ASKING, WE WALK: ARTISTIC RESEARCH IN ARGENTINA

EDUARDO MOLINARI (Archivo Caminante)




“A monster walks in the night. He looks at the sky and all around him.
He seems lost, but he follows his star. As he does so, he moves his tongue.
Soon, there are many others with him. Together, their voices say: Asking, we walk.” 1

 

There is no text without context. This statement is of central importance when initiating a conversation or interaction with others, also when writing a correspondence between friends from different latitudes. Thinking about artistic research in and from Argentina provokes a glocal critical thinking that allows us to compose a single field of forces. Forces that come from hegemonic contemporary capitalism (financial, extractivist, semiotic) but also from memory works and exercises of political imagination in relation to our common histories, as colonialist and colonized countries. In the current Argentine context, the production of knowledge (scientific, social, cultural, artistic) is framed by a process that (although having deep historical roots) began in 1996 with the authorization to produce and market the seed, the products and by-products of transgenic soybean tolerant to glyphosate herbicide. This process known as the "sojización" of Argentina implied the consolidation of an extractive model of production and export of commodities. Since then both researchers in public institutions and independent ones have been prisoners of the market and the interests of transnational corporations. In this situation, it has been very complex to obtain resources and legitimacy for investigation in general and for artistic research in particular, specifically when their aims are to establish a link with another type of knowledge: popular, indigenous, rural and peasant, anti-patriarchal, in connection with space and environmental justice, and the respect for human rights.

 

To know you have to take a position. What kind of a researcher is of interest to us? This is a question that derived from the previously presented situation. On the basis of my practice in visual arts and consequent thinking, an investigating artist must "situate himself twice", he must take a bodily and spatial position.2 He must also wish to place himself in the present and demand something from the future. How to call this type of researcher? One of the first texts of the Colectivo Situaciones 3 differentiates what in the text is termed the “official classic investigator” from the "militant researcher". The distinction between the two relate to the following: 1) The aim of militant investigation is to develop a theoretical and practical work aimed at co-producing knowledge and modes of alternative socialization, based on the power of subaltern knowledge, resistance and insubordination. 2) The militant investigation has no object. The classical researcher reifies and moves away from the experiences in which he participates. The militant researcher does not exist without investigating himself deeply, without reconfiguring himself in the experiences of which he takes part. 3) Militant research resembles love, it is something that takes two or more and transforms the "proper" into the "common". It is not an intellectual process, but one of "composition". The compound collective body does not increase its power according to the quantity of components but according to the intensity of the bond that unites them. 4) Interiority and immanence are not identical processes. Militant investigation is not about "being inside or outside, included or excluded" but about working in immanence, of inhabiting, producing and composing the terms of the situation that one is investigating. 5) It is not about denying university research but about establishing new links with popular knowledge. It is important to note that in the city of Buenos Aires, the National University of the Arts (UNA) – a free and public university – accredits its teachers as researchers, that allows them access to resources and exchange networks to carry out research projects. The question about what kind of knowledge art can produce is at the center of the debate, despite the current budget adjustment policies of the Argentine government.

 

Imaginaction. Here I will highlight some local examples of artistic research practices in which we try to create a type of "system of signification that relates languages, topographies and powers.”4 I focus on those that investigate the relationships between art, history and territories, because I think it is a good first step to know about the links between science, culture and nature in a country where more than 200 million liters glyphosate is annually sprayed over more than 20 million hectares of transgenic crops. Several interdisciplinary artistic research projects investigate specific geo-cultural situations. They are always based on the strengthening of links between artists and local actors, and in some cases include intervention in public institutions. I would like to highlight the following cases: A) the group of artists and historians of the MuseoTaller FerroWhite5 and of Museo del Puerto6 (Bahía Blanca) who have recovered the architectural heritage and memories of the railway and port workers of the city. B) Agrupación Boletos Tipo Edmonson (ABTE),7 is an intense and extensive experience of multidisciplinary investigation of the history of the railroad in the country created by the visual artist Patricio Larrambebere. C) Ala Plástica (La Plata) is an artistic-environmental collective, a pioneering investigation into the territories of the Río de la Plata Estuary.8 D) La Musaranga,9 a traveling puppet company that unites the teaching of arts and crafts with the dissemination of music and popular stories. E) The works of Archivo País (Nicolás Varchausky)10 and América Profunda (Juan Pablo Berch)11 that entail research, conservation and transmission of anonymous and forgotten voices and sounds throughout the country and the region. F) Finally, the visual artist Azul Blaseotto12 and her documentary drawings in the courts during the trials for the crimes against humanity of the last dictatorship; the photographer Marcelo Coglitore13 and his itinerancies; and the visual anthropologist Carlos Masotta, 14 these two last cases move into the representations of the indigenous communities and the gaucho. A final reflection: it is extremely necessary to strengthen and deepen the development of artistic research in Argentina, in both public and independent institutions. It is likewise important to multiply the dialogue with other countries and contexts in this respect. Art offers an enormously rich toolbox and sets of knowledges with which to face contemporary challenges. Art has the power to foster freedom and sensitive insubordination against hegemonic regimes and the unjust social order that derives from them. It has the ability to unearth our imaginaction: new intuitions, visions and rituals that allow us to inhabit the present collectively and with multiple possibilities.



NOTES

  1. Eduardo Molinari / Archivo Caminante. The Chameleon, Ed. Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, 2011, p. 65.

  2. “It’s about facing something but also that we must count on with everything which we parted from, the out-of-field that exists behind us.” Didi-Huberman, Georges. 2008. When Images Take Position. Madrid: A. Machado Books, p.11.

  3. Colectivo Situaciones is a collective of militant researchers that come from the social sciences and are based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They have participated in numerous grass-roots co-research activities with unemployed workers, peasant, movements, neighbourhood assemblies and alternative education experiments. More: http://colectivosituaciones.blogspot.com.ar/

  4. Nuria Enguita Mayo. 2010. Saber no significa recobrar. En Aranberri, Ibon. Gramática de la meseta, Departamento de Actividades Editoriales del Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, p. 54.

  5. http://museotaller.blogspot.com.ar/

  6. http://museodelpuerto.blogspot.com.ar/

  7. http://www.patriciolarrambebere.org/trabajos.php?cat=3

  8. https://cuencaslab.wordpress.com/

  9. http://www.lamusaranga.com.ar/

  10. http://www.varchausky.com.ar/archivo-pais/

  11. http://america-profunda.blogspot.com.ar/

  12. http://azulblaseotto.blogspot.com.ar/

  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1InC1fYC8TQ

  14. http://lamarcaeditora.com/catalogo/pueblos-originarios-278/indios-en-las-primeras-postales-fotograficas-1023



BIOGRAPHY

  • Molinari is a Visual Artist and Researcher Professor at the Visual Art Department of the National University of Arts (Universidad Nacional de las Artes, UNA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He undertakes walk as an aesthetic practice. Transdisciplinary collaborations and artistic research are at the center of his work. His art practice includes drawing, collage, photography, installation, public and site-specific interventions, video and publications. In 2001 he founded the Archivo Caminante / The Walking Archive, a visual archive in progress that explores the relations between art, history and territories. Since 2010 he is part with Azul Blaseotto of La Dársena (The Dock) Plattform of Thinking and Artistic Interaction. During 2007–2008 he was artist in residence in the Akademie der Künste (Berlin) and the Weltecho Art Center (Chemnitz), Germany.