Dominic DeLuque talks about his time in Berlin and curating art exhibitions in a global context

Dominic DuLuque speaking at NYU AD
What is your school affiliation and what year are you? What is your major (if declared)?
I’m a senior in the College of Arts and Science studying Art History.

What inspired you to study in Berlin?

I studied French and German in high school so going into NYU I always knew I was going to study abroad in either Paris or Berlin. The Berlin program seemed to have more of an arts focus and Berlin is a lot cheaper to live in than Paris so those factors lead to me choosing Berlin over Paris. Berlin also seemed a little more gritty and mysterious to me, so I wanted to explore that.
How was your experience? What was most inspiring, surprising, or moving about your time there? What did you find challenging?

My experience in Berlin was invaluable. To me, it helped me connect with the contemporary art world and showed me that it wasn’t this inaccessible, ephemeral thing. I had been working in fashion before and was getting a little jaded with the fashion world and its incessant machine-like nature. It was losing its substance for me, and so I was eager to dedicate more time to exploring the art world. Just meeting people from all over the and from all different walks of life was rewarding and humbling. Being abroad and feeling like an outsider was a great experience and helped re-shape and inform my worldview. When you are away from everything you have ever known in this foreign and nuanced environment, you become so vulnerable to change in a really positive way.
I understand that in collaboration with another student, you opened a student art show in Berlin last fall while in Berlin, REIFWERDEN, that was a huge success. Can you tell us about the show?
I was taking a studio art class in Berlin and a fellow student, Maia Smillie, approached me about including some of my work in a show she was trying to organize. One thing lead to another and we ended up collaborating on the show together. I decided not to include any of my own work as to focus on highlighting the work of the other students in the program. The new art studios at St. Agnes opened in October and we timed the show to open in December right before finals. It was a lot of work with a time frame of only about a month but it was well worth it. Everyone at NYU Berlin and the St. Agnes studios was great about communicating with the curatorial team and giving us both lots of freedom and lots of support. The fact that Johann König, owner of the eponymous Berlin gallery and the St. Agnes complex, came to our show and spoke with us really meant a lot. We also had a few journalists including a writer from Frieze magazine attend. But above all, being able to provide a platform to showcase student work and engage in dialogue was most rewarding. REIFWERDEN means gestation in German and curatorially we were looking to explore this idea of Berlin being a temporal/spatial moment of exploration and trying new things. A lot of the artists exhibited were taking a studio art class for the first time or were exploring a new technique or medium so seeing people work and progress was an integral part of how we organized the show.
I also understand that you recently gave a presentation about your experience
working on the show at the NYU Abu Dhabi Global Leadership Summit where you spoke on “curating meaningful art exhibitions in a global context”? Can you give us a sense of what you covered in your presentation and share your thoughts on this interesting topic?

As a person of color and a queer person, in the work that I do with curating I seek to highlight the work of people from these often under-represented and marginalized communities. The challenge therein is creating exhibitions that highlight and celebrate the work of these artists without reducing or essentializing it to their identity. For me, I start my work with thinking of the art itself which I find through building relationships with artists, peers, students, people I meet on the street or at parties, etc. I want to curate exhibitions that have meaning and can engage people in meaningful dialogues but without needing to force work into narrow categories or interpretations. The feedback I got from the conference was great and highlighted the importance of communication and networking. Especially within more global contexts, I think it is important to get input from people outside of the “art world” that can bring in another perspective.
How has the experience working on the show in Berlin influenced your work now that you have left?
I learned a lot just in terms of the pragmatic aspects of organizing a show. One of the photography teachers, Christina Dimitriadis, leant us her expertise and gave us assistance in installing some pieces; learning how to be your own art handler is a crucial skill in organizing these kinds of DIY exhibitions. Additionally, I had to be extra sensitive when collaborating with the artists in Berlin since most were my classmates. I think that sensitivity made me a better communicator and allowed me to be more understanding and more patient. As a curator, you have to be a liaison between all different kinds of people and institutions so having a vocabulary that can help translate things from one group to another was important thing that I learned.
I also understand that you are currently working on a “Students for Sexual
Respect” photo campaign. This sounds like a timely undertaking on an important topic. Can you describe this effort? What is your mission and how are you executing it? Who is in involved and how do you intend to use this work? Will NYU Berlin or other global sites be involved at all?

I’m consulting on a photo project for the Students for Sexual Respect club here at NYU New York. The club was started by a fellow Admissions Ambassador, Josy Jablons, and in talking about the project things, again, happened very organically and I got involved in the organizational aspect of things. We are calling it the #BetterSexTalk campaign and we prompted students to give a piece of advice to their younger siblings or their younger selves that they wish was included in their “sex talk”, if they ever had one. Having such sensitive material attached to your photo is really brave and we got a wide variety of students and student organizations from all different perspectives to participate. Ultimately I think people offering this moment of vulnerability will allow people to feel comfortable in engaging in a larger dialogue about sexual respect.
Our photographer Emilio Madrid-Kuser was eager and cooperative in offering a lot of his time to work on this project. The majority of this project has been spearheaded by SSR and myself but having the involvement of so many different students has made this project successful. We are installing the photos throughout the Washington Square campus during the month of April. Plans are currently in the works to expand it to NYU’s School of Engineering Brooklyn Campus and NYU Berlin.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your time in Berlin or at NYU?
I am really thankful to be able to have discussions about social justice and identity during my time at NYU. My worldview has been expanded and if anything my education here at NYU has made me eager for more knowledge. In understanding how much privilege I have been afforded in my life I feel a responsibility to share what I have learned with others and in turn learn from them as well. The global nature of the education I have received has been crucial in my undergraduate experience. In the last three years I have visited three continents with NYU and I think that’s something that is pretty unique to the NYU experience. I hope after I graduate NYU continues to be a place where people can engage in these sticky, complex dialogues in a critical and productive way.

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