Active arts week on the border

This is a busy week for arts and cultural enthusiasts on both sides of the border. This Wednesday begins a 3 day event in Juarez called 2ndo encuentro(re) imaginando la ciudad desde el borde. This amazing event brings together artists, architects, writers, photographers etc to make presentations and interchange ideas on reimagining the city, and on the events and activities they are currently providing. There are a large number of individuals who tirelessly work to help the city and those of us who live in it, and this is a great opportunity to become acquainted with some of them. This is the second year for this event which is sponsored by coordinacion artes visual UACJ and organized by my frind Brenda Ceniceros and others. Info and schedule can be found on their facebook page.

Thursday night in El Paso brings a night of prints.

Christian Casteneda who has been the featured artist at Proyecto Impala, and therefore been touring various locations and schools in Juarez to show his work, will be holding a print demonstration sponsored by Proper print shop at 601 N. Oregon. (note the address; this is in the new Artspace lofts building). The event is at 7 pm.

Finally, but certainly not least, there is the opening of an exhibition of prints at the Purple pop-up gallery. These have been curated by the tireless Karl Whittaker, who has selected new prints from some of the artists he recently showed a the El Paso Museum of Art as well as some additional artists working in Mexico. -david sokolec

Plans for a Nuevo Siglo

The folks at Los Paisanos de la Chamizal have an ambitious plan for a new huge Hispanic themed festival designed to bring artists and performers from all over the world as well as the inclusion of local talent in what sounds like a wonderful proposition. They have the support of the City and County of El Paso as well as the National Park Service and are looking for local talent, businesses and people in general to join in. Their website is  at Nuevo Siglo-elpaso.org.

I have to say that one of the things I found exciting when I moved here was the Siglo de Oro theater festival at the Chamizal. Under the leadership of the indefatigable Virginia Ness, theater groups and academics from all over the world came to both sides of the border to perform widely varying interpretations of plays from the Golden Age of Spain. I could never figure out why the city and various arts organizations didn’t use this as an opportunity to join hands and create a citywide, or binational wide, festival which would attract theatergoers from all over a la Spoleto festival in Charleston or the Santa Fe Opera. At last there  seems to be a recognition that a festival bringing together local and national talent to the region would be an enormous boost for the region.I’m not sure the new plan is designed to include the Siglo de Oro festival, which has unfortunately been allowed to dwindle to a pale shadow of its former self, or if , as it appears to be, an entirely new type of festival. In either case, it sounds wonderful and good luck to them.-david sokolec

Berlin Juarez- Gut Fiesta

Before too much time elapses, I wanted to just say what a great opportunity we had last week to have an exchange with the team of artists from Project Space Festival Berlin. Thanks to Gabriela Duran Barraza who arranged this and to Nora Mayr, Stine Marie Jacobsen and others who made the trip over here.
This was not about object oriented art, but rather about active exchanges between participants, and learning about different ways that interchange was happening in Germany. It was also about having a party and the lucha libre at the Bazaar de la Monumento or the Hard Pop concert provided a huge amount of fun.
Stine talked about her work with at-risk teens as well as with immigrants. She does something really interesting. They take specific laws and court cases in which they demystify the language and then she has the teens write their own law and give their opinions on how a court case should have been decided. Both of these things helps give them a handle on what the law is really saying in the midst of all the legalise and gives them an opportunity to own it in the sense that once they understand what the law is really saying, they can have a better judgementof it and feel more comfortable discussing it.
Nora also showed a wonderful presentation of the widely varied spaces in Berlin which have been converted to use for art presentation-the spaces often informing the art being shown.
I believe there was also ample interchanges between students here in Juarez and the team from Berlin. This was simply a great time for everyone, and a reminder of something of which I think many people north of the border are unaware, and that is that there really is a huge amount of exchange between artists here in Juarez and artists from various European countries as well as those from South America and it gives everyone a much broader perspective. -david sokolec

Willkommen Project Space Festival Berlin

One of the more exciting events happening this week is the interchange between  artists from Berlin and Juarez in Project Space Festival Juarez, an expansion of Project Space Festival Berlin.
The original idea for Space Festival Berlin was to introduce people to some of the independent art spaces opened in Berlin and thus to start a conversation and an interest in what was going on in that fiercely independent art scene. We are fortunate in having them come to Juarez and to have what should be an amazing interchange between some of our artists here and  artists from there.
The underlying theme for the event is the “Party” as something which brings people together, which fosters community, and which is also a reminder of the extremely rich night life which has been a part of the Juarez fabric for decades. Of course, Berlin also has a rich tradition of night life with its cabarets and experimental theater also going back decades.
Most of the events will take place in the usual places like the Museo de Arte, the new Centro Cultual de la Frontera , and the Bazaar Monu, but also at -where else?-Hard Pop naturally.
This is all happening from the 24th-28th and more specific info about individual events can be found on the Facebook page Projectspacefestivaljuarez as well as on the website Projectspace festivalberlin.
While going to these events, you should also stop by the Project Impala truck to see Francis Alys videos and documentation of his work. The van is parked all this week in front of the Museo de Arte before the exhibition goes to its final stop at La Rodadora.-david sokolec

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catrinas in parade

El Paso Museum of Art is currently showing on its first floor a dazzling array of Catrinas created by Las Cruces artist Wayne Hilton. Hilton, who spent some 5 years on these, and closely examined the work of Mexican artist Jose Guadelupe Posada who is usually  credited with popularizing these figures and using them for satirical purposes.
Hilton has created elaborate costumes, and painstakingly embellished them with all manner of recycled  fabric and odds and ends combined to make some really remarkable creations.His work, which was funded by crowdfunding, has received interest from various museums and institutions around the country. One of these pieces was shown a few years earlier at the museum, and now we have the completed series.


I don’t want to take anything away from the work, but  you do have to wonder about the fact that we are on the border and there are some wonderful Catrina makers on this side of it as we can see at the many varied displays occurring every Dia de los Muertos. I am not one of those people who think that only people from such and such group should have the right to create art which stems from that group’s heritage. I do think one needs to be careful though or there tend to be things like chocolate chip bagels and other culinary heresies or the US way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I want to be quick to say that nothing like that has happened here, but if the museum wanted to display Catrinas I think they might have also reached out to Juarez and El Paso artists as well. This has the whiff of studied culture about it due perhaps more to the well-written, but academic explanatory notes than to the work itself.  I am probably going on too much about this, the work is wonderful and should be enjoyed for itself, but this is an integral part of local culture and I can’t help wondering if the museum shouldn’t have made more of an effort to involve the community. -david sokolec

Francis Alys showing in Juarez

Belgian born artist Francis Alys is arguably one of the best known international  artists currently living in Mexico.He has worked all over the world and been shown in important venues all over the world. Currently he is represented by the influential David Zwirner gallery.

I bring this up because beginning tomorrow (Oct 17) his work will be on view at Alejandro Luperca Morales’s visual movable feast Proyecto Impala. Alys was in Juarez a few years ago on a project literally kicking a fireball down the street. This is typical of his work which involves interacting in various ways with the environment, in ways which usually include a political component or to simply provide a different way of interacting or viewing a given space. He will either work alone or involve members of the community in his activity. Because of this the work seems to fall more properly under the heading of documentation rather than a traditional finished work of art, but as good art can generally be said to change our perception of something, to look at things in a new way, Alys certainly does that following his own path. He apparently likes to invoke the idea of the flaneur (traditionally a stroller of boulevards, a walker so his work often involves strolling through a city or some area . (I can relate to this as being a flaneur is perhaps the only occupation I have asiduously and seriusly pursued over the years.)

It is really exciting to have his work here, and I believe it was due to his connection with local artist and arts promoter Morales (who seems to know a staggering array of people all over the place) that this happened so thank you Alejandro and everyone else involved  for helping make this happen. Mo info on Alys can be found on his website (including that fireball in Juarez), and for when and where the Proyecto Impala will be you can go to their website or Facebook. -david sokolec

 

Chalk the Block Rides Again

A reminder that this weekend is Chalk the Block weekend, and this year features an enormous dragon and the perfect selfie lighting. It’s been great to watch this fair grow and change and become really one of the major family events  in El Paso
The dragon, an enormous multi-ton light breathing monster using a dump truck as a base, is the brain child of Hong Kong artist Teddy Lo and Detroit artist Ryan Doyle. The selfie wall is a modular wall featuring the prospect of a wide variety of lighting situations so you can take the perfect view of yourself. I might be the only person who doesn’t  quite get the point of selfies other than as a possible hedge against dementia. They vaguely remind me of kidnap situations where you are asked to hold up the day’s paper to prove you’re alive, but everyone else seems to love them and this should be quite wonderful.
Among other art events here is also going to be a mural wall anchored by the El Paso Museum of Art and the Convention center. Artists are well-known and seemingly ubiquitous local street artists like Jellyfish collective and Los Dos as well as artists from Albuquerque and elsewhere.
And of course there will be lots of chalk drawings.
In any case the weather promises to be nice and it should be, as always, a lot of fun-david sokolec