Thursday 29 September 2011


Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, ediciones del exotismo ordinario internacional neotropical table
board 240x200 cm on 3 metal table structures, composed of 4 b/w argentic photographic prints 2,5x17,5 cm, 2 color argentic photographic prints 14,5x21,5 cm, 9 b/w photocopied booklets, 3 mini atlas. 2011
“La mesa de las ediciones del exotismo ordinario internacional neotropical” will be updated following the research development. The new elements will join the board and will be articulated with the existing ones. The already existing elements can be rearranged if necessary. The artists will carry out themselves the increase, or if their presence is not possible, will send new items with precise instructions for the new arrangement.

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, ediciones del exotismo ordinario internacional neotropical table

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, el perezoso museo de piedras
color argentic photographic print, 20x30 cm, 2011
Spontaneous collection of forms at the botanical garden el perezoso, Selva Central, Peru.

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, el sur y el norte
b/w argentic photographic print, 20x30 cm, 2011
double exposure of the rainforest near the equatorial line

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, exhibition view

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, latinskaya amerika, díptico 96x133 cm, transfer papel carbón, 2011
the carbon transfers are made from amplified flyleaves of the soviet encyclopedia “Latinskaya Amerika”.

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, histoire abrégée de la botanomancie portative
b/w digital print on poster paper 45x64 cm, slideshow in aleatrory loop composed of 116 images, 2011
Projected images randomly overlap the reproduction of a Monstera Deliciosa. The images come from the popular scientific soviet magazine KVANT. All these images are illustrated scientific formulas and theories, and associated with the image of a philodendron, offer a new reading on theories and experiments exploring the potential sensitivity and intelligence of plants.

Julia Rometti and Victor Costales, histoire abrégée de la botanomancie portative

Ediciones del Exotismo Ordinario Internacional Neotropical
Julia Rometti and Victor Costales

Ediciones del Exotismo Ordinario Internacional Neotropical is an ongoing project taking shape as a serie of non sequential photocopied booklets of variable formats, based on the research about the house plants group named Exotismo Ordinario Internacional Neotropical.

The research is articulating various tracks focusing on neotropical region: gardening, botany, revolutions, literature, clandestine organizations, and organisational systems. The sources of documents are collected through various secondhand bookstores.

Ediciones del Exotismo Ordinario Internacional Neotropical exhibited within the exhibition Basket - not basket curated by Elfi Turpin at Jousse Enterprise, Paris, September 2011
download pdf here

Monday 26 September 2011


'The Peripatetic School' exhibition view

Mateo Lopez, Nowhere Man, drawings installation, 2011

Brigida Baltar, Forest Flora, earth drawings on paper, 2008

Ishmael Randall Weeks, Fragments, installation, 2011

Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Carbon Copy Drawings from the Amazonian Library in Iquitos, 2011

Jorge Macchi, Missing Points, 2007, cut out map of the world

Andre Komatsu, Constructing Worlds, entropic drawings, 2010

Nicolas Paris, Hurry Slowly, 2007-ongoing, found objects which detonate ideas for drawings

Tony Cruz, Building, digital animations, 2007

Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Abstract, 2011, slideshow made of drawings found at the Amazonic Library in Iquitos

Brigida Baltar, drawing

Brigida Baltar, Untitled, brick dust drawing, 2008

Tony Cruz, Distance Drawing San Juan/London, an attempt to draw the distance from San Juan to London, 2011

Brigida Baltar, Tony Cruz

The Drawing Room's new space in Bermondsey

Christian Rattemeyer giving a talk at the Drawing Room

The Peripatetic School [Gr. peripatein – to walk about]
Itinerant drawing practices from Latin America
Curated by Tanya Barson
with Brigida Baltar, Jose Tony Cruz, Andre Komatsu, Mateo Lopez, Jorge Macchi, Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Nicolas Paris, Ishmael Randall Weeks
22 September - 12 November 2011

The relationship between exploration and inquiry, or more simply between walking and reflection, is one we can all appreciate (a common claim being that our best thinking is done on the move). It has a long pedigree, going back to the school of philosophy founded by Aristotle in ancient Greece, which was rooted in the practice of empirical observation and knowledge drawn from experience. The term ‘Peripatetic’ is derived from the ancient Greek term for ‘of walking’ or ‘given to walking about’, it is used to mean itinerant, wandering, meandering, or walking. While the school is said to have been named after the peripatoi (colonnades) of the Lyceum (chosen as a meeting place since – as a non-citizen of Athens – Aristotle could not own property), it is also claimed that it was because of Aristotle’s habit of walking while lecturing. Thus, peripatetic is also used to describe itinerant teachers.

In pre-Columbian South America, the Inca road system, or Qhapaq Ñan, was the most extensive and highly advanced for its time; 10,000 miles of exceptional, all-weather construction that acted as a system of communication, a source of stability, a sign of Imperial authority and a method of delineating internal boundaries. “The roads were not only used to separate people but ‘for thinking, by helping to conceive of the relationship of one to another’.” However, as the Incas did not use the wheel for transportation, and did not have horses, the trails were used almost exclusively by people walking.

Of course, the history of Latin America is littered with exemplars of the epic voyages of conquest, exploration and rites of passage. From the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro who defeated the Incan empire and began the brutal suppression of indigenous culture, to the German explorer and scientist Friedrich von Humboldt who travelled in Central and South America between 1799 and 1804 and who wrote extensively on its natural history and geography. Similarly, the motorcycle journey taken by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara in the early 1950s, that began as a coming of age, but became the road to revolutionary politics. In literature and art, there are equally important examples; the writing of Jorge Luis Borges whose partly surreal, partly existential literature takes as its central inspiration and subject the city of Buenos Aires, or the work of pioneering video artist Juan Downey, whose Video Trans-America project set out to document the continent – both North and South - during the early 1970s.

This group of artists from across Latin America share an engagement with the landscape, whether urban or rural. More specifically, they are concerned with travelling or moving through the landscape, and frequently with walking, which is combined in their work with diverse approaches to drawing. Images that are the result of itinerancy or nomadism, places, scenes and things observed along the way, abound. They journey out of the studio, into the neighbourhood, the city, the territory or entire continent beyond, in a manner that evokes by turns Surrealist, Borgesian or Situationist metropolitan perambulation, or exploration in wilderness spaces (whether jungle, mountain, desert or pampas). The artist is often seen as a solitary figure, a strolling flaneur or otherwise a lone traveller who ventures further afield (predecessors from Casper David Friedrich and Frederick Church to Richard Long and Francis Alys come to mind). Thus, while these artists share a sense of the subjective experience of landscape, it results in a diverse range of concerns and responses. Through their work they raise questions about ownership and access to territory and its resources, about borders and systems of control, and the political and economic struggles that stem from these. The poverty and contingencies of life within some Latin American communities are also expressed (behind the work are the facts of a continent impacted on by polarised politics, instability and corruption, the failure of utopian Modernist developmentalism, a lack of amenities or access to utilities that are elsewhere taken for granted and where natural disasters such as earthquakes can also cause chaos and devastation). Some express a fascination with the flora, fauna, topography and natural riches, while also testifying to the tensions between nature and culture. Several seem to manifest a sense of ‘topophilia’ and an obsession with maps and cartographies – but often seeking to undermine their rationalist purpose. Others look for the bizarre in the everyday, while also cataloguing aspects of the lived culture of the continent – aspects of life that are overlooked by guidebooks and don’t conform to the picturesque or stereotypical. Their work utilizes models and conventions from geographical, botanical, topographical, political and philosophical or surrealist investigation. The individual bodies of work destabilise assumptions about the continent. They present instead individual testaments to the extraordinary heterogeneity of its people, culture, languages, cities and landscape.

These artists address the actions taken by man in the world, his passage through the landscape and impact upon it. Often, they themselves conduct journeys or undertake residencies as a form of aesthetic nomadism. [As Nicholas Bourriard has argued, nomadism is one of the defining characteristics of a post-post-modernist era or ‘alter-modernity’.] Symptomatic of this itinerant tendency is their frequent recourse to drawing. Drawing has always been the most portable medium, the fundamental exploratory tool to which the artist returns time and again. However, for these artists, drawing has become a focus of expanded practices that engage with the landscape and culture as a subject and source for exploration, as well as philosophical speculation. Not only do they explore the world at large, but simultaneously the parameters of drawing itself, often using unconventional materials or strategies. These artists seek to blur the traditional boundaries between media categorisations; work on paper becomes sculptural object and simple line drawing becomes video animation. Drawing travels off the page and into the environment itself.

Tanya Barson, 2011

Co-publication with Ridinghouse. Edited by Tanya Barson and Kate Macfarlane, it will include essays by Moacir dos Anjos, Tanya Barson, Pablo Léon de la Barra & Isobel Whitelegg and colour plates of works in the exhibition.

Saturday 24 September 2011


Chemi Rosado presenting El Cerro project at Creative Time Summit, New York

El Cerro in 2001 before being painted as part of Chemi Rosado's project

El Cerro painted green

neighbours of El Cerro painting their houses green

social art workshops

Raimond Chaves community newspaper Hangueando done in 2002

The Museo del Cerro, co-curated by Pablo Leon de la Barra with members of El Cerro in 2002

Chemi Rosado presenting El Cerro project at Creative Time Summit, New York

Text read by Chemi Rosado:

Good afternoon and thanks for this invitation.  It is an honor to be surrounded by so many people whose work I admire and to share this microphone with them. Thanks Creative Time for the invitation, for giving us a voice, and for allowing us to put together this type of work.

            Today, September 23rd, Puerto Rico commemorates “El Grito de Lares,” a rebellion which took place in 1868 against the Spanish regime in the Island. To my dad I dedicate this remembrance. 

            It is not a coincidence that, in this same day, we are here at this summit and that I am presenting The Cerro Project, name of the community were this project was developed (which means the hill or small mountain).  The community or slum areas that form El Cerro are located in the Naranjito municipality, south of San Juan and to the west of Bayamón. Bayamón is the municipality with the most extensive (though unplanned) horizontal urban sprawl in the Island.  So there is a great contrast between these two neighboring towns, and that is part of the experience when visiting El Cerro.       
            El Cerro community was created even before the municipality of Naranjito was founded, before 1810, by coffee plantation workers and, even today, is inhabited by the descendants of these workers and a few other families that have moved here over the years. El Cerro was shaped by the need of the working class, without formal education; and as many other neighborhoods alike there is a negative social stigma about these “types” of communities that’s been supported by the media.

            This project pretends to pay a tribute to the spontaneous architecture development that the community has created. How they have maintained the topography of the place were they live and the harmonious way it stands at the side of the mountains and on top of the town center.  Also to the way, this spontaneous architecture affects their way of living as neighbors and as families. In the first few weeks working with the community it shocked me how the majority of the people went from one house to the other, and nearly everyone’s doors were open most of the time. 
            For me, there are four major aspects that this project has achieved:
1. It’s a Social Active work of art
2. The exchange of knowledge between people that normally wouldn’t share [artists, guest and volunteers from different social backgrounds meet, share and learn from each other].
3. An open community for other artistic or social projects, activities and workshops.
4. And finally it is still a formal or traditional painting brought to the spectacle of reality.

            We started this project by visiting the people in the community, showing them some proposals in sketches, drawings, and suggesting the possibility of painting their houses in different shades of greens for free.  Some neighbors told us: “Finally someone is looking up here; someone wants to do something with us!”  Others were skeptical about the project and about us, asking "Are they from the government?, "do they come from the police? As for the color, some neighbors would make comments about it right away:  “GREEN!!  But this is a mountain already!”  Others would joke, saying, “Now the cows will eat the balconies,” or, would say in a derogatory way: “What will we do on Thursdays? That’s a gay color to have on that day!” 

            Another objection to the color was politics: the color green is linked to the pro-independence party (blue with the pro-statehood party and red to the commonwealth party.) That is why painting the first house in the neighborhood was so significant.  It was Ivette Serrano’s house. Her house was blue. She decided to paint her house because she thought that the project would help unify the community and bring something positive for the younger generation, and also because she wanted to help the artists that pretended to make an art work of the whole community. Some people just said “yes” because their houses would be painted for free; others preferred to paint with us, while others would take the paint and do it themselves, as they said: We’ll paint”, so they painted their houses themselves. I won’t forget to see Cabe and Jossy cleaning and preparing the exterior of their house in order to paint it. After finishing, they sat in front of their newly painted house, having some beers and admiring their work, even the colors, and saying, “This is a work of art.”

            Another great experience for me was when the neighbors themselves went to the lookout point, the mountain in front of the community, to watch the progress of the ‘piece’ and started to decide which color would be used and what houses should be painted next.  From that point on, the project was, in a way, in the hands of the community or, at least, they were in charge of its direction and logistics.

            Since the first weeks, working in El Cerro we started doing some informal workshops on Saturdays –that afterwards became a routine and formal events, being the first making El Cerro T-shirt, were participants from the community would cut materials to make their own original shirts based on their views of the community. The workshops, which were given by social workers, artists and volunteers and other professional such as my mom, Luisa Seijo, were given to children, teenagers, and people of all ages. Some of the themes were:
“What I like or dislike about El Cerro,”
“Knowing your rights (review of the law),”
 “Letting the anger out,” among others.

For this project, I had the support and collaboration of many, many people and organizations, including the Institute for Community Development from the University of  PR, a complete interdisciplinary class where students and professors worked closely with residents of the community. And mostly volunteers who became the 'engine' of the processes, by painting, giving workshops and as leaders of the project, some of them got really involved in the community, like Jeanelis, she ended up been teacher in the town and a  Resident of El Cerro. Another great volunteer Bubu Negron is now a well known artist.

            Through the process of painting, the neighbors met and visited one another.  In some cases, neighbors that hadn’t visited each other in 14 years met again while painting each other’s house. Even neighbors that didn’t talk each other would find a way to communicate again. Others TOLD me how they were ashamed of living in the community most of their lives and that now they were proud of being from El Cerro and were able to see how beautiful their community is. Some would appreciate how we worked letting the kids and teenagers work closely with us.  Even people who didn’t paint their houses would participate as volunteers and leaders of the project.

            The other important point of the project is how the locals from the barrio are willing to work in other artists’ projects.  In 2002 Raymond Chavez and Pablo Leon de la Barra came to the community and became residents for a few weeks. Raymond developed “hanguiando, el periodico con patas” (hanging-out: the newspaper with legs, or friends, as they say in Peru).  For this project, he had an office with a scanner, a printer, a voice recorder, computer, and thread with clips to hang the pages of this open and public newspaper.

            Pablo Leon de la Barra created El Museo del Cerro (el Cerro Museum).  By visiting most of the houses of the community and choosing objects that should be in the communal Museum, he ended up co-curating the collection of this ‘new’ museum.  The actual museum was done in the abandoned community center, which we cleaned and painted as part of our intervention in El Cerro. Now, the Center has a roof and air conditioning due to governmental aid but, mainly, as a result of the community effort in getting what they deserved and need.

            New leaders have emerged from this barrio. One of them is Cuco.  With his help the community was able to prevent the government to build three new roads that would have changed the entire barrio as its people conceived it.  Cuco continued to coordinate new workshops and activities for the community.  (By the way, he is now living in NYC and will be with us later for the the exhibitions.)  
            It has been almost 10 years since the project began. Throughout these years, El Cerro has had an impact on different projects, and certainly it has had an impact on the residents of this community and the town.  But it also has an impact on the common passerby, who is intrigued by what he or she sees and comes up to the mountain asking, “Hey, what’s happening here?”  It is true that El Cerro Project is perceived from the outside, but is inside that you can experience it. 

Chemi Rosado Seijo:
Born 1973.Lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Chemi Rosado Seijo is an artist whose practice weaves social commentary and artistic practice. His work juxtaposes architecture and the urban landscape, work and social action, and art and its history. In Historia sobre Ruedas (History on Wheels), his 2005 project with Art in General, Seijo mapped Manhattan from the perspective of a skateboarder, re-drawing the city in terms of its skating sites. For another project, Tapando para Ver (Closing to See) (2001), which culminated in a book, Seijo covered up parts of text from newspaper clippings with charcoal leaving only specific words, suggesting that all language might be a form of manipulation and drawing attention to the degree to which commercial information is controlled by the media. Since 2001, Chemi Rosado-Seijo has worked with the inhabitants of El Cerro, in Puerto Rico, painting all of the houses in the village in different shades of green. Over several years, and through negotiation and collaboration with the inhabitants of the community, over 100 buildings have been painted.  Seijo has participated in numerous exhibitions and biennials including the Whitney (2002), Prague (2005), Havana (2006), and Pontevedra (2010).

Creative Time Summit:
The Creative Time Summit is a conference that brings together cultural producers—including artists, critics, writers, and curators—to discuss how their work engages pressing issues affecting our world. Their international projects bring to the table a vast array of practices and methodologies that engage with the canvas of everyday life. The participants range from art world luminaries to those purposefully obscure, providing a glimpse into an evolving community concerned with the political implications of socially engaged art. The Creative Time Summit is meant to be an opportunity to not only uncover the tensions that such a global form of working presents, but also to provide opportunities for new coalitions and sympathetic affinities.