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What Does New Media Art In Buenos Aires Look Like?

We focus on the some of the artists and organizations making this South American city a creative capital.

by Marina Reyes Franco
Jan 15 2014, 6:17pm

As part of our commitment to covering art, tech, and digital media around the globe, we've reaching out to creators and cultural influencers internationally to get their take on digital aesthetics now. Below, we tapped Marina Reyes Franco of La Ene - Energy New Museum of Contemporary Art for a rundown of evolving culture in Buenos Aires and beyond.

Photo via FDAMCA and Diego Arandojo.

Argentina boasts hundreds of artist-run initiatives, some of which occupy no permanent space at all other than web space. There’s an infinite number of workshops, studios, exhibitions, residencies, and galleries that may or may not have ever sold a work of art in their life, yet thrive culturally and contribute to budding local scenes all over the country. These projects, many of which are documented online at Proyecto CARA (full disclaimer: I'm also co-founder), are often much more interesting than the current exhibits in bigger galleries or museums, often because they are more attuned to artists’ needs in the face of systematic institutional inaction. 

Proyecto CARA allows usersto find local  galleries and organizations by region.

One of the most notable efforts to bring art into the digital realm is the Fundación para la Difusión del Arte Contemporáneo en Mercosur y Alrededores (FDACMA, or Foundation for the Dissemination of Contemporary Art in Mercosur and its Surroundings), an “auteur institution”, according to its founder, artist Lino Divas. FDACMA is only one of Divas’ many uni-personal cultural endeavors, which also includes Fanzineteca (a zine archive), Videoarteca (video art archive), and the all important FDACMA Permanent Collection, comprised of work from emerging artists from the Mercosur economic community-- Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay y Uruguay and other affiliated states (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Venezuela).

FDACMA exists online and takes on various physical forms depending on Divas' travel plans. In 2009 Divas invited several artists to create the "future capital of Mercosur" in ThisIsNotAGallery, each contributing a miniature building or urban area, turning the whole gallery into a model city.Other recent activities also included the 1era Bienal del Pasacalle (1st Banner Biennial), which took place in various public spaces during July 2012 in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina. Hopefuls tweeted messages with the hashtag #bienaldelpasacalle to @fdacma over a 3 day period, after which 20 were selected via online voting.  The chosen messages, which varied in content and character, from “Thanks Google for everything” to “<3 Legal abortion is life <3”- were then turned into banners and placed around town close to existing independent art spaces to help increase their their visibility. 

Lino Divas solo show in Mite.

Flag for La Ene, Lino Divas.

Lino Divas (an alias, not his real name) is also an illustrator, web designer, a creator of his very own online Lino Divas Art Gallery, an art peddler on Mercado Libre (a Latin American Ebay), and an artists’ artist who will probably matter more to insiders than to collectors. Divas work also reminds us of another secretly great artist, Benito Laren (also not his real name). Laren, a self taught artist, first burst into the scene in 1987, when he started creating his paintings on glass, and participated in the tight-knit 90s art scene around the Rojas Cultural Center at the University of Buenos Aires. Laren is also a cheeky megalomaniac with big dreams who wears several wigs á la Warhol, open collar shirts under white suits, and claims to be inspired not just by God, but by Martians. Laren begs the viewer do wondering if his art is or is not a joke. Laren has a particularly unique brand of work, spanning from painting, video, literature, and mail art, to nation building; Laren is actually the king and only citizen of Larenland, for which he has issued postage stamps featuring himself in various poses and sent letters to faulty addresses worldwide, including Saddam Hussein’s, only to have them sent back to him with the other country’s “return to sender” stamp as a sign of recognition. Both Laren and Divas have created personas as part of their work that both feeds from the internet, and constantly adds refreshing new content.

Lino Divas Art Gallery promotional video, Lino Diva$ Art Gallery from lino divas.

The internet and the possibilities of Open Source, along with a lot of low tech and PC related imagery, are closely linked to the output of several Buenos Aires-based artists. There are more conventional venues like Fundación Telefónica, which focuses on “art and technology”, or FASE, an annual exhibition featuring new media art that supports a simultaneously dated and hi-tech version of art that heavily features robots and LED lights.

Currently other artists are also exploring ways in which technology can be used to discuss such varied topics as the cultural institutions, politically correct humor, and even the Patriarchy through gifs, websites and tumblrs, melded with painting, sculpture, and photography. One such artist is Facundo Pires, whose work expands photography, sculpture, and installation, and does so through printing experiments with failing machinery, and researching amateur porn posted online (among other subjects). Mostly, what Pires is really doing is exploring the mechanics and limits of photography, both analog and digital, as well as image manipulation. In his most recent solo exhibition, La línea del horizonte (The horizon line) at Miau Miau Gallery, Pires researched pornographic images and videos amateur performers would post online, retouching them into oblivion.  Some film rolls, already a thing of the past because of digital photography, were encapsulated in clay and displayed on a shelf. A printed photo was displayed lightly resting on a rod that protruded from a wall. Pires is steadily developing an archeological approach to images and paraphernalia: “what did we use this for, again?” 

One of the more PG rated pieces from Facundo Pires' solo exhibition at Miau Miau Gallery.

Facundo Pires, Accurate impressions failed, Inkjet print. 90 x 60 cm. 2011.

Another project that stems from online exploration that's gaining in local (and net) popularity is the Girls of the Internet Museum, founded by Buenos Aires based curator Gaby Cepeda. According to Cepeda, the GIM was “born from a necessity to put together references, works, and context that build sense around the girly internet experience, whether they stem from art or from the most random digital production.” The project came about in November 2012 during a workshop on temporary museums and express exhibition making by curator Pablo León de la Barra at the Centro de Investigaciones Estéticas. For the past year, Cepeda kept working on the project, developing a tumblr-as-museum as a feminine, if not strictly feminist, institution. Integrating post-internet theory and international artists, from Jennifer Chan, Angela Washko or Jesse Darling, who are more upfront about their feminism, to Petra Cortright and Emilie Gervais, as well as the Argentine Laura Códega or Bolivian Narda Alvarado. The GIM manages to exist as both online exploration of “girls”, but also as IRL exhibitions and the ultimate thesis research tumblr.

A collaboration between Adriana Minoliti and Gaby Cepeda.

"Franco Ferrari is another artist fascinated by the idea of museums. First in an apartment show and then at La Ene - Nuevo Museo Energía de Arte Contemporáneo and the University of La Plata, Ferrari has been working with the idea of high art, theft, copyleft and the possibilities the internet provides for creating your own high art Open Source museum. Working with high resolution images stolen from the web, Ferrari prints them -mostly in a 1:1 scale- to play with the idea of the palace-as-museum, that 18th century space that, through revolution, was opened to the public and served as a tool for civilization.  Searching for frescoes by Tiepolo, he found The Immaculate Conception on the Google Art Project -a 100MB file- and became obsessed with the quality of the images he could get online.  He looks for the gloss, crackle and the paintings in their original frames. “It was a matter of improving the internet search to get high resolution pictures. I realized that I could open a museum anywhere.” he says.  Ferrari clearly admires the greatest of the art of the past, but also questions its exclusivity, bringing the masterpieces to Argentina or someone’s home through appropriation, his DIY attitude and a little bit of theft."

Ladrón de Museos by Franco Ferrari

The term post-internet refers to a state of mind that conceives the world as a network; another way of thinking. In the context of these artists’ production, we can apply it to how they create being conscious of the networks they are operating in--from inception to production and how it is distributed. But it doesn’t just apply to how artists produce art, but to how they team up with other art workers to generate other projects. Buenos Aires is an exciting art city mostly because of all the galleries and collectives you might not hear of, yet are essential. Some of the artist-run galleries that have been important in the past few years won’t necessarily be there when their lease expires--Rayo Lazer, Urgente, Inmigrante, Isla Flotante, Bonjour, Big Sur, and Militantes are some of the standouts- but they all would have shaped a generation of artists that conceive their work as part of a greater multi-platformed art world.