Longitudes

Catalan Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale: "Venezia-Catalunya 2009. La Comunitat Inconfessable"


'Venezia, Catalunya 2009. La Comunitat Inconfessable'
Curated by
: Valentín Roma
Participating artists
: Sitesize (Joan Vila-Puig and Elvira Pujol), Technologies to the People (Daniel G. Andújar) and Archivo F.X. (Pedro G. Romero)
Location
: Magazzini del Sale #3, Dorsoduro, Venice
Support
: Institut Ramon Llull (overall production & coordination), MACBA (executive production) as well as the Kunstverein Stuttgart (production of Daniel G. Andújar's work), Ateneu Obrer Popular de Barcelona, ZEMOS98, Repensar Barcelona, DPC estudi and ACTAR who will co-publish and distribute the publication, amongst others.

As announced previously (see post 1 October 2008), Catalunya will have its first pavilion representation within the
Eventi Collaterali in the forthcoming edition of the Venice Biennale titled 'Fare Mondi/Making worlds' (7 June–22 November 2009). The first press conference (see slideshow above) took place yesterday evening at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Barcellona, with Josep Bargalló (director, Institut Ramon Llull); Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira (Vice-president of the Catalan Government and on the directing board of the Institut) and pavilion curator Valentín Roma.

The Catalan Pavilion will open during the first week of June with 'La Comunitat Inconfessable' a project curated by Roma (read about the selection process here) and including Sitesize (Joan Vila-Puig and Elvira Pujol), Technologies to the People (Daniel G. Andújar) and Archivo FX (Pedro G. Romero)
. The project will be shown in the 600 square metre space of the Magazzini del Sale #3, which is normally assigned by the Venetian townhall to the nearby Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia.


'La Comunitat Incofessable' takes its title from
Maurice Blanchot's 1983 book 'La Communauté inavouable' (The Unavowable Community), and from Blanchot's inquiry into the nature and possibility of community and interpreting communism as 'that which creates community'. The thread between the three projects is the questioning of the single authorship, as the artists constantly appropriate preexistent materials (photographs, data...) and reconfigure new archives, new readings of these materials. The project is divided into three parts: the exhibition taking Blanchot's reference to the library as a space for knowledge; the catalogue (with reprinted texts by Blanchot, as well as Jean Luc Nancy, Giorgio Agamben, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, etc.) as well as essays and interviews related to the artists projects by Gerard Horta, Iris Dessler, Jacob Lillemose, Manuel Delgado amongst others) and a website which will host a vast archive around the notion of communality.

During yesterday's press presentation, Roma briefly presented the conceptual lines and academic aspirations of the exhibition. Curiously, considering that the project reflects on the use and reuse of
images, archives and libraries – whether concerning territory and landscape (Sitesize), geopolitical changes between the fall of the Berlin wall and 9-11 (Daniel G. Andújar) or information about iconoclasm in Spain (Pedro G. Romero) – there was no visual material shown during the presentation, and no photo documentation related to the artists in the press packs. We will have to wait for the artists' presentations in a month's time at MACBA, as announced yesterday (date TBC).

Roma also commented on the challenges in presenting ongoing research and extensive archival materials in an attractive exhibition format – those who saw Pedro G. Romero's 'F.X. Archive: The Empty City'
at the Fundació Tàpies in 2006 might remember a huge scaffolding structure filled with the buzz of printers, flashing TV monitors, wires and stacks of paper. Josep Bargalló (director of the Institut Ramon Llull) and Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira's speeches predictably praised the historical role of Catalunya as a center of debate, innovative cultural society and the pavilion's aim to make the take note of Catalan cultural production.

Why is it that in every such
press conference the first question from the floor always related to the budget? In this case the exhibition's coffers total €500,000, plus a exceedingly generous €200,000 for the publication (in Catalan, Italian, Spanish and English) plus c. €5,000 for a website. The agreement with the city of Venice is that they could use the Magazzini del Sale #3 for no rental fee but, according to Bargalló, they would contribute towards the restauration of the spaces to the tune of €40,000, adding up to €745,000. On top of that are curatorial and artists fees, press & marketing, flights, accommodation, opening events, invitations, etc. A hearty budget.

More info: www.veneziacatalunya2009.cat

RELATED LINKS:

 
Click here to read the full list of participating artists in 'Fare Mondi/Making Worlds';
Here to read the 53rd Venice Biennale Press Release (dated 23 March 2009);
Here to read the full list of Eventi CollateraliHere to read about the Catalan project

[Images: Press conference and (right) Pavilion curator Valentín Roma. Photos: Latitudes | www.lttds.org]

1st Catalan Pavilion, Venice Biennial 2009: Institut Ramon Llull appoints Valentín Roma as curator



The Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), has announced today the appointment of Valentín Roma as the first curator of the Catalan Pavilion. The project will include works by 3 artists/groups: the 'Archive FX' by Pedro G. Romero; the 'Post-capital archive' by Technologies to the People (a multimedia project conceived by Daniel Garcia Andújar) and work by Sitesize, 'a platform of project founded by Elvira Pujol and Joan Vila-Puig that explores the territori of social analysis and creative processes'.

Curator Valentín Roma (Sabadell, 1970) currently teaches at various post-graduate art and design schools (Mecad, Eina, Elisava) and has a PhD in Aesthetics by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.
Amongst his recent curatorial projects are: 'Don’t believe them' (La Capella, Barcelona, 2008); Al otro lado del espejo, Col·lecció d’Art Contemporani de «la Caixa», Centro de Arte Tomás y Valiente (Fuenlabrada, 2007); 'Barcelona Producció ‘06' (with Amanda Cuesta and Manuel Olveira, 2006); 'Pedro G. Romero. Archivo F.X.' (PhotoEspaña 04, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid, 2004); 'Muntadas. On Translation: Museum' (with Enric Franch and José Lebrero Stals), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2003).

The jury, chaired by Manuel Borja-Villel (Director Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía), comprised Ignasi Aballí (participating artist Venice Biennial 2007); Daniela Ferretti (curator Palau Fortuny, Venice); Marta Gili (Director Jeu de Paume, Paris), Chus Martínez (Chief Curator MACBA, Barcelona, and Director of Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt) and Vicent Todolí (Director Tate Modern, London) − made their selection on 26 September after interviews with three finalist (the runners-up have not yet been announced). A total of 18 projects were presented by 32 individuals from an international background (Mexico, Italy, Finland, Switzerland and the US).


In the press release the jury also comments on their initial intention to resign in order to support the "open crisis" created by the sudden change of hands of Barcelona's Centre d'Art Santa Mònica (see post 17.07.08) leaving the city with no 'kunsthalle' space. In the note, the jury also acknowledges the transparency of IRL's procedure which led to the selection of the curator of the Catalan Pavilion as exemplary of the 'Código de buenas prácticas' (Code of good practice) design to avoid 'al dedo' ('made') job appointments in art institutions.

In the next phase the semi-finalised project will be presented to the La Biennale di Venezia Foundation and to the 2009 artistic director, Daniel Birnbaum, for final approval as part of the Eventi Collaterali.

The project will take place at the Magazzini del Sale (space #3, see image above), a 500 square metre venue in the cultural area of Dorsoduro (address: Zattere 259), nearby the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Palazzo Grassi which hosts the collection of French businessman François Pinault (Japanese architect Tadao Ando is refurbishing the nearby space Punta della Dogana to become the new space for Pinault's collection, planned to open Summer 09).

[Top photo: views of the Magazzini del Sale © Comune di Venezia; Bottom photo: detail of the Magazzini, http://flickr.com/photos/tsukimi/2301471755/in/photostream]

Ferran Barenblit out, Vicenç Altaió in at the Centre d'Arte Santa Mònica (CASM), Barcelona

Last weekend was a turbulent one for the Barcelona art scene. On Friday 11th the Culture Councillor Joan Manuel Tresserras announced the appointment of a new director for the Centre d'Arte Santa Mònica (CASM): Vicenç Altaió, who modestly describes himself as a 'poet, writer, catalan translator, theatre critic, art critic, opinion generator and cultural agitator' and until then the director of KRTU ("Culture, Research, Technology, Universal"). The trouble was, however, that CASM already had a director: Ferran Barenblit, appointed during the summer in 2002. If you'll excuse the football link, the act was not unlike FC Barcelona's recent appointment of 'the next' head coach Guardiola when Frank Rijkaard was still at the club. Invitations to leave are never easy, political muggings of a cultural institution are even harder to bear. On this occassion the news of this affair has hit the press and blogs with general signs of bewilderment, disappointment and bitterness.

For those not entirely familiar with the Barcelona art landscape, CASM has followed the kunsthalle model with funding from the local government (Generalitat de Catalunya) and occasional sponsors. Under Barenblit's directorship, a series of adjunct local curators (Montse Badia, David G. Torres, Frederic Montornés) and international guest curators (Miguel Von Hafe Pérez, Jacob Fabricius) have produced exhibitions and projects by artists such as Christian Jankowski, Tomás Saraceno, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Dora García, Maria Eichhorn, Joao Tabarra, Filipa César, Nedko Solakov, Runa Islam, Maria Nordman, Cabelo, Juan López, Peter Liversidge, Carles Congost, Antoni Abad, Francesc Ruiz, Joan Morey, Mike Nelson, Joachim Koester, Toni Matelli, Jill Magid, Ceal Floyer and Jiri Kovanda (see our blog from 20.11.07) amongst many other group shows (Think, Hamsterwheel...). Currently, CASM is one of the institutions invited to participate in 'Lucky Number Seven' Site Santa Fe with a compelling project by Martí Anson.

Manolo Borja-Villel, the recently appointed director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (see our post 23 December) has declared in El País that, "the fact that the government imposes a project ... at best, as an instrument of propaganda, indicates a regression to dark times" (this and other quotations translated from the Spanish / Catalan). According to El Pais (12 July) during the presentation of the new director, Culture Councillor Tresserras insisted "there are no victims left along the way" and that the centre and the general budget (750,000 Euros/annum) will still exist, but in a new location (still to be discussed with the townhall). He added "Barenblit's programme was interesting, but the centre didn't have the social performance required". Barenblit was not invited to the presentation, and, the promise of the new location not being confirmed, he handed in his resignation. Later Barenblit declared "it is the best moment [to resign], after receiving the compromise that the new centre is under discussions. I'm coinvinced that my departure is the best guarantee that this process takes place; I always said that directors should have an expiry date ... CASM collaborated with many artists and local entities and promoted Catalan art abroad".

There had been rumours for several months (see El Periodico, 18.02,08 or even earlier this month the possible relocation of CASM was discussed with the president of the Visual Artists Association (AAVC), see El País 05.07.08) claiming that CASM was going to be taken over by the Generalitat and would be converted into a center for Catalan culture, speculation that has prompted numerous strongly-worded responses by various art associations (visual artists association, association of museum directors, art gallery associations...). With this shadow looming over CASM, the programme in recent months has sufferred an inevitable slide.

The new CASM director Vicenç Altaió will take his position in January 2009 and turn CASM into what is described in the vaguest of terms as "a multidisciplinary center for art, science, thought and communication". The questions are, what place 'the new CASM' can take on the Barcelona art landscape? Does the city need another venue for diluted cultural programming? What happened to the 'código de buenas prácticas' (code of good practice) that was decided last year by the Ministry of Culture, whereby "made" appointments were to be replaced by an open-application advisory-panel system based on merit? Where else will ambitious new work be produced in the city? In recent years Barcelona has suffered from the abrupt disappearance of art spaces including Sala Metrònom, the 'relocation' of Sala Montcada from the city centre – its now sited at Caixafòrum– and the failure of Espai 13 in Fundació Miró to produce relevant and informed projects. There is sadly little space for experimentation, fertile discussion or risk-taking.

What is most dismaying is the utter control the Barcelona politicians seem to have over publicly funded cultural programmes. There is, it seems, a lack of support and respect for the work of experienced and trained art professionals and as there is always an ominous cloud hanging over institutions or initiatives when a (4-yearly) change of administration takes effect, there is little continuity and plenty of suspicion. Working within such constant bureaucratic insecurity is never productive and it undermines confidence and creativity. Instead cultural programmes should have their own administrative cycles, their own secured funding, their own staff who are independent from state workers and protected from temporary or mileuristas contracts and their own governing board. It should go without saying that directors should be free to foment long-term creative relationships with the local scene as well as with national and international contexts.

Many questions remain unanswered: where will the proposed new Kunsthalle be? Why didn't CASM have an independent administrative and advisoary board to prevent such undemocratic moves and defend the exhibition programme? Who will now steer and programme such a space? And admist this political-cultural debacle, another factor has been unleashed: who will take control over the first Catalan Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennial in the Magazzini del Sale? Incidentally, the proposals (open submission until 2 September) for the pavilion will be assessed by a jury of six artists and curators and the decision will be made public on 1 October.

UPDATE 30.07.08:
Ferran Barenblit appointed director of the recently opened Centro Dos de Mayo, Móstoles (Madrid). His proposal was selected amongst 26 candidates by a committee of experts (Rafael Doctor, director of MUSAC, León; Lourdes Fernández, director of ARCO; José Guirao, director of La Casa Encendida, Madrid; Isabel Rosell, general director of Archives, Museums & Libraries of the Comunidad de Madrid and Carlos Urroz, advisor of Fine Arts to the Consejería de Cultura y Turismo de la Comunidad de Madrid). He will take up his new job in September. More here and here (all links in Spanish).

To read responses from different parties around Barcelona's cultural politics, read posts on http://cassantamonica.wordpress.com and on http://www.culturadebase.net (in Spanish and Catalan)

[Photos: Kris Martin, 'The End' (2005) (included in the SantaMòniCA 2007 summer show 'PENSA/PIENSA/THINK' curated by Montse Badia, Ferran Barenblit, Jacob Fabricius and Frederic Montornés) and below Ferran Barenblit (left) with Christian Jankowski talking to Joan Manuel Tresserras (right) in May 2007 during the launch of Jankowski's Living Sculptures]

Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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