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Buenos Aires, circa 2010. Shows by artists Joaquín Aras, Santiago Rey, Maruki Nowacki and others take us back to a golden age of artists’ spaces, cheap rent and social media that oozed innocence and a full-employment economy. What was art like before the imprisonment of Kim Dotcom and the dismissal of Dilma Rousseff? According to an author of dystopian fiction, we had no idea that the future was just around the corner.
At twenty, the world could be just a curated world, a whimsical, low-budget reality clipping. In some cases this post-adolescent cursed clipping ends up shaping an aesthetics and even a market trend. But before entering the miry terrain of aesthetics we should not forget that – for souls more pervious to Latin American magical realism – the onset of the decade was the prelude of 2012, the prelude of the end of the world.
In 2010, when Néstor Kirchner was still alive, the world hadn’t yet come to an end and it was possible to rent a small flat in Buenos Aires for a hundred and fifty dollars, I visited Rayo Lazer gallery for the first time at the tender age of twenty. In actual fact there was no need to go all the way to the gallery that was accommodated in a house in the Colegiales district to see works by artists like Juan Matías Killian, Jesica Bianchi, Mario Scorzelli, Franco Ferrari or Nicolás Sarmiento. The works, the photos of the artists pogo-dancing ordrinking bleach, the flyers announcing shows with titles like Los herederos de la mierda appeared on Flickr in a much more professional context than that of Fotolog (the social medium previously prevalent ). Thanks to the white cube called Flickr, the experience of visiting the gallery was possibly much more sensory; it was communal, intoxicated and performative.
In May 2011 the auditorium at the arteBa art fair held a performance marathon for the first time. Rayo Lazer had been open one year and its well-trodden heroic path prompted the gallery to take part in the marathon and in the young artists’ section of the fair itself, where it presented a Mutant Dance Competition, a contest between dance groups at which the gallery staff acted as jury. Daniel Alva, an artist who had offered me a drink of Peruvian chicha during my first visit to Rayo, had inspired – almost by chance – the creation of his own dance group called Choclito [Baby Corn]along with artists like Lala Ladcani and Inés Efron.The members of the little group, formed by young people of both sexes who donned second-hand clothes and straw hats, had the letters forming the word CHOCLITO embroidered on their backs. After its presentation at the art fair, the grains of corn would continue to inspire the party’s enthusiasm, choreography and easy jokes in other institutional spaces like the Mundo Dios residency or General San Martín Cultural Centre.
That same year, Maruki Nowacki, one of the members of the group, presented Los truenos no lastiman. The installation, made up of tweets written throughout 2011, was scattered around a new gallery called El sendero del espíritu libre. The small glazed space was inside the Liceo Patio, a hotchpotch of cool establishments that had originally been the first female school in Latin America. The show was an imaginative arrangement of short sentences like ‘Children of YouTube’ written in metal letters in sand placed on the gallery floor and a fish tank filled with intensely murky turquoise water surrounded by photocopies. Los truenos no lastiman was curated by Juan Matías Killian who, no longer connected to the Rayo Lazer brotherhood, managed El sendero together with Paula Duró, Julián Puyal and Marina Fages.
El sendero del espíritu libre and another space called Isla Flotante were the only two places able to cater for one of my activities of the time, a project inappropriate enough to fit consequence-free in the context: a duo called Ramera Homosexual with whom we sang the virtues of eating caramelised dulce de leche. The following year Joaquín Aras presented Quiéreme tender at Isla Flotante, the only gallery that still exists. This semi-abandoned space hidden in one of the most privileged of the city’s neighbourhoods staged parties, organised tastings of breaded veal cutlets, poetry readings, bat mitzvahs and artists’ exhibitions curated by other artists. Quiéreme tender was curated by Daniel Alva, our supplier of Peruvian chicha and co-founder of Choclito. It consisted of two washing machines switched on and placed in the centre of the space that came together and separated as they shook to the rhythm of a list of songs that included Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender, and a video with excerpts of Hollywood films in which different couples inhabit the dangerous space of romantic love in the ordinary space of the laundry.
After having infected the local symbolic heritage with images of ninja turtles, Rayo Lazer fulfilled the 2012 prophecy and drew to an end. But when one world comes to a close, another world opens and the atomisation of the ‘ray’ enabled one of its founders, Mario Scorzelli, to immediately open Inmigrante Galería with artists Cotelito and Gala Berger.
That same year, at a distance of almost forty kilometres from the centre of Buenos Aires, Santiago Rey, Guido Contrafatti and Juan Matías Álvarez took part in the group show entitled Lujo, calma y voluptuosidad held at Militantes Galería. Santiago Rey’s contribution to the show was a bust of the then deceased president Néstor Kirchner, whose phantasmagorical yet true profile was cast in shadow. The bust went viral the following year after being displayed at arteBa with the politicised Militantes gallery, but ultra-local imagery surpassed Rey’s work. Militantes was located in Manuel Alberti, in the distant Greater Gran Buenos Aires, and attending the gallery openingsimplied over an hour’s journey by train and an adventurous disposition to temporarily leave the city. Perhaps due to its location on the periphery, its forested courtyard or its homely quality, during the time it remained open the gallery preserved intact a friendly halo of community. Thanks to this project, possibly the most unlikely of those mentioned in this clipping, gallery manager Sol Severina welcomed a few early experiments by artists who wouldn’t otherwise have found shelter for the fragile and Dionysian phases of their careers.
The discourse of community, that includes those of friendship and amusement, is never anything new when it comes to gallery shows curated by artists. Indeed, it constitutes one of the latent virtualities that reverberate like a continuous note in the corridors of contemporary Porteño art, a story that often begins with a group of friends drinking wine and turns into a sort of internal gentrification, a heroic young gallery destined to good lighting and success.
Yet instead of embracing the apocalyptical idea according to which forms of professionalism and capitalism destroy practically everything, it’s inspiring to try and decipher the distinctive features of this collective whispering that travels along paths, crossing islands, rays and militancies; to sharpen our perception in order to understand the threads that shape the networks of the social like bearers of a perpetual murmur, repeated from generation to generation of artists like underground rivers of lava that mark the beat of small planets. An igneous murmur, orchestrated through the idea that only friendship will save the world.
(Highlight image: Jesica Bianchi, s/t (2010))
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)