Latest News from Jo Farb Hernández
I am about a month into my annual summer fieldwork trip, and have already seen some wonderful art environments and have been heartened with some positive movement toward our general preservation goals.
I began in Paris in May, speaking on SPACES and the curation of art environments for the annual meeting of the European Outsider Art Association (giving my standard rant about problems with the term outsider as part of my presentation [sweetly, of course, grin]), and I actually think that there is—finally—some growing unease with this term in Europe. So it was a good opportunity to thrash out some of these issues with a receptive audience…
My own lecture, per their request, was about curating/documenting art environments (the entire theme of the conference was “Curating Outsider Art”), so it was an interesting opportunity for me to think a bit more broadly about what I do in this regard, while at the same time providing some specific information (how to’s) for those facing similar circumstances in terms of threatened sites. I of course directed their attention to the SPACES website in general, but also specifically in terms of how to document art environments. I also showed some pages from the Singular Spaces book CD, including the site plans, using them as a model of how we’d ultimately like to document all sites.
I was particularly pleased that John Maizels, editor/publisher of Raw Vision, was so enthusiastic about our good work continuing Seymour Rosen’s legacy at SPACES after hearing my lecture. I was also delighted to have the opportunity to finally put faces with the names of folks with whom I’ve been corresponding and working for so many years, and, also, of course, meeting many new folks who are working in the field.
As part of a post-conference field visit, Laurent Danchin and I, along with several others from Finland, France, and Italy, went down to Roger Chomeaux’s site near Fontainebleau forest. It is deteriorating and the sculptures have been removed for safekeeping, but the structures themselves still appear to be amazingly strong and stable. We were met there by Marc Botlan, Inspector General for Historical Monuments for the French Department of Culture and Communication, who is exploring the possibility of adding this site to the “patrimoine” of the country. Laurent and I spent the afternoon with him (along with my husband Sam, and Chomo’s daughter Geneviève), and he was very interested to hear about SPACES. We also discussed different models from all over the world for how these kinds of sites can be preserved. I’m guardedly optimistic that perhaps the French government might be able to add Chomo’s site to their group of registered art environments and ultimately support its preservation.
Back down in Spain, I was pleased to see that the Regincós site of Antoni Macià has been cleaned up and the architectural structures and sculptures are now much more visible than they were during the time I was doing my in-depth fieldwork for the Singular Spaces project.
I was also so very pleased, on my first visit this year to Josep Pujiula’s site near Argelaguer, to see that he has continued to work very hard over the winter, and there are many new, positive changes. The lovely cascading fountains and pools are still there (these had been under attack last year by the governmental agency that regulates natural water sources), but there is also a new cupola-topped tower accessible by ten different labyrinthine tunnels created out of his signature bent branches.
But even more impressive, he has returned to the cave areas that he had begun picking out several years ago, and is now rapidly digging out tunnels, ovoid interior windows, and passageways within the cliff, as well as ornamenting both interior and exterior walls of the rock face with figurative and abstract designs—all with little hammers and chisels. An outrageous amount of work! It is now a wonderful play space for both children and adults, but it will ultimately be the place where his ashes will be laid.
Josep has been getting some good publicity locally as the new film, Sobre La Marxa, directed and edited by Jordi Morató, has been showing in film festivals from Canada to the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain, and racking up a few prizes along the way. His film includes footage from the film
Sam and I worked on in 2005, part of the Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain project. Just last weekend I introduced the film and Josep’s work at the Mostra Cinema Frontera film festival in Portbou, a small seaside village just south of the French border, to an appreciative audience.
I am looking forward to visiting the Aragon site of Julio Basanta again next week, as well as a site fairly nearby which will be new to me. And we are continuing our efforts to preserve Josep Pujiula’s work, efforts about which I remain guardedly optimistic.
In the meantime, back on the home front at SPACES central in Aptos, we are adding new environments as well as new texts and photos for earlier-posted environments every week to our website, so continue to watch this space. And remember, if you have materials to share, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them as quickly as possible.
Have a good summer!