Voices from SACO - Carlos Rendón
curated by Daniela Veneri
“One of the most valuable impacts is that you learn that you can still create great things from the periphery. There are more projects like this in Chile and you understand that you are not alone and that from anywhere, with enough persistence and conviction, you can create something beautiful and unique that is different from anything you see anywhere else.”
- Carlos Rendón
Carlos, how did you become involved in the Festival of Contemporary Art SACO?
I am a relationships manager, executive assistant, and sometimes I represent our director, Dagmara. My work is in connection with the Region, with SACO's team and with the artists and people in general that wants to know more about the project. The first time I got in touch with SACO I was invited to ISLA. The idea is that I could became a journalist for the Festival, but at that time I was already committed for an internship and could not accept the offer. After my internship, they contacted me again and I joined the team as a second journalist in charge of the communication for the festival. After that, some months later, the possibility of being the relationships manager appeared.
What do you like most about your work for SACO and why?
I think that what I like most is, first, the fact that SACO gives me the chance to know a lot of people and cultures that otherwise I could not. And second, to create something like this from the periphery of the country -and the world-. It feels good to know that your work is part of something meaningful, especially in these times of transformation. In 2021 we will have a Contemporary Art Biennale in Chile for the first time ever, we are creating something big that was not here before and that motivates me every day.
What values and principles guide you?
What I value most is the idea of moving forward. To look at my -personal- context, no matter how problematic it can be, with the necessary determination to overcome the difficult times and its challenges, and to make the most of my journey. This is also very related to SACO. It started very little and now we are growing and moving forward...
What feedbacks surprised you most over time?
I think that the feedback of people that visit SACO are important, as we are working for them, but one kind of feedback that surprised me particularly came from the artists. It's amazing to contact the artists and see that when they start working on their projects they think they have an idea of the place they will be working with, but then, when they have the experience of SACO, they discover something very different. They see the desert, the schools, they meet the local people and discover powerful connections with very different and distant places and communities, and this generates a certain flow of emotions. They tell a lot about questions they heard, emotions they felt, things they discovered, what makes the humanity of the experience of SACO. When the artists are invited here, they are asked to create something specific for the context. What they encounter is a place where they connect with people who normally don't have any advanced artistic education, and what they notice is that locals are very curious and have a high level of interaction. The artists are so impressed by the humanity and the reactions of people that they still tell me or ask me about it months after their participation.
What are the specific challenges and opportunities that your local context offers?
One thing that I learned is that the desert is the main challenge but it is also an advantage. What is challenging is that here we have to travel five, six hours to reach other people and places, the distances are very long and different from those of Europe, for example. The advantage is that artists here can imagine things that they cannot imagine anywhere else. The immensity of the desert is something unique, and creating something in relation with the desert is also something unique.
Another kind of advantage is that art education here is very particular. We do not have "generations" of art students, as we do not have a visual arts degree. We have very diverse kinds of participants in our workshops, people from 12 to 40 years old, and the art of the local scene is very different. I consider it a very interesting advantage, as we have a different kind of art in Antofagasta. We do not have any university telling us how art should be or giving us preconceptions of what to do.
What kind of impact do you see emerging from SACO?
One of the most valuable impacts is that you learn that you can still create great things from the periphery. There are more projects like this in Chile and you understand that you are not alone, and that from anywhere, with enough persistence and conviction, you can create something beautiful and unique that is different from anything you see anywhere else.
In your experience, what is most important when involving different interlocutors and stakeholders in the realization of a project like this?
When you involve different kinds of organizations, something that requires long talks and meetings with different people, it's very important to be sure that they have your same mission, the same goal. If you share the same goal with your partners, then you can work together, since you will be in the same frequency.
In Chile we can create great things with our art and culture, things that can also enable change, make space for cultural expression and make people think about the reality and the times that we are living right now. In Antofagasta we can do things like that, and we need partners who believe the same.
How can arts and culture make an effective social contribution today?
This is something very subjective. I believe that the most important contribution is to connect people to each other, to enable to think out of the box, to believe that you can change things, to create something that can awake different kinds of opinions and thoughts. We want to create artworks that are not just beautiful, but also pieces of art that enable a switch in the mind of people, that make them think about important topics, about what is happening in Chile, but also about humanity in general.
Where do you see current shifts in the transformation of the arts and culture system, where do you see risks and challenges and where do you see opportunities?
I can see the transformation when I see that art is increasingly connected with its context and other disciplines. More than ever, maybe thanks to the hyper-connected reality of these times, arts are expanding to other disciplines, other experts and other types of creators. That is something that SACO is promoting for several years, specially linking art with science. I see a connection between artists and scientists in Chile more than in the rest of the world, probably thanks to the particularities of our region.
You do not have to create your art locked in a room, isolated from the outside. We need to connect with others, or the risk is that you start believing that you have the "right" approach and this leads to an environment of competition more than to one of collaboration, and I think this is a problem.
As for the opportunities, I think that they are related to the Internet and the hyper-connected reality that I mentioned before. We are still far from exploring the possibility of technology. I think that we can build more on that, like video-games or social networks, there are a lot of new types of expressions that we need to keep exploring. The power of the never-ending advance of technology is an opportunity that we need to learn how to control, as a network of opportunity. I believe that in SACO we look at this with no fear, but with expectations.
If you were able to change one or two things in the area of responsibility of institutions, cultural producers, art curators, artists, what things do you think would create the most value and benefit for all?
In general, we as art workers have the awareness that our work is important. We can create something beautiful, big, impactful, and even have an influence on the thinking of individuals. That is a big responsibility, as we can make meaningful changes in society. But at the same time, I think we need less ego and more collaboration from anyone who wants a change in the world. You need to be very responsible for taking this kind of role, especially when working in arts and culture, and even if you have trouble admitting it, you need the help of your partners and friends to keep walking forward.
At this very moment there is a public health crisis spreading all over the world and museums, exhibitions, arts and cultural sites, schools and educational programs are closing the doors in many countries. How is this affecting you in the planning of the next SACO edition?
Without a doubt, it has been an unexpected situation, which we initially saw from afar but which, day by day, became a real problem that led us to opt for major changes in SACO9 Now or never, this year's edition. Like most of the cultural events in the country and the world, we had to change the date and postpone all our activities for the first semester, which led to a necessary transfer of events, people, places and moments that even today we are still working hard to carry out without too many casualties. There is also a change in mentality that we certainly take into account, especially in regards to the inevitable post-traumatic stress that people will have after the pandemic. We know, as a massive and international event, that people will see foreign visitors differently and that they might be reluctant to crowd into large groups, but those are natural reactions given the situation we live in, which we hope to get around when SACO9 Now or never takes place at the end of September this year.
What is your feeling about how this emergency will influence our approach to producing, sharing and experiencing the arts?
I think it will affect enormously and we are already seeing some examples. Art in the end is a reflection of the feelings and tribulations of the artist, who, confined for weeks or months, will undoubtedly, see an unusual impact on his or her works. There are already stories, paintings, video games and music created either about the situation of the virus or in the context of the virus, and that is very interesting. It is a terrible situation, a tragedy that implies delays, cancellations and abruptly finished projects for the art world. But it is also an opportunity to create differently. Art as such cannot generate a vaccine for the virus, but it is a condenser of emotions that we need in these times, whether for people who create or for those who enjoy it.
Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share?
I would just like to let people know more about SACO. It is a great adventure, and I would love that people reading this could know more about us in every corner. We have a webpage, numerous videos on youtube and you can follow us on our social media.
Can you mention three or five keywords that express your impressions and feelings about the content of this interview?
Future, because we can be the future. Determination, Discovery, Dreams, Community.
Carlos Rendón, Chilean journalist and cultural manager, from the region of Antofagasta. Have worked as a journalist and editor in digital and printed publications in the country and in numerous cultural projects in the region, opting to combine the skills of the journalism to promote arts and different cultural expressions. He has been in charge of the Relationships area of the Contemporary Art Festival SACO for two years.