Farida Mazlan is the curator of Destroy Art Inc, an international punk rock art agency.
What are your first memories of feeling passionately towards the arts?
Growing up in Malaysia, I had to choose between the Sciences & the Arts during middle/high school. It wasn’t my choice to enter the Science stream, and I very quickly discovered my drawings and graphical illustrations in classes like biology were much better than my flow of facts.
You are a curator, agent, and publisher - how do you find the time for all of this?
I don’t! Juggling exhibition-making, running an online art store and working with artists on various projects means I have to force time for personal development, care and creation. I’m extremely grateful to have a highly talented, driven, visionary and complementary creative partner by my side to ensure our projects come to fruition as effectively as possible.
But I do wish there were more hours in each day. It’s not a complaint- if you love what you do,it doesn’t feel like work! A successful French curator I studied under once said “Being a curator is an impossible job- you have to know how to do EVERYTHING”, so I’m constantly learning through each experience.
What compels you to represent the DIY punk and underground scene?
Punk rock has been a huge influence in my life since I was an early teen, just as much as my interest in art. I’m getting close to 19 years of working, performing, curating and organizing various underground music and art events in 18 countries so all I’ve done has led up to Destroy Art Inc - a global platform of support for punk and underground artists. The genre of punk art has never been truly taken seriously in the art world, yet there is an obvious visual aesthetic and powerful ideological stance that has always been understood and remains more relevant now
than ever. Art is meant to provoke or incite emotion, and punk art in all its irreverence has incredibly important messages to relay today about unity, grit, energy and dismantling barriers.
There are such loud voices and prolific talents in punk, yet so many artists (ie: Ed Colver, Winston Smith, Dick Lucas, Rikk Agnew, amongst many others) who contributed immensely to the history of the scene who are still relatively obscure and unknown, and still struggle to hustle. So many people recognize iconic punk art through covers and logos, yet do not know who created
them. What compels us is to ensure the creative legacy of these artists are in museums and books with their life’s work given the respect, acknowledgement and success it deserves. We also want to encourage upcoming and contemporary punk artists to connect to their anti-hero elders and have a supportive channel to showcase and expand their expressions and talents.
Do you find that the platform in which you have chosen to highlight this art community has fulfilled your initial curatorial intentions?
Yes, it has certainly developed into a deep, satisfying sense of fulfillment for the both of us. I never expected that my early passions for working with talented artists would lead me to meet and work with some of the most influential people who shaped punk culture, and those who are keeping it alive. It is an honor to be able to make their works and ideas accessible to the general public through education, collaboration, promotion and sales in support of their art.
Moving into a digital platform has allowed a much wider global reach for all the artists to have their works out there, and it’s been extremely fun curating the content and releases.
What are some of the reactions you receive from your curated events?
Our first exhibition in San Francisco “Welcome to 1984//2020: Punk on the Western Front” had an incredibly successful opening night with an estimated 700 people coming through the 1600-sqft gallery. Some of our favorite reactions were social media posts from new punk artists who wished they were part of it (now one of them has now been published in our shop), and from
our more senior artists who enjoyed the evening meeting fans and old friends that came from different cities. Some of the works we showcased were politically-charged and highly controversial so it was enlightening for us (and the gallerists)to interact with first-time viewers
into the subterranean world of punk rock.
What do you find most rewarding about the curation process?
Getting to put together a cohesive (visual and intellectual) arrangement of artworks that appropriately narrates the punk rock experience and ideologies is really fun! Then having folks have fun with it by getting shocked or awed, then asking lots of questions and discovering (and giving kudos to) the depth of ideas from the artists is truly rewarding in itself.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
Not having enough hours in a day.I’d like to be cloned so one of me can work continuously
while the other sleeps, in shifts. So I guess that means “time management”. See answer of Question #2.
Are there certain qualities that you look for in artists in deciding whether they will be pleasurable to work with? And on the contrary, any areas for improvement artists should be aware of?
Artists that do not stop working, and creating! And being proactive about putting yourself out there, as often as possible. Active response to communication and deadlines if you’re part of an exhibition is crucial as well, as curators we juggle a lot and struggle occasionally with having
to chase an artist down for missing information or updates. We appreciate chaotic souls but you can do your best to be professional and cooperative.
Do you have any specific do’s and don’ts for artists looking to submit their work to you?
Don’t be shy! Jello Biafra has a shirt that says ‘The Meek Shall Inherit Shit’. If you think we might be interested, just send it! We love to see what you got and do our best to see what we can do. Don’t be afraid to ever ask for help, guidance or clarification as well. As a general rule, don’t send us your biography in an editable document, unless you want or are allowing us to fix
it. And unless we ask for hi-res, please send your digital artwork in a file size that won’t obliterate our inboxes.
Do you have future plans for curation beyond what you are doing today?
Yes we are always making plans for collaborations, releases with new artists and more exhibitions. We would love to take the show on the road as well. Ideally, we’d love to annually organize 2-3 solid group or solo exhibitions while running the online shop, with a few festivals thrown in for added inspiration, exposure and hopefully get dog-piled and picked up in the pit again so we remember what is real.