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Cooperativa Cráter Invertido

interview transcript

Date of Interview: May 01, 2013
Location: Mexico
Topic: Interview with Cooperativa Cráter Invertido
Interviewer: Raquel de Anda

LatinArt:  What strikes me as unique about Cráter is that it’s a cooperative of collectives. How did you get together and what are some of the groups that form part of Cráter?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Natalia Magdaleno: We started working together as Grupo (DE) three years ago. With the passing of time, apart from working as a collective, many of us began forming part of other collectives with different people with whom we had things in common. There came a time when we felt a need to have our own space. We also really liked the idea of taking on the challenge of organizing a space that could be self-sustaining. At that time one of the members of the group, Yollotl Alvarado, was looking for a warehouse for his workshop. He found this one and suggested that we come and join him.

Various collectives form part of Cráter, beginning with the Bici Perras , who have a little car like a bike-house from which they organize a lot of traveling projects. Cartucho is a magazine published on the Internet which I launched, but the editorial team rotates with each issue. Conferences and exhibitions based on the content of the magazine are also put on at Cráter. Otros Por La Tierra is a group that deals with political and ecological issues, and through the Cráneo publishing house we make publications using a photocopier. There are a bunch of other groups too.

Andrés Villalobos: The Cráter collective is understood as an idea-based project: an idea comes up and a group is activated. There are also collectives that aren’t so active at the moment, but they keep up with what’s going on too. For instance the Frente Libertad de la Liberación de Libertad (FLLL) ) will come up with an idea and several of us get involved, but it’s really Yollotl Alvarado and Juan Caloca who carry out media and political actions.

LatinArt:  And What was happening in Mexico City in terms of political and cultural issues when you formed Grupo (DE)? The grupos (groups) formed during the 70's or the alternative-artist spaces such as la Panaderia in the 90's were launched as an alternative to traditional exhibition formats; as a different generation, what did you identify with? What was the everyday atmosphere like?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Diego Teo: Grupo (DE) started out in the La Esmeralda art school. It’s called DE because it was Group D of Groups A, B, C and D at the art school. Many students of that group were also my students at a few workshops outside La Esmeralda before I started teaching there. During that first semester I realized that they were a very motivated group. They appreciated each other’s work right away and got exited about it, but weren’t so enthusiastic about the school and the teachers. We then started organizing and holding events that weren’t really organized directly by the teachers.

The logic of generating one’s own projects without expecting the school to do so was apparent from the outset and has continued. The first projects came up while at the school and then everything started happening from outside. Some of us like Andrés, Dasha, Wayzatta and I weren’t part of that generation, but Dasha and Wayzetta studied at La Esmeralda and I studied at ENAP. We began getting together by proposing ideas and creating situations, and later by proposing events in public spaces, selling artwork in an apartment and producing Cartucho magazine.

Each project had its own interest and some took part in it while others didn’t. Those who got involved came up with a collective name related to the subject matter. Almost every proposal, project or field of interest generates a new collective, which then continues, disappears for a while and then comes together again.

We’re really not a fixed group with a set membership in which everybody takes part when we’re invited to do something or the group falls apart if one member leaves. We share affinities, which is why we’re a Cooperative of Collectives, among them those Natalia mentioned and several others.

Andrés Villalobos: Diego, Dasha and I also had another group called Siempre Otra Vez . This was based on fanzines and reproducing printed material. One of the project’s approaches was drawing, graphics, creating fanzines and using political propaganda models to spread information through the filter of our artistic viewpoints.

Much of the group’s formation has to do with political circumstances, such as Mexico’s Bicentennial celebrations in 2009-2010. Siempre Otra Vez was always about ideas that revolved around creating political awareness on the basis of what was going on at the time. The political environment had gaps and there was a need to create spaces in conjunction with political issues. Outside pressure had a lot to do with the group’s foundation and our projects focused on these ideas. And since the information being propagated wasn’t in line with what we wanted, we decided to generate our own channels and contents. Grupo (DE) had similar ideas, which is how the two groups joined forces and started working together, after which other groups were created.

Diego Teo: Also, during the 90s there weren’t any channels so they had to generate them. However, once they were generated they became institutionalized, and once they were institutionalized the channels closed. It was either that or no spaces at all. And now there are just a few.

Some do exist, but focus more on the political side, which is in fact where a lot of us are involved; channels that aren’t interested in the art world, but focus more on creating awareness of public and political issues using art-based or graphic means. We’re interested in this, so we go from one place to another to see just how disconnected the art scene is from art-based political activism. Since we believe such spaces generate common ground and dialogues, we reach out to both sides and open up other channels on the basis of that need.

LatinArt:  Tell me a bit about the library. You host experimental pedagogy within the Cráter space and I see the library as helping to make your ideas broader and more accessible to the public. How was it formed?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Natalia Magdaleno: At one point Grupo (DE) did a Project called Archivo Temporal Reproducible, in which we pooled all our personal book archives. Initially we got together for an event at the Modern Art Museum in Mexico City and then at the Arts University in Jalapa. We then decided to do the same thing but within the stable space that Cráter provides. The archive is made up of all the books we lent, and the donations made by several people and groups such as the Alias collection, the Tumbona collection and the Taller de Ediciones Económicas.

We’ve tried to activate the library in different ways: for instance Juan Caloca has been inviting people to carry out projects using the archive. We also did a number of little curatorship jobs on the archive and included them on a shelf on the first floor, where access to the books is more direct. And now the exhibition we’re putting on at the Casa del Lago also has to do with the archive. It’s been a good process and it’s open for anyone to come and visit it or make copies whenever they feel like it.

LatinArt:  In line with book reproduction, tell me about the event at Kurimanzutto where the gallery made a formal presentation of Alias’ publication of David Hammons’ book, and as part of the event Cráter set up the "bici-tienda" (bike shop) to sell pirate copies of the book for an extra 100 pesos with additional texts. How did this idea emerge and what are some of your views on appropriation?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Juan Caloca: We were invited by Abraham Cruzvillegas (a colleague and friend who shares our creative and political interests), not by the gallery. Abraham invited us to do whatever we wanted in relation to Hammons’ book, using Alias’s compilation as a pretext. Actually Hammons has had a direct influence on some of us in our personal research, but above all there are direct linkages with the collective practice we’ve been conducting in terms of the issues Hammons addressed regarding public space, and particularly our shared interest in identity (whether national or subjective).

By way of an example, when we were invited we were busy doing other research on Mexico’s social, political and cultural development in 1994, in view of the similarities with the current context. Aware of the environment in which the event was to take place, we decided to react to it, which is why we decided to reproduce the book illegally and include texts that spoke of topics related to our context. Instead of talking about blackness as Hammons did, we decided to include texts that referred to whiteness from Bolivar Echeverría’s perspective. (1)

Because of that and in view of the venue where the publication was being promoted, we decided to sell them fanzines for 100 pesos more than the original, since by reproducing them we were adding value to them and anyway our edition was far more limited than the publishing house’s. Over and beyond that action, appropriation has been a recurring interest in our practice, since we realize that nowadays nothing is original and everything is by and for everybody. Apart from that we did some readings and actions in the gallery space about Tiravanija’s piece, which was on display at the time.

LatinArt:  I understand your practice as event and action-based, removed from traditional notions of art objects and galleries. How do you understand these ideas within your practice?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Juan Caloca: First of all, it’s important to say that many of our collective interests are in line with our needs as social agents, which doesn’t mean we’re not artists (we are, and we are also a part of society). Nevertheless the format of an event –whether immaterial or ephemeral—has interested us as being the trigger of participative dynamics, since we’re aware that current art practices don’t need a physical container to be expressed. This doesn’t mean we are against the idea of art objects. As you can see the Cráter Invertido project is financed through the sale of a box of multiple objects made by each of its members. This shows our interest in sculpture and objects. Fanzines and publications are another example of how we give expression to those interests.

LatinArt:  Great, so to wrap up I’d like you to speak a bit about the importance of Cráter’s blending of politics with pedagogy?

Cooperativa Cráter Invertido:  

Andrés Villalobos: There’s a very important focus on education here. I wasn’t part of Grupo (DE) from its beginnings at La Esmeralda, but they obviously formed it with very direct links to La Esmeralda and academia. There was a whole process of developing an education based on needs and because there were vacuums in academia that had to be addressed we created a collective to round out our education.

Archivo Temporal Reproducible worked along those lines. They got hold of books that were difficult to find and reproduced them for people to supplement their education. The core of everything here is education and the focus is very much on developing an education outside school as an alternative to it.

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