Catalina Lozano, About Reconsidering Our Relationship with Humans, and Non-Humans
I have very early memories related to art. My mum would take me to exhibition openings as a child—where I got quite bored. But the first significant art memory is being there for late Colombian artist María Teresa Hincapié’s performance “Una cosa es una cosa” in April 1990, when I was 10 years old. She unpacked personal belongings, one at a time, creating a spiral with her most intimate things: clothes, food… She arranged each one very delicately, with a lot of care and consideration. It was mesmerizing.
I became a curator almost by accident. I studied History at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá (probably the most important academic and non-academic learning experience of my life), and by the time I graduated I was sure I wanted to turn to art theory. I moved to London to do an MA at Goldsmiths. From there I projected myself becoming a scholar, so I moved to Paris to start a PhD at the EHESS. In the meantime, I became more involved in organising art-related things. At some point I applied for a job at Gasworks in London where I ran the residency programme for two and half years. I dropped out of my PhD, and eventually became an independent curator and moved to Mexico City, where I have been living for the past nine years. What happened was that I realised that I was more interested in the processes of research with artists, as a curator. I quite enjoyed the speculative nature of it, which was nothing like what I was experiencing as a PhD student.
I was very musical as a child and as a young person. Today, I still need music in my life, but in a different way. I studied music as a teenager, loved grunge, then frequented techno parties in the late nineties. Now, I don’t have a single music that inspires me more than another. I recently created this playlist, for a confinement initiative launched by my friend Maricris Herrera, which reflects partially my very eclectic and affective taste in music. It’s also quite nostalgic. I also love Leonard Cohen. And when I need concentrating I listen to Pau Casal’s interpretation of the Bach suites for cello, and to piano solos by Chilly Gonzales.
For the past ten years, a lot of my research as a curator had to do with the impact of colonialism at an epistemological level. This has led me to other questions that relate to the divisions created by modernity and practices that mediate and subvert those divisions. A.C.A. Public, an artist-run publishing house in Ireland, published a tiny book I wrote called The Cure, where I explore the intersections between the visible and the invisible, life and death, and past and present, in a very speculative, essayistic way. Curatorially, this has been particularly bold in the last exhibitions I have curated, Winning by Losing at CentroCentro in Madrid (2019), where I sought to look critically at the paradigm of modern progress; Le jour des esprits est notre nuit (2019), co-curated with Elfi Turpin at CRAC Alsace in Altkirch, where we interrogated practices of mediation between the visible and the invisible; and The willow sees the heron’s image upside down (2020), currently at TEA Tenerife, that deals with representations of landscape as ideological constructions and the notion of the ruin as a methodological tool to deconstruct them. These lines of research are also present in, A Natural History of Ruins, which will be presented in Pivô (São Paulo) next year. Between 2017 and 2019, I also worked as Associate Curator at Museo Jumex under the artistic directorship of Julieta González. There, I worked with Mathieu K. Abonnenc, Fernanda Gomes, Xavier Le Roy, and other artists on individual projects, which was a great opportunity to facilitate these artistic processes. I also curated the exhibition Could Be (An Arrow), A Reading of La Colección Jumex in 2018, which included works by women artists from the collection. In some way, I understood this to be a feminist intervention in the programme.
Currently, I am working as Director of Programs in Latin America at KADIST. I work from Mexico City developing strategies and opportunities of collaboration with institutions and artists in the region, focusing on research, exhibitions and public programmes. We have already started a collaboration with Espacio Odeón in Bogotá, and Museo La Tertulia in Cali, for a series of videos screenings reflecting on these strange times we’re living in.
As an independent curator, travel is very important because it allows research, but also it allows connecting to the location where a given programme or exhibition takes place. So I never travel without my phone, it has become a sort of visual and textual travelogue. Travel also provides a unique opportunity to meet people and strengthen your affective and professional network. I have been living in Mexico City for many years now, but working a lot abroad. This year, for the first time, I was not present for the installation of an exhibition I curated in Tenerife because of the COVID crisis. It is a very strange feeling to not being able to see if the connections you saw in your head and on paper really work on site, which proves that the spacial experience of an exhibition cannot be replaced by a digital one. Travel in itself is an experience that makes us vulnerable, but that vulnerability also influences what we do and how we think. Last year, while travelling in Brazil for the preparation of the show I am curating at Pivô, I had the opportunity to be taken to the forest out of Rio de Janeiro by artist Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, an experience that was captured in this sort of reportage for the project “Incidents (of Travel)” edited by Latitudes for Kadist.
The book “How Forests Think: Towards an Anthropology Beyond the Human” by Eduardo Khon has been very influential recently, but also the writings of linguist Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil in Mexico. She publishes frequently in El País and Revista de la Universidad. Both thinkers reflect on language, but from very different perspectives. The first, by analysing interspecies forms of communication within the Runa people in the Amazon; the latter, by reflecting on the specificity of language in the construction and description of different worlds, and on the political dimension of internal colonisation in Mexico, as a nation-state that is cannibalising and instrumentalising the cultures of those who have been colonised.
Films. For the past ten years I have visited and revisited the work of British filmmaker Patrick Keiller, especially his trilogy, London (1994), Robinson in Space (1997), and Robinson in Ruins (2010), set around the character of Robinson (named in reference to Daniel Defoe’s novel). The way in which Keiller weaves together history, psychic states, the landscape, and political analysis, fascinates me, and it inspires me for the way I would like to build narratives in my own field.
And an old time favourite of mine is the 1999 film, Beau Travail, by French filmmaker Claire Denis, for how she explores and, to some degree, deconstructs masculinity in a post-colonial context, for how she builds these images and for her gaze on these bodies…
I never curate without the artists. But having said that, I am curating a show about the relationship, German-born American textile artist and printmaker, Anni Albers, built with Mexico (Passers-by 4: Anni Albers, Museo Jumex, 2020), and she is no longer with us. So how to curate a show without her? I went to her archives, tried to understand her, and imagined the place from where she enunciated her thoughts through her writings and her work.
For me, any unpretentious restaurant with nice food is a perfect setting to share time with friends. I love having long after-meal conversations. For instance, El Comunista in Madrid is a good example of the type of places I like. In Mexico, I tend to prefer cooking and eating with friends in houses.
To keep sane I try to practice yoga three times a week, cook, make bread, and knit.
I have no rules when it comes to what we talk first with an artist at the beginning of a project. It depends on the setting. But in general, I talk about their work and how it connects with my research. These conversations are a way to figure out how to work together.
The best way to work with a team is to communicate, listen, and be honest. Every project is inserted in a specific context and it’s difficult to grasp all of its subtleties.
“Arte por un río” was an emergency fund for the communities around the Pirá Paraná river in the Amazon. My friend and artist Bárbara Santos has been working with the indigenous communities who live around the Pirá Paraná river in the Amazon rainforest for many years now. She told us (a mixed group of friends: artist María Isabel Rueda, book editors Juan David Correa and Juan Pablo Fajardo, researcher Fernando Escobar, Emiliano Valdés, also a curator, and I) about the threat that COVID posed to these communities, and how their traditional medicine and knowledge was at stake, and so was the river. So we came up with the idea to find artists who would donate a work to help raise funds to cover basic needs. These communities have to face this crisis and overcome the lack of support from the Colombian government. We organised a scheme to sell these works and 100% of the profits went to the communities. Around 40 artists donated works. Fabio Valencia Vanegas, an indigenous Macuna who is the legal representative of these communities, has been able to buy the basic supplies they desperately need. It is important to say that this responds to an immediate threat, but that the indigenous people of the Amazon are being constantly harassed by armed groups and extractivism, a situation that needs to be addressed in the long term.
What I learned from these times of COVID is that I need to consider carefully how I relate to others, humans and non-humans.
If I wasn’t curating I would either be studying anthropology, or be dedicated to a craft, most likely weaving.
Mexico City, Mexico
Catalina Lozano (Bogotá, 1979) is an independent curator and researcher based in Mexico City and Director of Programs in Latin America at Kadist. For the past 10 years, she has been interested in minor narratives that question hegemonic forms of knowledge. The analyses of colonial narratives as well as the deconstruction of the modern division between nature and culture have acted as departure points for many of her recent and future curatorial and editorial projects including the exhibitions A Natural History of Ruins (Pivô, São Paulo, 2021), The willow sees the heron’s image upside down (TEA, Tenerife, 2020), Le jour des esprits et notre nuit (CRAC Alsace, Altkirch, 2019, co-curated with Elfi Turpin), Winning by Losing (CentroCentro, Madrid, 2019), Ce qui ne sert pas s’oublie (CAPC, Bordeaux, 2015), A Machine Desires Instruction as a Garden Desires Discipline (MARCO Vigo, FRAC Lorraine, and Alhóndiga Bilbao, 2013-14), and the book Crawling Doubles: Colonial Collecting and Affects (B42, París), co-edited with Mathieu K. Abonnenc and Lotte Arndt. In 2018 her book The Cure was published by A.C.A. Public. She currently prepares solo exhibitions with Mariana Castillo Deball and Santiago Borja, and a small exhibition on the relationship that Anni Albers established with Mexico. Between 2017 and 2019 she was Associate Curator at Museo Jumex in Mexico City where she developed exhibition projects with Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca, Fernanda Gomes, Xavier Le Roy, and Mathieu K. Abonnenc among other artists, and organized the exhibition Could Be (An Arrow). A Reading of La Colección Jumex. She was part of the artistic team of the 8th Berlin Biennale in 2014 and between 2008 and 2010 she was responsible for Gasworks Residency Programme in London.