“Local Communities and Nomad Artists”, in Going public 05. Communities and Territories, Larissa: Larissa Contemporary art Center, 2005
IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE TO DO IT? Seminar
The seminar is conceived as a short essay of approximation to the different ways of intervention in the city from artistic practices. With the presentation of severals works from the artists and the curators responsible for these kinds of projects, the seminar intends to show the different ways of doing- reconstructing marginal memories, proposing new cartographic procedures, inventing mechanisms for other sociabilities, emphasizing the documental action in urban transformations, …- even more important, to evaluate the real effectiveness of these kinds of interventions.
The examples given and discussed in the seminar will give priority to recent experiences in the city of Barcelona.
These notes are nothing more than some preliminary remarks aiming at approaching a series of complex problems that, from our point of view, need to be recognized within the new, fashionable, artistic practices, which are dedicated to the exploration of their public dimension through the direct contact with local communities, and they operate in specific socio-cultural contexts. In fact, each one of these points forms a sort of index of subjects that should be delineated and expounded with the utmost tenacity but, for the time being, these points may serve as a guide for some subsequent analysis. Therefore, like a disorderly collection of ideas, we are going to throw the dice without distinction.
A recognized aesthetic tradition, of positivist character, concedes to the artist the special capacity to circulate, through his work, an efficient expression of the “genius loci”, of the specific character of the place or, even better, of the hypothetical “essential spirit” of the place in question. From this perspective, the artist, even the “genius”, doesn’t construct an extravagant and alien to the majority imaginary but, on the contrary, he converts himself to the most legitimized voice to express and represent several essential attributes of a community, even though this community may not be initially capable of recognizing them in the aforesaid representation. This pretension, which is full of conceit, now hardly can be supported. Nevertheless, even if this happens by unexpected and barely conscious ruptures, something from this tradition may still be surviving.
In the world of globalized art and, above all, of art like a felicitous instrument for the aggrandizement of the spectacles of consumption, we are witnessing an explosion of biennials and disparate events that, in many cases, are planned with the view of “normalizing” the locations in which they take place. Cities that hardly exist on the map, either on national, continental or global scale, aspire to appear in it with the impetus of the artistic event. Similarly, places that are extremely well-known, because of their “problematic” nature though (the case of Tijuana or, mutatis mutandis, of the Basque Country in Spain) also resort to art, aiming at a regeneration –or a make-up– of the aforesaid problems, regardless of how honest are their initial intentions. In both cases –either in the “inexistent” places or the “problematic” places– the artists are invited to intervene with their equipment of the best intentions, but at the same time they are compelled to move from place to place like savior nomads. “Save the place” could be a good slogan for the legitimization of the figure of a new errant artist who, pressed by the following commission, hardly can recognize a situation, a reality or a community in order to apply to it his own strategies, before moving to an other area of the planet. Clearly, the artist “engaged” with the place and its people, doesn’t arrive in principle with a desire of manipulation or Messianism; on the contrary, he is supposed to have a sufficient humility and honesty, so as to respect the idiosyncrasy of the place of operations; but this very respect, along with his capacity as an occasional agent, he facilitates this automatic adoption of his habitual “modes of action”, to the extent that already relies on his already proven efficacy. After all, the “artistic” nature of the intervention appears once more as crucial, even though now its ingenuity isn’t found in its supposed capacity to reveal an essential background but, quite the opposite, in its capacity to contribute to the construction of a new image that, in fact, has little to do with real tensions. Moreover, the supposed “genius loci”, we shouldn’t forget that, is nothing more than the narration that aspires to impose itself as hegemonic on behalf of better established ideological sectors.
We will pay special attention to the history of the city of Barcelona that reveals interesting turning points in the urban debate that are worth exploring. In this seminar we will explore three different aspects of the city over the last two centuries.
In the first place, looking inwards, the debate on the urban design and its implications on the model of society has always been very active in Barcelona since the Cerda project of expansion “the Eixample”. This project shaped not only the urban fabric of the city but also tuned its social pulse over the last century. The contrast with other projects of the city and the social and political repercussion of them are a good example of debate between urban rationality and cultural idealism.
The second section will concentrate in the international projection of Barcelona. During the last century Barcelona has always wanted to prove its vitality by organizing different international events that showed the world that Barcelona could compete with other major metropolis. The examples of the International Expositions of 1888 and 1929 and the Olympic Games in 1992 are interesting cases of how the social aspirations became materialized in the urban space. Other examples worldwide can also be used to analyze how international events can shape a new urban image.
Finally, a debate is actually under way on the model of the city. Barcelona is looking now outwards and is trying to find its own space in the new urban network. We will explore some of the most recent debates and the most relevant economic, social and political issues that urban citizens are experiencing in cities world-wide