Some Bachata for Concentration, Curatorship as Strategy, and Building Long-Term Collaborations
My maternal family has a very organic storytelling tradition, my earliest conscious memory of art was when I was nine-year old. One night, during summer vacation at my grandmother’s house in the country, we were all sitting in the front yard and she and my great-uncle were telling us short stories, between fiction and reality. I was amazed at how they were developing the storyline, with no resource other than their voices, adding details, tension, drama… and were looking at our reactions. There I was, a small human who was beginning to gain some insights into how to maintain attention, generate images, and provoke thoughts in others. It sparked emotions and ideas in me that I am still carrying today.
I started my curatorial practice because conventional frameworks for generating knowledge were not enough to answer questions that have accompanied me in life. I did my bachelor’s degree in architecture at the university in my hometown, La Vega. The program of the school there is closely related to contemporary art. We had seminars with curators, visited exhibitions, biennials, interviewed artists, managed projects… We invented everything, from exhibitions to a film club. I like to think that our generation had the freedom to design part of the curriculum. Ariel Acosta and Raúl Morilla, two artist and teachers, have been key in my way of making my own world. In 2014, with a group of friends, we created a collective and managed several artistic interventions in public spaces. At the beginning of 2015, while I was finishing my thesis, Plinio Lora, one of my best friends, shared with me the poster announcement for the first edition of Curando Caribe, a grant program that includes curatorship, research, and mediation conceived by Juan Sánchez and Sara Hermann. It was an incredible opportunity to introduce myself and meet curators with different trajectories in the international art circuit. It prompted me to enroll in a master’s degree in art history and visual culture at the same time. I don’t know if I learned more in the master’s degree or in the multiple studio visits, screenings, conversations, and trips I made every two weeks to different exhibitions, biennials, cultural centers, independent spaces, and museums but here I am, still walking.
I believe that curatorship is a strategy, which makes use of convenient tools. Writing is often one of them. Perhaps because I come from a context where orality is the main way of building and sharing knowledge, I like to think of the writing exercise as a way of accompanying the processes. But in the last three years things have been hybridizing, and there are reflections that I have written that are becoming curatorial projects.
I see collaboration as a darkhole: a shortcut through space and time. Collaboration is both a way to unlearn and a way to learn. Given the characteristics of the socioeconomic system in which we live, there are very fine lines between life and what you do for a living, so as a social being, my projects are, above all, a way to enter into relationships and begin to create bonds (which takes a lot of time). Collaboration is without a doubt the main characteristic of my six years of formal curatorial practice, and in most cases it has consisted of year-long projects. It was the case for the exhibition that I co-curated with the artist Pablo Guardiola, “One month after being known in that island,” a project by Caribbean Art Initiative at the Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger (2020).
Eat it. I like to learn and that is much more powerful in a group. I think the comalo project is a good example of how I think about collaboration. It’s a kind of magazine in which we think through what we eat and how we prepare it, managed by José Rozón, Nikita Glasnoviç and Olivier Bur. The four of us come from different fields of knowledge, photography, design, cooking, curatorship, but collaborating results in a shortcut where the vital experience of each one (time and space) makes the ideas and reflections that we generate much more complex and effective at the same time.
Thirsty plants. Uffff I’m going to share a trick that my mom taught me a little while ago. I travel constantly, and I have many plants, so I lean on friends to go and water them but lately they have been even more trips, so she taught me the following trick: Cut a strip of fabric (cotton or polyester), make it as long as it can be. Fill a container with enough water for the number of days you will be away from home. Place the container near the plant you need to water. Insert one end of the strip in the water and the other in the plant’s soil. It’s ready! It will be extracting the water it needs.
What drives me forward the most about curating is contributing to the emancipation of our perceptive system as human species, in order to be able to concretize world-imaginations in relation to all the living beings with whom we cohabit. Imaginations different from the ones in which we have lived in the last millennia on this side of the world.
Checklists. A few weeks ago, I was in Colombia on a research trip for a text commissioned by Contemporary And and documenta fifteen while working on Caribbean Art Initiative’s programs. I was overseeing the final details of a duo show that I co-curated, opening in Mexico City. I was working on the exhibition that I am curating for Kadist and Pivô. I was finishing organizing my methodology as guest curator of the Uniarte residency program in Curaçao. What I do when things become that busy, is a kind of checklist on what is pending for each project and prioritize one hour at least to work on it each day.
There are three publications to which I have been returning since I met them: Esferas da insurreiçâo. Notas para uma vida nâo cafetinada by Suely Rolnik, La naturaleza dominicana by Félix Servio Ducoudray and the article Le grand camouflage by Suzanne Cesaire. They are even part of the public programming of the exhibition with Pivô and Kadist, you might access them in one way or another if you stay tuned.
I don’t know if it’s my favorite piece of tech, but in January 2021 I started to learn about stone boiling for cooking, and it simply fascinates me.
In my wardrobe you can always find pieces of natural fibers, some long dresses and almost exclusively shades ranging from black to white. I always make fun of myself because I perfectly embody that cliché of a curator, but now with Tiempo de Zafra that is changing.
In the last year I have been trying rock climbing. But ultimately my constant way to have fun is when I’m with my Veganos friends. We often make jokes, regardless of whether they are good or not.
My favorite sound is bubbling air and oil when my sister cooks “empanadas de catibia” (made of yuca dough). My all time favorite sounds are: the wind blowing between pine trees in the prairie of the old visitors camp of Parque Nacional Valle Nuevo in the Dominican Republic; a piano playing (anything); the fundamental beat that constitutes the Dominican dembow rythm. The list can go on and on.
There’s a habit that I have been feeding for years, it’s listening and singing bachata or Andean music when I am writing or thinking about a project. It seems like my sensory system is activated by sonorities that I link to certain geographical spaces.
Among the handful of people, dead or alive, I would like to have lunch with (and where) is Lina Bo Bardi in her glass house in Sao Paulo. Maybe it’s because of my formation as an architect, but I give a lot of credit to people’s houses. They are prosthetic skins with the ability of amplifying those things that move us, so considering she designed that one, there is no better place to share a meal with Lina and start getting to know her.
If I were an artist I would do installations and sound art.
If I wasn’t curating I would be involved in an architecture studio, in political management, or in designing of travel routes.
Yina Jiménez Suriel
Yina Jiménez Suriel is a curator and researcher with a master’s degree in visual studies. Associate editor of the magazine Contemporary And (C&) Latin America and the Caribbean. She’s curator at large of the Caribbean Art Initiative. She co-curated the exhibitions one month after being known in that island (2020) at the Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger (Switzerland) together with the artist Pablo Guardiola and ¿cómo se construye un río? (2022) at Saenger Galería (Mexico) together with contemporary art historian Haydee Rovirosa. She worked on the curatorial teams of Casa Quien, Centro León, and the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín. She has written for exhibition catalogs of the San Luis Obispo Museum and the Denver Museum of Art, and on contemporary art and visual culture in publications such as Foam Magazine, Terremoto, Contemporary And, Revista de Arte de la UNAM, among others. She has participated in symposiums and academic seminars at the Universidad de los Andes, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, FHNW Basel Art Institute, Southern Methodist University, Pratt Institute, among others. She has collaborated in public programs and workshops at Beta Local, La Cresta, Espacio en Blanco, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá, among others. She lives and works from the Dominican Republic.