The current edition of inSite embraces several significant shifts. First, past versions maintained the art world construct of an exhibition that opened and closed during a specific time frame. By contrast, inSite/Casa Gallina is conceived as a processual project that will be developed over a span of five years, from 2014 through 2018. As such, the timing and visibility of projects and programs will unfold according to their own rhythms and necessities; in turn, we envision having the flexibility and freedom to pursue unexpected possibilities suggested by projects as they evolve.
Second, unlike past inSites, where artists and their collaborators intervened in locations across a wide geographic zone, the emphasis of inSite/Casa Gallina is on a specific neighborhood, Santa María la Ribera, as a hybrid node of public life in the megalopolis of Mexico City. By establishing a physical center of operations in Santa María (the Casa in Casa Gallina), we aim to install an artistic intersection in the complex eco-political weave of the neighborhood as a platform outside the conventional art world. The house not only serves as a residence for guest artists, but also as a site to activate processes of neighborhood participation, which include an urban garden/farm, an open kitchen, meeting space for artists and their collaborators, space for technical workshops, and an open space devoted to the accumulation and sharing of knowledge produced through the realization of projects and programs. As such, inSite/Casa Gallina is imagined as an enclave generating diverse gestures that might reveal points of both stress (fragility) and malleability (transformation) in the social fabric of the neighborhood.
Project planning for inSite/Casa Gallina began in mid-2013 with the Board of Directors’ decision to support Artistic Director Osvaldo Sanchez’ project framework and begin the search for a house in Santa María. Sanchez and a small team oversaw the renovation of the house during the first nine months of 2014. At the same time, they were working off-site to refine the project framework, begin the commissioning process with initial artist residencies, engage a group of cultural anthropologists to produce a social map of the sixteen-block radius surrounding the house, and design our website. The renovation of the house, itself a project, was completed by C Cubica, a three-person Mexico City-based firm of architects.
Michael Krichman / inSite Executive Director
Carmen Cuenca / Casa Gallina Executive Director
Osvaldo Sánchez / Artistic Director
Danielle Reo / Chief Financial Officer
Susana Pineda / Administration
Sergio Olivares / Production
Josefa Ortega y Violeta Celis / Cultural Synergies
Rosa Elba Camacho / Community Liaison
David Hernández y Rodrigo Simancas / Knowledges Platform
Mariano Arribas / Production Assistant
Eric Álvarez / General Services
Luis Gómez / Registration and diffusion
Rosario Hernández y Andrés Ramírez / Administration
The initial work platforms of inSite/Casa Gallina are conceived as search fields open to dialogue; they exceed curatorial action and the mystified social recognition given to artists. These territories of intellectual, cultural and political action are subjected to a daily verification by the neighborhood, by its actors and their interests. And it is precisely the socio-economic fabric of the barrio, which will be defining the civic nature of individual and collective efforts to create, to search for, and, finally, to facilitate the emergence of a new development paradigm and social collaboration.
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Agents of change
The notion of a society in transformation is based on the understanding of individuals as active subjects that may achieve, through their everyday activities, profound changes in their environment. Thus everyday actions may imply either the endorsement of the status quo or that of a positioning that subverts the established dynamics within contemporary society, where consumption and alienation are the dominant norms. The possibility to transform lies in the actions of each individual, in assuming that everyone is susceptible to consider themselves change agents. Thus, the artist is also considered as an agent of change whose creative potential may operate as a detonator of extraordinary and inter-subjective frictions and of alternative sociability models.
Only if we recognize economies as subsystems of different ecologies, and halt the current compulsion to productivism and the unbridled manipulation of life’s rhythms and resources, will we be able to detect the negotiable frameworks of a new developmental paradigm. By tuning into our environment, we will be able to define a new ethos, which when referred to a house, a place of our own, may expand the spatial frame of human belonging, not as territorial ownership but rather as a fabric of energies that constitutes and is interdependent with flowing ecosystems.
Rather than applying socio-pedagogical principles, the relational models we intend to encourage—as experimental formats of group frameworks—will endorse a heuristic attitude in art focused on porousness and flow as an engagement exercise. Therefore, the emphasis must be on the processes and on the frailty of those alliances and certainties forged during the production of experiences. This heuristic attitude will also lead us to accept that knowledge is not in the final result of experience but rather in the spasms of its development. This attitude compels us to deduce possible certainties based on erratic mobility and on the development of a process. It also leads to ask how the participants act or not in synchrony with those simultaneous events that prefigure the social matter as a living entity—an entity that is forever avoiding self-representation in order to embrace, instead, the political challenge of self-recreation.
Arjun Appadurai refers to locality not as a spatial structure but as a structure of sentiments. In spite of locality having scale and place dimensions it is, above all, infused with the effort made by our imagination to visualize, project and produce feelings of locality. This understanding of locality recovers the nature of human concerns about intimacy, attachment and everyday life: that to which we have tangible access. Places are constructed at social intersections and specific experiences, in moments of relationships and understanding among people.
Understood as resistance platforms to the dominant economic system, solidarity economies vindicate economy as a means, not an end, for personal and community development, and as a tool to improve people’s quality of life and their social environment. Its alliance strategies are practices that aim to transform capitalist economy and that values people’s needs, abilities and work rather than capital and its accumulation. As an exchange structure, solidarity economy vindicates redistributive socioeconomic models based on equitable relations of those involved. Embracing these models encourages and nurtures relationships based on cooperation, not competitiveness, as well as the development of democratic models for decision making, ecological conservation, financial instruments and the generation of wealth in ethical conditions, and a socioeconomic renovation aimed at local development. Some of these platforms use solidarity exchange units (UIS, as per Spanish acronym) created to generate equivalencies that facilitate transactions such as barter or exchange of services.
The factual influence of constitutive processes on communities creates an auto-critical problem concerning the civic responsibility to regenerate the ecology and erase the traces left by the group. Energy consumption and the use of resources, as well as the promotion of alternative operational models and the regeneration of ecosystems, should be an issue to be considered by cultural platforms and by their production of new objects-situations-commodities-works. Redefining our vital context would not only imply reconsidering the social impact of mobile technologies, virtual realities and genetically modified organisms, but also, and above all, to responsibly reengineer socio-ecological dynamics, starting with daily resource consumption and our personal impact on the environment.
The individuals who engage in dialogues and jointly reflect on their experiences agree that they have established ethical commitments and created links to public supervision. These agreements foster creativity and conviviality that generate meaning, that liberate and reinforce autonomy, but also, that create a multi-dimensional balance of life in its relationship with the environment. Ivan Illich defined conviviality as the ability to foster the coexistence of notions of production and care, of effectiveness and compassion, of shaping products and creativity, fantasy and freedom to reinforce a balanced sense of universal belonging.
Politics of belonging. We define identity as a changing, processual situation that, in this case, would be delineated by daily actions to promote social recognition and acceptance. Therefore, it demands a daily construction connected by a type of coexistence where individuals produce and share symbols, traditions and meaning. It is a relationship resulting from belonging to and being belonged by a specific social group. Rather than having a definite nature, those “belongings” are modified and nourished; they produce agreements concerning daily actions and are exposed through a specific political commitment. Thus, belonging is determined by a constant civic exercise of heterogeneous and public participation.
Activating public domains. Induced situations that purposely connect creative alliances and temporary belongings generate public domain. Activating these inter-subjectivities in friction form the proto-political framework of social and community life. To activate public domains requires detonating processes that, at a certain point, generate tacit frameworks of group involvement and identification. Activating a public domain demands generating social mobility in the ethical space of differences.
In defense of leisure. Contemporary society has based relationship structures on a productivist notion that glorifies work; a notion understood as productivity economically measurable as the utmost objective of human organization. To subvert such perspective one has to rethink the need for productivity and to recover leisure time as a right, with its potential to encourage introspection, conviviality, and personal growth. In our days, free time is regulated and subjected to the supply provided by the “entertainment society”. This society considers free time as merchandise in order to encourage the productivist system and to impose its dynamics of consumption. Thus the defense of leisure does not only concern the effort to increase free time, but also demands the construction of situations that allow for that leisure time to be freely spent by the individual through platforms that facilitate new relation modes and that may fertilize the public domain.
Connecting intimacies. The purpose here is to create the dynamics for a dialogue where language may critically expose those moments when elective group affinities are defined. This type of dialogue nurtures and is nurtured by shared experiences of creativity and by unleashing leisure and imaginary narratives. Catalyzing individual interests and visions in permanent, negotiated processes helps to connect with the different subjectivities of our own vulnerability with the differences of the Other.
De-hierarchizing knowledge. To access to a dimension of knowledge and learning free from social control, we are required to dismantle the professionalized, certified, elitist, individualist, academic and commercialized notion of knowledge that assigns social ranks. Destroying this hierarchical pyramid implies re-evaluating specific, local and differentiated knowledge, and juxtaposing and combining it with other fields of knowledge: erudite knowledge, as well as knowledge generated, expanded and reinforced by everyday experience. This knowledge is linked to emotion and mutual learning, and results from a search of meaning and placing that knowledge into a common practice.
Critical thinking. To project a more just future, and then to implement it, requires questioning, and thinking analytically about how we have been configured by a specific society. How have we incorporated material and subjectively integrated its logics, and what can we reject or accept in our own history? To think critically is an exercise that focuses on ruptures, discontinuities and resistances in history. It demands asking how the centrality of the human agency is highlighted—what is revealed in the interval between what current societies are and what they can be. Critical thinking is verified by the transforming action of the world, by praxis.
Taming of the ego. The need here is to abandon the soliloquy of the author and to encourage collaborations that pre-establish simultaneous, alternative and parallel roles: the so- called peer governments. The effort is also to induce discourse structures and processual models of alternate application—to favor intermittent bartered leaderships, which allow generating, transferring and constant evaluation of specific sovereignties. To tame the ego, regarding the creation of “art works,” would demand “re-engineering” artistic management and renouncing the investment of authorship, that is, the intellectual and technical auditing of a result. Instead, one must substitute the understanding of artistic effectiveness as a special human ability to induce and reveal the “vision” of a collective experience, which is not necessarily perceptual in nature.
The curatorial platforms of inSite/Casa Gallina are divided into two parallel program areas: one comprising creative practices in group processes in the public domain (Artist Commissions) for interventions by artists and guest agents in the neighborhood environment. And the other focused on direct social action using curatorial practices for educational training and specific collaborations (Knowledges and Synergies) to generate a local impact. These curatorial platforms seek to catalyze the commitments and challenges of inSite/Casa Gallina by means of a variety of group activities and strategies, in order to further bond the social fabric of the area.
Artist Commissions comprise contextual interventions by artists and agents in residence, in order to develop creative work of collective interest with specific groups of the neighborhood using procedural dynamics in joint participation. The partnerships are the result of research residencies and of group discussions aimed at creating a work of art or a cultural device.
Knowledges is an educational platform that includes bibliographic and multimedia research, as well as general or specialized training programs—courses and workshops—directed at specific groups. The content of Knowledges takes advantage of existing information and traffic networks in the neighborhood to promote and distribute shared knowledge and topics of interest to the community. The courses and workshops, events and activities in spaces and/or local areas are focused on making an impact on the economic and social condition of the group. Knowledges also seeks to influence daily critical awareness in the community, encouraging alternative economic models either through the Casa Gallina urban farm and/or kitchen, the Mercado La Dalia or family businesses in the neighborhood.
Synergies groups a number of specific actions in the neighborhood fabric to generate alliances and creative actions that may influence the community’s imaginary or encourage civic consensus for the benefit of the area.
Synergies also describes initiatives to create solidarity and support networks of economic and professional collaboration. These may include different fields of action or structures of collaboration, as well as different types of support and processes of varied time spans. Their main objective is to promote local economies in a spirit of mutual collaboration, support and solidarity in existing family businesses located in the barrio or to add quality or expertise to services and businesses. Thus, this platform seeks to energize the neighborhood’s social life and its efficiency and benefits.
(In order to specify the fields of action of these curatorial platforms, and to enable searches in this site, programs are classified under the following headings: Commissions, Training, Synergies, Publications, Activities, Collaborations and Contextual Studies.)
An essential platform in the dynamics of groups that frequently visit Casa Gallina, the Open Kitchen is a key space for critical thinking and collective action concerning everyday practices related to culinary culture and creativity. It underlines the importance of rethinking our nutritional habits, as well as appreciating social rituals and assessing the political and economic implications related to food.
Another platform that defines Casa Gallina is the Urban Farm, which joins several fields and lines of action of the project generally—promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility for everyday activities, encouraging, by means of sustainable activities, environmental regeneration, and contributing to food autonomy/ sovereignty. As a permanent public program of inSite/Casa Gallina, the Urban Farm seeks to generate experiences, critical thinking and dialogue that influence directly the economy and eating habits of the participants.
To link multidimensional readings of the local environment, Casa Gallina will commission/produce several contextual studies to begin a process of decoding neighborhood life and of understanding the human, material, productive and socio-political dimensions within Santa María La Ribera.
The studies and related mapping of the neighborhood will be used as one tool in developing participatory, trans-disciplinary projects (Artist Commissions), as well as a variety of programs focused on sustainability. Such studies will help outline the knowledge and interests in the community, the possible interventions in public areas, as well as distribution networks of cultural material and economic solidarity.
A first approach to the context will be a mapping to study the area from a specific perspective that, in turn, will generate mapping and signage strategies.
First mapping/ Socio-cultural and Human Diagnosis. Complete document. PDF
A second approach to the neighborhood context of Dalia Market is designed from an ethnographic perspective that comprises information on the economic, political and organizational structure of the market, including distribution and consumption profiles, and the resulting social networks. This study aims to design an efficient productive tool for merchants and clients.
Contextual studies / La Dalia Market ethnographic survey. Complete document. PDF
A third approach to the neighborhood context was a commission to the Argentine duo, the Iconoclasistas, to design and implement a “collective mapping” project in the neighborhood. Neighbors were invited to Casa Gallina to discuss their ways of living in and appreciating the barrio. Mappings in open consultation addressed common issues regarding quality of life, such as housing, basic needs, neglect of public roads, health, trades, businesses and local economies, among others. Extended over a period of several weeks, the process took place in different locations. The record of the Iconoclasista’s process is available in PDF format.
Contextual studies / Iconoclasistas collective mapping. Log. PDF
In addition, a book about the project was produced together with a graphic poster that focuses on gentrification—a strong concern in the neighborhood that surfaced during the mapping. Both have been widely distributed in Santa Maria.