An interview with the creator of the call-work for the 6th Salon
By these days, at the Visual Arts Development Centre (CDAV by its Spanish acronym), within the exhibition xl2, we can find the project Enlace Compartido, a call-work conceived by Nestor Siré. What is the proposal of this project?
It is an evolving work, which has been running for four months and will continue until January next year. It consists in creating an event that has its own operational logic and its own work process, but in turn, it is within the 6th Cuban Contemporary Art Salon.
The idea of the event is to create an open call for artists who were not invited to this 6th edition. As you know, like other national events, let us say, the official section of the Havana Biennial, the Salon does not have an open call, but it operates by invitation. The CDAV curatorial team, based on their criteria, is interested in certain creators and begins negotiating a path that can have a happy ending or not. This has its pros and cons, especially since most of the chosen artists live and work in Havana.
Enlace Compartido becomes an alternative for those artists who have works related to the curatorial concept of the event, or are interested in participating in the 6th Salon and have not been invited. I know that the list of artists presented by exhibition projects, and especially those with certain prestige, is often the target of criticism and questions. There are always disagreements and authors with serious and good work who are left out. Hence I made the call taking into account Cuban artists who live anywhere in the country and those who reside abroad. I will share the spaces offered to me as a guest with the one that wins the call: he or she will exhibit his/her work on January at the CDAV; I shall have the space of the catalog, which will include the behavior of the call and the names of the project’s partners team, without whom it would have been impossible to organize and promote a project of this magnitude.
Several creators, curators and critics have exchanged roles, and many problems have been solved through the symbiosis of both tasks. In your case, you conceive a call-work linked to institutional structures. Does that correlation have the look of an interaction or dependency? What is new in this project?
Enlace Compartido goes against the selection at first. It accepts the proposals of all those subscribed to the call by complying very basic conditions; I give the opportunity to those who were left out by the curatorial team of the Salon to present their work and be part of the 6th Salon through the project.
As an event organizer I do not intervene in the process of choosing a winner, in order to avoid the nasty comments that allude to a falsification, my supposed preference for a line of work or by favoring friend artists. In art there has always been selection. Remembering few who passed through art encyclopedia and forgetting many people who could not do it or were not positively judged by critics at a time, is part of the history of art. At present we are not exempt from it. Sometimes we pass filters. The story of the life of any artist, like in soccer, if you allow me the analogy, is managing to play in a first division great team, at the expense of what it means in terms of promotion and other marketing stuffs. In contemporary art, selection goes by taste, and this is a debtor of subjectivity, interpretation and experience of who purifies. The jury chooses and it is likely that if we change the jury, the new one would opt for a completely different winning proposal.
My response to this is to allow everyone who submits or meet the requirements of the call being part of Enlace Compartido. The applicants themselves are who advise the jury that will evaluate the works presented in search of a winner. I have created a voting mechanism in which the three most repeated names become the jury of the event. I am not included in that jury; my role is to be a mediator who may structure each stage, promote, assist in the production, or manage sponsorships. I try that the selection mechanism to be as horizontal as possible. In this sense, the participation of applicants is essential. With them I not only share the link to the 6th Salon, but also the responsibility that the final result will be reflected in the winning piece. Not knowing the jury makes you not to get focused on a specific type of work because you know what the one they will prefer is, disregard the creation of those extra artistic principles and have greater freedom to launch your idea.
In addition, I’ve tried this project to be as open and inclusive as possible. It admits video pieces, installation, intervention, performance, design, architecture, experimental film, among other expressions that may tend to hybridization. Age and sex do not matter if you come from an art school or a higher education institution that supports “your professionalism”, or if you are self-taught. The limitation is that the piece or project sent should be related to the theme of the 6th Salon and fill the fields of the form subscription. What I ask is not new. Any call you apply, either to get a job, a residence permit or an event in competition, you have to write down the information you are requested, especially the one of the required fields.
It also offers visibility to the projects through the on line exhibition. It is totally free. It is posted on the internet and we have promoted it in social networks, which are becoming more used in the Weekly Package and in Artcrónica there is a postcard which includes information to find it. We officially launched the exhibition at the opening of xl2, but off line, due to the conditions of connectivity we already know. That day I had the support of five collaborators; three of them had electronic tablets to show the sample on line and explained what Enlace Compartido was going to be. They satisfied any questions that attendees had about the project, while promoting it. Those who had a device capable of connecting to the Wi Fi, looked at the page and left comments. In addition, there was a laptop available to those who were not able to connect through their own means. The direction of the exhibition if anyone wants to consult it is: www.enlacecompartido.jux.com, which will remain active and will grow with applications to the call, until October 31.
Enlace Compartido has partial matches and at the same time notable differences from the logic established by the 6th Salon. This event, in this edition, is thematic and focuses on information and communication. Could you talk me about the communication and dissemination strategies you’ve drawn to expand the scope of the call.
I have tried to give substance to the concept of work, which sometimes is not visible against the role of the call itself and the stages of its logic: the release, circulation, reception of proposals, submission to the jury valuation and exhibition of the winner at CDAV. Enlace Compartido, in its broadest sense, is a work of procedural nature that requires an independent promotion to run within another event, which is the 6th Cuban Contemporary Art Salon. I use social networking, email, the Enlace Compartido blog; international websites specialized in launching calls, national digital magazines, Noticias de Artecubanonewspaper, radio, television, personal blogs and presentations. But I’ve also had the collaboration of curators, critics, art historians, researchers, journalists, friend artists and cultural promotion specialists that have helped me to circulate and present it in different provinces of the country. I also received the help by two designers and an automatic engineer, who worked on the image of Enlace Compartido, the web programming during the online exhibition, software and implementation of the WiFi network.
Broadly, these have been the routes. But given the limited access to email and internet, I have tried to adapt to the mechanisms operating in each context. Proof of this is the use of the weekly package, presentations in provinces and passing information from voice to voice. I’m from Camagüey and I know the information does not flow the same way as in Havana. It is a very effective strategy to promote the circulation from hand to hand, from memory to memory.
Within those options that reach most of the country, the weekly package has been an efficient means to provide visibility. There are many people who have met it through this way. It is information that is out there and easily accessible. No one has to give it to you, nor there is an institution that regulates it; you know it by accident and if you know someone who is interested on it, you just have to tell it. The effectiveness of this kind of reach is not measurable, because you do not have some statistics to measure its behavior. However, I like it because it gets the call out of the art world, and puts it into the world of common people, in the plural. The information is weekly updated to keep them aware. Now it must be circulating information on the opening of the exhibition on line. In addition to images of the inauguration in xl2 and the catalog, we add a website security copy; thus everybody will be able to see it without being connected to internet.
Along with the call we have made postcards, business cards, stamps, posters, T-shirts and a catalog for its presentation at xl2.
After completion of the whole process of the call, we come to a core stage that is no longer associated with a winner or good works. The task is to organize, edit and produce the memories of the event, that is, I shall generate a file with documentation of what has happened with Enlace Compartido and the participating artists, which I will send to the national artistic institutions and to those who operate freelance in our sector. This report will be posted free on the internet for download or read it. I have an ambition of getting funding for a physical catalog that I can send or even mailed to institutions of international prestige, as Banco de Ideas Z (1992-2002) did. This project distributed in a manila envelope, by mail, a printed in A4 double-sided sheet. It was sent to 500 destinations. For now it is a dream that already counts with some people interested in producing it, but it should be strengthened to the extent that most of the stages to be cleared.
What comes after xl2?
It comes the end of the call on October 31, then, the jury’s verdict, which will be released by different means; the presentation of the work and the winning artist in January 2015 at CDAV and the circulation of the memories of the process. In short, there is going to be Enlace Compartido for a while.