The Argentina Independent – Destination Buenos Aires: The City’s Artist-in-Residence Scene
by Else Siemerink, 07 February 2013.
A Dutch artist reflecting on the relationship between porteños and public space; a German artist drawing her multitude of perspectives on the cityscape; a Peruvian artist capturing the intimacy of the city’s forgotten buildings. With Buenos Aires as a backdrop and inspiration, artist-in-residence programmes serve as platforms where national and international artists can create varied works, investigate new ideas, and engage in a refreshing dialogue outside of their usual environment.
The first artist-in-residence program in Buenos Aires opened its doors around 2005. But even though it is a relatively young scene, it is flourishing, offering programmes that vary greatly in size, discipline, duration and focal points.
To explore the artist-in-residence scene of Buenos Aires we visited three programs – ‘ace, La Paternal Espacio Proyecto and URRA – and talked to their directors and residents. All are led by artists with visions, who have done residencies themselves, and together they present a very versatile image of the artist-in-residence scene in the Argentine capital.
‘ace: Atmosphere of Exchange
In La Torre (the tower) – a brightly lit and secluded studio of ‘ace – Peruvian artist Natalia Pilo Pais is working on her photographic series ‘De-construcción’. With a focus on the subjective experience of architecture, she photographs buildings that have been forgotten or neglected, but bear significance to individuals. After carrying out this project in Medellín in Colombia and Lima in Peru, Buenos Aires was next in line for Pilo Pais, who is exploring the subject in a Sub30 residency, which lasts – like most of the residencies at ‘ace – three weeks.
Alicia Candiani, founder and director of ‘ace, points out that one of their focal points is engaging in a dialogue with the artist. Candiani and her staff of experts do not only facilitate the artists’ stay or provide them with the necessary tools, but also actively participate in the artistic process, discussing ideas and exchanging information in a collaborative effort. To Pilo Pais this is what makes the residency so productive: “unlike working in your own studio at home, you get to interact with experts in a new environment, in a short but very intense period of time.”
Besides La Torre, ‘ace has exhibition spaces, a library, a dark room and a workshop with machines for printmaking. Though professional and emerging artists working in many disciplines are welcome to apply, they primarily admit artists who work with paper, photography, and other graphic mediums. Printmaking, and investigating the phenomenon of the reproducibility of the artwork, is at the core of Candiani’s own artistic practice, interest and expertise.
Since 2005, when the first resident entered, ‘ace has been developing into a well-oiled machine. They offer different types of residencies – focused for instance on urban intervention, exploration or production – which have been perfected over time. Now, a constant stream of artists from all over the world – over 20 residents arrived in 2012 – passes through the institute.
All residents are asked to bring food typical to their country with them (since the arrival of Pilo Pais, dishes with hot peppers have been on the menu). As eating together is a way to share, relax, and reflect on personal as well as artistic progress, it is an important moment of the day at ‘ace. The weight put on this daily routine seems to echo the atmosphere of exchange and dialogue which prevails at the institute.
LPEP: Where Art Meets Society
At La Paternal Espacio Proyecto (LPEP), art and society – literally and figuratively speaking – come together. Exhibition space meets living environment in a very homely building in the residential barrio of Paternal. With a rooftop terrace, a cozy kitchen, studios, two felines (Vigo and Vladimir), and a lot of art, LPEP is a place where you feel at home instantly.
LPEP is a cultural house, which was founded in 2009 by Franc Paredes, and is dedicated to generating exchange between artists and promoting the intersection of art and society. Paredes is interested in how art functions outside of the commercial realm; how it relates to society. His interest translates into several programs, focused on art and technology, education, environment, and politics. This results in collaborative projects between artists and the community, exhibitions, and exciting evenings with experimental music and performances.
Projects at LPEP take shape among a community of national and international artists. Paredes’ residents – he houses about three at a time for a period of one to four months – are typically oriented on arts and politics, though he welcomes artists working in a wide range of subjects. “Most of all it is important to offer artists a space where they can work freely and in whatever manner suits them,” says Paredes.
He provides his residents with a relaxed and easygoing place to live and work, with the possibility to immerse themselves in a community of artists and the local art scene of Buenos Aires. As Paredes puts it, LPEP is very ‘Latin American’. The programs as well as the residencies seem to evolve in an organic manner, and nothing is highly polished or organised.
German artist Lara Dahlman is currently residing at LPEP, where she is working on an installation of drawings that she will exhibit in April. Dahlman roams the city and sits in parks with her sketchbook to draw her perspectives on the urban sprawl. Her studio at LPEP serves as operating base, where she is enabled to work however she pleases. For Dahlman a residency like this is “an opportunity to adopt a different style of working, to do something you haven’t done before”. At LPEP, she says, there is room for experimentation, for failure, and for success.
URRA: Spaces for Production and Inspiration
In November 2012, the third edition of URRA’s Art Residency in Buenos Aires took place. Fourteen international artists gathered to live and work in Buenos Aires for the duration of one month. Within an intensive program of activities – like visiting private collections and meeting curators – they worked on their individual artistic projects in an old building in the barrio of Almagro.
To Dutch participant Allard van Hoorn, the city was a source of inspiration and URRA offered the perfect platform to investigate its surroundings. One of the works Van Hoorn created was presented, and indeed created, at the Open Studio event that closed the residency. A sentence composed of tiles embedded in the pavement refers to a specific relation between public space and its users: the bad condition of Buenos Aires’ sidewalks and the partial responsibility of the citizens for their maintenance (see picture).
Besides the Open Studio, there were two more opportunities for the residents to present their work: in an oral presentation at the MALBA and a group show with already existing work at Galería del Infinito Arte. For Van Hoorn, the intensity of the program and the closeness to the other residents made it a unique and fruitful experience.
URRA is the creation of Melina Berkenwald. Alongside the one-month program, URRA also offers the MAY Residency, which lasts for two weeks and is for a maximum of four artists. Although each residency has another focus and structure, all are characterised by enabling spaces for production and inspiration. Encouraging dialogue, international networking, and linking professionals working in the cultural scene, are important aims for Berkenwald.
URRA is currently a nomadic institute, moving around the city. Though Berkenwald is working on realising a permanent location for URRA, using various locations in the city will remain an important feature of the institute.
While Berkenwald is organising the selection of the artists – in cooperation with advisors from all over the world – she is also busy setting up a residency program for curators and organizing an exchange with iaab, an exchange and studio program for artists in Basel. URRA will select an Argentine artist to travel to Basel and will host a Swiss artist in Buenos Aires for three months. In as many ways as possible, Berkenwald is focused on establishing artistic exchange and contributing to the spread of knowledge and ideas in the international realm of contemporary art.