Category Archives: Investigations

Reflections on Public Programming 3.22.2014

I looked back to the Zotero for the course to find articles about the discourse surrounding public programming, but could not find any resources to help me contextualize my own reflections, so I delved deeper into Terry Smith’s “Thinking Contemporary Curating”. In the last chapter, “The Infrastructural”, I found some important points that he brings up that I think are worth mentioning here.

He writes, “ The institution is now not just the museum but a whole industry that has grown up around exhibition making’..So has its need to activate infrastructure”. I think what Smith is saying here is that it is important to find ways to utilize other physical spaces, buildings, structures (i.e. infrastructure) to further activate the exhibition. Obviously, this is something that has become an integral part of curating today which is why from the start of the exhibition making public programming was structured then further developed for our class.

However, I take caution when he says that exhibition making has become an entire industry. The implication it has become an industry implies the manufacturing of goods and production. Because of this it is important to create programming around an exhibit that also transcends the infrastructure of an art space or learning institute. Smith write about, Paula Marincola’s provocation: “Can we ever get beyond the essential conservatism of displaying works of art in conventional, dedicated spaces?’ resonates through the exhibitionary complex, shaking the presumption of each kind of venue that it is a special domain for art. When we move inside these structures to the kinds of exhibitions that curators regularly stage, a widespread contemporary impulse is voiced by Obrist’s regular refrain: ‘We must experiment with ways beyond objects’ (250).

How one may be able to do this is through diverse public programming. I was able to attend some of the earlier public programming events. The first event I attended was the panel discussion we held before the exhibit opening, “Celebrating Contemporary Guatemalan Art: Conversations with Artists & Curators”.

I was happy that at this event we were able to have speakers like Jessica Kaire who was exhibiting a piece in our exhibition and artist Terike Haapoja in direct discussion with curators. The discussion between artist and curator is important because of the ever changing relationship between the two and art and art production today. I was a little confused by Jamie Permuth’s position on the panel, or rather the interaction on the panel with him. He is a Guatemalan artist making contemporary art, many times with Guatemala as it’s subject matter. However, at one point during the discussion it seemed to me as though he indicated that perhaps he would not call what happened in Guatemala a genocide, or at least that he likes to distance his work from this association. My interpretation could most certainly be wrong, but I think that this would have been a great opportunity for someone on the panel to further explore and or clarify this positioning with him and the public since our exhibit takes resurfacing invisible injustices as one of it’s main curatorial threads.

I was unable to attend the performance pieces and wish that I was able to, but with a 6 day work week it was just not possible. These programs are important to our overall public programming strategy because they respond to Marincola’s provocation that I mentioned before, “Can we ever get beyond the essential conservatism of displaying works of art in conventional, dedicated spaces?”. I think that with programs like the Walk Exchange and Regina Galindo’s performance in New York we can in some small ways do this. In these instances the public programming was actually public- outside The New School and the exhibition space, which in and of itself makes a different sort of impact.

I am really looking forward to the public programming on Saturday surrounding New Masculinities because I feel that this event is poised to create continuing, ongoing, important, and divergent conversations about our exhibit. I cannot speak for the other events that I was not able to attend, but I think this event will create more critical thinking and reflection on the actual exhibit that is needed.

Reflexiones de Guatemala Despues

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Now that the exhibition Guatemala Despues opened, I can finally take time to reflect on it.

My favorite piece is Maquina de la Fortuna, from Colectivo Kaqjay Moloj, since it references to the power of words, wishes and community. It is a powerful art piece that combines english, spanish and Kaqchikel, engaging people of all languages and cultures. Another piece that was powerful was Sitio Seña, since its main issued, Migration and materiality, are approached in a nonconventional way, tracing signs and creating forms that translated into creative art work. I could connect to those pieces and in my visits to the gallery I could see many interactions between the audiences and that particular artwork.

Regarding Guatemala Despues, the overall museography of the exhibition feels sloppy, there are several art pieces that are poorly hung, such as El olvido que no sabe que es olvido (Yasmin Hage, Alejandro Flores, and Camilo A. Luin), and there are pieces that go unnoticed such as the 3 D printed piece (since it is white, you can barely see the detail being placed in a white stand -there is no contrast).

Although the timeline explains the Guatemalan historical situation, it does not engage the audience in the Guatemalan conflict mainly because the text is too extensive and people do not read it. As a consequence, most audiences do not have enough context to feel connected to the art work.  In one of my visits to the gallery there was a person using the art piece ¿Me escuchas? (Jessica Kairé and Daniel Perera) as an office, disrespecting the art piece and the artists.

Regarding my personal conection to the exhibition, unfortunately, as a student I never felt like a part of the exhibition beyond doing several translations and writing emails. The interactions we had with the Guatemalan artists were forced and rushed which resulted in a difficult collaboration on both ends. This led to very little learning on my part as to what curatorial practices consist of, primarily I simply learned how to manage my translating skills.

As a general reflexion, I learned a lot from the exhibition, in the conventional and the unconventional way of schooling.

By Ivana Garcia

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Image References: Guatemala Despues, Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/131191651@N07/16972985850/

Opening Reflections

Unfortunately, on short notice this week I was not able to visit the gallery with a friend to engage in a discussion.  I will try to do this later on this week, I definitely see the merit in doing this to understand our “museography” because there are some particular items I am curious about and how they are translated by a public that is more distanced from this project than the class and I.  My main question is how the public interacts with the timeline and projected piece in the hallway.  I wonder if it is blatantly obvious that this is a part of our exhibit, particularly the projection as it is located farthest from the entrance to the exhibit.  At the same time, it engages students who naturally flow through the building and are aware that there are often shows exhibited in the space, which I have witnessed with past exhibits and with ours.

I also have some questions that may seem obvious, but have not thought about until the opening. In general, I am curious about how the public at large engages with our exhibit, meaning outside of The New School Community.  The location of our exhibit in the Aronson Gallery is a great location and the window looking in is welcoming and inviting to the public.  However, access to the public in reality seems somewhat limited.  In order to gain access to the exhibit students have to use their ID cards to first enter the building.  I understand why this security check is in place, but also wonder what effect this has on the outside public coming to visit the gallery.  I would think it would be an immediate deterrent and have some logistical questions about whether and how the security guards allow the public into the gallery (especially when there are not specific events going, like the grand opening).

Before the exhibit was installed, I wrote that a major curatorial consideration would be not only how we tell the story of Guatemala after the Genocide, but how we could guarantee that certain projects voices weren’t heard more than others.  This is where the O’Neill reading was particularly helpful, especially his idea of “The Exhibition as Form”, which focuses specifically with group exhibitions, like ours.  I think we were able to address this issue which was difficult- the challenge of having a cohesive exhibition that allowed the works to still speak their individual stories, but would need to hear more feedback from the audience and how the artists who presented work felt that they were understood.

O’Neill’s categorization of spaces within the exhibit as being either background, foreground, and middle ground was helpful to me in understanding our group exhibit.  The background is the structure/architecture of the space, this area was easier to figure out. I mentioned the hallway and window structures before.  I think the window structure was especially helpful and crucial to ensuring that more projects were able to be shown in the foreground and not fall by the wayside.  Pointing the microphones to the street, as if poised to ask a question was a great way to give this piece a more of a headlining position .  If the window was a wall, this piece would be relegated to the farthest corner from the entrance and may have gotten less traffic.

I am interested to observe the public interact with the exhibit and will reflect more when I engage a friend about the exhibit. what do they

Post-Exhibition Reflection

Upon arriving at the exhibition opening I was struck by how minimal, muted and sparse the space seemed. It was airy and each piece was more or less thoughtfully laid out. Given the gravity of the subject matter, and the sheer number of artists being represented, I expected the exhibit to feel more chaotic and populated. The overall layout was palatable, almost unassuming and the placement of each piece felt purposeful. If I were to offer any criticism concerning the “museography” of the exhibition, it would mostly concern the language/writing of the placards and the timeline, which was overdone and poorly designed. In addition to the strange color combinations, which were distracting and aesthetically off-putting, there was far too much information on the timeline without the necessary context to properly situate the content. If the timeline were to be redone, I would have it heavily stripped and make sure that the language presented was meaningful; illustrating quality over merely sheer quantity.

Regarding the setup, “The Metamorphosis of Devaluation,” felt incredibly contrived and confused despite our best efforts to bring integrity and authenticity to the work. The receipts were pinned as flippantly to the sidewall as one would place memos on a corkboard in a conference room and the quality of all the prints in the entire exhibition was blatantly poor. There was a craft (DIY) element to how things were presented which, depending on taste, could be perceived as either charming or cheap. To improve the presentation of The Metamorphosis of Devaluation, I would actually take the whole project down and completely reconstruct the concept. This would obviously mean that the entire design and delivery would be different. The other work that I was equally unmoved by in terms of both its visual layout and labeling was the “Cliff Writing” by Yasmin Hage. I do not think there is a lot of clarity of thought behind this project and its manifestation was a sincere stretch to me. The intent to illustrate “ancient text in classic Mayan language,” had potential, however, unfortunately the project as a whole simply fell flat.

Alternatively, I did think that Sitio-Sena’s work was well displayed and I could immediately see the work and thought that went into the project. That said, I wasn’t really taken by it and rather immediately thought about the incredible work I have seen being done with encoded textiles and “coded stories” by other artists. Sitio-Sena reminded me of the work of Guillermo Bert, however, his artistic voice has far more presence and intentionality behind it. Bert designs hand-woven, large-scale tapestries, which, combine contemporary bar codes, indigenous design methods, and the stories of native peoples in order to both celebrate and revive traditional art forms. Guillermo’s work is both clear and incredibly layered and his production seamlessly conveys the intricate histories of indigenous weavers in Southern Chile. Sitio-Sena was successful in its depiction of a collaborative art project, but I personally failed to see the analogy between what happened with African slaves and the Underground Railroad in The United States and current migration between the U.S. and Guatemala. I found this element of Sitio-Sena to be incredibly problematic in myriad ways.

Lastly, two works that I did find compelling were K’ak’ Mul (Nuevamente. Otra Vez)/ K’ak’ Mul (Once More, Again) and Quema. Although very literal, Quenma was visually beautiful and displayed a vulnerability which, I found refreshing, compared to other pieces in Guatemala Despues. It alluded to other historic cases of persecution, censorship and book burning, therefore, it was memorable to me. Moreover, K’ak’ Mul was independently powerful, however, I’m afraid that given its placement, most people fail to take note of it. The piece was a modestly constructed video clip that showed the commemoration of activities conducted at the peak of Mt. Alaska, where a massacre of protesters took place in 2012. These two pieces provoked me on both an intellectual and emotional level, however as a whole and given the thematic nature of the artworks, the exhibition fell short. No one narrative was coherently crafted and as a result, I think a lot of value became lost in translation. Once I left and crossed the street, almost immediately, I stopped thinking about what I had just seen.

EXHIBITION DESING REFELXION

Katerine Vasquez, Guatemala Después

Putting together an exhibition design is something new for me. I will have to admit that it has been a roller-coaster. Interacting with artists in different country, completing last minutes assignments and following last minutes decisions in time were challenging task. However, every single student in our class was strong enough to overcome those obstacles and continued on with what now we call “Guatemala Despues, Exhibit Design”.

Throughout the course my interest has always been the Guatemalan community. My interest is/was to engage the Guatemalan community directly and hear their perspectives as part of the exhibit project. I thought we would have Guatemalan students at The New School speak about their past experiences. I also thought of extending an invitation to our Exhibit Design to Guatemalan natives in NYC, followed by interviewing them and hearing their intake on what we have done.

Even though we were asked not to pick an artwork that we worked on, I found very interesting the voiceover of the artist in Guatemala. While doing the translation I was able to feel a connection with them. Yet, I feel that this audio would have a greater impact on its audience if the public were able to see the facial expression of each of the artist. The artist tone of voice convey emotion and the words coming out of their mouth transports you to the time and location of the event. As filmed documentary student, I believe that the best way to understand one culture is by visualizing it yourself.

As Brenda stated, in her article “Getting to great ideas: Brenda’s fab five activities for fearless exhibit designers”, See the Story around you”. She gives the sample of a Bodega (Convenience store). She sees these small groceries stores “as if it were a person sharing a story about its neighborhood, incorporate objects, juxtaposition. Content and a deep awareness of visitor experience”, I believe this was accomplished with the Guatemalan dishes such as the atol and tacos. However, the emotional aspect of the exhibit was missing.

Overall with food, videos and quilts the exhibition design was able to illustrate how Guatemalan communities share the same story, culture or experience. Yet, I feel that the gallery leaves too many unanswered questions. The whole purpose of an Exhibition design is to provoke and emotional impact and educated its audience. I believe this could have been accomplished even more if more people from the Guatemalan community were involved in the project. Perhaps, if there were more images on the wall, or if the posters were bigger and all the videos had sound (voice).

GuatemalaDESPUES – project and process| YOU’VE BEEN SCHOOLED!

Guatemala Despues has been a whirl-wind, real-world education about the inner workings of art curation. It ask’s the questions; What does it mean to execute a show that has many artists, and how do you facilitate doing that? How do you address a culture not your own, with sensitivity and purpose? And also, what is meaning in the context of contemporary art?

Ultimately, how do you make a show cohesive and relevant in the aftermath of a devastation that affected a whole countries psyche?

It’s a huge undertaking, PERIOD!

As a class, we have been a part of that process, the messy, sometimes “shitty” process that can be equally rich and rewarding, when all is said and done. I witnessed, the arguments, and dissatisfaction as some things, because of time constraints and logistics, fell by the wayside. But at the end of the day, when it was most critical, we  ALL stepped up, and did what we had to do, for better or for worse. This is no different from any production experience, in my opinion.

Despite disagreements, when it came time to announce the shows opening on Thursday night, everyone was professional, and did what they had to do. It was something to be respected and learned from. We’ve had readings, speakers, and visits to other exhibits, yet NOTHING, to me, compares to the value of the process of putting together this exhibit, however problematic.

This is school, and we have been schooled.

A couple of days ago I brought my friend Erica Milde, a student in the Media Studies graduate program, to our exhibit and recorded her response and critique of Guatemala Despues.

Black Banana: Exhibitions of Absence

 

Black Banana: Exhibitions of Absence – the paper

by Novel ‘Idea’ Sholars  and  Maira Nolasco                          

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Introduction

Black Banana is the examination of structural racism in art curation and it’s effects on descendants of Africa living in Latin America. Acting as a metaphor, it sheds light on the absence of those of the African Diaspora in the workforce, and as a part of the overall Latin American cultural project. What are the histories of these erasures, and how does this history prove the existence of a racist hegemony that results in cultural exclusion? When did the whitening of Latin America begin and how does this whitening affect the economy of the black populations as well as their integration into Latin American society? Is the lack of Black Latino representation proof of racist curatorial practices in the Latin American contemporary art world? These are the questions this project hopes to explore. The Black Banana focus is to create awareness around the possible denial of racism and how that denial effects who and what is curated. Ultimately the goal is to provoke an open dialog about identity, hybridity, and access. Continue reading Black Banana: Exhibitions of Absence

THE MURALS IN GUATEMALA AS MEMORY AND RESISTANCE

Memory initiatives have served several purposes: to recover the memory of what happened and make public denunciations, dignity and honor the memory of the victims, promote community organization and social reconstruction, inform and educate new generations, and to demand redress and justice. This paper focus on Guatemalan murals as a memory initiative and as an art form used by the direct victims of the conflict.

NEWSCHOOL_DVALERO_MURALS GUATEMALA