Art residency: cemeteries / by Kerri McGill

By the second week in the artist residency,  my only real accomplishment is the purchase of a crappy pair of sneakers... The only art I've made aside from a few sketches, is a piddly little gauche painting.  My days are filled w/stumbling through the city, Spanish class in Palermo, and getting lost- usually in Palermo after class. 

The residency, LPEP, has specific programs dealing with technology, recycling, and politics. Frank hopes I make art in response to the city and themes of the programs.  The only thoughts in my head are the effects of physical space on a person.  In Patagonia every turn opened up new space.  In Buenos Aires, every turn offered a wall, another tight turn on an eroding sidewalk, a maze...Borge's labyrinth.  When I sit down to my work space, I have only tiny pads of paper, tiny for the sake of travel.  My ideas are enormous. This little gauche is not cutting it.  I don't know politics. I have no background in technology.  I have never been interested in making recycle-collage**On this note, the most astounding and moving artwork I have seen is Xu Ping's "Phoenixes" at Mass MOCA** -Here is more about that:

Frank inquires about my "project".  I can only tell him: "When I define my ideas, I will make a plan and work very quickly."  I am overwhelmed with thought, but I trust the process.  Frank on the other hand is unsure. This is perfect.  I tend to excel where there is doubt.

In conversation, two words are added to my Spanish, "latente" - a deep underlying thought, and "inquietud"- a racing mind. The racing mind prevents a deep thought from surfacing.  The artist observes, sees connections and reconnects things with a new context. Too much information/ too many ideas muddle any work of art. 

This is when to trust the gut feeling without judgment. Who and what stands out and stays w/me. The architecture is amazing, yet I am forever watching cracks in the sidewalk. The artisan fairs bustle with vitality.. But why is it I can't get the "cartones"(garbage pickers) out of my head? There are so many museums here..Why am I in the cemetery following the cleaning crew around? All of the books tell me to find tango, and here I am on the edge of a protest led by masked men with sticks.  If I want to make sincere work about a place I know very little about, I must respect those things that stand out.

The second wknd the house is empty. I wake up early and go for a run around the cemetary, to clear my head.  I cut through good old Warnes Ave, the auto body street. I know whatever it is I do it will be big.  What materials can I get my hands on?  With a life of cars in need, I love auto parts.  I peak in every shop fron as I jog through Warnes.  I see the hoods of cars wrapped in large cardboard.  Ah. Yes. Cheap, big cardboard.  I will go home, script a simple conversation in Spanish and return.  Whe I return home, I see someone on the street has just put large boxes by the trash.  Perfect! I grab them beforE the next inevitable rain shower.  

The next day I wake up very early to get to the Recolletta cemetary.  The light changes so quickly you won't get any good photographs after 9:00. The sun is too bright.  The Moslems are impressive. There is a serious maintenance crew.  Strange.  Some moseliums are cared for down to a good dusting with a feather duster, and others, become maintenance storage shed... With buckets of paint stacked next to the coffins!

Still contemplating Borges, I have the address of a spot bearing his name.  This search leads me to ave Florida, The spot to shop and get mugged.  Annoyed but on task, I trot through a Miriam of stores, tourists and shouts of "Cambio!"  These are the black market guys. The financial climate is bizarre here. American dollars are gold- and I've got none- the normal rate is the black market rate,  the government makes the black market guys look like the heroes. Strange. 

I wonder if the word cambio has the same double meaning as the English word change. I will ask next Spanish class. It would be fun to record them.