Yana Klichuk – learning from the audience

In which context are you working as an art educator?

Yana Klichuk: I’m working for/at Manifesta, a migratory biennial, which takes place every two years and is hosted by a different European city each time. Each edition of Manifesta is set in a new cultural, social, economical and political context. And each time we have to start building the local audience from zero.

With whom do you cooperate?

YK: Being guests at the host city we conduct research, look for partners and collaborators among local institutions, communities and individuals. One year before the biennial opens, we initiate projects and workshops in local schools and universities, organize talks and discussions involving professionals, the local art scene and explore the communities.

What is your understanding of art education?

YK: In general terms, my understanding of art education is based on the principles of mediation – such as rejecting institutional hierarchies, revising barriers of understanding, actively empowering the audience, creating a space for free exchange of ideas and opinions and alternative ways of learning.

What is the relationship (for you) between education and art?

YK: I see contemporary art as having a watchful eye on the things surrounding us, being curious and critical. Education processes are very much defined by these abilities. So the nature of both approaches is quite similar in my point of view. In practical terms we have to make sure that art is included in the general curricula of public education, as I notice that in many countries it’s now being pushed out of formal education And I would say it’s one of the most important priorities for museum and art educators to keep an eye on these developments and respond within their practice.

Why mediate (contemporary) art? / Why educate people about (contemporary) art?

YK: I think mediating art and educating people about art does not mean the same. I see mediation as a process of sharing ideas and knowledge, as well as learning from each other. “Educating people” sounds odd to me, as it implies hierarchical structures – someone who “seems to have the knowledge” educates ignorant people about art. When I set up a mediation project or situation, I am looking forward to what I can learn from it.

In what kind of relationship do you see the practice of curating and educating?

YK: It’s a very tricky question. If we speak about practice – the relationship between the two is always depends on the principles of a particular institution and a specific curator. The relationship is mostly determined by a curator – especially, because educators are usually seeking for dialogue and collaboration from their end. Looking back at the last three editions of Manifesta, you can observe three different models of relationship: Cuauhtemoc Medina, curator of Manifesta 9, had been actively working and exchanging ideas with education department; in Manifesta 10 Kasper König, coming from a different generation, was happy to have education programme complimenting the exhibition, but did not consider education to be a part of curatorial conversation; Christian Jankowski insists that the whole Manifesta 11 is a mediation project, but the way he sees mediation and education is very much defined by his artistic position; each model can be challenging for a collaboration.

Why is art education important for a museum or an institution?

YK: Importance of art education depends on how a particular museum or institution formulates their mission. If the mission or function is defined by researching and archiving, maybe art education is not a priority. But as soon as the institution declares a commitment to share it with others, all the questions regarding the policy of sharing are raising: inclusivity, methodologies, ethics, etc. then the role of education programs is crucial.

Where do we find the (institutional) spaces, in which we can have a discussion about our experiences of art?

YK: (I think l still don’t get this question :-))
I think these discussions can happen everywhere, and we don’t need an institutional space for that. From my experience, the most interesting conversations happened right in the gallery spaces (or the other sight of presentation) when discussion did not segregate yet from the experience.

To what extent can art education and art mediation open up a new sphere of action?

YK: I never considered this to be a goal for art education or mediation.

When do you think art education is successful? When do you think art education is complicated?

YK: Art education is successful when it brings the discussion to the moment when it’s no longer needed or is not called or meant to be education anymore. Art Education I think always conjugates with certain difficulties and challenges – it’s never easy.

Is there a specific method or strategy you currently work with?

YK: In every edition of Manifesta we adapt our projects, scenarios and methodologies to the context and the audiences. On a structural level there is one quite specific strategy in Manifesta: we have sub-department of Education called Audience Development which functions as a strong link between education, marketing and communication. It helps to be sure that education and mediation principles and policies are always at the core of our work with all kinds of audiences.

What are you currently working on?

YK: Currently I oversee the implementation of education programme of Manifesta 11 and planning the final session of our (Dis)Assembly project in September, which is going to be the only public session bringing together bigger circle of art educators, artists, curators and audiences to discuss our responsibilities and competencies and question the impact of our work. Next to this I am conducting research for Manifesta 12 in Palermo.

Which books and projects are important for your work and why?

I have to say now I am enjoying conversations with people more than reading books. For example, recently I came across the old, but still very inspiring interview with Pablo Helguera, in which he discusses with Helen Reed his book ‘Education for Socially Engaged Art’. By the way the book is also worth reading.

Which questions would you like to ask an art educator?

YK: Do we need a sustainable audience for contemporary art?

How do you imagine the future of art education?

YK: I see it going two directions: on the one hand highly instrumentalized and on the other going truly underground and independent.

Yana Klichuk is in charge of the education and mediation programme of Manifesta biennial. Together with the local team, stakeholders and curator of the biennial she shapes the strategy for engaging local audiences of the host city and the region through mediation programmes and various special projects. She joined Manifesta in Russia in 2013. Previously she was a curator of visual arts programmes at the National Center for Contemporary Arts and the PRO ARTE Foundation in St. Petersburg. She holds a degree in visual arts and art criticism from St. Petersburg State University and Bard College. Yana currently lives and works in Zurich and Bolzano working on Manifesta 11 in Zurich and Manifesta 12 in Palermo.

Interview: Cynthia Krell
Editing: Konstanze Schütze, Gila Kol

Image: Mittagspause by Judith Winterhager