From the Editor

by Claire Ruud

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      Francis Alÿs in collaboration with Cuauhtemoc Medina and Rafael Ortega
      When Faith Moves Mountains, 2000-2002
      Documentary version, DVD
      Included in the 6th Mercosul Biennial

      The buzz of lively conversation filled the air at Fluent~Collaborative this week. A fortnight ago, we picked up Sunday’s New York Times Magazine off our coffee tables and discovered "After Frida," a feature about Mari Carmen Ramirez, Curator of Latin American Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The article revived the specter of a longstanding rift between Mari Carmen and the Blanton Museum of Art. It was no news to us that Mari Carmen doesn’t speak to Gabriel Perez-Barreiro, the Blanton’s Curator of Latin American Art. But the Times made it appear as if the dispute between these curators were more personal than philosophical, quoting Mari Carmen: “He [Gabriel] had to build a position against me to establish his own position, so he has been speaking against the specificity of Latin American art.”

      However, personal rivalries aside, Mari Carmen’s disapproval of Gabriel stems from their philosophical differences regarding the exhibition of Latin American art. Mari Carmen decries Gabriel’s decision to integrate the Latin American art collection with the American collection in America/Americas, the Blanton’s permanent exhibition, which he co-curated with Curator of American and Contemporary Art Annette Carlozzi. To Mari Carmen's mind, people aren’t ready to recognize Latin American art on its own terms yet and exhibitions like America/Americas elide the specificity of this work. They encourage viewers to read Latin American art as “one more expression of everything that happened in the United States or Europe.”

      I once asked Gabriel about the public response to America/Americas and he explained the philosophy behind the exhibition as follows: “I think those classifications [between American art and Latin American art] are academic classifications. When the general public sees the art, they understand what’s going on. Museums are doing a disservice when they separate art by continent because it’s an artificial separation. Almost everybody has some experience of two cultures interacting with one another. Fewer and fewer people live in a mono-culture. They know about these issues because they negotiate them in everything they do. The food they eat, the music they listen to, the newspapers they read—the world is built on negotiation, conversation and encounter between cultures. The people who have been most against the America/Americas exhibition are those who are professionally vested in the separation between Latin America and the United States. Some Latin Americanists and Americanists might see the exhibition and feel like their field of research is being taken away from them. They are the ones who would be most critical of the model.”

      In an interview in this issue, Gabriel discusses his curatorial philosophy and practice and responds briefly to the Times article. Our interview with Gabriel, in conjunction with an interview with independent curator Regine Basha, commemorates the six years this power couple has spent in Austin. (They move to New York this month.) Regine’s interview got our tongues wagging, too. Everyone weighed in on the strengths and weaknesses of the Austin art scene, (Regine offers her opinion in the interview), and we revived our ongoing discussion about AMOA’s New Art in Austin triennial, (we liked the clever alternative Regine suggested.)

      The rest of the buzz at Fluent surrounded this week’s Artist’s Space with former testsite artist Riiko Sakkinen. Although his work initially provoked some controversy among us, (check it out to see why), ultimately we feel that censorship should be avoided. After you take a look at Riiko's work and our conversation with him, let us know what you think.

      In our next issue, look forward to a double feature on Cult of Color: Call to Color—an interview with choreographer Stephen Mills and a review of Trenton Doyle Hancock's sets and costumes—a conversation with art critic Katy Siegel and an Artist’s Space with Rell Ohlson.

      **Quotes from Mari Carmen Ramirez from Arthur Lubow, “After Frida,” New York Times Magazine, March 23, 2006: 54-61 & 69. Quote from Gabriel Perez-Barreiro from conversation with Claire Ruud on February 11, 2008.

      As always, we welcome responses to us or any of our writers at info@fluentcollab.org.

      Claire Ruud is Managing Editor of …might be good.

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