Behind the Scenes of Ch.ACO - Three Curators Reveal the 2017 Highlights!

August 2, 2017

Chile’s International Contemporary Art Fair, Ch.ACO is an important event in the panorama of Latin American art fairs. Taking place every year during the month of October in Santiago, Chile, Ch.ACO has established itself as a driving force in the country’s art market and industry. It contributes greatly to the professionalization of the art system and the internalization of Chilean art. Over these past years, over 300 galleries from all over the world have participated in the Fair, and the project has roamed through various prominent and iconic spaces in Santiago, welcoming both art professionals and enthusiasts, thus expanding the interest in visual arts to the masses. Coming back for its ninth edition, Ch.ACO 2017 will take place between October 11th until October 15th, 2017 in an under-construction building in Vitacura. The fair will present a program filled with contents that meet international standards including exhibitions, cultural events, contemporary art pieces set in urban spaces, and more.

Besides its main program, the fair has prepared several thematic curatorial programs that explore the most relevant art trends and issues in Latin America. Led by British-Venezuelan curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, the thematic curatorial program Focus will present a reflection on the object-subject relationship in art and in popular culture. Led by Chilean curator Carolina Castro Jorquera, the curatorial program Planta is dedicated to young and independent space from Latin America. Curated by the Chilean editor Camila Opazo, the curatorial program Nave de Ediciones is dedicated to art publications in Latin America. To learn more about this year’s edition of the fair, we had a conversation with these three curators about these different curatorial programs they lead.

Camila Opazo Romero, Carolina Castro Jorquera, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill
Left: Camila Opazo Romero / Center: Carolina Castro Jorquera / Right: Cecilia Fajardo-Hill

Cecilia Fajardo-Hill on the Focus Program

Widewalls: The second edition of the thematic curatorial program Focus will be dedicated to the object-subject relationship in art and in popular culture. Could you tell us more about this concept? 

Cecilia Fajardo-Hill: I would like to extrapolate a little on the final sentence of my blurb: "One of the most important operations of the object in contemporary art in Latin America, is that it expands notions of the daily, of contingency, of the political, and the poetic. These operations erase the distance between object and subject". Even though we may say that the object functions in comparable ways in contemporary art all over the world, there are contextual specificities on how the object may operate in contemporary Latin American art, whereas as a ready made or an assisted ready made, an installation, or a performance. In Latin America, the differentiating discussion about the separation between high and low culture as categories is less relevant. Art in Latin America is often embedded within popular culture - or the so called low culture - meaning the very fabric of daily material culture.

Contemporary art often speaks to and from within the daily and quotidian, in order to extrapolate about larger issues related to society, politics, history, and poetics. The object is transformed, recycled, reinvented through the subjectivity and the conceptualism of the artist, and for this reason, the section is called Object/Subject. It establishes a very close relationship between the subjectivity inherent in objects, and how these same objects are invested in the social circumstances that made them exist in the first place. One of the qualities of the object/subject relationship in contemporary art is that even the simplest and most banal object, or the rejected and discarded in our societies in crisis, may become meaningful metaphors and powerful critical reflections of our present and art.

Widewalls: This curatorial program aims to become a space for dialogue between artists from different countries who elaborate proposals based on a common theme. What are your main guidelines regarding the selection process?

CFH: When I begin working on a theme for a project like Focus, I first think of what I consider are important tendencies and themes of contemporary art in Latin America today and then I begin drafting a list of artists of interest and look at the galleries these artists work with. I then reach out to the galleries with a proposed list of artists I would like to invite. I also study the list of artists from galleries that interest me and often discover new ones that I think would be interesting from the perspective of the theme proposed. Finally, sometimes these same galleries make suggestions of artists I may not know. Each gallery in Focus will be presented with two artists and as a principle, one of the artists needs to be a woman. It is often the case that the artists that have more visibility are men and therefore women are left out. Unless we make a conscious effort for women artists to have the same level of opportunity, we tend to, often without being aware of it, focus on male artists.

Ch.ACO 2014
Ch.ACO 2014; Photo by Michelle Bossy

Carolina Castro Jorquera on the Planta Program

Widewalls: The Planta program will bring together Latin American creation and management projects that focus on adaptability and collaboration, posing alternatives to commercial galleries. How do you think will this program contribute to the growth of these spaces and expanding relationships between them within the continent?

Carolina Castro Jorquera: When I proposed to fair to create a Planta, it was because I had observed that in the Chilean local scene the independent spaces had an important lack: The relationship with the commercial world, collections, and patronage was very small, even distant and there was luck of misunderstanding the market as something negative and not a place to access in a nutritious, natural and fluid way. Then, the local scene needed to urgently relate to the initiatives of neighboring countries and to begin to create the kind of "Latin American union” and share ways of working, to generate exchanges and to be able to observe the different realities that each country lives in relation to contemporary art. Though Planta was born to give place to independent spaces of all across Latin America to propose a new way of looking at the market, which has affected both the art fair itself, bringing freshness and a certain sort of self-confidence, as well as to generate greater closeness and collaboration between the spaces of different latitudes of Latin America. During the art fair, in addition to having each their booth with works of their artists for sale, in Planta, the spaces have daily meetings, work sessions, where they can present themselves to each other in a professional way and generate real alliances.

Here are some of the testimonies of the spaces that will participate in 2017:

Piedras (Argentina): One of our main objectives is to strengthen and project the work of the artists that are part of the project even further, and for that we pay particular attention to our participation in international fairs within sections that may be able to energize the work putting us in relation to projects with which we can share concerns and problems.

Tokyo (Perú): We believe that Planta is an important actor in the Chilean and Latin American art scene. With a resentful appearance as an alternative sector in the fair, we believe that it is quickly possessed of this already managed to capture the attention of an objective public, consumer of art, be it galleries, collectors, spaces or institutions of art, critics or thinkers and the public in general. In Tokyo, we seek to make the most of everything the fair offers and participate as a gallery that wants to know, learn and form links with other spaces or galleries that are in the selection and have the same harmony.

Widewalls: What are the main challenges that young and independent spaces in Latin America face?

CCJ: Without any doubt, the main challenge facing these types of spaces is the economic one. As the curator of this section, in a large percentage my work is focused on helping them to manage the costs of participation that the fair has (stand payment, plane tickets, stay, etc.). From the beginning, when I invite them to participate in the Fair, based on my interest and admiration for their work, the quality of their proposal, the artists they represent and the repercussion they have in their own cities, we quickly began assessing their economic situation: How are you financed? How do we make it possible for you to participate in the Fair? These are the main concerns. In some cases, there is support from public institutions, others from collectors who buy the work of participating artists advance or patrons who support without asking for anything in return, and in many cases, the artists and project managers themselves put money from their pocket to cover those costs. Another great challenge in communication, to make themselves known, but it is something that nowadays works better and better thanks to social networks and online platforms. Anyway, the fair is a place of vital importance to interact with the new public and bring their proposals to a wider audience.

Gallery owners on the challenges:

KM 0.2 (Puerto Rico): The main challenge we always face is economic. In our case, our country is in a long economic recession and as a consequence, there is less aid that we can apply locally as artists. Likewise, our colonial state makes it very difficult for us to seek money through an embassy since Puerto Rico has no embassies in other countries.

UV estudios (Argentina): The main challenge facing young spaces is the duration and sustainability of the project because it is not easy to have the economic resources to develop and grow. There are not as many collectors as emerging spaces, although there are some who are a kind of patrons who help us to participate in fairs or pay rent. As there are no economic resources, there is no possibility of jumping in the production of new works or fairs and at the same time, the growth that the artists need can not be accompanied in all cases.

Ch.ACO 2014
Ch.ACO 2014; Photo by Michelle Bossy

Camila Opazo on the Nave de Ediciones

Widewalls: This year’s edition of Nave de Ediciones, a curatorial program for art publication in Latin America, will be focusing on the topic of the traveling image, a vehicle for the circulation of thoughts and ideas in the Internet era. Could you tell us something about this concept and this year’s featured publishers?

Camila Opazo: A few years ago the digital book was created, postulating a state of democratization of reading; of the possibility of looking at works of art, design, architecture without the need to invest in a trip or a book. The problem is that the idea of digitalisation became an exaggerated consumerism; paradoxically this produced a stagnation of 25% of the electronic book industry about the year 2013. In parallel, a group of artists in different parts of the world decided to return to the Idea of the years 60-70 of the book as an object of art, making the state of consumption more balanced and changing the relationship of belonging to the object.

Today we are confronted with an extreme globalization, immediacy and exigency of simultaneity, which has made us reflect particularly on the figure of the spectator; concluding in two main figures, the absent spectator (looks all digitally), the experiential spectator (lives a positive or negative relationship with the work from experience). Like all sociological phenomena, the end of digitization has reached the exhaustion of the experience, leaving the erotic and the desire for the unassailable, complementing on the side, therefore the relation of the spectator to the work of art is potentially frozen. The publication as an object of travel of the image, in an experiential relationship with the spectator comes to turn the atopos to this inherent communion of the human being with his reality, creative-spiritual.

This year, Nave de Ediciones proposes to deepen this relationship. The invited editors come from several areas of the publishing and art, where in a synergy idea we propose the dialogue of both the theory and the object book to support the hypothesis of this edition. Editors such as Meier Ramirez from Peru, Danilo Montanari from Italy, Chilean Popolets editions are among the guests that will give visibility to the current work of visual arts publications.

Widewalls: With the proliferation of online content, how do you see the future of art publishing?

CO: I believe that parallel paths have now been made between online content and art publications. The online content has a direct relationship with the immediate where it does not necessarily exist as an idea of stock file. But it is an important sustenance of contingent and informative reading. On the other hand, art publications are related to the total experience of the reader, where the material and the idea come together for the reader's imagination and its intellectual expansion.

From the above, I think that the future is based on the coexistence of both worlds.

Featured images: Ch.ACO 2014 and 2016; Photos by Michelle Bossy. All images courtesy of Ch.ACO.