100 Creatives 2013: Katia Zavistovski, Contemporary Art Curator
As a curator, Katia Zavistovski has definitely made an impact that viewers won't be able to shake for a long time, if ever.
Take, for instance, her "Staring at the Wall: The Art of Boredom" exhibition. On display at Lawndale Art Center from November 2012 through January 2013, the show featured works by six artists who, in Zavistovski's words, "addressed boredom in a number of ways, whether by focusing on the dull moments of everyday life, considering themes of repetition and monotony, or thinking about distraction and ways to keep boredom at bay."
In the exhibit, Clayton Porter had placed, in the middle of the gallery, three television screens facing each other. On each, a video of a big erect schlong on top of a stick of butter.
If you were brave enough to watch the hot stick melt the stick, which actually takes a long time if you didn't already know, you were likely to agree that the dick-butter art constituted boredom. It also qualified as unforgettable.
Zavistovski, a PhD candidate in art history at Rice University as well as the William A. Camfield Curatorial Fellow in the department of contemporary art and special projects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, first started curating at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art while earning her master's degree at Williams College.
Since moving to Houston, she has co-curated the Rice Media Center exhibition "Raid the Archive: The de Menil Years at Rice" with John Sparagana; written reviews for Art Lies and Arts + Culture Magazine; and, as a Rice Curatorial Fellow, helped Toby Kamps on the Menil Collection's "Silence."
What she does: For years, Zavistovski has been busy with art-related projects, whether it's presenting lectures for SITE, a contemporary art space in Santa Fe, New Mexico; programming art in Santa Fe's public schools; or writing exhibition brochures for Rice's EMERGEncy Room. Currently at MFAH, Zavistovski is working with Alison de Lima Greene on an upcoming James Turrell retrospective.
About her smashing "Boredom" show at Lawndale, she says, "I'm really interested in the artistic compulsion to create and in the anxieties that are part of the creative process, and I think that boredom is as much of a motivating force as other sources of inspiration.
"As Susan Sontag put it: 'The life of the creative man is led, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.' Rather than avoid it, I wanted to think about it critically, and the more I thought about it, the more interested in it I became."
Why she likes it: Aside from the fun-challenging dynamic, the dialogue art inspires, the creation of narratives and the collaborative nature of curating, Zavistovski says that she understands the world through art.
"It's really the vehicle through which I've learned about everything from politics and economics, to psychology, moments of agricultural history, the development of prostheses, the invention of sidewalks, entropy and the history of morgues, among other things," she explains. "To me, art can also tap into the liminal or in-between spaces of history, our everyday lives and our consciousness. It has a unique capacity to communicate ideas and feelings that are hard to express in other ways."
What inspires her: Famous artists, writers and musicians are cool, but "it's the people I know -- my family, friends, professors, coworkers, classmates -- that inspire me the most," says Katia.
"I'm also inspired by things that make me feel uncomfortable or even confused," she says. "Things that are weird or difficult to think about or articulate. It's the things that resist easy interpretation, the things that I don't quite 'get,' that keep me thinking and questioning and that keep me inspired."
If not this, then what: An existence in some sort of challenging field. "I've always thought being a conservator would be really interesting. And at one point, I considered double majoring in psychology. But I am admittedly terrible at science, so I'm not sure how far I would get in either of those fields!"
If not here, then where: "There are lots of places I'd love to go or revisit, among them Berlin, London, Moscow and Japan," says Zavistovski. "But I'm really happy in Houston right now. I had never been to Texas before moving here two and half years ago, and I didn't know what to expect. I've since fallen in love with the city."
What's next: Katia is finally able to emerge "from the recesses of the library" after passing her PhD qualifying exams, which required more than six months of studying. (Yuck.)
"My immediate future involves catching up with friends, checking out the exhibitions that have recently opened and spending more time outside while the Houston sweat index is still pretty low," she says. "I don't have any curatorial projects scheduled for the coming months, but I do have some ideas that I'm excited about and am looking forward to working on."
More Creatives for 2013 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker Amanda Stevens, scary book author Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach Billy D. Washington, comedian Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer Kelly Sears, animator and film maker Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director jhon r. stronks,dance-maker Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Houston.