Popping In (Again)

The website for Juanele AR, the bilingual online arts magazine to which I contributed a bunch of stuff last year, went down yesterday afternoon. I worried it was gone forever — and not unreasonably; the project’s been bankrupt for months. But my fears were premature; as of this morning, it’s back.

I’ve already cross-posted most of what I wrote for Juanele on my blog, with one notable exception: a 3500-word narrative feature about a multi-day open-studio-cum-intervention in an abandoned mansion in Las Cañitas that I wanted to call “Popping In” (Juanele called it “The Energy of Open Art”). It’s long, and I already posted the opening paragraphs more than a year ago. But Juanele’s day off was an unexpectedly sharp reminder that online doesn’t mean forever, especially when it refers to the vast stretches of the interwebs beyond my control. So I hope you’ll indulge my posting the whole thing here, punctuated by a few of Andy Donohoe’s pitch-perfect photos.


[Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanele AR.]

Popping In
A Weekend with Poeta and the Red Bull Crew

The original idea was to blow it all up. FInd a crumbling building, assemble a group of artists, give them 72 hours to transform it — and then, kaboom.

“I wanted to remove the idea of possession,” Christian Riffel explained to me, casting his explosive fantasy in a more intellectual hue. Yet the long-disused 1930s Las Cañitas mansion doubling as backdrop for our conversation — a space suddenly teeming with a dozen artists launching into three days of creation — wasn’t going to be detonating any time soon. It was going to become a boutique hotel.

Riffel — a Buenos Aires street artist better known as Poeta — had put his initial plan on hold to organize Pop Up Galleries, the first in a series of artistic “interventions” in “unconventional” spaces. It was to be, he told me, “something very new” in a “very old house.”

Bringing together young creatives from across the visual arts spectrum — street muralists, gallery painters, a photographer, a performance artist — Pop Up Galleries gave its participants a theme (“the passage of time”), three days to work, free supplies, and their own rooms. For two of those three days, Pop Up would invite the public in to watch it all unfold. And then, after one final afternoon of public viewing, it would close its doors, leaving the art to be preserved or destroyed according to the future hotelier’s whims.

Poeta and I were standing in what felt like an impromptu supply room — a gorgeous wood-paneled salon that had weathered its years of abandonment remarkably well, and that the Pop Up crew wasn’t allowed to touch. There, sharing space with paint-splattered tarps, brushes, and a full spectrum of spray paint cans, was a small army’s worth of Red Bull promotional products waiting not to be appropriated (as street artists are wont to do) but deployed. The company’s House of Art campaign — already responsible for a two-year-old artists’ residency in Sao Paulo — was going to make its Buenos Aires debut by bringing Poeta’s vision to life.

Red Bull had given Pop Up its wings. I had come to see if it could fly. Continue reading

Popping In

(Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanle AR.)

My first narrative piece for Juanele AR. It’s an account of my weekend with the 20- and 30-something artists of Pop Up Galleries, a four-day art “intervention” in Las Cañitas. Pop Up is interesting for a bunch of reasons: The building which Pop Up’s artists were given to transform is a mansion located in one of the first of the city’s tenement districts to gentrify; it was disused for decades and now it’s going to be a boutique hotel. Though many of the participating artists work primarily in the street, photographers, performance artists, and gallery artists were also included, and everyone was really excited to see everyone else at work. The general public was invited in to watch the whole process. And the event, which seemed to overflow with street cred, was sponsored by a multinational beverage manufacturer. So there was a lot to work with.

I’ve copied the intro below. You can read the whole thing on Juanele’s website, where you can also see a bunch more of Andy’s photos.

* * * * *

The original idea was to blow it all up.

Find a crumbling building, assemble a group of artists, give them 72 hours to transform it — and then, kaboom.

“I wanted to remove the idea of possession,” Poeta explained to me, coloring his explosive fantasy with a more intellectual hue. Yet the long-disused early 20th Century Las Cañitas mansion doubling as backdrop for our conversation — a space suddenly teeming with a dozen artists launching into three days of creation — wasn’t going to be detonating any time soon. It was going to become a boutique hotel.

Poeta — a Buenos Aires street artist born Christian Riffel and a contributor to the walls of Juanele HQ — had put his initial plan on hold in order to organize Pop Up Galleries, the first in a series of artistic “interventions” in “unconventional” spaces. It was to be, he told me, “something very new” in a “very old house.”

(Poeta. Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanele AR.)

Bringing together young creatives from across the visual arts spectrum — street muralists, gallery painters, a photographer, a performance artist — Pop Up Galleries gave its participants a theme (“The passage of time”), three days to work, free supplies, and their own room. On two of those three days, Pop Up would invite the public in to watch it all unfold. And then, after one final afternoon of public viewing, it would close its doors, leaving the art to be preserved or destroyed according to the future hotelier’s whims.

Poeta and I were standing in what felt like an impromptu supply room — a gorgeous wood-paneled salon which had weathered its years of abandonment remarkably well, and which the Pop Up crew wasn’t allowed to touch. There, sharing space with paint-splattered tarps, brushes, and a full spectrum of spray-paint cans, was a small army’s worth of Red Bull promotional products waiting not to be appropriated (as street artists are wont to do) but to be deployed. The company’s House of Art campaign — already responsible for a two-year-old artists’ residency in Sao Paulo — was going to make its Buenos Aires debut by bringing Poeta’s vision to life.

Red Bull had given Pop Up its wings. I had come to see if it could fly.

(Click here to keep reading.)

(Photo by Andy Donohoe for Juanele AR.)

Link

Last weekend I practically moved into Pop Up Galleries, a project which brought together a diverse group of local artists (some who paint in the street, others who exhibit in galleries, plus a photographer and a performance artist) and gave them three days to saturate a long-disused mansion in Las Cañitas with art, while inviting the public in to watch it all. I devoted nearly every available second of this past week to writing a long(ish)-form narrative about the event for Juanele. The piece will go up tomorrow; in the meantime, Axel Byrfor’s fantastic video offers a peek inside.