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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally, the artists conceived of installations, performances, and interventions to be staged at the Kunsthalle Tropical in the Icelandic desert. It was their intent that the works be executed without an audience.
When the curator and artists realized that they themselves would in fact constitute an audience, the group decided to abandoned plans of journeying to the barren place.
Instead, they stayed in the fishing village of Husavik, where they reworked their plans and settled on a new, oral—and aerial—exhibition format.
Discover what's left of an iconic conceptual artwork that has long been considered lost and untraceable. For one full month, the remains of Robert Barry’s Inert Gas Series (1969) will hover in the air above the Kunsthalle Tropical.
What we see is infinitely less than all we can imagine.
The notorious 1969 Inert Gas Series by Robert Barry consists of five works. For several days in early March, Robert Barry travelled to five outdoor locations in southern California, from Beverly Hills to the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert. At each location, he set free varying amounts of different noble gases.
The infinite expansion of the gases in the atmosphere—“from a measured volume to indefinite expansion”—constitutes the work; a process that is imperceptible, never-ending, and barely graspable even in theoretical models.
Originally, the the Inert Gas Series consisted of verbal descriptions alone. These remained intentionally vague and emphasized the indefinite expansion of the gas. It was impossible to know exactly how the gas would expand, and as a result, the work presented a situation of utter potentiality.
However, photographs of open or broken containers in the landscape were added to the exhibited documentation. It is primarily through this photographic documentation that the work has come to be known. Barry took these photographs as a way of showing that there was nothing to show, as proof of the works invisibility. 
The Inert Gas pieces were never “restaged”. However, since helium is light and rises immediately, it quickly spread all over the globe with the air currents. According to the gas equation there are still around 130,000 helium atoms per square meter of atmosphere. 
Play interview with Robert Barry by James Merle Thomas.
 Extract from the research article "Walking with a Ghost: Phenomenological Explorations of Space in the Works of Robert Barry" by Elise Noyez
 Research by Katrin Hornek for her performance "To Inhale Robert Barry’s Noble Gases and hold them as long as you can, 2007"
The exhibition took place at Kunsthalle Tropical and was open from February 13th to March 14th 2016. More exhibitions at Kunsthalle Tropical from a series initiated by Marcel Meury can be found here.
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.
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.
September 8, 2015Book 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.
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).
Publisher: Kodoji Press
Graphic Design: Atlas Studio