Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

Our second day in Santiago kicked off with a visit to the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda where we met with the director of the exhibition program, Alejandra Sarrano, and the coordinator of exhibitions, Daniela Berger. Being the institution in Santiago that features exhibitions of art, artifacts and design from Chile and Latin America the Centro also houses the National Film Archive and a large cinema where all Chilean films are show to the public, a library and an archive. The exhibition that is currently on view is titled Grandes Maestros del Arte Popular de Iberoamérica and features popular craft objects from all over Latin America.

Interestingly there has been a coordinated effort over the past decades to preserve and nurture local craft traditions all over the continent through an organization called Colección Fomento Cultural Banamex, who is also behind the exhibition. The title Grandes Maestros has systematically been given to craftspeople who excelled in their occupation and who served as the carrier of a certain technique or excellent skill within a local community or cultural tradition of object making. The project of appointing these Grandes Maestros has hence become one of mapping the carriers of traditions as well as a coordinated attempt to have these traditions passed on, although we learned not necessarily in their traditional form. Contrary to a common belief that these makers consider themselves carriers of old traditions that simply need repeating, there is a great deal of innovation in these crafts, new techniques introduced and older ones improved, and this aspect of the maker tradition is not considered a break or anything that disrupts the tradition as such. All the objects on view were made from the 1970s until the present, most are made very recently by makers who are still practicing their profession. The exhibition was organized according to technique and type of object rather than geographical, which meant that each section gave what felt like an overview of traditions within mask making, weaving, dress making, pottery making, objects braded of natural fibers etc. all of which in different ways and of course depending on their origin carried both cultural, religious and indigenous references. A good example was the collection of masks, a display that was laid out in order to make that point explicitly, together functioning as a kind of map of mask traditions from all over the continent.

Our second stop was the CEDOC, an archive and documentation archive for
Chilean contemporary art (1960-present), where we met with Soledad Garcia, the coordinator of the center. Having started from scratch only 8 years ago the Center attempts to gather materials, books, written sources and works of Chilean artists. A special focus is to document practices from the 70s
and 80s under the dictatorship, material that was never gathered on an institutional level and made accessible to the public. Soledad gave us a short presentation highlighting 6 works by Chilean artists who were all loosely related to the theme of the house. Interestingly she used the works to make a point of
how the recent history of Chilean art is so characterized by the use of metaphors to created spaces of freedom within a very suppressive cultural climate and how an artistic language, and references to very important figures are present in works made by a younger generation today.

The presentation turned into an interesting discussion about the role of the archive today, and the use of the archive to serve the public on the one hand but also the interest from abroad that the Chilean scene is starting to feel. Just from these two days in Santiago it has been very easy to get the feeling that the interest in the recent history of Chilean art is perhaps even greater from academics, curators, institutions and foundations abroad than from the local scene and it brought up questions of what kind of access is given, and what the priorities of the archive actually means to how Chilean contemporary art is and will be exported, which artists and practices are easier to understand through archival material and hence will end up in the collections of MoMA, Pompidou, Reina Sofía etc., museums we now heard the names of several times who have all recently been here and acquired works for their collections.

Helga Christoffersen