2011 WASHED OUT
02/02/11-02/03/11, Konsthall C/Centraltvättstuga, Stockholm, Sweden
Winning submission for apexart Franchise 2011 presented in Stockholm, Sweden February 2 – March 2, 2011.
curated by Corina Oprea, Isabel Löfgren, Judith Souriau, Milena Placentile, and Valerio Del Baglivo
With work by artists:
Maja Bajevic, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza, Daniela Comani, Raeda Saadeh, Stefan Constantinescu, Laercio Redondo, Nadia Myreand Konsthall 323 (Frida Krohn and Ylva Trapp)
Washed Out is a site-inspired exhibition held in Centraltvättstuga, a community laundry facility in Hökarängen, a typical Stockholm suburb built in the 1940s according to the utopian urban ideals of early social democracy. Decades later, this still functioning laundry facility shares its premises with a publicly funded art center, Konsthall C, and a small collection of vintage laundry machines.
“The real image of the past moves on fleetingly.”
– Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History, 1940
If history is a form of institutionalized memory, the artists featured in Washed Out attempt to invest it with personal and shared elements to open up, alter, and make real the greater multitude of voices affected and involved. Medium and method vary. Individual and collective actions both carry weight. Revealing figures forced to the margins of social visibility, reconstructing public narratives and exposing moments of absence, propose ways in which history can be written in the future. The artists thus demonstrate the dynamic work of history as an organic, mutable subject that changes over time.
How do we remember the past? Through formal and personal documents, as well as personal memories. Artworks are documents and, by contributing personal interpretations to “official” narratives concerning collective projects that have fallen out of date or otherwise gone awry, artists assert “do-it-yourself” versions of history that challenge ideas or events assumed to be established or obsolete – in other words, washed out. Rewriting historical documents, interfering with media images, critically evoking idealistic propaganda, and asserting Aboriginal sovereignty, are all methods of revealing something other than the hegemonic status quo.
Re-Interpreting the past
Daniela Comani’s It was me, Diary 1900-1999 text piece narrates a personalized account of 356 days of world history, drawn from the span of 99 years, as if each moment were her own lived experience. Dealing with everyday documents and newspaper clippings, Estefania Peñafiel Loaiza’s installation sans titre – les figurants seeks to highlight through erasure those who stand witness to events, whether by coincidence or destiny. Similarly, by erasing the words “HOME AND” while simultaneously undoing an earlier erasure of “NATIVE LAND” in Rethinking Anthem, Algonquin artist Nadia Myre reveals the role of Canada’s national anthem as a tool used to validate settler colonialism. Stefan Constantinescu’s The Golden Age for Children, offers a challenging account of Romania’s difficult history intertwined with the artist’s biography over two decades in the unexpected form of a pop-up book.
Action and potentiality
Moving stereotypically female, domestic activities into public settings newly politicizes them by raising questions about how people are portrayed in history, or not portrayed at all. Is it the task of women to clean up the aftermath? Maja Bajevic’s video installation from 2001, Women at Work; Washing Up, transforms the common act of laundering into a political gesture when a group of female refugees perform the repetitive manual activity with textiles featuring embroidered excerpts of epic texts
dealing with ideological legacies. Vacuum depicts the artist, Raeda Saadeh, vacuuming with continuous motion in a desert landscape near her home country of Palestine.
Contemporary dialogues with fading histories
Specifically for Washed Out, we have commissioned two projects seeking closer links between the concerns motivating the exhibition – i.e. coming to terms with imposed social models, responding to changing circumstances, or negotiating future history – and the site itself. Presented with the history of Central Tvätt, Laercio Redondo reflects on the effects of idealist models for social behavior, only to propose an alternate way of looking at the history yet to come: what comes after the various ideologies of modernism and modernity? His multiple Time Changes Everything Around suggests a space of negotiation between the artwork and viewers, as well as the physical space of the exhibition and the space of the city beyond. The young Swedish collective Konsthall 323 (Frida Krohn and Ylva Trapp) and their art center on wheels, will take up residency during the Washed Out exhibition period, and will perform a series of storytelling based interventions at the exhibition site and in the near vicinity.
REWRITING HI(STORY), AS WE REMEMBER IT
Stockholm, Monday, September 20, after lunch, Visit to Konsthall C / Central Tvätt, Hökarängen
It was the day after the Swedish elections and the country was in an uproar. The new government featured the third consecutive defeat of the Social Democrats as the majority party in parliament, and a clamorous minority of right-wing conservatives were now in positions of power. Social democracy was no longer strong enough to shield Sweden from broader European or global trends, and the system based on communal values and consensus is now slowly
being replaced with a new liberal democracy based on more individualistic values.
A long journey on the Tunnelbana took us – an international group of young curators – far from the city center to Hökarängen, a suburb south of Stockholm, to visit a peculiar art space called Konsthall C. Director Kim Einarsson opened the door to greet us. After a look at the current exhibition and coffee, she explained the history and mission of Konsthall C as an art space uniquely positioned to create dialogue between art and politics largely due to its unique location.
At the end of our discussion, we toured other areas of the building. Adjacent to the space for contemporary art, to our surprise, were areas including a functional laundry room and other spaces for social gatherings. The utopian goals envisioned for modern Swedish society based on tolerance, equality, and mutual trust suddenly came into focus for us, and at that moment—in light of the recent elections—we began to understand why so many of those goals were beginning to fade.
Kim explained to us that the goal of suburban developments like Hökarängen was to realize the radically new, utopian social democratic ideals in the 1940s. Beyond private family dwellings, the developments aimed to create an overall environment that offered necessary amenities while simultaneously providing models for peaceful, social, and productive interactions between neighbors. The “tvättstuga”, or common laundry room, is a significant example. Modern washing machines were provided in common areas to make domestic life less arduous, yet imposing a social dimension on the undesirable task of washing dirty clothing led to tensions rather than friendships, transforming collective laundering from a tool for mutual understanding into a reason to pursue individualization and territorialization.
And so, while the grand plan of Swedish society was to make every experience positive, the “tvättstuga” notoriously provides one of the few conflict zones in an otherwise conflict-adverse society, where people go to great lengths to avoid others in what is supposed to be a social space.
Decades later, Konsthall C was established in Central Tvätt [the shared laundry facility], yet it remains interesting that a conflict zone (laundry facility) sits adjacent to a zone intended to stimulate dialogue (art center), and this unique dimension provided an interesting setting for us to explore issues already stimulating our minds regarding art and politics, and the making of history as it was unfolding that very day.
Stockholm, Wednesday, September 22, 4 p.m., Meeting with artist at Södermalm café
We were late for our appointment with Romanian born artist, Stefan Constantinescu, and fortunately, so was he. In between coffee and cigarettes, he presented his work and something struck us as very meaningful: “In my practice,” he said, “I aim to position myself as a witness to the course of history.”
Stefan was referring to his role in a Romanian generation profoundly marked by the passage from communism to a capitalist democracy. Noting the critical need for history to be remembered, it is interesting that his practice involves a combination of “objective” historical facts with personal accounts. His work encouraged us to ask: What should be preserved for the future? Can personal narratives also be considered as facts? Who claims authorship over knowledge relating to collectively lived pasts? How are documents concerning the past transformed through the act of reading or re-writing?
Stockholm – Thursday, September 23, 2 – 4 p.m., Brainstorming at Östermalm café
Immersed in a week’s worth of art and politics, we decided to write a proposal for apexart’s Franchise program over the course a few hours. The deadline was the next day. We had an opportune political moment, a great location [Konsthall C and the tvättstuga] and a desire to create something best discussed in that very premise. “Washed Out” was born.
All over the world – one month later, Internet
We go our separate ways, each to a different country and continent. In the process, we continue discussing new ideas about history and how it can be transformed literally and metaphorically. “Washed Out” is selected by apexart’s jury. Our dates are set, we have 2.5 months to make it all happen. We need a plan to address our multiple interests and concerns. A torrent of emails and skype conferences begins, we must narrow down the concept, invite artists, align budgets. There is no time to waste.
18/12/09 – 27/01/10 – Galeria do Ateliê, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Curated and conceived by Grupo D.O.C. (Isabel Löfgren, Patricia Gouvêa, Marco Antônio Portela, Mauro Bandeira), a Rio de Janeiro based artist’s collective.
In a recession-ridden world, we asked ourselves what kind of exhibition, or rather – what kind of provocation – would be in place to usher us into better times. As the financial system collapsed, we are plunged into uncertainty of what is to come. In Brazilian culture, when the going gets tough, one turns into divine help to see way ahead. In most religions, offerings act like promises and are made of objects which carry a communicative value between the believer and his/her god and acting as energy points between the visible world (what we call reality) and the world of the spirits. This prompted us to ask ourselves about the symbolic value of artistic production today. We are not quite sure if art today still has a ritualistic purpose in establishing this connection. This exhibition is an attempt to reintroduce belief and faith, in whatever form, in whatever way, into the practice of art-making.
The exhibition consisted of a year-long blog between the art collective members and culminated into an exhibition of 13 artists, a symbolic number, in the 12th month of 2009.
We all need different kinds of ways to activate or to preserve memory. We hear echoes of the past in old buildings, family albums, love letters, objects that fell into disuse, smells, sounds and recurrent dreams. We must also establish a link with the spirits, a link between the living and the dead, opening a present within the past and finding comfort in a mirage of the future.
And thus was born the “despacho”, a ritual offering that provides a structured opportunity for the invisible soul of the dead (or of those gods hovering over us) to return to their place of origin – to go home – taking symbolic objects as trap for their return to our realm. This symbolic communication strengthens the ties of affection, it restores the soul, provides a moral grounding and agency with those entities that give us a sort of identity in return. An offering is, like the word says, a gift. Ironically, in our bureaucratic culture, “despacho” is reminiscent of “dispatch” which also means “bringing” (the paperwork), “sending forth” (the law) or rejecting (as in lovers).
And yet objects, even symbolic ones, are only objects. If we consider art as a collection of inert objects, living on their pedestals or cloistered in their frames, they are not always designed to establish such an esoteric link. One speaks of “interaction” with the viewer, but we still remain stunned while standing in front of mere artifacts. When devoid of function, art remains in a vacuum in which we no longer know why we create these objects and what is their purpose. Maybe art is just pure entertainment.
DOC collective proposes the exhibition “Despacho”, and commissioned thirteen artists invited to meditate on this issue and to enter a dialogue with the gods they serve and to make their objects more than just ‘things.’ The number 13 is also the symbolic: one artist for each month of the year, and a thirteenth in honor of EXU, the mercurial entity in Afro-Brazilian religions, the dispatcher between the spheres of gods and mortals.
All artists were offered a white screen as a starting point for their piece, following the traditional ritual of in Brazilian cult offerings. They acted as a springboard for initiating a dialogue with a je ne sais quoi, seeking to identify which gods we would liek to talk to, if any, and ask them: where are we going? what are we giving? what are we promising? what are we receiving? who are we speaking to? and to say what?
June 2008, Galeria Meninos de Luz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nubes is an exhibition proposal commissioned to Grupo DOC, * an artist collective formed by Marco Antonio Portela, Isabel Löfgren, Mauro Bandeira and Patricia Gouvêa.
The Gallery Children of Light, located in the favela complex Pavão-Pavãozinho and Cantagalo in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a new exhibition space in Rio de Janeiro. Coordinated by visual artist Marco Antonio Portela since 2007, the gallery aims to exhibit artistic production to the inhabitants of a region devoid of cultural context and best known for its violence. This initiative, also expands the movement of art in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The art gallery promotes teaching as a consequence of each exhibition, a lecture with the students of the community participating in the project, where we discussed the concept that guided each group, as well as artist presentations of exhibited works.
Nubes will bring notions of ephemerality, lightness, transience to the gallery as an alternative to violence, insecurity, and exclusion in a favela of Rio de Janeiro. The exhibition features works by Brígida Baltar, Claudia Tavares, Dani Soter, Gustavo Speridião, Hilal Sami Hilal and John Castillo, and artists of art collective DOC. The exhibition text is written by Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, PhD in philology, Master in public policy, artist, writer and respected advocate for the rights of children and adolescents in Brazil and the world also founder of Project Uerê (1998), an NGO dedicated for education in areas at risk in Favela da Maré in Rio de Janeiro.
EXHIBITION TEXT (In Portuguese)
By Yvonne Bezerra de Mello | Rio de Janeiro, maio-junho de 2008
Nuvens brancas, cinzas, negras rasgando os céus no espaço são como nossas vidas.
Vidas mutantes e passageiras nas ações, nos sentimentos, nos anseios, nos karmas e até mesmo na morte.
A pobreza e as desigualdades fazem parte da sobrevivência das elites. Como nuvens, ela deveria desmanchar-se em chuva e desaparecer irrigando o solo ressecado por sofrimentos. Mas está aí, escancarada, para o bem-estar de poucos.
Deus sempre é retratado numa nuvem, Jesus sobe aos céus em outra, santos com seus pés nus sobre elas. Quando olhamos essas imagens, sem nos darmos conta, nós passamos a fazer parte das nuvens-escape. Aquelas que nos consolam, que ouvem as nossas preces e que caladas nos fazem também levitar.
A folha da árvore parecia aflita dentro da densa mata amazônica. A seiva pedia informações ao caule, o caule aos ramos e os ramos à folha no topo da árvore. Ela, nervosa e atenta ao vento que não chegava trazendo as nuvens da tormenta, salvadora das espécies. O ronco das moto-serras se aproximava anunciando a morte da vida e do começo do fim do mundo.
O caveirão entra no começo da tarde na favela. Do cano de escape saem tufos de nuvens negras, tossindo, cuspindo e esculpindo imagens nas baforadas anunciadoras do apocalipse. São as nuvens do silêncio. Ninguém fala, as portas se fecham, as pipas e as bolas de gude jazem nas calçadas.
A maior parte da população do planeta não come, vive sob violência constante, traumatizada. Carrega as dores das dúvidas e da falta de esclarecimento, magra e combalida pela exclusão. Não devia ter medo de expressar seu descontentamento. Mas tem. São os povos nuvens- Atlas. Atlas, aquele que ousou se revoltar e foi condenado a suportar o peso do mundo em seus ombros.
Um dia acordamos coma sensação de que o mundo virou neblina, todo encoberto pelas brumas. E saímos por aí, com pressa, arfando, coletando pedacinhos etéreos do que restou na terra: uma gota de orvalho, uma lágrima, tentando segurar as sombras que se desmancham.
Pássaros dos cinco cantos do mundo continuam tentando, entre as nuvens e o solo, num vôo louco, um pouso seguro. O gelo derrete, a floresta queima, o mar se revolta, os rios assoreiam, a comida escasseia. Tudo chora e a terra vira uma seara de agulhas picando os pés cansados da procura.
A nossa expiração é o nosso sistema que se libera, se desdobra em anéis invisíveis de vários tamanhos. Nuvens pequeninas de sopro anelado, vidas internas que na sua trajetória pelo ar vão se encontrar, se desencontrar, se bater, se machucar, se redimir, se culpar numa luta eterna entre amor e desamor.
Os povos africanos levantam nuvens de poeira com seus passos que lentamente sibilam e gemem sobre as areias dos desertos, do vazio imenso em que foram transformados. E eles avançam na areia sob o sol escaldante, silenciosamente, tentando manter o orgulho de uma terra que é mãe de todos nós.
Acumulus de vivências esquecidos nos solos do mundo. Experiências que se perdem por medo da verdade. E apagadas por aqueles que insistem em privar homens e mulheres do conhecimento, perpetuando a ignorância em muitos cantos da terra. A natureza humana tem um quê de suicida. Não aprende com os erros e o planeta agoniza. Acumulus de vivências esquecidos nos solos do mundo. Não deveriam se espalhar nem se desmanchar sem rumo certo.
October 2007 – Galeria 90, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Curated and conceived by Grupo D.O.C. (Isabel Löfgren, Patricia Gouvêa, Marco Antônio Portela, Mauro Bandeira), a Rio de Janeiro based artist’s collective.
This exhibition put into question the role of fake and copy in contemporary art. By no means an original issue, the point was to copy well worn ideas from post-modernism and do it in our own way. Thirteen Brazilian artists were commissioned to meditate on the notion of fakeness and non-originality within the context of art and of popular culture.
Beyond the artworks themselves, the structure of a conventional exhibition was also copied from the myriad exhibitions we see everyday in its “default” format: the white box, the artworks, the regular art public, and the critical text. Yet, in every part of the exhibition there was a “fake” element, often difficult to notice.
Seeking to question the legitimacy of the curatorial text in exhibitions, the group decided to make a collage of curatorial texts and articles found online and invent the name, origin and CV of the “fake” curator. In fact, the “fake” curator was named after my cat.
The exhibition text acted as an artwork itself created collectively by GRUPO D.O.C in its capacity as “curators, and in response to the theme “fake” and as a form of institutional critique to the formulaic way of writing critical texts, and to the idea of authorship and legitimacy. The audience was unaware of this fact and believed the text as it was.
Original commissioned artworks by André Parente, Claudia Hersz, Marcos Bonisson, Heleno Bernardi, Lau Caminha, Camille Kachani, Walton Hoffman, Yuri Firmeza, Grupo Hapax, Simone Michelin, Isabel Löfgren, Patricia Gouvea, Mauro Bandeira, Marco Antonio Portela.
EXHIBITION TEXT (In Portuguese)
“O mundo de verdade foi abolido. Que mundo nos restou?” – F. Nietzsche
O talento brasileiro muitas vezes se define pela habilidade de driblar as regras do sistema. No futebol, o jogador astuto passa, dribla, chuta a bola por entre as pernas do adversário rumo ao gol. Na política, sente-se o desengano de contas fraudadas, funcionários-fantasma e testemunhos falsos diante de flagrante corrupção. Na beleza, os seios siliconados das jovens mulheres criam uma sociedade de cyborgs (a)palpavelmente reais.
O verbo “to fake it” em inglês significa simular um chute, um passe, enganar para vencer. Como uma partida de futebol, a seqüência de passos falsos feitos com a bola, que carrega toda a verdade do jogo, cumpre o seu desejo do gol – o resultado verdadeiro, real e palpável dos falseamentos exercidos dentro de um campo de potencialidades real. Em meio a estas forças antagônicas – a prática do falso e o desejo do real e verdadeiro – surge uma atitude de enfrentamento dos jovens artistas à ordem estabelecida e ao cansaço da replicação de gêneros já sedimentados.
Já foi dito que a arte contemporânea, a arte da segunda metade do século XX, é uma arte do simulacro. No entanto, ela parece hoje ultrapassar o simulacro ao questionar um modelo de verdade que parece afirmar o falso, onde o artista passa a ser um falsário, um charlatão, um mensageiro da verdade velada. Em Nietzsche, a abolição de um “mundo-verdade” e o fim do sistema de julgamento nos deixa a sós com uma relação entre forças. O mundo passa a ser visto por dentro, sem mediações, nem essência nem aparências – o fim do dualismo platônico entre o modelo ideal e a cópia degenerada, e além disso, saber distinguir as boas das más cópias, os bons dos maus pretendentes, o puro do impuro.
Ao levantar esta potência do falso, os artistas aqui expostos oferecem leituras diferentes de uma consciência da imagem que deixa de ser meramente simulacro ou cópia ou plágio. O que se deve atestar a partir dessas investigações é aceitar que não há mais verdade a referenciar ou mimetizar. Sendo assim, cada artista cria o seu próprio campo de relações poéticas sem, contudo, alienar-se da realidade. Ao contrário, se antes a arte julgava-se alheia ao restante das atividades culturais e mercantis, hoje ela se dissimula em meio a todo o resto.
Hoje, a hibridez na arte é real, e a pureza, falsa, utópica, ilusória, enganosa. Estes artistas do “fake” transformam o falso, o irreal e o construído em verdade-potência, uma verdade que, como no Édipo Rei, termina por nos cegar. Cabe a nós, como Nietzsche propõe, distinguir o bom modelo da má cópia (ou vice-versa) ou chegar à conclusão de que tudo o que ocorre não precisa de uma dialética ou ponto referencial: o “fake” simplesmente é.
Outubro de 2006
(*) Nino Tavares(1958), crítico de arte e curador, é Professor Adjunto no Centro de Artes e Mídias da Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal. Mestre em História da Arte, Semiótica e Lingüística no European Graduate School, está atualmente concluindo o doutorado em Novas Mídias na Universidad de Los Andes, Colômbia. Tavares é o autor de vários textos críticos de vanguarda sobre arte contemporânea na América Latina. Suas publicações incluem, entre outros, “História e Teoria da Imagem Contemporânea” e “Intervenções Urbanas da Imagem na América Latina”.