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Al Aire, Libre: An exhibition during confinement

Al Aire, Libre was a public art project between May 16 and 17, 2020, during the confinements in our country. The Brazilian curator Tiago de Abreu was passing through Chile when he was confined without being able to return to his country. During that time, he summoned more than 70 artists to make an exhibition in the city. An ephemeral exhibition in Chile of physical artworks that were connected to the spirit of the project, despite being far from each other, in the context of quarantine. This interview was written collectively by more than 40 collaborators and artists who were part of the great project Al Aire, Libre.

By Ch.ACO Team

Although the exhibition ended, the project has not finished. Tiago de Abreu is writing a book about his experience as curator of Al Aire, Libre, which involved more than 200 collaborators, in addition to more than 70 artists. In addition, he says that a documentary about the experience is being made.

How was the experience working in the project Al Aire, Libre?

What is left from those experiences? Perhaps the chance to stay in a determined context and time? A mark that can last too long or forever? What is the place for what is public? How to trace spaces? Where is the limit of private space? This is infinite and it has had the role of what’s public in the land of lockdown. Among the processes, I proposed myself (and we proposed ourselves) to distinguish an interior from an exterior space. Which translated into stillness and movement. In both my (and our) body it exists underneath, discovering another surface. One from my (and our) interior and exterior body. I had (and we had) so much fear in the creative process. Because it was the first time that I (and we) faced an absolute loss of control over my (and our) own work. It was hard for me (for us) more than other times to decide what to do, what path to take. To show ourselves to the exterior, a way to point out the confinement and the tragedy it carries. We exposed the work that was born out of intimacy to be installed in the context of public art, showing the nature of trauma and the tireless memory of our phobias.

How did the idea come about? What did it involve?

It is a process that generates instability and that subtly reveals marks and scars. To feel connected to many creators that with similar difficulties -because of the pandemic- were simultaneously activating their processes in different parts of the country. To be summoned by a curator that just happened to stay in Chile in the middle of the pandemic. To make actions visible and different from other initiatives that attempted to digitize an exhibition or a Mise en scène of artistic practice, al aire, libre actually sought to recover the physical experience. The last act of will minutes before going into quarantine. The sense of not losing touch with the people (working in the dark, not knowing which directions the other proposals were taking- the generosity of friends, of my friends) through our voices in the midst of silence. To create a strategy to install a piece during a pandemic. The generated trust made the project to develop honestly and experimentally, working with the things I had at hand, which gave a freshness and spontaneity to the moment of making a decision, and to place accents in the strongest idea of the project.

At the same time, I decided (and we decided) to turn the sense of the constructed object around. And I decided (and we decided) many other things. To create something in a brief period, four or five days, a small and exact time limitation to make what we were asked. This small gesture was a meaningful one. From the group of people that shaped their art by intuition and spontaneity, how this product that has been created replicates, again, the emotions that motivated its creation, when exhibited in a time and space that seem stopped, inert.

The idea to participate with a “buried” piece, that it was not visible but present through documentation, seemed both very funny and tragic to us. To disassociate from the idea of an exhibition as a vitrine, to pull back into the territory that holds. To designate areas with gestures of appropriation, from short walks that answer to the exhaustion of repetition, not just of every day, but of the artistic action. It was this short period of time that made me (and made us) think about something that could represent this time of conflict in which repression was replaced by fear (the fear stated from a story as an act of resistance). It takes me (and it takes us) to think of the idea of the singular in times when I see what the power of the masses and similarity imposes.

It meant for us to find an artistic exit to a moment of significant subjective and collective intensity.

How does Al Aire, Libre, its connection with the city, differ from other exhibitions?

Weariness is the least important thing in these times, the tiniest of the tinies of evils. As an element to differentiate from the rest, I don't know what my (and our) singularity has been. But regarding my process, I can say it was fast, almost as fast as the irruption of this whole phenomenon. I edited those compositions until reaching something that was progressively simpler, in which objects seem to create a story independent from what I had planned. Perhaps in this sub-sentence, there’s the key to everything: what is the point of planning today? Secluded in the intimacy of intimate acts, to burn an artwork or to raise a banner, to listen to a song over and over, and to find meaning, insofar all of those elements are memory’s fissures. The place that stayed the same for years turns unknown because everything is different now, and it becomes necessary to rewrite it. My (and our) fragility surrendered to collectiveness. It meant for us to find an artistic exit to a moment of significant subjective and collective intensity.

"Gave me (and us) the emotion to be able to treasure what has always connected me (and us) to art, which is its capacity to rescue me (and to rescue us) from the painful personal processes, to go in the search of the other generating a moment of reunion, of solidarity, of tolerance and diversity"

The topic of equality and human rights was very present in the exhibition, what is the reflection on this?

It exists and it will continue existing as a counter-systemic answer until everyone has a place to live in dignity. Almost as an omen of this narration, finally my (and our) naked body, my (and our) blood flow, was hidden as a result of social censorship. The project only has the remnants, traces of a performance, stained rags, red paintings, fabrics that look like bloody erasings of a body once present.

The doubt of what happened to that body remains, where is it?, it is my (and our) disappeared body. Al aire, libre was a window to a here and now. In these displacements, in these errors, another image appears, or more like “the image” appears, one that is faithful to its own technical conditions, in opposition to a broad concept of installing, or to the hiding of information we were putting into question. This energy gave me (and us) the emotion to be able to treasure what has always connected me (and us) to art, which is its capacity to rescue me (and to rescue us) from the painful personal processes. To go in the search of the other generating a moment of reunion, of solidarity, of tolerance and diversity. From the very stories, empathy as a collective tool emerges, an affective fabric, and subterraneous to the neoliberal logic of competition.

I remembered (and we remembered) the feeling of coming back home from a rally. Of what sometimes was sadness, or an influx of collective energy (we dreamed as one body). This zone had the particularity to activate at instants where the body of each person manifested material and spiritually there, it holds the situation of DASEIN, or Heidegger’s being there, locating in unmeasured time and space (highlighting the difference between two places and two absolutely different temporalities, intensified and distorted by confinement). To work together to socialize subjectivities that seem unreachable. To destroy together dominating models which deny us as subjects. A constellation was formed, one similar to a chain of genetic code. This way the most personal was connected to the planetary. And we could feel the essential and simple of creation as a movement that reaches towards the other. This is how I can (and we can) synthesize the experience of Al aire, libre.


This text was collectively written by:

Álvaro Oyarzún, Ana Navas, Benjamín Ossa, Constanza Alarcón Tennen, Danny Reveco, Francisco Belarmino, Gabriela Carmona, Gianfranco Foschino, Javier Rodriguez, Juan Castillo, Laura Ibáñez Kuzmanic, León & Cociña, Mariana Najmanovich, Miguel Soto, Pamela Iglesias Carranza, Paula Martínez Pastorino, Paz Errázuriz, Pilar Quinteros, Raimundo Edwards, Rodrigo Arteaga, Rodrigo Castro Hueche, Sebastián Mahaluf, Textileras MSSA (Jessica Figueroa, Paula Castillo, Denisse Flores, Tanya García, Ignacia Biskupovich, Soledad García, Carla Ansaldi, Mayi Valdebenito, Juanita Valdevenito, Roxana Carrasco, Jimena Nuñez), Trinidad Lopetegui, Valentina Maldonado, Victor Hugo Bravo, Voluspa Jarpa, Yo Mujer Quiero (Ana Carolina Tapia, Estela Ortíz, Irene Abujatum, Josefina Guilisasti, Marcela Correa, Marisol Lara, Sandra Radic) and Tiago de Abreu Pinto.

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