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Curatorial Practices
Interview with José Carlos Mariátegui
by Maria Fé Nevares

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José Carlos Mariátegui

"can yo_h_ar m_ ?"




The name of José Carlos Mariátegui will always be linked to that of his grandfather, the early 20th century Peruvian thinker, and founder of the "Amauta" journal. The trajectory of this Jose Carlos - the Jose Carlos of today - begins, in fact, with the scrutiny of the work of his grandfather, and this is where his encounter with the electronic arts begins, with a video-poem-opera on the famous "Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality" years ago.
Today, the name of José Carlos Mariátegui begins to disengage from the memory of the paternal surname and opens a path - paradoxically from the same source point - as a young scientist-mathematician, promoter and researcher of technology and his encounters and flirtations with art, always organizing exhibitions, events and symposiums. He is also the founder of ATA (Alta Tecnologí­a Andina) in Lima, a non profit organization, which in their words was "created with the objective of helping the development of a new culture based on the use and growth of the relations between art, science and technology in Latin America."
Among the most current projects is the First Biennial of the Peruvian Cinema, where an important segment is dedicated to experimental video where the Mariátegui influence is unapologetically visible, as well as his organizing presence for the 7th annual Electronic Arts and Video Festival, a month long international festival held in Lima.

Maria Fé Nevares: How do you select works?

José Carlos Mariátegui: For the Festival I organized the material in two ways. For international films I take note of the work which most interests me and what I see in different exhibitions in various parts of the world. I consider the best known artists, but not necessarily, I also consider those artists with exceptional talent who are in their initial stages of development. After seeing the work I try and contact the artists to see if they are interested in participating in the Festival. It is not easy, on many occasions these are famous artists who have to be contacted through their galleries, which complicate things, being that the Festival is a non-profit venture and it is hard to secure their fees. I always have many artists in mind who I would like to take to Peru, and I am very happy when they respond with enthusiasm to the question of whether they would be interested in coming to Lima. I also have friends and colleagues who recommend that I meet some interesting people, and I contact them after seeing their work.

In other cases I guide and orient myself by means of international curators who propose a selection of artists to me, that is, I meet up with a "curatorial selection". The Art and Technology community is a small one worldwide, and many of us are friends and help one another. Thus, for example, we can bring Stelarc to Lima and to Buenos Aires as result of this type of collaboration.

In the case of the Peruvian artists the matter has varied considerably. At the beginning there were very few artists in the field of electronic art, and we were therefore helping them to do video work with ATA equipment, that is, we supported project production, something we continue to do today. I also located, little by little, some marginal creators who did not necessarily consider themselves artists, but who had done work showing their talent and creativity with the use of digital or video tools. The initial research work was interesting and I became enthusiastic. The situation has changed radically over the past few years, we invited a selection of Peruvian artists to the Festival and of these, some accepted and others did not. It depends a lot whether they have produced new work.

I have taken part in organizing two national video art competitions, and in both cases an open invitation to participate has been issued. We have had the good fortune to receive, in the margin of works by known artists, the works of completely unknown artists who are now producing more work thanks to this initial incentive. The good thing about the Competitions is that it allows one to discover that far more artists exist than one knows about, and it also fosters the development of new creators, above all young people.

With regard to some curatorial work I have done both in Peru and abroad, I have been very interested in working with the artists I have presented at the Festival. Other than in "Nueva/Vista", all the showcases I have been in charge of, have included artists who previously took part in the Festival, therefore I do not necessarily apply a different method of selection for outside projects. When the projects are not generic but have a curatorial base, one can say that I evaluate certain work based on a specific type of reading which I believe works well for a certain type of showcase.

MFN: What curatorial guideline can you connect over these years?

JCM: At the Festival I have had two basic interests at the level of international selection: to invite those I consider are doing innovating work and who are, in many cases, unknown or young people; and to invite people who, aside from having done innovating work, are traditionally recognized in an international context.

The guiding rule at the showcase has been to select works by subject matters or relationships I want to put forward, or by strong curatorial concepts such as in the case of "Nueva/Vista", or that of two or three projects I have in mind but have not yet put into practice. Also, many of the showcases have had a historic background at a national level, for example the history of video-art in Peru, or with specific themes such as - the history of closed circuit works, which is something I'm still investigating. I am presently working on a curatorial project which I hope to have defined by next year about mass media, but this is one of my many projects, which is how I stimulate myself intellectually. For this reason the guiding principle (curatorial and of any other kind) is constancy.

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