By Chrissie Iles
Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator at the Whitney Museum
Jesús Fuenmayor. Photo: Lisbeth Salas
Artwork photos are linked to the pages in the Photo Tour, with more information.
Chrissie Iles: There is a kind of magic in “Living Structures”; the exhibition unfolds exactly as your opening curatorial statement describes: as a plural experience: aesthetic, sensory, intellectual, emotional, affective, psychological, political, sociological, anthropological. The places in which we encounter the work – convents, schools, private colonial houses, small museums of medicine, ethnography, archeology, a government building, a sanatorium, many with gardens, courtyards, and contemplative spaces – are not dominated by the over-determining presence of the museum as an institution of cultural power. Your sensitivity in choosing artists and works that resonate in and with these spaces, and in bringing together six parallel shows that underline this exploration of art as experience, has created a powerful and important show. Do you think it is possible to create this kind of experience in a sustained way, as an alternative model for exhibition making, or is its magic dependent on the ephemeral nature of the Biennial and the specific vision you had for this show?
Jesús Fuenmayor: I appreciate how your question evinces an acute and sensitive recognition of the considerations that guided my development of the curatorial proposal for the XIV edition of the Cuenca Biennial. Is it possible to turn my curatorial project into a sustained alternative model? Yes and no. Let me explain. I do not have a formula, but I do follow certain principles in my curatorial practice. I always try to build sensible bridges between artworks and the public, a curatorial philosophy discredited by curators focused on marketing and by the corporatism of museum institutions that destroy the artistic experience in the name of a didactic mission (neo-colonialist) and by other distortions that have taken priority like increasing the number of visitors. I always try to work side-by-side with artists and start a dialogue with them. I always try to privilege reflexive works that take into account the spatialities and temporalities specific to each situation. I work from the beginning to end: from the moment in which the work is being conceived until the moment in which the work is exhibited and begins its journey through all of the possible dialogues and interpellations that occur through its public life. I have deep respect for the conceptual and professional rigor of artists and for their ethical and political commitments. But each project is different, as different as the memory and character of each place and moment. I like to think that if exhibitions of contemporary art were designed according to the experiences they produce (instead of popularity or prestige) they would be much more effective in establishing productive relationships. But exhibitions depend on many factors external to their curatorship. If this edition of the Cuenca Biennial serves to think beyond the demands of marketing, didacticism and advertising—and beyond personal agendas that generate an impoverishment of the works’ experience—then I would feel more than satisfied. It is not easy to deal with all the distractions that revolve around an exhibition, but when the artists have the intelligence, willingness and courage, it is worth it. I feel very fortunate to have had the artists’ support and enthusiasm to realize their projects and maintain a productive dialogue at the time of their work’s reception, which is the main purpose of my proposal. I just hope to keep working in this way.