[-empyre-] EXCEDENTES/EXCESS Collabroation

Brooke Singer brooke at bsing.net
Fri May 24 01:20:17 EST 2013


I will chime in about language. I was in the frustrating position of the
only one who does not speak spanish in our recent collaboration
Excedentes/Excess. Spanish was the default language since the commissioning
body was in Madrid. Ricardo took the lead with our collaborator Jose Luis,
and since JL's english is not fluid, they spoke spanish.

This was, honestly, difficult for me. I had to be patient and take the
backseat. We had ambitious ideas and not a lot of time. We were fortunate
to have good funding. But the pressure was on. My frustration was
compounded by the fact that we collaborated for 6 months via
email/skype/google before ever meeting in person. I am not a big fan of
purely virtual communication. There were numerous times I lost my cool
because decisions were made without my input or I thought I was being
misunderstood. There were awkward moments when we couldn't get our ideas
across -- the language and cultural barriers were too tall -- but then when
we broke through there was a lot of celebration and laughter. As I said
before, we were originally matched by a curator who saw commonalities
across our work so there was a good foundation from which we worked.

All of this was a learning experience and something we figured out along
the way. Arriving in Madrid was all the more exciting and rewarding since
we had worked for it; we were more than ready for the hands-on making &
doing together. Language barriers were reduced because we could improvise
with our bodies.

But the language differences are not as memorable to me as the cultural
differences I learned and how that impacted our production/implementation.
The project was focused on the issue of food waste and food rescue. I went
to Ikea in Madrid (where else do artists go in the 11th hour of an
install?) and we ate in the cafeteria. I was not up to the big lunch that
was served to me and when I wanted to ask for a "doggie bag" the woman who
had accompanied me just laughed. You do not ask for such a thing in Spain,
I was told. But we did anyway and there was a lot of confusion and
negotiating. First we were told that they did not have any bags or
containers to put the food into. But we were in Ikea! I could get one. Then
more conversation and the manager was sought and he told us that it was
illegal & a health hazard. The store did not want to be liable if I got
sick from the food after I left (and I thought the US was litigious!). So
that experience worked itself into our project.

Another experience was when we took our carrito into public space. After
gathering the discarded food from the market we wheeled the piece into a
city square and then walked away. I wanted to linger, stand by the cart and
interact with people who approached (but of course I couldn't really in my
broken spanish...). Jose Luis and Beatriz were very firm that we step back
and watch from a distant. And so we did. This could not be seen as charity
or a condescending handout (with historical roots in Francoist Spain).This
began a very informative and useful exchange about socially engaged art,
our methods and the impact of cultural specifics etc.

The third example is one Ricardo brought up already -- how our initial
research in New York informed and transformed the project in Madrid. The
carrito was not a sustainable action because the merchants were afraid to
participate fully because of legality issues. Jose Luis and Beatriz took
the example of the US Good Samaritan Act to lawyers to discuss the model
and how to move forward with something similar in their city to find
solutions to the food waste at point of sale.

I really credit El Ranchito, a program of Matadero, for their inspiring
model of bringing international artists together to collaborate across
borders and their dedication to making transparent the production process
to the public (http://elranchitomadrid.wordpress.com/about/nueva-seccion/).
The exhibition space was cavernous and always abuzz with activity. It was
not unusual for collaborative teams to reach numbers as high as 30. One
such group that we worked alongside that was a small army was Todo por la
Praxis (http://www.todoporlapraxis.es/).


On Wed, May 22, 2013 at 10:55 PM, Renate Ferro <renateferro at gmail.com>wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Ricardo and Brooke (and a bit later for Paul),
> The Excedentes/Excess project is absolutely amazing. My apologies for not
> responding yesterday but I have been finishing up my semester. I had a
> couple of thoughts that I'll just list below. Right now we are wo Internet
> so  I am typing on my phone. Let's see how this works.
> You mention that working between individuals or groups where tensions
> reside can prove challenging but rich. Obviously there can also be not only
> conceptual tensions but also language miscommunications caused by
> translation or the unavailability  of translation. Can you guys talk about
> any language barriers and how you handled that especially during the
> proposal when you used Skype and Google Docs. Or perhaps everyone was
> bilingual?
> Maybe Paul could chime in here as well. Btw thanks for talking more about
> PED. That project was done in China and I can not remember how you handled
> the educational lectures there?  Were they translated?
> Can anyone else talk about their experiences in working in between two or
> more languages? I have worked in Chiapis and China and had frustrations
> when dealing with language and communication.
> Ricardo and Brooke the short film you produced is fantastic!  I burst out
> laughing when I saw the composting bike. Maybe I have a thing about bikes
> but as I said about the PED project and yours ....humor can have a
> provocative and luring affect.
> I will finish in commenting on Paul's last post, I think you downplay the
> importance of humor in PED!
> Cheers to all.
> Sent from my iPhone
> Renate
> On May 20, 2013, at 2:14 PM, Ricardo Miranda Zuniga <ricardo at ambriente.com>
> wrote:
> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> > Hello Everyone,
> > Renate thank you for inviting Brooke and I to join this week's
> > discussion.  I'm going to focus my thoughts on a current collaboration
> > that began virtually in 2011, developed in parallel in Madrid and
> > Brooklyn with an initial action in Madrid and continues to expand now
> > in Brooklyn - EXCEDENTES/EXCESS.
> >
> > In early 2011, the culture and art center Matadero Madrid began an
> > initiative that was to pair Spanish artists with artist from elsewhere
> > to collaborate.  The space and exhibition itself "El Ranchito" would
> > focus on process as art.  One of the curators Nerea Cavillo put us in
> > contact with Jose Luis Bongore and Beatriz Marcos based on mutual
> > interest - very generally that of art as action in the public sphere
> > to question modes of globalization.  (As Paul enumerated - (1) Shared
> > Agendas.) Over a two week period, we used Skype, Google Docs (now
> > Drive) and email to generate the proposal.  And the team
> > EXCEDENTES/EXCESS was awarded residency for Brooke and I and a
> > generous production commission.  As the final culmination of the
> > collaboration was to be presented in Madrid, the proposed project
> > focused on food waste in Madrid at a time of heightened unemployment
> > when a growing demographic was/is turning to dumpster diving for
> > sustenance, but the act of dumpster diving is illegal and may result
> > in a 750 euro fine.  The artists proposed to collaborate with
> > traditional markets (as opposed to supermarkets) to collect food that
> > was to be thrown away at the end of the day and re-distribute on the
> > street.
> >
> > We continued virtual collaboration throughout the summer and fall of
> > 2011 and elected to do the same investigation in Brooklyn as Madrid.
> > In Madrid, the team effectively established relationships with food
> > vendors willing to participate and worked with TODO POR LA PRAXIS to
> > construct a food rescue and re-distribution cart - "Carrito Mermas."
> > In Brooklyn, we discovered the Good Samaritan Law that protects from
> > liability those who give reasonable assistance, including food
> > redistribution and we discovered that a more urgent problem in NYC was
> > all the food waste going to landfill.  Since NYC has some 1200 soup
> > kitchens and City Harvest rescuing food and dumpster diving is not
> > against the law, the Brooklyn research lead to generating ways to
> > deter food from landfill.
> >
> > Brooke and I landed in Madrid, we worked with Jose Luis and Beatriz to
> > assemble all our research for public presentation.  We took the
> > Carrito Mermas out for collection and redistribution and we brain
> > stormed on how to move forward.  The following are a few of the
> > transformations of the collaboration:
> >
> > 1. As Brooke and I explained the Good Samaritan Law in the US, Jose
> > Luis and Beatriz moved to establish a similar proposal in Madrid.
> > Following discussions with law professors and round table was
> > assembled and legal proposal began to take form.  Effectively, the
> > project changed from a food collection cart to 15+ person team
> > including law professionals and community representatives to form a
> > bill that would facilitate the redistribution of good food.
> >
> > 2. In Brooklyn, we have constructed a food rescue and composting
> > quad-cycle that traverses Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Park
> > Slope as spectacle and conversation generator.  We have partnered with
> > one restaurant to collect its organic waste and have established a
> > composting lot.  The goal is that of micro-composting as the problem
> > with composting in NYC is scale (unlike cities like San Francisco or
> > Portland) and to show local businesses that composting is good and
> > saves them money.
> >
> > Most of Paul's points make a lot of sense to us.  This project has
> > grown and transformed due to a shared agenda; parity - a mutual
> > dedication has been necessary; and a slightly different take on
> > nomadism - a similar agenda will have different outcomes based on
> > local issues and agreed that a varying skills or flexibility is
> > essential.  One point of disagreement is 2. The Non-Rational: Working
> > with people that you may disagree with to arrive at a community-based
> > initiative can be more challenging and potentially rich on a
> > social/community basis than collaborating with ones drinking buddies
> > (or whatever ;)
> >
> > We do have a video that presents the various facets of the project in
> > 5 and a half minutes:
> > http://vimeo.com/62918389
> >
> > Best,
> > ricardo
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
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