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Curatorial Practices
+ - 7 Project for linking Latin America to the German Art Scene
by Javier de Pison

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The time for creating a "one-way bridge", as Gonzalo Ortega calls it, from Latin America to Berlin could hardly be better. Berliní­s reputation within the art scene has been growing, steadily attracting more artists from Latin America over the past few years. And in the German capital, interest in art from Latin America, and especially Mexico, has risen proportionally. "An important turning point was in 2002, when Berlin Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) hosted ‘MexArtesí­ and kunstwerke showed ‘Mexico City: An exhibition about the exchange rates of Bodies and Valuesí­", says Angelica Chio. Kunstwerke, one of the newest initiatives to have sprung up in east Berlin since 1989 also featured a solo show of Belgian artist Francis Alí¿s who resides in Mexico. And recently, Damián Ortega, who lives both in Mexico and Berlin, has been nominated for Berlin National Galleryí­s prestigious award for young artists.

However, it is still only the big names, from Santiago Sierra to Teresa Margolles that are really known in Germany. The recent changes in the Mexican art scene, which have been the starting base for +/- 7, have gone rather unnoticed: There are more private collectors, more galleries, and a lot of self-organized spaces for art. According to Gonzalo Ortega, Mexicoí­s art scene is, in certain aspects, even more exciting than Berliní­s at the moment. "There is less state money involved than in Berlin, structures are more autonomous." +/- 7 intends to close the lacuna between the dynamic developments in Latin America and Mexico and their perception in Berlin, and by extension, Europe, says Ortega. A task that is made easier by the fact that clichés and folkloristic ideas about art from Latin America are rather rare. The Berlin public is young and open enough to be interested in what contemporary artists from Latin America have to offer. And for the most part, that has little to do with stereotypes — unless ití­s playing with them.

A glimpse of that creative scene was the first event hosted on Laboratorio Curatorial 060, an interdisciplinary curatorial collective based in Mexico City. Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Lourdes Morales, Javier Toscano and Daniela Wolf of LC 060 started their curatorial work in 2003, after finishing curatorial studies at Teratoma (2003-2006) in Mexico City. With their projects they walk the borderline between performance, social projects and activist interventions, showing how contemporary art can be politically and socially effective. In Mexico City theyí­ve engaged street vendors to carry signs with slogans making fun of the traffic through the cityí­s chronically clogged highways. Since January 2006, the collective has been focusing on the situation along the forgotten Mexican-Guatemalan border, where international artists and architects work with the inhabitants of a small border town in Chiapas.

As a self-organised and productive organization, +/- 7 has a lot in common with the alternative projects they are presenting. In spite of minimal funding from the Berlin-Mitte local cultural magistrate and the Mexican embassy, the project has run on modest financial support so far. This makes informal contacts all the more necessary. Their collaboration with allgirls and Sparwasser HQ galleries, both alternative structures as well, is evidence to this this important network. In Germany, especially in Berlin, self-organized, personal networks are getting more important, says Kirsten Einfeldt. As state funding is cut, it is personal initiative that counts, just like in Mexico. The title of the first series of dialogues this summer, "Personal and Business", describes the mix of work and personal contacts quite well. Erick Meyenberg says, "Sure, they knew me before, and when they saw my latest work they invited me for the talk". Kirsten Einfeldt likes the personal aspect of the work. "You get to see stuff you normally wouldní­t get to see", she says about her curatorial search for interesting people and positions from Mexico and Latin America. For now, thatí­s the reward for running the project without a salary.

Ulrike Meitzner


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