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Colectivo Tercerunquinto

interview transcript

Date of Interview: Sep 27, 2007
Location: USA
Topic: Interview with Tercerunquinto
Interviewer: Marí­a del Carmen Carrión

LatinArt:  Where did Tercerunquinto’s interest in working with architecture as one of its hubs come from?

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  Rolando Flores: We started with a reflection on space, its typology and nature, and that led to an obvious link with architecture and construction, and subsequently with urbanism and the management of public spaces. What we proposed was very elementary, it consisted of understanding space in semantic terms, and we saw that architecture could be useful to us as a system, a language.

Gabriel Cázares: The first project we did consisted of a reflection on how to manipulate that language. Upon understanding that in semantic terms we realized that one can locate segments, that one can exchange them or change their location, that they can be taken apart to pieces to say something else.

RF: Then we started thinking about the role played by architecture in determining people’s behavior and vice versa, due to the way people modify architecture’s use and function. Gabriel Cázares: The first project we did consisted of a reflection on how to manipulate that language. Upon understanding that in semantic terms we realized that one can place segments, that one can exchange them or change their location, that they can be taken to pieces to say something else.

RF: Then we started thinking about the role played by architecture in determining people’s behavior and vice versa, due to the way people modify architecture’s use and function.

LatinArt:  Tercerunquinto has two clear lines of work, one being interventions in public spaces, a form of social sculpture, the other work involving negotiations with institutions. Let’s talk about social sculpture and how this line of work came about.

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  Julio Castro: After analyzing space as a semantic element, we started thinking about sculpture, which helped to broaden that initial structure. That led us not only to a discussion on sculpture, but also on public spaces. That is to say, we continued talking about space, but in more complex terms.

RF: Our thoughts on public sculpture are that it is generally a final touch, the "crowning" of an urban-development project.

GC: Which in many cases makes it a monument in the sense that these sculptures represent or commemorate a historical event or a paramount national value.

RF: Our interest in sculpture is very much linked to its location, and we’re interested in working with the outskirts of a city. This ties in with the fact that our interest in sculpture and architecture is itself peripheral.

LatinArt:  Let’s talk a little about this approach against the grain that Tercerunquinto has taken in regard to sculpture. There are several examples: Escultura pública en la periferia urbana de Monterrey (2003), (Public Sculpture on the Outskirts of Monterrey) Ruinas (2006) (Ruins), Proyecto de escultura pública para San José (2006) (Public Sculpture Project for San José). Let’s focus on Escultura pública para la periferia urbana de Monterrey.

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  JC: That was a piece we did in Monterrey that took three and a half years. We wanted to prompt a discussion on public places. We started wondering what happens in a place that has no urban design, and that’s how we became interested in investigating the outskirts of Monterrey and plots of land that have been invaded. We were interested in the way that the people who take illegal possession of those plots build their houses with the city’s leftovers.

We built a 50 sq.m. concrete platform, with half the platform on land that someone had invaded, and the other half on open land. The owner of the plot was in touch with religious groups that had sometimes held meetings there, and that was the starting-point, since the idea behind this project was for people in the community to conduct activities on the platform. People started using the piece as a forum or plaza, and the activities they did, such as having parties, distributing food and medicine, holding political and religious meetings and sports tournaments were what defined the place. For us it was important to just be there as bystanders, and simply document what went on there.

LatinArt:  Now let’s talk about your second line of work: negotiating with institutions. We could touch on various examples, but I’d like to focus on Proyecto para MUCA Roma (Project for MUCA Roma, 2004) and on your most recent work, New Langton Arts’ Archive for Sale: A Sacrificial Act (2007).

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  Rolando Flores: Those two projects in particular have to do with works carried out on the basis of negotiations with an institution, and a sort of analysis or recognition of what an institution can be and represent. The way we've approached these discussions has been different in each case.

In the case of MUCA Roma, which is a university museum in the Roma district of Mexico City, the starting point was to link the institution to its immediate context, in this case the informal street trade that takes place around the museum building. Our proposal was to convert each of the little rooms in this old house that had been turned into a museum into storage rooms that were offered to the street vendors, who work in the vicinity of the museum, to store their goods. After some of the vendors accepted the offer, the next step was for the University to consult its Legal Department, since some of the wares to be stored in the museum are illegal, pirated goods.

GC: Basically this project involved the museum’s capacity to mutate into something else, become a storehouse for street vendors, and thus connect with its immediate environment.

RF: The project we did for Langton in San Francisco proposed that the institution, a non-commercial venture with more than thirty years’ history, give up and sell its artistic and institutional archive. The project was based on discovering a fundamental component for understanding what Langton is through its archive, because Langton is referred to in historical terms. The archive is a niche where the institution is represented in clearer terms than its building. What we were interested in was to confront the institution with its history and its non-commercial nature. In that regard we were interested in the idea of a sacrifice, the idea of giving something up, to lose a part of itself that nevertheless ensures its survival in more comfortable financial terms.

GC: This project also reflects how these non-commercial institutions which are managed by artists, which exerted a determining influence in the history of art in the United States, are now at a stage in which they need to rethink their role.

LatinArt:  What part does documentation play in your artistic practice?

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  Gabriel Cázares: Documentation depends on the nature of the works we do: many of our projects are carried out in places that are not necessarily institutional or easily accesseble, so their documentation becomes the vehicle that takes the work to another circumstance within the institution, a moment in which the piece becomes museum-worthy and enters another circuit. So documentation turns into something that not only provides evidence of the works, but also speaks of a second level that refers more specifically to the idea that gave rise to the work.

LatinArt:  Can you tell us more about the difference between documentation as a register and documentation as a variable of the work?

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  GC: When we as Tercerunquinto started to discuss what documenting implies to us, we differentiated two stages in this process. The first consists of a typical means of documenting, which is documentation as a register; the second views documentation as an evolution of the work, a project.

During the registration stage we prepare photographs that describe the project, a video that describes the process, and preparatory drawings. This initial stage exists as a very elementary strategy, a gesture that seeks to provide evidence, that reflects the truth and that says "yes, I did it". However, this type of documentation is often viewed as a series of steps that seem to say "look, first they did this, then this, then that", but we don’t believe that that linear approach is the way these kind of works should be described, since they’re more complex than that.

After becoming aware of the limitations of this type of documentation, we began viewing documentation as something that can take on a life of its own, something that exists as a second level of the same idea.

LatinArt:  Can you give me a specific example of how this process works?

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  JC: The most obvious is Guardarropa (Cloakroom), the piece we did at the Mexico Art Fair, MACO 2006. The piece consisted of creating a cloakroom at one of the fair’s stands and charging for the service. This was the first stage of this work in which the piece is not noticed as a work of art. We documented part of this process, but then when the piece became part of the Investiduras Institucionales exhibition in 2007 we faced the challenge of taking up the central idea again and transforming it.

We then interviewed the people involved with the piece, who talked about the profit margin of the space, the physical space taken up by the piece, the topic of the fair and the art market. We interviewed the person who rented the building, the director of the fair and the owner of the gallery who invited us to take part. This was all processed together with some photographs of the piece itself, but there was one condition: if you wanted to see the documentation of that piece in the Investiduras exhibition you had to pay to go in and see the video. And the video talked in general terms about the beneficial use associated to the piece and its increased value as a work of art. The piece created for MACO 2006 was thus generated on the basis of that documentation strategy: it was the same piece, but a different interpretation.

LatinArt:  There seems to be a common thread running through Tercerunquinto’s work, A thread that shows the relationship between several of your projects with economic systems. These economic systems are linked to the informal economy in Proyecto para MUCA Roma, the art market in New Langton Arts ’ Archive for Sale: a Sacrificial Act, or Guardarropa [Cloakroom]. Could you elaborate on this?

Colectivo Tercerunquinto:  GC: I wouldn’t say that the projects necessarily refer to those economic structures, but rather that those structures provide evidence of the situation in which the project is produced, place the project in a context, or influence it. For example, economic systems had a bearing on Proyecto para MUCA Roma, since that project dealt with the way MUCA related to the public-space activities taking place in the immediate vicinity of the museum.

GC: And the project led to a series of reflections on how an institution can become flexible and what type of structures have to be modified for that relationship to exist. In this case this meant realizing that an illegal activity is the reality, and the conditions under which the project took place. That obviously enriched the project. We knew that if you get hold of someone who sells pirated CDs and you put him in a storehouse in a museum, this is going to lead to a discussion on the legality of things, the origin of these goods, what these goods are turned into once they enter an exhibition area, the step towards legal instances, etc.

RF: But Guardarropa definitely does point to those economic structures.

GC: Yes, but it’s a reflection on money as part of something that we are involved in, as part of the art world, not a reflection on money as such; for example in this sense our work is very different to the work of Santiago Sierra, who reflects on all these economic structures, but on all of them, not a particular aspect of them. We identified an art fair as part of the art system and that’s what determined our interest.

JC: In the case of the Langton project we’re talking about Langton’s most treasured capital, the archive in terms of its documented proceedings, but when you start talking in terms of money, you start wondering what’s going to happen. You can see how the symbolic capital and the real capital, so to speak, are going to be exposed to speculation. For us the important thing in that project was to talk about the structure of an institution and all the processes that were set in motion. The variables that start becoming incorporated into the initial idea are part of the same process.

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