Poetics of Domesticity: an Espai Colona presentation
With Espai Colona
Annotations following an instant, that I hope one day will become a complete text…
Rosario Ateaga and Andrés Vial are visual artists. They each develop their own practice; Rosario uses photography as one of her main tools, without excluding from her activity other modes and structures, particularly written documents reflecting on her own work. Andrés operates similarly; aside from painting and drawing, he creates meditative works that sometimes become process spaces, and video. They both arrived in Barcelona alongside their son Lautaro. They both came here to study. They both have ample experience working within the art world and its production and exhibition. Rosario and Andrés are chilean, and they belong to a highly complex and conceptual scene, where Arts education is ardently framed by Theory and Philosophy.
In Barcelona they opened Espai Colona, an art project inside their apartment, in their place of living. Today, Espai Colona resides in the second home they’ve inhabited. The space participated this week in Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)’s project The Museum is Closed, and they invited me to comment on and discuss their work. This text is an extension of those thoughts.
By With Espai Colona I mean to say that this place, founded by “with”, appears to me as the main meaning of the project. Espai Colona is a space that opens up to others, not as a space that is conditioned for exhibition, but one of living, of inhabiting, Rosario, Andrés and Lautaro’s space. This characteristic, opening up a home, an “intimate” place in order to operate as a “public” one, for others, is crucial to Espai Colona’s mode of existence. While it is an exhibiting space, or was so at least during its first stage, my opinion is that Espai Colona is a much more complex artistic phenomenon, that evidences an emergence that the cultural “day to day” tends to forget. The experience of operating in the private space, let’s call it life, as a place to exhibit works, is a phenomenon unique to art, particularly under difficult conditions or during emergency situations. In places as dissimilar as Chile or the Czech Republic during the eighties, certain actions, we can now know, took place in the inside of artists’ homes, because they were living under authoritarian and/or totalitarian regimes, where art was persecuted, forbidden, or marginalized. Similarly,
in Europe, closer to us in time, we can recall the work of the Copenhagen Free University (http://www.copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk). By this I mean that the use of the private home as a place for exhibition has its own history, and certainly someone else could document this practice and tool’s long “tradition”. Using living spaces as exhibiting ones isn’t what makes Espai Colona different. What sets them apart is the fact that they do, that they decide to use it in this way.
What appears here as simple fact is actually the act of a decision itself: creating this space for others. Therefore I’ll say that the political fold in Espai Colona resides not in the discourse brought by the artists and curators invited for residency, exhibition, or display within the home’s space. The political fold resides in the interstice of Rosario and Andrés’s daily decision to keep Espai’s activity going. This intellectual and manual labour, which drains many hours of their lives, is a political gesture that operates in an area of emancipation that happens not like major discursive politics, but like the much needed infrapolitics, through every little daily act that builds a reality we hope will arrive. In the midst of apathetic waiting for such generalized coming, infrapolitical acts are actually an effectuation of that other reality, with no flaunting.
Facing the failure encountered by institutions under the current process of capitalist devouring, cultural space, constituted by all those agents and/or producers, becomes a vacant lot, sometimes deserted, where it is possible to generate alternatives. Espai Colona is a collective work by Rosario, Andrés, and also Lautaro, where that institutional failure isn’t redeemed, nor contested but, let’s say, indifferentiated. Beyond that failure, and in spite of it, Espai Colona, without any resources, happens. How does it happen? Through the faithful decision of working with Art. Which Art? Certainly the answer to that “Art” is in the content of the works presented on the surface of Espai, but also the one I want to address here, which is the invisible work of both artists.
What constructs Espai Colona is “with”, opening up to inclusion and collaboration. Here, the space of “with” carries with it not only the suspension of others inside the heart of the home (that ominous place, produced by daily proximity) like tools waiting to be used, but also the constituent expansion of waiting-for-an-other. Espai’s space of “with” is the space of waiting for an Other, awaiting attentively for those invited.
Espai Colona functions in two registers: exhibition of works and artist/curator residencies, where, particularly the second one, the action of living-with-others effectively is. What I wish to underline is that a work of art exists in Espai’s making of itself. That work is the daily invisible-imperceptible becoming—all its accidents included—woven by Rosario and Andrés. This is a mode which, in its social condition seems to exist—an existence which is always frictioned resistance—without an actual presence in the face of the still too retinal experience of the art-show, even the one inoculated by its more “radical” figures. Espai Colona is a work of art. And what I want to convey by saying this is that it’s a mistake to think of it as, or only as, an “exhibiting space”. It’s a space, certainly, but not of just architectural or social use. It is anarchitecture, a space that, according to Matta-Clark, molds without building. I’ll even say that there’s no aesthetic effect in Espai Colona’s project. On the contrary, what remains is the need to think about what took place, to weave the historicity-in-wait that the Espai is. And in this notion of historicity, it is a work that feigns invisibility because the cut of its shape is extensive, in process, aninstitutional.
Finally, what is domesticity if not performance? If it is performance, then every act of resolution in its emergence is definite, concrete, a fact. The conditions for domesticity, in the case of the two artists behind Espai Colona, are far from being domestication, that is to say, an acceptance of socially, culturally and economically imposed modes of beings. On the contrary, this creative and affirmative domesticity is plastic—not flexible in the way of the enterprising-entrepeneur’s speech—but plastic in its specific sense: the creation of worlds. This affirmative domesticity is characteristic of the need to answer to the conditions we’re forced to resolve given our faithfulness to the axioms which drive us. Here, Rosario and Andrés are two subjects faithful to a project, and they affirm that this is the sense art can have as practice. What to do, under our own conditions, when faced with institutional fatigue, social deprivation, when faced with assuming precariousness as a way of life in order to detach oneself from the harassment of institutional precariousness? Art, because they sustain that through Art you can create without building new alliances, new borders, new domesticities. Espai Colona is the work of art, but not one that you can see hung on a gallery wall. It’s a work that happens during conversation, during goodbyes, between Lautaro’s meals, between a instituting, self-instituting, anythingness.
Traducción Maca Acuña Kitto