Nora Turato: Proustian interview with afterword

Stefano Pirovano

We have met Nora Turato, an over educated graphic designer who became a performer artist, to question the information she exposes herself to.

When we reach her, Nora Turato is in the Svalbard Islands, where she is working on a project which is still top-secret. Normally, she is based in Amsterdam. She doesn’t really work in her studio. She prefers to go outside, walk her dogs and work (with the smartophone) wherever she likes. The big metal panels presented at Galerie Gregor Staiger, the wall paintings, so as the printed posters – which the collector buys as a unique piece, that can however be replicated at will, since the artist assigns, together with the work, also its copyright – require artisan’s manufacturing, rather than artist’s hands. The studio is even less necessary than the laptop. In her monologues Nora Turato is actually the medium of herself. Bi-dimensional works are simply supports. Probably the real source to look at, that is the undeclared subject of her works, is all that information that flies above us. And that now and then descends on humans or objects.

Nora Turato
Nora Turato performing at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich on 29 August 2019.

As an artist, what would you say is your favourite subject matter?

Nora Turato: The subjects I tend to gravitate towards are often those that I come across in research or idle time spent following my personal interests. But those tend to be random, and the only thing connecting them is me being interested in them. Swimming, Netflix, lululemon stocks, human voice, politics in arctic, dogs, advertising… to name a few. No matter how random, many of these interests can be catalysed into something of a more political and topical meaning that can resonate with an audience not necessarily interested in these subjects, to begin with.

I think you can compare it to Kathy Acker taking up bodybuilding as her personal interest/obsession, and then finding a way to write and think about it in terms of language. This is an example of bodybuilding as an interest being used as a device to discuss some other things that then start to resonate with predominantly non bodybuilding audience, that is an audience interested in politics of language. I guess this is what really interests me; how these daily and very personal occupations can be read in a grander scheme of things.

Do you believe in abstraction?

Nora Turato: I do find myself sourcing language for its aural quality rather than for its sense or meaning. But getting rid of meaning is kind of hard… maybe also a bit passé [she laughs].

You can argue that what I do is a form of failed abstraction, or at least a type of compression attempt. I guess that does signify some sort of belief in abstraction.

Which is the most inspiring place for you?

Nora Turato: My bed, or couch, dog park, swimming pool. I have this idea that if I was ever going to write a novel, it would revolve around a small country swim team sometime before the financial crisis of 2008, followed by these athletes retiring. This routine of kicking water 4 hours a day and commuting to train for 2 hours a day opposed to the life after, the phenomena of spending the most formative years possible on swimming. This is again something stemming from a very personal interest, but has a great potential of delving into bigger subjects.

Just for the record, I don’t think this novel will ever happen, it’s just a fantasy of mine.

In a nutshell, what I am inspired the most by is the information I expose myself through reading and cinema. It may be for my life is kind of boring, If you take what I do daily I can’t say these things are inspirational in a very cliche sense of things. I always found it rather annoying. These creatives exposing themselves to different kind of stressors in order to gain inspiration.

The closest I got to it lately has been entering PWC office building uninvited and having a smoothie in their canteen… this is something I’m willing to do for “research”.

Nora Turato
Nora Turato performing at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich on 29 August 2019.

What is the quality that you prefer in a gallerist?

Nora Turato: I like friendly professionalism. My ideal gallerist is someone who’s common sense rimes with my idea of common sense, which in itself is kind of uncommon.

And which one in a collector?

Nora Turato: There are some “instant gratification” qualities, like not asking for unreasonable discounts, paying on time, showing works, maintaining them, being friendly and such. But, to be honest, I neither have such relationships with collectors nor so much of experience with these relationships to be able to say what I prefer. I think you should ask me this in 20 years time and few auctions later.

Is there any colour or shape that you hate?

Nora Turato: Like any tasteful millennial, i guess I find triangular stuff a bit annoying, you know what I mean… that Hay like triangle design stuff… In terms of art, I don’t like anthropomorphic shapes in sculpture. It seems super problematic to me. It’s such an easy shape to resolve, it’s even easier than a circle because it comes with an alibi of being something more than the circle, while it’s actually not.

What makes an idea become an artwork?

Nora Turato: I am really against ideas! Every time I had an idea and I created something stemming from that one idea it was a total disaster. Every time I try to make an idea happen is also the time when the project falls apart. This is very personal as there are a bunch of great artists basing their whole practice around executing ideas they have. To be frank, I think I am simply jealous of these artists. Like performance artists who develop a performance solely around one idea that they then execute as a part of a performance… I can’t do this stuff, coming out of me it ends up being pretentious and full of itself.

What would you have done if you were not an artist?

Nora Turato: I think about that constantly. I’ve been calling myself an artist for only three years now and I started calling myself that because anything else seemed to confuse people. It became a perfect getaway designation that prevented me from coming across as an eager slasher.

I am an over-educated graphic designer and I worked for few years as one. I must say I do feel a strong sense of comfort knowing I can always go out there and get a job that I actually love – graphic design.

But, graphic designer, artist… these are things I am or have been so if I had to choose something new it would definitely be a vet.

Nora Turato
Nora Turato performing at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich on 29 August 2019.


Nora Turato studied graphic design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, where someone apparently told her it would be better if she didn’t become an artist. “I was a sort of irrational nerd, separated from my own ideas” she recalls. She then went on to pursue a Master’s degree at the Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem – which was, according to her, more similar to an artist residency, given the large extent of freedom that artists are granted. From there she moved to the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, where she studied from 2017 until last Summer. During that time the graphic designer has actually started to consider herself an artist (here is a link to our writing on Karel Martens, founder of Werkplaats Typografie and master graphic designer who also developed an artistic practice).

Nora Turato was born in Zagreb, and grew up between Zagreb and Split. Both her parents are architects, despite dealing with opposite fields. The father builds daring contemporary buildings, whereas the mother is specialised in the preservation of listed ones. Creativity and culture, at Turato’s home, are regarded as precise functions.

Nora Turato
Nora Turato performing at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich on 29 August 2019.

Where does the arduous/wild stream of randomly connected thoughts that Nora Turato first writes, rehearses then performs as a seasoned actress in her monologues? The last one took place last August at the Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich. Before that, she has performed at the Bielefelder Kunstverein, the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Manifesta 12, and at the Museu Serralves in Porto. In the near future Nora Turato will be at the Centre Pompidou, during Move 2020. Thus, we would say that that stream comes from Turato’s extensive reading, and from the way the artist (at least for the time being) processes, explores, and questions both physical and virtual sources.

Nora Turato uses a lot Twitter, Reddit and Kindle, always from her smartphone. She says she only uses the pc to send invoices. This also means being part of a generation which, in her words, ‘is killing hotels, department stores, chain restaurants, car industry, diamond industry, napkin industry, home ownership, marriage, door bells, motorcycles, fabric softeners, wealthy programs, serendipity …art balls with no massages inside’ (here is a passage from the text she performed at the Bielefelder Kunstverein in 2018). Nora Turato’s monologues are indeed deeply rooted in the present time, which is conveyed to the public from Nora Turato’s point of view, who moves the boundary between art and life as she likes.

February 18, 2020