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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Untold Stories
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Federico Herrero was born in 1978 in San José, Costa Rica. He lives and works in San José. He won the special prize for young artists at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001. He is the founder of Despacio.

Voyage without Geography

9.9703305556
-84.1636361111
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).

First Day of Good Weather

ArchivedHappened in January 2017
51.2227347000
6.7716700000
Sies+Höke

Art history rarely moves in a straight line. Now more than ever, when it comes to a collective notion of Latin American art, there are as many ways to approach it as there are to traversing its nineteen countries and territories. Steering clear of a generalized survey of the region, we choose a more personal path by compiling works from Latin American artists that inspired us throughout our journey over the last decade, bringing to the fore the works, artists, and conversations that we couldn’t possibly forget.

Thoughts
Information

First Day of Good Weather takes as its inspiration and starting point conversations that happened in and around Despacio. While it is true that personal dialogues can result in a filtered perception of reality—the filters as well as the perception being both highly subjective—that same subjectivity seems to be an essential ingredient for a truly independent art space. There are no set guidelines, just a vision that is focused through the discourse of like-minded peers.

The exhibition features artworks by sixteen artists from Central America, the majority of whom have never before shown their work in Germany. Also included are thirteen more Latin American artists who have been at the center of extensive dialogues detailing their profound influence on entire generations of artists, from Mexico’s Rio Grande to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.

Spanning multiple genres and ranging in tone from political to humorous, the works transcend the immediate allure of the exotic to reveal the contagious spirit of curiosity. The artistic propositions are often balancing acts between everyday life and what it means to be an artist in Latin American society—a society which has a long history of wrestling with local and global political crises, colonial capitalism, abuse of power, and the struggles of subsisting day to day.

Art is critical thinking—building an awareness of the inner workings of the mind. But art is also making sense of the situations we find ourselves in. It helps us to accept that there is not such a thing as a single current reality, but rather a myriad of perceptions that together comprise our collective reality. The sum of all of these works is, therefore, much more like a fluid conceptualization of Latin America and its art than it is a static definition.

First Day of Good Weather takes visitors back to where everything began: the conversations with artists that sent our thoughts flying into space to return in new and unusual configurations that would culminate in more than fifty exhibitions and projects over the last decade. The exhibition is a voyage of discovery through the artistic territory of Latin America, far off the beaten path of exotic fantasies, dealing instead with specific experiences and contexts that exist in constant states of evolution. We wait, ever watchful, after each rainy season for that first day of good weather to begin our explorations all over again.

Thoughts by Sandino Scheidegger

The group exhibition opens on January 13th and runs through March 11th, 2017 at Sies + Höke in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Facebook Event

Participating Artists: Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Alejandro Almanza Pereda, Iván Argote, Sol Calero, Javier Calvo, Luis Camnitzer, Benvenuto Chavajay, Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker, Alejandro de la Guerra, Melissa Guevara, Federico Herrero, Walterio Iraheta, Alfredo Jaar, Regina José Galindo, Aníbal López, Teresa Margolles, Adrian Melis, Ronald Morán, Rivane Neuenschwander, Yoshua Okón, Liliana Porter, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Abigail Reyes, Crack Rodríguez, Gabriel Rodríguez, Tercerunquinto, Adán Vallecillo, and Guillermo Vargas Habacuc.

Photo credits and copyright: Images of the art works courtesy of the artist and their respective galleries. Installation views by Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

ArchivedHappened in September 2015
47.5635867000
7.5904474000
I Never Read Art Book Fair
52.5068332000
13.3674023000
Neue Nationalgalerie

Many of life's most interesting situations arise from unexpected encounters with strangers. Don’t Talk to Strangers was conceived to lead viewers into such experiences by integrating the unexpected into the very structure of an exhibition.

The book retraces some of the dialogues that emerged from the exhibitions, which took place in New York and Zurich, somewhere between the openness of an art space and the intimacy of a stranger’s home.

Thoughts
Information

A chance meeting in the street, a vision on the bus ride home, even a website stumbled upon by accident can channel the power of the unknown into richly evocative new experiences.

The dialogues found in this book are a result of the exhibition Don’t Talk to Strangers, which took place in New York and Zurich. What’s special about it? It was conceived to lead viewers toward new experiences by integrating the unexpected into its very structure.

Artists presented their works in the privacy of strangers’ homes, while items belonging to those same strangers (furniture, books, and personal objects) were reinstalled in a public art space. Once the exchange was completed, gallery visitors were invited to ask private hosts, whose phone numbers were available alongside their displayed belongings, about the opening hours of their newly appropriated “home galleries,” a far more personal experience.

Visitors searching for a contemporary art fix were instead led on a pilgrimage in the name of art, replacing the passive act of viewing with an open and unpredictable experience of exploration. The initial disappointment at the lack of works within the art space thus became a chance to discover far more than the art itself in exchange for taking the time to do so.

A stranger’s home offered the perfect setting, the grand stage from which a narrative could weave itself between host, viewer, and work of art, linking private and public spaces and quite possibly making someone’s personal experience an inseparable part of the art on display.

If Don’t Talk to Strangers offered a more personal system for viewing contemporary works, it’s only because those involved with the exhibition accepted a leap into the unknown. Maybe, by reading through some of narratives we’ve retraced as dialogues in this book, you will too.

Get your digital copy: Publication, Cover




BOOK PRESENTATIONS

September 19-21, 2015
Book presentation by Kodoji Press at the Tokyo Art Book Fair at Kyoto City University of Arts, Tokyo.

September 18-20, 2015
Book presentation by Kodoji Press at the NY Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, New York

September 8, 2015
Book presentation at Sundowner, an event series that brings people together every other Tuesday on the terrace of the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.

June 18, 2015
Official book release at the Art Book Fair I Never Read in Basel, Switzerland.


COLOPHON

Home Stories with Cory Arcangel, Alejandro Cesarco, Peles Empire, Selina Grüter & Michèle Graf, Aloïs Godinat, Federico Herrero, San Keller, Karin Lehmann, Richard Long, Thomas Moor, Karyn Olivier, Linda Tegg, Slavs & Tatars, and Strangers.

With special contributions by Ahmet Bugdayci (New York), Samuel Leuenberger (Basel), Cory Arcangel (New York), San Keller (Zurich), and various strangers.

If you want to learn what strangers from a faraway city said to San Keller when he asked to be let into their homes with a copy of this book in his hand, you can call San Keller (phone number is published on page two).

Edited by Sandino Scheidegger & Nicola Ruffo

Publisher: Kodoji Press

Graphic Design: Atlas Studio

Don't Talk to Strangers

ArchivedHappened in February 2015
47.3756400000
8.5290660000
Réunion

Artists present artworks in strangers' homes in Zurich. In each household, an installation area will be designated, while existing items (furniture, books, and personal objects) will be 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 Réunion.

Thoughts
Information

The art world disrupts the private sphere and vice versa

Visiting another’s home leaves a lasting impression. From the authors on the bookshelves to the contents of the refrigerator, a personal dwelling offers almost imperceptible information about one’s life. Much the same, the artistic qualities of memories made in such a home correlate to the environment in which they occurred. This is a pivotal facet of Don’t Talk to Strangers, which atomizes preconceived notions of the gallery proper by casting a peculiar hue on the entrancing properties of that which we cannot live without: art.

Overlap of Public and Private Space

In this reappropriation of an exhibition, artists present installations in the households of participating Zurich residents, rather than in the Réunion art space. Curators work closely with each dwelling’s artist to designate an installation area from which all existing items are relocated and installed at the gallery space.

Once the exchange is complete, viewers are invited to contact private hosts, whose phone numbers are available alongside their displayed belongings, to ascertain operation hours of their newly appropriated “home gallery.”

A Far More Personal Experience

By design, Don’t Talk to Strangers challenges viewers’ expectations and impishly suggests an alternative experience that is far more intimate than typical art viewings in gallery settings. While visitors of Réunion are initially denied access to the work they desire, they find reciprocity in elite-access at the cost of their time.

This inventive model encourages a deeper level of participation by diverting the impulse to passively consume. If the viewer takes full advantage, each visit to the art space offers another phone number, another unique experience, and another opportunity for adventure.

The heightened sense of participation, contacting hosts and making appointments, results in a heightened sense of investment. In this way, Don’t Talk to Strangers’ reaches beyond an exhibition. Viewers searching for a contemporary art fix will be challenged to pursue a pilgrimage in the name of art, allowing exploration to play a role in their eventual experience of the work.

Consequently, the initial disappointment from lack of artwork becomes a chance to discover far more than the artwork itself.

Polyphonic Roles of Host and Viewers

Meanwhile, the host wears many hats—fellow man, homeowner, art expert, guide, and institution. By welcoming viewers into their home, they also welcome the possibility of new perspectives and interpretations of the artwork at hand.

Though the newly-formed relationship between host and viewer may end post-viewing, while together, both parties are of one ambition: to let art happen outside of the institutionalized art world, as well as to rediscover their autonomy as art viewers and enthusiasts.

Such a circumstance, however, also forces the host into a position of influence, just as any art institution influences its patrons. As a result, the host’s life story is on display like the art in their home. This creates a more personal system for viewing contemporary works: an intimate environment that will no doubt lend itself to a fond and vivid memory in the archive of the viewer’s life.

Random Institute entreats its audience to bask in the unknown and to reap the reward of memories, knowledge, and experience. The home of a stranger offers the perfect setting, the grand stage from which a narrative will naturally emerge amongst the trio of host, viewer, and artwork. This narrative becomes both a tale closely linked to the home and, quite possibly, an inseparable part of the artwork displayed in Don’t Talk to Strangers.

ARTISTS  Alejandro Cesarco / Alois Godinat / Cory Arcangel / Federico Herrero / Karin Lehmann / Peles Empire / Richard Long / San Keller / Selina Grüter & Michèle Graf / Slavs and Tatars

Curated by Sandino Scheidegger & Nicola Ruffo

The exhibition took place from February 6th–17th at Réunion in Zurich. Art works could be visited at the apartments of the hosts, independently of Réunion’s hours of operation. → Facebook Event

The first edition of the show took place in New York.

PRESS REVIEW
Tagesanzeiger, Friday, Ron Orp

Kulturplatz SRF (Swiss Radio and Television) with Harald Schmidt:
Entire Report / Bonus Material

SUPPORT
The project is kindly supported by Stadt Zürich and Ernst + Olga Gubler-Hablützel Stiftung. We would like to thank all hosts, as well as Ringer Collection (Zurich) and Galerie Tschudi (Zuoz) for their collaboration.

PHOTOS
Juliette Chrétien (Project Plan) & Matthew Cianfrani (Installation Views)

Sandino ScheideggerJohanna SchaibleBookRamon StrickerJean-Dominique NgankamHoiko SchutterVinzenz MeynerRenaud LodaSebastien VerdonMarion QuartierLaurentino RodriguezNicola RuffoSimone HuserCarlos GonzalezAndreas WagnerSascha LinglingMonika StalderAnnika EbneterHans WirzChristian MesenhollLukas ErardRenato AebiLilian KlosePhillipp SiegenthalerChristophe KuenzlerMarcel MeuryEmanuel SenAnna ErnstJrene RolliRomano StrebelBarbara StreuliStephan AebischerToby MatthiesenAnna RhynEli RhynLorenz HuserMagdalena OberliMichael BaeriswylSimon GrossenbacherJulia WeissDiana Abi KhalilMarco StrickerArnim MahlkeFabian NiklausLuca MüllerResearchLindsey CashMarlen HaushoferMarcel BroodthaersMartha NussbaumMalcolm McLowryMartin SuterMcElweeMichael MooreN.R.KleinfieldNiels van MaanenNietzschePaul D. MillerPaul ÉluardPaul McCarthyPeter MountfordPlatoPopeProustR. P. 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WhiteCharly Le PoissonnierTheaterStrangersAlexis Coco DupontJessica BrasslerAlma EggerSluiceAlberto DiazChen SerfatyOrlando DiazDilara ErbayAhmet BugdayciMally SustickMolly O'BrianCharlotte ColmantLonnie StantonHilary BrownBriana BrownSarah LifsonNola SmithMarco AntoniniStephanie TheodoreKarl EnglandCharlie LevineBen StreetMonia SbouaiLucia Ruiz de InfanteAli Ekber ÇelikJohan AchermannVladimir BessonAngela JimenezElizaveta KonovalovaTarissan AnnaAlexandra GoullierMarion RingevalMathieu CénacGiulia MagnaniDominique MeierMartin Furler BassandDominik WensauerJan MarckhoffRoland FrühFlorian Schmidt-GabainChristoph SchifferliStefan BiglerStefan BumbacherHumberto GollabehUrs SteinerDania MichelCory ArcangelPeles EmpireSelina Grüter + Michèle GrafAlois GodinatRichard LongFederico HerreroKarin LehmannSan KellerAlejandro CesarcoSlavs and TartarsLibraryLuís SilvaJoão MourãoKunsthalle LissabonJoana EscovalRobert FrankTanzhaus ZürichMaria PetschnigDaniel HellmannJamie DiamondMarie-Caroline HominalMica SigourneyMarc StreitJiri KovandaAntonio Da SilvaHuang QingjunJeremy CohenMohamed ArejdalMohammed LaouliValentine UmanskySophie LapaluMatthias RaffelsieperJanosch PerlerMarco Andrea MagniEva & Franco MattesLamia JoreigeJana KapelováMarco AntoniniJiří SkalaBen Thorp BrownSamuel LeuenbergerKodoji PressBook LaunchSchool of Visual ArtsLectureRobert Barryto be announcedJulien PrévieuxSophie BarbaschBarbara HoffmannFrancis AlÿsDavid ClaerboutDouglas GordonGary HillPierre HuygheJoan JonasIsaac JulienWilliam KentridgePaul McCarthyPipilotti RistAnri SalaDiego FournierPrinted MatterNina Beier & Marie LundAnna HugoSwen RenaultNicolás RobbioIván ArgoteFayçal BaghricheJay ChungJulian CharrièreSigurdur GudmundssonAdrian MelisHans EijkelboomBethan HuwsCarey YoungDiego Arias AschJürgen KrauseJens RischBen LongJens SundheimSasha KurmazRonald ReyesHabacuc Guillermo Vargas Paulette PenjeJavier CalvoCamille LaurellieteamMikko KuorinkiThomas GeigerYann VandermeRoger MunozBenvenuto ChavajayMarton RobinsonNicola TrezziSabrina Röthlisberger BelkacemAchraf TouloubAlfredo AcetoAlison KuoClifford E. 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