Have you ever heard of the concept of “Urban Interventions”?
Probably not. Until about ten days ago, neither had I.
Between 16 and 25 November, the streets and parks of my neighbourhood were transformed into makeshift concert stages, many walls became artist`s canvases and various public spaces, bridges and statues became temporary exhibits. This was all part of the first festival of urban interventions called “Hecho en Casa” (Made at Home).
And luckily for me, the centre of all the action was right on my doorstep, so I never had to go far to see the events and snap loads of photos.
There were so many interesting “interventions” I would like to share with you, that I am going to have to divide this into at least 2 or 3 posts. This first post will be dedicated to the interventions that transformed some of Santiago`s most iconic buildings, statues and bridges into rather interesting “artworks”.
A giant, 1/2 ton cardboard robot trying to climb over Pio Nono Bridge
The robot was designed and built by an Argentinian artist, Pablo Curutchet. He started using cardboard to create his giant artworks due to an economic crisis in Argentina in 2001. He had to get creative with his materials and this is the interesting result.
The robot soon turned into a giant message board with people writing all sorts of things, some mundane and others more philosophical. This, according to Pablo, is one of the reasons he likes creating artwork that can be enjoyed by an casual passersby. No need to go to a museum or gallery.
“You are here” – in Plaza Italia
“Ud esta aqui” – This 10m tall arrow was hung from a crane over the statue of General Baquedano (a Chilean hero from the Pacific War). The statue is in the centre of the emblematic Plaza Italia, which I have mentioned many times in this blog. It is the heart of Santiago in terms of celebrations, protests and gatherings of all shapes and forms.
The construction was installed by “Grupo Grifo” who have done various campaigns in public spaces around Santiago since 2004. This one is referring to the fact that at some point in time, we have all been lost and tried to find our location on a map. But the philosophical idea behind the arrow is saying that “you are here”, in this exact moment in your life, appreciate it and make the most of it.
“Before I die, I would like to…”
This large blackboard was installed at the entrance to GAM (A Cultural Centre named after one of Chile`s most famous poets, Gabriela Mistral). Every day people could write one desire or thing they want to do/achieve before they die. There were definitely some crazy wishes, like “learning to fly”, but many others were really touching, like “meet my father”. Rodrigo and I both wrote a wish and I really hope that both of them happen! What would you write…?
A dragon with a difference
María Feuereisen constructed this dragon weaving in and out of the floor in the central plaza of GAM. She chose a dragon as the theme for her artwork saying “this year has been one full of social movements and challenges to overcome. And since dragons are associated with strength, health, harmony, good luck and protection from evil spirits, this dragon is for the city of Santiago”.
It was made entirely from used cardboard. The spikes on its body were made from old CDs and the details on its face are bottle caps, CDs and paper.
GAM transforms into a multi-eyed monster
On the first day of the festival, we wondered through GAM in the afternoon and came across people constructing rather interesting “things” using old plastic publicity posters, scraps of material and large pilates balls.
A few days later I found out that they were in fact eyeballs. The copper facade of GAM facing Alameda, was transformed with these large eyes as part of the intervention called “YOMONSTRO”. The aim of getting people involved in the creation of this work was to allow them to expand their creative spirit and demonstrate their different identities. Every eye was unique and really creative!
A King Kong version of Pinochet
This 10m tall inflatable statue of Pinochet (Dictator in Chile between 1973 and 1989) was placed outside emblematic buildings in the centre of Santiago during the week. He was depicted comically as King Kong. The creators (Los Casa Grande) said the comical depiction was to look at the Coup of 1973 in a different light and show the absurdity of gaining power through force.
And finally, my favourite event of the week…
“Ever thought of conducting an orchestra?”
A small side street in Lastarria was transformed into a concert stage. The catch was that the orchestra would only play when a member of the public got up on the podium to direct them. Needless to say there was a long queue of people wanting their 60 seconds of fame as a conductor.
The cutest was when little kids were the conductors.
Even the neighbours got involved, with their own “batons”.
Other neighbours got to listen to the music and watch from the comfort of their balconies.
All these random events (giant dragons, monsters eyeballs, robots etc) may seem rather strange. But really, the aim of the festival was to get people interacting with the city and other inhabitants. These events were a way to participate and view the city as a communicative space in which art becomes an active part of the public discourse and the urban environment.
I am so privileged to live right in the centre of the area in Santiago which is most known for its art, lively street life, culture (thanks to GAM and a host of other places) and music. So I got to see the festival at all times of day and night without any real effort. But really, the amazing thing to see, was my neighbourhood even more bustling and alive than normal with people coming from all over the city to see and participate in the festival. I can`t wait to see what they put together next year!
“Stay tuned” for part two of this blog which will look at how Hecho en Casa transformed various walls of the neighbourhood into incredible and colourful works of art.