On Wednesday March 24, 2010 at 10 am, the Image Factory Art Foundation presented the book landings TEN produced by five-o-one art projects. The 144 page full color book is the last of a set of nine books published as part of the contemporary art project landings involving artists from the Caribbean, Central America and Yucatán, México. The project took off in May 2004 in the town of Conkal, in the outskirts of Mérida, Yucatán in a restored 17th century Franciscan convent.
remarks by Joan Duran / landings coordinator 2003 – present
presentation of landings TEN book / Image Factory Art Foundation, Belize City, Belize / Wednesday March 24, 2010
Good morning, thanks for coming. Yasser forewarned me that students would attend. Good, I thought. To get away from school, even if it’s a quick hit and run, it’s always a positive move and I just hope, when they get back into their schools, that they feel they have learnt a trick or two about life. Or perhaps more and, if that’s so, much better, since LEARNING is –or should be– a way of life. Every day. Every minute.
The LANDINGS project is about LEARNING. And today we have invited you so we could share a few minutes to update you on this project that took off 7 years ago and involved almost 100 young artists and close collaborators –writers, historians, designers, photographers and translators– from 15 nations: Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, the United States and a young Taiwanese artist. And of course, from Belize: 10 Belizean artists, including some already in the diaspora. As a vibrant reflection of the interaction between our countries, landings might mean different things for each one touched by it. There’s nothing I like better than when someone tells me something I never thought of, like when a young Costa Rican philosopher shared the views of his thesis’ director regarding landings: cultural production on the move (no permanent production base/centre).
Yes: ART is about LEARNING. Learning about yourself and your environment, what we keep calling our movie set. Movie sets –that is, where films are shot– are all different and in order to do your work, you better know which one you are in. The trick here is that OUR movie set now encompasses the entire planet. No need to develop the statement.
As artists, we can’t bypass this premise. How on earth can we be artists in these times if we don’t know where we are??? I am not talking a quick GPS answer. I mean: the entire complexity of the planet we are sunk into. Be aware, I am not talking about our chaotic realities but instead about everything we can digest, understand or learn, what is properly stored not only in our laptops or backup drives but properly incorporated into our system of thinking, our behaviours, our conduct, and for that, there is no fast link that money can buy.
The desire to LEARN is the starting point and we –our minuscule band of visual artists–, during the first 3 years of the first decade of this century, decided to find out by ourselves what was the real art world out there –assuming we already had a decent grasp of our realities at home– and, armed with the project that some of you will surely remember, ZERO new belizean art, used it as an opportunity to have a peek into that art world that as artists we would have to deal and play with. And not from a book or by sitting at an art school. We learned from within it. We toured museums, art foundations, galleries, alternative art spaces and art centres and converted XV century chapels into exhibition spaces for the newest art: 10 exhibitions in key cities of our continent and the European Union, putting into practice what we thought we badly needed.
We wanted to show and share what we were doing to an art planet that didn’t even think we existed, while we learned how the system works and examined its rules. We also –for the first time– landed –so to speak– into the Caribbean Biennial and the Havana Biennial, twice in both, sharing space and experiences with talented artists from all over our regions and the rest of the world. We LEARNT a lot.
We realized that many –-short of saying the majority– of the young artists, specially within our geopolitical regions –the Caribbean, Central America, and that unique component of Mexico which is Yucatan, so dear for many of us for multiple reasons, personal or historical–, were in general terms, somehow blinded by the shining imperial art world ruling across the planet through its museums/shopping malls, art galleries/investment bankers-wall street brokers, collectors/money launderers…
Many of the artists were silently obsessed with making it into the Big Leagues of the art powerhouses in the metropolis, the big art collections, the big art fairs, the largesse of some grants and residences. Obsessed with beefing up their CV’s or obtaining those grants or scholarships as an excuse to go abroad and play the cards well and see if they can remain behind the lines… Well, if not on the first try, we all know that one grant, one residency brings up another and so on and on and the hope is always there: to get away from were we come from, from where we live –and in our particular area of interest and concern– the goal is always go up, up north, Miami, which for so many Latin artists seems to be their Mecca, and further up north, to New York or wherever. Wherever but home.
Home is not good enough, they say. Is that the way we, as artists but also citizens of this vast region encompassing the Caribbean and Central America, is this how we will contribute to the development of our –in most cases– smashed societies??? Is this how we will be contributing to the urgently needed development in all fields imaginable??? Well, certainly not for me or for us here at this Image Factory.
At one point, many, many years ago, we realized we could do better than that. Much better than to assume the submissive role of hooking ourselves into an art system that is based on its own selfishness, which literally sucks the best brains into its system for its own grandeur. Worst of all, sometimes even those who rule our own countries feel proud and even try to get nationalistic mileage out of those who put their personal benefits over the country’s needs and triumphed abroad, settled there and with their militancy to the imperial system, ironically keep fuelling the same system that as we all know is a major cause of why we are what we are. And among a vast array of shortcomings, we have to add the deficiency of having art considered as a pastime, a hobby, as decoration or as something just unnecessary.
Having accomplished the warming up and basic learning through ZERO new belizean art, a few days after its conclusion we came up with the idea of networking with all those young artists we had met or heard about through our ZERO and Biennial expeditions in the different regions during the past 3 years. We felt the momentum was there. Carpe diem. landings was born and launched 1 year after, May 7, 2004 in Conkal, Yucatán.
What does all that have to do with the launching of a particular book, landings TEN? The book is the last and final of the series of exhibitions and events which we decided on 2002/3 that the first phase of the project would have. Not one more or one less. TEN. Whatever was to show and learn, we had plenty of time, plenty of opportunities. We certainly worked, exhibited and learnt a lot.
Artists worked together, travelled all over, and in many cases fought the most unexpected battles in order to keep the project alive and therefore to keep LEARNING every day, not only acquiring the knowledge and experiences that we didn’t have but most importantly, LEARNING about the power of fighting for what we believe in versus the standardized conduct of playing the game of those who lure you with a giant shiny plastic vacuum cleaner into the art career and market scene that ironically and maliciously is the cause of the disaster our societies are in as we speak. Perhaps, better than with words, this ferocious system could be far better explained by drawing with your fingers in the air, forming a geometrical figure like a hub of an international airline covering the world with one-way flights only.
So, for us, certainly for me and surely for a good bunch of the artists that have teamed up during these 7+ years, to celebrate the publishing of the final book of the project reflecting our work and our ways to see the planet is not a final landing or final touch down. There is no touch down other than for refuel and taking off again because in landings, every day is a TAKE OFF.
The work to be done in that field of human development we call ART, that is or should be so important in any society, is gigantic. Am I dramatizing? No way. We are so confused and we have been so misled and uneducated in that field that the only way to keep happily advancing is to realize deep down that ART is vital for our souls and brains, and if we believe that –as I certainly have since I was 15 or so–, then we won’t want to contaminate or pollute no one’s souls or brains with silly art. With flippant decorative products. For that we can go to Mirab. We need to be fed strong art, the art that has the power and energy to affect other people’s lives for the better. Obviously, that equation can only exist as the result of a PROCESS made with dignity, humility and profound knowledge of life as it is today, here and elsewhere. When that happens, art might somehow manage to take us into the future.
So, who are the artists here??? A hell of a question. Many will disagree with me but artists are not made. Artists are born. What society might be able to do is to provide situations where our young people are exposed to art. This is the heart of the whole papaya, as we call it. The whole issue here is that percentage-wise, the same way I have read that societies in which the murder rate goes over 30 or so per 100,000 inhabitants per year are then in a kind of a civil war (sic), well I am certain there must be endless studies on why and how artists pop out of societies, on what percentages and how many of those are into what interests us, the contemporary ARTS, and I am sure the numbers are an echo of their exposure to events they felt they could relate to, and were motivated by or inspired by. That’s how they were catapulted into the orbit –the necessary one– of CONTEMPORARY ART.
So, future is one thing… present is another but for that, perhaps better than me, Yasser would be able to share with you some thoughts on this black book he keeps calling the black box of landings, never mind that the black boxes on airplanes are kind of fluorescent orange.
Belize News results for landings
Channel 5 NEWS
Channel 7 NEWS