PIIGS Interview #2

2- Do you think that quality in art and curatorial projects may only be achieved in main art centers? Artist, curators, gallerists, and other “art workers” use to migrate permanently or temporarily into art centers, places in which they can see great exhibitions, attend fashionable events and meet the “right” people. Is living in peripheral areas actually an hindrance to the development of curatorial and artistic projects?

PT: It is not our conviction that high quality art can only be achieved at main art centres. Although, considering capitalism as our economy system these places achieve a greater relevance, due to its better offer in practical conditions and therefore public attention and funding, when compared to other art exhibit locations in peripheral areas. This fact can be observed, mainly, around the strong economic countries. This can be justified probably because on these countries there is a greater support of the arts, either public or private, hence creating greater possibilities to transpose “barriers”, that without it, one probably couldn’t.
But now, talking exclusively about art or artistic qualities, we totally agree that every environment is able to create, imagine or conceive a great and significant work. Perhaps for a given set of purposes, living in a peripheral area can be more stimulating than living in a central area. The artist probably won´t have all the comfort that money can give, talking about practical and material purposes, but creativity will born in a different way, and devote itself to another set of problems.
To conclude, the environment does not compromise the ability to develop a pertinent artwork. Quite the contrary, when there is a will to overcome and engage critically about a subject matter, a hindrance can be only the next step to overcome it.

IR: No. The concept of centres of artistic excellence is an outdated one. Technology and increased movement of people across the globe has made the exchange of work and ideas easier and faster, allowing for artists and curators to work anywhere, and access a universal well of information. In fact, political and economic pressure can make ‘centres’ less inclined to fund or develop interesting and progressive work. Existing on the ‘periphery’ can give artists and curators more freedom to explore controversial and subtle work, away from the pressure and high turnover of art capitals.

IT: I don’t think quality is a prerogative of big art centers, in such big cities we can have many institutions producing very high quality shows, thank also to more substantial funds and more attentive and educated public (and, of course, very talented curators), nonetheless quality can come from the outlying part of a country too, let’s think to Museion in Bolzano or to MAN in Nuoro. The only prerogative is the will to have a clear vision and a good standard of quality to give back to the territory. Besides this, the real hindrance to developing a quality artistic and curatorial research in the outskirt is the education of a public that sees it as a useful tool to interpret reality and not only as the rich-and-famous toys. In times that some critics claim to be neofeudal, with scarce social mobility and technology worshipped as a new religion, the relation between center and periphery becomes less mutual and dependent upon each other. Migrations, media diffusion, easy communications have changed the way we perceive distance, plus globalization and the ’90 spate of Biennales leveled and created an international circuit of what today looks like an art industry; if on one hand is fundamental to experience and live for a period in an “art center city” on the other it is also fundamental to develop your own identity and a strategy to defend it, so we are still there, with Seneca exhorting his friend “Animum debes mutare non caelum”.

GR: The production and quality in art and curatorial projects is independent from the level of their visibility. Art centers attract much easier attention, but this does not guarantee that they also achieve quality. Contemporary art forces curators and other “art workers” to be in a constant move, both in art centers and peripheries. There are often cases were peripheries become temporary centers for cultural and artistic events and exhibitions, however, this attention often moves from one place to another. Usually, living in peripheries limits access to this ‘art scenery’, which in turn makes more challenging the implementation and development of curatorial and artistic projects.

SP: Of course not. The quality of an artistic or curatorial project is not conditioned by the ‘centrality’ of it. In the era of communications in which we live, it is possible to know what is happening in real time in the centres from the peripheries. The challenge nowadays is to create solid links and permanent collaboration programs between the peripheries, so they (we) could conform a network that doesn’t need a stopover in London or New York.
It is true that to know and participate in the ‘human’ dimension and the ‘trusted networks’, there is no need to be in ‘real time’ but in the ‘real physical space’ represented by the centres. Despite finding a greater public and private investment, a greater social spectrum and therefore, more opportunities there, in Spain we could find financial support to cultural projects in the peripheries.
Economic cutbacks have affected the programming, although there has been maintained a rich cultural net in the periphery, where it is still possible to enjoy a first level programming in many cases. The lack of media that affects us after the crisis has strengthened the growth of new strategies and types of artistic projects focusing on critical social dimension, over the artistic object. Besides, being peripheral, gives you some kind of freedom to programme and to test that may not happen in those “main centers”.
On the other hand, is quite naive to think that nowadays art centres are the only places where art happens, or the “ places in which they can see great exhibitions, attend fashionable events and meet the “right” people.” Maybe, one of the most positive factors that the crisis has brought is the idea that you can program great art proposals outside these big art centres, working in the streets with your nearest surroundings, working in a collaborative way, thinking in another way to do art and to have that power to shake.

PT : Portugal
IR : Ireland
IT : Italy
GR : Greece
SP : Spain

#1 – #3 – #4 – #5

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