Welcome to DELVE Interviews, a look into the unique paths of artistic and creative individuals. These conversations are a branch of our DELVE Workshops and Networking Events, where we celebrate and discover everyone's unique paths as artistic and creative forces. It's a chance to learn from others, meet new people and see where our worlds overlap. Also, don't forget that we have a Delve Networking event tomorrow night, November 21st, 7 pm at Brooklyn Arts Space.
Janine Biunno is an visual artist currently based in Brooklyn, NY as well as the Director of Publications and Archives at Steven Holl Architects. She received her Masters of Fine Arts and Museum Studies from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston shortly after completing her undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University. Her artwork typically analyzes and interprets the semiotics of the built environment, in particular the subjective practice of representing and interpreting urban space. Her other interests include, but are not limited to: most tacos, 90's East Coast hip-hop, Google image search, using the photocopier at work for art projects, and her cat.
Can you describe your path in the creative industry--from where and when you began, until now?
I was always interested in architecture and design, and although I was studying in fine arts programs, my work was becoming more and more influenced by architecture from my college years onward. I was finding myself increasingly interested in the iconography of structure and infrastructure and also the subjectivity of experiencing cities and how we catalog our surroundings.
While I was working on my MFA, I also completed an additional degree in Museum Studies. While in this program I realized that I was interested in managing special collections. During my first two years of grad school I worked at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston cataloging materials from the Giza Archive Project (from their early 1900s expedition with Harvard) and then during the last year of my grad school I started working for a design firm in Cambridge where I ended up doing a lot of work to organize and catalog a really impressive industrial design collection. I knew I didn't want to stay in Boston, so I applied to a ton of jobs and eventually landed an archiving position at Steven Holl Architects that managed to combine my interests in architecture with my background in archiving. I've been there since 2008 and my role is fairly flexible. My main responsibilities are to research, develop and manage our office publications (monographs), lectures and exhibitions. It has less to do with archiving, but I do still technically manage our office archive, largely to produce the aforementioned materials.
Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?
My job requires a lot of multitasking and being able to switch gears often. No week is ever the same. At the moment I am working on finalizing a book that is going to print this week, preparing materials for a new monograph with a periodical (due out in Jan 2014), organizing a shipment to Asia for a group of materials we have just sold to a museum, and organizing materials for an exhibition in LA for early 2014. Last week I was working on proofreading and redesigning a competition booklet, the week before it was a lecture. The only consistent task that I have from week to week is working with the archiving assistant and office manager to keep all of the many materials (models, drawings, etc) in the office and our off-site archive in check.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
It is hard to narrow it down, but I think my favorite project was Scale, a book we published in 2012 with Lars Müller Publishers. It was a follow up to the book Written In Water; both were a selection of Steven's watercolors from over a 10 year period. I've completed a number of monographs since I have worked here, but with this project I had a lot of control when it came to selecting all of the drawings and organizing the structure for the book. I loved digging through 10 years worth of material (around 5000 drawings--SH is extremely prolific) and seeing ideas formulate from abstraction and gradually develop into a more literal architectural structures. It was first-hand access to his creative process.
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from managing all of your projects?
Be flexible and open to new opportunities. Don't limit your experience because you don't think it falls within your job description or above or below your perceived capabilities.
And finally, where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?
I walk everywhere. I gain a lot of inspiration from just being surrounded by the density of this city and watching it function and change.