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Building a field. Researching, writing and publishing on art-education in Latin America.


03 January 2022
This month's topic: ResearchARTEducationResident Editor: Rosario García Martínez

Building a field. Researching, writing and publishing on art-education in Latin America.

Interview with Renata Cervetto

Rosario García Martínez – In your professional career, you have a tendency to produce publication formats, to “map” practices with an awareness of how important it is to publish. In 2015 you published The Fellow Reader 1. On Boycott, Censorship and Educational Practices. In 2016 you edited with Miguel A. López a book that today has a very important place in the construction of historiography on the practices of art and education at an international level, Agítese Antes de Usar. Desplazamientos educativos, sociales y arrtísticos en América Latina (Shake before using. Educational, Social and Artistic Displacements in Latin America) (you are currently working on the second part). More recently, you published – as part of the catalog series of the 11th Berlin Biennale, for which you were curator between 2019 and 2020 – Shared languages of exchange, which deals with long-term projects developed by artists and mediators. Taking into account your experience How are research and praxis articulated in your work?

Renata Cervetto – In our field of work, knowledge production emerges from both practice and theory, both of which constantly feed into each other. During my curatorial residency in Appel (from 2014-15), I was able to put everything I had been researching into a Latin American Art research group at the UBA. I studied the pedagogical programs of the Havana and Sao Paulo biennials and tried to understand how these programs were articulated in context. I used this research to connect what was happening in contemporary art in those years (2014-15) in relation to the boycotts of certain biennials. What had happened in the São Paulo biennial during the dictatorship happened again in the same biennial in light of other political events. So I was updating the research and thinking about how pedagogical programs are affected when there is institutional censorship, when artists decide to remove their work, how artists dialogue with mediators, how they collaborate, etc. I also added what I had been studying about the Mercosur Biennial, and I began to understand how the role of the pedagogical curator emerged, and how this “pedagogical turn” began to infiltrate Europe and South America in very different ways. It seemed important to me to create a publication with an on-going independent investigation that was carried out within an academic institution.

On the other hand, I believe that it is essential to understand that – beyond academic training offers – the mediator’s profession is built on doing and in context. It is about situated practices, which is why it is important to publish. This happened to us with Shared languages… at the Berlin Biennale, it seemed important to us that the voice of the mediators should have a leading role in the narrative and in the construction of a memory of the Biennale. In Agítesethere is an intention to map practices situated in different contexts in South America.

RGM – For years, research associated with curatorial practices and access to related theoretical material have been commonplace in the cultural field. The same is not the case with art-education practices. In Latin America, this means that there is less professional training for people interested in this field, and that it is mostly drawn from a reading list of works by European or American authors. Despite some Latin American milestones, such as the catalog of the 6th Mercosur Biennial (2009), Number 4 of Errata Magazine (2011), or even the book Agítese antes de Usar (Shake Before Using, 2016) edited by M. Ángel López and Renata Cervetto (our interviewee, who is currently working on the second part of this research), writing about art and education practices, and about developing platforms for their circulation, continues to be a challenge in Latin America. Why do you think this is the situation?

RC –  I think there are several factors that influence this “scarcity” of bibliography in Spanish on the subject. I believe that the so-called “educational turn” that can be seen in artistic and curatorial practice beginning in 2006 had several consequences in rethinking the role of the public or “consumers,” as well as in erasing the limits that divide practices and disciplines. I think that when Luis Camnitzer raises the role of the “pedagogical curator” in the 6th Mercosur Biennial, he is emphasizing the shared responsibility of curators, artists, and institutions for the context in which they are developing a project. This is not a job merely for “educators” or “mediators.” The Mercosur biennials, for example, put the people who carry out these jobs in another role, and this led them to begin to develop their own voice and, over time, to write about their own practice. Much of the material that was produced there is in Portuguese, although there are also translations into Spanish of subsequent editions, in which Marina de Caro was the pedagogical curator of the 7th biennial.

When I returned to Buenos Aires in 2015, after having studied in Appel’s curatorial program in Amsterdam, I had the feeling that in Europe I learned more about what was happening in Latin America than when I was in Buenos Aires, which led me to see the lack of connection between Buenos Aires and what is happening in neighboring countries and in Central America, not to mention within Argentina itself. That’s when I came up with the Board project, which I presented to NC-Arte in Bogotá and which we developed in conjunction with MALBA in 2016. It has now become a virtual archive, almost entirely in Spanish, that documents the current situation of these issues in very different contexts. On the other hand, I also believe that there is a great lack of training at the university level in relation to the practice of non-academic writing. When I finished my degree at the University of Buenos Aires, I realized that I did not know how to write an exhibition review, and so I took several courses to learn how to do it. There is even less training to write about one’s own practice, which opens up other large gaps in our professional training. Perhaps the university is not the place to learn how to do this, since artistic, mediation, and curatorial practices come almost entirely from experience, working in the field, self-teaching, collaboration with others, and self-management. In this sense, Escribir al Hilo (Writing on the Thread), the course that you guys put together in PROA with MUAC in Mexico, for example, seems quite amazing and necessary to me.[1]Writing on the Thread: A Writing Clinic on Educational Practices in Museums is a program organized by Fundación Proa and MUAC-UNAM, aimed at education professionals in museums in Latin America. It … Continue reading

RGM – What role do cultural institutions have in all this? It seems that the priority is on doing and that reflection on these processes is relegated to technical and problem-solving issues. How does this affect teams and institutions, and even the cultural field itself, in the long term?

RC – On the one hand, it generates a pseudo self-exploitation. Inside a cultural institution it is necessary to be able to produce original, attractive, relevant, and consistent content within a context, and to do that, time is needed to be able to do the research. But, on the other hand, you need the time to be able to write about it and to understand those processes. To be able to document it in another way, or to think of other forms of alternative documentation that are not necessarily writing.

RGM –Like what you did with TABLERO, for example, a cycle of videos in which Latin American art and education professionals share their ideas.

RC -That can be an option, although that archive was more like a first approximation. This type of survey of our field has not yet occurred in Argentina. In Spain, for example, the Carasso Foundation supports research on these issues, producing material on the current state of affairs about how artistic practice critically dialogues with schools, museums, and other cultural spaces. In other words, a framework is being generated that helps to make these fields of knowledge visible, and that encourages their mutual interaction. Returning to your question, about how this affects education, María Acaso has said: the areas of education are not thought of as an area of ​​knowledge production and research, but rather of replicating a certain curatorial discourse, a response to a pre-established program and which one has to domesticate or translate to people. It should be possible to offer training for mediators to help build bridges between exhibition content and their own practices in order to appropriate the content and to make their own contribution. Luis Camnitzer calls for mediation as an artistic practice, as Jordi Ferreiro does, for example, because there is a great deal of creativity and subjectivity in this.

RGM – Accordint to this, when we talk about “research” in the field of art and education, what characteristics do you think it has compared to academic research? What kind of knowledge are we talking about? How can we justify physical-emotional ideas and contemporary debates that speak of these ideas within research?

RC – I would highlight the interdisciplinary character, the openness to recognize methodologies or forms of creativity in other types of knowledge, such as philosophy or break-dance. To learn other ways of the functioning of things, to go beyond what one considers art, because creativity in our work is very subjective. In relation to knowledge, for me we are talking about the knowledge of the body, which is something that is not even addressed, gender studies, queer and decolonial theory, how we can put into practice a critical pedagogy within our context. Communication tools are also fundamental, learning how to write, writing by developing a personal voice that can also convey an idea, which is not easy. When I refer to the body I mean not only of performance but also the self-knowledge of one’s own limits. It is taken for granted that one has to produce, but a balance must be found, so that we can produce from a healthy place for ourselves and for others.




1 Writing on the Thread: A Writing Clinic on Educational Practices in Museums is a program organized by Fundación Proa and MUAC-UNAM, aimed at education professionals in museums in Latin America. It aims to promote theoretical-critical debate for the development of a reflective writing exercise for publication purposes. The program is committed to the consolidation of cultural institutions as places of research and knowledge production, and to the professionalization of workers dedicated to the development of educational programs with diverse audiences.  

Rosario García Martínez (Buenos Aires, 1983) holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Buenos Aires and did postgraduate studies on pedagogy and education at FLACSO Argentina. Since 2008 she has worked in the area of Education and Public Programmes at Fundación Proa. She is the author of the book Por una institución híbrida. Experiencias de interacción entre Museo y Universidad, published by Fundación Proa in 2020. Based on this publication, she created the programme Escribir al Hilo. Clínica de escritura sobre prácticas educativas en museos, in complicity with the Education and Public Programmes team of the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo of the UNAM, Mexico. She is currently rowing in dulce de leche: designing programmes of international scope that encourage the development of research, writing and publication spaces for museum professionals.

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