THE ΤΕΛΟΣ SOCIETY speaks to Petros Touloudis, Artistic Director of Tinos Quarry Platform
Initiated in 2015, Tinos Quarry Platform (TQP) is a forum for contemporary art, that engages with various genres of dialectics, including an artist-in-residence program. Experimental in nature, TQP strives to foster a political, social, and aesthetic process, a socially engaged combination of performance, research, and learning, that promotes intersubjective exchange by linking people together within a common frame. The program is mainly supported by a local cultural foundation (ITIP).
TQP invites artists, curators and theoreticians — voices from various fields and countries — to collaborate on curated process-based projects in the vast Cycladic landscape in the middle of the Aegean Archipelago. TQP leaves it to the resident practitioners to potentially get involved with the culture and the history of the place in any way they might see fit. Inspired by the abundance of marble, a number of past invited artists have encountered this material for the first time in their practice, leading to collaborations with local masters. Collaborations have also emerged in the past with artisans from different fields, such as ceramists, weavers, and basket makers. These ephemeral micro-communities of human interaction seem to play a significant role for the locals and for the visitors, who both seek creative references to experiment with and to relate to their practice.
Currently, the time of stay has been narrowed down to two weeks at the most, while emphasizing the preparation stage of one’s project before their arrival to the island. Establishing the best possible communication and building trust are the project’s foremost objectives for anyone involved. At that phase, newcomers are encouraged to build up, gradually, their relationship to the place, with given information concerning the culture and the history too, whilst they are formulating ideas and intentions about their potential work. Along with the curatorial approach, that exchange helps to organize their practical studio needs, amongst other potential needs. It is about creating a flow that incorporates the notion of both subjective and objective time, which is, to a great extent, shaping the duration of the planning until the implementation and the final outcome of the residency. That’s when a group exhibition takes place, which is the tangible result of the program.
Georgia Kotretsos: The notion of ‘creative time’ as understood and stretched out in ‘real time’ by artists is often a parameter dismissed and unaccounted for in our practices. TQP organically ‘sculpts time’ in its most traditional sense for its invited peers by accommodating to that very need of the creative process. Being an artist yourself – what are some of the factors that prevent that formation of time from taking place – thus a program like yours comes partially to the rescue to wholeheartedly above all, share it?
Petros Touloudis: Considering Time as a principal agent for the artist's life, regarding how one prepares for production, is quite paradoxical. Engaging with Time in a non-instrumental way (coming together, hanging out, exchanging etc.) can potentially distract from production. Although that seems to be almost the only essential and effective mode of practice, in which reflection is inseparable from it. In that way, making is thinking, and learning occurs at the very spot of the activity. Somehow the program we run on the island is willing to initiate the potentials for the contexts one encounters for their work, by building networks of solidarity and sociality that enable art production in a form of investigation, that do not necessarily demand results.
Apart from the necessary material conditions and institutional circumstances, that require a great deal of energy (as space matters, resources, attention to the practical issues to support artistic creation etc.), intellectual ambience and the social matrix, encourage the artistic praxis and inquiry to emerge.
GK: Speaking of time, sculpting, and giving form at the Cycladic Island of Tinos, we are speaking directly to local tradition of marble carving. It cannot simply serve as a backdrop but as the center-stage, that brings forth the exercise you have been putting to the test. Over the phone you mentioned ‘reflective time’, how is it experienced and exercised at the Tinos Quarry Platform?
PT: Community-engaged art projects emphasize issues on problem-solving through culture, rather than on the purity of mediums. Nevertheless, the abundance of marble on the island, caused the art on Tinos to emerge and evolve, as tradition, from a long time ago. As an archetypical material, the marble and its journey, from the site of extraction, the earth, to its transformation into an artefact, served the project's name initial idea of the Tinos Quarry Platform. Hence in the quarries, where the extraction occurs, the artist blends with the environment. Both, material and artist, become mediums while they speak their stories. And finally, the community and the environment, merge through them. As a Zen Buddhist said, "The history of humanity is overrated. There is no human concept anywhere: there are no humans; there is only nature."
GK: I admire the tenacity behind such endeavors because they allow for lived experiences to manifest, for learnings to occur, enable bond-forming among peers and allow artists to grow and/or even change. How does one sustain the momentum? What kind of ecosystem in a broader sense is needed for the longevity of your program to be secured?
PT: As an artist, sometimes, I feel that there is no urgency to make more art. We are already surrounded by infinite images and objects and a significant amount of noise. Though by realizing or better learning within a social context, help artists to liberate from the modernist anxiety, concerning originality, avoiding to turning art into a spectacle for a celebrity culture. In the end, what matters is not the scale or impact, but the willingness to be open to all the possibilities. The love for the strangers is keeping us motivated enough to continue to create those ephemeral communities, by exploring systems and stimuli, with them, for everyone, hoping that in turn critical thinking tools will be provided for all, in the societies to uphold a creative democracy. I cannot know how long we can keep on doing that experiment. Nevertheless, for the time being, we are open to new forms and challenges, testing new ideas or letting also things fall by their weight.