_inSite

Founded in 1992, inSite has completed five editions based in the San Diego/Tijuana border region. It has had the good fortune to be able to commission some of the most significant artists from Mexico, the US, and elsewhere quite early in their careers. The main purpose of the program is to commission site-specific work by local and international artists following the curatorial guidelines of each edition.

 In the case of Mexico, each edition of inSite has had a significant impact on the development of curatorial and artistic practice—producing and presenting seminal works by artists from Helen Escobedo and Felipe Ehrenberg, to Betsabee Romero, Marcos Ramirez “Erre” and Eduardo Abaroa, to Francis Alÿs and Carlos Amorales. The 1992 edition was focused on installations; in 1994 the works evolved from a site-specific concept; 1997 was dedicated to public art; the emphasis in the 2000–01 edition was on processes of cultural practices; and in 2005 the focus was on situational public art and on co-participation with specific communities. Thus, each inSite edition has posed challenges and advanced concepts to problematize and produce works of art. Even though each edition had its own curatorial focal point, inSite has always preserved its main goals: to produce relevant work, to promote research, and activate urban spaces through transcendental group experiences.

During the past twenty years, inSite has functioned as a collaborative structure with public and nonprofit institutions. Essential for inSite’s development has been a flexibility to respond to the changing interests both of artists and institutions in order to explore new structures of collaboration and vehicles to display innovative work. More than 150 projects from national and international artists have resulted from this process, generating bonds and feedback, which have contributed to the recognition of Mexican contemporary art in the international arena.


inSite | Collaborative Projects (2007–12)

As of the 2005 edition, one of inSite’s goals was to formalize and organize its data by archiving the records of more than twenty years of work within the public domain practices, and with intervention and co-participative art in the border context.

After a two-year initiative to select and organize project documentation, inSite completed the inSite Archive, which in turn was donated to the Special Collections Library of the University of California, San Diego. A copy of the inSite Archive was donated to Arkheia at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), the contemporary art museum of the National University in Mexico City.

The completion of the inSite Archive was the impetus behind two inSite sponsored initiatives: El Ágora (The Agora, 2007), an architectural project by Gustavo Lipkau and Xavier Hierro for the Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT); and Wandering Positions (Selections from the inSite Archive, curated by Donna Conwell as the inaugural exhibition of Arkheia at MUAC. For Wandering Positions, inSite commissioned Peruvian Giacomo Castagnola to design and build a new modular physical structure for the presentation of archival material that was also donated to MUAC.

 

The Agora (El Ágora)

Commissioned by inSite and designed by Mexican architect Gustavo Lipkau, The Agora involved reconfiguring and remodeling  the 3,280 square foot former exhibition space on the ground floor of the Centro Cultural Tijuana to create areas for lectures, informal meetings, research and reading, and the presentation of the archives. In the design of The Agora, Lipkau and Hierro combined the open and stark spaces of the brutalist architecture of the CECUT, and by using wood as a bare and exposed material, they created flows between functional and malleable spaces capable of hosting very diverse programs in a warmer and more intimate atmosphere. The space held a temporary exhibit of the inSite Archive for the CECUT audience. This archive contains digital and printed material related to the work of more than 200 artists in the border area, as well as hundreds of hours of audiovisual material about events, process records and programs of the inSite editions, from 1992 to 2005. The Agora operated as an experimental space for public actions and exchanges until 2000.

 

Arkheia, inSite Archive 

The University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC) in Mexico opened its Archive Exhibits program with the copy of the historical archive donated by inSite. Included in that donation was the display furniture commissioned by inSite from the Peruvian architect Giacomo Castagnola.. The exhibit called Posición errante > Wandering PositionSelecciones del archivo inSite > Selections from the inSite Archive was conceived and curated by Donna Conwell, then a researcher at the Getty Research Institute and who had been a co-curator of Interventions (Intervenciones) for inSite’05. The exhibit displayed a selection of projects produced by and for inSite, featuring artists such as Kim Adams, Terry Allen, Francis Alÿs, Carlos Amorales, Gustavo Artigas, Andrea Fraser, Silvia Gruner, Nina Katchadourian, Itzel Martínez del Cañizo, Steve Matheson, Javier Téllez, Mark Tribe, Judi Werthein, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Yukinori Yanagi.

 As described in the introduction and in the curatorial statement:

Posición errante / Wandering Position includes the diverse documentation held in this archive, which not only records the different works but also serves as the means to re-activate those works in different contexts and for different audiences. Thus Wandering Position encourages the discussion and analysis of the links created between each work of art and the archive. The purpose of the document display is to erase the traditional line between archives and works of art, while urging the viewer to use the documentary material as a device to demonstrate the work processes of public participation projects. It also encourages different readings of the documents, audiovisuals and photographs as vehicles to preserve the meaning of works of art beyond their specific place and time.”

 The Exposiciones de Archivo de Arkheia program that hosted the exhibit is directed by Pilar García who is now also in charge of the inSite Archive at MUAC.

inSite_05

The structure of the 2005 edition of inSite was aimed at adding more curatorial emphasis to the project and more consistency to the contextual collaboration of artistic residencies. To that end, for the first time, the curatorial team and the artistic director would have a permanent residence in the area throughout the entire process of developing the project. In this edition, which began in 2002, the artists were asked to work within curatorial parameters defined by co-participation, by non-object poetics, and by a level of artistic production and political commitment focused on the idea of the public space as a situational quality. Under the artistic and curatorial direction of Osvaldo Sánchez, and with curators Tania Ragasol and Donna Conwell, inSite_05 focused on the practices of public integration from a perspective of a creative vindication of not only spaces, but also situations. A requirement for all the interventions was that, far from being object-based, they had to be directed to patient and collective constructions related to experience. Also, for this edition inSite included an archival project, a cross-border museum exhibition, several Internet-based projects, a digital-sound performance project, and an extensive series of theoretical conferences. The edition was focused on conceiving public engagement as a progressive encouragement to produce vital, creative, and proto-political relationships. The process of the works, conceived as a platform to create a situation, would then activate live alliances, frictions, collisions, and exchanges. In the words of Osvaldo Sánchez, the program would be defined by “the interest in challenging the dynamics of public association, and their exchange practices; consequently, it would be focused on inducing new political imaginary in everyday life. Projects should thus be organized on a processual basis of a mid-term collaboration, with no attempt to glorify the artistic object or any other lasting representation model.” The works for this edition were developed during almost two years—from initial residency to research to final production. The public phase of the project was from August 26 to November 13, 2005. inSite_05 had four programmatic components: Interventions, the project’s traditional profile, consisted of twenty-two projects, which the artists structured as active collaboration processes able to challenge the public imaginary; Scenarios included three programs— Ellipsis, a digital sound performance at the Centro Caliente in Tijuana, curated by Hans Fjellestad; Transborder Archive, a circulation and reorganization of electronic archives, with the added purpose of establishing partnerships with the bibliotechnology centers on both sides of the border, curated by Ute Meta Bauer; Tijuana Calling, five commissioned online works, curated by Mark Tribe; Farsites, a two-city museum exhibition curated by Adriana Pedrosa and jointly produced by the Centro Cultural Tijuana and the San Diego Museum of Art; and Conversations, a series of theoretical discussions, curated by Sally Yard.

inSite_00

In essence, the 2000–01 edition preserved the structure and curatorial procedures of inSite’97. Susan Buck-Morss, Ivo Mesquita, Osvaldo Sánchez, and Sally Yard were the curatorial team. A decisive step was the solid theoretical scope and the experimental and political spirit that prevailed in the curatorial invitation. This edition also included works with complex production needs, and the team was able to deepen their critical analysis and to transcend the frame of identity representations.

In words of the curators: “We are interested in defining how the public space has been appropriated by the discourse of the modern State within syntax of national identity. Our intent is to dismantle the historical notion of landscape—as perceived as a geopolitical definition of territories and deeply rooted nations—and to promote practices that lay out contemporary dynamics revealing their interwoven differences, their rough similarities that may foster unpredictable exchanges.”

This edition did not follow the intense exhibit format of previous editions. It began by extending the program time frame to five months, while the requirements of the pieces, many understood now as processes, added consistency to the residences and suggested new artistic models for field research.

inSite 2000–01 also gained in analytical precision due to a more thorough understanding of the border topology as a dynamic model of globalized capital that demands analysis, as opposed to a region rich in cultural signs of binationality and of identity inscriptions. Such analytical precision about the significant problems in the San Diego/Tijuana area were posed to the artists as an opportunity to redefine the notion of cultural practice in a public space as a specific political fabric within the tensions and dynamics of larger global connections. The critical demands of the curatorial statement emphasized the collaborative practices that promoted a laboratory model. inSite 2000–01 strongly advocated for more socialized artistic practices in the public realm, focused on the concept of process. “Public” was not a mere spatial condition, and the public, in several performative works at least, was required to transition from  spectator to co-participant .

inSite_97

This edition was marked by a clear curatorial intent. Unlike the call for proposals of the previous editions, which were addressed to institutions in the area in order to get their support for inSite’s program, the ’97 edition enlisted a curatorial team to generate a conceptual framework for the event and to develop a list of international artists to be commissioned. Curators Jessica Bradley, Olivier Debroise, Ivo Mesquita, and Sally Yard defined the purpose of problematizing the contemporary social and cultural frame in the American continent and, by doing so, to foster a critical re-elaboration of this postcolonial territory. The curatorial team also developed a theoretical focus of the public space, understood as a place for experimentation and criticism that exceeded the rulings and representative boundaries of the usual practices of cultural institutions.

inSite’97 was on exhibition in the San Diego/Tijuana border region from September 26 to November 30, 1997. Beyond its pioneering concept of the public space as a political performance dimension, an urban space that was no longer confined to hold large-scale works of art, inSite’97 stated for the first time the existing relationship between the ethic foundations of intervention practices and the research depth of the artistic residences. . An aspect of inSite’97 that would prove pivotal for later versions, the project relied on a sustained rhythm of residencies for artists and curators. The periodic residences for the curatorial team started in 1995. Residencies for artists began in 1996, with each staying an average of 100 days in the region.

inSite_94

The 1994 edition of inSite achieved regional relevance due to an ambitious cultural program of unprecedented, international inter-institutional collaboration surpassing borders. Organized under institutional guidance, this edition was an inclusive binational visual arts festival. The invitation set priorities for the proposals of guest artists and institutions rather than a more precise curatorial profile in its theoretical rationales or exhibition formats. The program included 38 nonprofit cultural institutions from the San Diego/Tijuana area, with a list of over 100 international artists.

Worthy of mention is the exhibit of more than 70 pieces emphasizing the site-specific practices. Also for the first time was the attempt to map the border based on the administration of institutions and spaces in the region, and to that end works were commissioned of artists with very different backgrounds, ages, and origins in order to establish a public dialogue with a certain degree of specificity in this area of political tension.

As noted by curator Lynda Forsha, “inSite’94 did not select individual pieces, but rather invited experienced artists to show site-specific installations. […] Each sponsoring institution worked as curators for their own projects and determined the level of their participation. […] To visit inSite’94 people had to cross San Diego […] cross the international border that has the most traffic in the world, and to enter into Tijuana […] This atmosphere, rich in culture but with a heavy political burden, inspired and stimulated the participating artists.”

inSite_92

The early beginnings of inSite resulted from a project by Installation Gallery’s Board of Advisors—particularly Mark Quint and Ernest Silva—interested in promoting installation art in the Tijuana/San Diego border context. The initiative proposed a binational effort to fortify the artistic scene and to foster an avant-garde practice of the time: installations. To that end, invitations were issued to local and international artists to produce and exhibit work that would be made while in residence.

During September and October 1992, Installation Gallery promoted the installation of 48 pieces and exhibits that took place in very diverse sites in San Diego/Tijuana that included bookstores, plazas, galleries, theaters, schools, and open spaces.

By programming a unique event, inSite’92 connected local and international artists, private and public spaces, commercial and educational spaces, in this, the first effort to create a contextualized approach to the border and a binational flow of cultural references. inSite’92 created alliances among institutions and cultural agents on both sides of the border. It positioned the border itself as a critical topos of that decade, and as a territory for artistic reflection about the neoliberal politics and their specific impact; it also favored context practices as the defining experimental platform for art at the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century.

Since that first edition, inSite would continue to systematically explore the paths traced by the artistic practices in their discovery of ways to connect to a specific context: the art of installation, site-specific art, public art, collaborative art and art as a result of processes, of situations.