Testimony of a Journey – Artists Residence

No. 38 – May 2007, Buenos Aires

At the end of March, twenty artists from all over the world were working at the old hotel in Ostende. Laura Batkis was there, as a witness of that unique experience. 

It was within the framework of RIAA, the International Artist Residency in Argentina, organized by Diana Aisenberg, Melina Berkenwald, Graciela Harper and Roberto Jacoby. There were interviews of actions, installations, exhibitions and performances carried out by some artists while they were producing their works.

One night, before dinner, in the hallway of a room, I saw how Ernesto Ballesteros (from Buenos Aires) cut the other artists’ hair. He now performs this action with the marchand Daniel Abate. Ballesteros told me: “A friend of mine was teaching me hairdressing secrets and the energetic exchange of what it means to cut hair. It has to do with aerodynamics, because the person loses weight and has more possibilities to keep balance. It’s the first time I’ve exchanged energy with a gallery owner.

And how does it feel to cut a marchand’s hair? 

That he is a human being!

Tell me about the paper airplane championship.

I invited people from the program to come to the beach to throw paper airplanes, which I made here in my room. I asked them if they wanted to be judges or participants. The judges had to judge the beauty of the flight, so it became a totally subjective judgment. And those who competed, competed for a little balsa wood plane that I’m making now. 

And who won?

Marie-Jeanne Hoffner from France. In the photo you can see that there is a moment when they are all playing with the little planes. It’s when they stop competing and feel a different kind of happiness. It is that shared moment of celebration. In short, artists always compete; we always want to judge and there are a lot of elements that come together in a different way when we are all relaxed.  

Mobile Art Gallery

The next day, at three in the afternoon, there was a performance and mobile trailer on the beach, Badrajo made by Josefina Guilisasti (Chile), Rosalba Mirabella (Tucumán) and Sandra Monterroso (Guatemala), as well as the guest artist Miguel Ventura (Mexico). This work was put together at the RIAA gathering. They used a tent that they closed with plastic and intervened it with magazines and texts, turning it into a “mobile art gallery”.  As “directors of this gallery”, (Guilisasti, Mirabella and Monterroso) invited an artist to exhibit his performance: Miguel Ventura. 

Ventura told me: “I was working in an important bank in Buenos Aires and one of the girls from RIAA invited me for a few drinks to talk about a loan to open a gallery, but then she seduced me. It was a trap. Suddenly, in the hotel room the other two fell on me. They put me in a cage where there was food residue, discarded clothes and pictures of the other horrible things they had done to other illustrious men. I was locked up for days and nights. I lost all concept of time. Then they began to re-educate me. Their goal is to make me a successful woman curator. They changed my clothes, put these breasts on me and chained me to this mobile gallery.” 

What does a successful woman curator look like? 

For this it’s important to have something masculine, so they can identify you in the medium as a woman with balls, who can make strong decisions, decide whether or not to give grants. What I fear is that they are using me to progress in their own careers.

And they are artists… or what are they?

I really don’t know. I have been an object of abuse…

The woman curator has very large breasts (I touch them) and Miguel shouts: “Don’t touch my breasts!!!”. Ever since I got my breasts, everyone wants to touch me. And they mistreat me, telling me, you are crooked, the makeup is wrong, the skirt is wrong”. 

And they put tiny spots on your legs…

They are the varicose veins of the woman curator.

I see that you are always reading.

It’s because the woman curator studies. Now they’ve got me reading about espionage.

Also, they keep you tied up all the time. 

Yes, and the only thing they buy me are cigarettes. I’m going to learn from this book how to sabotage them, that’s what they don’t know.

Boat Feeling

Exhibition and video: Rosana Schoijett (Buenos Aires) presents Transatlántico-Secuencias fotográficas (Transatlantic-Photographic Sequences), located in the Hallway of rooms A and B, and a video in the microtheater.

Rosana: “It is a video with photo sequences, made with the structure of cinema but in photo. The idea is to be able to work a scene or a situation in several sequences. It’s like a visual diary of what happened at RIAA. I gave it the title Trasatlántico because it’s kind of what I was feeling. Of being on a ship, where we passed each other in the corridors. I went out only a few times, there were many gray days, so I felt that everything happened as if we were inside a ship. Sometimes we would go out on deck, which is where the outside is, the swimming pool, and where we would get together to eat. Other times we would meet on the beach, but there was not much movement outside either. There aren’t many people now in Ostende.  I am interested in observing relationships, links. And this has to do with a work I’m doing, Entrevista (Interview), which began in the exhibition with celebrities I did at Malba, and that started with the formal structure of the editorial interview, where I worked for a long time. Now I’m trying to bring my work as a photographer in the media to the visual arts.”

Dead in the Dining Room

Installation: Alexander Gerdel (Venezuela). Naturaleza muerta en Ostende – Interior y exterior (Still Life in Ostende – Interior and exterior). Installation with materials found in the hotel. 

Location: Dining room. 

Gerdel made an installation in the dining room, working with utensils from the hotel’s gastronomy. 

Alexander: “Every day here was a constant meal time. In my mind, the call for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners is a recurring thing. I noticed that the waiters always arranged the tables in a different way and that motivated me to come up with a different way of grouping them myself.  I used the materials of the hotel (the silverware of the kitchen, chairs, tables) stacking and making geometric compositions, because in my country there is a very important abstract geometric tradition. I worked in collaboration with the kitchen staff, and there are ideas and decisions that we made together.”

Lagoon on the Beach

Exhibition: Exhibition of paintings by Fernanda Laguna (Buenos Aires) in the tents on the beach.

Fernanda says: “When I came on the bus from Buenos Aires to Ostende I saw all landscapes in champagne color, so I wanted to work with those colors. I came with my son Ramon, and many times a colleague from Chile took care of him, so I made her that painting that says, “Through this pact of friendship we sealed the program of friends, all the hatred we feel towards others we channel it into doing nice things for both of us, thank you friend”. 

How did the experience of being here help you?

I was able to draw a lot, I was very comfortable. Given the fact that I didn’t have to clean the house, I was able to use all that time to paint! 

And was the interaction with the other artists important? 

It was good, at the beginning it was all about talking of the career of art, but when that first moment of the introductions and a lot of theory passed, it was nicer and more relaxed, like when something else comes up at parties. RIAA seems to me to be an artistic event. It is a different idea, a place for people to meet.

You somehow generated the meeting situation in Belleza y Felicidad 

Yes, and it has been eight years. Now the physical space is still there, but it has closed as an art gallery. I set up a gift shop. I like it because a gift is like a screen. Behind a gift there is something immense, which is a person.

Tell me about that work where the word SUICID is embroidered. 

I made it in 2002. It’s a cult American band of music from the ’70s. They started with the noise and everything that would eventually become industrial rock music, and I loved it. So I wanted to do that piece, but at one point I left it, because it refers to suicide and there is a lot to talk about, it mixed with life. Oscar Wilde says: “Life, reality and even nature are reflections of art, art invents the world”. Wilde says that a painter one day said that there was humidity in London so people began to see the humidity, to be aware of the humidity and the humidity was created, and even people began to catch a cold. So, sometimes, when people come in with issues like that, reality also follows and goes that way. 

So you embroidered the word up to the letter D … just in case. Sometimes art comes close to death… 

FL: Death is like black, for me it’s a beautiful color, it’s an incredible color.