art historian, freelance curator, cultural manager and researcher
SOMA summer 2015: A reflection…
This summer was filled with many new experiences. To start with, it was my first summer in Mexico city. Than, I took part in SOMA summer 2015, an annual 8-week program taking part in DF since 2010. And I was coordinating a group of 36 artists/art practitioners (the biggest one yet!) for a closing art event.
¡Orale! First things first…
In Mexico city (aka DF – Distrito Federal). SOMA, near San Pedro de los Pinos metro station.
SOMA is an independent art space initiated in 2009 which operates through three programs: Artistic Development Program: SOMA Academic Program (2 years, in Spanish), International Summer Program: SOMA Summer (8 weeks, in English) and Public Program: Miércoles de SOMA (every Wednesday). Check the links for more info.
July 6th – August 28th 2015 (8 weeks).
From the website:
SOMA Summer is a unique eight-week program for international artists, curators, critics, and art historians, conducted in English in Mexico City.
SOMA Summer introduces participants to the dynamic art scene of Mexico City through visits to museums, openings, and artists’ studios. Designed to promote intense creative work and open dialogue, the program is built around a series of seminars and workshops led by renowned Mexican and international artists. Participants meet weekly for individual critiques with a variety of artists and curators. Activities are designed to promote intense creative work and artistic dialogue.
SOMA is a space for reconsideration and reflection, where artists have the opportunity to critically analyze their work and to revisit their creative processes. SOMA facilities offer shared studio spaces. Although labs and workshops are not available, we do provide logistical support for producing work within Mexico City.
This year, it was concentrated predominantly on the notion of “excess”, through “libidinal forces that connect the economic and aesthetic spheres”, departing from ideas of French writer and philosopher Georges Bataille. One part of the seminars was targeting the historical Baroque style (specially in Mexico) and its influence in contemporary art production and consumption.
I found out about SOMA’s program thanks to Croatian colleague Ivana Meštrov from Kustoska Platforma/Slobodne Veze (Loose Associations) who forwarded me the open call. I applied, was rejected, until Barbara Hernandez, SOMA director, approached me one Wednesday with a proposal to be both a participant and a coordinator of “the closing event”. Without doubt, I accepted. Later, I asked her “what is the closing event?” Will find out… Thanks for the trust 🙂
Later, I had a Skype interview with Carla Herrera-Prats, SOMA summer program director, to meet and prepare for the forthcoming program. Remember saying that I don’t want to be the curator of the group – not because of its size, but the fact that none of us selected eachother. Plus, there’s not time to create sufficient grounds for intensive collaboration. However, coordination is easily mixed with curation, as many opportunities asked for a creative stance and opinion…
This questions might be the hardest to answer, since it is an internal one. Working in Mexico? New professional challenges? Networking? Exploring the Mexican contemporary art scene? Exhibitions? Lectures by international professionals? Being a student and an organizer? Meeting xx artists and curators?
All of the above!
Part 1: Seminars, studio visits, individual critiques
A couple of 3-day seminars – which varied in topic and academic scope – were offered during the program.
Jorge Luis Marzo (Spain) analyzed the contemporary “Baroque” in “How to obstruct light from art to better see the object of study”, grounded also in the art project “El d_effecto barroco“.
Cuauthémoc Medina (México) made an introduction to Bataille’s work, based on “Visions of Excess”, and “The Red Specter” collective’s exhibition “Critical fetishes. Residues of general economy”.
Mariana Botey (México) was prevented to hold her seminar (based on Bataille’s “Hegel, Death and Sacrifice”), however gave us a short lecture which opened many existential questions for the group, all based in Bataillan topics and his heritage in our contemporary time.
Julie Carson (USA) held a seminar titled “Libidinal Economies: Art in the Age of Bull Markets”, grounded mostly in theories of Georges Bataille, Jacques Lacan and Jean-Francois Lyotard, analysis of Wall Street and a selection of artworks (such as Kerry Tribe’s “Here and elsewhere” and “Flash Boys”).
José Luis Sánchez Rull (México) held a “Drawing workshop” focused on the figurative forms in art history, “an exploration of the artists psyche in terms of a visceral graphic expression”, as a lecture and a drawing session with a nude model.
We had also a couple of shorter lectures (with Tyler Coburn and Diedrich Diedrichsen), closed and open ones (as part of SOMA Wednesdays program).
Also visited the studios of: Yoshua Okón, Miguel Ventura, Rocío Boliver (aka La Congelada de Uva), Vicente Razo, Jota Izquierdo, and had special presentations of Camel Collective (Anthony Graves and Carla Herrera-Prats) and Colective Nerivera (Valerie Tevere and Angel Nevarez).
Individual critiques were happening every Thursday, with artists and curators who are part of SOMA and guest art professionals. I had a super opportunity to be in an reversed position – presenting my work to artists, such as Enrique Ježik, Ilán Lieberman and Gabriel de la Mora.
Detailed descriptions of seminars and collaborators are available here and here.
Part 2: Visits & guides to exhibitions
With Eduardo Abaroa, Carla Herrera-Prats and exhibition artists and curators. Complete list of visits is available here. Below, my selection.
Espacio escultórico, near MUAC, part of UNAM complex (Ciudad Universitario). A collaborative art in public project, led by Mathias Goeritz (1978-80), framing a layer of a dead volcano, and a popular new age meeting point.
Tamayo (Museo del arte moderno), exhibition “Zona del riesgo” of artist Carlos Aguirre.
Centro cultural universitario Tlatelolco & temporal interventions by SOMA participants “On presentation/Sobre la presentación”. You can see a nearby Aztec ruins and a beautiful panorama of DF from the 12th floor.
Part 3: Setting the artworks
Getting ready… preparations brought some conflicts and obstacles, but also a lot of hard work and space coordination. After resolving one misunderstanding, I received a nickname “uncle Sergio”.
On the other hand, I was told to be “more in charge”, to “grab a whip”. It seems that I’m deceiving people without intention…
Part 4: Closing event
The summer program is not a production residency, however it opens the possibility for producing a new artwork.
Therefore, the closing event is an ambiguous thing. Is it a party? An exhibition? Art event? Screening and performance venue? All and none completely. It is a chance to celebrate the end of SOMA summer, gather the participants, students, and art public. Also, for most of the artists in this group, it was an opportunity to present a work – a draft, in progress, an old work in a different context, a fresh work, performance or a site-specific answer to a situation they have encountered in Mexico.
The title – Solar Anus – came as an inspiration by one of Bataille’s texts. To quote Carla: “I know, right?”
Part 5: Publication
To push our inspiration, creative potentials and organizational skills a little bit further, we decided to make a publication, following the last year’s example. The title is a reversion of Bataille’s – “Excess of Visions”. In that light, there’s a small text – an excess of thinking – from my side. You can download it here. Thanks to Manuel Bueno and “para la pesca al curricán” for the printing!
Part 6: Feedback & a visit to Tepito market
After the closing event, we had a guidance through most of the artworks, summing up the program and putting our suggestions and critiques on the table.
The last day, we had a guidance through Tepito, a place in DF known for its enormous market and informal economy. Our guide was Alfonso Hernández, director of Centro de Estudios Tepiteños. I’ve met Barbara Vodopivec from Ljubljana, who is conducting her PhD research in Mexico – it’s strange when in balancing two languages in a daily basis, I needed to “get back” to our… Yugoslav mix!
Two most memorable impressions for me were Salvador Gallardo Castro’s workshop, where he re-purposes scrap car parts to make furniture and art, and the somewhat underground sanctuary-altar to Santa Muerte, presented by its guardian, Doña Queta.
Part 7: List of participants
Whether from USA, Latin America, Europe or Lebanon, many got “infected” by Mexico and want to come back. Hope they will!
And great thanks for all the dedicated SOMA team who made this valuable experience possible!
AK/OK (Kate Jarboe and Maia Wright)
Maria Iorio & Raphaël Cuomo
Raquel Solórzano Cataño
Vere van Gool
Linda Voorwinde & Claire van Lubeek
All photos by Srdjan Tunic. For more, see: https://www.facebook.com/SOMAmexico?fref=ts
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