About The COLA
The City of Los Angeles designates a fellowship for artists and writers. The COLA, an endowment of $10,000, is awarded to exceptional mid-career artists with connection to Los Angeles to create a new body of work. The Los Angeles Press Questionnaire is a simple prompt sent to the awardees to inspire responses around their work and process. The Los Angeles Press hopes to interview all of the COLA artists in this grants cycle (2018 2019), to report on artwork being made and how each artist is processing. These artistic renderings/posters accompanying the Questionnaire are intended as amuse bouches heralding further interviews and updates.
The Los Angeles Press Questionnaire for Olga Koumoundouros
Why do you make things?
Good question. I am always toggling between the feeling there is too much stuff in the world and my understanding of my own personal needs. These beliefs keep adapting to the needs of different times in my life as well as my understanding of culture and their changing priorities. But after a serious interrogation of art objects, I came back to making things. I realized their physical materiality assists me to make sense of the world around me. Words alone don’t get to what I think well enough. I construct meaning through the utilization of non linear material based processes. This kind of entanglement allows me to use my body including eyes, coupled with sensations through touch and knowledge that doesn’t have verbal articulation yet. I move between a variety of materials and fabrication techniques to do this. Each one with its own language that is both semiotic, historic and muscular. Art is the perfect mind/body bridge for me breaking down binaries in practice.
What impact, if any, do you hope your work makes on your audience?
If art can initiate, instigate, hold space for expansive thought and feeling for the viewer, that is wonderful. Maybe gained insight, new interest, breathing room for contemplation or even relief or pleasure is nice. Actually, by your question I wonder if you are driving at some ideas of social change?
I believe our political times require immediate tangible responses that aren’t most effective through art platforms. Activism and socio-political involvement is needed for palpable change and push back against authoritarianism and unregulated capitalism. Art requires leisure time, although it can also improves the quality of life for those making and living around it. Missions for art to involve the public and to be displayed publicly is particularly interesting to me. It is a question of who gets to take up space and how? Who gets to talk in public space and what are they saying? Of course art can shift or contribute to art discourse and history. Every profession has its own professional rhetoric and shorthand for communicating its own self reflexive ideas and this is appropriate. Art that doesn’t look outward at life and sits only in that realm is less interesting to me though. Art contemplating life lived outside of itself is generous and takes on messy and interesting stakes. Ultimately activism, personal and community healing, individual, collective and institutional policy changes and actions are what fully create social change.
What subjects most draw your interest?
I have been interested in class analysis and economics for a long while. I look at it from many different angles and its impact on personal agency and collective sustenance. How does the apportioning of all resources and space frame and impact our psycho-social existences? I’m always hooked in by art that points to idiosyncratic methods of coping, ways of getting by and appreciate work that looks at non-linear ways of making ends meet.
Anything that involves the body compels me and I’m a sucker for emotion that co-exists with critical thinking. I like to feel a variety of emotions as they arrive in my body. Stresses of running around in this neoliberal state of juggling and gleaning for rent, produces a fugue state or at best a low level anxiety, so I like art that can make me feel a continuum of diverse emotions; that is more alive than usual.
Also a thru line in my practice is spatial engagement. I believe there are social justice ideas always embedded within the apportioning and maintaining of space. An aspect of space of particular concern to me refers to the existence of bodies. Whether it’s the body of an individual or the multitude and all the postures and affect such bodies convey. What is the nature of the envelope that defines this body? Where do they begin and end? How are they sustained and cared for? How can we collectively thrive without reinscribing problems created by scarcity and fear devised by the traumas of capitalism and instituted by its authoritarian manifestations. Also important to me is to deeply look at the materiality of all things and track the history of their origination from the earth including the human and animal labor utilized, stories of extraction and manipulation as well as a rendering of its own and collective becoming. An understanding and referral to tactility also interests me. All processes involve some level of touch whether human or machine. And I am interested in the convergence of the back stories (socio political, economic and autobiographical) of these concerns and the methods and processing of them as they come together in some particular aggregate.
Does solitude impact your work?
Yes, I realized I don’t like to be alone in a traditional studio practice. It feels isolating. I love collaboration but only until I need to hear myself. Yet, I need huge amounts of time alone on the way to the idea, in the process of systemic transition in my practice and when I’m almost finished in production. That final time I need to be alone with the work to hear it. To hear what I and it needs. But in the time of workshopping ideas I am excited for dialog and response, and the middle time during fabrication I enjoy people around. For that reason I’ve often enjoyed shop culture and the time of big installations.
Does art matter?
Oh I think it does for certain. I’m not talking about the buying and selling or its cultural currency and if it confers value to the viewer or the maker. But for the language and permission it offers to those non-linear thinkers and tactile processors. It is a way to make sense of and communicate our understanding of what is transpiring in the world around us. Here artists are reflecting back their take on society and grapple with ideas that come together with their internal interests included. Since not everyone communicates best through talking with words alone, those ideas, emotions, and understandings can be conveyed with access to a more expansive state of making sense of the world. I think it has an inherent process suited to reflect hybrid worldviews which reflects the cultures and societies we live in nowadays.
What do you want to make as a COLA fellow?
I’m constructing sculptures that all together form a scenario of liberated rupture based off a short story I wrote last year about flying fish. I like them because they can cruise around the surface of water, catch air even and go under water. I think its sexy that they grow pectoral and pelvic wings. I’m most grateful for the the Center for Contemporary Ceramics at California State University Long Beach for their assistance and generosity together with the City of LA’s artist fellowship. It is for them that has given me the space and information so I was able to technically experiment to produce this body of work.