Report on the Academy “Spaces of Art: Concepts and Impacts In an Outside Latin America”

by Laura Karp Lugo (LMU München/DFK Paris)

The Academy
From October 26th to November 3rd, 2019, the Transregional Academy on Latin American Art III “Spaces of Art: Concepts and Impacts In and Outside Latin America” took place in Mexico City. The event brought together 28 scholars, ranging from PhD students to university professors, in stimulating sessions, during which everyone discussed a variety of research topics and articles around a table. This was the third academy devoted to Latin American Art organized by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the German Center for Art History in Paris (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, DFK Paris, part of the Max Weber Foundation – German Humanities Institutes Abroad). Such an initiative, shaped by Thomas Kirchner and Lena Bader, fills a gap in the current academic landscape that leaves little room for scientific debate about Latin America, its history and artistic productions. This Transregional Academy also happened thanks to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) that hosted the event at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, where Peter Krieger and the sociologist Pablo G. Ascencio welcomed the group.

 The Concept of Space
“Space” was the central concept of the Transregional Academy III. It brought together researchers whose work focuses on Latin American Art, and questioned the concept of “space” in relation to art. Space is acknowledged as a pivotal frame, and is here  reconsidered from a transregional perspective. The participants explored the notion of “space” using multiple, interdisciplinary approaches: in relation to marginal art institutions (Ana Bilbao), to geographies such as the Andean region and its visual imaginary (Pablo Fasce, Melanie Vietmeier), to emblematic places in the city (Ana Paula dos Santos Salvat), to conceptions of sacred places (Savannah Esquivel, Elsaris Núñez Méndez), to transnational negotiations and networks (Milena Gallipoli, Matthijs Jonker, Laura Bohnenblust, Nikolas Drosos, Amal Eqeiq, Diogo Rodrigues de Barros), to the intersection of arts and politics in the public area (Carolina Vanegas Carrasco), and to the transformation from domestic into political concern (Próspero Carbonell). With Latin America being the common denominator of these reflections, the dialogue was fluid, fruitful, and intense, sharing many concerns.

A Latin American Perspective
The colonial past of Latin America has been crucial to the development of the continent, its knowledge and wider reception. This oriented the discussions of the Transregional Academy towards methodological and epistemological issues which have proved to be crucial for the study of Latin America. Indeed the concept of space was discussed from this particular context that entails its own questions and its own answers. During the project presentations and the thematic sessions many points of contact arose between the different topics and participants. One of them was the framework of decolonial thinking in recently overturning traditional narratives with new theoretical propositions in Latin American historiography. The colonial background led to questioning space in a particular way, as most presentations showed. Resistance to forms of colonialism manifested in research on counter-monuments (Carolina Vanegas Carrasco), on alternative art spaces in the South (Ana Bilbao), and on the practices of Latin American female artists (Lara Demori). Moreover, this resistance becomes apparent when analyzing the city as a space of power in which tensions are played out and where the center-periphery dialectic between colonizer and colonized is challenged (Ana Paula dos Santos Salvat). The thematic sessions fostered discussions on decolonial thought by Walter D. Mignolo, Arturo Escobar, Rafael Cardoso and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. This made it possible to rethink and rearrange the methodological framework of several research projects.

The Public Workshop
A final open workshop brought three muralists in conversation with all the Academy participants and local audiences. They approached the notion of space in relation to their practice and agenda. For artist, Janet Calderon (Hidalgo), the streets are spaces where art could be taken out of its institutions and coexist with the community. For Dyg‘ Nojoch (Chiapas), space plays a very important role since painting for a gallery is not the same as painting in an open public space. The people involved in the creation of each work are different, and the production process must adapt to this. The mural itself is a space that the artist describes „as a book that opens and turns many pages in a matter of minutes or seconds“. For Gustavo Chavez Pavon (Mexico City), in a context where there is much to denounce, space can be a challenge. The mural is a space of resistance. He ended the workshop by saying „We all are women, we all are comrades“.

Living in Mexico City
One of the strengths of the Transregional Academy is that it offers its members a close engagement with the host city, its places, and its traditions. In this third Academy, under the guidance of  Pablo G. Ascencio, the participants became familiar with the ancient past of the city (through visits to archeological sites, churches and parks), its gastronomy (mole, quesadillas, atole and other delights), and its traditions (Day of the Dead). An enriching program comprised of visits to Teotihuacan, Xochimilco, Coyoacán, Templo Mayor, Plaza de la Constitución (popularly known as the Zócalo and surrounded by the cathedral and the presidential palace), the largest cemetery in Mexico „Panteón Civil de Dolores“ in Chapultepec, the Palace of Fine Arts in the Alameda, the Museum of Anthropology, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of UNAM, toured by the chief curator Cuauhtémoc Medina.

Networks and Friendship
As demonstrated in São Paulo in 2016 and Buenos Aires in 2017, the links forged at the Transregional Academies continue beyond the stay. The format and length of the event stimulated and accelerated the bonding between participants. Shared topics motivated common projects and reflections. The networks of the Transregional Academy III developed successfully.


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