Local (Ob)Scenes – An overlook

[versión en español]

This article summarizes different discussions, which we held during 2009, related to the artworks defense clinic SPARRING TOUR held in Argentina and Uruguay with local art managers Fernando García Delgado (Buenos Aires), Roly Arias and María Laura Buccianti (Salta), Aníbal Buede (Córdoba), Germina Campos and Lucas Mercado (Santa Fe – Paraná), Alejandra and Fernanda Hernández, Andrea and Aileen Fernández (General Roca – Neuquén), Lorraine Green and Mercedes Schamber (Bariloche), Irina Svoboda (Comodoro Rivadavia), Bruno Juliano and Javier El Vázquez (Tucumán), Eugenia González and Antonella De Ambroggi (Montevideo).

We discussed the possibility of creating a horizontal knowledge circulation model; we tried to justify authority without allowing authoritarianism; we analyzed discipline avoiding at all costs disciplining; we made innovations in the way portfolios are reviewed (over 120 contemporary artists).

What we discovered, the hypothesis that we tested and this main idea that none of us is as smart as all of us together, compel us to transform the clinic into what we called “cloisters» and residences; all of which we now carry on because we know that all our conclusions are provisional; that art inaugurates knowledge fields, refines the satisfiers and last, but not least, tells us that we are a flock.

Nihil sapientis odiosus acumine nimio. Seneca

There are several ways to hide things. One beautiful is to leave them in the naked eye, like in The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe. The inspector was used to call «unique» to all that was beyond his comprehension, and lived, therefore, among an absolute legion of «singularities».

For those ones, who have not to be captivated by the ability of discourse and to avoid its utterly ventriloquism capacity… for it not to impose an objective, for not drifting it to a telos, we will think about the ways of knowing.

In this article, I will circle the way a local contemporary art scene is built, recognized and interacted and I will explain some cases by a comparison between the art system in Chile and Argentina due to my working experiences in each of them.

Let us return then to the matter.

The approach to a local scene builds a relationship, it takes it as a study subject and/or as a collaborative involvement, it reads it, examines and values it.

This is a constituent decision, as in love, whatever you do, modifies the other and this, yourself.

Sometimes I came to agree with the idea that a subject is constituted upon request. This means that the subject acts as a nebula, which objectifies itself when required by another; at this moment, it is structurally and discursively organized. I think local scenes are subjects that are available to requirement, that their own attributes are their predispositions and predilections.  They are a subject available to its objectification, a syndrome (a cluster of symptoms) that is defining its artistic production and discursive modes. After establishing its internal logic, they will become a disease model.

So, what do we find when we discover a syndrome? What do we do when we built it? We discursively establish a logic that describes it.

Above all, any discourse depends on its instrument. The measurement tool can shape the evidence and the evidence can force the significance.

Plato thinks, in Gadamer´s words, that there are two ways of measuring. One is establishing the measure on something and setting out how that thing fits the measure; the other is the measure, which is within things themselves, a metrion.

Therefore, the field researcher must be in a vulnerability position. First, he should betray himself as many times as necessary.

This is to not take him to a telos.

Discourse is a plan and a program. Always. The issue is how the other is considered, how it intends to turn a connection into a bond. What is its quality; what is its density; which are its adjectives. Discourse is a complex system that faces another one that is in process. What does a system want from another system? More system. Always. The question is how. A system can be organized as an extension of another system or as its complement.

Discourse can staged a state of surprise. Choreographed it. Like an “I do not know what you do, but you are doing it well». Or say: “yeah yeah, I love these blacks, in fact I have a pair at home».

Let´s go for the cases to explain the ranges. My objection to Argentina´s art clinic model, led me to plan a tour to test some hypotheses. This work -which I called SPARRING TOUR (March to October 2009)- acted on various research levels. It was -among others- a field overview of artists’ portfolios and a way to strengthen relations (both political and artistic).

Its conclusions were accurate. Indeed, the model misleads to errors. There is no way. It is the clinic that conditions the clinicee, it makes him/her speak in the language of the clinician. The clinicee learns quickly (seeing other artists´s presentations) the contingent efficiencies used to get the clinician approval. Efficiencies which are good for nothing, because they respond to a diagnosis always changing (a state of things) that the clinicee takes as an established discourse.

The local scene, taken over by an art clinic, ends organized by the words of the last available discourse. The artworks (but mainly the manner of speaking about them) are subordinated to an argumentative structure within an argumentative framework. The colonization, which was previously imposed by political and economical powers, it is now more profound: it is a language colonization.

We see, then, in the Argentine emerging local scenes, periods defined by the subsequent assimilation of the terms used in clinics. The fashion system has been imposed on the best way it knows: the paternalistic conviction of being collaborating in its development, acts through the seduction of those who are unaware that seduction is also a mechanical system.

And I say that clinicees appropriate the terms because what is left unknown is the structure of knowledge, which have them as consequences. Terms as exempt sculptures. Art pedagogy is not art, is a divulgation and recycling system of a thought structure. It is a process designed to regulate cognitive processes with their correlated biases.

This is why during the Cloister “PUESTA EN PRÁCTCA» / PUT INTO PRACTICE (Córdoba, November 2009) we declared the art clinic´s death as a system of knowledge circulation and production. The authority structure that requires the discourse does not imply authoritarianism, discipline is not disciplining.

Again: the problem is not those who manage or run it, or those who participate in it. The error is induced by the model. Its implementation and its regulations make the falsification occur, the frustration, false expectations and disproportionate requirements.

Another example. Salta, in the middle of the conference called “Everything that is not desolation» (September 2009), an idea that had been fairly enunciated in “ART QAEDA» (Bariloche, June 2009) was consolidated: any independent initiative starts as heroic, inevitably makes their managers martyrs. Martyrdom´s exit is guerrilla formations: a light institution, economic, symbolic and financially.

This is how to go from (alleged) independence to autonomy. Independence is a trap, an argument to win a fellowship or financial aid. There is no independence in complex systems. What could be aspired to is to an autonomous co-dependency.

The ringed organization, which I have proposed for the Argentine art system, addresses to the specific developments in both artistic and production techniques, as well as discursive. A simplified wording would be: in the first ring, Buenos Aires that concentrates economic and human resources, which allows the implementation of an influence system, which -under a caring educational plan- is educating skilled workers who feed it.

The second ring (Rosario, Córdoba and Montevideo) is within the first ring irradiation area -not so close to get burned, not so far to get cooled- receiving recurrent influences and methodological advice. Distance allows divergences in forms and some objections to how a career´s objectives are understood.

A third ring (local scenes such as Salta, Bariloche, Neuquén-Roca, Comodoro Rivadavia, Santa Fe, among others) has the distance privilege. There is a feeling not so hidden that it is always greener the neighbor’s yard, where those who have not renounced their participation in the system, continue to see Buenos Aires as El Dorado.

In Chile. The Chilean feudal art system has as a binomial axis the Academy and the government institution, where the emerging local scenes are areas of influence dispute between intellectuals and institutions.

Concepción and Valparaíso are strategically precarious local scenes; Valdivia, Temuco, Talca and Iquique are instrumentalized fictions. In each of them, heroes face the NO FUTURE with the NO LOGO.

Cultural interventions made by Chile´s Triennial came to consolidate the grant and subversion model, in which the first one modulates the second. Few were able to understand the poisoned condition of the offerings made by the government.

Chilean-Argentine horizontal corridors exchange, which were carried out by the Triennial (Iquique, Salta, Tucumán and Neuquén Valdivia-General Roca), are -in participants words- disproportionate forces.

Argentina´s third ring has a degree of self-management and institutional implementation that exceeds those who were intended as their peers. All this was held on a promise so broad and ambiguous that it could hardly be demanded. In fact, what happened was of a remarkable pragmatism, using the words of Marcos Figueroa over breakfast at Tucumán: «We put the party together, now you all have to mate».

Back to the beginning. Artists, managers and contemporary art associated services -within the local scenes- are read, in their actions and intentions, by the dominant discourses, and often by themselves, as falling short proceedings. That is, depending on how long does it take to become a replica that organizes the model.  What is openly hidden is that the center is also a local mirror subjected to an international system, where this one is the edge. This is my first proposal: we have to relativize the outside measurement. Refute its subordination verticality and use its axiomatic structure to implement its consolidation. Use it as a parameter and not as a directive.

To verify that indeed what it is happening is actually contemporary art, it is necessary to follow and pursue development processes, document its transformations -as an anthropologist who has found new species and avoids making comparative anatomy (as suggested in the paragraph above)- like someone in love with his subject and looks for its consolidation, consistency and deployment.

It is the metrion contained in each scene what has to be explored. The metrion is, in part, that fantasy of being able to do justice to things by the rules that they had given to themselves to their organization.

Now, an exhaustive study requires that both measures occur simultaneously. How? Trying to observe the forest and the tree. And in this way, avoid the distortion caused by the imposition of a knowledge model. How is it done? Dancing.

On my perspective, what knowledge does is to allow us to administrate ignorance. This would allow us to locate what is hidden in front of our eyes.

Jorge Sepúlveda T.
Independent Curator
Buenos Aires, july 2009 – Valparaíso, january 2010.


Galería de Imágenes / Image Gallery

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