By Abby Margulies
“I think about audience as much as I think about how to support artists.” Says David Gryn, who is speaking with me in the lead up to the opening of Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) about curating film programs, his thoughts on the upcoming fair in Miami, and his new role as Technology and Sound Curator for If So, What?. Gryn, who is Director of Daata Editions and Artprojx, is also going into his 7th year as curator for film and sound for ABMB, and is a renowned expert in the field of film, digital media, and sound curation.
Right now, Gryn is hard at work for ABMB, which opens this week. This year’s program takes as its theme the universal language of dance, and explores the relationship between music and movement. The program will include three films by artists Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Jen DeNike and Tin Ojeda, as well as a series of short films presented by the Chicago Film Archive in collaboration with Chicago-based gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey.
“The goal,” said Gryn, who has dedicated his career to elevating and creating a platform for film and digital art, “is to encourage galleries to show the mediums that they don’t really bring to art fairs or find easy to sell. And the result is that it often raises the profile of the work and the medium.”
For the sound component of the program, Gryn is working with artist Hans Berg to program surround sound in the 160 speakers in SoundScape park, part of New World symphony. The sound element was a component that Gryn introduced into ABMB a few years ago, and which runs each evening before the film programming begins.
One of Gryn’s favorite aspects of the program is that the film and sound portion of the fair is open and accessible to everyone. “At the screenings there’s a big mix of huge art collectors, homeless people, and families from Miami,” said Gryn. “They are all equal to me; that mix is interesting to me. I’m trying to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
Gryn is in the business of empowering and providing a platform for artists. He is the Director of Daata Editions, a platform that he developed with art collector Anita Zabludowicz. Daata Editions commissions artists’ video, sound, poetry, and web-based works, and makes them available for purchase by museums, fairs, hotel brands, and private collectors, among others. But as a curator, and someone who ultimately wants to see these artists make a living, he is also in the business of audience engagement.
“When I view an audience I am always looking at how they are engaging with the work. I think if I’m not doing the right thing it’s not always good for the artwork.”
For Gryn, his commitment to curating film and creating a platform for artists working in video and digital mediums to present their work serves a larger mission. “I am trying to empower a medium, to make sure there is a marketplace connectivity,” said Gryn.
Working with If So, What? is a natural fit for Gryn, who said that he is very excited to be working with and supporting an innovative new art event. “We have a mutual belief in supporting the artists, in being honest, truthful, and diligent about how we operate with artists.”
In addition, Gryn sees Silicon Valley as an interesting new frontier. “I think there is a change going on and a growing interest in art. It was hitherto dominated by the dot com sensation, but I think that has moved on and people are becoming interested in other ways of being,” said Gryn. “The art gold rush is starting to take place, and people think there is more opportunity on the West Coast to gain traction. Being supportive of a new art fair model excites me.”
With regards to his plans for If So, What, Gryn is still holding his cards close. He is planning to work with some of the artists that he has commissioned for Daata Editions, as well as to collaborate with artists and designers that he has been interested in partnering with, some of whom are working in virtual reality, and others who are experimenting with new and unconventional surfaces on which to display video work. He is also interested in drawing on themes relevant to the Bay Area, from the South Bay’s long connection to the tech industry, to San Francisco’s history as a hub for LGBTQ communities.
Part of Gryn’s mission is to help communicate the medium of film as an artwork, which an event like If So, What? provides a perfect opportunity to do. “I’m trying to delineate that this is an artwork more than anything,” says Gryn. “Boundaries are becoming ever more blurred and I’m trying to make sure that the boundaries are at least acknowledged. The function of art is itself. It is not a marketing tool to sell something. It is nothing other than to be itself.”
Ultimately though, it is always about the artists, and Gryn is committed to helping them along – by elevating their medium and creating a perfect forum for audiences to engage with their work.
“Artists are leaders of cultural thought, of intellectual thought, and they are often undervalued and under-looked. Even at art fairs things get forgotten, which is why I’m excited by a new fair that thinks about artists in a different way.”