Category: Articles & Interviews
What was the context in your life in which you started the Institute project?
In 2014 when Raoul and Obama secretly met and negotiated the restoration of the relationship, I was very disturbed by the fact that people had nothing to say about this decision, it was presented as an order – we decided and now things are going to change so you have to accept that. And for me it was complicated because Cubans have suffered due the tensions between USA and Cuba in a very strong way. They were forbidden to contact the families outside, many things happened, so I thought if indeed the United States wants to open the relationship to Cuba, then we should talk about freedom. That’s what they are famous for: exporting freedom. So I wanted to put to test how truthful was their support for the Cuban people. I decided to go to the Revolution Square (Plaza de la Revolucion), to put up a microphone and to give the opportunity to people to speak whatever they wanted for a minute. They took my passport for 8 months and all of that generated… let’s say, a forceful relationship with the government.
One of my actions was that I came here in my house and I read the Origin of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt several times for a hundred hours straight, and I realised that in order for them to investigate me they have to read it because they have to ask me about what I’m doing… they have to have this knowledge if they want to accuse me. I really like this perversion, force them to read something that they would never read. And I decided, yes, maybe they are interested in a transition in Cuba via civic education. In Cuba we’ve had a good literacy rate since the 60s and 70s, everybody can write and read, but they cannot read what they want, they cannot say what they think… So it makes no sense: why know how to read? So I wanted more to do these readings for people in order to allow them to find out, to be ready for a different society. So I decided to create this Institute of Art and Activism, because I’ve been accused of not being an artist anymore but and activist. In fact I was both.
And why home?
Ii is the only place where legally they cannot enter without a warrant. What the Cuban government is afraid of is the streets. Now we’re in my house doing en event that is illegal in the eyes of the government. But it is inside the house. I can have an event here, I can have a party, I can put my works on the walls. But right now, as we are doing this interview, if we decide, you and me and three more people to go into the streets and walk, even walk, they could take us. Because they don’t want people in the streets doing anything that is not organised by the government.
So they close their eyes to what is happening inside the walls?
They don’t close their eyes, for instance because of this event and of all the workshops of the Institute and of the activism, they called the potential participants to threaten them, now they are threatening artists who would want to be part of this biennale that they will take their artist IDs, and in this case their career would be over because they cannot have any exhibition or sell works. So they are afraid of their own people, they don’t know how to deal with them and they are so ill equipped to understand what they are doing or what they are dealing with, the fear, the people, so they decided to threaten them instead of creating a conversation. So it’s not so easy… I created the Institute that I called INSTAR, which is an acronym, but it also means in Spanish “to push people to grow, to do something”. I always have this saying that everything we do is in despise of them. We had people who attended the INSTAR workshops and they were summoned at the Immigration Office and interrogated.
How many times you did you use your house for art events?
All the time. My house is constantly filled since the 90’s, when I started to use it for events: for collective events and also for myself.
Did the relationship with your house change?
It’s funny you ask, because it did change: people don’t see it as Tania’s house anymore. People see it as a refuge. When they are saying “Let’s got to Tania’s house”, they know that this house will act like protection, in the sense that I will defend at any costs the rights of what we do here; but it’s also a place for some people who are curious about it because they’ve heard about it like a place where you can say what you think, disagree and discuss in the most brutally honest way the [political] perspective. And I’ve been doing this for a long time. I did a project with Dan Perjovschi from 2003 to 2009 when we had maybe the first democratic space in Cuba. It was supposed to be workshops with artists, but we always ended up talking about politics and what we should do. Actually here is a place where people heard for the first time about democracy.
If for most people this place is a refuge, then what is it for you?
For me it is also a refuge. I think, in a way, this house is my brain. When you enter this house you enter [inaudible]. Once you’ve entered my house, the rooms of the house are on another planet.
Did you grow up here?
How do you overlap the memories from your childhood with what is happening here now?
This house belonged to my grandparents, I spent my childhood in another house. In 91 I moved here and I graduated, I did my thesis here, exactly on this floor, so from the beginning it was for art. It was my place for dreaming, for desires… and other people make their own for the same reason…
What is home for you now?
I’m a very mobile person and in that sense I can say a 21st century person, privileged, of course, because some people cannot move. I think mobility is very important nowadays. I feel like I’m part of the world. And I think Cuba is the place where I put all my hopes. And it’s important to be part of the world, I feel like when I go out from here… [she thinks for a minute] well you’re from Romania and you maybe understand this, we were born and raised in this very specific culture, socialism, education, all this license on, but we also had some social desire and I suppose some achievement that actually is not true, but at least they put on us the desire for justice, and the desire for collectivity, the desire for humanism in a way. They didn’t do it! It was only slogans, let me clarify this. But with this they worked with us. And when I walk out in the world I try to put this to the test, in this terrain that is completely different, and when I come back I bring the world with me over here. So when I’m in Cuba I don’t want to go by the rules of Cuba, but by the rules of humanism.
Is there a difference between homemade culture – art produced and showed in homes – and what could be called official art?
I think socialist countries, specifically Cuba because it is the one I know best, have a problem, I mean the government has a problem. One problem is that they have monopoly over the institutions. For example, when I started the Institue of Artivism they called, asking the same question – why institute? Because they really have the monopoly of universities, institutes, biennials, all these words cannot be used by anybody else. So this is one problem. The other problem is aesthetics. I think all the socialist governments have trouble with what they don’t understand. Unfortunately, the Cuban government made a revolution but didn’t make the aesthetic revolution. They are still afraid of aesthetic revolutions. And in that sense they’ve started saying that the aesthetic revolution is bad art. And good art is what they can identify clearly as art. This is an interesting contradiction, because this is a reactionary position from a revolutionary government. I mean they have many more contradictions, this is just one of many. They say that the Cuban Revolution is with a big „R”. Like it’s a name, not a verb. So they took away the agency of the verb in order to personalize it, to turn it into a noun. I think it is very interesting that by doing this little gesture, spelling revolution with a big „R” instead of a small „r”, they took away our rights as people to use the verb, because we have to identify it as a noun, which is a passive situation. When it is a verb, you use the verb in action, when it is a name, it is given to you. They gave us the name of the revolution – we didn’t decide. They made it, we cannot make it. I think the problem that artists have is that we are the opposite of this.
Do you think there is a market for homemade art?
I think capitalism has the ability to turn everything into merchandise. Even the most transgressive gesture can be turned into a commodity. That’s the one thing they do well. Personally, I’m not interested in that. What I’m interested in is… I don’t think the market should decide what art is.
I think the market is necessary for people, but I also think the market can become very reactionary. Why? Because there is this contradiction: when you make art that is free, you make art that is generated by professional freedom. Capitalism also codifies the elements you work with in advance, before you even decide. And for me, what is revolutionary in aesthetics is having no form in advance, but having a form in the forming of the form, you know, in a constant way.
Jean-Lorin Sterian interviewed Mark Salvatus from Manila, the founder of 98B – which started in his appartement.
Jean-Lorin Sterian: How did you start 98B? What was the inspiration?
Mark Salvatus: I’m living in a small apartment in Cubao in Quezon City, north of Manila. It’s also the studio where I work. In November 2011, after returning from a residency program in Yokohama, Japan, I invited Mayumi Hirano (now my wife), a researcher and curator who was working on the project that I participated in, called Koganecho Bazaar. It was her first time to Manila; I showed her different museums, galleries, and art spaces and introduced her to my artist friends. Thinking of where to go to meet other artists to have dinner and to talk, we just decided to do it in the house, inviting my friends into a very simple setting. After that, Mayumi and I thought of opening my studio for random gatherings like dinners or screenings with my friends; a much-needed space not only about showing art but creating exchanges and dialogues through intimate gatherings. Two months later, we decided to simply open my apartment to different activities. On January 28, 2012, the very first artist presentation was held in 98B with 15 people attending. The inspiration is simple; we wanted to have a space that can eventually create energies through collaboration, exchanges, and casual conversations.
J-LS: What was the context of your life when you started?
MS: My background is advertising art, and I started as a street artist and formed a collective called Pilipinas Street Plan (PSP) back in 2006. With two other street artists, we initiated gatherings, exhibitions, and discussions that formed a bigger community of street artists in Manila. At the same time, I was also part of another artist collective called Tutok, which is more geared toward the social impact of art and artists to the general public. Senior artists inspired me to respond to the current political situation in the country; these two artist-led initiatives built my understanding of how we can work together and using art and creativity as a vehicle for new and different possibilities. I see these two collectives as a foundation of 98B; the only difference is that 98B has a physical space where people can converge regularly. This is an important factor in building relationships and layers of connections with the different aspect of the society and not only art. In order to do that, I invited my artist friends to help me form 98B, and we started as a ten-member team with diverse background from art, design, education, publication, music, and curating.
J-LS: What was the art scene in the Philippines of that time? How is it now?
MS: The art scene was dominated primarily by the art market and auction houses when we started. There were also artist-run spaces, but those are always overshadowed by the big players. Now there are more artists compared to five years ago and galleries and art spaces are mushrooming every year. There is more diversity in terms of artworks and expressions now than before. But the main direction is still always the art market. I’m also interested in cities outside Manila like Cebu and Bacolod, which are more experimental and creating their own directions.
J-LS: What new things did 98B bring to the art scene?
MS: I’m not sure if we can call it new, but what we always inject into 98B is the idea and question of “What if?” We always ask this question if we’re preparing for a project and we’re not injecting it into the art scene, but discussing things as a collective or initiative. We produce works or projects that blur the idea of what an artwork is. We organize exhibitions, bazaars, performances, screenings; we archive videos, arrange parties, discussions, and more. For us, this produces a work that has a spirit of experimentation and collaboration, which should be visible to the public.
J-LS: Why did you move from the first location?
MS: A practical reason is the limitation of the space. The original 98B is where I also live and work; a maximum of 25 people can fit in at a time in the living space. I am still living in that space now, with my wife and son. It is also good timing that one of our members, Marika Constantino, met a building owner in downtown Manila. After six months of activities in my apartment, we moved to the old street of Escolta in Chinatown.
J-LS: What were the changes after the move?
MS: It was a slow transition for us. The new environment is located in an old district of Manila, which is a challenge since most of us members live in north part of the city. We continued our activities like talks and screenings in our small space and were happy to have a space that we can share with others. It was also a learning experience for us because now we’re working with a building owner and the language changed once we talked to them and eventually built new relationships in the process. For us, working and having the space in Escolta is an ongoing experimental development.
J-LS: Can you describe the original space?
MS: The original space is located in a residential area in Cubao, Quezon city, in the north part of metropolitan Manila. It is a small three-story house with living space, dining, and kitchen on the second floor where we used to hold talks, dinners, and screenings. But once in a while we still do it with a small number of people with our friends. On the first floor is a garage where we used to organize the weekly bazaar. The third floor has three private rooms; an extra room is for anyone visiting Manila to stay for a couple of days.
J-LS: How many people did you usually have as the audience?
MS: A maximum of 20–25 people on the second floor, and up to 40 people in the garage during the weekly bazaar.
J-LS: How have you advertised the space?
MS: We’ve been using Facebook as the main platform to disseminate information since the beginning. It’s free and easy to share to our networks. We also use Instagram to update activities and projects.
J-LS: How important is the kitchen in your activities?
MS: We started 98B because we love to cook, eat, and drink with friends. The kitchen is like a laboratory and you can see the process of making a meal from start to finish and sharing it with everyone. From the beginning, we have had weekly dinners , and it is also the perfect occasion to talk about art, ideas, projects, and everything under the sun. It’s a very casual and organic way to build exchanges and discussions through food and drinks.
J-LS: Who lives in the building? How do you deal with neighbors?
MS: The building where we are now located is mostly occupied by offices with employees and workers. No one really lives there; we don’t live there either. In short, most of us in the building are transients or temporal dwellers. But having space is important because we can build a meeting point with different individuals in the building at the same time in the neighborhood of Escolta to start discussions with that brief temporal encounters. There are a lot of negotiations dealing with different groups or individuals that we meet in the area and we see this as an ongoing process that we value. From there we can build different relationships, not only with the people we met and worked with, but also with the place itself.
J-LS: Did you collaborate with the state institutions? I read that corruption and bureaucracy are very present in cultural state institutions. Can you give me examples?
MS: I think state cultural institutions in the Philippines are not that aware of the many diverse practices and expressions of artists and cultural workers in the Philippines. These institutions only look for what will be the impact of the project on the society and its contribution to the Filipino identity. And we know that artists work in many different ways; their concerns and subject matters vary in contexts and forms. But I guess as an artist we have to do our own part to show them what we are doing, and we can be the bridge so that the institutions can be more aware of what is happening on the ground in terms of art making and culture production outside their immediate radar. In our five years of existence, these institutions are slowly recognizing our projects and we have to learn and negotiate with the language of bureaucracy.
J-LS: How you would label the mainstream art scene in the Philippines?
MS: Mainstream means it’s all about generating money and the cycle of that system. There’s nothing wrong if you sell your works and if someone values your work, but nowadays the purpose to make art is generally to sell it as an object.
J-LS: Are you in contact with other independent organizations? Did you build a network?
MS: Yes. We collaborate with different artist groups and organizations both in the Philippines and abroad. This is our main core – to form a network of artist-led organizations and collectives to share ideas, inputs, resources, and strategies to build meaningful projects and eventually create lasting relationships through our constant exchanges. I think this is very important, because we operate through the social aspect of art and culture. What we wanted to achieve is to coexist to work with any possible collaborators, be it in art or in other disciplines.
J-LS: Are there art squats in the Philippines’ cities? What about artist-run spaces? What are the ups and downs of being an (independent) artist in the Philippines?
MS: In the past years, artist-run initiatives and spaces were on and off. Some stayed for a few years and some stayed for almost 20 years, like Green Papaya. There were also spaces outside Manila, which I think is good, decentralizing art production and presentation in the country. The main reason for these spaces to close will always be the funding and we have to create programs that will sustain our space and for each member to cover their costs. In 98B, we all work as volunteers. We are also in constant discussion about the status of 98B: is it still considered independent? We’re a small organization but part of a bigger picture, not only in the art and culture sector, but as part of society as well. So we see interdependence as a better framework to run our programs rather than just being independent. Most of our projects involve individuals, groups, and organizations that we think are important, exciting, and fun to collaborate with.
J-LS: How important is socializing at your meetings? Is it art a pretext for socializing?
MS: As much as possible, we do our meetings with food and drinks. It is important for us to have an open, casual discussion but at the same time be serious on the matters we have to deliberate. Aside from the agenda of the meeting, there will always be a conversation about art, life, and everything in between – politics, current events, philosophy, and gossip, which makes our exchanges more engaging, critical, and fun at the same time.
J-LS: How does the curatorial process work? Are you interested in the work in progress?
MS: Our process revolves around the DWO spirit or Do it With Others energy, since we collaborate a lot with different individuals and organizations. Curating becomes a group effort, working hand in hand with artists and at the same time we are also learning along the way. Yes, we’re interested in the work in progress because the energy flows at that particular moment and that aspect of working, the value is not on the end results or artwork presented but the experiences we encountered in the process which is the core of building relationships.
J-LS: Does the audience pay admission? How do you fund your activities?
MS: It depends. We don’t charge for our main activities and projects, like exhibitions, screenings, talks, and artist presentations. If you want to build and create an audience, it should be free and unintimidating. For the past five years, we try different approaches to sustain our activities as well as our physical space. So far we have three main sources to cover the utilities and allowances of each member. We organize paid workshops we call HQ, the weekly market is called Future Market wherein we invite creatives to sell their stuff through an open call with space rental fee for a day, and there’s a residency program wherein we host artists and they pay administrative and accommodation fees.
J-LS: What 98B events are you really proud of?
MS: I am glad we created the ESC Projects, which started as a one-day exhibition as a form of incubation and experimentation by young artists. It started as an added component of the Future Market – creating new works on the spot for one day in a site-specific presentation and dismantled after the market closes at 6pm. It’s a nice project but we see it will be more exciting if it will be longer in duration, so we changed it to a one-day-to-one-month period, depending on the artist’s context. So artists come up with bigger and more engaging works that are outside the confines of a white cube. Many artists who had presented in ESC said that it is a challenging space to install works, but at the same time they’re surprised to see the result that they can only do it on that particular site.
J-LS: What didn’t work about 98B, that you expected to work?
MS: We had a project called PAN. It was an empty storefront space a few minutes’ walk from our building. We created an exhibition program for about three years. But managing two spaces is a lot of work. We’re happy to do this project and we always think that it’s an experiment for the artists we invited, too. I guess it worked out as a new platform in exhibiting works but we think three years is enough to do that program as an experiment.
J-LS: What does it mean to be independent in the Philippines? What is the independent scene like in the Philippines?
MS: Being independent is good. It creates a lot of freedom and you can reach your full potential as an artist. On the other hand, it’s also good to work with others on an equal horizon and we call it interdependence. Working independently also has limitations, but through inter-dependence working and collaborating with different disciplines and sectors of the society can build new forms of engagements. In the Philippine context, artists, collectives, and organizations build layers of connections with different institutions to realize projects. Through these projects, one can start having dialogues, negotiations, inspirations … and also frustrations.
J-LS: How many people are involved?
MS: Right now we are seven on the team – me, Mayumi Hirano, Marika Constantino, Gabriel Villegas, Miggy Inumerable, Katherine Nunez, and Issay Rodriguez.
J-LS: Is the underground art scene in the Philippines political?
MS: I am not sure how to define the underground art scene in the Philippines. In general, the art scene is very political from production to presentation and distribution. The fabric of the society is always intertwined with politics and religion and artists respond to this urgency that has to be addressed where art can be a tool or bridge. It may not be the solution for change but artists have different perspectives and visions that maybe the general public can open their eyes clearly by using these tools.
J-LS: Can you describe one night at 98B (in your original place)?
MS: Food, drinks and a lot of talking and drinks. Did I say drinks? Sometimes I cook or we just decide to bring something to share. An intimate setting talking about random stuff from art, life and everything in between.
J-LS: What is the main achievement regarding 98B after so many years?
MS: We started five years ago with a question »What if?« and we’re still asking that question for our future projects and collaborations. I think we’re humbled to have worked with many people with diverse backgrounds through our programs. We are still building this relationship and continuously making connections using art and creativity as the meeting point. And this meeting point is the space itself, opening to different questions and wonders, we may not have the answers but 98B as physical space and 98B as an abstract space is our main achievement and we hope to sustain it in the coming years.
J-LS: What has changed since you started?
MS: Since each of us also has individual practices, time and commitment is an essential component of a 98B member. As I said, we are all volunteers and we rely on each other to realize a project, we may have different roles but we have to make sure that we are working together as a team together with our collaborators. We’re busier than before, and because of this, the team also changes … with people coming in and also leaving because of different circumstances. I guess this is normal for any group or community and I always open a space for discussion and communication.
J-LS: How does the future look like for 98B?
MS: Aside from continuing our programs presenting art in different forms and expressions, we want to archive our projects in the form of a publication. I want to see 98B as a resource or research center, not only presenting and discussing art, but also archiving the projects we have done in the past five years and the years to come.
This lorgennale, the festival in charge of the endogenous art happenings inside private homes, spiced up Stuttgart’s cultural scene May 24–28, 2017. lorgennale is a festival initiated by Solitude fellow Jean-Lorin Sterian and co-curated with Paula Kohlmann in Stuttgart, until very recently, a host in the now-defunct project space LOTTE – land of the temporary eternity. The festival was entirely financed and supported by Akademie Schloss Solitude.
by Jasmina Al-Qaisi
lorgennale anchors performances, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions in the intimacy of local residences. In Stuttgart, where the second edition of lorgennale took place, audiences were invited into different homes across the city twice a day, for one to two hours, all in the name of offbeat art. This is the story of an unabridged enjoyable experience I had as an invitee in Stuttgart, seen from within.
Berlin-Stuttgart is a long beautiful ride. I was accompanied by Odeta Catana, the Berlin-based documentary photographer who captured lorgennale. Loud in the speakers, Nina Simone. We drive to the address through forest land and arrive in a quiet, chic neighborhood. We are outside a big wooden house, looking special enough to us to be able to tell the house is created by an architect. It is 7pm, the time for Rapprochement a performance (voice/drawing) by Frauke Aulbert and Simone Rueß, Solitude fellows from the present, namely the past.
The lines and letters are just-intelligible interpretations
Frauke is questioning Odeta’s camera shutter. The crowd is slowly moving like an organism. Raw concrete, steel, a Persian carpet, small photos attentively arranged, drinks in the hallway. We enter a sunless room, sit on different chairs, confused, but well behaved knowing that we have to be silent. The hosts are behind us. The performers in front. No words are shared. One big window is open and another intentionally closed, but coated in a translucent soap-looking liquid. A flipped scored stand covered with a cloth is a table. Two plastic glasses, one sound amplifier, a toy microphone, a soap bubbles maker, one violin bow, a whisk, and some unidentifiable objects seem to be part of what we are about to witness or listen to. We are sitting between a piano, a big white table, and a tall, packed library. The sounds that the performer is making are accompanied by lines drawn on the opaque window. Barely obvious, the lines and letters are just-intelligible interpretations of forms that we all know. What appears to be the beginning of a heart quickly becomes a letter in an undiscovered alphabet. Frauke first uses her voice, and slowly with deep-breathing pauses she starts using the objects on the table. Natural light comes from above and neon light from below. Birds start to sing, and tiny feathers falling in the very discreet light place us outside the performance. Out there in the world. There must be some magic to a literal explanation. I think of the nonmusical madness of Martin Burlas, but it’s not that. Wait, I can get into further detail. A sneeze, a squeaking sound coming from the belly of a pregnant lady, the camera shutter, a motorcycle, and water drops get sucked into the heavy recorder on the big white table between us and the performers. Books on Moholy-Nagy, Gerhard Richter, August Sander, Gursky, Klee are standing on the shelves, breaking the sound into pieces. Frauke is rubbing a small glass object on plastic. I smile. Nobody moves. I never thought something so small could be so loud. This listening experience is simultaneously an allowance given to our senses to reflect upon the usage of the body and common objects. Welcome to lorgennale.
We hop into the cars. The sun goes down. It’s just on its way down. This time, we’re on the way to a hill in the middle of the city. At 9pm, Diaspora Poetry, a poetry slam by Deidra Freemann, Aneisha Jones, and Barbara Gilchrist Feyl – in cooperation with Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland Bund e.V. – is about to begin.
We shake hands with the poets. Open hearts, one by one
A yellow light sets in corners of a living room with decor that speaks the dialects of both east and west Germany. A super-homey atmosphere. We shake hands with the poets. Open hearts, one by one, served with personal biographies and poetry practice tricks. Frozen in the depth of either laughing or gloom, we experience questions of migration, post-migration, displacement, from the United States to Africa, set in Germany. All poetic about life. The group’s activity generally inquires into heterogeneity and intersectionality in the black community. It got close to crying. But what more can one say about poetry when poetry is already reaching above the world?
It’s my turn, for the Omnidisplacement lecture. A girl with the same name as mine is opening her living room to host the happening I am about to put up. I sip southern German wine and discuss the scenography of what is supposed to be a fake exhibition where object-ducks replace PowerPoint slides. We move the pillows around and watch the ducks blend into the scenery of this living room. It’s one of the times I speak about long-distance love relationships. But now I am using this romantic idea of a fake exhibition where the collection of ducks my dear friend Johanna Glije lent me are strong pillars of a randomized discourse on the subject. The audience, almost unanimously, knows how it feels to love at a distance. We chew on olives and share our romances. I am content I exorcised this academic research. It felt colloquial.
On Friday at 7pm, Julian Knoth asks everyone to write down words that we love and words that we don’t. In German. Nodo, the Italian knot, is a sort of a theatrical performance. He reads the words slowly in a long sentence lacking punctuation. In anonymity, we all know what our soft spots and preferences are. Yet the quick-fire choices and giggles were not necessarily providing significant depth of thought, but rather a puzzling domestic play. Julian’s ambition was to untie some knots of perception, as he calls them – and that definitely turned into a blast.
Paula is not telling anything about the gang of friends
The next act, Und es wurde dunkel, #2 is the performance of Oana Paula Weiner. This performance gives rise to spontaneous nostalgia combined with deep curiosity. Especially now, witnessed in a private space with the blinders down, from a couch, as the lorgennalemakes possible. Paula is not telling the spectator anything about the gang of friends these images belong to, but through her, and in approximately 30 minutes, we get to feel we know them.To a slideshow of overlapped vernacular images, she gradually brings sounds and words that certainly enhance feelings of displacement, senses of belonging and a depth of friendship. Yes, these are Romanian mountains. And the schnapps is Țuică. The audience is predominantly German, formal enough to refuse the liquor that Paula is using as a bridge to the soiree mode in which the people whose images we were watching are still sharing their love for each other, regardless of how (in)frequently they meet. The repetition of these images, of the beats, of the words that Paula is murmuring, point to a momentous recurrence rooted in gatherings where friends reproduce the same stories over and over again to validate their bond. This is especially tender when the friends who emigrated illegally during the dictatorship are now spread all over the world. Und es wurde dunkel ends in the tonic darkness of a poppy song.
I spend one hour with each participant
On Saturday, May 27, May Tyska Samborska performs the six-hour piece My Pleasure, which we only heard rumors of. Tyska confesses: »Each hour the bell rings, I open the main door and wait until the person comes up to the third floor. I hear the steps, when she/he reaches the second floor I start to hear the breath. I know only know her/his name and my imagination is automatically trying to connect it with the faces and characters from my past. She/he enters, we shake hands, a bit confused. We talk about the pleasure request which doesn’t always come naturally with a stranger. My pleasure is a performance in which I spend one hour with each participant, doing whatever is a pleasure for him or her. I follow them while trying to be always one step ahead. This action did not allow me to stay in my comfort zone. Not even for a minute. I could not predict or plan anything. I will do it again.«
Later that evening, a bright, welcoming apartment hosted shakshuka star; a performative dinner by Julian Knoth and Caroline Flegel. Outside the flat, a small neighborhood festival competes with the flavors and sound. Julian and Caroline cooked Middle Eastern inspired food. Shakshuka is poached eggs in a sauce of pepper, tomatoes, and spices with flatbread and humus, and spices up the gathering.
Dinner is set and each seat is assigned a number. The number represents the waiting list for the kitchen, where Li Lorian is performing Posta, one-on-one conversations about memory, home, love, and food, resulting in a magnificent unique postcard crafted by Li.
During the breaks of completely hedonistic gastronomical and emotional enchantment, we gaze upon the Guilty Pleasure photo series by Odeta Catana. The series explores people’s usually secret pleasures and places these secrets into theatrical portraits associated with the protagonists’ short testimonies. The obvious invitation to gaze, which each of the subjects almost whispers through his or her pose, perfectly fits the sentiment shared this evening.
The hot Sunday invites us one by one to wear masks and join the Dog Day Afternoon arranged by Jean-Lorin Sterian, but performed by us, by fictitious dog characters and a nude ghostly feminine presence. We are all wearing the same face, the same kind of a mask. We are first invited to sit at the table. The effect of these masks solidifies my body. I want to be there for a while, to reflect upon a possibility of a facial uniform. Underneath this uniform, there is confusion and sweat, yet obedience. We are all on the floor now. The tenderness of the nude is gently torturing us with tools and drags us into torturing each other. The intensity is rather in thought, not in actions. I have so many questions, but no time, since time is off duty tonight.
Next day, south of Stuttgart, a chic mosaic of cheerful corners, a tastefully decorated flat is hosting various gentle pieces by Sabrina Karl. Sabrina manages to create a special dialogue with the house through her performance. To music by Nick Cave, she redraws sections of a piece by Georg Winter. Clothes and shoes, performing in the videos set in the living room, give a mnemonic formula to the setting. Sitting by the sink we can watch a video and silently chew on watermelon. Flowers, Nothing but (flowers) in the condo of a flower lover. We are thinking of home and talking about it.
lorgennale is on a quest to stage artistic experiences that satisy the senses. The final destination is anthropological, which can also imply that the journey is perpetually ongoing.
lorgennale continues in other European cities, not only through gathering people around art, but through gathering objects brought by participants in the festival, objects that remind them of home. In this moment, all the objects are on the studio floor of lorgennale’s creator, Jean-Lorin Sterian, waiting to be labeled and exhibited someday, when he finds his way back home.
- What was your inspiration for starting this project?
It all started when one of us, one day saw a poster in the streets of Amsterdam where it read something like “theatre+ concert at Paul’s house”, following the address. Those lines worked out like a “click”, and the thought was, “wow, it is possible to present artistic proposals at someone’s house?”. From that to the concept of CONDOMÍNIO Festival it all happened very organically. After some thought and research done, and after coming to the conclusion that it started to be common, in central European capitals, to open someone’s house to present projects and show stuff, a group of three people were united with the aim to make it also true in Portugal. But it was not only about the houses: together we developed the concept of the festival, which focus was in bringing the local community together in a place where they could discuss interesting topics in an informal and personal way, while at the same time rediscovering Lisbon through its private places and giving the opportunity to emerging artists (or just people with ideas) to present new projects in an uncompromised and friendly environment. We do it during one weekend, two or three times a year, and each day takes place at a different house, turning what is private in public for one day. This concept and identity is growing and evolving at each new edition, taking inspiration from the city, moved by the wish to discover more and more houses and the wish to connect more and more people with similar interests, as well as to promote ideas and actions that we consider of benefic for the general public.
- Why did you choose the format of apartment exhibitions?
We don’t consider the apartments only, but the private places at large: it could be an apartment, or a house, an atelier, a basement, it could actually be a hostel and we actually already did it in an associations’ garden. We privilege the private space for various reasons: it is a place where most of the people can not have access in normal conditions; it is an informal and personal space, because it has the objects and identity of the people who lives in there; it is always a surprise when we enter the space (especially in Lisbon, which has a very specific architecture and urbanistic conditions); it tells a different story about the city, one that we can not know by walking in the streets; people tend to feel comfortable at the private space, happy and secure, while discovering hidden private gardens, wonderful river views from the window, fireman stairs at the balcony or an empty communal courtyard, many different aspects that make you more aware of the city you live in, of its many opportunities and blessings (especially today, that Lisbon is turning into a “tourist trap”, those views and elements remind us about the city’s beautiful natural identity).
- Have you heard about some similar projects in Portugal in the past or in some other countries?
We know about other projects in Portugal that use private spaces to present artistic proposals, but we don’t know any that uses it as we do. Meaning that, for us, the focus is only one house for one entire day (afternoon and evening), where different projects take place (exhibitions, concerts, performances, talks, presentations, communitary dinner, workshops…). What happens is that people tend to stay, spending the time at the house, meeting friends, having a drink and basically enjoying the space while watching those several projects.
The similar projects we know about, in the sense they also use private spaces and their venues, are actually festivals that last for two or three days, once a year, and that divide its activities for many different spaces (some of them, private ones), where the projects take place simultaneously. Examples are Caldas Late Night (in Caldas da Rainha), Guimarães Noc-Noc (in Guimarães) and Festival A Porta (in Leiria).
Outside Portugal, we don’t have much information about specific projects of this kind. We now that there is some projects like this in Spain but we don’t have much information.
- When did you started? What was the cultural context in that period?
We started thinking about this idea in 2013, but the first edition took place only in May
2014, with a group of three people at the organization. After the second edition, we started to be four, and nowadays we are five and did seven editions so far, in Lisbon. A different team is using the same concept and turning it into practice in Évora (a small city in Portugal).
I don’t know if the cultural context was much different back then, from what it is now, but one of our motivations to start the project was to filling the lack of a place in the city where to present new ideas in an informal way, where everyone could do it, independently of its background or cv, where the art could mingle with “normal life”, with political discussions, biological alimentation, veterinary talks or home-made beer. We hoped that CONDOMÍNIO could be this place, where everyone could experiment, find solutions and meet like-minded people, and we think it is, even when it takes place only twice a year.
- How do you choose the artistic content? Are you working with performers with experience in site-specific art? The festival is international?
For each edition we make an opean call where everyone can presente his/her project. Then we make a selection based on the relation with the space, the quality and originality of the idea. We always privilege projects that present alternatives ways for living in the city, exploring the concept of community, envirolment care, sustentability, etc. We try to have a multidisciplinary programation, which includes music, dance, theater, performance, film or video sessions, installations, exhibitions, readings, shows and workshops. We have the goal of showing emergent artists and projects that present new proposals in urban, artistic, social or cultural level. So there is space for people that have already experience in site- specific art as well for the ones that are trying out or are able to adapt their project to a different space. Furthermore we ask our permanent partners to suggest one project/artist for each edition. We give priority for the local projects/artists but we also enconrage projects coming from other cities and countries as long as they are relevant for the local community.
- The audience pays ticket? How did you manage economically this project? How do you fund the works? Where do you find sources for a festival with small audience?
The festival does not depend on financial support or subsidies, existing thanks to the volunteer work and the dedication of its team. Although maintaining a free entry policy, we sensitizes the public to the importance of the contribution through money donation. For the festival to be sustainable, there is also a bar with drinks, snacks and dinners. The food and drinks are offer by the biologial supermarket Miosótis, which is our only sponsor. All the amount raised through the revenue obtained is evenly distributed by the Hosts, Projects and Organization. We do not fund the works, but normaly we try to support some of the cost with the money that we made in the previous edition.
- How you gather the audience? What kind of advertising do you use? How many spectators you count per edition?
Our main advertising support is facebook and our website, but we allways distribut posters in key places, like bars, associations, cultural institutions/schools. In every edition we also try to build a relationship with the institutions and associations of the neighbourhood, which help us on the advertising among the community. Our permanent partners also take an important role on the disclosure of the festival. For each day of festival we have around 70/80 spectators.
- What is the relationship between performance and audience in a private space comparing with mainstream stages? How do you consider people you interact with?
Even before we answer this question we would like to enlighten than Condomínio presents more than performances. Here we’ll talk about performances in a less strict sense. Any performance gains a different shape in a given space where is presented, being a stage or not. In a private space, also because the technical conditions are limited, sometimes the performers have to do big adjustments to the space existent. This adaptation fosters a different esthetical approach that focus more on the content and less on the spectacularity. The private space boost a closer relationship between the audience and the performers not only because the space is smaller but also because becomes more intimate. We collected already some testimonies from the audience concerning this issue: the closer physical space is the more accurate their senses (more than just visual contact) and sensitive perception is. It’s easier to the audience to contact and get to know better the work of the performer. It’s more natural and desacralized than a stage, a conference or a concert room. In cinema and literature where usually you don’t have contact with the author, here it’s easy to contact directly. It puts both on a common basis: spectator and author. The roles of giver and the receiver are on the same level of importance.
As hosts we try to stimulate an informal environment where share is the main gold.
- All the flats that hosted performances were inhabited? Why that?
Usually we choose flats that are inhabited, that had already a life with its memories, stories and personality. Any project presented in a place with this conditions is already another thing. We find it challenging for the projects to present in unusual environments, that will question their ability to present only in controlled environments like a conference room, a white or black box, a stage. But it happened already three times to choose places that weren’t flats: an association for rehabilitation and urban regeneration, a youth association and a public washhouse. Both proposed to us that we use the space in order to trigger it so it would be known for more people in the city.
- How you choose the hosts? Are the portuguese people open to open their houses for performances? Do you have long-term collaborations with some of them?
In our experience, we have been really lucky to have proposals for each edition. In each edition we received 5 to 6 houses proposals, but of course not in the beginning. The first two places were friend’s houses that liked the project and let us do it.
After that we started to make an open call not just for projects but also for flats/houses, that is published in our site and facebook page, as well we print billboards and post in the city. We arrange an encounter to visit the place and to get to know the hosts. On this day we clarify their ideas about the festival, how it will work, when they’ll meet the projects that they’ll receive on their house. This visit is also important for us to understand if the festival fits regarding to the space, accessibility, relation with neighbours and housing conditions. After we visit all the houses proposed we choose two houses for each edition. People go really easy with engaging themselves into the festival offering they´re houses, but sometimes there are some hosts that when the actual experience starts to happen start to be a litle bit nervous, what is expectedly normal and we have to be prepapered with that. The long-term collaboration with some of the hosts happen sometimes, but not as hosts anymore. We collaborate with them in other ways, for examples, sometimes they want to propose a project for other editions or helping in the organization. For us is important to explore different areas of the city and to offer to the public the possibility to get to know different spaces everytime.
- 1 What is the best outcome of this experience? And what parts you didn’t enjoy?
We think meeting all this new people with diferent aproaches throught out life, it sounds cliché but its an unimaginable source of knowledge and also to break out the barrier and not to be afraid of literally entering in somebody’s room. Getting to know amazing projects and to be able to give the people the possibility to show they´re art in an informal, unexpected and free way. But the best think is to see that after participating in the Festival, different projects/artis (that meet on the festival) get toghether to build a collaboration/partnership. Until now, we know about around 8 different collaborations that were born after meetings in CONDOMÍNIO.
There is some logistics, production work, e-mailing that can be hard and consumes a lot of time. As we develop the project in a volunteering way is specially difficult to find the time between our main work. Sometimes just to find a meeting day for all of us five is an headache.
- Is it worth it? It will continue?
Yes, it will continue. We start to recieve more an more emails, from people we don’t know, asking when the festival will happen again or just offering their help, so that shows us that this is something that people need and miss and that makes it being worth.
- Should art be linked with a place where artist lives?
It is not an obligation or it shouldn´t even be a rule but it is an interesting exercise. But it depends on the artist work, the concepte behind, the target audience. But definitely there should be always alternative spaces to show art outside of museums or theater houses.
- Is there any follow up after performances? (people mingling, talks between artists and public)
Since we have around 15 different projects taking place at each house, staying there from 3pm until 0am, usually there are plenty of time for people to mingle and talk. It happens in a very natural way, artists and audience are very close, and they tend to be together before and after the performances. At dinner time, everyone is united around the same room, tasting the same food! Probably it is thanks to this talks taking place after presentations that many different collaborations among artists are born in CONDOMÍNIO.
- What do you think homemade culture (performance art and theater in private spaces) brings new in art? Is it the apartament a rich medium to produce a different type of art?
The simplicity and naturality in communication with an audience from different ages (from children to adults and older people). The proximity between audience and artists. The connection with the “real life”. The concept of collaboration instead of competition. The necessity of adaptation to a specific and more intimate place gives an opportunity to the evolution of the work and increases its meaning. We don’t know if any of this is new, but for sure it is valuable.
interview by Jean-Lorin Sterian
As commercial real estate balloons in cities like New York and London, and art galleries professionalize, limiting the freedoms artists are given within their spaces, artists, art professionals, and collectors have begun to make use of living space—be it an entire apartment, a guest bedroom, or even a walk-in closet—to put on the shows they want to see.
Apartment galleries offer viable alternatives to see art outside of commercially focused, white cube gallery spaces, and to witness a more intimate, inclusive side of the art world. And while these galleries are nothing new—Leo Castelli famously turned the living room of his 77th street apartment into a gallery in 1957—with time, they’ve become less novel and more widespread. So what does it take to open an apartment gallery today?
This fall, Ariela Gittlen and Scott Indrisek opened a gallery, dubbed Teen Party, rather suddenly out of their Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, apartment. This was a first for the couple, who work as a graphic designer and art writer, and editor-in-chief of an art magazine, respectively. Within the span of some six weeks they confirmed two artists for the inaugural show—the esteemed Peter Halley and young painter Tracy Thomason—secured a liquor sponsor, cleared out the spare bedroom-turned-home office, installed the show, and put on an opening that saw around a hundred people filter in and out of their 600-square-foot apartment. “We were both exhausted at the end of the night, and we said to each other, ‘This could not have gone better, everything worked exactly like it was supposed to,’” Gittlen recalls. Weeks later, unexpectedly, they’d sell two of Thomason’s works. Despite how it sounds, this is not an easy venture. more here
Juan Dominguez is a performer, choreographer, stage director, programmer and co-designer of The Living-Room-festival, working with Maria Jerez, Cuqui Jerez, Luis Urculo to bring art outside the institutions, “for the sake of desire, need and pleasure”.
When and how did you discovered the theoretical and performatives dimensions of a living room ? What were your reasons to bring art in a domestic space?
basically the idea come from the fact of many people not being able to see different works because we only present one or two time in each city. So the work is not really available for many people. Why because we depend of market and different interest and economies. So we decided to make a festival that don’t depend of institutions, that don’t have to justify any interests, only ours and that in the end make what ever we need and want. With no money involve. For the sake of desire, need and pleasure.
The roles of performer, choreographer, stage director, programmer, creator of ‘situations’ that you have live well together or are they cannibalising each other?
At the beginning yes until I understood how to profit form all the sides. Now every practice contaminate each other for good or for bad but the spectrum is really big and I am really in to it. Happy about it. More compromise and more responsibility or or . More prism to understand repercussions or what do you want when you do want doing what you do. Exhausting, challenging and producing a lot of knowledge. Great
Did your activity as a co-designer of Living Room Festival changed your way of living your way of living and seeing your day-to-day space?
well it doesn’t come out of the blue. It is an step in a continuous research so it didn’t change my life but it gave me a lot of new perspectives of how to relate with the different people involved in this kind of organizations. So the relations are stronger and the repercussions more graspable. Which in the end is what a domestic space is good for.
How do you make the selection for The Living Room Festival? Do you have specific criteria? Did you had performances transformed and adapted to fit an apartment after being showed on the stage?
at the beginning we adapt a bit some pieces that we thought could be coherent enough to present but right now we don’t adapt anything we present what we want, we are 4 co designers and we have different concerns and we learn form each other, listen the desires of each other and invite what is related with our concerns. We don’t think in pieces anymore.
Since the first edition, do you feel that tha festival had an impact on the artistic scene in Madrid and Berlin (and more recently in Zagreb and Brussels)? Do you had an exemple of succesful collaborations between institutions and independent/freelance scene?
well we don’t collaborate with our friends in Berlin anymore and neither with the ones in Zagreb and Brussels. It is a lot of work and a bit frustrated to not be able to share what is going on in each city so in the end we split and now it is much more based in local connexions and trying to focus in build something stronger in between the local collaborators. It is a domestic proposal so it makes a lot of sense to work deeply with the locals, they are there and will not leave so there is a future possible and a continuation, which is one of the most important aspect of living room festival in a scene where everything is kind of ephemeral in the bad sense.
interview by Cristina Epure