28 June 2016

A Means to Connect

Based in Brooklyn, Alt Esc is a curatorial platform, magazine, and subcultural archive. Its curators, Alison Sirico and Irina V Makarova, have a wealth of experience behind them – not only in curation, but journalism and art across a variety of mediums. Their mission? To carry out visits to studios and interviews with creatives who, in turn, bring well curated content to the wider world. The duo spoke to me for Metal Magazine about print as an archive of culture, the care and thought of physical installations and how every choice is a curation of sorts.


Tell us a bit about how the idea for the platform came about…
We were both in equally transitory states, in between jobs and projects, so we sat down at Juno and mulled over the future. What could come next for us? We’ve thrown art shows together in the past, so the conversation naturally moved in that direction. However, this was the first time I didn’t have direct access to a space. We talked about going on studio visits with artists in the intermittent to do some field research, and this idea popped up. “What if we just document those?” Studio visits tend to be hyper interesting, and it seemed like it would be fun to communicate those discussions. In addition, we were excited to discover what artists were focusing on and base exhibitions out of those studio visits. I knew Irina had wanted to create her own publication for a while, so it all just felt right. A lot of the artists we admire are people that we know personally, so we wanted to bring in this personal factor to the project. Also, we are total fan girls!

How did you decide on “Alternative Escape”?

Alternative Escape is the tagline – the literal abbreviation for Alt Esc, which is a keyboard function for switching between new open windows. We thought it was appropriate since we want to act as a resource and outlet for the creatives out there. We liked that it was two words because we are a team of two. In Windows, Alt Esc opens up a new window. It seemed like an appropriate concept for an arts publication and curatorial duo.

Why did you choose to base this project online?

We started online because it's fast, and we can expedite monthly editions. Also we’re from a generation that is used to getting information online. But this is only the first carnation of the idea. We are planning to release a biannual print. Sure, it is faster and easier to transfer information by copying and pasting a link. Print publications are no longer in demand because they are costly to print and the public prefers the convenience of being able to get information from their phone. We still buy print magazines these days because we love that page-turning thrill and to have these objects in our hands. We think it is important to continue pumping out print publications to archive us as a culture, if anything. And the rest of the project is definitely very much offline! We want to invade your space, have some tea/tequila with you, look at your family albums, talk about art, not talk about art...


Could you see Alt Esc evolving into a physical gallery or do you think it’s the other way around and physical galleries are moving online?

Irina: As a curatorial platform, we don’t want to stay in one place, we want to connect with as many creatives as possible, and if we do a show online, sure, that’d be really cool too! Regarding gallery spaces, the convenience factors always plays in. It is so much easier for dealers to send an offer list via e-mail and there are so many resources available online where you can view works, read all the information about it and make an offer. There are some things that need to be inconvenient I guess, because to really have an interaction with something, you need to see it in person. So much care, thought and labor goes into the installation of physical works to ensure that the viewer has a prime interaction with it. It’d be sad to think that all of that would be rendered as obsolete.

Alison: I would love to have another gallery, but the idea of not being grounded and throwing shows in alternative spaces, and working within the existing community framework, is equally exciting. There’s validity in seeing art both virtually and physically. Both have relevance, and are equally important experiences, but they are very different experiences and one does not outweigh or replace the other.


What do you look for in an artist when selecting creatives to feature?
First and foremost, quality and content. We don’t care about background or social status, your medium, whether you are emerging or established, we just want to showcase intelligent and talented people. It’s that simple. Many of them we are lucky to know personally. For instance we went to college with Alex Casso. I think he’s such a talented young painter. I have been a fan of Esther Ruiz’s work and I more or less tracked her down. Alison knew Sarah Kinlaw and Monica Mirabile from Authority Figure so we were able to interview them about their incredible project at the Knockdown Center that just happened. Our second volume is coming out within the month and we have a really exciting selection of artists that we are featuring. We gravitate towards artists who cultivate young energy. Most interviewees are friends or friends of friends. We look towards artists who exhibit in artist run spaces. Artists who are a part of an existing subcultural community framework.

Dead or alive, who would be the dream interviewee for Alt Esc?
Irina: Too many to narrow down, but top five would be GCC Transmission, Alex Da Corte, Slavs and Tatars, Nick Blinko, and Ivan Shishkin’s ghost.

Alison: Alex Da Corte, AIDS 3D, Paper Rad, Alex Bag, Ryan Trecartin, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Tony Oursler, Cindy Sherman, Tony Conrad, Ana Mendieta, Michael Heizer, and Walter de Maria.
With both of you having a curatorial background, what do you make of platforms like Instagram, which make us all curators in a somewhat diluted form of the word?
Irina: “Diluted” is definitely the right word. It is an image sharing app that too many people take way too seriously. It is an excellent platform for creatives to display their work and for marketers their products. If you want to use it as a form of online portfolio and share what you are making, that’s awesome. If it is your form of a creative outlet, keep it going! At the end of the day, it is only an app and isn’t real, and in most likelihood will pass just like Xanga and Livejournal. Having said that, please follow us!

Alison: In a diluted form of the word, I think we are all curators and have always been curators. Maybe it's more obvious now because we live in a time of over the top self branding. I think it's a natural human trait to constantly categorize. It’s a way of making sense of life. Every choice is a curation. We curate our clothes, our home design, our friends, the grocery list. We curated our top 8, the artists in our iTunes library. Instagram is an extension of that natural need to organize, collect, and communicate.


Your upcoming exhibition opens at Stream Gallery on June 22nd. What can we expect from it?
A great selection of artists and works about the exploration of futuristic landscapes, be it social or spatial. This is our inaugural exhibition so we are very excited to present an exhibition that we hope will be well received and a succinct representation of our mission. We are showing Baltimore based Wickerman & Lomax, Esther Ruiz and Jonathan Checler, both Brooklyn based. All of them challenge the idea of space and reality in unique ways and we hope that they will open up an exciting dialog when placed together. 

How important was it for you to exhibit specifically in Brooklyn?
It was important for our first exhibition to be based in New York because this project is about the art community, and New York is the place where we both were initiated. But we want this to become a global initiative and exhibit in as many places as possible and to have the opportunity to meet all sort of creative people internationally and see the spaces and environments they work in.

What do you hope viewers will take away from Alt Esc?
Well, we hope they get a better insight into the artists’ work that we are bringing to the table. This is a means to connect and to have an honest discussion. We are just two girls who want to have a conversation with people we admire and showcase their work. I think the art world tends to take itself too seriously and there should be a middle ground between presenting good content and having this holier than thou attitude.

Read the article on Metal Magazine's website here.