Lost Symbiosis

13 déc. 2023
Lost Symbiosis

Lost Symbiosis © La Concierge
Article in English
Author: Ben Kraemer

A symbiosis sometimes goes missing somewhere in between technological, economic, and societal advancement – a symbiosis in interhuman relations and in relation to ourselves. With their exhibition Lost Symbiosis, Steven Cruz and Liliana Francisco, the creative heads behind La Concierge, advocate for reconnection.

Steven is 27 years old and was born in Luxembourg. After the completion of his master’s degree in plastic, visual, and spatial arts, he is now living as a professional artist in Brussels, specialising in photography and ceramics. Liliana is 33 years old, from Luxembourg, and, like Steven, a visual artist of Portuguese descent. Having an educational background in literary and cultural studies, she is working with photography, collage, and painting and is currently living in Luxembourg and Lisbon.

Steven and Liliana met in Lisbon, where they both studied years ago. They had common friends on social media, and, after having newly arrived there, Steven contacted her. They were both Luxembourgish expats living in Lisbon and felt a connection between them, so they decided to meet up. From there on, they stayed in contact and went even further by creating the non-profit organisation La Concierge.

Liliana Francisco (l) © Liliana Francisco | Steven Cruz (r) © Alisa Pjanic
Liliana Francisco (l) © Liliana Francisco | Steven Cruz (r) © Alisa Pjanic

La Concierge

“It is a way for me and also for Steven to connect and stay in touch with the country, where we are from,” says Liliana, “so [we said] let’s start something in Luxembourg, and the idea was to make a collective exhibition, but then things just moved on to become something bigger.”

La Concierge a.s.b.l. is an association dedicated to supporting and promoting Luxembourgish and Luxembourg-based artists by creating art exhibitions and launching debates on fair working conditions for artists and on the artist’s particular roles in society. “La Concierge comes from the idea that it would be like a concierge in a hotel, who is always this person, who kind of receives new people, learns from other people, but also guides the clients coming to the hotel,” Steven points out. Liliana adds that “the idea behind La Concierge is really to come together as artists and build something in a community sense, where we can all relate to each other and all grow and learn from each other. [...] It’s a collective spirit kind of thing. It’s not as if he [Steven] or I are at the top of the hierarchy. We are just starting the project.”

The reason for this endeavour is, according to them, the lack of a proper appreciation of artists‘ contributions to society. There exists, as Liliana continues, the widespread idea “that artists are just something to embellish society,” that “we just do nice, cute things that people can hang in their living rooms. But I think that artists are so much more than that, because we bring criticism to society that is very much needed and that is oftentimes not approached [by others].”

What they observe is that artists are rarely remunerated for exhibiting their works, and galleries usually take a 50% commission on every sold piece of art. Thus, if artists don’t sell at all, they even make a loss. Galleries often argue that exhibitions provide visibility, but for La Concierge, this is not enough. “Visibility does not pay bills,” Steven says.

One of the missions of La Concierge therefore consists of sensitising not only the artists themselves but also other cultural agents in the art sector about artists‘ needs and rights in order to render the artistic career path a viable and sustainable option for aspiring art professionals in Luxembourg.

With their first collective exhibition, Lost Symbiosis, La Concierge hopes to set an example in the Luxembourgish art world. With financial support from the Ministery of Culture, the Oeuvre Nationale de Secours Grand-Duchesse Charlotte and the Fondation Été, every exhibiting or performing artist, panel talk invitee, and workshop organiser will be paid fairly for their work. Moreover, the Aalt Stadhaus in Differdange, which is providing the space for the exhibition, will ask for only a minor commission on sold pieces.

Lost Symbiosis © La Concierge
Lost Symbiosis © La Concierge

A lost symbiosis

“In the 21st century, I think that we are confronted with a big loss of symbiosis. [...] I feel like we are entering this phase of losing something that’s very innate to us due to societal, technological, and economic advancement,” Liliana states. According to her, the fast-paced advancement, although not necessarily destructive, drives us in certain ways apart from each other and corrodes our relation to ourselves.

In their exhibition Lost Symbiosis, nine artists from different disciplines and backgrounds will tackle the theme from very different angles. While fashion designer Alessia Bicchielli does installations with cord and textile and reflects on emotional disconnections within society, Liz Lambert shares in her photography her very intimate view on the streets of Luxembourg. Aleksandra Ratkovic, a Luxembourgish artist living in Berlin, invites people to explore their emotions while interacting with her installation. Luan Lamberty and Delphine Synadino each deal in a different way with the act of bringing people together, while symbolically reverting to the unifying potential of ‘the dining table’. In his grotesque collages, the Luxembourgish artist Lascar incites spectators to rethink social norms and the constructed nature of our ‘so-called truths’. Samantha Wilvert offers a different but not less subversive look at society by questioning in her documentary photography the dichotomic categorization of human beings.

Liliana and Steven themselves are also part of the exhibiting ensemble. “My work in general goes a lot about self-awareness and being in touch with one’s emotions, as well as the duality of emotions and thought,” Liliana tells me. Her photographs, paintings, and collages will be all about body distortions – “this losing of our own identity, of who we really are, just to please society and to go along with societal norms.” Steven’s photographic work, on the other hand, will talk a lot about his youth and the lost connection he experienced with a part of his family. “I stumbled upon an old picture from a buffet, a banquet from the 90s where there was like this huge swan-shaped melon and a lot of meat and chocolate, and it actually evoked a memory that I had forgotten about that time, about these huge buffets that we did as a family back then,” he recounts. He then recreated the old family photo with the help of his aunt, who did the initial buffet 30 years ago, and reconnected with this forgotten part of his past in the process.

In order to provoke change, La Concierge wants to create a conversation. That’s why, in addition to the exhibition, there will be a programme of panel talks and workshops that dive even deeper into the topic of Lost Symbiosis by discussing gender disparities in art throughout history, the intersection of culture and politics, and the impact of artificial intelligence on artistic expression.

Programme, Lost Symbiosis © La Concierge
Event programme, Lost Symbiosis © La Concierge

“The whole thing is both personally and professionally so inspiring, instructive, and rewarding, and we can’t wait for it to happen. We’re getting very excited,” Liliana concludes at the end of our interview. Just like the dedicated founders of La Concierge, people can look forward to their first big coup in the Luxembourgish art scene.

The exhibition and event series Lost Symbiosis will take place from 14th December 2023 until 14th January 2024 at the Espace H2O in Differdange. The vernissage will be on 14th December at 7.30 p.m. and will be opened by a dance performance by George Maikel.