Local, tie or visit. Editoriality for visual arts and local scenes

Local, empate o visita.

This article was published in the context
of the Seminar of Contemporary Art
Concepción, Chile. November 2010.

[versión en español]

Two years ago, in November 2008, we carried out -along with 25 Argentine artists, curators and independent cultural managers- a seminar/discussion about Editoriality for the Visual Arts at the Fondo Nacional de las Artes (National Fund for the Arts).

We began with the analysis I made of my own experience as editor in chief of Sepiensa [debate.art.society], which I condensed in the phrase «failure has a deeper narrative density than success».

From this point, we attempt to find out how the artistic production is related to the discoursive production, trying to eliminate reverse discrimination, that (always) favors academic texts and the authorities that this institution produces; and that the rest of us recognize, even if reluctantly.

For that, I proposed the figure of curator as an editor to distinguish their functions and priorities from other types of curatorial work which focus on the historical, conceptual or social positioning and build their justification based on these logics. Or others, such as Shopping Curator or Google Curator, that choose works by repetition (the mathematical notion of mode).

I also suggested that the curator as an editor acts in regard to large audiences and art institutions, like a sensationalist newspaper or celebrities tabloid´s editor (as in the UK would be a The Sun´s editor, or in the USA an In Touch´s one). They select, relate and highlight.

The curator as an editor reads -and interprets- the reading conditions of the general public, their abilities and interests; and develops a kind of seductive writing for that audience. What does he/she actually do? He/she provokes consequences by using artworks (more specifically, their images) through an effectual organization -and not for that, superficial- of the most obvious signs that can be read in them.

In the following years, this notion settled in what is known as Content-Curator, used to refer to those who select, analyze and reproduce all kinds of web contents for a group of readers-followers.

His/hers primary ability is to know how to affect what pre-exists without violenting it and how he/she can keep the intrigue (and thus the attention and loyalty of his/her readers) to facilitate the reproduction of their abilities (the critical reading one). He/she is an analyst who favors analytical capabilities and that does not proselytize about his/her manifest (or dogma) or about his/her conclusions converted into knowledge.

This is accomplished by inserting the artworks in the economic system in two ways: firstly, by removing adjectivations from the object to make it transportable (diminishing it signically); and secondly, turning its symbolic value into financial value.

The need for the Curator as an Editor is justified in the sense that for the mass media, artistic practices are recognized only when their objects act on their behalf.

Then, he/she places the artworks on equal terms with the other images produced by the cultural industry, in the suspicion and hope that the polysemy of the artwork would resist this contention and that it would be possible to continue naming and using it as an artwork.

No one solves a problem that doesnt know they have.

These notions, which basis we had intuitively developed with the experimental exhibitions at the Museum Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna (Santiago de Chile, 2006-2007), were converted into hypotheses with the idea of «Luchín Art-Strategy». This is as an ex post (since then) systematization of the facts: an organization that it is made from the knowledge generated by them.

This notion of «Luchín Art-Strategy», which was discussed with Justo Pastor Mellado and Daniel González M. in 2006, was then exposed as a curatorial portfolio at Entrecampos 2008 (General Roca, Argentina); where we suddenly discovered the reasons why (all of us) are striving to sustain notions of value that were built by modern art and why we are reproducing such knowledge models.

Because this is a promise that organizes our confidence in the system, though never fulfill and not pretending to be fulfilled.

We discovered, afterward, that the notions that we were building in Chile were being implemented (alongside) in the Argentine local art scenes (in eight or nine provinces); emerging with that a series of ways of organization and also of artistic and discoursive procedures, in many cases an ambition, for these new practices.

Concepts so dear to us such as «independent management», «innovations in production», «prospecting» and «recognition of the other» were being warned by the dominant scene (Buenos Aires, the only one that is not self- referred as «local» in Argentina).

But how was this provincial phenomenon being understood?

  • As a way of feeding with «new contents» to the dominant scene.
  • As a way of choosing artworks to match the criteria already built and as an operation to recruit labor force.
  • As a way of subordinating colonization through the extension of a single model of «thought and reward.»
  • And, in the dominant scene, as a selling argument to obtain funds (from public or private institutions and foundations) for projects and educational programs that will turn them (at best) in harmless small clones.

With this evidence, we decided to identify the errors that were being made in the art clinics in Argentina. After the diagnosis, we decided to carry out our own experience and thus, test our propositions in each location and effectively consider the critical view of those who were involved. That is, put into practice a different model that would be able to account the diversity of attempts, which are gathered under the wide term of «local scenes».

Hence, during the Sparring Tour (April-October 2009) we moved the object of analysis from the artwork to it´s argumentative defense, as a way to undermine the authority that says “how an artwork should be done» and “how it should be used»; and as an attempt to understand the parameters within which the discourse moves; and how it is self-aware when it enunciates -explicit or implicitly- about what it understands by artwork, how it expects it to be judged and how it is willing to make it circulate.

The statements, made by the artists, simultaneously address about the conditions of the case and about its context. Discourse requires a consensus on the value that it is not necessarily oriented to the satisfaction of another (discourse or model).

What do local art scenes have? A favorable lag and a productive misunderstanding regarding the dominant art system. These differences and their specificity are lost when a «spelling», grammar or manners corrections are made: they are being standardized and functionalized.

Why? Largely local scenes are an editorial strategy for a key scene to where weak counterpart to expand the membership at the same time reaffirms, built and planted evidence, convinced confidence.

What is it left on the local art scene after this operation?

  • Some representatives that, like a consulate or cultural affairs department, repeat that distant hope;
  • the obstructed (artists), that after the initial fascination, they discover that they do not correspond or meet the demands of a castigatory father;
  • and finally, a few that support the autonomy of their efforts despite being aware of the trilogy hero-martyr-rebel (a procedure we named Art Qaeda in Bariloche, 2009).

Therefore, to use the version developed afterwards by Mellado of Visual Arts Editoriality, we say that the “Curator as an Editor» is a “Service Curatorship». At whose service? For the institutionality that is the objectivation and objectuation of the dominant discourse.

Mellado suggests, in the frame of the conceptual definition of the First Chile Triennial (which was later discarded by the spectacularization of their objectives), that «field editing» allows the subversion to satisfy, simultaneously, its objectives and those of the autonomous local art scenes.

The field editor is, in our interpretation, both a cartographer and a topographer. He/she manages knowledge and skills that let him/her observes the inner relations of (productive and argumentative) coherence of a local art scene and favor it without subordinate it, while determining its “specific weight» in relation to other scenes.

The redefinition of the Curator as an Editor, which compel us the field editor, implies recognizing what the dominant scene´s main weakness is: the public participates of large opinion groups, without even the necessity of agreeing to their terms. It only acknowledges the extent of the model and its ability to explain «in general terms» what it is happening.

It is a weakness to be capitalized by the local art scenes.

The conflict of visual arts editoriality and local art scenes is focused on how they set (and remember) their goals, who they recognize as their counterparts and how, beyond the geographical limitations, they establish a network of accomplices who will challenge them.

The place of the editor in relation to artists and local art managers.

Germina Campos organized (in Santa Fe, 2007) a meeting of artists- managers based on Ricardo Bausbaum´s idea of “Artists, etc.». This was, simultaneously, a diagnosis and a work program.

Much of the Argentina´s local contemporary art development since 2001 was built as follows: in the absence or severe insufficiency of institutionality, the artists took on multiple roles to ensure the quality and competence of their initiatives. The following step was that many of them, in the process of professionalization, were leaving behind their artistic production.

Why? Because if the artist-etcetera cannot establish within his/her environment the needed institutionality, he/she is only subsidizing the failure with his/her own incompetence.

The establishment of art institutions allows professionalism, and thus the specification of roles and functions. Since the manager’s ability is very precise and differs in its objectives and priorities from those of the artists and other required agents.

The complexity of negotiations induces the route from the one-man band to the social division of labor, from the leader (caudillo) to the system. If not, everything goes to hell when it runs out, is defunded or held back.

What is the editor´s role? What is the role of the editorial task? To know something that is discovered needed along with the management practice: knowing what not to do.

The editor prioritizes and regulates, doses and modulates.

That is why we do not use the term “independence» to refer to the local art scenes. We talk about autonomy. We talk about the effective capacity for decision-making, the ability to establish tactical agreements and strategic alliances, being able to accord with interests through binding negotiations.

What it is assumed behind all this, is that there is an art contemporizing impulse of the cultural production, which brings together the nineteenth-century anthropological virtues (in the manner of descriptive inventories from Rugendas or Perito Moreno), the diagrammatic capabilities that allow to escape from the personal preferences tyranny and the blindness of submersive involvement and, finally, the diplomatic skills that act in accordance with the positive consequences.

Not only that, but also a favorable environment. Because we know now that there are locations where contemporary art is not necessary, places that reached an unyielding symbolic stability and, thus, does not need us.

It is necessary to know when to fight and also know when to quit. Know that, as my brother Pablo once said, the one who fights all the battles, dies in a unimportant one.

And we got to the point that brings us together this evening: the myth of reconstruction. Days after the earthquake of February 27th 2010, I received an email from Concepción (Chile) that wondered if it was possible contemporary art under these circumstances. Moreover, it asked if contemporary art was even necessary after the catastrophe.

My response was: more than ever! Sense irradiation, created by an art system, is able to resist these attacks because its fable (its fiction) generates confabulations able to hold and organize the necessary efforts, bringing together the political connotations of artistic production and the aesthetic consequences of political action.

I began by quoting the phrase “failure has a deeper narrative density than success«: in developing our own way of taking challenges for production and management of contemporary art, we have had enough obstacles (personal and not personal) and we have been forced by parameters that do not relate or apply to our efforts (the same parameters that point us as a failure).

From this novel it is that we can raise a couple of ideas, a couple of procedures, so as the love for the place where we decide and desire to live in has a future with freedom. From now.

Jorge Sepúlveda T.                                              Ilze Petroni
Independent Art Curator                                  Art Researcher

Córdoba, Argentina, November 2010.

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