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Art & Social Space
Centro Cultural Moravia, Medellín: Interview with Carlos Uribe
by Adriana Rios Monsalve

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Adriana Rí­os: How were the artists taking part in the project selected? How do you place them in the context of Moravia, given that some are from different cities in Colombia and others are from other countries?

Carlos Uribe: Finding the right artist’s profile for this project wasn’t easy. That entire "relational" boom that has been highly criticized in different spheres, both in terms of theory and curatorial strategies, was rather outdated by the time it reached us. It’s just one option among many; it’s not the univocal relational or participative form consistent with today’s art.

The artists were invited by Fernando Escobar, who knows a lot of Colombian artists, Juan Alberto Gaviria who knows some in Medellí­n, and myself. The hardest part was working with Medellí­n artists, since they don’t have their own clear perception of working with a community, although there are also very good artists like Libia Posada or Elizabeth Mejí­a, who has been involved in all three phases of the project, as has Paola Rincón. Natalia Echeverri was the first university-trained artist to focus her work on Moravia, very much from the perspective of painting and the visual arts. Now it’s the inhabitants themselves who propose what we should do.

AR: What’s the difference between the work of artists and social work?

CU: I think all artistic work is social in the sense that it is displayed, that it should be put to the consideration of a public. Art should be responded to by society; otherwise it would just be a soliloquy by and between artists. As another consequence of building up social fabric, art certainly can help to strengthen a community. As regards the dynamics of developing countries, art can act as a driving force, an effective mediator in social transformation.

I’ve insisted that an artist is a “social scientist”, just like an anthropologist, a sociologist, a social worker; artists in fact have a social formation and a social responsibility, but they’re optional.

AR: There are a series of terms related to social practices in specific contexts: “process artists”, “collaborative artists”, or the concept of “dialogical art”. Do you think this project has something along those lines?

CU: Personally I’m very influenced by Nicolas Bourriaud and by Reinaldo Laddaga, an Argentinean theorist of emergency esthetics, the same as Néstor Garcí­a Canclini, and what he calls “cultural ecologies”. It’s important to create echoes in communities at risk and break the barrier art has established with society. Art has to become involved with the everyday matters of a society by strengthening that aesthetic dimension, along with ethics and politics, in order to build better communities.

AR: How has the community responded?

CU: As I mentioned before, now they’re the ones who propose. From there we’ve moved on to an academic and theoretical community where we’ve seen a good response. We invited Hans Ulrich Obrist, and important curators of the Encuentro MDE11 like José Roca and Nuria Enguita have also been here. Our peers in the city are recognizing the process we’re engaged in. It’s also had resonance in the media and we have a website,

We’re in the process of editing a book on the project, more from the standpoint of theory. We have the Qué Pasa (What’s Going on) newspaper, which is written by members of the Moravia community itself. Qué Pasa has to do with a mural that was made on the faí§ade of the Cultural Center by the Italian artist Katia Meneghini. It’s a mural that is lit up using solar energy; it’s turned on every night, speaks to and confronts inhabitants with what’s happening, what their role is in the community, what they’re doing to shape the community, but it also questions the fact that something’s happening in Moravia, something is being transformed. There are plans for a community radio station that would be a pioneer in this kind of strategy for a comprehensive cultural approach to development.

AR: What will be the future of the Cultural Center once all the inhabitants have been relocated, once the aim of mediating with the community has been accomplished?

CU: Ex-situ In-situ expires on December 31 2010. Once El Morro is green space, has been environmentally and symbolically remediated and communicates the memory of its inhabitants, Ex-situ In-situ will lose the focus we’ve given it. We’ll have to create another paradigm for social construction from the standpoint of art. We’ll continue under another name, another approach. We hope the Moravia Cultural Development Center project will be continued by the community itself; the difficulty lies in achieving sustainability, since in Colombia things only work as long as there is government consistency. Alonso Salazar’s mandate ends in 2011 and we don’t know what will happen under the new mayor. This should not disappear, there has to be a basis of continuity.

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About the Author
Adriana Rios Monsalve is an adjunct curator at the Museo de Antioquia, Medellin and runs an art and residency space in Santa Fe de Antioquia called La Casa Banasta.

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