Curators Carolina Castro and Matías Allende talk about the third edition of Planta, Ch.ACO's section dedicated to self-managed spaces
Image courtesy of Ch.ACO
Image courtesy of Ch.ACO
For this anniversary edition of Ch.ACO Art Fair, set to take place from November 22nd through the 26th in Santiago’s Vitacura area, curators Carolina Castro –in charge of this section for the third year in a row— and Matías Allende have invited 10 spaces from different latitudes of Latin America to form part of Planta, the section that brings together self-managed spaces that operate under innovative management models, and whose artistic proposals reveal the great diversity of identities and social conflicts that exist, up to date, throughout the region.
Through curatorial research and collaborative work, Planta seeks to lend visibility not only to the socio-political contexts that each of the Latin American countries represented in the section are going through, but also to the management models that surge from each context, often a product of the lack of cultural institutions; A regional mapping of current contingencies and its truest representatives. In this way, the section is configured as a platform for interaction and diffusion amongst spaces that do not feel the need to adhere to hegemonic frameworks and that, thanks to their professionalism and the artistic quality of their proposals, manage to give broader perspectives into their local contexts. At the same time, it is comprehensive space that dialogues, from a more experimental standpoint, with the Fair’s other two curated sections.
What role do these self-managed spaces play in the framework of the region’s contemporary art scene?
M.A: What Carolina did with Planta’s two first years was to give identity to a project with more curatorial work. At other fairs, one receives applications and works with spaces that have projections of becoming galleries or of staying eminently with commercial transactions. Planta, on the other hand, is an ongoing investigation, and by selecting and researching each country, it reveals strategies according to each context. And so, Planta is the result of, among other things, a mapping out the different realities of the countries that each one of the selected spaces lives in.
C.C: The spaces that they come from, their contexts, are very important, and in many cases, the relationship they are capable of generating with their surroundings, their local impact, is one of the main reasons for which we select them. The Latin American scenario is tremendously precarious, and in many cases, it occurs that independent spaces become “the institution”. This transformation, from their place of origin to the Fair’s space in Chile, is tremendously valuable, because it’s here, in Planta, where they can generate a network in which everyone shares a little of their local contexts. Each space’s representatives, artists or directors bring all of their experience with them, their ways of seeing and doing, giving way to a collective debate that generates alliances and collaborations. In addition to an interaction with the market, Planta offer a space in which they can see themselves amongst their peers, and forge alliances based on that.
How would you define the spaces that are a part of Planta?
M.A: They’re very loyal to their identities, and loyal to what their context demands. These are contexts where generating mega-infrastructures truly makes no sense, so they adapt to what lies within their reach. At the same time, several of these spaces are consolidated as platforms that provide opportunities for residencies and exhibitions, and as a consequence, they open doors for artists. These are spaces that generate an impact in the local scene. On the other hand, and more importantly, it’s the incorporation of local procedures in the execution of works of art, perhaps –as many critics have pointed out— due to the fatigue of “high tech” procedures, but more likely because of a need to rescue local narratives, forms, and palettes, which not only make the pieces more affordable, but also relate them to a general audience that can empathize with the pieces on a material level.
C.C: There’s a lot of experimentation, and I don’t say it as a cliché, but it’s possible to see projects that run many risks both in their exhibition proposals, as well as in the pieces and discourses themselves. The space “María”, for example, is a project composed by women only, all of them with very powerful pieces, which is just getting started. We don’t know the impact it will have in Lima yet, but we understand that in our current context, a feminist project that addresses issues such as representation from parity in the Peruvian artistic cultural field is absolutely pertinent.
M.A: If the spaces don’t reflect what the current concerns, needs, and deficits of these contexts are, they are spaces that are completely out of scope, because in the end, culture is one’s insertion into identity problems. Each country or region has its differences, but in those differences, there are common points. Bridges are formed between different localities, which is important, because in the end, Latin American art has sustained itself on a couple of essentialist theses.
C.C: Although they don’t have commercial aims, the structures of Planta’s spaces have gradually incorporated market aspects in an integrative way. They understand the important of the market and choose to integrate; they know how to be inside and outside, operating on the fringes and in the center of the art world, keeping up with the game.
M.A: If it weren’t for Planta, there would be no other instance, not only in Chile but also within the region, for generating a map of associations. Because they’re not commercial spaces; many of them work as artists’ residencies, or as spaces for reflection according to diverse models: lectures, academic seminars, or even neighborhood gatherings. In certain European countries, these sorts of spaces receive support from the government: each region or each country brings all of the associations together, and they share a common communication platform and receive subsidies. In our local context, with the unavoidable differences that exist between a public and a private structure, this is reduced to Ch.ACO, which is the only instance in which all of the associations and institutions related to contemporary art come together, in one week, and thanks to Planta, with or without lucrative purposes as their ultimate end.
Are there certain common themes among the presented proposals?
C.C: The common theme is diversity.
M.A: We believe that the connections lie in their diversity.
C.C: Being independent spaces, however, does not make them differ, professionally speaking, when it comes to approaching their projects: they are capable of generating exhibitions and content-filled discourses with professionalism. There’s a discursive diversity, which arises from a generation that has no interest in connecting to a hegemonic framework, as Matías said, which gives them creative freedom and allows its artists to think about different problems and work with diverse materials. This is very visible in Planta: each year, there are more powerful and substantial projects.
M.A: And in that sense, Carolina and I worked on everything from the beginning, the selection of spaces, not only for their artistic proposals but also for their infrastructures, and not only in material terms, but also in reflexive terms, and in the way the global scenario is addressed. And we just pick up on this curatorial effort at the end, when we say, “You, space from Mexico, resolve things in a similar way as this space from Tucumán in Argentina”. To be able to make these connections, which are different ways of resolving things in projects, is very interesting.
This section defines itself as a diagnosis that is product of a regional investigation.
C.C: It was important for us to continue to open this map in order to diagnose what is coming, because in the end, Planta positions itself as that space that lies between what is about to happen and what is happening right now.
M.A: I think that, above all, there are artistic production operations and procedures that are being carried out by emerging artists, in the sense that there’s a reflective work that considers the thought of a new generation. We don’t define spaces by their seniority, which would be stringent, considering what we were discussing earlier. Rather, we’re interested about in the associations is how they relate to their context, without the ultimate pretense of becoming a large structure, but rather, of covering specific needs.
To what do you attribute the interest that this section has generated?
M.A: I don’t know whether I want to attribute it to a generational thing, but I think that there’s a lot of that. Just as there’s no longer a complete rejection of the market, there’s a lot of collaborative work going on nowadays. So, to see artists come from Chile and help set up a project from Puerto Rico is incredible, because you realize that they’re not thinking according to “I’m going to sell more than someone else” logic. It also has to do with knowing that one has to be everywhere, and that its not a fratricidal war or a survival of the fittest scenario, but rather, it’s about discovering the way for everyone to survive in the best way possible.
C.C: The fact that these are spaces that are constantly thinking and in which articulation comes from the artists themselves implies that problems ranging from the gestation of artistic ideas brought to light, and this grabs people’s attention. This way of working is very attractive. The section’s success is due to everything that is done by those of us who are there, and what each one of us brings from his or her place of origin. There’s also a handling of the media that is very characteristic of this generation, which knows that one can enter and exit public and private realms with absolute ease.
And assume that this is a viable possibility, to make use of media outlets and remain loyal to one’s personal identity.
C.C: These three years of Planta have been a great opportunity for looking deeper into my personal investigations. I have been able to get to know the scenes in countries that I knew practically nothing about, and which I’ve been delighted by, such as those of Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Peru, and as incredible as it may sound, of Chile as well. After living abroad for ten years, when I returned to Chile and the Fair’s directors asked me to direct Planta, I knew little and nothing about what was going on here. Today, I can say that it’s a context that I feel very much a part of; I can proudly say that many interesting things are happening here, and that we have a tremendous generation of powerful artists, cultural managers, and young curators. To me, having invited Matías to be a co-curator had to do with drawing even closer to this new generation, to twenty-something-year-olds, because Matías has other connections, makes other associations, and is interested in subjects that in some cases lie very far away from my sensibility, and that is a nice encounter. It faithfully reflects the spirit of our work, in which friendship and generosity are our main tools for thought and action.
M.A: Something that brought us together from the very beginning, independently of us having different opinions that are reflected in our curatorial criteria, is that both of us work from the same point of view: friendship and camaraderie. Also, it’s incredible to work with a curator who has more experience and who knows a generation that I am very interested in, but with whom I have a contextual barrier that I don’t have with, for example, people of my same generation. And not only that, but who also understands curatorial practice in a fair context as a double task of research and management, in a super dynamic and organic way. I come from the world of museums, which has a completely different functional logic, where the valuing of collections has to do with a development of museum practices and public programs, something that hasn’t been developed very much in Chile. Now, to understand the origin of the conformation of collections –which may continue to be private, but more than one may have a public ends to it— to me seems to be a way of understanding the entire mechanism. And if we think that Planta addresses the region’s youngest and most experimental production, we are positioning ourselves behind the established circuits, critique, and art history, in order to ask ourselves how these almost ephemeral pieces in the ebullient art market may enter our institutions of memory and identity.