We spoke with Xavier de Luca, Focus Mediterranean curator
Xavier de Luca (Barcelona, 1980) has focused his training in the field of contemporary art, photography, and cultural management. He currently works in Fundació Suñol de Barcelona and in JISER Reflexions Mediterrànies, where he serves as director.
(Barcelona, Zaragoza and Tunisia, 2006) or the ongoing project Residences of Creation BCN> ALG> TNS, which began in 2010, and which establishes creative bridges between the cities of Barcelona, Algiers, and Tunisia. Following the successful reception of the Focus Magreb program, which was presented at Swab 2016, this year evolves to Focus Mediterráneo, expanding the number of participants and countries represented.Perceptions de la VilleHis interest in artistic creation in the Mediterranean region began after a stay in Tunisia in 2004, where he helped organize the Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage. It was precisely in this country that he created, together with other artists, the JISER Reflexions Mediterrànies association, which since 2005 has organized and promoted artistic and research projects that have as main objectives the mobility of young people, the promotion of creation, the exchange of artistic proposals and initiatives, and their dissemination in the Euro-Mediterranean area. Some examples are the artistic meeting
Between 2012 and 2017, JISER has actively promoted and collaborated in the Trans-Cultural Dialogues platform, which together with other Mediterranean cultural associations organized in Algiers the multidisciplinary cultural festival DJART in 2014, as well as the research project medreb, regarding the heritage of the abandoned industrial complex in the El Hamma district of Algiers. In 2017, JISER also takes part in the Kibrit platform, whose projects seek to revive historical heritage and collective memory.
Why is it particularly interesting today to narrate the various realities that occur along the the Mediterranean coast, from the artists’ perspective?
I think it is important to learn about the diversity of cultural and artistic realities that exist in the countries of the Mediterranean region. It is a geographic space so close to us, but one that is unknown, and which is left out of the international art circuit. We certainly live in an ethnocentric 'West' that doesn’t contemplate the artistic initiatives that take place outside our borders, and I believe this makes us miss out on other ways of creating, doing, and thinking that have much to contribute to our own cultural reality.
It is a long-term job, for which it is necessary to create spaces that bring to light the voices and discourse of people and groups that have been silenced; And of course deconstructing the imaginaries created and recreated about the "other," who are alienated within the logic of colonial power. At JISER we are committed to this project and think that it is important to reinforce the bridges that exist between different societies and cultures. That which unites us is much bigger than that which separates us. And from this perspective, we propose the creation of projects that allow spaces for meeting and dialogue between creative formats and the artists who produce them.
How can art bring closer territories that are at once geographically close but far apart from a political and sociocultural perspective?
As I mentioned before, European societies have little knowledge regarding the social and cultural reality of the Mediterranean region. We believe this fracture must be repaired and, through actions such as the Mediterranean Focus program, we think we can contribute in favor of stronger links and a common dialogue.
This work has been developed together with entities and artists from countries such as Algeria and Tunisia for over ten years. We share our commitment and believe in the importance of promoting this activity in order for the project to reach not only the the fair’s visitors but also all those who are interested in art and see it as a transformative tool for society. This will also allow the issue to addressed within political agendas, as only this way to break the boundaries that separate us.
What are the highlights of the upcoming Focus Mediterranean? What are the main topics addressed?
This year Focus Mediterranean stands out thanks to the presence of the 8 guest spaces, which come from different cities in the southern Mediterranean region, from Morocco to Lebanon, not to mention areas as downtrodden in recent years as Libya or Syria. We have made a selection that seeks to present alternative and collective spaces that develop top level artistic practices and, at the same time, play a key role thanks to their involvement in the transformation of their societies.
The spaces are: Collective 220 (Algeria); the Center des Arts Vivants de Radès (Tunisia); the WaraQ Art Foundation (Libya); Artellewa, Cairo (Egypt); AllArtNow, Damascus (Syria), Mansion, Beirut (Lebanon); Kibrit Platform, with partners from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine; and JISER Reflexions Mediterrànies, Barcelona / Tunisia.
The main topics addressed in the works showcased center around the in the demand of the deconstruction of the stereotypes that punish to the different countries of denominated South of the Mediterranean, not only locally, but also at international level; Propose to promote the mobility and the connection of artists and alternative artistic spaces in the region and promote the maximum visibility of the projects that realize these structures in a frame like Swab.
How do you foresee the future in the Mediterranean basin after the recent events (Arab Spring, Syria, refugees, nationalism in Europe) and what role does the emerging cultural movement play in it?
The political, social, and cultural diversity that exists in the region doesn’t allow us to foresee a homogeneous future, nor to predict a path that in any case has to be cleared and traveled by its inhabitants. We can indeed emphasize the existence of an international interference, which -inherited from a colonial past- sets an agenda marked by European and Western interests.
From where we stand, we propose the creation of spaces of creative and dialogical freedom where the people who are part of this project and who belong to the various countries of the Mediterranean region can reflect together, through culture and art, on the kind of societies we wish for. Art and culture are the tools that can play a key role in social transformation. An in a reactionary way, to fight against power dynamics that perpetuate social, political, and economic inequalities. Our commitment to art and culture is a commitment to societies and to the recognition of the diversity of ways of being, creating, and thinking that exist. From these micro places and projects, we contribute, together with our fellow Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, Libyans, Egyptians, Palestinians, Syrians or Lebanese, to think of the Mediterranean in a different light. We firmly believe that this is a possible path, and we will not stop building bridges to achieve it.
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