PRINT March 2000

Jane Farver

JULIE CANIGLIA: How will this Biennial be regarded in comparison to others?

JANE FARVER: I think it will be seen as more international—this is reflective of where America is going and who really lives here—and also possibly less predictable. For instance, artists like Cai Guo-Qiang, Yukinori Yanagi, and Luis Camnitzer have all lived here for years, yet they are more often labeled as representing China, Japan, or Uruguay than the US. I’m excited about their works being seen in the context of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and I’m also excited about the inclusion of artists like Michael Joo, Paul Pfeiffer, and Rina Banerjee, whose work may be informed by their Asian or South Asian heritage but who’ve grown up here.

JC: Was there any kind of mandate to look outside the group of artists considered part of the fashionable gallery circuit?

JF: I never felt that there was a deliberate attempt to avoid artists represented by major galleries. I didn’t really care either way—nor do I think that would be an appropriate yardstick. I’ve lived and worked in New York for so long, and believe that galleries are an essential part of the art world, so maybe I don’t share the sort of outsider take on that. However, it was good to learn about artists who are working outside the gallery scene whose work I hadn’t known before.

JC: Do you see the Web making serious inroads in established art practices?

JF: That’s something I’ll be thinking about for some time to come, particularly since I’m now at the List Visual Arts Center at MIT. After all, the Net has been accessible to artists for nearly a decade, and our job as curators is to find a way to make Web art accessible to the general public and to apply new ways of presenting it. I give most of the credit to Larry Rinder for bringing Net art to the table, and also to Max Anderson for supporting the idea. The press has made it seem that the inclusion of Net art this year is some sort of legitimization of “new media,” but I don’t concur. It just seemed appropriate to consider this work in relation to other kinds of art produced in the last two years. Actually, Net artists make up a fairly high percentage of the total number of artists included, but since most of the space they occupy is virtual, it seemed reasonable to include so large a proportion.

JC: What surprised you most about this collaborative process—pleasantly or otherwise?

JF: How respectful it was. Not that there wasn’t dissension, or that people wouldn’t want to continue arguing for or against certain inclusions. The process was similar to jury duty in that people put things aside and did their best to come to good decisions—not just their own decision.

JC: What was most contentious for you as an individual within that group?

JF: Not being able to convince others that certain artists needed to be included. Rationally, you understood that you should be looking at this as one whole exhibition, but individually you were there really to argue for certain artists.

JC: Was there anything that was easy?

JF: Even though there was little crossover on our first lists of artists, at our second meeting the core—the first thirty or so artists—came together pretty easily. Still, I’ve often found that when curators are working together, after they all present images and materials, it’s difficult for them not to want to begin to work with each other’s artists and information.

JC: Were you surprised by that lack of overlap in the lists from the six curators?

JF: I was amazed. I thought there would be some of the same names on everybody’s lists, but this points to just how many art worlds there are—and how little crossover there is between them. However, in spite of the fact that our first lists were very different, each one contained the names of artists who needed to be included, and they were.

JC: How did you come to curating?

JF: I came to curating through the alternative-space movement in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when much of my early work was devoted to providing opportunities for artists. I’ve also worked in university art galleries, and for the past seven years, until July ’99, I was director of exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art in New York. Queens has the benefit of being part of the city but just far enough from Manhattan to allow for some risks and experimentation. The exhibition “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s,” which I organized together with Rachel Weiss, Luis Camnitzer, and a team of eleven curators from around the world, was an example of this. As for a curator I particularly admire, it would have to be John Coplans. I first met John when he was director of the Akron Art Museum. His approach to art and audiences and life changed my thinking, and it is particularly satisfying to me that his new photographic work, which is some of the strongest he has ever made, is included in this Biennial.