In conversation with Gala Knörr

Pablo’s Birthday, New York

María Gracia de Pedro in conversation with Gala Knörr.

I met Gala Knörr for the first time when she was back to the roots in 2016, after being around for a while. After some years following her practice we sit down and spoke about her current status and future projects.
MG: For those that don’t know you (yet), how do you describe your practice?
GK: A journey that encompasses an obsession with youth culture and the internet, and now that I am more of an adult a jump towards our uncertain future, all coped and faced with humour and satire to remind us that this battle without a sense of collectivity we are bound to lose. All of that combined with the plastic skills of someone classically trained, that uses paint as if in an emergency, a starting point yet expanding into other media, looking to diversify their language and facilitate reflections on its content to a wider audience.
MG: You were born in the Basque Country, but your practice is so far from the traditional sculpture parameters used there. Do you feel that your body of work is connected with your education and the places where you have lived? 
GK: Yeah absolutely! I think the main reason for that disconnect with the very established Basque sculpture tradition is the fact that when I was sixteen, I moved to Surrey (England) where I finished High School, my experience there opened up a curiosity for things, that artistically it would have taken me years to discover if I hadn’t had a diverse international experience so young. I did not get into art school when I was eighteen, when you’re that age you think that if the institution does not want you maybe it’s not your space. At my first year at Richmond University in London, my studies focused on Political Science and Creative Writing, which definitely still have an impact on my work today. I was interested in becoming an artist but I conceived that vision through my pen, and a month after finishing my freshman year I understood within me that I really wanted to pursue an art education. The almost 5 years after that, I obtained my BFA at Parsons in Paris, traveled a little, had a year hiatus back home trying to figure things out. Soon after I would be moving back to London where I got my MA at Central Saint Martins, and worked tirelessly in galleries and museums as well as at my studio in East London for 5 more years. All the cities and places I have lived or studied at have had an impact on my growth as a person and as an artist, they almost have been growing parallelly, navigating through different cultures has definitely shaped me and my work, sharing one constant: change. Change keeps you learning and on your toes.
nessun uomo è un’isola (2018-2019) 

MG: Would you define yourself as a painter? For me that I know what you are doing, I consider yourself a multidisciplinary artist but I wanted to know your opinion about that.
GK: I guess no one really labeled me as a painter until I came back to Spain in 2016. My exhibition ‘Self Identity is a Bad Visual System’ was an entire project with painting as the main medium,and was then I guess somehow pigeonholed. Painting was basically a form of resistance whose use was intricately related to the concepts and research behind the project that constituted my first institutional solo show. I have always considered myself a multidisciplinary artist, in school though I felt safer making 2D work, now my painting has become part of a whole, a bigger splash, an installation where my painting reigns yet it takes different shapes and dialogues with other media. 
MG: I have heard something about a video at AJ+ and Sony? Please explain further that. How they manage to contact you?
GK: Hahaha, those are the magical moments on the Internet that you wonder how everything really works and finds its way to you somehow. For the Sony video, I was contacted 11 years ago via Myspace by someone from their UK PR team. Back then I was still living at my friend’s place in Paris, they had asked me to create a video with one of their products which was a dancing egg-like robot that played music. For a week I took it everywhere with me, filmed people’s reactions even at house parties and the video ‘Bohemian Robot’ came out to be a black and white short, with psychedelic organ music and a bunch of bohemian characters adoring the robot’s magic at midnight. I guess that was my first attempt at being a creative online influencer, not sure they got what they wanted but I definitely had fun making it. AJ+ (which is Al-Jazeera’s online platform) had one of their San Francisco editors write me a message on Facebook three years ago, requesting an interview about my Snapchat based project, we had a fun Skype interview and the resulting video was posted soon after online hitting 120.000 views which to me was next level surreal. 

insert witty project title, Centro Cultural CajaGranada, Granada, Spain (2019)

MG: You just opened a solo show at Pablo’s Birthday gallery in New York city, a contemporary art gallery directed by Clara Andrade. How did you face this experience from the beginning?
GK: I was terribly excited since this is the first time I exhibit my work in a commercial gallery, and it was six months ago I was contacted by Clara. Everything started in a very organic manner. She wrote me an email and we started a multi-channel conversation online, she wanted to discover all the aspects about my art practice and the projects I was working on back then, particularly the one in collaboration with the Centre for Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths, and the one I worked on for a year for my exhibition at Fundación Bilbaoarte Fundazioa. One day Clara told me something that anybody would like to hear from a peer in the art world: ‘I believe in your work, I believe in you, let’s do something together’. Obviously even though we only knew each other through the cyber sphere, we gave each other a chance, and a year later the fruit of this long conversation was embodied in this exhibition.

The Selfish Meme, Pablo’s Birthday, New York (2019)

MG: Tell us about that show, you have some works related to Brexit and you did some new works while in the city. Where is the connection between those topics? 
GK: The first room of the exhibition is composed by older works that lay the foundation of the show, where my practice comes from, what interested me to let the viewer in and slowly build a connection with, how social media has turned our narcissism profitable even when the content we share is our truthful selves, which by itself expressing it may sometimes be radical and revolutionary, the shared and sole expression of an existent reality we never knew. And the second room of the show carries works that I have produced this year in Spain and New York, in the same fashion that the past ones were created in conceptually. Except those are actually related to my experience and position as an EU immigrant in the UK, having studied high school there, obtained my MA and worked there for 9 years of my life, creating a home and having to deal with an imminent and uncertain change of status was pretty stressful. Suffice to say I coped with this whole experience through satire and humour, trying to evidence the ridiculously obvious negative connotations of a socio-political climate that is beyond my power as a citizen, yet through art I find my personal way of civil disobedience creatively, which is how I think we need to face what’s happening right now globally. 
MG: After this show you will go to Paris, what are you going to do there?
GK: This year I am the Juan y Pablo de Otaola Fellow which includes a residency at the Cité Internationale de Arts (Paris). I am very excited because the project I proposed to the city of Basauri and the Otaola family is something I have been wanting to do for a very a long time, entangling my visual art and my writing into a beautiful project inspired by my obsession with Jack Kerouac. I will write to Jack, the mentor I never met, with the hopes of reuniting enough material to turn that into an epistolary short novel. The project will also have a collaborative aspect in which I will seek the performance of my letters at the Sunday tea party readings from writers housed at Shakespeare & Co in Paris, and the soundtrack to a video piece I will work on as well with Austrian saxophonist Guido Spanocchi. The whole idea is to build a visual map of the city as an homage, through my own experience returning to Paris and those of the writers that will perform my letters in a reading. 

Kaltes Klares Wasser! Emergent residency, Torremolinos, Spain (2018)

MG: Generaciones is a well-known prize in Spain, that recognises eight artists every year. You have just been selected for the next edition in February 2020. Can you tell us a bit more about the project?
GK: I don’t want to spoil it and explain too much about the project because at the moment I am still constructing my ideas, and they change and evolve constantly, but it will definitely be related and along the lines of my main interest which is the intersection of technology and identity today. In this case centering my thoughts and research on my generation the ‘Millennials’, which in Pop Culture we are I think underestimated by our eldest with a false portrayal as useless serial narcissists who do not work nor study. I want to magnify that superficiality that apparently so characterizes us and turn it into our strongest facet, to remind the ones who want to silence the young that we are still present and we also have our say.

Self identity is a bad visual system, BilbaoArte Foundation, Bilbao, Spain (2016-2017)

MG: Where can we see you soon then? 
GK: I will participate in a group exhibition this September, at Pablo’s Birthday that inspired by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner explores the figure of the woman in the art world, yet from the perspective of the artist today. The Paris project ‘Tumbleweeds’ at Cité Internationale des Arts and ‘Good Bad Not Evil’ for ‘Generaciones 2020’ will respectively be exhibited in February and May 2020. The first one at a beautiful Biscay medieval tower, now Cultural Centre in the middle of Basauri in northern Spain called Torre de Aryz, and at La Casa Encendida the Fundación Montemadrid Contemporary Art Museum in Madrid. 

Gala Knörr (1984, Vitoria, Spain)  is a multidisciplinary artist who has worked in painting, photography and audiovisuals. Her practice explores the intersection of technology and identity in contemporary society. She holds a BFA in Fine Arts from Parsons School of Design (Paris), an MA Fine Art from Central Saint Martins (London), and completed her training at Txomin Badiola’s workshop at Madrid45 (Madrid). She is the recipient of the Generación 2020 award at La Casa Encendida in Madrid, and a finalist to awards such as the Premi Miquel Casablancas at Sant Andreu Contemporani (Barcelona), the Fundación Banco Santander OpenStudio Award for Artistic Production (Madrid), and twice awarded by the Basque Government Department of Culture and Language Policy Producción-Creación Grant. She has done artist residencies at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, France (2015, 2019), La Térmica Centro de Cultura Contemporánea in Málaga, Spain (2016), Fundación Bilbaoarte Fundazioa in Bilbao, Spain (2016-2017), at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, USA (2017), the Museu de Belles Arts in Castellón, Spain (2018), and at the Centre for Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths University in London (2018-2019). 
Her work has been exhibited at the Fundación CajaGranada Memoria de Andalucía Museum (Spain), Museu de Belles Arts Castelló (Spain), Museo Carmen Thyssen (Spain), Fabra i Coats Fàbrica de Creació i Centre d’Art Contemporani (Spain), La Térmica Centro de Cultura Contemporánea (Spain), Fundación Bilbaoarte Fundazioa (Spain), Cité Internationale Des Arts Paris (France), TEA Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Spain), Central Saint Martins (UK), and at The Columbia Threadneedle Prize at Mall Galleries (UK) amongst others.