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Curatorial Practices
Interview with Ruth Auerbach of The Sala Mendoza, Caracas
by Karina Sainz Borgo

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Instalation at the Sala Mendoza

Interview with the director, Ruth Auerbach

The Sala Mendoza (Caracas) has just completed a book which covers 45 years of contemporary art in Venezuela, a history which has been written, to a large extent, within its own walls. Key name artists and critics have passed through its halls during the tenure of its current director, the Venezuelan curator and researcher Ruth Auerbach who has worked on the configuration of local narratives and the conception of new exhibition strategies.

Karina Sainz Borgo: The Sala Mendoza has a long history of looking for new ways to show art. As Director of the Sala, could you explain the process of establishing interdisciplinary strategies in exhibition practices?

Ruth Auerbach: The Sala Mendoza has maintained a vital continuity in the public and artistic sphere throughout its 45 years of existence. We have recently reconsidered our purpose as an autonomous alternative space, dedicated to contributing to and promoting the practice of contemporary art. Our purpose is to provide a general and specialized audience with a platform for the interchange of knowledge, the stimulation of new approaches to art and the fostering of overall individual development, all while processing the intense urban transformations going on around us. It is our way of complying with our social responsibility. Our aim is to be the reference center for artistic production, as well as for contemporary Venezuelan criticism and debate. We have incorporated different and varied creative disciplines, precisely in order to be able to expand our audiences. We are no longer considering a space solely for the visual arts, but rather for contemporary culture in general, one linked to music, graphic design, industrial design, urbanization, landscape painting and architecture which are, in one way or another, hybrid disciplines.

KSB: The Sala has recently presented different interdisciplinary projects. What does this type of exhibition signify for the Sala?

RA: It's exactly this interchange of ideas. The new forms of art no longer pertain to the traditional criteria. The crossings of creative media oblige us to look for new forms to show and capture audiences. We are not speaking exclusively of an exchange of knowledge, but of stimulating a spectator who is going to encounter different forms of visualizing art. There are new strategies for presenting exhibitions and, at least in the Sala Mendoza, these are already considerably removed from traditional forms. In the case of the Masa exhibition, for instance, it appeared to us that a group of Venezuelan designers have been selected by a German publishing house to produce a book circulating in bookstores and artistic spaces of Europe. Masaçs work utilizes the graphic design iconographics and elements of popular culture associated with advertising and urbanization, even with religious icons. With the sponsorship of the Spanish embassy we placed the images throughout the bookstore and the exhibition, invited some DJ's and achieved a dynamic show, the inauguration of which, was attended by upwards of 500 people. We are promoting local artistic shows which are not precisely çcultural artç, but which record something much wider. We maintain the latest available information through the Documentary Center not only for the general or specialized public, but also for art schools. In one way or another, when speaking of social responsibility, we do not restrict ourselves to the public realm but, rather, to those of the artistic community as well.

KSB:Taking your experience in the curatorial field, together with the approach to and study of urbanization - for example, your work as a curator in Utópolis, an exhibition which took place at the Galerí­a de Arte Nacional - in the public space - what other projects does the Sala Mendoza have in mind to combine urban reflections within an aesthetic space?

RA: It's difficult to separate my curatorial work from the person managing this space, because I have very personal ideas about how to deal with art. With reference to Utópolis, this is a subject which makes my work here at the Sala Mendoza worthwhile. Contemporary art is in some ways linked to the public space. The exclusively urban condition acquired by the culture of our times does not permit exclusion of the public space and everything this represents. When I made Utópolis there was a need. In different parts of the world the subject matter of the city formed the basis for exhibitions, but none had taken place here and that was a showcase intended to emphasize the city as a theme in order to appreciate urban mutability, above all in a city such as Caracas. Our interest was to make the exhibition in three editions, however, due to the criteria of the new administration at the institution where the exhibition took place, it was limited to one edition. The intention was to offer a transversal view of the city from its most intimate aspect to its deepest, to work the historic city, the city of networks, the modern and suburban city, the margins and the subterranean city. It was impossible to do everything in a single edition. It was also an attempt to simulate artists to interpret the city as a basic subject for their proposals. Personally, my interest is linked to the work in context and curatorial strategies connected with location. When I entered the Sala Mendoza I planned to maintain this line, and for this reason exhibitions such as Un artista del Hambre by Javier Téllez have been held here. Venezuelan art must draw nourishment from local situations, it is the only way in which it makes sense on the international stage without entering into excessively regional discussions.

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