To the historian and cultural manager Nekane Aramburu, former director of the museum It’s Baluard from Palma, the pandemic paralyzed numerous projects in Latin America and Europe. Bad times that the San Sebastian took advantage of to finish off a project she had been working on for a couple of years, a story about what alternative art has been in Spain outside of the official circuits. The result is the book entitled Alternatives. Politics of the Independent in the Visual Arts, edited by CENDEAC within the Ad Hoc collection. In this interview conducted by email and telephone, Aramburu assures that until now the arts have been in the hands of a minority that has benefited economically and socially from him, “technocrats and an elite of men who for years were the influencers in the shadow”.
The book is presented as a parallel story to the official speech from 1980 to 2020. Why does it mark these dates?
It is a synchronous story about the alternative and the institutional from the moment in which independent collectives and spaces began to be named as such. Also incised in earlier protospaces because in reality everything is cyclical and its bases were already in original independent management models from the beginning of the century, the 1950s and the 1970s.
You say in the book that the stories that occurred in this period are unknown, that there are no academic works that report them. Why this silence?
On the one hand they were uncomfortable collectives and collaborative practices were considered minor compared to great art, painting and male geniuses who monopolized exhibitions and headlines. On the other hand, many of the official speakers did not live the foundations of art, with which they write hearsay, without knowing.
What lines of research have you followed and what are your sources?
I began this type of comparative studies from a commission from the Cervantes Institute and they continued in other subsequent investigations where I applied the same method. In this case, the main anchor was my experience in the nineties when launching the network of independent spaces and groups (Red Arte). From there I carried out the structuring of archives of the time, incorporating previous alternative experiences and projects from the year 2000. I have two books on it (1997 and 2011). This also led to a three-decade census and especially in 2010 to the web Collective files, which included video recordings of the agents as direct testimony and at the beginning of my doctoral thesis.
What should we understand by independent in the broad field of visual arts? Everything that is not institutional?
The assembly of the Encounters In 1995, it reached a still useful consensual definition: “It is that private, self-managed and autonomous entity, not dependent on institutions and not for profit, that regularly develops current art programming characterized by its innovative and experimental spirit.”
What has been the real role of women in this parallel history of Art?
To summarize, the same as that of men but has been less visible.
From a feminist perspective, she proposes that the alternative be renamed the alternative. Isn’t it exaggerated?
R.: The biology of the arts allows multiple experimental historiographies and apocryphal accounts. The alternative spheres carry the a of artists. The alternatives are permeable and mutable, mongrel, ubiquitous and surviving. I feminize them because they are not phallocentric, they are collaborative, horizontal, decentralized, and networking is in their DNA.
It talks about the reconstruction of the recent past from the voices of its protagonists. Who are you referring to?
History is an act of domination. For a sincere construction it is necessary to create horizontal devices: oral memory and files. I propose to disassemble the template of the heteropatriarchy to make a horizontal construction. I call it ¨co-historiar¨. ¨Co-history¨ with the maximum number of people involved and from a critical and scientific point of view. That is why I include unfiltered testimonies from a systemic view that is alien to evolutionary theories. For example, giving voice to Rosalind Williams, Marisa González, María María Acha-Kutscher or even María Corral speaking of their time in Group 15.
He states that labels such as “artist”, “manager”, “critic” or “curator” are obsolete nomenclatures in the arts and creation systems. What other terms should be used, for clarification?
Institutional status and alternative status are interchangeable and symbiotic, in reality there are no watertight compartments or opposition. These labels were associated with a pyramid of vertical power that among cultural workers is increasingly horizontal. At other extremes, the pyramid is radicalized, but it is no longer the world of art, it is that of interventionist cultural policies. In the artistic, the polyfunctions can be interchangeable. They are tangible but slow changes. I am interested in flexible terms for the theoretical accompaniment of the curator or the variables of participatory audiences in accordance with these hybrid times.
He says in his book that the arts have been in the hands of a minority that exercised a monopoly to benefit economically and socially from it. Who exactly does it point to?
To the technocrats and an elite of men’s names who were for years the influencers in the shadow.
You have been part of the official history as director of a museum for six years, Es Baluard, in Palma. What was that experience like and what legacy do you think it has left?
I arrived in 2013 at a museum devastated by the crisis. The first was a strategic plan based on new forms of financing and management. At the content level, focus on the thesis collection and exhibitions. In six years there were 55 exhibitions, many from that collection that was growing gradually, of artists from the islands, others with great effort and unforgettable external funding such as that of Sükran Moral, Thomas Hirschhorn O Robert Cahen and international co-productions and tours. I think the deepest source has been public programs with agreements with associated groups and education. This is my best legacy, thanks to a magnificent team that followed me in innovative projects such as Clinics or collaborative mediations.
She is one of the few women who has been in command. What do you have to do to really break the glass ceiling in the artistic realm?
Keep going without caring what they will say.
The pandemic has frustrated their work plans in Latin America. What projects did you have?
It was terrible not being able to return to Buenos Aires in March. In the first instance, I can develop teaching and management on line, but projects like Holy women are not possible if they are not in situ. In December I will be present at the V Congress of Postcolonial Studies from the Clacso University, but the documentary is stopped. The same goes for European projects, they sent me the flight to return to Strasbourg from this month, but now France is paralyzed again. Our way of working internationally is changing, it is something new that we must learn and we must adapt. Culture has always done it.
Nekane Aramburu Cendeac, 2020 632 pages. 15 euros
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