cíudadMULTIPLEcity

Gerardo Mosquera / Adrienne Samos

 

Riding on a Wild One
(small talk between the curators of ciudadMULTIPLEcity. Art Panama 2003)


Gerardo Mosquera: Now that ciudadMULTIPLEcity has concluded, do you think it was too crazy to launch an art project having a city as its main protagonist, especially if that city is Panama?


Adrienne Samos: Sure. That's precisely why it was a great idea. Public art still tends to use urban space as a stage or a raw material, but in this case the whole city was involved in the project.


G: The project tried to go from the art to the city, not from the city to the art.


A: Which makes art much more “vulnerable” to the ways it is understood by the different audiences. Public contemporary art has lots of untapped potentials, and one of them is the direct engagement in the dynamics of a difficult city and its people. These complexities perhaps instinctively moved us towards a decentralized curatorial approach, with local artists guiding and helping their visiting colleagues.


G: This aspect worked much better than others. Curators cannot keep a tight personal control over complex projects. Moreover, the decentralized structure made possible deeper relations with the city. The participants were vividly introduced everywhere. Paradoxically, a less centralized curatorship facilitated the artworks to thoroughly respond to ciudadMULTIPLEcity aims.


A: Such as procuring a direct dialogue with the people in the streets. In this aspect, most of the works underwent extraordinary changes during their interactions with the city. To me, that embryonic potential is one of the real measures of significant public art. Think of Brooke Alfaro's Nine. He befriended and worked with two rival street gangs for more than a year in order to produce this site-specific video directed to their community. When it was projected on the tenement buildings' facades, it became viscerally evident for all -neighbors, gang members and visitors- that the work was being charged with new meanings. As for Yoan Capote's fancifully upholstered trash containers in a popular district, everyone kept telling us they would not last a day because the people would steal the material for their homes. Quite the contrary: they became objects of pride in the community, and were very well taken care of.


G: That dialogue in some instances became a direct rejection, as if the city, like a wild horse, were throwing the works down. One of Ghada Amer's critical billboards was removed by the Major's Office. Two others where mysteriously kidnapped -no doubt by a professional crew-, its whereabouts still unknown. Humberto Vélez's band parade was denied entrance to the ex Canal Zone area, although we had the municipal authorities' permission, thereby exposing an “invisible” border that still remains. We were also constantly under pressure to remove Jesús Palomino's shacks because -to the artist's satisfaction- landowners thought they where built by squatters. There was also pressure to remove Gustavo Araujo's gigantic billboards because they “discouraged consumerism”.


A: Not one work was completely free of some type of repression or limitation by the establishment. All fought against it, and at the same time were somehow bent by it. The most extreme case was Panamini, Cildo Meireles' scale model of a panamax bulk carrier. In spite of complying with all safety and technical regulations, the authorities did not allow the vessel's transit through the Canal. But we won't give up.


G: With luck, this work can coincide with the public presentation of the catalogue. It could even link ciudadMULTIPLEcity to the commitment to establish Panama as a locus for radical urban art practice. As Arpa's director, would you be willing to do that?


A: In a much more modest scale, maybe yes. I am certainly not riding on that wild one again. Arpa is a tiny young entity that lacks the required structure to organize projects of such magnitude. This is what gave us our biggest headache with ciudadMULTIPLEcity and what prevented us from fully developing the social and educational possibilities of the artworks.

 

Gustavo Araujo, La Cosa está dura, 2003

 

 

 

Gustavo Artigas Intervention, Museum of History Panama City, 2003

 

 

Juan Andres Milanés Abstraction in March, 2003

 

Francis Alÿs / Rafael Ortega 1 Minute, 2003

 

Panama, March 2003
1 minute

In the beginning there is a situation where many people cross paths.
If one person was to ask someone else for silence,
and someone else to someone else,
and so forth,
until the whole scene becomes sound still,
then, may be, you could produce one minute of silence. With the generous help of a group of 45 young panamanians, we repeatedly
attempted last week to silence several highly dense public situations (indoors and outdoors),
with the intention of materializing one minute of silence ("esculpir un minuto de silencio").
The concept was deliberatly operating within a neutral and abstract frame,
no specific meaning would be attributed or dedicated to the minute,
its space staying open to as multiple readings as people willing to participate,
or even better: no meaning at all but a sensorial experience,
subtly expanding and finally regaining its pure material existence.

Behind that simple scheme, the idea was also to introduce
our team of volunteers ("Los Agentes de Propagacion de Silencio")
to the wide spectrum of attitudes offered by the contemporary art practice,
and to explore possible ways of operating within a complex urban environment,
in other words, a sort of " live exercise" of our praxis.
Along the successive attempts, and their eventual failure or success a learning process started for us all.
We worked together on building a "guerilla " method for propagating silence, invading, so to say,
each encountered location, reacting newly to each situation and constantly
adapting ourselves to the circumstances.
Without any pre-determined plan more than a quick intuitive reading of the situation,
we intervened over the course of 4 days in the National Lottery hall, a grand cafe in the old center,
a popular street squatted by 2 soccer teams, part of the inauguration ceremony
of Panama, Ciudad Multiple, in a live radio program,
at rush hour in the middle of a main commercial strip, etc...
On the second day of the project , bombs started falling on Baghdad,
and the "Minute" 's original vacuum became naturally charged with the urgence of the moment.
What was at first a mere study-case turned overnight into a silent subtle protest,
spontaneously canalizing our frustrations in front of the general official apathy,
and the outrageous 24 hour media coverage.
What had started as a fragile conceptual plot turned into a minimal act of solidarity,
in direct response response to the tragic absurdity of the events.
People on the street started collaborating silently, asking others to turn off their radios or TV,
and others to switch off the air conditioner, to stop their engines...
eventually materializing silently, for 1 lone minute,
a sensation common to us all.

Francis Alÿs / Rafael Ortega

 

 

Jesus Palomino Beautiful Women are Preparing the Invasion, 2003

Jesus Palomino Stop T.V., 2003

 

 

Ghada Amer Six Chinese Proverbs, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collective ritual of reconcilliation between city and sea - Panama City, 29.03.2003

artway of thinking

 


 

Cildo Meireles Panamini, 2003

 

Felicitamos a la familia Sánchez en el Centenario de la República de Panamá,

Escuela Vocacional del Hogar 1953 - 2003

Humberto Vélez Mi Hogar, 2003

La Banda de mi Hogar appears on the zing 19 complilation cd

 

Yoan Capote Analysis of Beauty, 2003

 

Brooke Alfaro project with The Tabo, 2003

One year’s work with two rival gangs. They can’t face one another without pulling out a gun and killing; it has been ongoing for years, many dead. I shot them on video, singing the same song, and in an imposible act in real life, brought them together, larger than life, on the walls of their troubled high rise housing complex.

 

Brooke Alfaro project with The Palestinos, 2003

“The police will signal us out”.  “We’ll be ridiculed”. Both groups had called me in after a trial projection three days before the showing--both wanted out. These guys were  feeling insecure, that’s all. We talked and in a leap of faith, they were back in there. In the end, the boys came out like rock stars; the audience, their neighboors, yelled, they wanted more. The police, fearing it was getting out of hand, welcomed my technical limitations that put an end to the night.

Gu Xion I am Who I Am, 2003