Jonathan Habib Enqvist : “The project will inspire participants to take a personal approach to writing texts»

Interview with a tutor

Elena Shamratova
Elena Shamratova

Swedish curator of contemporary art and writer Jonathan Habib Enqvist became the first tutor of the project of the Sinara Charitable Foundation dedicated to the promotion of Ural artists on the world stage. He joined the “Art platform” online in a series of master classes and workshops through ZOOM. Together with budding art critics, Yonatan worked on the appearance of texts about Ural art and participated in discussions with contemporary Ural artists. At the start of the project, Jonathan said that for him it was “an experiment based on curiosity.”

Jonathan runs the curatorial residency in Stockholm (CRIS) and is the editor of an online magazine in 2019, he curated the VR Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. Currently, Jonatan is the artistic Director of the Nya Småland project. We asked him about his impressions of the project and the role of the Urals in world art.

– Why did you decide to participate in the Art platform?

– Originally, I  was invited by Zhenya Chaika to come to Ekaterinburg for an intense session of writing workshops, studiovisits and conversations, but due to the pandemic outbreak this was not possible. It became clear that in this new format more time would be needed, and she conceived an entirely new structure for the plattform where we have been meeting online over several weeks, sharing texts, portfolios, making virtual studiovisits and various writing experiments. I am happy that I decided to stay onboard in this new format.

– You have been working with the guys for several What have you already noticed?

–There is an enormous entusiasm in the group and I feel like we are moving forward. Even if it is impossible to replace the physical meeting, it has become clear that the element of time (meeting over several weeks) is positive for the development of ideas and can be good for everyones writing processes. I really hope that we will be able to convene in Ekaterinburg for a physical meeting at some point. We have already grounded a good discussion within the group.  

– In your opinion, what gives the guys participation in this project?

– I hope that the project can inspire to a variety of approaches to writing for, with and about artists. Inspire to a more personal, honest approach to writing about art and a deeper understanding of the relationship between artist and writer. 

–  Can you name the distinctive features of Ural art?

– We´re making a list! But in short I think that there are a few features that have to do with the particular physical and psychological landscape of the region. Obviously the industrial heritage and the distance from the capital have influenced the scene historically and to some extent still does. 

– How does Ural art relate to world art?

– I honestly don’t know what world-art is. All artworks come from specific contexts, and I have only visited Ekaterineburg once before and it was in conjunction to an international art biennial. Was that Ural art? Obviously there is a give-and-take there between the local scene and the ”international” one. 

– Does Ural art keep up with the times or stand apart?

– Perhaps this is more of an institutional question, or a question about how we talk about art, than one of essence of character of a specific place. Art is always changing, and both institutions and writers should be able to adapt to the conditions of artistic production. Art centres play an important role in its capacity to adapt and transform according to what artists are doing, while also providing stability and continuity. As writers we are imbedded with both the artists and the institutions and have a role to play in the mediation of these changes. Thus, the institutions and the writers play a central part in what has been termed the ‘ecology’ of contemporary art. I cannot say anything about the ecology of the Urals but this platform is defiantly a healthy sign!

– Whether you chose the artist to write a text about him?

– It is a bit early to say as I am not 100% sure yet. I am revisiting the portfolios right now. It is particular to select artists in this manner and the language barrier does become apparent. 

– If you manage to visit Yekaterinburg in 2020, what would you like to see in the city and what events to visit?

– Absolutly. It would obviously be intriguing to visit artists that I only have met virtually and see some of the works that has been mediated though images in reality. I would like to revisit sites like the Art Musuem with the new understandings accumulated though this project, and definately the surroundings, industrial sites, etc in order to understand the context better.