Hiba Kalache was born in Beirut, and received her MFA from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The concept of “home” dictates her practice, as she is interested in the varied forms of the private sphere, place and belonging. She allows her immediate surroundings, daily rituals and routine to inform her process and conceptualizations. Her ephemeral sculptural installations and works present an exploration of personal narrative and the qualities inherent in the food and other materials she uses. Her current interests rely in the examination of the contemporary and ever-shifting world of art criticism and its relationship with postmodern sculpture and new global approaches to art.
LR: Hi Hiba.
LR: So, What’s your favorite color?
LR: How do you describe your work?
HK: Formal, contemporary, experimental, conceptual, time based and in constant mutation…
LR: I am interested in seeing how you describe some of your sculptures, the temporary sculptures. It seems that sculpture in the traditional sense has always been thought of as permanent. Some of your artwork has this temporary character, where it is here today, and gone tomorrow, and visible only in photos like a distant memory. I could even compare it to sandcastles on a beach.
HK: Interesting comparison. I choose and do not choose to do ephemeral art. I just like to pick up and play with materials that surround me on a daily basis. I’m drawn to doing work that relates to my routine, and my private home sphere. Food of course is a material I encounter a lot, since I spend plenty of time in my kitchen. I’m most motivated when I’m working with materials I’ve never worked with before, and food is one of the materials I am drawn to explore. I get a thrill from trying to figure out what to do with a huge number of sushi nori sheets, or rice pasta strands. Thus the reason as well behind my one of a kind work. Archival art obviously isn’t the goal behind my work. I do work, for the sake of experimentation, discovery and fun. I like to enter my work with certain uncertainties, and leave with open-endedness; what becomes important is the process that takes place. The idea of having inside an exhibition space work that is going to evolve, mature and shift toward unpredictable results is very exciting. Since the work is site-specific, the piece is directed by its own site, becomes part of it, and raises questions around what defines and redefines the art/site relationship within an institutional framework. The best part of going a little against the grain and showing ephemeral work is watching and talking to viewers who react to the work. I love to know that they are attracted to the work and are fascinated to discover that it’s actually cake icing, or butter on the gallery walls. It’s about that specific very brief moment between viewer and piece. On a deeper level, I guess the work does reflect as well a condition that’s closest to the human one: life, death, putrefaction… the temporality of things. Ephemeral artwork has a distinct history going back to the 60’s in Germany and the United States with art groups such as Arte Povera and Fluxus.
LR: A very distinctive characteristic of your sculptures is their smell. I have to say that it never occurred to me before, that a sculpture has a smell. I would probably say that your sculptures challenge the concept of sculpture itself in their temporal characters and in their transcendence of the visual Arts. Instead of being “visual” they engage a more “sensory” experience.
HK: When It’s possible to pair perfume with the work it only adds a new level to the gallery experience. The relationship between taste, smell, emotion and memory is infinitely interesting. Every artist engages with the idea in some way. In my creations, I do it more consciously. The approach also challenges the constricting limitations of artistic conventions and traditional institutional spaces, and shifts the focus from artist only to viewer, from object only to process, and from production only to reception. Contemporary art is surprising in that sense. You find today museum institutions and biennale venues showing ephemeral/food works.
LR: Two materials that have a recurring presence are “dough” and “spice”, as if you are borrowing from the culinary arts. Why did you choose these two materials?
HK: Dough and spice happened to be some of the first food materials I worked with. It is the materiality of the food product that attracts me. Therefore I consider the food I work with just another material to sculpt or spread on a wall for my installations. Other food materials I have worked: chocolate nutella, cake icing, cake decorating, rice noodles, sushi sheets, wasabi powder, whipping cream, butter, caramel, candy, m&m’s, chewing gum, apple skin, rice, raw chicken… and many more. It can get very yucky!
LR: How does memory integrate itself in other artworks?
HK: Just can’t get rid of it, really.
LR: You talk about “Home”. Home, where is it, or isn’t, or anywhere beyond this dichotomy in your work. In other words, how does your artwork address the “Home”, especially that when people immigrate, their sense of home is either intensified, or contaminated.
HK: At this point, I prefer to think of my work as a product of who I am, and the places/spaces I have visited and choose to inhabit. At the end of the day, I just want to make art for the sake of good art.
LR: What are your latest works, and are you planning something in Lebanon sometime soon?
HK: A bunch of San Francisco based artist friends and I got together and formed a collective. We’ve been doing performance work, and are presently preparing for an exhibit in January. We’re constantly working on series of projects. The whole process has been tremendously enriching. This is where my latest focus has been, as well as on individual work— pushing forward the sculptural installation aspect of the food stuff. Plans: perseverance, production and self-motivation. Beirut is definitely on my schedule.
LR: Any last words?
HK: I recently bought from China Town big bags full of black sesame seeds. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them. But I keep opening the bag, smelling the seeds and have them run through my fingers. We’ll see-
LR: It was a pleasure Hiba. We’ll keep our news section updated with your newest.
Hiba’s address on the web is: www.hibakalache.com
Hiba’s email: hibakal[[at]]yahoo[[dot]]com