Sitting in an improvised radio station in a modernist apartment in Medellín this past August, Colombian curator Juan A. Gaitán, Moroccan curator Abdellah Karroum and myself started a conversation that was recorded with an unfit microphone, an omnidirectional device that captured every sound in the room, instead of just our voices. The curators had bought this microphone without much technical advice or knowledge and were dealing with its characteristics in an experimental way. In a sense, this use of the microphone was maybe emblematic of the whole experience that they were staging in the MDE11 Encuentro de Medellin event. Their method, like the microphone, was effective, but allowed for much unpredictable information to show up in the background. As curators, they had to decide whether that information would be considered as noise or as ambient sound.
The radio project where we recorded our conversation, Radio apartment 22, was invited to Medellin as part of Abdellah Karroum’s larger project Apartement 22 in Morocco, an independent space (apartment) that opened in 2002 in Rabat and is dedicated to contemporary art projects that include publications and expeditions, acting as an autonomous meeting point for production and discussion. Its radio station is nomadic and landed in Medellin, following an invitation from MDE11, one of the largest art events happening in Colombia in recent years. The 2011 version of the Encuentro, curated by Bill Kelley Jr, Conrado Uribe and Nuria Enguita, works on a multitude of levels to explore the idea of education in art production. One of the event’s strategies is to engage with the city through a series of residencies, where local artist-run centers become hosts to other independent spaces from around the globe. This premise opens a space of dialogue for distant and dissimilar experiences and artistic endeavors. These staged meetings can sometimes lead to significant conclusions coming from shared interests or stimulating conversations, and sometimes the meetings are the conclusion in and of themselves; different degrees of exchange arise, pointing to a variety of directions.
Juan A. Gaitán and Abdellah Karroum proposed an approach to the Medellin panorama that developed as a very similar dynamic to that of the ethnographic fieldwork (but devoid of its geographical constraints) through the radio format. As a mobile space of orality for a “blind spectator,” radio called for an immediacy of experience where individuals discussed different instances of social participation with the curators. The interviewees included other foreign guests to the Encuentro as well as local artists and musicians. Among them, Spanish visual artist and anthropologist Pep Dardanya talked about his project with a community in the Moravia neighborhood in Medellin and their collective effort to reconstruct a history and identity of the place through fictional documentation, touching upon the neighborhood’s marginal status within the city. A wide range of experiences were related in the interviews, some of them coming from outside the local scene through skype conversations, as with curator Zoran Eric and his description of his workshops on curating against geographical limitations in Serbia.
I am interested in the particularities of the curators’s method for apprehending a cultural environment without a tangible exhibition, catalogue or other conventional expression for exposing the results of an experience. Internet radio, as a space of communication and exchange beyond geopolitical boundaries offered them a sort of “poetics of transportation” implicit in their notion of Curatorial Delegation. The Curatorial Delegation, whose members vary according to the context, is a mobile logistical human organization implementing specific professional curatorial skills in order to respond to possibilities beyond the museum and to explore uncharted spaces for production and conversation. As a delegation sent from a phantasmal institution existing in ‘the land of curating,’ they approximate individuals and situations in an expanded geography, ‘the land of people and things.’ They observe, listen, expect to be asked, accompany, share and make visible links that are normally obscured by formal, “real” social and political limits. Drawing from radio’s potential as a device for the delivery of ideologies and as an intangible space for alliances, they formulate a utopian intention by utilizing its qualities from a curatorial position that is constantly representing itself as a delegation in an imagined political aural space. The facts that are observed in their expeditions remain connected and significant by means of the medium itself. In a sense, it is as if they are staging during waking time, the same effect that occurs when one falls asleep to the sound of radio. An ambiance is created that influences our dreams, a space of unconscious transformation, an ethereal construct, woven from reality and fiction, in an undefined territory of oneiric politics.