Carolina Castro-Jorquera Speaks About the Second Edition of Ch.ACO's PLANTA Section

1. What does the PLANTA program consist of? What novelties shall it bring to its second edition?

PLANTA is a section within Ch.ACO Fair where one can find a selection of the independent spaces and/or projects that best represent what is going on in Latin America today. PLANTA is the place to see, buy, and exchange experiences with artists and agents who are proposing new ways of addressing the contemporary art market, and most especially, of facing current artistic production.

2. What is PLANTA’s contribution to the fair?

PLANTA isn’t thought out in terms of the cultural industry; we don’t evaluate the impact or development of a “Latin American art scene”, rather, what we are concerned with is stimulating relationships between the area’s professionals at a regional level. When I proposed that Ch.ACO Fair create PLANTA, it was because I had observed that within the local Chilean scene, independent spaces had an important shortcoming: their relationships with the commercial world, art collecting and patronage was very small, even distant. In addition to this, there was a misunderstanding of sorts that regarded the market as something negative, and not as a place that could be accessed in a nourishing, natural, and fluid manner. Secondly, the national scene was in urgent need to relate itself to initiatives from neighboring countries and thus begin to create a “Latin American union” of sorts; to share ways of working, generating exchanges and being able to observe the different realities that each country experiences with regards to contemporary art. PLANTA came about to bring together independent spaces and projects from all over Latin America, and to jointly propose a new way of looking at the market, which has in turn affected the Fair itself, bringing freshness and innovation, as well as generating greater closeness and collaboration amongst stands from different latitudes in Latin America. During the Fair, in addition to having a stand where the artists’ work will be for sale, PLANTA’s spaces shall also accommodate daily meetings and work sessions, where participants shall be able to introduce themselves to each other professionally and generale real alliances.

3. What is your primary consideration when it comes to selecting the spaces invited to PLANTA?

I’m constantly looking for proposals throughout the continent. I’ve set Latin America as a geographical constraint because it seems very difficult to tackle any more territory than that, and because within our own limits there are already large differences in contexts and tremendous projects. For example, and consider this point to be very relevant, it’s possible that modes of operating in Puerto Rico and in Chile may be similar for a space or an independent project: to have a physical space, to generate exhibitions, to relate to the neighborhood, etc. But Puerto Rico’s current political and economic situation is so complex, that artists’ proposals and priorities in art are completely different from those that you might find in a group of Chilean artists of the same generation. The materials they use and the discourses that operate in each place are very different. Globalization still has connected and dispersed zones. I am interested in showing that Latin America isn’t just one culture, but rather, an infinite variety of identities and problems. Contemporary art isn’t a homogenous aesthetic terrain, as it may seem judging by art magazines, biennials, or fairs: it’s much more diverse and heterogeneous. When selecting the participating spaces, I seek out those who can show different realities, their own realities, with good artists and solid proposals.

4. What is your vision of Chilean contemporary art? Do you think that it has positioned itself within the international market?

Personally, I wouldn’t go as far as to say “Chilean art”. There is an art context in Chile, there are Chilean artists who live abroad, there are many labels and there are those who represent those labels, but there isn’t one art. I think that Chile has shaped and is currently shaping a lot of good artists, and that fortunately, communications nowadays are allowing for these artists to have more and more coverage abroad and to develop the ability to be contemporary artists wherever they are, attending a residency in England, a Master’s degree in New York, or being represented by galleries in Paris or Korea. Our artists, those born in Chile, are reaching the level of the international scene more and more every day, through their own merits, either because they’ve found the way to do it or because they’re developing themselves as professionals in this field. And it’s because there’s really no other way to do it today: either you’re a professional, or you’re out. Regarding the “positioning” of “Chilean art”, I don’t think it’s actually that really exists. There are fads, like what is currently happening in the international market with Argentinean artists, or with Colombians, and I can imagine that at some moment it’ll be the Chileans’ turn. But that’s a random medium, or the product of very powerful politics that seek to position a country’s art within a global market. These efforts are being made in Chile, and I hope that we can see the results of this soon. Meanwhile, independently, Chilean artists and a few gallery owners do what they can to position their name, and Chile’s along with it, in the international market.

6. In what ways can PLANTA continue to grow and contribute to the recognition of independent spaces within Latin America?

PLANTA is, like its name suggests, an organic entity that requires a series of nutrients and biological time in order to develop and bear fruits. Last year, for its first edition, the program caused quite some curiosity amongst the Fair’s assistants, receiving some important recognitions. The EFG-ArtNexus Award was granted to Quisqueya Henríquez, an artist belonging to the Dominican space, Sindicato; two of the FAVA Collection’s acquisitions were artists belonging to the Santiago-based space, Sagrada Mercancía, and the Chilean art collectors CA.SA (Gabriel Carvajal and Ramón Sauma) honored us with a prize that was specifically intended for PLANTA artists. From this perspective, this section presents itself as a great contribution to the Fair and a great opportunity for each one of the spaces, with its artists and agents, for generating long-term alliances, whether it’s with their peers from other countries or with collectors. Its objective is to become a gathering place for independent spaces and projects that is a point of reference for all of Latin America.

7. In what ways do you see these types of formats advancing and developing in the rest of the world? In your opinion, what is its main importance?

I haven’t had the opportunity to see this format at another fair or anywhere else in the world. Although I do know of initiatives that are similar to PLANTA in spirit, such as the Supersimétrica project, which is an international gathering for independent projects that takes place in Madrid and focuses mainly on countries from southern Europe and Latin America. I have kept a constant exchange with them, since we are both observing the same phenomenon. Independent spaces, projects in this line of investigation and action, exist throughout the world and are often the most alchemical centers of each country’s artistic scene, city, etc., which brews up the things that then go on to nourish a larger system. To me, its main importance lies in that these are the projects—which are closest to what is new, to what is emerging, to what is surging in each place, with artists that are graduating from schools and are beginning to develop their careers—that allow for their participants to share the stage with other artists with more experience, nourishing their dialogues and growing professionally as equals. There are also some obstacles. And without a doubt, the main challenge that these sorts of spaces face is economical. As curator of PLANTA, a great part of my work is focused on helping them handle the Fair’s participation costs (stand payment, airfare, hotel stay, etc.) Having an independent project isn’t a romantic or ‘hippie’ idea; it’s like having a small business. So after presenting their projects and understanding their most conceptual proposals, the artists whom they work with, and their impact on their local scenes, then the evaluation of their economic situation and the search for collectors and institutions that may help them begins.

Photo courtesy of Estudio Leclic