New routines in El Bolsón

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guille, Puti, Clyde and I have been in El Bolsón, in the mountains of Patagonia, for two weeks now, and routines are developing. For example, every morning I take Clyde for a walk around a large “block” of undeveloped wetland. We stand out because people who live here generally don’t walk their dogs, they just let them lose. Some are without collars, so it’s hard to tell the strays from dogs with homes. But I’ve been taking Clyde on walks multiple times a day for over 11 years, and he has come to expect them. Also, it would be a real tragedy to leave him on his own outside with his not being so wise to cars.

In the morning routine, we encounter the familiar dogs who all now know Clyde, and greet him. There is the small black one next door, who much like a small black dog of our neighbors in Buenos Aires, barks at Clyde like it’s ready to tear him apart. (He’s behind bars fortunately.) There is even a horse we pass, eating his morning hay dropped off by his owner, an 80-something woman with a pickup. We now know well how to navigate the various puddles and flooded gullies that rains have left behind, though they have diminished with 4 straight days without rain. I enjoy the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and morning peace. Clyde has even developed his habitual pee points, sniffing them, lifting a leg, and then sniffing the spot after, like a painter adding that perfect splotch of color.

There are also these birds, bandurrias, which here are as present here in El Bolsón as pigeons are in many cities, but much larger and much much louder. Every day, a certain two have greeted Clyde and me, swooping down and screeching loud. Landing and marching toward us while threatening us with their advancing squawking. The first couple days it made both of us a bit fearful that they would attack my dog, who has become so much more passive than when he was a pup. But later they became just another nuisancelike the psychotic little black dog next door. Well, it seems that these wild creatures now know who Clyde is, seem to be more intelligent than that mutt next door, as today they flew over, checking us out, and landed. But did not make a peep, instead moving on to their business of digging up worms, or however it is that bandurrias spend their days.


The Symbolism of Hugo Chávez

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The death of Hugo Chávez brings a more long term perspective to contemporary Latin American politics. Sure this man wielded a big ego that at times did more harm than good, but his rise in Venezuela marked the beginning of a grand shift in the power structures in practically every Latin American country.

Today no one disputes the importance of Brazil economically and politically, as well as the rise of other countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Ecuador. But not very long ago, these countries, though rich in resources, had no voice of their own and were not autonomous. Their politics and economics were controlled by powers in Europe and the USA. In most cases, for centuries, the ample resources of see countries did little to improve the lives of the average person but more to subsidize foreign interests at the expense of liberties and living standard of their citizens. (There is an important book read by all school children in Argentina that documents this history.)

Today, with the imperialist dominance diminishing, things like foreign debt, claims of fascism or communism, and other methods are used as a wedge against the rise of Latin American countries. This is a threat to the USA and seen European countries, because subjugated, those countries have been a source if easy money for too long.

Hugo Chavez in Venezuela,  Lula da Silva in Brazil and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina led the emergence of a truly South American politic for the first time in modern history, not one imposed by European or North American powers. Domestically, much is being been done to return to local control of their economies, to reduce poverty, and to guarantee human rights. Success is mixed, but the overall direction has been maintained and has expanded to more countries.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East and Africa there are countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria who are going through revolutions for similar reasons, but with much more bloodshed. For the past 15 years Latin America has also been evolving, but with very little bloodshed. (However, there have been recent political coups d’état against progressive governments in Paraguay and Honduras.) Workers are gaining more say and rights, as do all citizens, and industries are more and more contributing to the wealth of their respective countries than to foreign multinational exploitative interests.

Not all is perfect in Latin American countries, much corruption persists and many citizens are not so comfortable with this change–like children who do not want to disobey a domineering parent–but real democracy is a new phenomenon as is the political autonomy of any Latin American country. Think about it, where is there a perfect democracy free of corruption and mistakes? (It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. –Winston Churchill)

In this context, we could recognize Hugo Chávez as a hero on par with his heroes Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín. He is a symbol of a dramatic large-scale revolution, but a quiet peaceful one that continues today.

Los Mingitorios

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Andá ahora a mis obras en dos lugares ahora!
Por cualquier cosa, por favor contactame.

Instalación con serigrafía sobre  PVC transparente
OnceLibre en Transito
Corrientes 1671, subsuelo de liberería
los sábados de  14 a 20 horas
consultame por otros días

Más de 100 fotografías únicas
Bar Dark (hasta el 11 de mayo)
Avenida de Mayo 912
lunes a jueves de 18 a 1 horas; viernes y sábados de 21 a 5.30 horas


Fotos de la inauguración del 7 de abril en Popularity, y la del 8 de abril en Bar Dark.

Vos Sos Bienvenido, El Graffiti

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

vos sos bienvenido, graffiti en buenos aires

Another puzzling ad from the conservative mayor of Buenos Aires (other ad here). One would expect the administration responsible for such tight control over the use of city plazas and the presence of homeless people, to be less welcoming to graffiti.

Once Libre

Monday, May 30, 2011

As an artist transplanted from New York, I came to Buenos Aires trying to connect with a community of other artists. To collaborate, commiserate, to evolve and hopefully to show work. From my involvement with two related groups, Once Libre and Articultores, I have begun to achieve all of this. However, on May 17 this was interrupted abruptly and violently.

Articultores @ Galeria Appetite

It all began with Articultores

I moved to Argentina in late 2004, and first met Judith Villamayor, the organizer of both OnceLibre and Articultores, participating in a public art event “Estudio Abierto Buenos Aires” in December 2005. Judith is a person who, while an artist in her own right, puts more energy into organizing other artists, primarily young and talented unestablished artists. And to her credit, she does this in a very open and non-exclusive way, where she is open to including anyone with incentive.

In 2009, I became reacquainted with Judith when I visited the gallery Appetite in my neighborhood. Judith was working there, arranging sprouting plants in the inside of a gallery that had no natural light.

Plants in a gallery? Well other artists have used living plants in art installations, but this resembled more a nursery than a gallery installation, aside from the surrounding artwork and signature mylar-covered walls. I was drawn to the idea because of the fusion of seemingly disparate interests of mine, gardening and creating art. Judith immediately asked me to give a hand and I soon became a regular participant with Articultores. One of the primary activities of Articultores has been the creating of golf-ball-sized seed bombs which are thrown in functional and ceremonial ways at various forgotten and abused parcels of open land in Buenos Aires. As important in this is the ritual of making the bombs ahead of time, where various people at once participate in the process, chatting and getting to know each other and sharing knowledge of growing vegetables.

Seed bombs in Plaza de Mayo, for the veterans of the Malvinas WarIn any city this would be a vital activity, but Buenos Aires is a place where there is little regard for the environment, with garbage and cement winning out over nature. Here activities like those of Articultores can make the difference between an inhospitable city and a humane one. Though seed bombs are not a new concept, the seed bombs and plantings of Articultores are unique in that they emphasize plants that grow vegetables and herbs. In addition to creating awareness in making a city more livable, Articultores encourages individuals to grow and harvest their own food.

In the founding year of Articultores, although in a limited space, we managed to perform regular activities at the gallery and around the city. And the word spread. Now there are spin-off groups in the cities or Bahia Blanca and Córdoba, and local and international press have taken notice. One day last year we were filmed simultaneous documentaries for television in France and Brazil, while bicycling through downtown Buenos Aires throwing seed bombs at designated areas. And the Spain Cultural Center hosted an installation by Articutores for several months.

Personally, I see the success in Articultores up to this point, more in publicity than in directly sustaining successful urban gardens. (I personally tried to tend one garden myself, but it was eventually quashed by pile of festering garbage.) I also realize that this is a good thing, and being an activity integrated with art the spectacle can sometimes be more important than the product. Because of Articultores, a community and network of urban farmers has grown giving support to individual gardens at home, and more ambitious projects in public areas.

Moving from San Telmo to Once: The birth of Once Libre

Last year in September, after a winter pause, and the closing of the hosting gallery, Appetite, Judith had acquired the use of a new space in the neighborhood of Once. On my first visit I was awestruck, by both the grand size and character of the place. And also was impressed at how neglected it had been, making it a challenge to work in. Here was an entire floor of a former hotel, where supposedly Carlos Gardel (Argentina’s most famous singer of tango) had performed on occasion. Now it was full of wine bottles, rubble, broken windows, pigeons and rats, and its share of water damage. I saw potential under it all and ths possiblities for Articultores to have just a small corner of it to work in.

First meeting of Articultores at OnceLibre Abandoned hotel rooms to become artist studios Debris that had to be cleared

This place in Once also contained many former hotel rooms and other spaces that could make excellent artist studios. How I understood it, Judith had been loaned the entire space for an indefinite length of time through the cultural ministry of Argentina. (An arrangement, that at the end had come under dispute.) What a great country that can support its emerging artists in this form! I wanted to be a part of this, to work on my own projects in a creative environment with others. Thus I took over a damp and musty old room, full of decades of dust, a crumbling ceiling and peeling paint. And later, after giving up that space for another artist, I took over a former bathroom that was in such disgusting condition that no one had considered even using it. With the help of my boyfriend Guille I transformed it into a charmed space where I began to work with silkscreen again for the first time in 20 years.

In order to function, Once Libre not only needed cleaning, but lacked electricity and running water. The building is unusual in that it is likely not legally habitable by building codes, but it is under the control of the federal government and sympathetic political groups. We got to know some of the people of the CMP political group on the floor below and they were very welcoming and open to helping us get access to water and electricity. At first this involved filling individual buckets with water and hauling them upstairs to water plants or clean up from painting walls white. But eventually, we installed ourselves a network of electrical connections, and with the help of the hard-working Jorge, a few connections of water. It is amazing how the presence of these two basic things, water and electricity, can transform how one can use a space. In addition to sharing in the work to improve and maintain Once Libre, each month we have chipped in a modest sum of money to pay for materials and compensate our neighbors for the access to electricity and water.

Intravention by IvySuccesses at OnceLibre

In addition to fixing up and working in my studio, I have built and maintained the website of the group, Over the months we have cleaned and improved the space, and artists have come and gone, some from other countries including Columbia, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. Plus a friend of mine from New York, Ivy Haldeman, worked there for a few weeks creating “intraventions” with bricks, as seen in the photo. Artists submit proposals for how long they wish to work at Once Libre, and what they hope to accomplish. Judith considers all of them and has done her best to accommodate as many artists as possible, using every last corner of the space. For several artists this was their only chance of having a dedicated space to get work done. Once Libre has been home to dozens of artists over the course of just 8 months, and things were only getting better. How the space was transformed from a forgotten dumping ground into a vital and growing community has been amazing, perhaps reflecting what we have tried to do via Articultores to plots of forgotten land.

In addition to regular meetings of actions of Articultores, several well-attended events have been held at Once Libre. We held two very successful open studios of the resident artists. Classes and workshops in painting, electronic music, paper making, and much more. Meetings of a burgeoning artist union, a weekend conference for open software, and now a weekly radio program. And recently we began offering an excellent series of classes teaching how to grow an urban vegetable garden in one’s own balcony or terrace. All this was open to all and for no cost. As the participation has been increasing, also so has the publicity. Numerous reporters from both domestic and international news organizations have visited us in Once Libre.

Silkscreen work from my latest installation

Suddenly things weren’t right

A few weeks ago at Once Libre hints of trouble began to emerge. Judith explained that there was a conflict with the people on the second floor (we on the topmost third floor), that was sure to blow over. The space we were in was really the domain of the people who were to eventually develop a museum to the veterans of the Malvinas War. But there was no plan for a museum in the near future and they were happy to have us there indefinitely. What I thought was a mere bump in the road, evolved into our lights and water being cut off. What I hadn’t realized very well was that the bosses of the union on the second floor, wanted the space for a reason that was never made clear, and they were making a power play. Still the space belonged to the families of the Malvinas War veterans, and they were supporting us.

Well, how I understand it, something happened behind the scenes, and on Tuesday, May 17, a group of beefy union guys, led by the famous instigator Luis D’Elia, forced their way into the space and began breaking locked doors and setting up the place for a big gathering the same day. I was not there when it happened, but how I understand it, there would be no violence if we didn’t get in their way. We were invaded by force. At the same time, the representative of the Malvinas War veterans changed positions and informed Judith that we had to accommodate the group on the second floor in any way they wished. Since the people on the second floor now wanted us out that implied we had to leave. On learning this, I rode my bike to Once to meet with the rest and see what I learn and how I could help. The talk was around negotiating our time there, trying to get three months more to find a space to move to. But one month seemed more attainable.

Urban gardening classThough things didn’t look good, they also didn’t look terribly urgent. Then, at 8pm, back at home working, I saw on Twitter that we had until 10pm that same night to move things out and then we would be locked out.

I ran to the space where so much had been built over the past 8 months, and everyone was suddenly scrambling in the dark to load their supplies and work into taxis and moving trucks. A very sad moment, but everyone in shock and desperate to save their stuff, there was no time to reflect. It was partly like escaping a natural disaster such as a fire or tsunami, where everyone had to make sudden choices on what they could grab most quickly. Evidence of other artists who still hadn’t learned of the recent developments was apparent in their work and materials set up as if they were coming back tomorrow to continue work. I wished I could help them out, but it was enough to get my own things out in such short notice. I called the number of one friend who wasn’t aware of what was happening. I interrupted him at his own art opening at an important art fair, from where he came as fast as he could to rescue his things.

It turned out that over the next few days we were able to return on limited occasions to get stuff, and fortunately most things were recovered. I have my things comfortably at home, aside me as I type things right now. But there are others who are more in limbo, including a young woman from Columbia who came to Buenos Aires just to work on her projects, and hasn’t the means to secure a hospitable space to work at all.

I have yet to hear any concrete motives for us being kicked out, other than it’s not our space. In retrospect, a big mistake was made in that the agreement for the space was not in writing. Judith confirmed verbally many times that we were more or less indefinitely. After the conflict on Tuesday, the new leader of the Malvinas group, published a public letter stating that the agreement was that we were to have the space only through February. Judith denies this was the agreement; and even if it were the agreement, why did they wait so long to do anything to get us to leave? There never was an official letter ordering us to go, just the presence of a group of men mimicking a scene from a Sopranos TV episode.

My mood and that of my companions has varied between anger and sadness, and disappointment with business as usual in this banana republic under the rule of thugs; but overriding it is the emphasis on the future, finding a new space, and how to continue working. It’s difficult to keep up momentum in one’s work once upended so abruptly, and a few have wanted to strike out at the aggressors (an understandable desire), but the majority would rather put their energy into building something for the future rather than retribution for past deeds. Plus the bonds everyone involved have become stronger than ever.  The seeds of Once Libre have been planted.

emptying out the space

Vos sos bienvenido, al infierno

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mauricio Macri

Cartel de Mauricio Macri para jefe de gobierno de la ciudad de Buenos Aires. La traducción de la remera dice “Bienvenidos al Infierno.”

This is a photo I snapped of a campaign poster for the re-election of the current mayor of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mauricio Macri is a conservative, pro-big business politician and with this cleaver campaign he is trying to appeal to different types of people. They all contain the slogan “Vos Sos Bienvenido,” or “You are welcome,” without saying what he is welcoming us all to.  The first thing I noticed about this poster of the beefy, tatooed, rocker dude was the pentagram on his t-shirt. But below in English it seems to clarify what Macri is welcoming us to, to hell.

El racismo viene de cualquier lado

Friday, May 13, 2011

Aveces me sorprende cuando veo el racismo de gente o fuentes que considero progresivos, inteligentes, y con mientes abiertas.

En Argentina hay un diario, Pagina 12, que se considera de los grandes diarios argentinos lo mas progresivo, mas de la izquierda socialmente y políticamente.  Además publica un suplemento cada viernes dedicado a la comunidad homosexual, bisexual y transexual. Y leo con regularidad su suplemento de artes que sale cada domingo. Sus escritos generalmente son muy bien considerados, y me provocan bien. De mi país nativo, los Estados Unidos, tiene una perspectiva muy complejo que me impresiona mucho. Mucho respeto por los artistas y la cultura de allá y fuerte criticas sobre los políticos cuando merecen.

El domingo pasado leí sobre un cambio en la carrera de presidente este año. Como queda tan popular la presidenta Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, el candidato de la oposición mas importante, Mauricio Macri, abandonó la carrera. Como yo apoyo el político de Kirchner antes de lo de Macri, leí con mucho interés. Pero me llamó la atención en el reportaje mas importante de domingo, una intención importante por Pagina 12 de pintar las diferencias políticas como una lucha entre la gente de piel blanco y los morochos con piel y cabello mas oscuro.

Aparece en esta descripción en caracterizar a los macristas, la gente que apoyan a Mauricio Macri en su cambio desde candidato presidencial hasta un candidato para la ciudad de Buenos Aires:

Muchos de clase media para arriba –la mayoría llegaron y se fueron en sus propios autos– y muchas cabelleras rubias. “Yo vivo en Parque Avellaneda y soy morocha”, se quejó de esta descripción una militante PRO de pelo planchado y ojos azules. (ver todo el artículo aquí)

Para mi es algo mas de la chusmeria, pero en el periodismo la importancia se convierte en algo diferente. Hay mucho para criticar a la gente de Macri y su partido PRO. Por ejemplo: Su orientación neoliberal para privatizar todo y ayudar las empresas grandes al costo de una economía sana y a la gente de los clases mas abajo. O como su cambio cuestiona la sinceridad de la dedicación de Macri hasta el pueblo contra su posición de aprovechar en sus propios ganancias personales.

Pero este periodista, Werner Pertot, y el Pagina 12 eligieron acentuar el color de cabello y los ojos de la gente. Mas de contribuir al ambiente de racismo en la Argentina, perdieron una oportunidad de cuestionar bien la campaña. Y me pregunto si la gente de PRO fueran morochos de cabello negro y ojos oscuros, sería mejor su político en la vista de Pagina 12?

Además, en la contra tapa del mismo diario, vi una historieta que critica los actos de Barack Obama en los EEUU. Con el asesinato de Osama bin Laden y la guerra fuerte en Afganistan lo merece una vista critica, y mejor en el formato de una historieta. Pero en su lugar la historieta cuestiona mas la verdad del color de su piel.

Historieta de Pagina 12

Barack Obama & Las Madres

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cristina & BarackPresident Brarack Obama mentions “The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo” in his address to the UN. As an example of how much more powerful my birth country is to my adopted country, those few words made headlines here and were also the subject of debate on television. When they lunched together, the Argentine President thanked him.

More impressive to me, Obama’s recognition of these brave women’s struggle against opression, beginning 3 decades ago, is a big contrast for the same country which backed the dictatorship that was responsible for widespread terrorism and the extermination of more than 30,000 people.

Thrown Out

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homes under the freewayHomes under the freewayClearing out everythingClearing out everythingMoments before the bottle-tossing beganThe suits move onThe view from while I'm safe at homeA few hours laterA few hours later

This morning I took my dog Clyde to a plaza nearby for his morning walk. While there, there was an operation in progress to “clean up” encampments of cartoneros living under the freeway adjacent to the plaza.

The cartoneros have a big presence in Buenos Aires. The name comes from the word “carton,” or cardboard. They handle the great majority of cardboard and paper recycling for the city, and recycling in general. They work by sorting through garbage on the streets to extract materials of value. Cartoneros are conspicuous in wheeling their heavily loaded carts throughout the streets in their search for material to collect and later sell to recycling companies. Contrary to how they appear at first glance, Continue »

Dulce de Leche vs. Dulce de Leche

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Dulces de LecheIn Argentina, dulce de leche is so common, you can buy it in any store, and usually have a choice of so many brands and styles, that can leave the indecisive shopper dizzy. Besides the common brands, there are gourmet brands, artisan brands, and homemade. I would like to try making it sometime (I hear it’s easy) but dulce de leche is just too available in plently of delicious options that I’d rather dedicate kitchen time to other things.

For a long time, I have been consuming La Serenisima brand’s Estilo Colonial. This big commercial dairy supplies milk, butter, and dulce de leche to every corner of Argentina, and is known for reliable quality. There are cheaper brands and more gourmet brands, but La Serenisima is always a sure bet. They make a few varieties of dulce de leche, and we always have a container of the “Estilo Colonial” variety in the fridge.

I enjoy dulce de leche on toast many mornings, and a few Sundays ago was to be one of those mornings, except we had run out. Continue »