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Art & Social Space
C'undua: Pact for life. Prospects for the Social Imaginary of Mapa Teatro
by David Gutiérrez Castañeda

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David Gutiérrez: From what perspective did you discuss art practice? How did you validate them and incorporate them into the debate?

Rolf Abderhalen: Well, I put forward ideas on the state of art in that regard. I discussed what the contemporary art world was doing in different contexts outside Colombia and how post-war artists had approached and addressed those post-traumatic issues. There were references to ideas I'd been working on regarding artists' work: restitution exercises, trauma reconstruction, historical restitution, etc. And above all our experience with Mapa Teatro (Map Theatre) in the Picota penitentiary in Bogotá with the work Horacio, which I think is a very important background for Cúndua.

DG: So the notion of art that you'd been building on in this informal, as it were, academic space was art as process? Art as a process rooted in the approach to a traumatic experience? In other words, different exercises and contemporary artists were engaged in encounters with others, reconstructing stories and accounts, using trauma and restitution as a foundation.

RA: At that time Heidi and I were very influenced by the German playwright Heiner Múller's theories on the post-dramatic laboratory of social imaginary, to quote a very specific reference.

DG: So you were engaging in transversal discussions of the arts? You didn't differentiate between theatre and the visual arts?

RA: No, because I've never been interested in that. From the point of view of theory yes, but establishing those differences from the point of view of my practice strikes me as useless because my field is a category, an approach to art in which I've struggled to expand my own notions of theatre and my own notions visual art. In that sense making a distinction between them seems like an old issue to me. It's old to me now, know what I mean? What I can say now is that the strongest considerations, in terms of the project's conceptual driving force, were these Múller's ideas, and parts of a text that I was studying at the time, Régis Debray's Life and death of the image The outcome of all that dialogue, if I remember correctly, was that art was the only way and that the most effective thing we could do was to carry out an action through art, because we weren't going to produce an anthropological, sociological, historical document.

DG: Two principles in particular that really call my attention, that strike me as being really important, are the idea of experimenting and the idea of working without the aim of a stated end. How did that come about?

RA: Yes, absolutely that was very complicated, because that's the business of negotiation that exists between art and public management.

DG: So you're saying that those two principles came up in the discussion as part of Alicia Eugenia's institutionalization of the project? I call it institutionalization, you call it art and public management. Would it be your relationship with your positions, methods and problems vis-a-vis the institution, sharing the same work aims but using different methods, ideas and ways of working with communities?

RA: The relationship between art and public management deals with the way the artistic process links up with public institutions. We were in an institutional space, which fortunately didn't depend on any particular department of the Bogotá Mayor's Office. When the project was under the Social Welfare Administrative Department, for instance, the process had a different type of independence that when it was directly under the Mayor's Office. In the end, working with the Mayor's Office gave us the freedom to establish terms of reference that weren't dependent on aims, purposes, methods, results - none of the headings that are commonplace under the Mayor's Office's indicators.

DG: When the Mayor's Office funding of Cúndua came to an end, Mapa Teatro (Map Theatre) took charge of the problem, took over the relationship that had been developed with the community, and kept it going-

RA: Of course, we didn't want the Cúndua experience to depend on specific funding and a deadline. We didn't accept the idea that if the money dries up so does the project, or that its working conditions would come to an end. We didn't want the project's fate tied to the length of the Mayor's term. By that time we were also interested in documenting the process of working with the barrio. We wanted to keep going because we felt it was important to reach the conclusion, until building of the park, otherwise we would have felt the whole thing was too circumstantial.

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