Soude Dadras, Textiles M.F.A., Organizes an Exhibition of International Renown
Just before the world enacted safety measures of social distancing, Soude Dadras brought its countries together in her most ambitious curatorial project yet. With 113 artists from over a dozen countries, representing all mediums and levels of experience, “Ongoing Conversations” crossed borders to spark dialogue around the shared value of material and creative expression.
Dadras, a current second year in the M.F.A. program at the Ernest G. Welch School of Art & Design, has been pursuing a curatorial path with as much determination as she has her artistic practice in Textiles. Her strengths as a curator lie in her artist-first approach, the way she nurtures connections she has made in the graduate program, and her background which spans cultures and languages. Shortly after she came back from her trip to Kyoto, Japan to hang the exhibition, we sat down with her to talk about how the project came about, what conversations the exhibition started, and what was next in her curatorial practice.
Jac Kuntz: Where did the idea for this exhibition come from?
Soude Dadras: I have been curating since 2010. My first show was in Japan in the same venue, the Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) when I was living there. Since moving to the states and starting my M.F.A. program at Georgia State, I have seen how our cultures—and specifically our art communities—are somewhat disconnected. As an immigrant, I have tried to find a platform myself and have experienced how hard it is for immigrant, minority groups, and international artists to receive those opportunities to exhibit their work. I wanted to create a platform that was open to all levels of artists: established, middle career, emerging, and even students…To communicate through their art to the viewer. That’s where the name came from.
The first “Ongoing Conversation” was in Turkey, last year (2018-2019), in three galleries. The second was in Japan (2019-2020) at two different venues. The first was “Ongoing Conversation: Impressions,” Juried by Junco Sato Pollack, at the Kyoto Shibori Museum, featuring artists of all different mediums: painting, sculpture, graphic design, textiles, etc. I encouraged the artists to think of their own personal style. The show was well received for it—the work was so different from the traditional way of making shibori like the work exhibited at the museum.
The second show was in the Kyoto International Community House (kokoka) and for that one, the theme was “Recall, Recollect, Reconstruct.” I featured ninety-two artists from thirteen countries.
JK: Why such a big group?
SD: For “Recall, Recollect and Reconstruct” in particular, different artists were working with the same theme but many different materials and techniques. We had so many big names like (ceramics) Robert Harrison, Beth Lo, Julia Galloway, (painting) Craig Drennen, Pam Longobardi, (printmaking) Jamal Barber, (textiles) Jody Alexander, Douglas Pierre, and many more. Among them were many young artists who never thought they would be in a show next to established artists like Robert Harrison or Amy Putansu. It was a dream for them and I wanted to find a way to incorporate their work in the show as well.
JK: And I’m sure it’s exciting to be exhibiting internationally too. For some of them, this might be the first time.
SD: Shows in Japan are a rarer opportunity for emerging artists. It’s competitive and for curators over there, it might be too risky to bring emerging artists or art students from other countries when they are trying to establish their career too. But I took the risk and I’m happy.
JK: Tell me more about the show that ended. How much of it was textiles? How much of it was GSU? How much of it was international?
SD: When I started, my main goal was to really highlight GSU artists and Georgia artists in the show because I wanted to give back to the community I am learning from right now. Georgia is my home and GSU is my family. Then I started looking into artists around the world working with the theme of memory and time. I went through the biennials, and read through catalogues… but in the end, I kept the show 50 percent GSU and 50 percent international: Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong, China…I had so many artists because I would reach out to one and follow the link to another. It was hard to narrow it down to the 113.
JK: How many pieces did you travel with?
SD: 50 pieces. The Textiles—and I love textiles because it is a part of each of our lives; you’re born and are immediately wrapped in cloth; everyday, you wear items of clothing that brush against your skin—it is easy to fold, easy to control, easy to roll. I carried some of the very important flat files with me, and then shipped some others.
JK: Tell me what’s in the plan for the next show.
SD: I received a few proposals to curate other international shows and I dream of bringing “Ongoing Conversations” to other parts of the world. I want to bring these artists to more and smaller cities that they might not otherwise exhibit in or experience. I have a few European cities in mind as well as venues in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
The next show will take place in the Kyoto City Museum Annex, Japan in 2020 and the title of the show is “Ongoing Conversation: Nexus.” The Annex Museum is a venue of high prestige; I’d never dreamed I’d get to organize a show there. It will be smaller than the 113 I had for the one this past December, but part of the show will be invitational and part will be juried so to provide an opportunity to artists that normally wouldn’t get it.
A lot went into this title as well. On my way back from Japan, on January 8, 2020 my home country of Iran experienced a tragedy. A passenger plane crashed. It was a mistake, a human error, but 176 innocent people from six countries died. I was in shock and devastated. Mourning—and public mourning—is a part of my culture and we Iranians as a nation stay together in hard times. My heart still aches for that and I, in my studio practice, am trying to work through those feelings—to concentrate on grief and the power of public healing. At the same time, so many tragedies happen around the world every day, so the base of the show is for personal experiences in such times. I already have a list of great artists I will be reaching out to.
JK: I’m impressed that you just finished one show that completely exhausted you and just a month later, you already have another one in the works.
SD: Ha ha yes! I am also working on a small show taking place in the Roswell Visual Art Center in August. It will include twenty artists: ten invitational and ten juried.
JK: You are both a visual artist and a curator, you are an M.F.A. in the textiles program, but also your work has been very sculptural. How has your curatorial practice shaped your artistic practice? Or vice versa?
SD: Having been born in Iran, and then having lived in and moved around the world, I have had a lot of cultural influences. I try to experiment as much as I can right now. I am in my second year. I started the program with the idea that I would be weaving and only weaving because that was my background, but seeing how multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary our school is, and how amazing our faculty are, I don’t want to miss my chance of learning and experimenting new ideas and techniques.
JK: And “Ongoing Conversation” was very multi-disciplinary. I can see how that reflected our M.F.A. program.
SD: Yes! And because of these influences, I am now experimenting with traditional textiles techniques, and surface designing— and at the same time I am working on ceramics and other visual art forms. This semester I wanted to make work that memorializes those 176 people who died in the plane crash. I wanted to pay back what my country gave to me with my work. I want to be recognized for both—curatorial work and artistic.
JK: Is there anything else you would like to add?
SD: I would really like to say thank you to everyone who supported me!
Project Website: www.ongoingconversation.art
Soude Artist Website: www.sdadras.com
Soude Dadras Instagram: @soude.dadras
More about Soude Dadras:
Soude Dadras is an artist, curator, and educator living and working in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an M.F.A. candidate at Georgia State University. She was born in Iran and holds a bachelor’s degree in Persian Rugs with a concentration in Restoration of Antique and Historic Hand-Woven Textiles.
In her studio, Dadras combines traditional handwork, found objects, and discarded textiles to reference human history, language, tradition, and culture, based on her personal experience.
Over the past five years, Dadras has been working on her curatorial project, “Ongoing Conversation.” The mission of it is “to bring together disparate voices in the visual arts through an international purview in order to examine cross cultural similarities of the human condition.” Her next curatorial project will take place in Kyoto City Museum of Annex in Kyoto, Japan, December 2020.