“It is time for us all to decide who we are…” -Herbert Kretzmer, Les Miserables
There is much debate over whether we choose our destinies. Regardless of the reality behind this question, as old as human awareness itself, we can choose to some extent how the world in which we move operates. To do this, we must be engaged and involved. We must find the time and show up. We must fight for what we believe in. In the US, we face a critical moment. The coming week could determine so much for generations to come.
Agustin Ortiz Herrera is an audiovisual and performance based artist in Barcelona, Spain. Presently he is trying to find an exhibition for a piece he recently shot with strong political overtones. At the same time he is working on another project that will emerge in a couple of years. In general, his work has a long timeline involving an initial research phase before work can begin.
Herrera largely funds his own projects though he does submit to open calls for grants in Spain which he sometimes receives. For one residency program, he was one of a number of artists who took over space in former factory sites. It was at this residency that he was able to finish his present work.
Often Herrera mixes his film work with his interest in fine arts. His work deals with politics quite frequently. Born into Spain locked in dictatorship, he uses his work to process some of the memories of his childhood. His method involves films that look like documentary style very often but they are not. Herrera’s films are all fiction.
One of the key issues in Herrera’s current project is the sexual liberation that took place after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco Bahamonde, known in popular culture as simply Franco. In the 1980s, Madrid was an epicenter of counter-culture as Spain shook off years of repression under Franco who died in 1975. Herrera was a teenager during this time and says he felt like he lived in a free country even though there were still many issues to grapple with in post Francoist Spain. For Herrera, what happened in the past has an impact in the present. These things inform his work.
In present-day Spain, there is a movement to cleanse all symbolism of Franco’s dictatorship including statues and street names. Although laws have been passed, there is no money to make changes. The new government intends to make the changes happen and plans to go as far as to exhume Franco and have him moved out of his present burial place.
To hear more from Agustin Ortiz Herrera, see some of his work and listen to more about the political culture of Spain, listen to the complete interview.
Xavier de Luca is also based in Barcelona, Spain. There he splits his time between the roles of Curator at Funcacio Sunol and Founder/Coordinator at Jiser Reflexions Mediterranies.
Fundacio Sunol is a private foundation and art collection consisting of over 1,300 pieces of contemporary Spanish art from the last 40 years. The collection is one of the most important in Spain and the foundation is there to interpret this collection to the public. The foundation has been around since 2004.
Also in 2004, de Luca helped launch Jiser Reflexions Mediterranies, an NGO in Tunisia during the dictatorship of Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali. The organization tried to change the dynamics of artistic exchange under the dictatorship. After a personal experience in Tunis during the dictatorship, de Luca felt he needed to find a way to launch projects on the most basic level between individuals. The organization still exists today although the dictatorship in Tunisia came to an end in 2011.
The main focus of Jiser Reflexions Mediterranies is visual art, though collaborations between other disciplines do exist. But ultimately, the question the organization strives to answer is how an artist is to stand during difficult times.
Based in Barcelona now, the aim of the NGO is to make visible the creations of talents that are so close to Barcelona which is less than two hours from Tunis and roughly an hour from Algiers. There is a residency now between the three cities of Barcelona, Tunis and Algiers. Nine artists will spend two months in one of these three cities as part of the residency. Open call for the residency has recently closed.
To hear more about what Xavier de Luca is doing in Barcelona, Tunis and Algiers, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
There are a few moments in every generation that define the age. One such moment is upon us and we must decide on which side of history we stand.
Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Agustin Ortiz Herrera is reading Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway. Praxis user Duffy is reading A Sense of the Mysterious by Alan Lightman.
MASS MoCA invites artists to apply for the 2019 residency program. There is no application fee and many artists are eligible to receive financial assistance. Those accepted live in apartments (four artists to each) across the street from attractive studio space with wonderful natural light all located on the MASS MoCA campus. The residency space is located in a busy downtown area (MASS MoCA advises sensitive sleepers to take note) and all artists enjoy one communal meal per day with other residents. To learn more and to apply, visit the website. Deadline is January 7.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.