Arts Santa Monica

Solid projects form the « Arts, education and territory » exhibition. The show aspires to feature pieces directly relating to particular social contexts. The selection does a good job of bringing slices of human experience in the gallery without losing too much in translation. Of particular interest was Trans_Art_Laboratori, a cross-discipline platform working in ‘real life’ contexts such as schools hospitals. The show focused on the hospital settings, with the research prong mapping previous art projects in this setting. You can peek at the book online; it has enlightening schemas about the different methodologies of collaborations. The field component rolls out projects in a Barcelona hospital. The sanitary setting has a unique set of challenges for artists: enormous institutional and functional constraints, high stake public and non-negotiable space functionality. Going beyond painting on walls, the participatory design and performative aspect of the projects hint at an opening in the medical mentality, a feat in itself. The mere possibility of contemporary art within the institution suggests that improving their quality of life and ultimately the health of patients may no longer be the monopoly of traditional quantifiable science. As a footnote, in Quebec, there is also talk about integrating the Arts in the new hospital complex CHUM. I particularly enjoyed Laia Solé’s documentation of the negotiation process with the hospital in Grada Zero, as it exposes the power dynamics with the decision-makers and her gradual embedding with the local social fabric. Unfortunately, most of the material is in Catalan only, so you’ll just have to trust that my two-week crash course was sufficient and that I’m not simply misreading assembly instructions for children’s inhalers. Do take a look at the book though, the schemas transcend languages.

“Welfare state” is a visually appealing piece about destroying outer-city slums near Madrid. It seems excerpted from a more complete installation documenting the demolition of El Saboral and the relocation of its inhabitants. This background information is unfortunately lost in the show, but the website provides interesting blurbs about the choice of aesthetics. It links – simplistically perhaps- welfare state, hip hop imagery, extreme sports and urban demolition.

Casa Digestiva likens the immigration process to human digestion: settling in a new country is like digesting a new reality. The artist Josep-Maria Martín collects the memories of Mouhamadou Bamba Diop, a paperless Senegalese getting by in Lavapiés, Madrid. What strikes me about the project is the ethical tension in the relation between Martín and Bamba: how do you make art about someone’s struggle without further exoticizing and exploiting them? The project takes concrete steps to regularize Bamba’s situation in Spain, and has morphed into a cooperation project in Senegal. A mutually transformative experience.

Runs until April 3rd.

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