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Doubtful Strait

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Dec 01, 2006 - Feb 15, 2007
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Doubtful Strait
by Clara Astiasarán

Daring to doubt

L'oiseau s'est envolé.
[The bird took flight]

As of 2005, an outstanding project was cooking at TEOR/éTica. The project may have existed already, but it was not until the end of that year that some of us began to receive scattered news that something big was in the making. Already during the first quarter of 2006 the suspicion seemed well grounded, and by mid-year a press conference, Estrecho Dudoso [Doubtful Strait], was under way.

It appears that doubt was the oblique demarcation of a project that at times allowed us to come closer to it, at times not. After the overall information that we had received from the media, the whole set up --the city all filled with artists, the inaugurations-- took us by surprise and soon enough the year had come to a close. Everything was over in the blink of an eye, the way it is when you become momentarily distracted by a bird and suddenly it is no longer there. This is how, near the end of February, I saw Jesús Soto’s Penetrable taking leave of us inside a huge crate and, with its loss, I felt - as in that piece by Félix González Torres - the sensation of all that is ephemeral.

The largest most ambitious visual project to have been carried out in Central America derived its name from doubt. It is not idle to insist on this point. The terminology resulted from a kind of geographical maladjustment involving the obstinacy of the Spanish conquistadors in finding a short route to the Indies. That same misnomer 500 years later spells out a certain crisis concerning the appropriateness of locating an event here that attempts to tighten bonds between artists and the modus operandi of art from a diversity of latitudes, not without first doubting the efficacy and the effectiveness of a method founded upon trial and error.

To put together an event of such magnitude in a country like Costa Rica, and in a region such as Central America, amounts to an act of faith as much as to an act of ideology. The curatorial vision of Tamara Dí¬≠az and Virginia Pérez-Rattón might as well have been sustained by that old war cry (attributed to Gerardo Mosquera at the time): And why are we not the center?, part of the context of the equally old polemic about a center and a periphery. Some are bored by the topic, it is true, but it is also no less true that, had Estrecho Dudoso taken place in New York it would have been covered by the media from both the first and third worlds.

Hence it is worth our while to doubt. It is worthwhile to reconsider whether a context such as ours is prepared for this type of initiative. The tiresome argument about the cultural infrastructure is no longer valid for a project that, in spite of its unevenness, managed to bring together various of the country’s cultural institutions (1), along with the support of the San José Municipality, HIVOS, and a group of local and international sponsors. I am referring to whether it is correct to think that the great art events in this part of the world take place in tourist destinations, as is the case with the Havana Biennial, where everyone pays his way towards a space for talking about art while freeing oneself from fast-food advertisements.

The recurrent apathy of the Costa Rican artistic milieu is more than well known. The latter is verified by institutional studies concerning the art public, by the low level of success for private initiatives involved in smaller sized events, and by daily exchanges with some of the players. In face of all this we have opted -I am not to be excluded- for a naive and possibly irresponsible phrase proclaiming that "they are the ones who are missing out" with the understanding that "they" applies as much to artists, cultural protagonists, as it does to the media and the general

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