JUANELE INTERVIEWS GACHI ROSATI
OCTOBER 15, 2010 • CENTRO CULTURAL RECOLETA • BUENOS AIRES
At Centro Cultural Recoleta, Gachi Rosati spoke with us about her two current projects, both exhibited there under the title, Inventario de Pintor (Painter’s Inventory). Both of them employ pictures and words to reflect on the symbolic power of painting, its history and its material conditions. Rosati also regards the practice of painting as enabling focused contemplation and therefore as a way to acquire knowledge and to commit images to memory. Her work employs this capacity via appropriative investigations. Sometimes, she tells minimalistic stories about a specific object that has become something else: A symbol in someone’s private life, but one that is also related to a whole world of taste and preferences, public fetishes and social values. In another, explicitly metalinguistic project, she’s painted and reproduced pages taken from various handbooks about the discipline of painting itself. Subtle as can be, rendered with both respect and irony, the publishers of such educational materials probably never imagined the resulting re-contextualization of this group of images. Gachi is currently researching the possibilities of creating a trade union for visual artists. In this ongoing work she has exhaustively investigated the professional status of and the social role of artists in Argentina and around the world, their needs and claims, and also the necessities of the market and the pressures the market puts on artists. From the Spanish model, she has taken the idea of building a Rescue Plan (Plan de Rescate) that deliberates the creation of social security, and a retirement plan, as well as the granting of credits based on artistic production. Moving forward from real problems and actual needs, it’s still to be decided whether this project will become a piece of fiction or something more concrete.
Gabriela Schevach: I’ve heard that there isn’t a visual artists’ trade union in the U.S. Gachi Rosati: I don’t specifically know about the U.S. When I started to get information about the different associations, I di the most research about Spain, more than anything because of the language. It was easier for me. For instance, I got material from Holland and Canada, but it was complicated for me to familiarize myself with the codes. In fact, there was a word-relation between Spain and how their words sounded here that seemed interesting to me. Perhaps, if I had to read in other languages, it would be harder [to make those connections]. I’ve heard very little about the U.S. from friends living there. I think they don’t need a union so much because they have many possibilites: There are many residencies and companies that invest in artistic production. Gabriela Schevach: Perhaps they are organized in a different way. GR: I think so. In Spain, artists make demands for things a lot more advanced than what we can demand here [in Argentina]. But it’s good to think that a plan exists [there] and that it’s a rescue plan [Plan de Rescate] that could work here. Some of the organizations I am researching want to take measures like taking the budget assigned to other organizations and giving it to visual artists. I don’t think that’s a good idea. An example: They’ve suggested taking money from the historical heritage, considering that historical museums were dated anachronisms and that maybe contemporary art deserved more importance. I don’t agree with such a decision. I think that there has to be a budget for us, for contemporary art, but not taking it away from anything else, which I consider equally important. Well, the first and foremost is
organizing, to get in touch with members of the trade unions and with lawyers that know about the legislation that we would need in case we can obtain professional status. For the moment, I’m doing, above all, research. But, as I’m not a researcher, I’m doing it more from the visual and linguistic aspects: That is, which words are employed, what the plan consists of when the organization is formed and which decisions are to be taken. So, as I told you, I was fascinated by the idea of a professional status for the artist, a rescue plan. These Spanish organizations have employment agencies, they have drawn a map where you can look at the artistic structures, the different organizations in the various areas. At the same time, there is a union of associations that explains which local and international companies are financing projects. So you can do a map -- something I think is necessary in Buenos Aires -- for all of Argentina. We have a solidarity artists’ network that isn’t open to everybody, but rather it’s built by a chain effect of oen artist who nominates someone else. This seems a very good plan to me, but perhaps it would be better to break the network down to something more... Gabriela Schevach: ... so that you don’t need to know someone to get in, that it’s accessible in more objective conditions. For me, the problem that we artists have is that in our field there are almost no objective values. I know you can say that everything is subjective, above all in the symbolic production (in journalism too), but art plays with those edges. Anyway, in this subject, it would be good to have things clearly set out because they are related to basic needs. GR: Yes, absolutely. That’s what we find hard to do. As artists, we have the advantage, in
principle of assuming fictive roles many times and, in fact, we can play with them. But when we need to get organized and go to reality, it looks like we can’t make a difference. I don’t know why it doesn’t work. But we are also a very small country in respect to the development of contemporary art. It must be for some reason or another that we have no market. Many existing galleries declare that they can’t earn a living from contemporary art. Gabriela Schevach: Anyway, the trade union project, besides referring to several social problems, relates to the works you’ve been developing. This exhibition at Centro Cultural Recoleta, featuring other projects you’ve done, has to do with very strong material questions, the objective conditions of painting. For instance, all these pieces in Sala 1 (Exhibition Hall 1), relate to objects that become symbols when you paint them... GR: I’m interested in recovering the romantic figure [of the painter]. On the one hand, I’m interested in getting it back; on the other, when I examine it, I realize it isn’t so romantic. Sometimes it’s more important to laugh about it than to take it seriously. I like to explore the History of Art and, not in order to criticize contemporary art... However, there are things I’d like to recover, related to, for instance, the trade. If there is something that I can identify myself with, it’s being a painter by trade. Because it’s something I do with my hands and things happen to me when I do it. And I don’t feel comfortable with the tag of contemporary art or conceptual or any of those tags. I can declare myself as a painter, above all, because it’s a process of making. In that making, I feel very comfortable.
What I find interesting about painting, and that is perhaps why I do these art-history “rescues," is that painting is not just a trade, but it’s also a medium of reflection or thinking. I take painting as a means to know people better, to know the world better, I can reflect about it and, of course, painting is for now my channel, my medium. In this exercise I’ve done, I utilized a piece by Van Gogh. It’s funny that now, in 2010, I’m going back to Van Gogh! I’m having fun with this “backward movement," better-said as, “re-assessment." There is this piece: A pair of shoes (Paris, 1886). And [Martin] Heidegger discusses in a text how, extrapolating from an object belonging to a subject, you can describe somebody’s personality. So I performed that exercise. At the time I wasn’t very happy with what I was doing, I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t connected to my artistic practice. So the first thing I did, at that time, was to pick up a mask that I put on to sleep everyday. So I talked about the situation of sleeplessness and about insomnia, of not knowing what would happen before falling asleep and the difficulties to surrender, to abandon myself to sleep. After working for many months, I’ve asked the same thing of many people I know, I’ve asked them to do the same exercise, a bit of introspection -- I don’t know, I haven’t examined it yet. The last object I’ve chosen was this painter’s handbook, where there’s a chromatic circle. In the last few months, I’ve been working, somehow doing these eightyfour still lives with their respective stories, all of people I know. And this has been my last object. In a way, it has helped me to understand what was happening to me in the last six months. I found that very appealing. On the other hand, there is the white background, the shadow and a very direct discourse.
Without metaphor. I wanted to go directly to the object and rescue, above all, the contemplation of it. I’ve quite a fetishist relation to objects, as if I hog them... This started when I was a little girl and I missed school, so I stayed the whole morning and afternoon sniffing around, looking at my mother’s cupboards and telling myself my family’s stories, taking the object as a kind of starting point for that. I think that objects whisper a lot of stories. That’s where I wanted to go back to. The white background builds a very direct relation. I believe that this project works in relation to the narrations in this book done in the style of an inventory and the still-lives without background that have no context. This guitar can belong to a friend of mine called “El Flaco" or it can belong to anyone at all. The world may believe it’s an object that belongs to me. It can tell such a minimal story as “Flaco’s" account, but it may tell the spectator’s or whomever’s. Gabriela Schevach: You don’t have a purist relation to painting. Each of these images that you paint become meaningful in relation to a story. They are just an isolated fragment that refer to a little world that surrounds the object. GR: Right, I believe I don’t like to paint unless I know where I’m heading to; I can’t paint without thinking of an idea or something to tell. I don’t create images or visual essays without knowing where they go. In general, they consist of intuitions at the service of reflection. In fact, the paintings don’t have a background color. I’ve been asked about that a great deal because they look like contemporary drawing. They don’t have the doughy look or the artist’s gestural thing. In fact, that doesn’t interest me. It wants to be strongly realis-
tic; though, at the same time, if you look closely, you realize that I’m neither so obsessive nor so meticulous. Some gestures begin to appear, but they don’t play the main part. This project started from my need to paint and to look for an excuse to do that. I’ve been a drawing teacher for the last six years and I’ve found myself in a situation where certain schools suggested me to take contemporary art to the class, but I defended (certain traditional practices). One of the exercises I do with the pupils is always successful: I make them observe and draw the houseplant. I realize we can’t let this idea go. It has to do with contemplation and with starting to... I’m fascinated to remember that the cave men, who believed that in the representation of mankind’s hunting the ox, they believed that because of this representation, the situation became a ritual. I’m in love with such ideas. On the other hand, on the other side of the exhibition hall, there are [paintings of] a Spanish handbook from the Franco era with a very behaviorist, pedagogical approach, very typical of those years, where the narration is very funny, but also very gloomy at times for being too direct. On the one hand, I read those things and I feel on the “hinge." I really enjoy it, but no. What I want to do with the trade union, with the painter’s inventory and with the handbook of twenty-four practical suggestions for a painter is to recover the spirit of the painters of a time in which taking out their easel and their paint box to the village or the hamlet was a fascinating moment. Nowadays we visit these museums or galleries to view works and in reality we don’t know, in my opinion, the richest part that has to do with the artist’s workshop, how he/ she has fun preparing the bag and the beer to take outdoors and which music he/she
chooses to paint with and the whim of deciding that “this is fascinating and I choose this for painting because for me it tells a story." Or to give other people, who don’t paint, the possibility that I do it for them, if they want. I am very much in love with the discipline inherent in that. That’s also why I have the idea of the union. I want it to reflect on all this. And a person I didn’t know came the other day to the opening and told me: “I like it because you tell me your secrets." I hadn’t realized that before, but I’m really exposing myself: I depict myself dressed as a painter, well, in a context that’s imaginary because I’m not from La Boca. Then there’s also my studio, my objects, my painter’s handbook. What I like is that this work came about in a very honest way. I remembered the first exercises you do at school, where, if you say it’s art, it’s like opening a book that tells the story of your life: This is mom, this is dad, this is me and we are like this. Gabriela Schevach: So all this also implies taking painting out of the white cube to state that it isn’t an isolated fact. On the other hand, the objects (that you’ve painted) are isolated, fetishized, they stand against a white, empty background. The way in which you display it makes me think a series of things that underline the isolation very explicitly, and I end up imagining the rest. GR: I like to listen to you because I keep forgetting those parts. You plan the emptiness, which the spectator is going to complete afterwards. But then, when the exhibition is ready, I’ve forgotten those empty spaces, but I like them because they are the spaces that don’t let the work close in itself. Actually, this Painter’s Inventory has been prepared for the little white cube of the Oficina Proyectista. That’s an amazing gallery because you enter the building from the beginning
of the 19th Century and you have to take a lift to the sixth floor, all full of offices and you realize that all those people, lawyers, public notaries, etc. take their trades and professions really seriously. Suddenly you enter this small room and see the Painter’s Inventory. In the room the size of a small office, the pictures didn’t look like they do here. The walls, from bottom to top, are full and they seem to be falling on you. It has an enveloping effect, more like an installation. Here [at Centro Cultural Recoleta], it’s clear that, actually, these pictures don’t work separately, that they function as a whole and that, in fact the quantity is essential because they comprise eighty-four stories. I’d like this to continue to grow and that the project work as a unity. And that’s related to the idea that a minimal story is equivalent to another minimal story. Maybe that is, in turn, related to what you say; because I’m not interested in the value of one painting, but in the value of a whole project, in which painting is employed as a medium. I like to observe things from that specific place: To re-invent and study them. Since I’ve painted my studio, I know it corner by corner, each detail of it. That fascinates me because I remember myself as a kid, when I bought picture cards and I was looking at them at this distance [very near]. I really looked at everything; I took great delight in the visuals. Gabriela Schevach: And you must still remember those images because, when you do focus on something in that way, it remains in your memory. GR: Absolutely. I go around my homes. I remember I walked around and around looking, watching. Now,
some time ago, my parents’ house was sold and, in my head, I made a visual journey throughout the whole house. Some nights, in my head, I do it again so that I don’t forget anything. I really like that stuff.
Interview by Gabriela Schevach for Juanele Photographs © Gabriela Schevach and © Gachi Rosati Paintings © Gachi Rosati Design by Rick Powell
SHOES NUMBER: 05 SEX: Feminine AGE: 27 I bought them the day I arrived. At 25, with these shoes, my first time in New York City in seven days for the first time...
BOOK NUMBER: 80 SEX: Feminine AGE:29 Parram贸m gives me good advice to paint outdoors. I defend painting not just as a trade, but also as a means of thinking. I am looking for people to found the First Union of Argentina Painters, if you are interested, you can write to me at: email@example.com.
BINOCULARS NUMBER: 75 SEX: Masculine AGE:28 This object was given to me as a present by my friends for my last birthday, some months ago, so that’s why it doesn’t have so many looks yet. But other memories come to my mind: When I was teenager we
were on holiday with my family. We were at the beach and we saw how a guy was looking through binoculars. The man, sculptural and wearing a slip, was looking at other people’s bodies, he was in a “voyeuristic" disposition. I remember all my family’s condemnatory attitude, of absolute disapproval. We were indignant by his look, an insolent and provocative look mixed with his suspiciously gay appearance, also condemned by the whole family. They must still remember that episode. Another incident with binoculars happened also during a trip, this time to Bariloche, only a month ago. My wife and I were in a boat full of tourists, going to the Victoria Island when we saw the most outstand-
ing guy among the 250 passengers. He was a freak, sitting next to a window; he observed the landscape with his binoculars. The guy looked mentally retarded, he was drooling a bit and at the same time was whispering some incomprehensible thing to himself. Little by little we got closer and we cornered him. We sat at his side and we greeted each other by moving our heads. The object was an absolute attraction and I couldnâ€™t stop myself from asking him to look through, which he accepted easily, but it was a mistake, he felt invaded, ill-treated and in a low voice he said â€œI like to look at the mountain peaks." He ended the phrase and left his seat, excused himself and went to the 60 year-old women, that we felt phobic about...
Afterward, we climbed to the boat’s terrace, expecting that he would also come up with the binoculars and let us look at the peaks, as he had done before, but he didn’t turn up. I end with a reflection from this trip: There’s nothing worse than being denied the access to look through binoculars.
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At Centro Cultural Recoleta, Gachi Rosati spoke with us about her two current projects, both exhibited there under the title, Inventario de...