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Don't Talk to Strangers
We playfully confound two typically distinct spaces—the gallery & the domestic home—as artists will present their work in the households of participating NY residents. In each dwelling, an installation area is designated, while the existing items (i.e. sofas, coffee tables, books, and personal objects) are moved and reinstalled at in a gallery space.

With the artworks thus displaced, gallery visitors must directly contact the private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings.
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Consider Yourself Invited
Two North African artists are invited to Switzerland to speak about their work: one who meets the necessary visa requirements to enter the country and one who doesn’t. These two scenarios, to be presented at the Belluard Festival, are the starting point for a story that won’t be afraid to touch upon the difficult question looming behind its creation and our collective prejudices:

Will the visiting artist overstay his visa to start a new life after his talk in Switzerland?
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Aníbal López at Despacio
Central American Biennial, 2016 at Despacio
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All the Lights We Cannot See
The exhibition, which went virtually unnoticed by the general public, was held April 9 – 12, 2016 on the 23rd floor of the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea.
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Consider Yourself Invited
Two North African artists are invited to Switzerland to speak about their work: one who meets the necessary visa requirements to enter the country and one who doesn’t. These two scenarios, to be presented at the Belluard Festival, are the starting point for a story that won’t be afraid to touch upon the difficult question looming behind its creation and our collective prejudices:

Will the visiting artist overstay his visa to start a new life after his talk in Switzerland?
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Die Revolution in Bern muss verschoben werden
With Marcel Meury, a Swiss performance and installation artist, we made the ‘revolution’ phenomenon and its relevance to today’s society the subject of an elaborate exhibition. The art space became the base of operations for probing research and the testing ground for an attempts to incite a revolution of his own.

What value has a potential, if not realized?
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As Far Away as Home
The idea is simple. As far away as home: Paris to Warsaw is a curatorial initiative featuring Nummer veertien, home (2012), an ambitious video by Dutch artist Guido van der Werve. Even though van der Werve’s videos have been shown in heavyweight art institutions around the world—or perhaps exactly for that reason—the project deliberately took place beyond museum walls.

One work. One route. A myriad of people and outcomes.
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First Day of Good Weather
The group show took place at Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf
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Amongst Those Present
An experimental approach to one of contemporary art's major themes—the "unknown"—this project was executed on the occasion of the grand opening of Réunion. For it, professional safecrackers emptied two ancient vaults, both of which had been sealed for over 20 years. Neither keys nor owners were known, and most importantly, no one knew what lurked within, so the unearthed findings were shared among all present.

The hidden inspires collective imagination, dreams, and art alike.
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Naked Fish Festival
The happening took place on April 2016 at Despacio.
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Consider Yourself Invited
Two North African artists are invited to Switzerland to speak about their work: one who meets the necessary visa requirements to enter the country and one who doesn’t. These two scenarios, to be presented at the Belluard Festival, are the starting point for a story that won’t be afraid to touch upon the difficult question looming behind its creation and our collective prejudices:

Will the visiting artist overstay his visa to start a new life after his talk in Switzerland?
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Eternal One-Night Stand
Art performers, queer artists, and dancers met once again beyond the witching hour – a time when “decent” people are already sound asleep, merely dreaming about unleashing their free spirits. The evening unfolded around one-on-one performances, meaning each visitor will experience each performance on their own.
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Don't Talk to Strangers
Artists present art works in strangers' homes. In each household, an installation area is designated, while existing items (furniture, books, and personal objects) are reinstalled in the art space. With the artworks thus displaced, visitors must directly contact the private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings at the art space.

Installation View: Cory Arcangel at Roland Früh's Home
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First Day of Good Weather
The group show took place at Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf
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La Fontaine Froide
La Fontaine Froide, a reflection of themes involving travel, destination, and contemplation, took the form of a long hike from a wooded location in the mythic Val-de-Travers to an exhibition space. Participants walked together, all the while discussing potential works of art. Upon arrival at their endpoint, it was collectively decided that an impromptu exhibition would be realized.

An art-inspired walkabout, followed by an unpremeditated exhibition.
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No Shoes Allowed
New York-based artist David Horvitz was the first artist in an ongoing series who was asked to send spontaneous installation instructions via email, consisting of no more than two sentences. His directions: “Cover the entire gallery floor with polenta. No shoes allowed in the gallery.” After his vision was executed, Horvitz simply received, again by email, an image of the completed installation.

As no instructions for deinstallation were given, the polenta was left for the birds, literally.
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Aníbal López at Despacio
Central American Biennial, 2016 at Despacio
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Tout est bon dans le poisson
For two nights only, the Réunion was transformed into a fish market, occupied by Charly, Paris’s Michelin award-winning fish vendor. Peddling fish from the art space’s front window, Charly’s quotidian business collided with the world of art, as nightly performances toured underground cultures and explored the limits of new exhibition formats.

Gourmands meet fringe performance art.
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Without the Viewer
Where do we find time to truly engage with art, while being caught between the constraints of hyper availability and keeping up with a fast-pace society? A five-strong crew of artists and curators withdrew from the world into an abstract emptiness to regain what often seemed lost: Time for debate and reflection.

A journey across the Atlantic.
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Julian Charrière at Despacio
Siempre cuenta cuántos cuentos cuentas, 2016 at Despacio
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Tout est bon dans le poisson
For two nights only, the Réunion was transformed into a fish market, occupied by Charly, Paris’s Michelin award-winning fish vendor. Peddling fish from the art space’s front window, Charly’s quotidian business collided with the world of art, as nightly performances toured underground cultures and explored the limits of new exhibition formats.

Gourmands meet fringe performance art.
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Don't Talk to Strangers
Artists present art works in strangers' homes. In each household, an installation area is designated, while existing items (furniture, books, and personal objects) are reinstalled in the art space. With the artworks thus displaced, visitors must directly contact the private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings at the art space.

Installation View: Cory Arcangel at Roland Früh's Home
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A Table
Dreams are necessary in order to help us survive the reality of life. But sometimes we just have to sit down and listen to other people’s dreams in order to realize what reality means outside our own little world. A Table is a Paris-based project that brings homeless people, local residents, curious tourists, creative people, and disorientated strangers together around the dinner table.

A potpourri of people, a feast of food.
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Sometimes Attention Should Be Paid to the Absence of Everything
Buried in the remote Icelandic desert, this one-of-a-kind book is encapsulated in the Kunsthalle Tropical, a contemporary art institution that draws artists to a place where no spectator is ever present. Documenting the Kunsthalle’s mission, the book details the curator’s vision for a new kind of art institution, where possibilities for creative innovation are endless.

The book is buried at +65° 20' 14.76", -15° 51' 8.40" at a depth of 93cm.
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Consider Yourself Invited
Two North African artists are invited to Switzerland to speak about their work: one who meets the necessary visa requirements to enter the country and one who doesn’t. These two scenarios, to be presented at the Belluard Festival, are the starting point for a story that won’t be afraid to touch upon the difficult question looming behind its creation and our collective prejudices:

Will the visiting artist overstay his visa to start a new life after his talk in Switzerland?
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Naked Fish Festival
The happening took place on April 2016 at Despacio.
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Who Runs the Space Now?
The exhibition Who Runs The Space Now? explores the progression from tension to risk, from the tipping point to the inevitable stage of falling. Five international artists intervene with the polarities of maintaining tension and then losing it, which reveals the exciting kinetic potential of objects.

Tension is impressionable.
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Keep the Secret
The Embassy of Switzerland wrote:

"Probably one of the most lively and innovative art galleries in Switzerland, Neue Galerie (now Random Institute) literally breaks with boundaries and moves to London for one month, presenting an exhibition of contemporary Swiss artists dealing with a highly sensitive subject."
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Naked Fish Festival
The happening took place on April 2016 at Despacio.
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Random Institute is a testing ground for new exhibition formats and random ideas
Random Institute is an extension of what a contemporary art institution can be, that is to say, truly unbothered by rules and bureaucracy. Ultimately, it brings together & curatorial and publishing activities.

Since March 2016, Random Institute is running the curatorial program for Despacio in San José, Costa Rica.
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Disappearing Museums

Ongoing: Started on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
65.3375011000
-15.8522764000
Kunsthalle Tropical

Life-sized “drafts” of museum buildings will be realized in three dimensions and installed in the remote Icelandic desert. These sculptural blueprints are composed of salt core, a biodegradable material that naturally dissolves when it comes into contact with water.

It's unpredictable how much rain a desert sees, and this unpredictability will result in beauty, slowly dissolving the structures.

Thoughts
Information

Thoughts about this project appear, change, and disappear constantly. Here is a snapshot of our most recent thoughts:

WHAT ARE THE DISAPPEARING MUSEUMS?

A study in architecture, ephemerality, and locality, the Disappearing Museums project examines environments, both built and natural, through art. Essentially life-sized “drafts” of select buildings, the Disappearing Museums themselves are realized in three dimensions and unexpectedly installed in the remote Icelandic desert. These sculptural blueprints are composed of salt core, a biodegradable material that naturally dissolves when exposed to rain, and as a result, the project aims to decontextualize and re-evaluate architecture as we traditionally know and understand it. In other words, the Disappearing Museums, which are fleeting and displaced, contrast with the sturdy, integrated, and permanent structures of contemporary society. The viewer is thus asked to reflect on the importance of architecture in daily life, as well as to consider ingrained expectations for--and dependence on--such buildings and their surroundings.

Although the project touches on a number of themes, a key characteristic of the Disappearing Museums is their focus on the intrinsically ephemeral, even sculpture-like, nature of infrastructure. Guaranteed to degrade, the drafts demonstrate, albeit in sped-up fashion, the inevitable decline and eventual deterioration of the constructed environment. In this way, evolution and the passage of time are brought to the forefront; the Disappearing Museums poetically point not only to the momentariness of humanity but also to the longevity of nature.

The Disappearing Museums’ unlikely installation in the desolate wilderness of Iceland is also central to the project. An extreme contrast to the buildings’ likely urban environments, this desert locale pointedly draws attention to all that is absent, most notably: communities, infrastructure, and other buildings. The absence of these things at the installation site is further amplified by the presence of the viewer, who, having traveled to this secluded location, also finds him or herself profoundly displaced.

WHY TEMPORARY BUILDINGS?

"The ideal building has three elements; it is sturdy, useful, and beautiful."

In his paramount work, De architectura, the Roman architect Vitruvius identifies durability – or sturdiness – as one of the three key elements that define an ideal building. The Disappearing Museums project explores the longstanding human impulse to realize indestructible structures, and it explicitly subverts this very ideal. The promised decline of the three-dimensional designs upon interaction with weather is central to the project’s conception.

Here, the inevitability of atrophy is prized rather than evaded, offering fresh perspective not only on the objectives of architecture but also on its innate nature. Likewise, as the salt core degrades, the structures function symbolically, pointing to the ephemerality of human life. In these ways and more, the Disappearing Museums project attempts to demonstrate the oft-overlooked significance of the incomplete and the transitory.

WHY NON-FUNCTIONAL ARCHITECTURE?

"Architecture shares the narrative qualities of sculpture at an essential level; both transform the relationship between object and ground into a poetic expression."
Thom Mayne, founder of Morphosis Architects

A dual responsibility to both functionality and aesthetics is indeed at the heart of an architect’s practice. To further explore these qualities, and in particular the artistic elements of a building, the Disappearing Museums project renders given structures non-functional and essentially sculptural. Uninhabitable and incomplete, the Disappearing Museums are in no way utilitarian and are thus aligned more closely to our understanding of the arts than to design, technology, or science.

By thus converting architecture into art, the Disappearing Museums project explores the potential of buildings, structures, and social interaction in a context free of limitations, rules, and common thought patterns. In this unique environment, which might be considered something approaching a utopia, creativity is fostered, enlightened perspectives adapted, and critical discourse encouraged.

WHY EXTENDING THE BLUEPRINTS?

Through the means of an art installation, the Disappearing Museums project offers a new, experimental, and sensory space for designing. The limitlessness of the vast Icelandic desert imposes little restrictions, and traditional pen-to-paper blueprints or scaled-down models are, in the context of the Disappearing Museums project, traded in for more experiential and lifelike renderings.

Translated into three dimensions, yet not fully realized, these building plans are arguably more complete versions of their two-dimensional iterations, as well as more accessible to “readers” of all backgrounds. At the same time, their incomplete states continue to foster creativity, imagination, and ideas.

Neither material nor intangible, neither shapeless nor fully formed, the architect’s draft lies somewhere between a building and the idea of one. By realizing a series of blueprints in salt core, the Disappearing Museums project allows such drafts to briefly occupy a fragment of time and space.

WHY MUSEUMS?

The Disappearing Museums project functions as commentary on the history of museums and their various incarnations in the 21st century. Museums today largely sustain centuries-old values relating to the care, preservation, presentation, and interpretation of cultural artifacts and collections.

In the context of the Disappearing Museums, however, these fundamental responsibilities are released, rendering the time-honored notion of a museum essentially obsolete. Popular conceptions of a museum are also undercut by the structures’ extreme ephemerality, isolation, and weightlessness. All of this is to demonstrate – and ultimately question – the rigid, arguably anachronistic definition of a museum that continues to be accepted by contemporary society.

WHY IN ICELAND?

The Disappearing Museums project is specifically conceived as an installation for the uninhabited landscape of Iceland. In part a nod to Iceland’s rich architectural history, the project demonstrates a deep respect for the nation’s tradition of harmonious relationships between nature and the built environment (the development of grass-and-turf-covered houses comes to mind, for instance). Moreover, the project embraces the unpredictability of the Icelandic weather and the element of chance it introduces into the works’ atrophy.

On a more social and political level, the appearance--and disappearance--of the salt core installations in unspoiled nature demonstrates a harmless approach to building, a particularly striking action against today’s backdrop of global overdevelopment.

Thoughts by Sandino Scheidegger & Lindsey Cash

Who knows when it will finally take place? Good things take time, and we are in no hurry.

Beauty in the Dark

51.3469953000
6.5807420000
Museum Haus Esters

The places we yearn to be are as different as we who long for them. Faraway places created by lonely fantasies and experiences of anxiety. Like the horizon, our yearnings move with us, disappearing and then reemerging once again. They are spiritual resting places that permit us to dream what we will presumably never see—just as we will never see what is concealed beyond the final horizon because we will never cross it.

Essay about Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa.

Thoughts
Information

Read the essay in German: Die Schönheit im Dunkeln (below)


Beauty in the Dark


Portrait Naufus Ramirez Figueroa

The places we yearn to be are as different as we who long for them. Faraway places created by lonely fantasies and experiences of anxiety. Like the horizon, our yearnings move with us, disappearing and then reemerging once again. They are spiritual resting places that permit us to dream what we will presumably never see—just as we will never see what is concealed beyond the final horizon because we will never cross it.

Yearning is common to all of us but can nonetheless scarcely be grasped. Those looking for longing can find it revealed at the wellsprings of art, literature, and the beautiful. In the arts it becomes possible to enter into and experience imagined worlds, and in some cases they even become the pilgrimage sites of a collective longing.

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s oeuvre is one of these longed-for places. The artist, born in Guatemala in 1978, uses his poetic performances and installations to set free emotions that move us. Viewers become fellow travelers, and Ramírez-Figueroa draws them into a fanciful spiritual landscape. In doing so, he repeatedly alludes to his native country. While a homeland represents a harmonious organic situation in life, for Ramírez-Figueroa the narrative model never occurred in that form.

Before we turn to the works of his solo exhibition Two Flamingos Copulating on a Tin Roof at the Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld, it makes sense to briefly trace the path of the artist’s moving biography. It is precisely in the inner dialectic between work and life that we find the special qualities that make his art unique. Like almost no other artist, Ramírez-Figueroa uses extremely intimate works to open up a universal scope and to point to a path leading far beyond art.

Ramírez-Figueroa was born at the halfway point of the Guatemalan civil war. In 1978 the war had already been raging for 18 years. No one had any idea that the same amount of time would have to pass again before peace would be established. Over 200,000 people fell victim to the fighting between the military dictatorships and the guerrillas. Few people remained unscathed, and the artist’s family was no exception. Those who are born into times of war and are unfamiliar with any peace to serve as a point of reference are able to endure a lot—to a certain extent, even the realities of a civil war. However, with the execution of Ramírez-Figueroa’s uncle, things reached an unbearable point. His grandmother set out to flee to the north with the boy, who was only eight.

They left behind the only reality they knew and a family that the war would tear apart more and more until they finally stood divided against one another and engaged in acts that no one wants to read about here, not to mention personally experience.

Stranded as a political refugee in Vancouver, a new life began. This city on the west coast of Canada became a place of retreat, where he could work through his experiences. The pain of leaving was balanced by the joy of arriving. Ramírez-Figueroa’s youth awaited him—that unavoidable waiting area between dreamy play and dutiful action. Responsibility came sooner than expected, with his grandmother becoming severely ill and requiring daily care. As an adolescent, Ramírez-Figueroa accepted responsibility for her care. And with his dying grandmother, his feeling of a homeland in exile also departed.

Surprisingly, the artist conceals the dramatic coordinates of his own life; throughout Two Flamingos Copulating on a Tin Roof, they are at most suggested.

Fettered Flamingos by Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Fettered Flamingos, 2017

The path of anyone entering the exhibition is first blocked by five bound flamingos (Fettered Flamingos). The fragile bipeds, formed out of Styrofoam and covered in pink enamel, twist around as though they want to free themselves from the chains lying around them and flee. Those who look closely will not fail to notice that the slightly deformed creatures look as though they had long since lost their minds. The attempt to set out for new lagoons seems hopeless. Their house arrest has metamorphosed into a new normality—as though they had arranged themselves with and resigned themselves to the reality of their lives.

Liquid Coral by Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Liquid Coral, 2017

Folding partitions stand in a second room, arranged in a circle to protect their interior from view. They subliminally recall a station for medical care and initially conceal more than they reveal. A gap in the row of partitions lures to the inside, where one finds a delicately constructed bloodletting chair. On its armrest is a red glass sculpture in the form of an oversized blood vessel and reminiscent of a piece of coral, corresponding to the work’s name: Liquid Coral. The fragility of the tubular structure has a decelerating effect: In order to take everything in, one must reverently creep in a circle around the chair and the blown-glass sculpture. This generates an intimacy that is overwhelmingly omnipresent—all the more so because the antiquated notion of bloodletting for healing ailments of any kind seems bizarre today and was nonetheless practiced for centuries. This glass sculpture is made of extremely rare, melted-down, red church-window glass, which originally served to divide inside from outside and the worldly from the otherworldly.

Shelf with Medicine Bottles by Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Shelf with Medicine Bottles, 2017

An additional room reveals a peculiar medicine cabinet formed out of roughly worked pink Styrofoam and filled with abstract versions of white containers for storing medicine. The work, Shelf with Medicine Bottles, calls to mind a nervous yearning to be “healed” or the wish to delay what comes at the end of life. The arrangement of the medicine bottles suggests that someone was searching for a cure in a hurry and carelessly rifled through the cabinet. Life as an eternal health-care situation is not anyone’s aspiration, but it is more and more frequently becoming a reality. Consider continuous efforts to keep the constantly aging human body alive as long as possible. Ramírez-Figueroa assures me that suffering also means feeling alive and points to the narrative staging of the foot stepping out of the medicine cabinet.

The installation speaks to the world through an honest sensibility that depicts what people persistently try to ignore with an optimism based on the progress of technology and medicine: that people, as living creatures, are subject to the morbidly gnawing conditions of time—regardless of all the yearning.

Comb Bound Sound by Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Comb Bound Sound, 2017

A further room once again contains an intimate, almost stage-like arrangement of partitions—this time with the fabric dyed blue. In the center is a Venus comb murex (Murex pecten), an extremely fragile sea creature that the artist has had produced from transparent glass. It is modeled on the illustrative watercolor drawings that very often stand at the beginning of his creative process. The work is titled Comb Bound Sound. The dampened sound of music emerges out of the rock snail’s insides. Listen closely and recognize a fandango melody, which causes the spiny shell to vibrate slightly. Fandango is a Spanish-sung dance whose name can be traced etymologically to fandanguero, a word for slaves who secretly performed dances and supposedly brought about a nocturnal tumult. Ramírez-Figueroa has chosen an interpretation by the U.S. harpsichordist Scott Ross, who passed away at far too young an age from complications caused by AIDS and kept his own yearnings and desires concealed, with the result that many of them never clearly resonated through to the outside world.

Every one of Ramírez-Figueroa’s works digs down to unearth deeper geological strata of life and then pauses there. The fact that someone is talking about himself and his life here—without uttering a single word about them—can also be recognized in the exhibition.

His fleeting dream worlds show us where we expect to find beauty but don’t see it. In searching for this beauty, we are rewarded with the feeling that we have found it—as though we were standing opposite beauty for a brief moment within the darkness. Surrounded by the memories and fantasies of one of contemporary art’s most unconventional artists, he teaches us—like no other—that we do not have to see beauty to know that it is indestructible.







Die Schönheit im Dunkeln


Portrait Naufus Ramirez Figueroa

Sehnsuchtsorte sind so verschieden wie die Menschen, die sie herbeisehnen. Ferne Orte; erschaffen aus einsamen Fantasien und gelebten Sorgen. Wie der Horizont bewegen sich unsere Sehnsüchte mit uns, um im Nebel des Lebens zu entschwinden und abermals aufzutauchen. Es sind geistige Ruhestätten, die uns erträumen lassen, was wir wohl nie sehen werden. Genauso wenig wie das, was sich hinter dem letzten Horizont verbirgt, weil wir den nie passieren werden.

Die Sehnsucht ist uns allen gemein und dennoch kaum fassbar. Wer die Sehnsucht sucht, der findet sie freigelegt an der Quelle der Kunst, der Literatur und des Schönen. In den Künsten werden erträumte Welten zugänglich, erlebbar und in manchen Fällen gar zu Pilgerstätten kollektiver Sehnsucht.

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroas Œuvre ist einer dieser Sehnsuchtsorte. Der 1978 in Guatemala geborene Künstler setzt mit seinen poetischen Performances und installativen Werken Emotionen frei, die uns berühren. Betrachter werden zu Mitreisenden, die Ramírez-Figueroa in eine fantasievolle Seelenlandschaft lockt. Dabei verweist er immer wieder auf sein Heimatland. Während Heimat für gewachsene Lebensverhältnisse steht, ist sie für Ramírez-Figueroa ein narrativer Lebensentwurf, der so nie stattgefunden hat.

Bevor wir auf die Werke seiner Einzelausstellung Die Vereinigung zweier Flamingos auf einem Blechdach im Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld zu sprechen kommen, bietet es sich an, einen Streifzug durch die bewegte und bewegende Biografie des Künstlers zu machen. Denn gerade in der innigen Dialektik zwischen Werk und Leben finden sich Besonderheiten, die seine Kunst einzigartig machen. Wie fast kein anderer Künstler schafft Ramírez-Figueroa mit höchst intimen Werken eine universelle Reichweite und weist den Weg über die Kunst hinaus.

Ramírez-Figueroa ist in der Halbzeit des guatemaltekischen Bürgerkriegs geboren. Im Jahr 1978 wütete der Krieg bereits 18 Jahre. Damals ahnte niemand, dass noch einmal genauso viel Zeit vergehen musste, bis sich der Frieden durchsetzte. Den Kämpfen zwischen den Militärdiktaturen und den Guerillas fielen über 200’000 Menschen zum Opfer. Verschont wurden wenige – auch nicht die Familie des Künstlers. Wer in kriegerische Zeiten hineingeboren wird und den Frieden nicht als Referenz kennt, erträgt vieles – bis zu einem gewissen Grad sogar die Realitäten eines Bürgerkriegs. Mit der Exekution von Ramírez-Figueroas Onkel war jedoch die Unerträglichkeit erreicht. Seine Großmutter setzte mit dem erst Achtjährigen zur Flucht in den Norden an.

Zurück ließen sie die einzige Realität, die sie kannten, und eine Familie, die durch den Krieg immer mehr auseinandergerissen wurde, sich letztlich entzweit gegenüberstand und zu Taten schritt, welche man hier nicht lesen, geschweige denn selbst erleben möchte.

Als politischer Flüchtling gestrandet in Vancouver fing ein neues Leben an. Die Stadt an der Westküste Kanadas wurde zum Rückzugsort, um Erlebtes zu verarbeiten. Der Schmerz des Weggehens wurde aufgewogen durch die Freude des Ankommens. Es wartete die Jugend auf Ramírez-Figueroa, der unvermeidliche Wartesaal zwischen träumerischem Spiel und verantwortungsvollem Handeln. Die Verantwortung kam früher als erwartet, weil die Großmutter schwer erkrankte und auf tägliche Pflege angewiesen war. Als Heranwachsender nahm sich Ramírez-Figueroa der Betreuungspflicht an, und mit der sterbenden Großmutter verabschiedete sich im Exil auch das Gefühl von Heimat.

So viel zur Vorgeschichte. Anders als zu erwarten, unterschlägt der Künstler die dramatischen Koordinaten der eigenen Lebensstationen, die sich in der Ausstellung Die Vereinigung zweier Flamingos auf einem Blechdach höchstens andeuten, aber nie aufdrängen.

Gefesselte Flamingos von Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Gefesselte Flamingos, 2017

Wer die Ausstellung betritt, dem stellen sich erst einmal fünf angekettete Flamingos in den Weg (Gefesselte Flamingos). Die fragilen Zweifüßer – geformt aus Styropor und umhüllt mit rosa Lack – verrenken sich, als möchten sie sich aus den herumliegenden Ketten lösen und zur Flucht ansetzen. Wer genau hinsieht, dem entgeht nicht, dass die leicht deformierten Wesen aussehen, als hätten sie längst den Verstand verloren. Der Versuch, zu neuen Deichen aufzubrechen, scheint aussichtslos. Der häusliche Arrest wandelt sich zur neuen Normalität – als ob sie sich mit der Lebensrealität arrangiert und abgefunden hätten.

Flüssigkoralle von Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Flüssigkoralle, 2017

In einem zweiten Raum stehen Faltwände, als kreisförmiger Sichtschutz angeordnet. Sie erinnern unwillkürlich an eine Pflegestation und verbergen vorerst mehr, als sie offenbaren. Eine Lücke in der Reihe der Paravents lockt ins Innere, wo ein feingliedriger Aderlassstuhl steht. Auf der Armlehne findet sich eine rot gefärbte Glasskulptur in Form eines überdimensionierten Blutgefäßes, die an eine Koralle erinnert – so auch der Name des Werkes: Flüssigkoralle. Die Zerbrechlichkeit der röhrenförmigen Struktur scheint unvermittelt zu entschleunigen: Um alles zu erfassen, schleicht man andächtig im Kreis um den Stuhl und die mundgeblasene Glasskulptur herum. Die erzeugte Intimität ist überwältigend allgegenwärtig. Umso mehr, als die antiquierte Vorstellung eines Aderlasses zur Heilung von Leiden jeglicher Art heute abwegig erscheint und doch über Jahrhunderte praktiziert wurde. Bei der Glasskulptur handelt es sich um ein äußerst seltenes eingeschmolzenes rotes sakrales Fensterglas, welches in seiner ursprünglichen Funktion das Drinnen vom Draußen und das Diesseits vom Jenseits trennen sollte.

Regal mit Medizinflaschen von Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Regal mit Medizinflaschen, 2017

Ein weiterer Raum enthüllt einen eigenartigen Medizinschrank, geformt aus grob verarbeitetem rosa Styropor und gefüllt mit abstrahierten weißen medizinischen Aufbewahrungsbehältern. Das Werk Regal mit Medizinflaschen erinnert an die nervöse Sehnsucht, „geheilt“ zu werden, oder an den Wunsch, hinauszuzögern, was am Ende des Lebens uns allen zusteht. Die Anordnung der Medizinflaschen wirkt, als habe jemand in Eile Heilung gesucht und unachtsam im Schrank gewühlt. Das Leben als ewige Pflegesituation ist keine Aspiration, wird jedoch immer häufiger zur Realität, denkt man an unsere andauernden Bemühungen, den unaufhaltsam alternden Körper so lange wie möglich am Leben zu erhalten. Leiden heißt auch, sich lebendig zu fühlen, versichert mir Ramírez-Figueroa und verweist auf die narrative Inszenierung des Fußes, der aus dem Medizinschrank heraustritt.

Die Installation zeugt von einer ehrlichen Empfindungswelt, die wiedergibt, was wir mit technischem und medizinischem Fortschrittsoptimismus hartnäckig zu ignorieren versuchen. Nämlich, dass wir Lebewesen, trotz aller Sehnsüchten, den Bedingungen der morbid nagenden Zeit unterworfen sind.

Comb Bound Sound von Naufus Ramirez Figueroa
Comb Bound Sound, 2017

In einem weiteren Raum findet sich erneut eine intime, fast bühnenhafte Anordnung von Faltwänden, bezogen mit blau gefärbtem Stoff. Im Zentrum steht eine Venuskammschnecke (Murex pecten), ein äußerst fragiles Meereswesen, das der Künstler aus transparentem Glas produzieren ließ. Als Vorlage dienten illustrative Aquarellzeichnungen, welche wie so oft am Anfang seines Schaffensprozesses stehen. Das Werk trägt den Titel Comb Bound Sound. Aus dem Innenleben der Stachelschnecke dringt stumpf Musik. Wer genau hinhört, erkennt eine Fandango-Melodie, die das Stachelkleid leicht vibrieren lässt. Fandango bezeichnet einen spanischen Singtanz, der sich etymologisch auf Fandanguero zurückführen lässt, ein Wort für Sklaven, die heimlich Tänze aufführten und nächtlichen Tumult verursacht haben sollen. Ramírez-Figueroa wählte eine Interpretation des US-amerikanischen Cembalisten Scott Ross, der viel zu früh an den Folgen von Aids aus dem Leben geschieden ist – und eigene Sehnsüchte und Begierden bedeckt hielt, weshalb viele nie deutlich gegen außen erklangen.

Ramírez-Figueroas Werke schürfen allesamt in den tieferen Gesteinsschichten des Lebens und halten dort inne. Dass hier jemand von sich und seinem Leben spricht, ohne ein Wort darüber zu verlieren, ist auch der Ausstellung anzumerken.

Seine flüchtigen Traumwelten zeigen auf, wo wir die Schönheit vermuten, aber nicht sehen. Indem wir diese Schönheit suchen, werden wir mit dem Gefühl belohnt, sie gefunden zu haben – als würden wir der Schönheit für einen kurzen Augenblick in der Dunkelheit gegenüberstehen. Umgeben von Erinnerungen und Fantasien eines der eigenwilligsten Künstler der Gegenwart, der uns wie kein anderer lehrt, dass wir die Schönheit nicht sehen müssen, um zu wissen, dass sie unzerstörbar ist.

The essay has been written by Sandino Scheidegger on the occasion of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa’s solo exhibition Two Flamingos Copulating on a Tin Roof at the Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld. The exhibition was curated by Dorothee Mosters.

Download essay: English, German

Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa lives and works in Guatemala City, Guatemala, and Berlin, Germany. His work has been included in the 57th Venice Biennale (Italy), the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo (Brazil) and he had solo presentations and performances at the Tate (UK), Guggenheim (USA), Ultravioletta (Guatemala), KunstWerke (Germany), Nixon (Mexico City), Despacio (Costa Rica) or the CAPC musée d’art contemporain (France).

Voyage without Geography

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Federico's Studio

Life—or what we generally understand it to be—is a series of moments. There are the rare loud instants and the occasional quiet breaths, but mostly the moments are scarcely audible. Often, is it these seemingly unremarkable moments, ones which are neither preceded by forethought nor directly followed by reflection, that mark the beginning of change.

Essay about Federico Herrero.

Thoughts
Information

Read the essay in German: Reise ohne Geografie (below)


Voyage without Geography


Federico Herrero in Costa Rica

Life—or what we generally understand it to be—is a series of moments. There are the rare loud instants and the occasional quiet breaths, but mostly the moments are scarcely audible. Often, is it these seemingly unremarkable moments, ones which are neither preceded by forethought nor directly followed by reflection, that mark the beginning of change.

What follows is an attempt at tracing the unremarkable moments in the life of Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero , who has for almost two decades resolutely sought these kinds of instances, enjoyed them quietly, and transposed them into a powerful, unbounded pictorial space like no one has done before. Serene and unhurried, Herrero translates everyday life into art, achieving a refreshing deceleration in an increasingly fast-paced art world.

There is no need to brave Costa Rica’s tropical heat to enjoy Herrero’s art. His expansive paintings have been gracing the walls of the world’s most important museums and art fairs with their unmistakable radiance for years. Because of this, I was all the more surprised when I met him for the first time at Zurich’s airport to pick him up for an exhibition. Here was a shy, thoughtful individual who introduced himself as reticently as a humble house painter reporting for work. It was as though he hadn’t at all noticed that the art world—or at the very least those who are widely considered representatives of the community—regard him as one of Latin America’s most important artists.

This rise to acclaim was marked by the 2001 Venice Biennale. There, at the age of 23, he was honored with the Special Prize for Young Artists. This distinction was also preceded by a thoroughly unspectacular moment. If the following anecdote behind this prize were to be given a tabloid headline, it might read: Super-Über-Curator Breaks a Sweat in the Tropics. However, reality is rarely ever able to keep up with the thirst for sensationalism.

It began in 2000, when Swiss curator Harald Szeemann travelled to Costa Rica. While he had long since taken his place on the Olympus of Western art history, by then just the smallest echo of his name had reached the tropics and only within the most European-oriented artistic circles.

In fact, I imagine Szeemann’s visit to the local studio, where he had been invited by the curator Virginia Pérez-Ratton, as rather uneventful. Those of you picturing a momentous encounter of the ostensibly unknown curator with the young, Costa Rican artist in a sun-filled studio are in for a disappointment. There was no meeting, not yet, because Herrero was out.

The story ends even more unspectacularly in a storage room on the lower level of a gallery in the Costa Rican capital of San José. Szeemann was visiting Jacob Karpio, head of what was then the country’s only internationally-oriented art gallery, where a handful of Herrero’s paintings still lingered following a long concluded exhibition.

Karpio recalls how Szeemann drank in one of the colorful painting before declaring he had not been thus stirred by a piece since his first look at a work by Willem de Kooning, one of Abstract Expressionism’s most important protagonists. Two weeks later, the Szeemann called from Europe. Although the list of artists had already been finalized for the upcoming Venice Biennale, which he was curating, he wanted to add Herrero nonetheless. And thus, Szeemann spontaneously invited Federico Herrero to Venice.

For Herrero, Italy’s northeastern city on the lagoon would become the starting point of his voyage of discovery. This is where he first encountered the Western European art circus, a circus which had up to that point only rarely made stops in Costa Rica. Earning the distinction of the best young artist at the Biennale crowned this opening scene.

Federico Herrero with Harald Szeemann
Herrero with Harald Szeemann, Venice 2001

An unexpected increase in attention would cause a shift in the reality and dreams of any young artist. This was certainly the case for the young Herrero. While he went on painting continuously in his studio, he also began travelling the world with his roller and brush, creating wall paintings and other site-specific works commissioned by public collections and institutions (as a matter of principle, he refused to do the same for private collections). However, it was not just the artist who had to learn to deal with an increase in attention. The galleries also had to learn to work with someone who largely avoided the limelight and was sometimes even too shy to appear at his own exhibition openings, much to the surprise of all his collectors and friends. He would often to do things like explore the city alone on foot instead.

He recently assured me that he has since learned to be present for openings.

The artist has never much considered shifting the focal point of his life to the places where his paintings hang on the walls of collectors and private institutions an option. The one exception was his moving to New York, where he went to study. However, this attempt at a life away from his homeland was broken off after just one semester when he began to realize that the art world coupled with the art market represented an equation that just didn’t add up for him.

Creating art requires time for quiet reflection and rest—a combined harmony only rarely found in New York, the city that never sleeps. As such, his further trips abroad have been more like strolls in the fresh air, always ending where they begin: en su casa in Costa Rica.

Federico Herrero at home
Federico Herrero at home, 2017

Two fundamentally different dispositions can often be identified among artists. Some travel around the world and find inspiration for their work in the constant changing and shifting in the focal points of their lives. Travel as the fertile source of all experiences, detachment as the essence of freedom, memories as the waypoints of life.

This is a contemporary life model sustained by the kind of progress that is often glorified and better suited for the accelerated rhythm of everyday life. Standing still is seen as an unproductive doldrum; like boredom, it is scarcely endurable.

For me, Herrero is an exemplary embodiment of the second type of artist, who find themselves on an entirely different journey. They are on their way to themselves, on a voyage without geography, without tangible distance, but with a clear destination. This path progresses not by way of accumulation and diversity, but by way of reduction and routine. It is a movement sustained by moments of calm.

Most writers presumably know moments of this kind: lonely thoughts that form slowly and quietly, taking shape only when they are assembled in sequence. It is in this way that, over time, a profoundly independent artist can emerge, one who is able to escape outside appropriations of his or her work.

Federico Herrero sweeping the floor

Anyone who visits Herrero, walks through his round front door, and spends a night in his unconventional house will know the calm of which I speak, the calm of the routine. It comes in many forms, such as the gentle caressing sounds that can be heard in the early morning, just audible enough to stir guests from their sleep. Those who track down the source of this rustling will find the painter, broom in hand, carrying out his morning ritual of gathering leaves and petals from the patio. Day in and day out, Herrero happily goes over this surface with systematic sweeping motions, like a warm-up exercise for the brush strokes to come.

The leaves and petals fall from the overgrown garden that separates the house from the studio. Like a little rain forest, it provides shade for the latter and, as the sun travels across the sky, it conjures up a captivating shadow theater that incorporates its surroundings, the impression of which can often be recognized in Herrero’s works.

Only a garage door indicates the studio’s original function. Like the house, it is furnished in a manner that we could call extremely minimalistic—or simply humble. Its luxury consists solely in the space and light that enable him to work simultaneously on multiple large-scale paintings.

Studio of Federico Herrero, Costa Rica
Federico Herrero's studio in Costa Rica, 2017

While verbal language serves to bring order to the world around us, Herrero’s unmistakable formal language serves the order of his own mental world and his observations from everyday life.

Colorful fields of neighboring, delimiting, and overlapping hues develop out of the fleeting encounters of shapes and colors. If we take the works’ titles into account, they often permit semi-abstract inferences based on the artist’s unique projections. These are not forced on us. At most, they are gentle suggestions.

Anyone comparing Herrero’s works from the last decade will note the great subtlety of the interaction between their precisely defined vocabulary and the dynamic syntax within which it is utilized.

Herrero’s inventiveness within his self-imposed limitations of color and form is consistently astounding. What looks random is in actuality derived from a regimen that has been nurtured by the artist’s intuition for years. Through this, Herrero always begins from a perspective of unbounded pictorial space, where memories and fantasies are united and images are permitted to remove themselves from any kind of pattern, often transcending the confines of the canvas.

In this way, his paintings become installations that fill entire rooms, spreading across walls, floors, and ceilings, ultimately vibrantly fusing site and work.

It is as if the artist were rebelling against the canvas itself in order to find his way back to the elemental originality of painting—painting that is not defined by what it depicts and how but thrives instead on the substance of individual elements and their interrelationships.

Those who are aware of Herrero’s art and attentively make their way through everyday life will sooner or later find themselves reminded of his paintings in increasingly unexpected places.

These are places the artist has never visited and never painted: urban areas, namely, which seem to exist only when observed. Hidden corners behind buildings, unremarkable curbs in parking lots, plain facades and surfaces where colorful harmonious forms present themselves only to those who are mindful enough to see them. Witnesses to their time, whose existence is pure happenstance. They nonetheless harbor stories we can only guess at.

It is through observations of precisely this kind that we arrange and prepare the world for ourselves, shifting our focus to what would otherwise have escaped just beyond the limits of our attention. In this way, a distinctive form of knowledge and orientation develops, which—like Herrero's art—shifts the processes of vision into the foreground. And it is precisely there where we are constantly moving and getting lost: in the realm of everyday life.







Reise ohne Geografie


Federico Herrero in Costa Rica

Jedes Leben – oder das, was wir gemeinhin darunter verstehen – ist eine Abfolge von Momenten. Von seltenen lauten Momenten, manchmal leisen Atemzügen, aber meistens von kaum hörbaren Augenblicken. Oft sind es gerade die vermeintlich unscheinbaren Momente, welche am Anfang einer Veränderung stehen. Momente, denen weder ein Mitteilungsbedürfnis vorausgeht noch unmittelbar eines folgt.

Der vorliegende Essay begibt sich auf eine Spurensuche nach den unscheinbaren Momenten im Leben des costa-ricanischen Künstlers Federico Herrero , der wie kein Zweiter genau solche entschlossen sucht und findet, sie leise geniesst und seit fast zwei Jahrzehnten in einen eindrücklichen Bildraum ohne Grenzen überführt. Gänzlich unaufgeregt und ohne Zeitdruck übersetzt Herrero den Alltag in die Kunst, stellvertretend für eine lang ersehnte Entschleunigung in der Kunstwelt.

Um Herreros Kunst zu sehen, muss man nicht ins tropisch heisse Costa Rica reisen. Seine grossflächige Malerei strahlt uns seit Jahren unverkennbar von den Wänden der wichtigsten Museen und Kunstmessen der Welt entgegen. Ich war umso erstaunter, als ich Herrero das erste Mal am Flughafen in Zürich für eine Ausstellung empfing: eine schüchterne, bedachte Persönlichkeit, die sich zurückhaltend vorstellte, als würde sich der Mitarbeiter eines Malergeschäfts zur Arbeit melden. Als hätte er nicht mitbekommen, dass die Kunstwelt – oder alle, die stellvertretend für die Gemeinschaft sprechen und gehört werden – ihn mittlerweile zu den bedeutendsten Künstlern Lateinamerikas zählt.

Eine Entwicklung, die auf der Biennale in Venedig 2001 ihren Lauf nahm, als er 23-jährig mit dem Spezialpreis für junge Künstler geehrt wurde. Auch dieser Ehrung geht ein ganz schön unspektakulärer Moment voraus. Und zwar in Form einer Anekdote, die man schlagzeilengerecht etwa so formulieren könnte: Superüberszene-Kurator kommt in den Tropen ins Schwitzen. Aber eben, die Sensationslust wird von der Realität nur allzu selten eingeholt.

Im Jahr 2000 reiste Harald Szeemann nach Costa Rica. Während der Kurator mit Schweizer Wurzeln längst im Olymp der westlichen Kunstgeschichte Aufnahme gefunden und Platz genommen hatte, erzeugte sein Name in den Tropen damals noch kaum ein Echo, zumindest nicht ausserhalb der europaorientierten Künstlerzirkel.

Ja, fast geräuschlos stelle ich mir die Atelierbesuche in Costa Rica vor, die Szeemann auf Einladung der Kuratorin Virginia Pérez-Ratton unternahm. Wer sich nun ausmalt, wie der vermeintlich unbekannte Kurator und der lokale Künstler Federico Herrero in einem sonnendurchfluteten Studio aufeinandertrafen, den muss ich enttäuschen. Zu einer Begegnung kam es nicht – noch nicht –, denn Herrero war gerade unterwegs.

So beginnt und endet die Geschichte viel unspektakulärer. In einem Lagerraum im Untergeschoss einer Galerie in San José. Szeemann besuchte dort Jacob Karpio, der damals die einzige international ausgerichtete Kunstgalerie in Costa Rica führte. Da lagerten von einer längst vergangenen Ausstellung einige wenige Bilder von Herrero.

Karpio erinnert sich, wie Szeemann die farbenfrohe Malerei verinnerlichte und kurzum bekannte: er nehme eine Wirkung wahr, die er bisher nur beim erstmaligen Anblick eines Werks von Willem de Kooning – einem der bedeutendsten Vertreter des abstrakten Expressionismus – kannte. Zwei Wochen später kam ein Anruf des Kurators aus Europa: Die Liste der teilnehmenden Künstler für die von ihm kuratierte Biennale von Venedig sei zwar bereits gesetzt, doch möchte er unbedingt noch Herrero hinzufügen. Und so lud er ihn kurzerhand nach Venedig ein.

Für Herrero sollte die Lagunenstadt im Nordosten Italiens zum Ausgangspunkt einer Entdeckungsreise werden. Hier traf seine Kunst erstmals auf den westlich-europäischen Kunstzirkus. Ein Zirkus, der bis dahin in Costa Rica eher selten Halt machte. Die Auszeichnung zum besten jungen Künstler der Biennale krönte den Auftakt.

Federico Herrero mit Harald Szeemann
Herrero mit Harald Szeemann, Venedig 2001

Eine unverhofft gesteigerte Aufmerksamkeit mag die Realitäten und Träume eines jeden jungen Künstlers verschieben. Sicherlich auch die des jungen Herrero, der einerseits im Studio kontinuierlich weiter malte und andererseits für Wandmalereien und andere ortsspezifische Werke im Auftrag von öffentlichen Sammlungen und Institutionen mit Farbroller und Pinsel die Welt bereiste (für private Sammlungen weigert er sich prinzipiell, ortsspezifische Werke zu schaffen). Doch nicht nur der Künstler musste lernen, mit der gesteigerten Aufmerksamkeit umzugehen, auch die Galerien mussten lernen, mit einem Künstler zusammenzuarbeiten, der das Rampenlicht weitgehend meidet und auch schon mal bei eigenen Ausstellungseröffnungen – zur Überraschung aller Sammler und Freunde – schlicht nicht auftaucht und stattdessen etwa lieber zu Fuss und ganz alleine die Stadt erkundet.

Mittlerweile habe er gelernt, bei Eröffnungen anwesend zu sein, versicherte er mir letzthin.

Seinen Lebensmittelpunkt dahin zu verschieben, wo seine Bilder an den Wänden von Sammlern und Institutionen hängen, schien für den Künstler nie eine Option zu sein. Bis auf einen Studienaufenthalt in New York. Der Versuch eines Lebens ausserhalb der Heimat endete jedoch vorzeitig. Nach einem Semester. Begründet in der Erkenntnis, dass die Kunstwelt gekoppelt mit dem Kunstmarkt eine Gleichung darstellt, die für ihn so nicht aufgeht.

Sein Kunstschaffen braucht Zeit und Ruhe. Eine Kombination, die in New York nur selten als Einklang ertönt. So gleichen bis heute alle seine Reisen ins Ausland Spaziergängen an der frischen Luft, die immer wieder da enden, wo sie beginnen: en su casa in Costa Rica.

Nicht selten lassen sich bei Künstlern und Künstlerinnen zwei grundverschiedene Gesinnungen ausmachen. Die einen reisen um die Welt und finden in der stetigen Veränderung und Verschiebung des Lebensmittelpunkts die Inspiration für ihr Schaffen. Die Reise als Nährboden aller Erfahrungen. Die Losgelöstheit als Inbegriff der Freiheit. Die Erinnerungen als Wegpunkte des Lebens.

Federico Herrero at home
Federico Herrero zu Hause, 2017

Es ist dies ein zeitgenössisches Lebensmodell, das sich vom oft gepredigten Fortschritt ernährt und sich einreiht in die beschleunigte Taktung des Alltags. Stillstehen als unproduktive Windstille, die wie die Langeweile nur schwer zu ertragen ist.

Herrero verkörpert für mich geradezu musterhaft den zweiten Typus von Kunstschaffenden, die sich auf einer ganz anderen Reise befinden. Sie scheinen unterwegs zu sein zu sich selbst, auf einer Reise ohne Geografie, ohne lesbare Distanz, aber mit einer klaren Destination. Dieser Weg führt nicht über Akkumulation und Diversität, sondern über Reduktion und Routine. Es ist eine Reise, die von ruhigen Momenten lebt.

Momente, wie sie die meisten Schriftsteller kennen dürften. Einsame Gedanken, die sich nur langsam und leise formen und erst aneinandergereiht Gestalt annehmen. Erst so entsteht über die Zeit ein zutiefst eigenständiger Künstler, der sich äusseren Vereinnahmungen zu entziehen vermag.

Federico Herrero sweeping the floor

Wer bei Herrero zu Besuch ist und in dem unkonventionellen Haus mit der runden Eingangstür nächtigt, weiss, was die Ruhe bricht. Es ist die Routine. Beispielsweise ein sanft streichendes Geräusch, das frühmorgens die Gäste aus dem Schlaf weckt. Wer dem Geraschel folgt, findet den Maler mit dem Besen in der Hand beim morgendlichen Zusammenkehren von Blättern und Blüten auf dem Vorplatz des Hauses. Tag für Tag. Als wäre es eine Aufwärmübung vor dem Malen, bearbeitet Herrero die Fläche vergnügt mit systematischen Wischbewegungen.

Die Blätter und Blüten fallen vom überwachsenen Garten, der das Haus vom Atelier trennt. Wie ein kleiner Regenwald spendet er diesem Schatten und zaubert im Verlauf des Sonnenstands auf alles Umliegende ein eindrückliches Schattenspiel, das man oft auch in Herreros Werken wiedererkennt.

Lediglich ein Garagentor zeugt von der ursprünglichen Funktion des Ateliers, welches wie das Haus äusserst minimalistisch – oder sagen wir bescheiden – eingerichtet ist. Der Luxus besteht einzig im Raum und Licht, die es erlauben, gleichzeitig an mehreren grossformatigen Gemälden zu arbeiten.

Atelier von Federico Herrero, Costa Rica
Federico Herreros Atelier in Costa Rica, 2017

Während uns die Sprache zum Ordnen der uns umgebenden Welt dient, so dient Herreros unverwechselbare Formsprache der Ordnung seiner eigenen Gedankenwelt und seiner Beobachtungen aus dem Alltag.

Aus Formen und Farben, die flüchtig aufeinandertreffen, entstehen bunte, sich an- und abgrenzend überlagernde Farbflächen. Bezieht man die Werktitel mit ein, lassen diese oft abstrahierte Rückschlüsse zu, geleitet von den ganz persönlichen Projektionen des Künstlers, die sich nicht aufdrängen, die höchstens angedeutet werden.

Wer Herreros Schaffen über das letzte Jahrzehnt hinweg vergleicht, dem fällt auf, wie subtil das Wechselspiel zwischen dem genau definierten Vokabular und dem dynamischen System ist, in welchem es angewendet wird.

Dabei erstaunt immer wieder Herreros Einfallsreichtum bei der selbst auferlegten Farb- und Formlimitierung. Was zufällig aussieht, entstammt vielmehr einer Routine, die sich über Jahre hinweg an der Intuition des Künstlers nährte. Dabei geht Herrero stets von einem Bildraum ohne Grenzen aus, wo sich Erinnerungen und Fantasien vereinen, sich Darstellungen jeglichem Raster entziehen dürfen und sich oft auch von der Leinwand lösen.

Bilder werden zu raumfüllenden Installationen, die sich auf Wand, Boden und Decke ausdehnen und so letztendlich Ort und Malerei auf belebte Weise fusionieren.

Fast als würde sich der Künstler auflehnen gegen die Leinwand selbst, um zur ureigenen Originalität der Malerei zurückzufinden. Eine Malerei, die sich nicht dadurch definiert, was und wie sie etwas darstellt, sondern vielmehr von der Substanz einzelner Elemente und deren Beziehungen untereinander lebt.

Wer sich mit Herreros Kunst auseinandersetzt und achtsam durch den Alltag wandert, der wird sich früher oder später an ganz ungewöhnlichen und neuen Orten an seine Malerei erinnert fühlen.

Orte, die der Künstler nie besuchte und nie bemalte. Urbane Orte nämlich, die nur existieren, wenn jemand hinschaut. Versteckte Ecken hinter Häusern, unauffällige Bordsteine auf Parkplätzen, unspektakuläre Fassaden und Flächen, auf denen sich – für jene, die darauf achten – farbenfrohe und harmonische Formen und Flächen präsentieren. Zeugen der Zeit, die in ihrer Existenz vielleicht zufällig erscheinen und doch eine Geschichte bergen, die sich nur erahnen lässt.

Es sind genau solche Beobachtungen und Visionen, mit deren Hilfe wir uns die Welt zurechtlegen und ins Zentrum rücken, was uns sonst an den Rändern unserer Aufmerksamkeit entwischt. So entsteht eine eigene Form des Wissens und der Orientierung, die genau wie die Kunst Herreros die Prozesse des Sehens in den Vordergrund rückt. Und zwar genau da, wo wir uns ständig bewegen und verlaufen. Im Alltag.

Federico Herrero publication

The essay has been written by Sandino Scheidegger on the occasion of Federico Herrero’s comprehensive monograph published 2017 by Sies + Höke (Düsseldorf) and Verlag Kettler (Dortmund). Further text contributions by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, Lisette Lagnado, and Chris Sharp.

Download essay: English, German

Federico Herrero (born 1978) is considered one of the most important contemporary artists in Central America today. He lives and works in Costa Rica. Solo exhibitions were held at La casa encendida, Madrid; 21st Century Art Museum, Kanazawa, Japan; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Casa de America, Madrid; Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany and CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco. His work has been featured in group exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, the Havana Biennial or the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York or at the Saatchi Gallery, London. All photos of Herrero by the author, except image with Szeemann (courtesy by the artist).

Mutual Misunderstanding

ArchivedHappened in May 2017
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Stadsschouwburg

Random Institute embarks with the theater director Marcus Rehberger on a pioneering experiment: leaving the audience in the dark, as well as the actors. Presenting a theater play that fully develops in pitch darkness it leaves the scenes to the imagination of the public. Well almost. Every few minutes the room is lightened for milliseconds by a flash, revealing an awe-inspiring scenery that proves again and again that imagination might be only a mutual misunderstanding.

Thoughts
Information

The Playtime festival centers around an elastic exhibition, a 12-hour sequence of presentations by international project spaces that experiment with temporality and visibility. Selected were art initiatives that dare to take risks in their programming and identify new trends in art which are often overlooked by institutional frameworks.

Each of these initiatives presents in its own unique way, a project that stretches the boundaries of space in which audience, art and artist collide.

Playtime is organized by K_nstvl___ Platform for Experimental Art Spaces.

This festival runs from May 20th to May 22nd, 2017 at SSBA Salon (Stadsschouwburg) in Amsterdam. Random Institute's contribution to the festival will take place on May 21nd at 4pm.

Further information

  1. Full program
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Other participants: Apice for Artists (Amsterdam, NL), Askeaton Contemporary Arts (Limerick, IE), B32 (Maastricht, NL), Buenos Tiempos, Int. (Brussels, BE), Bureau des Réalités (Brussels, BE), Club Solo (Breda, NL) icw M HKA CODE ROOD (Arnhem, NL), Corridor Project Space (Amsterdam, NL), Deborah Bowmann (Brussels, BE), EMBASSY gallery (Edinburgh, GB), Galerie Gallery (Rotterdam, NL), Le Salon (Brussels, BE), Mertens Frames Project Space by Plan B (Amsterdam, NL), NEVERNEVERLAND (Amsterdam, NL), Nile Sunset Annex (Cairo, EG), Rainbow Soulclub (Amsterdam, NL), RGKSKSRG (nomadic), Samet Yilmaz (nomadic), Kunsthuis SYB (Beetsterzwaag, NL), Treize (Paris, FR), WINDMAKERS (Den Haag, NL) and Kunstverein Zürich (CH).

El Despacio

ArchivedHappened in May 2017

Sandino doesn't buy clothes, at least not like others do. Maybe a pair of jeans a year or so. He doesn't know how to drive a car either, nor is he interested in doing so. He also does't like the beach, but he loves rice and shrimps.

Originally published in Spanish under the title El Despacio in the art magazine RARA (Issue 13).

Thoughts
Information


El Despacio


La Persona

Sandino Scheidegger Portrait

Sandino no compra ropa, al menos no como lo hacen los demás. Compra tal vez un jeans al año. No sabe manejar y tampoco le interesa aprender. Tampoco le gusta la playa, pero sí el arroz con camarones.

Según Leo, tiene el peor gusto musical y no sabe cocinar. Pero no se molesta cuando la cerveza hace charcos en el piso de madera. Le gusta hablar con ingeniosos gifs, y no come pollo. Cuando era pequeño su mamá trató de matar una gallina con un hacha que no tenía lo, Sandino miró.

Se aburre rápido. Cuando no hay mucho que hacer en algún bar, expulsa chorritos de cerveza de la boca, sin piedad, a quien sea. Y se sabe a la perfección sólo un truco de magia con una moneda; ama el queso, el queso por sobre todo lo que existe en este mundo.

Cuando le conté que no conocía la nieve se emocionó por ayudarme. Me explicó los mejores meses para viajar, luego me escribió correos recordándome esto.

El cantautor Carlos Mejía Godoy explicó en una entrevista que: «Para mí, ser sandinista, independientemente de un partido político, es darle vigencia a los principios del general Sandino: honradez, trabajo, amor a la libertad, independencia y dignidad nacional».

Yo no sé si los padres del curador Sandino Scheidegger lo nombraron así en honor al general nicaragüense; pensemos que sí, y que por su nombre corren vertientes políticas, principios y creencias arraigadas a un pedazo de tierra. O en este caso, a un montón de pedazos de tierra. De pequeños mundos, llenos de in nitas posibilidades, todos creados por él.

Sandino nació en enero de 1984, un día en que la nieve cubrió a Suiza más de lo normal. Su instituto de arte contemporáneo, fundado en 2007 junto a su amigo Luca Müller, — Random Institute —, se encuentra en Zurich. Hasta el momento han ejecutado más de ochenta proyectos en Corea del Norte, Latvia, México, Islandia y en medio del Atlántico. Para ambos, una de las facultades que tratan de mantener en la ejecución de cualquier proyecto es el tiempo. Tiempo para leer, investigar, comprender, y para observar. Pero, sobre todo, para conversar; sólo así, con esta disciplina, han surgido algunos de sus más preciados proyectos.

Cuando le preguntan a Sandino sobre su instituto lo explica en un idioma simple. «Crear un acceso a distintos tipos de arte, para distintos tipos de público».

Como parte de la lucha: vida real vs. vida virtual, Sandino trata a través de su instituto, crear espacios donde la gente —sin una pantalla en su cara— pueda conocerse, y crear intercambios que no sucederían en alguna otra cotidianidad. Es decir, crear posibilidades. Por ejemplo, en una exposición curada por Scheidegger puede haber en un mismo cuarto un pescador y un artista parisino tomando café y hablando sobre el precio de la gasolina, algo que no sucede muy a menudo.

En 2013, Random Institute fundó Réunion, otro instituto de arte contemporáneo radicado en Zurich; y Kunsthalle Tropical en Islandia. Este último sólo se puede encontrar siguiendo ciertas coordenadas.

Gran parte de su vida Sandino la pasa en París donde lee —todos los días, por dos horas— distintos periódicos. Después de eso, decide cuáles calles caminar.

Para mantenerse vivo y para mantener con vida su instituto, trabaja dos días a la semana en Suiza, dentro de una o cina convencional, haciendo quién sabe qué.

En septiembre de este año recorrió Guatemala, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, Managua y Panamá en bus. Visitó más de treinta estudios de artistas centroamericanos, y aquí está, bajándose de un avión en Costa Rica, para visitar San José, donde se encuentra la galería Despacio, en la que trabaja curando distintos proyectos: Selected Video Works (noviembre, 2015); Nadie pertenece aquí tanto como tú (marzo, 2016); Nadie Nada Nunca (julio, 2016); Herencias (julio, 2016), y Siempre cuenta cuántos cuentos cuentas (octubre, 2016).

Además, trabaja en uno de sus proyectos más preciados de Despacio: la Biblioteca en Residencia; la cual busca agendas, diarios, zines, o cualquier documento hecho a mano, para exhibir. Ha recibido papeles de artistas como: Diego Fournier (Costa Rica), Sophie Barbasch (Estados Unidos), Diana Abi Khalil (Líbano), Julien Prévieux (Francia), entre otros.

En las o cinas del gobierno, Sandino comparte espacio y labores con un hombre que ama ejercitarse, comer en el carro, y vacacionar (en su casa).

En su casa en Suiza tiene un roommate que se llama Leo, quien trabaja con madera, le gusta escuchar hip hop y colecciona —orgullosamente— cucharas de aviones.



El Lugar

Despacio San José

Cerca de Chelles —un restaurante con más de sesenta años de vida, que nunca cierra y donde sólo los hombres pueden trabajar detrás del mostrador— y cerca de la plaza de la Democracia —donde los miércoles se baila tango y se toma vino— se encuentra Despacio, una galería con más de diez años de vida, creada y liderada por el artista costarricense Federico Herrero.

Cualquier dirección que se le pueda dar a este lugar requiere de un complejo reconocimiento visual de San José: 'De ese lugar donde venden jeans colombianos'. 'Al frente de la pizzería donde también venden casados'. 'Está arriba, donde queda ese lugar en que sacan copias, y los vendedores siempre tienen mala cara'. Por ahí queda. Está en un cuarto piso, lo cual di culta la búsqueda: pocas personas están acostumbradas a mirar hacia arriba a menos que pase un avión.

La entrada es angosta y lo primero que se ve al fondo es un pasillo estrecho y una entrada a la fotocopiadora donde también se pueden hacer llamadas internacionales y usar el Internet. Ahí dentro he compartido aire con chicos con camisas negras que cantan Limp Bizkit mientras buscan porno.

Pero antes de llegar a la entrada de la fotocopiadora hay, a mano derecha, un portón gris, y al lado del portón, botones para ingresar a distintos pisos. Las gradas no son estrechas, pero sí empinadas, lo su ciente para siempre llegar a la galería con el bigote sudado.

En el primer piso no se sabe qué hay; en el segundo tampoco. El tercero funciona a veces como un espacio para extender alguna exposición, pero está en proceso de convertirse en algo más y nalmente arriba está Despacio.

Cuando uno ingresa a la galería hay, de primera entrada, una pared y dos opciones: se puede caminar hacia la izquierda o hacia la derecha. De igual manera se podrá llegar a un cuarto inmenso con un piso de mosaico frío.

En el cuarto de la izquierda hay una ventana gigante, por la cual se pueden ver techos y un último piso de un parqueo. Ahí arriba he visto a trabajadores pavimentar con cemento que ebulle y a un borracho cantar en la acera. También hay una hamaca.

Durante las visitas que realicé, antes de la inauguración de las exposiciones, siempre hubo cerveza fría, vasos plásticos, olor a madera fresca, caras alegres, trabajadores con tatuajes desteñidos, y música para bailar.

Lo justo es decir que sé muy poco sobre el arte y sobre qué debe ser un curador. Pero —en inglés, la única lengua en común— he podido conocer a Sandino, y me hizo creer en una teoría.

En esta. Creo que hay personas que toman ciertas decisiones que los llevan hacia un lugar luminoso, con casas con puertas de madera blanca y azoteas. En esas personas existe algo, una molécula, tal vez, una gota de sangre, puede ser. Es un líquido que viaja por alguna ruta alterna no descubierta, que no tiene nombre, pero que cuando está cerca, se siente. Yo creo que de algo así está hecho Sandino, cazador de elefantes rosados.

The article was originally published in Spanish under the title El Despacio in the art magazine RARA in May 2017: → Download PDF

RARA is a quarterly publication that brings together the latest trends in architecture, contemporary art, design and cultural from Central American and beyond.

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