 x 45 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Bound, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Bound,
2007, Curtains and articles of clothing belonging to the artist, steel, meat hooks and chains., 61 x 39 x 15 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Malice, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Malice,
2007, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist and industrial cart, 72 x 34 x 45 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Mast, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Mast,
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist and wood, 13 x 68 x 10 inches
One and a Half, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, One and a Half,
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, steel, chains and plastic bags , 122 x 36 x 22 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Map of Truth, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Map of Truth,
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist and embroidery floss, 132 x 93 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Map of Truth (DETAIL), Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Map of Truth (DETAIL),
2008, Articles of clothing belonging to the artist and embroidery floss, 132 x 93 inches
© Photo: Sol Aramendi
Hair Map (View of the installation at the Window on Broad, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA), Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky,
Hair Map (View of the installation at the Window on Broad, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA),
2004, Human hair on window, 47 x 33 inches
Hair Map (DETAIL), Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Hair Map (DETAIL),
2004, Human hair on window, 47 x 33 inches
, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky
, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky
Dead Weight, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Dead Weight,
2012, Cured meat, dry pigment, sand bags, chains, metal hooks, 132 x 108 x 54 inches 335.28 x 274.32 x 137.16 cm
© Courtesy of the Artist and Friedman Benda
After Goya, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, After Goya
© Courtesy of the Artist and Nevada Museum of Art
Turkey Vulture, Tamara KostianovskyTamara Kostianovsky, Turkey Vulture, 2015
© Courtesy of the Artist and Y Gallery
Tamara Kostianovsky is a native of Israel. She was raised in Argentina and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a BFA degree from Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina (1998) and an MFA degree from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2003). Kostianovsky is a recipient of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Grant and was the finalist for P...[more]

Interview with Tamara Kostianovsky

ArtSlant's New York editor, Trong G. Nguyen, speaks with Brooklyn-based artist Tamara Kostianovsky, whose sculptures are currently on view in the imMATERIAL exhibition at Black & White Gallery.

Trong Gia Nguyen: You were born in Jerusalem, raised in Buenos Aires, and now reside in New York City.  How does your own migration contribute to your understanding of the current “globalist worldview?”

Tamara Kostianovsky, Mitosis (2004), Articles of clothing belonging to the artist, steel, cloth hanger, 15 x 16 x 12 inches; Courtesy of the artist

Tamara Kostianovsky: I think that the changes of residence put me in an eternal outsider’s position. I’m not from here, nor from there, and that gives me a certain objectivity that allows me to look at things from a distance. In the recent years, I have used starting points in my artwork that have to do with specific aspects of my upbringing in Argentina, but in the process of working with them, I tried to turn these into images that aren’t specific to any one culture but can reflect something universal, such as the concepts of migration, violence, and the relationship that we have to our bodies today. On the other hand, there’s a more practical aspect of migration that has to do with the material choice and the way I face the production of artwork. When one is on the move, the idea of accumulating supplies or “finished works” becomes a real burden. This fact made me aware of certain materials that I had on me such as my own hair and my clothing, and I started incorporating them into the work. These materials ended up becoming a central aspect of what I do and I became particularly interested in their political strength.

TGN: Your maps and portraits made of human hair seem to relate directly to this “I.D. cartography.”  What initially made you work with this material and what are its symbolic meanings?

TK: I arrived in the United States in the year 2000 and a few months after my arrival in the country, Argentina’s economy collapsed. The crisis made the value of our currency diminished dramatically overnight, and this became a real problem for those of us who were living in the States with funding that came from Argentina.   With no extra cash to buy art supplies, I was forced to look for art materials in unusual places, and that’s how I discovered my own hair, which was readily available, voluptuous (or frizzy, depending on the humidity) but more importantly, free.  Eventually, the use of hair became a statement on its own, as it meant the literal inclusion of my own body into the artwork.  I became interested in making Hair-Maps at that time.  The intention was clearly to bring together geography and the body through the use of hair. In the work Hair-Map (2004), I created a map of the United States with my own hair, in an attempt to incorporate my body to a landscape that felt foreign to me. Coming back to your previous question, I think that this series challenges the phenomenon of globalization by emphasizing the importance of the relationship between the land and the body and also the longing that results when the body is displaced.  

TGN: Why do you think it is so important to us as humans to "locate ourselves," when fixed points of identity seem to be the root of many geopolitical problems?

TK: As I mentioned earlier, I believe in the connection between the land and the body as something that determines our existences and that is unavoidable. Even when we pretend that this relationship isn’t there, it always sneaks up on us, as our experience in the world has much to do with the result of being bodies in motion in a determined location. What you are calling “fixed points of identity” are in my view the key to peace, because they can allow us to feel empathetic towards others who also feel a strong connection between identity and geography. In this sense, I think of the appreciation for the land (not just our land but any land) as a force that can defeat armed conflicts around the world.

TGN: So the problem isn’t that we are “fixed,” per se, but rather singularly fixed to one place, whether it be geography or soccer.  How do we move toward this mutual “appreciation” in your opinion? Should we just seat every representative at the UN and then change their name/country cards and have them “role-play” for a better world?

Tamara Kostianovsky, Rupture (2007). C print, 12 x 18 inches; Courtesy of the artist

TK:  I think that art can play a big role in this sense, as amongst other virtues, it has the ability to educate and generate awareness about different aspects of life though diverse cultures.  Art can touch people in ways that the media cannot, leaving a lasting impression that can challenge the most anchored prejudices.  An example of this would be the joint efforts of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim with Palestinian-American Edward Said. In 1999 they founded an orchestra that brings together a group of young classical musicians from Israel and Arab countries. By playing together, these musicians work as a team and show each other their best side. In the process of music playing, political differences are put into question. This is where I see the strength of art: it allows for a communication through time and cultures; it can make us question our most ancient prejudices; it can make us more educated and therefore more respectful of each other.

TGN: The Dwelling series is a powerful look into our own physicality.  Do you wish you could have somehow permanently preserved the sculptures made from beef, which,  "preserved" in their current state of C-prints, is one-step removed from the experience of those objects?

TK: Absolutely, confronting the viewers with the visceral nature of these objects would have been a powerful experience.  However, preserving the sculptures implied technical resources that I didn’t count on at the time and meant turning the material into something removed from the domestic experience that many of us have with meat.  I’m always drawn to low-tech and “poor “ materials, and I’m not fond of altering their essence. I think of meat as a metaphor for flesh, and therefore, as a symbol of nature, birth, flesh, sex, and death. In this sense, I was satisfied with the job that the photographs did at translating the accidents of the three-dimensionality of the meat into a two-dimensional experience.

TGN: Your newest body of work, Actus Reus, refers to a legal term translating as roughly an "act of guilt," as an accomplice to crime. The series takes the form of giant slabs of meat, once again made from garments that hang from giant metal hooks like one would see regularly in the meatpacking district even just 7-8 years ago.  Does this body of work relate at all to this little corner history of Manhattan?

TK: No, it doesn’t, although I like how the cosmopolitan nature of New York has the ability to make everything seem familiar and local. This series was actually inspired by a tragic crime that happened in my family in the year 2004. A few years later, these images started coming to me, and although I tried escaping them at first, soon I realized that I shouldn’t. As I mentioned earlier, the sculptures allude to meat as flesh, and through the use of clothing they become humanized. They carry the heavy weight of death, political torture, violence, and war. My goal with this work is to confront the viewers with the real effects of violence, hoping to enable a reflection about this topic.  Although the subject is continuously alluded to in newspapers, movies, and TV, the tangible physicality of what happens to a body when it’s violated remains taboo. This fact is in my view responsible for the perpetuation of violence, as it doesn’t contribute to a real understanding of what killing means.

ArtSlant would like to thank Tamara Kostianovsky for her assistance in making this interview possible.

-- Trong Gia Nguyen



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