Longitudes

Süddeutsche Zeitung reports the "malaise" of Spanish contemporary art

Last weekend an article on the Spanish art landscape appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung (pdf 248KB), which was later reported and summarised in English by Jennifer Allen in Artforum.com's International News Digest (week 12 January 2008).

According to the writer, Merten Worthmann, the Spanish art scene lacks experimentation and this is effecting Spanish galleries as well as ARCO, the country's main art fair. The whole discussion as to why Spanish contemporary art is not where it should be on the international map is not an easy one to tackle. The truth is, there is not one reason – there are as many as there are challenges. Although a lot has been achieved in the last 30 years of democracy and today we have many museums and art centres, the question is now not just about more, but about improving and investing in the existing quality.

Here is a 'shopping list' for starters: renewed focus on debate and theory with productive confrontations; targeted resources for medium-scale institutions; engaged art magazines and cultural supplements with less 'press release-y' or purely descriptive writing; simplification and modernisation of the 'cultural-export' model of funding and bureaucracy to reflect contemporary practice; wider transparency in selection processes for key curatorial positions; pragmatic vocational teaching at graduate level (and a life for post-Picasso art history); a competitive postgraduate art practice programme that meets the international standards of Amsterdam's Rijksakademie or Frankfurt's Städelschule; improved teaching of foreign languages; fiscal benefits to autónomos (self-employed) on a par with other EU countries...

The list continues. Without trying to sound profound or political, changes have to be made from within through sheer initiative, and that, alongside rabid generosity, is surely the way forward. It is certainly not all doom and gloom (we would not be here otherwise!), but the current economic climate will certainly focus the minds as well on the 'values that we value'. Onwards 2009!
Here is Artforum's summary...

REPORT FROM SPAIN (Artforum.com, International News Digest)
 
In anticipation of ARCO, the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Merten Worthmann delivers a mixed report from Spain. According to Worthmann, the young Spanish arts scene is missing some experimentation—a deficiency that has had a negative impact on both galleries and the Madrid-based fair. Moreover, the Centre d’Art Santa Mónica—which has featured exhibitions by younger artists—will be closing at the end of January, according to a directive from the Catalan minister of culture. “Barcelona is a kind of anti-Berlin,” says Bartomeu Marí, head of Barcelona’s MACBA. “A city that doesn’t know how to attract any artists.” For Worthmann, the closure of Santa Mónica is a sign of a larger malaise. “The Spanish arts scene suffers from its weak connection to central Europe, the center of the market, and of discourses,” writes Worthmann, who cites the lack of both an international public and a national network. “To be an artist in Spain is a handicap, both inside and outside the country,” artist Jorge Galindo told the newspaper.

Ferran Barenblit, who was until recently the director of Santa Mónica, and who now heads the art center Dos de Mayo outside Madrid, believes that Spain doesn’t have enough international pull and has lost its “exotic” status in the ever-expanding European community. “Barenblit can be very critical with respect to the homegrown arts scene,” writes Worthmann. “But he holds the unclear reception from outside the country responsible for the lack of resonance.” Chus Martínez, who headed the Frankfurt Kunstverein before recently heading to Barcelona to direct the MACBA collection, adds some “geopolitical” arguments. “Germans, for example, orient themselves above all toward the United States and, since reunification, strongly toward the east,” Martínez told the newspaper. “Spain long existed on the outside. We were never a stop on the Grand Tour, nor could we profit later from the Marshall Plan.” The Franco dictatorship, which ended just over thirty years ago, also played a major role in the isolation of the country’s artists. Despite the end of the dictatorship, many artists still leave the country. And despite the rise of several spectacular exhibition sites—MUSAC in León, MACBA in Barcelona, Herzog and de Meuron’s Caixaforum in Madrid, Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, and Madrid’s Matadero, a multidisciplinary center that will be fully complete in 2011—few institutions have managed to create a “solid profile.” “For regional politicians, often the architectural gesture was more important than the ongoing maintenance of an ambitious program,” writes Worthmann, who adds that museum directors are often at the mercy of changing ruling parties of the government. Despite new directives for running museums from the minister of culture, the sudden closure of Santa Mónica as an art center is a case in point.

As for ARCO, a public initiative dating from the 1980s, the new director Lourdes Fernández will be decreasing the number of Spanish galleries in order to increase international participation at the fair. Last year, the fair dedicated more space to curatorial projects featuring artworks with an experimental edge. “And the display window has long functioned in both directions,” writes Worthmann. International collectors acquire Spanish art while Spanish collectors are increasingly acquiring works by international artists. In 2009, all purchases may well be welcome, whatever the artist’s origin.

On another note, Matt Elmore from the The Art Newspaper has also written about the Barcelona art scene, though giving a much more simplistic and superficial account - including mistakes such as the "Santa Monica space as a visual arts centre devoted to Catalan artists...", when only one of the three exhibition spaces it had was penciled for Catalan or Spanish artists. See archive of previous shows to see exhibition history between 2003-9.

Redesigned website home page


We have recently redesigned the home page of our web with some photo galleries and quick links to our projects. We have also introduced an index – a useful tool to navigate our current, previous and future projects through an ongoing list of collaborators (artists, curators, institutions, writers, etc).

News and updates on www.lttds.org/blog

Looking back – 2008 "Annual Report"


Looking back at the past year is a infectious exercise at this point in the calendar. We would like to thank everyone that has visited or taken part in our projects, from the small ones to the 3 year-long collaborations, whether from nearby or far away.

Our 2008 began as intense preparations were well underway for the group exhibition 'Greenwashing. Environment: Perils, Promises and Perplexities' at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (29.02 –18.05.2008) co-curated with Ilaria Bonacossa. 'Greenwashing...' presented the work of 25 artists and artists groups (11 of those produced new work). A 192 page catalogue was published by The Bookmakers Ed., Turin – you can buy a copy here (English/Italian editions).

Following 'Greenwashing...' we presented 'A Stake in the Mud, A Hole in the Reel: Land Art's Expanded Field 1968–2008', a film and video programme curated at the invitation of the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City that later toured to 8 venues between April and October: MARCO, Vigo; Stadtkino (Kunsthalle Basel), Basel, Switzerland; CAAC, Sevilla; Fundació Suñol, Barcelona; Barn Hongersdijk Farmstead, Wilhelminapolder, The Netherlands; Spike Island, Bristol, United Kingdom; Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Móstoles. For further information you can read an essay in the Winter 2008-9 (upcoming) issue of Art & Co magazine or download press articles and programmes here.

Before the end of the summer we were part of the jury for the Premi Miquel Casablancas, an award for Spanish artists under 36. From around 200 portfolios and projects submitted Latitudes, together with Aimar Arriola, selected four artists to participate in the exhibition later in the year: ‘La, la, la, la: on winning and losing’ (29.11.2008 – 10.01.2009).

The summer was filled with more research and work to be done, which was carried out thanks to the support and hospitality of the Deutsche Börse Residency Programme, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany.

The 2008-9 season began with the exciting realisation of 'The Crest of a Wave’, a four-part project by Lawrence Weiner at Fundació Suñol, Barcelona (08.10 – 15.11.08) that had a great press, radio, specialised media and TV coverage (see post 12 November); followed by the conclusion of the 3 year-long public commission by Tue Greenfort which was presented in a discrete mode alongside his Frieze Art Fair project (16-19 October). This commission was an initiative of the RSA Arts & Ecology programme, London, which has recently become the Arts & Ecology center. Soon there will be a small publication gathering the history of the commission as well visual documentation of the project.

In November, as part of Artissima 15 Latitudes presented 'X, Y, etc!', a video programme comprised of around 40 works that was inspired by Charles Fort's research methodology, the paranormal and anomalous phenomena, the uncanny and the unexplained.

And now looking a little towards what's to come in 2009 ... since May 2008 (see previous posts here and here) we have been working on 'Portscapes', a series of artists’ projects that will take place throughout 2009 alongside the construction of ‘Maasvlakte 2’, a 1,000 hectare area of reclaimed land that will extend the Port of Rotterdam, Europe's largest seaport and industrial area. Mirroring a port's function of transit and exchange 'Portscapes' will involve Rotterdam-based artists and those from countries including China, Austria, Mexico, Scotland and the US, with the aim of considering the physical and conceptual implications of the new lands of Maasvlakte 2, as well as the city-port as a distributive network across artistic, marine and mercantile registers. 'Portscapes' will be introduced during Art Rotterdam (5–8 February 2009) by a small ‘prologue’ publication designed by Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal.

Throughout 2008 we have also contributed several catalogue essays, articles, exhibition reviews, artists profiles, etc. a selection of which can be downloaded from our writing archive.

Happy New Year!

Haegue Yang at Sala Rekalde & 2009 Korean Pavilion Venice Biennale


Haegue Yang's new exhibition at sala rekalde 'Symmetric
Inequality' (18.12.08-19.04.09) "belongs to a group of installations the artist has been developing over the course of this year, focusing her interest on investigating new possibilities for parallel crossings between abstraction and narration. Together with
Kunstverein (Hamburg), Cubitt (London), the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), Portikus (Frankfurt) and REDCAT (Los Angeles), sala rekalde now contributes to the closure of a serial project that has taken the medium of portraiture as the point of departure for its own articulation." (from e-flux 18.12.08).

Below an excerpt from
the catalogue essay by Latitudes' Max Andrews "Towards Haegue Yang's 'Blind Rooms'", which will be included in the forthcoming publication (out Spring 2009) followed by a video of the installation:

"Yang has developed a finely-tuned articulation of space through deft assemblage that has encompassed mirrors, multifarious electric lamps, scent atomizers, infrared motion detectors, heat sources and Venetian blinds. Variously sensory and sensible (i.e. readily percieved), such devices are not necessarily socially meaningful in themselves, yet they allow an interactive atmospherics that suggest zones of indeterminate necessities – part domestic interiors, part private theatres – and “localized effects” akin to political action."

As the Arts Council Korea announced on the 23 December Eungie Joo, Director & Curator of Public Programs at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, recently appointed commissioner of the Korea Pavilion at the forthcoming Venice Biennale has invited Yang to represent Korea at the 53rd International Venice Biennale. Joo is the first non-Korean national commissioner for the Korean Pavilion.



Haegue Yang was featured in an interview by Doryun Chong in the Summer 2007 issue, which Latitudes guest edited, of UOVO/14 titled 'Ecology, Luxury and Degradation' (see inside the issue here).

HAEGUE YANG

'Symmetric Inequality'
18 December 2008 - 19 April 2009
sala rekalde
Alameda de Recalde 30
48009 Bilbao, Spain
www.salarekalde.bizkaia.net





Erick Beltrán at Galería Joan Prats, Nati Bermejo at Estrany de la Mota, Peter Piller at ProjecteSD



This past Wednesday 17 December saw the opening of three compelling exhibitions in Barcelona. Erick Beltrán's "Calculum Series" was a precise suite of objects and texts (including Rasputin's finger nails and a bone die) which circulated around a consideration of value. The show continues at Galería Joan Prats until late January 2009. Nati Bermejo presented an exquisite set of large scale black-and-white drawings at Estrany de la Mota ("Look Left / Look Right" continues until February 12th 2009). Meanwhile at ProjecteSD, Peter Piller showed "Swiss Landscapes" – photographs gleaned from over 500,000 images taken for insurance claims purposes from the digital archives of the Swiss insurers Bâloise.

All images: Latitudes | www.lttds.org

Gone with the wind: on the 'art crunch' and the Centre d'Art de Barcelona, the saga continues...




Happy Christmas.

The dark cloud looming over the art world in recent months is how the worldwide economic recession is going to hit. We've already seen some of its consequences (from the dire situation of MoCA LA's finances to the apparent 'return to painting' in the art market), but what about daily practicalities? How is the lack of cash flow or
collapse of the British pound, for instance, going to affect programming in art centres and museums? Is waning support for new productions, residencies, research and travel obvious already?

In the Nov–Dec. Frieze, Dan Fox wrote around the last recession in the 1990s, when "
newspapers and television talked about art rather than the art market and how dynamic or corrupt it might be" and when there were "fewer of everything: fewer artists, curators, galleries, magazines, art consultants, private foundations." As Fox states, the credit crunch is also a "content crunch". Having exchanged "crunchy" opinions with a few artists and curators recently, one senses that the relentless rhythm of e-fluxes and the like, and the constant proliferation of and aspiration to travel to and from biennials/triennials/quadrennials, art fairs, symposiums, gala dinners, discussion platforms, art auctions, etc. are feeling increasingly, well, just too much. Maybe a downsizing will have its benefits?


Bringing in some examples close to home, one wonders how are the many Spanish museums that have appeared in the last decade facing up to the new economic year. In Catalunya alone, there has been a flourishing of art centres (Lleida, Granollers, Girona (with temporary venues)), and soon there will be further venues in Vic and Tarragona. On the other side of the coin, in Barcelona already a few key art spaces, which offered invaluable support for new commissions, have already 'gone with the wind' and there is a clear lack of infrastructure and of competitive study programmes (La Vanguardia, 30/11/08). Sala Montcada, for instance, has gone. Operating since 1981, it has just had its two final seasons at Caixaforum after much revolt within the artistic community when, in 2005, 'La Caixa' foundation announced its closure and then stayed its execution – at least until now.
After two lacklustre seasons with works produced by Le Fresnoy, Espai 13 in Fundació Miró, began to show signs of life again last October with a programme curated by Jorge Díez. But most notably there was the sudden closure (or 'reconversion'/new orientation in the words of the politicians) of the Centre d'Art Santa Mònica (CASM), whose programme limps on until early 2009. The pre-Christmas news (El País, 10.12.08) was that the announcement of the new venue for the long-awaited replacement kunsthalle space (renamed as Centre d'Art de Barcelona - see post 17.07.08) will be located in a 1,200m2 space in the newly-opened 'Imagina' building. Built in the former site of a textile factory, Ca l'Aranyó in the new-technology branded district called [email protected], east of the city, the site is near the future Disseny Hub Barcelona, the Auditori, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, and Hangar, Barcelona's only surviving production and residency centre, in Poblenou. According to councillor Joan Manuel Tresseras, the new art centre will be a joint force of the Ajuntament de Barcelona (Barcelona City Council) and the Conselleria de Cultura (Art Department of the Catalan Government). But, two days later the Ajuntament said they knew nothing about this new venture (El País, 12.12.08) becoming clear that Tresseras wanted to close the 'open wound' that began with the 'reconversion' of CASM, before its new director, Vicenç Altaió, announces the new exhibition programme.

Dejà vu? How can Tresseras insist on providing a transparent procedure of selection for a new director for the art centre, when there is a clear and alarming lack of transparency, dialogue and set of priorities amongst the cultural agents operating within the same city? How can an independent management and operational funding be secured to attract a competitive bunch of professionals to apply following an open-call selection process? Ideally it should also establish an open call not only for its head figure, but for its whole team, from organisers to restaurant caterers. Find the best, by offering the best.

Jordi Mitjà at Bòlit, Centre d'Art Contemporani in Girona

"From Excess. Recipes for an architecture of accumulative thought" is the title of Jordi Mitjà's contribution to the group show In construction. Recipes from Scarcity, Ubiquity and Excess, the inaugural show – in two temporary spaces – of BÒLIT, the soon-to-open Centre d'Art Contemporani in Girona, Spain, directed by Rosa Pera.


Mitjà's project comprises the installation Espai Diògenes (see images above; last two from Santiago Cirugeda's Niu project); the documentary cycle Diogenes Cinema and Anatomia Diògenes, a beautiful publication published by Crani (www.crani.org) that compiles photographic material accumulated in the Empordà region between 1988 and 2008.

Mitjà's Espai Diògenes continues the investigative spirit of previous projects such as the film Concèntric. Poble petit, infern gegant (presented in 2006–7 at Espai Zero1, Olot) drawing on found documents, films from amateur film-makers, articles, books, notes, photographs, etc., that he has been gathering from abandoned sites, rubbish, or simply given by friends or family throughout the past years. Mitjà is as persuaded by these materials as he is curious to dissect the history and stories behind each found object. Espai Diògenes presents an esquisite selection of works (collages, slide projections, objects including slide projectors, photographs, films...) in a nest-like space, "a defence structure, a protection from the outside world, an infinite skin" (1) - "nests" recalling the claustrophobic spaces created by those that suffer from Diogenes syndrome.
Capella de Sant Nicolau
Plaça de Santa Llúcia s/n
17007 Girona
Exhibition dates: 10 October 2008 - 11 January 2009

(1) 'Runa', by Jordi Mitjà. In "Anatomia Diògenes. Obres inèdites acumulades entre 1988-2008. Ed. Crani, October 2008.

Manifesta 8, 2010, in Murcia?

 

Hot on the heels of Manifesta 7 which took place throughout the Trentino-South Tyrol region of northern Italy this summer and autumn, the applications for host city for the 8th edition of this European Biennial of Contemporary Art - Manifesta 8 would take place in 2010 - closed a little more than a month ago. According to the Polish newspaper Gazeta, the contenders in what increasingly feels like an Olympics-style bid, are ... Gdansk, Poland; Riga, Latvia and Murcia in Spain. The same paper reports that the Polish bid was someway short of the 3.3 million Euro price tag.

In contrast, the southern Spanish city of Murcia, doubtless keen to shake off its image of golf resorts and vegetable growing, is seemingly very flush with money for contemporary art. Rather improbably, the city already has something of a track record for bringing home major projects and attracting some big names. And as many in the arts seem to be cutting budgets in credit crunch times -- not least the State-funder SEACEX who recently announced a 22% cut in its provision for Spanish artists abroad -- Murcia seems to be spending and investing in contemporary art more than ever.

Earlier this year the city staged Estratos, (see posts from 03.02.08 and 28.05.08) a twenty-artist project curated by Nicolas Bourriaud, the first 'PAC' (Proyecto de Arte Contemporáneo) a biennial-like format alongside residencies and exchanges supported by the Region of Murcia. Anish Kapoor's 'Islamic Mirror' curated by Rosa Martinez, continues at the Santa Clara Convent until January 2009 (organised by Culture and Tourism Department of the Region), and in May the SOS 4.8 Festival, with curators including Rirkrit Tiravanija was also funded by the Region. With the debacle of Manifesta 6 and the dispersed and difficult to navigate recent edition, what is clearly going to be a well-financed bid from an ambitious Murcia (with the 2nd 'PAC' already in place for 2010, and doubtless supported again by the communications skills of Urroz Proyectos), will surely take a lot of beating. And rumours are already beginning to circulate that a decision has already been made. We'll find out shortly before Christmas.

––

UPDATE:

The Region of Murcia's selected "en diálogo con África del Norte" as the host of Manifesta 8. There will be a presentation on the 11 February, at 14h at their Stand de la Región de Murcia in ARCO, Madrid. See e-flux announcement (11/02/09)

[Image: http://flights.jet2.com/Murcia/weather.htm]

Inauguración proyectos derivados del Premi Miquel Casablancas 2008, Centre Cívic Sant Andreu, Barcelona

Todas las fotos: Latitudes. Ver más en esta galería.

Mañana se presentarán los tres proyectos derivados de la edición 2008 del Premi Miquel Casablancas: la presentación de la edición de 'Vade Retro' de Jordi Mitjà y Joan Morey y 'De tú a tú. Tres puntos colega' de BErreaCUandoPUedas y Alex Brahim y la exposición La, la, la, la: sobre ganar y perder comisariada por Aimar Arriola y Latitudes.

La, la, la, la: sobre ganar y perder
reúne una selección de trabajos de Verónica Aguilera, Fermín Jiménez Landa, Daniel Rodríguez Castro y Oriol Vilanova que reflexionan entorno a la representación social del binomio éxito o fracaso, tanto en la vida privada como en la pública.




El título de la exposición toma inspiración de un concreto episodio de la historia popular y política reciente: la victoria de España en el Festival de Eurovisión de 1968 con la canción 'La, la, la' interpretada por Massiel. La canción iba a ser interpretada por Joan Manel Serrat, quien se negó a participar pues no se le permitió cantarla en catalán. Finalmente, con la mediación del régimen franquista, su comprometida letra fue sustituida por una versión más edulcorada en castellano, cantada por Massiel y que finalmente ganó el concurso. Recientemente se ha sugerido que los votos pudieron ser amañados por Franco y el escándalo ha saltado a la palestra internacional, e incluso Cliff Richard – que quedó segundo lugar por un voto con su popular y oportuno 'Congratulations!' (Felicitaciones!) – ha pedido ser reconocido como justo ganador. Más allá de la anécdota, esta irónica historia de victorias y derrotas resulta un buen ejemplo de la relatividad de los logros y fracasos en sentido amplio.

 
La exposición se presenta en el contexto de un certamen para artistas menores de 36 años y en un contexto internacional donde ha aumentado considerablemente la orientación hacia los premios de reconocimiento en la esfera de la cultura, desarrollando una economía de la producción cultural y del prestigio. ¿Es posible que premios como este refuercen la suposición de que el prodigioso éxito sólo se logra a una temprana edad?, ¿necesita el sistema artístico que los artistas reciban reconocimientos públicos para ser considerados de interés?, ¿provoca esto que los artistas sean más estratégicos respecto a sus opciones? y finalmente ¿cómo se mide y representa dicha glorificación en la práctica artística?





 
Los participantes no examinan el fenómeno del valor ni del juicio en el mundo artístico directamente sino que mediante distintos discursos narrativos y soportes técnicos extrapolan su análisis a esferas como la representación de estos valores en monumentos históricos, los concursos de mascotas y de belleza, el ambiente de jerarquía corporativo y universitario e incluso lo llevan a un terreno aún más abstracto y poético: la caída como el inevitable vencimiento de la fuerza de gravedad.

 
La presentación de las obras en una estructura horizontal, a modo de tarima, alude a la disposición de los juegos de mesa o incluso a altares, podios o hitos construidos para conmemorar un suceso, ya sea una victoria o una derrota histórica, arquitecturas efímeras o permanentes que formalmente se acomodan de modos similares aunque conmemoren ocasiones tan distintas.


Exposición: 29 Noviembre – 17 Enero 2009
Artistas
: Verónica Aguilera (ES/DE, 1976), Fermín Jiménez Landa (ES, 1979), Daniel Rodríguez Castro (ES, 1984), Oriol Vilanova (ES,1980)

Comisariado
: Aimar Arriola & Latitudes

Dirección
: c/Gran de Sant Andreu, 111 | 08030 Barcelona | Mapa


Descargar
el folleto de la exposición (textos Catalán/Castellano).

Blog de Sant Andreu Contemporani aquí.

Update: PORTSCAPES, a programme of art interventions in the port of Rotterdam, The Netherlands


As announced on a previous post from 27 May, at the invitation of the Amsterdam-based agency SKOR and the Port Authority of Rotterdam, Latitudes is curating a series of artists projects throughout the next year, coinciding with the beginning of the construction of 'Maasvlakte 2' (MV2), an entirely new area of land being reclaimed as a 2,000 hectare expansion to the already existing port of Rotterdam [51° 55' N 4° 29' E], the largest seaport in Europe.

Following site visits and meetings in May, July, September and last week, 13 Rotterdam-based and international artists have been invited to visit the area and to develop project proposals to take place throughout 2009.


PORTSCAPES
will approach Europe’s largest port as a vast exhibition venue to be experienced through itineraries and destinations and will involve projects and
events, lectures and workshops, screenings and temporary sculptures, etc. It will be introduced during Art Rotterdam (5–8 February 2009) by a ‘prologue’ publication designed by Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal, and a website. A cluster of projects will take place in April coinciding with the official presentation of MV2 and in September, coinciding with Wereldhavendagen (World Port Day on the 4, 5 and 6 September) and the Rotterdam Architecture Biennial (24 September 2009–10 January 2010).

PORTSCAPES is commissioned by the Port of Rotterdam Authority advised by SKOR (Foundation Art and Public Space) and is curated by Latitudes.

More on Maasvlakte 2: www.maasvlakte2.com
More on the Port of Rotterdam: www.portofrotterdam.com
More on SKOR: www.skor.nl

Longitudes cuts across Latitudes’s projects and research with news, updates, and reportage.

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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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