Artistic Sensibility, Civic Responsability

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Since the 1990s, Tania Bruguera has exhibited widely, making performances, staging interventions, and creating installations that destabilize received notions of power. Perhaps her most recognizable work is her performance “The Burden of Guilt” (1997-1999), in which the artist, wearing a raw-lamb carcass, eats dirt with her hands; the performance, we later learned, was a re-enactment of a colonial legend in Cuba, a suicide attempt; a legend of an indigenous act of resistance against the Spanish.

In the last decade, the protagonist role that the artist’s body had in her earlier work, disappeared almost entirely. In her placement, Tania Bruguera has engaged actors, and more usually invited the general public to perform. In one of a series of artworks titled “Tatlin’s Whisper,” Bruguera hired two policemen on horseback with expertise in controlling riots to choreograph the course of the museum’s audience. That performance was presented in 2008 at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, as part of the two-day exhibition The Living Currency (La Monnaie Vivante) curated by Pierre Bal Blanc. In another work in the series “Tatlin’s Whisper,” the public could use the microphone to exercise a minute of free-speech. This latter work was staged in 2009 at the Centro Wilfredo Lam in Havana. I should add: authorities were not exactly pleased.

As part of an expanded artistic practice, Tania Bruguera has taught and lectured internationally, and in her native Cuba created an itinerant art school called Catedra Arte de Conducta. This school, which she begun in 2002 and concluded in 2009, created dialogues between local artists and visiting architects, theorists and other creative professionals in order to envision and discuss ways in which art contributes to society. Through courses for performance and time-based art, a new generation of artists could and would be encouraged to work politically with their social reality.

This year, Tania Bruguera has come to live in New York City to initiate another of these kinds of projects. Initiated by the Queens Museum and Creative Time, this new, long-term art project by Tania Bruguera is called “Immigrant Movement International” and emerges from her long-standing inquiry on ‘useful art’.  One of the artist’s main supporters, the art critic Claire Bishop, has explained Tania’s idea on useful art as a “conjunction of political action and illegality … pushing the boundaries of what authority recognizes acceptable”.

To what extent and for who will the “Immigrant Movement International” be useful? Well, I suppose this we will learn in the coming months, possibly over the next couple of years. I am confident, though, that this project will at the very least remind us of the role of the modern public museum, which is to cultivate its audience with the aim of creating civic responsibility; of building more informed and creative audience, a more productive and sensible citizen. This responsibility is one that a handful of contemporary artists, including Tania Bruguera, have been taking on to themselves.

The image above is of the headquarters of the Immigrant Movement International in Corona, Queens in New York, which I visited yesterday afternoon. Events take place daily. Consult the website for more details and a calendar of programs:

What does it take to make an alternative?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Originally in French, Gustave Affeulpin’s The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg (1976) is a fictional report on the construction and operations of an art center underneath the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France. Built in tandem with the museum that is internationally known as the “Pompidou”—native Parisians mostly refer to it simply as “Beaubourg”—the underground center that Affeulpin describes is not a copy but a double. Decidedly, not mimicking. Instead, co-existing. To present culture in its most incisive form, the infrastructure and organizing principles of this, the other center, must be collectively decided upon its public and its program progressively unfold in time, at the vision and inertia, so to say, of its constituents. Affeulpin uses the pseudonym “Albert Meister” to write a piece of fiction as a documentary account. The book is a vivid report on the life of a cultural place, and the inner-workings and mostly failings of an endeavor closer to a utopia blueprint than a concrete place.

The English translation of The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg, this version subtitled with the tag-line “An Interpretation,” was done by visual artist Luca Frei. Luca’s version includes notes and images, in-between lines and as illustrations, on the construction of the Pompidou and the first publication of Affeulpin’s book. And, as the subtitle he tags on to the original suggests, his is not a straight transliteration of a text from one language to another. The published work claims to be a new work. Intentionality here is crucial. While the book remains a work by Affeulpin, its current manifestation—in English, in print, in distribution and discussion—is made by Luca, highlighting while raising a bit of speculation around appropriation, literary, and citationality, literally.

The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg – An interpretation was co-published in 2007 by Book Works and CASCO, Office for Art, Theory and Design, Utrecht. The video here documents Luca Frei reading selected passages in the book, a program held on September 18, 2008 in conjunction to the Archaeology of Longing at Kadist Art Foundation in Paris.

Cultural diplomacy–for some, a curatorial task

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

“Cultural diplomacy–for some, a curatorial task” is the title of the third in a series of interviews with foreign curators working inside and outside of institutions in China and Hong Kong. Each interview has a distinct relationship to China’s contemporary art scene—as well as to ideas of local community building and international cultural exchange. The first interview, “What does it mean to be International Today?” was with Kate Fowle, international curator at the Ullens Center for Contemporary At in Beijing; the second, “A Contemporary Approach to Tradition,” was with Zoe Butt, director of international programs at Beijing’s Long March Project.

This third interview is with curator Defne Ayas, who is based in Shanghai since 2005, where she works as curatorial consultant to ArtHub, a foundation serving China and the rest of Asia, and as an art instructor at New York University in Shanghai. Defne is also curator of PERFORMA, the biennale of visual art performance with base in New York City, where she spends part of the year. These multi-institutional roles, in addition to other cultural projects she organizes along the way, have been shaping her curatorial practice. Born in Germany but raised in Istanbul, educated in America, and now living in Shanghai, Defne has a natural sense for cultural diplomacy—much needed to make projects happen in Asia and the Middle East, two regions she is actively exploring and interested in working with.

I interviewed Defne on June 23, 2008 to talk about her work and interests for setting-up international exchanges within Asia and abroad. The interview took place a couple of days after an extensive trip Defne made in Xinjiang—a historically contested land characteristic for its ethnic diversity. (Click below to read the interview.)


Image: Picture taken by Defne Ayas while traveling on The Silk Road in and around Xinjiang.



A contemporary approach to tradition

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

“A Contemporary Approach to Tradition” is the title of the second in a series of interviews with foreign curators working inside and outside of institutions in China and Hong Kong. Each curator interviewed has a distinct relationship to China’s contemporary art scene—as well as to ideas of local community building and international cultural exchange. The first interview in the series, “What does it mean to be International Today?” was with Kate Fowle, International Curator at the Ullens Center for Contemporary At in Beijing, China.

This interview is with Zoe Butt, Director of International Programs at Long March Project in Beijing, China, a dynamic and multi-layered arts organization founded in 1999/2002 by the artist, curator and writer Lu Jie. Zoe, a Chinese-Australian curator, previously worked at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia. Since 2007, she lives in Beijing, and travels regularly within Asia.

I interviewed Zoe on May 26, 2008, to talk about her research and travels in Asia, her current work at Long March Project, and particularly how the contemporary art exhibitions and projects she works on relate to tradition and historical legacy. (Click below to read the interview.)


What does it mean to be international today?

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

This is the first in a series of interviews with young curators working inside and outside of institutions in China and Hong Kong. I’ve specifically interviewed curators that are foreigners there, each with a distinct relationship to the contemporary art scene in China, as well as to ideas of local community building and international cultural exchange.

This first interview is with Kate Fowle, International Curator at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, China, a nonprofit art space founded in 2007 by the Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens. Originally from England, Kate had been based in San Francisco since 2002, where she established and then directed the Curatorial Practice Graduate Program at California College of Arts. Today, she splits her time between New York and Beijing.

I interviewed Kate in May 2008, a little over a month after her first exhibition at UCCA opened, and still less than a year since her arrival at that institution. This interview touches on several subjects, but particularly curatorial processes that engage in the formation of artistic communities and new audiences, and specifically as it relates to Kate’s work in China today. (Click below to read the interview.)


Raising the paddle for a surrealist manifesto and a 1990s painting on Melrose

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Andre Breton’s original 21-page manuscript of the Surrealist Manifesto (1924) will be auctioned tomorrow afternoon at Sotheby’s in Paris. This historical document is part of a larger auction including more than 200 lots, items drawn from the collection of Simone Collinet, Breton’s first wife. (Collinet died in 1980; the sale is arranged by her heirs.) The collection includes books, photographs and manuscripts, among them nine in Breton’s handwriting. There are other gems in the collection of documents, too, such as a manuscript of Les Soeurs Vatard by Huysmans, a series of written and typed and noted manuscripts, tapes and correspondence by Simone de Beauvoir, and a handwritten letter, Souvenirs de la Commune, by Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon). There is so much more. How crucial it is to see the handwriting, the strikethroughs and additions marked in the editing, the margins. This is the texture of the words and ideas of these texts.

These and other items of the collection were part of the five-day exhibition, Surrealism in Paris, at Sotheby’s Galerie Charpentier in Paris, which I went to see before their auction tomorrow afternoon. (An exhibition of these documents was also presented in Sotheby’s London in January-February 2008.) It would take time, I thought, for these original documents to be on view again. After their auction, these will most likely be shipped away and kept in the backroom of a national museum, the restoration lab of some institution located in a California hilltop or at a climate control storage in a suburb somewhere in the world.

Where will be the home of Breton’s manuscript and these other items? It’s unclear. And, why wouldn’t the family just donate them to a national museum here in Paris, where the manuscript was drafted and the movement conceived? I forget common sense is just a myth.

The idea of uncommon sense crossed my mind, and suddenly the GALA Committee auction at Christie’s a decade ago invaded my thoughts. Held at Christie’s in Beverly Hills on November 12, 1998, Primetime Contemporary Art. Art by the GALA Committee As Seen on Melrose Place brought together 49 lots for live auction and 51 more at silent auction. These 100 lots were GALA Committee artworks created for and appearing in different episodes of the popular television program of the time, Melrose Place. No need for me to summarize such a multi-layered art project and event. Instead, I here transcribe the catalog’s introduction, written by Brent Zerger (who, at the time, worked in LA MoCA’s now-defunct department of experimental programs headed by curator Julie Lazar):

In The Name of the Place is a complex collaborative project by the GALA Committee, initiated by artist Mel Chin for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LA MoCA). Working with the Uncommon Sense theme of public interaction, the GALA Committee selected a prime TV program, Melrose Place, as the site for creative a massive “condition of collaboration” among an array of individuals, institutions and interests, organized initially around the activity of developing and placing site-specific art objects on the program’s sets. During the two-season interaction, the art-enhanced weekly broadcast reached millions internationally. Radically expansive in form, with diverse aesthetics and a wide range of audience/artist television production involvement, In The Name of the Place is an experiment that illuminates unexplored, creative territory at the intersection of museums, mass media and artistic action.

The culmination of the project is the public auction of the collectively-made art works. All proceeds from the auction will go to two non-profit educational organizations, the Fulfillment Fund and the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, to be used specifically to benefit women’s education.

The GALA Committee artworks were sometimes props—like, bed sheets with print design depicting condoms and promoting safe sex; Chinese Take Away paper-containers with inscriptions of human rights messages; a paperback book of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy. At other times, the artworks were also just that, paintings hanging on walls and sculptures over pedestals. The closest meeting point between Melrose Place and GALA Committee’s collaboration was shown in a 1997 television episode with a scene happening at LA MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary. The actual set is the exhibition Uncommon Sense. For this, the program’s screenwriters wrote a scene in an art show and the producers commissioned GALA Committee a painting that would be discussed by two characters. (See image above for a video still, as reproduced in the auction’s catalog.) Not coincidently, the painting is titled Fireflies –The Bombing of Baghdad (acrylic on canvas; 72 x 96 inches) and shows a night scene apparently inspired in style by artists like Vija Celmins and Ross Bleckner, and in subject by the controversial televised US bombings of Iraq during the 1990s. (A month after the auction, the US conducted Operation Desert Fox.)

Aside from LA MoCA, and before this auction, the artworks created by GALA Committee for this project were exhibited at the Kwangju International Biennale in South Korea; Grand Arts in Kansas City, MO; and Lawing Gallery in Houston, TX. For the Grand Arts exhibition, curator and art critic Joshua Decter—who pointed me to this project in 2002, while we were planning a round table discussion about artists working in television—wrote a text detailing the collaborative process of GALA Committee with Melrose Place. More recently, Art:21 produced a documentary about Mel Chin, wherein the project is also discussed.

The Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television, and New Media at UC San Barbara hosts the excellent web-archive of GALA Committee’s In the Name of a Place. The site, which states is still development but looks slightly dated, gives a sense of some artworks and their provenance—what “made it,” as they say, in the television show. The catalog of the Christie’s auction, which part of the cover illustrates this entry, remains more comprehensive in so far it illustrates the variety of artworks produced for the television show. It lists all the members of the GALA Committee, additional information of the auction, and images and provenance of the 100 artworks at auction, with captions describing the context that inspired the work or the scene in which it was placed. And then there is a funny inclusion: the catalog’s last page includes an unsigned text dated 2021 about GALA Committee’s so-called non-commercial product insertion manifestations (also included in the project’s web-archive).

Today, I wonder, where are the homes of these series of artworks by the GALA Committees? Where does the pool game item Africa is the Eight Ball sit or the landscape painting Rodney King hang? What kinds of collections are they part of? And, how are these artworks displayed to retell, or not, of their original context and presentation?

A special kind of COMPANY

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

The shopping list included a variety of items, from a new notebook to some travel gifts to a variety of travel-size cosmetics to a lipstick, and I figured that at least one of these could be found at COMPANY, a gift, for example. Once there, it was difficult to contain myself. I ended up purchasing: a dried flower (this will be a gift, I explained myself); a grand opening banner (a portable artwork, I thought); and a red lipstick (I needed one anyway). The banner is an item from the first product line by Fawn Krieger, launched in November 2007 when the store opened; the other two items are part of her winter line introduced in January 2008. And still, I couldn’t stop. COMPANY was contagious. I decided to get a Performance Underwear Prototype (this will also be a gift, golden hanger included), one in a series of works that are part of a new product line commissioned by COMPANY to artist K8 Hardy.

COMPANY is an evolving and unpredictable art project by the curious and generous artist Fawn Krieger, a project that I curated while working at Art in General in New York, with Meghan DellaCrosse as curatorial assistant. It was certainly an interesting experience to re-visit COMPANY now as an audience member. Fawn’s project is sculpted as a store, and operates like one, too. It consists of an installation at Art in General’s storefront gallery that transforms a window-filled-little-white-cube into a three-leveled boutique-like space with a plethora of vitrines and cases displaying artworks of different sorts under the label of “product lines.” The artworks or so-called products are sculptures in every form, and all of them are unique and irreproducible just because Fawn’s mind is way speedier than her hands. At COMPANY, you can find anything from an oil barrel and a shoe, to a nervous system and some botox or a green card. There is also a TV (remote control sold separately), loose cigarettes, an airplane passenger, and a box of chocolates, gigantic dandruff flakes and dinosaur eggs. They are made in ceramic, wood, felt, paper, plaster, gold leaf, fabric, plastic and other materials. They range in sizes, structural make-up and surface textures. Some are realistic, others far from it. They are anything from funny, intense, absurd, disgusting and beautiful.

But Fawn’s COMPANY is not only an aesthetic endeavor. It also aims at being an economic project, proposing an alternative if slower kind of marketplace with and for artists, as well as unique forms of exchange and engagement with the public. The sales of the first product lines by Fawn were reinvested in COMPANY allowing for the commission of K8’s product line, which was launched in mid-March. And K8 has proposed herself another parameter involving the forms of sales for her work and impacting its actual form and distribution, too: the purchase of an edition of her Performance Underwear includes a performance by the artist at the buyer’s direction; the edition if of 10 including one garment, and is priced at $700 each.

The online art journal MUSEO published an interview that art critic Miriam Katz conducted to Fawn, and a radio interview with the artist was broadcast in San Francisco’s Pirate Cat Radio, available online. (Fast forward to the middle of the recording to skip the music and begin listening to the interview). COMPANY by Fawn Krieger continues until April 26 at Art in General, with current product lines by Fawn Krieger and K8 Hardy on display (and for sale).

Buenos Dias, Argentina

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

The wake of artist-run spaces and independent cultural initiatives in Argentina is telling of the state of cultural policy of a country, as well as the institutional work, or lack thereof, of established venues. But it is also telling of something else—of a need and a desire to develop communities. To be in touch, exchange with others. While the Other has discursively been assigned to those in so-called disadvantaged geo-political and socio-economic margins of society, it seems that in Argentina the other is just the foreigner in oneself in conversation with someone from elsewhere. It is not peculiar then but rather symptomatic that the spaces and initiatives that have emerged in the last couple of years here are dedicated to hosting artist residency programs. I visited a couple and met with their founders: El Basilisco in Avellaneda, just in the outskirts of Buenos Aires; Residencia Internacional de Artistas en Argentina (RIAA), organized from Buenos Aires but taking place in a nearby beech town called Ostende; El Levante, a residency and art school of sorts in the city of Rosario, Argentina; and Residencia de Un Solo Artista (RUSA), which also takes place in Rosario, but this one at the home of its founding artist.

El Basilisco was initiated by artists Tamara Stuby and Esteban Alvarez, and is the most established residency program in town. Former and current artists in residence seem to praise the communication imperative at El Basilisco—participating artists, who stay for approximately eight weeks, are introduced to the art scene immediately, to a new public, and are also passed on invitations and tips by Tamara and Esteban to attend a number of events in town. Alejandro, an artist who lives full-time at the house (literally) of El Basilisco, also takes the artists around and keeps the house in order. Tamara and Esteban live very nearby. And the residency has turned the local bar into its residency lounge, adopting (or having been assigned) the name “Bar Silisco” with a neon artwork by Esteban hung from its window. But El Basilisco is not only a local affair. But El Basilisco’s presence locally, nationally and internationally is felt in other ways. The program offers three residencies happening at once, with an Argentine artist from the “interior” taking a spot, and, most times, with two others from abroad. Its attention to hosting artists from Latin America has made its program stronger and certainly more unique. It is assumed that artists from Latin America are one and the same, but the disparity between cultures and the experience of cultural exchange between countries of the Americas is relatively low. The current artists in residence are: Narda Fabiola Alvarado (La Paz, Bolivia), Luis Guerra (Santiago, Chile) and Jorge Tirner (Resistencia, Argentina). El Basilisco’s internationalism is possible thanks to their efforts in participating in the demanding and time consuming world of grant making, as well as in initiating and sustaining fruitful relations with others in the field. An example of this is their institutional residency exchange program with Helmut Batista’s CAPACETE in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as at Hangar in Barcelona, Spain.

Begun in 2006 by Diana Aisenberg, Melina Berkenwald, Graciela (Gachi) Hasper, Roberto Jacoby, the Residencia Internacional de Artistas en Argentina is locally referred to simply as RIAA (in Spanish, pronounced: ree-ah). The residency brings together about ten artists from Argentina and ten others from abroad for a period of two weeks. The selection process is based on nominations. Artists all meet in Buenos Aires for a two-day period or so, where they each give a 30-minute artist’s talk to present their work. Afterwards, the artists head to Ostende, a beech town about 2 hours away from Buenos Aires. The group takes over the Viejo Hotel Ostende (in operations since 1913) settling there for the rest of the residency period. Curators and critics are invited to visit, and the site is open to the general public for an afternoon on the last weekend. RIAA takes place only once a year. I attended the last RIAA artists’ talks in Buenos Aires, which was a marathon-like public program held at the Centro Cultural de España in Buenos Aires. The quality of the work as well as the presentations varied significantly. Yet, having managed a residency program for more than four years, I can confidently attest that the “spirit,” necessary for a productive and creative residency, was certainly there. I’ve also heard from artists that have participated that they praise the program for that very reason, too. Most times, it is in that free and open and far away space that new ideas and communities surface. The RIAA website is complete with information of artist’s who have been in their in the last three versions (2006-2008), and with memories and statements in different prose by most of the participants.

In the city of Rosario, located about 200km northwest from Buenos Aires, is the art and cultural space called El Levante. Its name is drawn from a nineteenth century brothel that originally housed the building this arts organization now occupies. El Levante’s space is great—no, it’s majestic. A bar greets you (functions seldom, primarily during events); a mirrored wall room on the right with serves as a milonga dance room; a wide open plaza at the heart of the building covered with a glass-like rooftop drenches with light what becomes a multi-purpose room, flanked by a lounge area with seats, tables and chairs. This central area is what is constantly transformed for closed workshops and public presentations. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a common room with kitchen and bath hosts the artist residency program. The many spaces are telling for the diversity of things that happen there. El Levante was initiated, first, as a “taller de análisis y confrontación de obra” (workshop for the analysis and questioning of artwork and artistic practice) by the artist Mauro Machado and the artist Graciela Carnevale. (Graciela’s work was featured in Documenta 12 in 2007, and is commonly associated with her involvement and archive of the artist’s collective and activities denominated Tucuman Arde.) A couple of other artists have become involved since: Lorena Cardona, Luján Castellani and María Spinelli (in 2005). The space soon evolved into something different, including 2-year program of art workshops were artists could register, a kind of post-BA art program, and a 2- to 3-month residency program hosting artists from abroad who would participate, if only temporarily, in the workshops. El Levante also hosts a number of other programs, evening events and milongas, which are organized with the building owners, who share the building with them.

The Residencia de Un Solo Artista (RUSA) that Rosario-born artist Claudia del Rio initiated in her hometown (and at her home!) is not exactly institutional, but telling of the type of artistic endeavors spurring here and elsewhere. RUSA was begun this year, and is a genuine effort to offer a space and time for thought to someone else. This is a personal and self-funded endeavor, by an artist who makes a living at teaching art (in Argentina and most of Latin America, not exactly a lucrative career): she covers roundtrip bus fare to Rosario, room and board in hopes that the resident artist can use this brief period to think and work. I was surprised at meeting Claudia. Her generosity was in everything she did and said. Her thoughts moderated by intellectual humbleness, a sense of humor softened her directness. To select RUSA’s first artist, Claudia made an open call, and selected one person after reviewing a number of applications—this time, the first, was a poet who stayed for two weeks. In the website of Club del Dibujo, another artist-initiative that Claudia runs together with Mario Gemin and others, a statement by the first resident artist, Eloísa Oliva, is therein posted. This is an excerpt:

La generosidad de esta casa hace que sienta un desfasaje: ¡yo no lo merezco! Sin embargo fui elegida para estar acá, y entonces, trato de cumplir honestamente con mi parte, lo cual, por otro lado, es un privilegio: extraerme de mi rutina doméstica, urbana y laboral, para regalarme esta “pequeña vacación literaria”.

This house’s generosity make me feel a lag: I do not deserve this! But I was selected to be here, and thus, I will honestly try to fulfill my part, which is, on the other hand, a privilege itself: to remove myself of a domestic routine, an urban and work environment, to give myself this “small literary vacation.”*

* An excerpt of Eloísa Oliva’s statement, published online, followed by my translation of this from Spanish to English.

The Imperative to Communicate

Friday, February 29th, 2008

After lunch, we took a walk at a busy street in Barrio Palermo. It took us about five blocks to get to New York. The year was circa 1966, and Eduardo Costa had taken me to me moment he proposed the editor of Vogue to incorporate his newest conceptual artwork in that magazine. Soon after, Fashion Fictions was published there and in a couple other magazines. I had met Eduardo in New York about six years ago, while he was still living there. But shortly after he had moved back to his hometown Buenos Aires and I hadn’t seen him since. Eduardo had been an integral part of the 1960s avant garde art scene in Argentina, and a conceptualist at heart. Now, forty years later and with much longer and shinier silver hair, his attention to detail and the sophistication of his thought process were even sharper. We discussed his move back to Buenos Aires and life thereafter, his recent body of work, a series of volumetric paintings, and the revival he had experienced in I Am Not a Flopper or… (2007) by artist Mario Garcia Torres.

During the 1960s, Eduardo was part of “Arte de los Medios,” doing collaborative works with artists Raúl Escari and Roberto Jacoby that emphasized tactical communication in conceptualism. Earlier that week, I had also met with Roberto. Unlike Costa, Roberto had stayed in Argentina. His conceptualism turned more political in its motivations and forms as the 1960s ended and the decade of the 1970s arrived. But later, during the eighties, he distanced himself from art making, yet his work remained creative: from creating the identity of an Argentine rock band and writing its musical lyrics to consulting on identity and promotional strategies of various industries. Roberto never left the idea of communication as a means and end in his work, and this in addition to organizing and mobilizing artists have been at the heart of his practice. Roberto is the mastermind or instigator or supporter or something along those lines in almost every artistic venture that emerges in Buenos Aires. Among these ventures are: Fundacion Start, a platform from where a number of events happen and projects emerge; Proyecto Venus, a working currency and social network that he launched at the turn of the twenty-first century and that peeked during Argentina’s crisis in 2002 (the project concluded last year); Bola de Nieve (Snowball), an online archive of portfolios by local artists; Ramona, a magazine he co-founded in 2000 with the art collector Gustavo Bruzzone. With almost 80 issues published to date, Ramona has become a key source for contemporary art there and elsewhere, many times including the first and only Spanish translations of key theoretical and art historical texts originally published abroad, as well as new art historical and theoretical essays about Latin American art.

Gustavo Bruzzone is also a key figure in Argentina’s art scene. Aside from his connection to Ramona, he is more commonly associated with the art scene of the “Rojas” generation or “Arte Light.” I visited his apartment on a Friday evening. What I thought would be a simple guided visit to his art collection turned out to be an intense art history seminar. Gustavo began collecting art during the early 1990s, most times as support gesture or money advances to a group of then-emerging artists that he had become acquainted through a painting class. But Gustavo is not an artist; he is a lawyer and a respected judge in Argentina. He is a great storyteller, too. His memory of the 1990s art scene is as fresh as his narrative. He told me of the times when artist Jorge Gumier Maier was curator of the art gallery of the Centro Cultural Ricardo Rojas in Buenos Aires. His exhibition program was said to be representative of an aesthetic pursuit giving precedence to the search for beauty that was far from the over intellectualization of neoconceptual art and instrumentalization of high art. Critics condemned this, called the works exhibited there arte light, gay and so on. Today, however, many revere that moment. Gustavo’s collection has early works of every artist of that art scene, including works by Gumier Maier, Marcelo Pombo, Sebastian Gordini, among many others. The works are installed in salon style throughout the house—hanging from every wall space from floor to ceiling, and sitting on any type of flat surface available. The collection is also complemented with a series of documents and ephemera of the time—newspaper clippings, exhibition invitations, posters, even early gallery checklists with price lists. It’s an admirable collection, and it’s formed wholeheartedly by a unique eye and empiricist soul.