Independent Curators International (ICI) supports the work of curators to help create stronger art communities through experimentation, collaboration, and international engagement. Curators are arts community leaders and organizers who champion artistic practice; build essential infrastructures and institutions; and generate public engagement with art. Our collaborative programs connect curators across generations, and across social, political and cultural borders. They form an international framework for sharing knowledge and resources — promoting cultural exchange, access to art, and public awareness for the curator’s role.
Do It Yourself
Do It Yourself
A proposal by Marina Reyes Franco, Gala Berger, Sofía Dourron, and Santiago Villanueva
Every exhibition is a proposition. Every museum is a project.
La Ene, the Nuevo Museo Energía de Arte Contemporáneo, was founded in August 2010 as a critique of the institutional system and the ways that art is circulated, legitimized and produced. The first Contemporary Art Museum in the city of Buenos Aires, La Ene is a critical intervention on its environment, a way of building formats that renew the ways we think of museums. It sets out to question the supposed opposition between the alternative and the institutional. It furthers experimentation and critical thinking on art. It is an open, flexible, dynamic, expansive, and chévere museum.
La Ene is an institution that responds to the needs of a specific environment. It exists because there is a community that demands it, not because of a pre-existing collection in need of shelter or someone to administer it. The Nuevo Museo is a tool that combats the use of art for the sake of the mainstream, and the banalization and corporate globalization of museum as trademark. La Ene is based on a “do-it-yourself” philosophy and the new museology; it is a dynamic and amorphous, inclusive and provocative organism. It is a space of cooperation, communication, and encounter, a host of alternative practices in research and cultural production.
A project like La Ene partakes of two distinct genealogies: one that reacts to local concerns and another involving the broader history of institutional criticism. The first critical institutions emerged in other continents in the 1960’s (like the Moderna Museet in Stockholm or El Museo del Barrio in New York). For too long in Buenos Aires, the discourse on art and the production of many young artists have necessarily enmeshed with commercial galleries. Even today, despite a vast number of independent, artist-run projects in Argentina, the gallery is still the dominant aspirational model. In lack of institutions or government structures that respond to updated policies, or proper funding to further contemporary art practices and the working conditions of cultural agents, La Ene must exist.
La Ene produces exhibitions of local and international artists and curators conceived specifically for its space. It organizes educational events —seminars, workshops, lectures, informal gatherings— that encourage new readings of art history and artistic practices. It has established a network of dialogue between independent projects in Latin America and the rest of the world in order to support artists and to foster an exchange of exhibitions, materials and ideas.
The institution came first, then came the collection. For La Ene, the creation of a collection is not an instance of legitimation, but rather a statement of what can be considered a collection and how it can be built. If, in its founding, La Ene signaled an institutional void, its collection is similarly critical of the way local museums acquire, conserve and put art in circulation — or fail to do so. As an articulated whole, the collection is geared toward a critique of institutions and a reconsideration of the historical on the basis of local specificities. The museum’s collection is stored on a hard drive. What La Ene holds in its collection are not objects, but the rights, granted by the artists, to reproduce works. It is a hybrid set of works that combines traditional notions of collection and archive with features of information technology.
The origin of this collection lies in an analysis of the difficulties that a museum faces in attempting to have a collection, difficulties linked to the conservation and storage of its contents. In La Ene’s new museum format, the collection can be transported and installed anywhere. Its works can be reproduced according to the space they occupy: some works exist in memory; others are printed out, remade, or simply projected. A pixel is a pixel, regardless of location. A memory expands beyond the confines of a building.
Sucursal is conceived as a museum inside another museum, a temporary seat of La Ene in Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). The exhibition mostly consists of a display of La Ene’s collection, as well as archival material pertinent to the activities it has organized since its founding four years ago. In the framework of the exhibition, Radamés “Juni” Figueroa from Puerto Rico and Sofía Olascoaga from Mexico carry out specific projects as part of their residencies. Figueroa presents La Isleña, a living sculpture that creates a link between design resources of tropical-Puerto Rican vernacular architecture and that of the Paraná Delta. The work is a platform that hosts lectures and various music and poetry performances. Olascoaga carries on her research Between utopia and disenchantment on alternative education in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and continues in Argentina. In addition to a lecture about the project, she conducts workshops with other educators, transferring her research on alternative education to the local scene. Lastly, Luis Camnitzer’s work El museo es una escuela [The Museum is a School], which partakes in La Ene’s ideology regarding the social role of the museum, will be exhibited on MALBA’s façade. A postcard with an image of the phrase on the building is also available at the museum shop.
La Ene is not an answer, but many questions. How to have a collection without storage space? How to be political without engaging in proselytizing? How to be a critical and self-reflexive institution? How to build a collection on the basis of physical limitations and the potential for memory?
This New Museum promotes acting outside of established institutions in order to create your own, proposing ideas even when they seem to fall on deaf ears. La Ene will be a success if it outlives us all, if it ceases to be necessary, or if it finally stops being ad honorem, not necessarily in that order.
1. Entrance to the exhibition. Radamés “Juni” Figueroa, La Isleña (2014).
2. Exhibition view. Works by (left to right) Lino Divas, Otto Berchem, Gala Berger and Radamés “Juni” Figueroa.
3. Exhibition view. Works by (left to right) Franco Ferrari, Esteban Valdés, Anonymous, Oficina de Legales, Marcela Sinclair, Felipe Salem and Adriana Minoliti.
4. Exhibition view. Works by (left to right) Lino Divas, Otto Berchem, Sofía Gallisá Muriente, Zaq Landsberg and Nicolás Robbio.
5. Radamés “Juni” Figueroa, La Isleña (2014).
6. Luis Camnitzer, El Museo Es Una Escuela (2009 - present), intervention on the museum’s façade.
About the Curator
Marina Reyes Franco is a Curator at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico (MAC). She received a BA in Art History from the University of Puerto Rico and a MA in Argentine and Latin American Art History at IDAES-UNSAM in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2010, she co-founded La Ene, an itinerant museum and collection. Some recent projects include De Loiza a la Loiza, a MAC en el Barrio public art commission by Daniel Lind Ramos; Resisting Paradise, at Publica, San Juan and Fonderie Darling, Montreal; Watch your step / Mind your head, ifa-Galerie Berlin; The 2nd Grand Tropical Biennial in Loiza, Puerto Rico; Caliban, MAC in San Juan; C32: Sucursal, MALBA in Buenos Aires, and numerous exhibitions at La Ene. As curator and researcher, she has focused on the work of Esteban Valdes, artistic and literary manifestations on the frontier of political action, and the impact of tourism in cultural production in the Caribbean. She received the 2017 CPPC Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean and was nominated for ICl’s 2014 Independent Vision Curatorial Award. Photo credit: Raquel Pérez Puig