Imposible – Conspiracy of Autonomous Spaces is a week-long series of cultural events that brings together 13 of Oaxaca’s autonomous spaces with a collection of performances, concerts, workshops, residencies, interventions, exhibitions and conversations. We spoke with organisers Gabriel Elías, Goyo Desgarennes and Gary McGarvey to find out more.
Tell us about Imposible.
Gabriel: Goyo had an idea about a festival involving all the autonomous spaces in Oaxaca. There are a lot of spaces and they are doing many different things so the idea developed as a meeting of people trying to construct something, like an assembly or a gathering of info and opinions. We went through a one year process of discussing everything, it was something that was floating in the air and El Huacal and Convivio picked it up.
Who is involved in the project?
Gabriel: There are 13 spaces. Not everyone has a physical space, for example El Huacal, but everyone is doing something that is on a different level, and different artistic disciplines. And it’s not that we are all the spaces or the most important spaces, but people who were able to work together this year. Obviously we’ll be open for next year and if more spaces want to get involved we’re open to that.
Goyo: El Huacal, Convivio, El Balcón, La Calera, Casa Studio Chichis Libres, Casa Rosa, Córdoba Lab, Espacio Centro, La Jicara, La Locomotora, Lugar Común, La Perrera, Taller Espacio Alternativo, Tierra Independiente and Trayectivo.
Gabriel: There are also spaces that are not located downtown, Lugar Común and Tierra Independiente for example. It’s really a diverse thing. It’s not like we said let’s pick one feminist place, one cultural space, one experimental music space, it really happened because all these places exist and they agreed to meet each other. That’s the most important thing, everything was agreed upon by everyone. No one has anything to gain, there’s no money involved, there are no logos.
Do you think that gives it more credibility?
Gabriel: For us, yes because it’s the only poster that has no logos. So that means that it’s truly done by the people themselves, and because they want to do it not because they’ll get something like a scholarship or be in the spotlight. And that’s important in itself.
Goyo: It’s also important because it’s part of the Oaxacan economy, but that doesn’t mean that it’s money. Oaxaca is very famous for these kinds of things, every week you have something: a book presentation, a show, a performance… That’s why Oaxaca has become one of the greatest cities in the whole country.
Gabriel: We’re trying to connect with different networks, and to escape from our own. They are important, but we really feel that it’s important to connect with different people. It’s also been a way of being more sincere in the sense that we’re not getting the flashy artist or the very cool or very big space, we are all together and it’s been as difficult and as pleasant as you would expect. And there are many lessons. I mean working in a collective way is not always easy , there’s a lot of work involved and there’s no money so you have to do it while you’re at the beach, there’s no stopping! It’s been a real joy to know that we did this because we want to do it. We hope that we’re going to make noise and really connect with the audience. And again, I want to stress that we’re not pretending to be the best spaces, or the only ones or anything, just a snapshot.
Goyo: A sample of a movement that’s growing. They want to talk about different things and show where they’re living and how art has changed their lives. Recently, when we talk about politics we think that just because this guy is president or governor that they’re going to fulfil all of our needs and that’s crazy. I don’t mean to say that the government should stop doing their work but we should start creating our own solutions.
Gabriel: That’s the power of being autonomous.
Has it been difficult to organise?
Goyo: Yeah, it’s been hard because we didn’t want to come up with a proposal saying “hey, do you want to join this festival, we already have something”, we wanted to build the gathering with all of them and discuss it. That’s why it’s been such a long road, it’s been almost a year, and we’ve had several discussions about the name and the aesthetic and the look and the dates and everything has been assembled by all of us. So it’s been really hard because everyone has their own opinions about what it’s supposed to be and ideologically and politically everyone has their own opinions about what art is supposed to be and that’s been the toughest part of all.
Gabriel: Another important thing is that it’s not something that is publicly funded and it’s been specifically done in that way because we think that’s part of our strength, we are doing this meeting with our own resources. The cultural fabric of the city is made by these kind of spaces. Publicly funded spaces do their job but they’re limited by the institutions themselves. There are many problems in Mexico in the way they pay attention, or rather they don’t pay attention, to culture so it’s been a political stance in itself to do this. And we’re not saying something specific, everyone has different views of the world. It’s been a joy to do this and to come to the point where we actually have a program, and a design and everyone has worked very hard. We we want to stress that it’s been a collective thing.
Goyo: Also, what I like about this is it’s very Oaxaqueño. When you think about a party in Oaxaca normally what tends to happen is a guelaguetza, everyone puts in what they have and how can we make a really big fuss of it? That’s been the whole idea and it’s been such a pleasure.
Why are independent spaces important?
Gabriel: For the same reason you do Qué Pasa Oaxaca, it’s the only way in which you can do things by yourself. I guess even Jen and Gary, they can do things in Convivio in the way they want without negotiating with different institutions or people who really don’t care about culture. But they’re there, and if you do it the other way, at least in Mexico, you have to deal with all these really stupid things and they really limit the creative process.
Goyo: And also because we want to do things we care about. In Oaxaca there’s this thing about being an artist… when you think about Oaxaca and you’re into the arts you’re going to explore things, you’re not waiting for a museum to show up and say “this is art”. it’s just your natural way of being and you know if you’re in the art scene then you’re going to do something about it no matter what, no matter if there’s an institution or a museum or a space. If you want to do it you’re going to find a way.
Gary: I read somewhere that being an independent artist or independent space is creating something without necessarily being asked to. You don’t get many people who are doing the same thing, they’re always doing something slightly different, so you’re always having to convince people that what you’re doing is worth their time and attention.
How will you know it’s been a success?
Gabriel: If someone complains that they’re not included in this festival then that’s how we’ll know! The idea is not to limit this effort to the meeting itself but to try to make it an ongoing thing, to establish more alliances between spaces and at the same time do small, mini meetings or festivals. And we have this idea of doing a special event in which we gather all the information that was produced during the festival and show it to the public.
Gary: It’s been a good introduction of spaces that didn’t know each other existed. And some spaces haven’t been to other spaces and I think that alone is very positive.
Gabriel: Yes, that was one of the intentions, was to meet each other.
Are there any events that you’re particulary excited about?
Gabriel: There are 24 events in total and we want everything to be as successful as possible.
Goyo: The whole idea of art is just playing something that hopefully people will understand. Success is measured in different levels but the one thing you want is a room full of people. And from that 100% about 10% of them are going to approach the artist and say “hey, how did it go?” And maybe, with a bit of luck, 1% of those people will truly get what you’re talking about.
Gary: And the rest are there for the mezcal!
Gabo: We’re already successful because we’ve got to this point. The program is there, it’s like a message in a bottle and it’s already thrown into the sea. Even if we have one person per event, it’s going to be successful, even though I don’t think that’s going to be the case. There are performances, talks, political discussions, residencies… we’re going to have amazing music, great people, parties, so please jump into it!
Goyo: There will be one prize for a person who randomly does a performance. So if theres’s one crazy woman or man who does a performance in the middle of it all, we’re going to give them a gift!
Imposible runs from January 21 to 28 at various locations. You can see the full program on the website.