street art

Art Residency: Buenos Aires by Kerri McGill


I've made a monstrous miscalculation, an enormous error in judgement...

As dreams are clean streamlined versions of reality, my dream of travel in Arg leaves a hefty something out. That something is the city, itself.

After years of working in city spaces, the idea of traveling the Goliath space of Patagonia followed by making art seemed complete. Buenos Aires, the spot to contemplate ideas of time and space in cities vs natural setting: sitting in a quiet cafe reading and sketching, working in a studio, trading ideas w/other artists... A satisfying plan.

As the plane circles BA to land, my heart sinks a little. The city reaches as far as the eye can see without break or deviation. The city is All. My plan does not take into account the shear power charisma and magnitude of this city, this city, unknown to me. Of course I mean to explore this city. I just had no idea how much city there is!

The taxi driver grimaces when I tell him the address. It's a good drive away from the city center. Paternal is a working class neighborhood. The Main Street is lined w/kiosks(bodegas) fruit stands, and the type if stores you'd find on the edge of Chinatown. The sidewalks are broken. There is construction everywhere. Construction looks like holes in the dirt. 

The residency is a homey apartment with 3 bedrooms, 2 cats and a studio space. There is a roof deck and a small apartment where's he organizer,  Frank, lives. 

When I speak about my project idea. The reaction: it would be good if you make work about Buenos Aires.

Of course. This makes sense. But my Lord I just got here! Have you seen the size if this city? How do I approach an unexpected unknown subject and make honest work? Even if I use Patagonia as a point if departure, I fear coming off as the typical tourist. How can I know this city well enough to make a sincere comment?

Things become more complex...
The rain storms of the first two weeks hold me captive. This is not weather, this is a beast that shakes the walls and infiltrates the house. All of the cracked sidewalks and dirt-hole construction turn walkways into mud.  Storms own the mornings and often appear from nowhere in the afternoon. When I say there are sheets of rain, I refer more to sheets of plywood and less to sheets of Egyptian cotton. The weather fluctuates from cold rains to debilitating heat and humidity, and the rain in the evening is dealer's choice. This is not conducive to exploring.

In packing, I have only hiking boots or sandals. My sandals rub the skin off my feet, give me blisters and disintegrate in the mud bathed walks within a week. A hunt for shoes takes up more time than I'd like. It's hard to find something between a $10Flipflops and $180 Nikes. I get lost easily. My, first day I trek  along Warnes Ave- an unending avenue full of auto body shops with unending piles of motors and parts. I cannot explain what it is that makes this greasy street enchanting in some way.


A window in the rain allows me, bandaged feet an all, to get to a few of the museums, artisan markets and cafés.  I spend so much time avoiding sidewalk hazards, I often miss the details of architecture that fill the city with magic.  But the street art stands out at every corner.


In my favor I came armed w/George's Luis Borges Ficciones. When I had enough of fighting the city storms, I hide in a cafe and read. I had enough for thought to know his work is full of possibilities, a connection factor. His stories are full of labyrinths, double realities, twisted time space. He might as well be a quantum physicist. 

Time moves quickly. There is still much to see.  Between thoughts of Patagonia, the depths of BA, and the cpmplexity of Borges.. I am overflowing w/thought. How to pear down and focus... I still need shoes.