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Category: Contributor: Eduardo Navas

TEXT: Notes on March 2009 Visit to El Salvador, by Eduardo Navas

CentroCultural
Front of Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador

Image source: Cultural Center of Spain

Cultural Center of Spain invited me to lecture in San Salvador, El Salvador from March 8 to the 13, 2009. During this period I also learned about the contemporary art scene as well as the art history of El Salvador.

I presented my research on Remix at the Cultural Center on March 10, and I lectured on art and new media in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of El Salvador (popularly known as La Nacional) on March 11. I met artists from different generations, some who are becoming more established, and some who are up and coming. I also visited the Museum of Art (Marte) which currently is exhibiting a thorough survey of Art in El Salvador since the 1800’s

The Cultural Center introduced me to young artists who work in diverse media, including installations, painting, performance, photography, video and web development. The work was extremely diverse, and well informed about international trends. I asked the artists about their training and they explained that it was very traditional. They also added that they are aware of contemporary art practice in large part thanks to the ongoing exposure that the Cultural Center of Spain offers by bringing artists, curators, and writers under the ongoing thematic of “Curating Latin America,” the same platform on which I was asked to participate. Artists have also developed collectives to support their particular interests. I was able to meet a couple of them. One is Artificio (Artifice), a group of young artists who came together with the goal to organize workshops and lectures that they themselves coordinate. The aim is to develop an informed opinion of what is taking place not only in the country but also in the international scene as well. Many of the members have participated in exhibitions throughout Central America. There appears to be a thriving exchange in this area, in particular between Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Artificio
Four members of the collective Artificio about to eat pizza with loroco (a local Salvadoran flower) at a popular pizza restaurant in the downtown area of San Salvador.

Members of Articifio (as listed on their main website): Malcriada Victoria, Jaime Aguirre, Natalia Dominguez, Samadhi, Victor Rodriguez, Claudia Olmedo, Dalia Chevez

Another collective that I met is La Fábri-K (pronounced “la fabrica” meaning factory). The name comes from their studio space, a former factory located on the outside of the capital in which electric batteries were assembled. This group is open to artists of any generation, but for the most part its members are of an older generation and more established, some enjoy international attention. Many of them lived or were affected by the twelve year civil war which took place between 1980 and 1992. Their work is informed by some of these issues as well as the current politics, and gang violence. Other members have focused on representational or abstract work that at first glance might appear to reference previous movements in the international scene, but with an open mind one realizes that the works are reactions to local preoccupations. All subjects are tactfully approached with a well calculated critical distance and a strong awareness of historical precedents. Like members of Artificio, these artists have come together to support their diverse practices. Many of them paint, but their approaches and sensibilities offer a dynamic contrast of media from printmaking to installation work as well as online projects.

Fabri-k
Two members of La Fábri-k, Baltasar Portillo and Mayra Barraza, at their spacious studio.

Members of La Fábri-k (as listed on their website): Luis Lazo, Romeo Galdámez, Mayra Barraza, Francisco Zayas, Baltasar Portillo, Amber Rose, Giovanni Gil, Fredis Monge, Jenny McGee

Experimental Space La Fabri-k
Experimental installation space at La Fábri-k. The collective plans to establish an artist in residence program in the near future.

I was also gracefully hosted by the director of the Museum of Art (Marte), Roberto Galicia, who gave me a tour of the current art exhibition titled “re-visiones: encuentros con el arte salvadoreño” (Re-visions: Encounters with the Art of El Salvador). The exhibition includes selected works from artists since the 1800’s. To expose the complexity of migration and immigration in the country and conventional notions of nationality, the curator, Jorge Palomo, opted to include work by artists who are of Salvadoran nationality who live or lived abroad as well as artists of different nationalities who opted to take long term residence in El Salvador. This curatorial decision exposes the complexities of the cultural shifts of El Salvador over two hundred years. The catalogue promises to be a valuable contribution to the understanding of the art of El Salvador. It is well researched, and offers a number of eloquent essays which reflect on the multi-cultural layers of El Salvador in relation to the art movements throughout Latin America.

Monument revolution
Monument to the Revolution (1948-56) by Violeta Bonilla (1924-1999) and Claudio Cevallos (information unavailable). Monument is next to the Museum of Art (Marte).

Museum of Art (Marte): http://www.marte.org.sv/

I was also able to meet other artists who work independently, they include Boris Ciudad Real, German Hernández, Alexia Miranda , Antonio Romero, and Danny Zavaleta. I also had the pleasure to meet Maira Maroquin, director of clic.org.sv, an online resource devoted to art, media and communication.

Finally, I visited other cultural centers, including the archeological site Joya del Cerén, which is a unique place where we can learn how Mayan farmers lived. The site was covered with volcano ash and debris during an eruption of the Laguna Caldera Volcano c. AD 600. The site was discovered in 1976 and was opened to the public in 1993 according to the information provided by my guide.

My brief visit to El Salvador gave me energy to look forward to the future of art practice not only in the Americas, but around the world. The current state of production in El Salvador is ripe for more international attention. With the efforts by institutions like the Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador in collaboration with the Museum of Art, great opportunities already begin to appear for local artists to become more established internationally. I’m glad to have been invited to experience this ongoing process, which will hopefully be written about by previous and future visitors invested in art and culture.

My many thanks to the Director of Cultural Center of Spain in El Salvador , Juan Sanchez, and Assistant Director, Mónica Mejía for making my visit possible.

FEATURE: The Latency of the Moving Image in New Media, at Telic, Los Angeles

“The Latency of the Moving Image in New Media”
May 25 to June 16

An exhibition of videos, online art, blogs, and audiovisual interfaces by artists who make the most of latency as a crucial element in their works. Curated by Eduardo Navas.
Go to the exhibition:
http://www.telic.info/onlinegallery/latency/

TELIC Arts Exchange
975 Chung King Road
Los Angeles, CA 90012
T: 213.344.6137
http://www.telic.info
info@telic.info

“The Latency of the Moving Image in New Media” presents artists who make latency part of visual language in their works.

Some of the works included in the exhibition are to be experienced online while others are to be seen as projections in an actual space, and others are downloadable interactive projects developed as freeware. The works will be available for viewing at Telic in a way that is sensitive to their original contexts.

Near the end of the exhibition, AAAARG.ORG presents an open conversation about latency with Eduardo Navas. Relevant texts will be posted to http://aaaarg.org/category/latency. The date and time of this conversation are to be announced.

SPECIAL TEXT SERIES:”3 X 3: New Media Fix(es) on Turbulence” Essays by Josphine Bosma, Belén Gache, and Eduardo Navas

Turbulence.org and New Media Fix (http://newmediafix.net) are pleased to announce the publication of “3 X 3: New Media Fix(es) on Turbulence,” three texts about works from the Turbulence.org archive. The texts–published in English, Italian and Spanish–were written and translated by members and affiliates of New Media Fix. They include “The Body in Turbulence” by Josephine Bosma; “Narrating with New Media: What Happened with Whatever has Happened?” by Belén Gache; and “Turbulence: Remixes + Bonus Beats” by Eduardo Navas. The translations are by Lucrezia Cippitelli, Francesca De Nicolò, Raquel Herrera, Brenda Banda Corona & Ignacio Nieto. Ludmil Trenkov designed the PDF and HTML documents.

“3 X 3: New Media Fix(es) on Turbulence” was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The essays may be viewed and/or downloaded at
http://www.turbulence.org/texts/nmf/
or http://newmediafix.net/Turbulence07/

BIOGRAPHIES

JOSEPHINE BOSMA (1962) is a writer and critic. She started working in the field of new media art making radio shows, documentaries and interviews about the topic for VPRO and Patapoe radio in 1993. She has published interviews, reviews and texts about art and new media in various books and magazine, both on and offline, since 1996. Her work mostly focuses on net art, sound art and net culture. Bosma has also organized several events, like the radio section of the tactical media festival Next5Minutes 2 (1996) and 3 (1999), an evening about net art criticism (2001) and the newsletter CREAM (2001/2002). She lives and works in Amsterdam. http://houseoflaudanum.com/bosma

BELÉN GACHE has a Master’s Degree in Discourse Analysis with a thesis on the argentine writer Julio Cortázar. She has published books such as Escrituras Nómades, del libro perdido al hipertexto (Nomadic Writings, from the lost book to hipertext) (Spain, Gijón, Trea, 2006), El ser escrito: lenguajes y escrituras en la obra de Xul Solar (The Written Being: languages and writings in Xul Solar’s works) (Madrid, Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2002), Jorge Macchi, el destino como principal sospechoso, (Jorge Macchi, Destiny as the Principal Suspect) (France, Centre Contemporain d´art, Montebeliard, 2001). As a narrator she has published the novels Lunas eléctricas para las noches sin luna (Electric Moons for Moonless Nights) (Sudamericana, 2004), Divina Anarquia (Divine Anarchy) (Sudamericana, 1999) and Luna India (Indian Moon) (Planeta, 1994). Since 1996 she develops Wordtoys , a compilation of net poems and other non-linear works. http://www.belengache.com.ar

EDUARDO NAVAS is an artist, historian and critic specializing in new media; his work and theories have been presented in various places throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. He has been a juror for Turbulence.org in 2004 and for Rhizome.org in 2006-07, New York. Navas is founder and was contributing editor of “Net Art Review” (2003-05), is co-founder of “newmediaFIX” (2005 to present) and is co-founding member of “acute.cc”, an international group of artists and academics who organize event and publications periodically. Currently, Navas is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art and Media History, theory and Criticism at the University of California San Diego. http://www.navasse.net

REVIEW (Focus on Santiago, Chile): The Hacker Aesthetic infiltrates the 7th Biennale of video and New Media of Santiago by Eduardo Navas

“The 7th Video and New Media Biennale of Santiago” in Chile took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art, in conjunction with ongoing events at Centro Cultural España, from the 18-27 of November, 2005. The exhibition’s curatorial statement, by Néstor Olgaharay, reconsiders Roland Barthes’ essay “The Death of the Author” as it relates to concepts of interactivity, and how these ideas have been elaborated on by burgeoning developments in computer interface design. The statement proposes the idea of “interface” as a metaphor that can be used to reevaluate cultural production in the rise of the network society. In his essay, Barthes questions the passivity of the reader and the privileged position of the author, explaining that the text can only be activated, or brought to life by the reader—a critical reader, to be precise. Olhagaray asserts that Duchamp previously proposed this type of reader when he presented his urinal for contemplation as a work of art at the beginning of the 20th Century. And, it is with this approach to the work of art, “to abolish or at least diminish the distance between the reading and writing,” that the “7th Video and New Media Biennale of Santiago” was organized. The curator endorsed this reevaluation by arguing that developments in emerging technologies allow for new types of dynamic relationships to occur between the author and reader by supporting more open-ended discourses. This proposition was the central tenant for exploring the relationship between and crossover of video and new media.


(Biennale curator, Néstor Olgaharay)

The Biennale was an attractive event that exhibited Chilean artists along with international artists from Europe as well as the United States. However, neither the idea of the interface as a discursive metaphor endorsing a critical position, nor its correlation to authorship, was immediately evident. This lapse may be due in large part to the pervasiveness of traditional video installations. This would not have seemed incongruous with the exhibition thesis if the installations had been pushed beyond traditional museum presentation, consisting of large projections in dark rooms furnished with seats. The theme might have been better served by strategically juxtaposing video works with more interactive installations to imply some sort of dynamic relationship. Unfortunately, only a couple of the ten or so galleries offered works with which the viewer could actually interact, compared to the anticipated challenges offered by contemporary interfaces.

Considering the potential of new media as a platform inspired by collaborative activities, such as open source, it was ponderous why there were no works that explored the notions cited in the catalog’s curatorial statement more explicitly, allowing users to become actual creative collaborators by modifying the work. At the most, the user could play, interacting in the most general way with some of the works, but no permanent modifications were ever possible. The role of the author and reader remained very well defined. However, to be fair, we could consider the questioning of authorship/readership as a rhetorical measure, where the exhibition exposes the ideological displacement of the work of art from its pivotal position, a unique object created to be looked at, to one where the viewer is expected to deconstruct and reflect upon his/her own role as an “active” participant. Yet, this position would still not be enough to sustain the exhibition statement, which claims that elements of new media, such as open source or hacking, necessarily imply joining a collective to develop works; and, that these works do not depend on the labor and/or concepts of a single person, but rather on the contributions of many whom are readers and producers simultaneously.


( ASCII – Gioconda acción de arte digital by yto.cl , AKA Isabel Aranda. one of the welcomed performances throughout the Biennale. Here Da Vinci is digitized manually.)

The Biennale successfully presented emerging contemporary practices in juxtaposition with video projects that may not necessarily be connected to the concept of interactivity by default. A shortcoming, however, was that a certain division happened between disciplines. That is, video was presented emphasizing a strong tradition while new media was presented as an up and coming discipline in the arts, which not always complemented the more established tradition. Upon realizing this, one could only wish that the biennale had pushed for a hybridized state. But, instead, ‘purity’ was the implicit position taken to validate both camps. This is evident in the official name of the biennale — “Video and New Media” — which brings the two fields together, while also separating them. But such juxtaposition points to a hybrid state in the near future, because, after all, in the recent past, the biennale only focused on video. For now, the “7th Biennale of Video and New Media of Santiago” has provided its visitors with a rich, though admittedly narrow discourse; one which can only demand that the viewer be more critical of art now as well as in the future.

And so, the exhibition required that the viewer look further, not into the actual works within the museum, but into the organizing principle that curator Néstor Olgaharay used to assemble the biennale. The notion of the author/reader was effectively reevaluated in an indirect way, by allowing other curators and collectives to organize parts of the exhibit. In addition, the viewer could look beyond the museum to find interactive pieces that were situated in different locations within Santiago. This exhibition segment was called “Obra Abierta,” (“Open Work”), after Umberto Eco’s theories, consisting of installations that required the viewer to become a para-user, manipulating, but not necessarily changing, the works. The artists invited to create these pieces were Areil Bustamante, Félix Lazo, Sebatián Skoknic, Espora, Daniel Gonzáles and Jorge Sepúlveda. The works were presented at major cultural institutions like the Museum of National History and the Museum of Science and Technology among other spaces.

The curatorial practice was further extended with the participation of collective groups, including Colectivo Conmoción, Troyano, Kintun, Incas of Emergency, Suicidio Colectivo and Radio Ruido. These collectives contributed video installations as well as new media works ranging from online projects to sound installations.

In particular, the curatorial collective Troyano, (consisting of Ignacio Nieto, Alejandro Albornoz, Italo Tello and Ricardo Vega), took the position of an intervener by following the tradition of hackers who write viruses. It is in such works that make visible the deconstructive method at play, one that is critical of the limitations of an art institution.


(Troyano Collective, discussing their curatorial intervention)

Troyano with a metaphoric act of resistance “hacked,” that is infiltrated the Biennale to introduce a historical thread of new media works, creating non-linear connections to Chilean art since the 1950s to today—this is true in particular to the tradition of sound as art, a special section curated by Alejandro Albornoz. Like many other curators and collectives who participated in the exhibit, Troyano connected the history of Chile to other international movements around the world, juxtaposing works by local artists with collectives and hackers from the United States and Europe. Troyano’s intervention/hack consisted of presenting work that had not been recognized particularly in Chile, due to misunderstandings or lack of interest by the art institution. They use the term “virus” with a double sense, the first to refer to the tradition in hacking to create viruses that infiltrate a secured computer system (in this case the museum); and, the second, to comment on the lack of support for emerging new media work by the art institution as a kind of bureaucratic virus. The end result was a quite refreshing approach based on thematics of international interest, carefully questioning the continuity of history.

Historically important net art projects by members of the net.art group, who included Alexei Shulgin, Vuc Kosic and Olia Lialina, were presented in direct juxtaposition with several works including two small video installations by New York based artist Matt Kenyon, (who critiques large corporations like McDonalds and Wal-Mart), along with the local artist collective Señal tres, (a TV station that broadcasts programming throughout Chile with the aim to expose viewers to a critical discourse calling for self-reflexivity.)

A further complement to the reevaluation of the author/reader and their relation to the interface were the daily conferences scheduled for ten days at both The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centro Cultural de España. Troyano, in fact, extended their intervention/hack to organize a number of these conferences, upon which I shall now focus.


(Ine Poppe and Sam Nemeth presented on Hacking, above: detail from a documentary video where a young hacker was interviewed on his creative process)

These were gatherings where people discussed familiar concepts of new media. The public experienced documentaries on hacking by Dutch Artists Ine Poppe and Sam Nemeth. Poppe screened the documentary Hippies from Hell that evaluated the historical relevance of hacker culture in relationship to squatters in Amsterdam. Poppe also screened a feature film, inspired by an actual event, about a young man with a terminal disease who requests that a camera be placed inside his coffin and buried with his corpse, streaming images of its deterioration to the Internet. Sam Nemeth, (also of Creative Commons in Amsterdam), presented on behalf of the Waag foundation, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, offering residencies to artists who want to experiment with emerging technologies, especially open source software developed by Waag.


(Lucrezia Cippitelli presenting work by various Cuban artists.)

Italian Curator Lucrezia Cippitelli presented video work from Cuba, where she explained that Cuban artists see the technology considered “new media” in other parts of the world as just another critical tool for artistic expression. Much of the work screened was developed with minimal technological intervention. For example, video editing was done with a laptop computer, using original sound and image with very little special effects or filters. One video presented three men improvising with their voices inside a home. The video was strategically edited so that the spoken word was detached slowly from its corresponding image, allowing the aura of improvisation to be deconstructed, and making apparent the ephemerality of the lived moment.


(Nomade Collective discussing Linux and free software)

Artist and professor Pablo Cottet and his collaborative Netzfunk lectured on an interactive art project where the history of Chile can be accessed by anyone who uses a GPS device connected to a computer while walking around the historic Alameda Boulevard. Software Libre and Proyecto Nomade lectured on open source. Representatives Lila Pagola and Luis Britos discussed how Linux is being used in Chile as well as in Argentina as an alternative to commercial-ware. The pros and cons of open source were discussed at some length, to the point where the discussion was brought to an end because of overtime in the facility. Other presentations outside of the Troyano intervention included Chilean new media artist Christian Oyarzun, who dealt with the aesthetics of computer graphics created on the fly for musical performances or for installations. And, there were a number of music events throughout the ten days, including a VJ and Sound set by Diego Agaso and Alejandro Albornoz and his collective CES.


(detail of VJ projection by Diego Agasso during closing night of conferences organized by Troyano)

These conferences showed that there is great potential for a more integrated Biennale in the future, where the terms “video” and “new media” may no longer be necessary, as in the title of Santiago’s biennale. Until then, being aware of the restrictions of splitting these media will be necessary, and, one can only hope, that more interventions, like Troyano’s, will be made in the future to continually remind the art institution of its bureaucratic limitations.


(detail of performance by various ruidistas/grupos sonoros, closing evening at the Museum of Contemporary art, Santiago)

www.t-r-o-y-a-n-o.cl
www.bienaldevideo.cl