Behind the scenes with Art in Odd Places Curator Furusho von Puttkammer
Q&A: Behind the scenes with Art in Odd Places Curator Furusho von Puttkammer
This weekend, we’re looking forward to checking out the myriad of outdoor artworks and performances curated by Furusho von Puttkammer for the Art in Odd Places art fair. Taking over 14th street and parts of Lower Manhattan, AiOP is impossible to miss, and unique in that the fair allows us to interact with art and artists wherever, whenever, and above all, safely.
This year’s theme is NORMAL, a broad exploration of not only the “return to normal” we all have on the tips of our tongues as we witness the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in NYC (however harshly juxtaposed with deadly spikes worldwide) but Furusho’s curatorial vision also makes room for a political investigation of the American Dream and “normalcy” in American politics. Bridging the intertwined concepts of history, science, and a unifying social purpose, Art in Odd Places 2021 is setting a new standard for public art activation.
I had the opportunity to connect with Furusho over Zoom and collect some of her thoughts in writing here in the form of this Q&A. Read more for a behind-the-scenes look at this unique and storied fair, and how Furusho’s curatorial vision is being unleashed in the streets.
Emily Conklin: Tell us a little bit about you! Where are you from? Where are you based now? Where did you study? What’s your favorite food, your favorite work of art?
Furusho von Puttkammer: I’m from New York City, but I went to school in New Jersey (child of divorce). I’m still currently based in NYC. For school, I went to School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and received a degree in Fine Arts. My favorite food is Pho, though honestly any Asian noodle soup dish is a win for me. Favorite art is anything by Mark Rothko or Francis Bacon.
EC: How did you find your passion for the arts, and specifically, for curatorial work?
FvP: Passion? More like masochism amiright? I’ve always been into art, and growing up I wanted to be a cartoonist. I even applied to School of Visual Arts for their Cartooning major. During my freshman foundations courses though, I realized I preferred oil painting. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but I ended up transferring from Cartooning to the Fine Arts Major after my freshman year.
Curating was honestly an opportunistic decision for me. I realized that if I wanted my work to be seen, I’d have to organize the shows myself rather than wait for a curator or gallery to “discover” me. Then I started to notice that more people paid attention to me as a curator than artist.
EC: How did you come to be the head curator for Art in Odd Places?
FvP: It’s a bit of a story, but basically I met one of the team members for AiOP2018: BODY, Katie Hector, at an art opening three years ago. I was just out of college so I asked if there was any way I could help out. That first year I was a volunteer who handed out pamphlets and assisted artists. For AiOP2019: INVISIBLE, I was asked to come back as the Volunteer Coordinator and then was bumped up to Curatorial Assistant. This year, Ed asked me to be the curator.
EC: What excites you the most about this festival and this year’s theme?
FvP: It’s just a wacky time for a festival, or anything, right now! I hear people comparing the city to how things were like in the 70s and 80s. I’m most excited by this year’s theme NORMAL. I hate it when people say, “I can’t wait to go back to normal.” Normal was precisely the problem. The pandemic forced us to see how broken the American way of life really is. I’m excited to see how artists will interpret this.
EC: How have you observed the pandemic affecting the arts, and arts workers? How has it affected your work with AiOP specifically?
FvP: AiOP is honestly the perfect pandemic festival — we’ve always been outdoors. The length of NYC avenues are also on our side. In 2019 we had over 80 artists and no one even came close to overlapping. We were socially distancing long before the pandemic.
EC: What collaborations and connections have made this year’s event shine?
All the artists
EC: What issues do you hope to address, elevate, or confront through your curation?
FvP: In 2019 I curated a show called OUTlines, which highlighted otherness within the queer community. Queerness in recent years has been commodified and turned into a trend. Now you have people who took one gender studies class in college think they’re an expert in queerness. I didn’t grow up with passing privilege, I was bullied and made to feel less because something was “different” about me. My curation seeks to highlight that aspect of queerness. The non-glamourized, traumatizing experience of not fitting in. Even within the queer community still, I don’t feel like I fit in. I know there are a lot of queer artists who feel the same. I want to amplify their voices.
EC: What’s next for you, and for AiOP?
FvP: Hopefully a vacation! After the festival, we’ll be working on the AiOP2021: NORMAL catalogue and archiving the event. We also are workshopping a fashion show, House of AiOP. Stay tuned for more!