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C'undua: Pact for life. Part 2
by David Gutiérrez Castañeda

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David Gutiérrez: Do you think that having an aim, making the recovery of memory an explicit aim, limits the possibility of experience?

Rolf Abderhalden: Yes, I think so. I think even in the work done in Usaquén a lot of actions were carried out in a rather wishful way, framing the experience around a certain kind of problem, and I think that flaw was one of the lessons to be learned. When we were in El Cartucho, Barrio Las Nieves, we took great care not to be so keen on looking for a certain kind of story: rather, we wanted the mechanisms we set in motion to lead to unexpected things, and sometimes these led us in a direction that we could work with.

DG: Do you think a social worker, artist, intellectual, ethnographer, anthropologist; whoever is in a place with the explicit aim of recovering memories is limiting possibilities, particularly by not letting things lead to different experiences that they haven’t taken into account?

RA: When they approach it as an aim no, but when it’s a methodology the consequences are awful. In other words, you can have that intention, as a statement of intent your concern is to recover memory, but how are you going to go about it? Ah! I’m going to do this with this aim in mind: that’s where it seems to me that you’re setting up a methodology and using it as an instrument. That’s exactly where we differ completely from social researchers, in the methodology, because we were all in agreement over the principles. But when it comes to carrying out actions and their experiences, we find that the way they approach experience is totally alien to us and different to our approach. Researchers are looking for something that I, as an artist, am aware of, but am not looking for: I don’t want them to tell me “this is what it is”, to circumscribe it.

DG: Can non-intention be consistent with the other two principles we’ve mentioned?

RA: Of course. What do you want? To rehabilitate? I’m emphatically on the side of non-intention, I oppose the use of specific parameters, specific… what did you just call them?

DG: Terms of reference?

RA: Yes, terms of reference. We don’t seek to rehabilitate, re-educate, re-socialize, incorporate… all the jargon used in social work.

DG: Social work…why?

RA: Because there’s a scientific vocabulary behind all policies, which is very necessary and apt in certain fields and contexts, but when art comes into it, it’s different.

DG: You’re establishing a difference. The artist engages in a discussion over social issues but can’t take the approach of a social worker.

RA: I’m not a social worker. I refuse to be a social worker. I don’t identify with those ways of working and ways of thinking, and in line with this perspective, one’s aim is fundamental. In that sense I think it’s crucial for an artist not to have an aim, because it helps to further the other two points you mentioned: de-instrumentalizing the practice and strengthening the experience. Not instrumentalzing the experience, maintaining the experimental nature of the community and its ephemeral existence, and also not speculating politically with the people you’re working with, like promising them some kind of social redemption. I believe none of that is the artist’s domain, or certainly the artist I imagine, the type of artist that I want to be. I’m not interested in rehabilitating anyone; I’m not interested in working in line with the moral parameters of social work. With the people of El Cartucho, the problem sometimes lay with the staff of the Administrative Department of Social Welfare, who said: but we’ve got to re-educate them, we’ve got to get them off drugs. Well yes, that’s important, but at the same time it’s not my problem, I don’t want my whole relationship to focus on that.

DG: It seems to me that an artist’s position in the realm of social circumstances should be to be wary or doubtful of the impact. Doubting what one is doing, because in the measure of that doubt, you seek everything. You may not find anything, but that act generates something, which may not be your own. And that’s important.

RA: Maybe. That’s why not having an aim is good, because it puts you on uncertain ground: where am I going? And what’s this for? What sense does it have? Now what do I do? It’s always good to question, but it’s important to frame clear questions. I think that’s the artist’s place. Now, what’s interesting is that in Usaquén, after everything that happened there, we reached the conclusion that myths are essential, that myths are really important, that the founding myth, which had never been mentioned in any of these experiences, was absolutely crucial. It was a key point from many perspectives, and perhaps it would be interesting to imagine a process in which the founding myth, or working with a myth, forms part of the working methodology. That is, imagining that we could construe a methodology by looking at these myths, which is why in El Cartucho we worked with the myth of Prometheus.

(Interview held in the late hours of 5 November 2008)

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