ARTURb 2015’s edition took place again in Lagos, middle end of September. AKA CORLEONE, ALIAS, BOSOLETTI, MR WOODLAND and REGG were the artists invited to create pieces of art while based at an old prison.
VNA was invited to fully cover this edition. We arrived to Lagos on a Friday’s still warm, late night. The guys were finishing dinner at a tasca (typical Portuguese kind of bistro) the long table resonating with conversations’ sounds and laughter (and a little bit of booze, too). The organizers, Jorge Pereira, Maria João Alcobia and Nuno Pereira were sitting amongst the artists. No formal behaviors or ceremonial mannerisms at sight; the whole atmosphere was the one of a group of good friends having dinner. Quite uncommon for an artistic residence, we shared with Nuno Pereira:
NP (smiling): Do you think so? Well, we prefer to see ourselves more as art-caretakers than as art-curators…
VNA: What do you mean?
NP: We share (almost) everything here. For us ARTURb wouldn’t be interesting at all if the artists came and worked on their own, isolated, restrained from the rest of the group’s references. They work in an old prison, the feeling is there but what we want to promote is exactly the opposite: we believe that by encouraging a kind of a community spirit each individual work will be better.
VNA: How do you do it?
NP: As I said before, almost everything is shared here. To give you an example, on the residence’s first day the group decides what are the best walls for each and everyone of them. They negotiate, they counsel one another…
VNA: No conflicts…?
NP: No conflicts at all. More so, a lot of collaboration instead. You see, they openly watch and discuss how they work, and have access to how the others create their pieces of art, what materials and techniques they use. From that standpoint they have the opportunity to learn and integrate new elements into their practice.
We thought it sounded (almost) too perfect. This would be the concept of true art democracy. Was it real or just wishful thinking? We decided to take an even closer look; so we spend the rest of our days observing. We were looking for proof and to understand if and in what manner this residence’s format would influence the kind of work produced. The best way to find it was to sense the whole atmosphere and, of course, talk with the artists.
MR.WOODLAND: ‘I regret I didn’t make it to stay here for more than a week. I wasn’t aware this would happen to me, you know? I mean I was very excited because of the project, working in a prison and all but I never thought I would feel sorry for not being able to stay till the last day. The guys are amazing: they totally care for us, ask anything and they’ll do their best to grant it, it’s beautiful. The only thing you need to be concerned about is your work. At the end of the day, this and all you partake with the others enriches what you planned to do. Also the fact that you work inside a jailhouse is amazing… my work focuses a lot on dreams and fantasy; a jail seems to be just the impossible place for that but I tried to portray exactly the opposite: you need to be strong enough to stay focused on your dreams if you wish to survive a place like this.’
AKA CORLEONE: ‘The sharing thing is a great first day’s icebreaker and a very intelligent way to create bonds between us. We don’t know each other but we actually know the work. So it’s fantastic to have someone you scarcely know point at a place and say ‘hey, I think that looks like your kind of space’. In my case I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to create in a building where people were traditionally confined. Because it’s unnatural, right? You are not supposed to be there. It always struck me how would someone’s mind survive… in the case it does. I wanted to create something which would show the different psychological states one could go through. We discussed it and it was clear for everybody that the best place for me was a cell. The staff provided everything I needed from the kind of paint to very old magazines and posters where I was able to find disturbing images and words.’
REGG: ‘I didn’t think twice the moment LAC invited me to be part of ARTURb 2015. Gosh, you see all the ROA’s and the SAINER’s and BEZT they managed to bring here, and you think yes, yes, yes, I want to be part of it. I love to work in a collaborative way, you learn from others. For me, painting without getting to know other artists is senseless, poor all in all. To be confined in a studio on your own is awful, ARTURb’s is the perfect atmosphere. You share, you understand how people do what they do, it nurtures you. And to do so in a prison was the icing on the cake. Now, I had perhaps the strangest place of all: my work was developed in the patio, where prisoners could come for a walk and a ray of light. I guess It gave me the tiny bit of freedom they would sense during their imprisonment days.’
BOSOLETTI: ‘Freedom is the right word to describe ARTURb. Together, we take decisions, the staff is amazing, everything is perfectly organized, they let us free to do whatever we want. My work is also focused on freedom, on all the people who live deprived of it because their main concern is to have a job in order to buy a house, a cellular phone or a car. These persons do not dedicate their lives on what I call the real truth (inside them). They aren’t capable of thinking ‘this is what I want to do in my life’, they only aim getting paid to achieve material things. I come from a town in Argentina where for ages and ages everyone seems destined to work in a plant; and I’ve seen some very talented people lose their natural abilities by doing what our parents and grandparents did in the past. This is sad and is precisely what I try to communicate through my painting: the deprivation of freedom although being apparently free… truth is some people in jail are freer… because they’re not attached to mundane nonsense. That is the main concept I try to work on: freedom is a matter of choice; you may seem unrestrained but you are constrained by what you have or wish to have. ARTURb was the ideal project to communicate this idea of freedom as a matter of choice.’
When ARTURb 2015 ended, and after a great opening, we were also sorry to leave. During those days, and after many talks we had found proof and all the evidence: more than a residence dedicated to promote and show different kinds of street art expression, ARTURb reveals a rare demonstration of what can be called a profound form of art democracy. In today’s world what would be the odds to see it live?
Exhibit – September 19 to October 31
For more information visit:
All pictures courtesy Sara Navarro and LAC.