At the beginning of this academic year, alumnx Margo Greb was appointed curator of the 2020 VCS senior thesis show, which opens in January. After graduating in 2017, Margo completed a six-month VCS-sponsored residency at the Leipzig International Art Programme, during which they made work centered around movement-based performance and video. Since then, they’ve been working a variety of jobs and thinking about new avenues to pursue in their artistic practice. In advance of the thesis show, we conducted an interview with Margo about their experience curating it, and what else they’ve been up to over the last couple years.
What have you been up to since you graduated?
The most distinguishing thing I’ve done since graduating is attend the residency with the Leipzig International Art Programme. I also spent half a year as a live-in nanny for these two genius kids who live on a mountain in North Carolina. Since all that I’ve really just been working a lot at a cafe in Bushwick, and until recently with Company Gallery in Chinatown. My artistic practice went into dormancy after Leipzig, mostly because I came back broke and ended up working three jobs for a while just to get some kind of financial stability back, and didn’t have the time or mental space to make anything.
Throughout that dormancy however, I did continue to photograph and to write, and this last summer took a pattern-making class at Penland School of Craft, which has sort of launched me into making things with my hands, something I haven’t done a lot of since being in community college. I’m reassessing my “artistic practices” and leaning into a vision where I learn how to make all my own objects, and find a place to live sustainably. So that’s where I’m at now; making things and daydreaming about living in the woods.
You’re the second of our graduates to serve as the curator for the senior thesis show, following Storm Ascher’s organization of last year’s “Make It Look Like an Accident.” What has it been like to switch roles from being a student working on your own thesis to curating (and mentoring) students in the VCS program with their exhibition?
It’s been good! I’ve also never done this before, so it’s been a learning process. The details of my senior year are a little fuzzy now, but I remember that the curators (Emily Weiner and Annette Wehrhahn) provided a sense of comfort and assurance throughout the process, and I’ve been striving to do the same, hopefully successfully…
It doesn’t feel as strange as I anticipated it would, probably because I know most of the faculty, and because I knew the majority of the seniors already, and because VCS is a bubble that hasn’t changed toooo much since graduating. It’s sort of like coming home after being gone for a while; you’re welcomed back but your roles may have shifted with your absence.
Is working on this show having an effect of your studio practice, or anything else you’re doing outside of VCS?
Yes of course. I think more than anything, working on the show has just got my mind back into thinking about creating. It’s been inspiring watching everyone work on their thesis projects, and seeing all the other ways their lives sort of lean into their making. This is a really talented and exciting group of people and I’m grateful to be in proximity to them.
As the curator, how do you make decisions affecting the direction the show will take? For instance, was the title (The Visible Surface) chosen by the students in the show, or did you name it yourself?
I haven’t really been thinking of myself as a curator for this show; I’m more of an organizer. Most thesis groups have a couple people who sort of get the whole group to move along and make decisions, but this group is so small (ten people) and harmonious that I’ve sort of taken on the role of being that person who gets everyone to hash things out and make some decisions. There have been very few decisions made on my own, it’s mostly a process of getting confirmation from everyone that they’re ok with something that affects the whole group, and then moving on from there.
It only took us about an hour to make a decision regarding the title. Everyone suggested the titles they had been thinking about, myself included, and we wrote them down in a notebook and passed it around for people to mark the ones they liked most. The one with the most marks won and it happened to be the title I thought of.
On a related note, do you have an overall vision or theme for the show yet, or is that still in the works?
Yes, the title is suggestive of one of many themes that I noticed running through almost everyone’s work: that of layers, of choosing what to reveal and what to conceal, both conceptually and visually. Some people are working more traditionally in terms of surfaces; drawing, painting, printing, weaving etc. others are creating spaces and videos. Everyone, however, could be seen as approaching the idea of a surface as something to be dug into, or to exist underneath or above. I’m thinking of surface as a fluid concept. Actually I didn’t arrive at surface until I stumbled across a description of the Sun:
From the center out, the layers of the Sun are as follows: the solar interior composed of the core, the radiative zone, and the convective zone, then there is the visible surface known as the photosphere, the chromosphere, and finally the outermost layer, the corona.
I’m a sappy sucker so I thought it was a poetic description, and a beautiful thought that the sun has more than one surface, and our naked eye can see only one. Above and below the surfaces are more layers, all of which are imperative to the whole, yet it’s the third surface that meets our eye.
So that’s one theme, but dig around and there are so many more, this is a small group of people covering a wide range of topics and ideas.
The Visible Surface will be on display from January 11 through February 1, 2020, in the Flatiron Project Space. There will be a reception on Thursday, January 16 from 6 to 8 pm. Check here for more details as the opening date approaches.