Buenos Aires

“Vino Ramona”

Galería Alberto Sendrós

The Fundación START (Society of Technology and Art) describes itself as “a project to create an imaginary society of artists and scientists.” Linking a vast web of people from all disciplines, its emphasis is on creating an autonomous forum in which artists, intellectuals, and technology experts can interact, without the need of legitimization from outside institutions. Among its activities are experimental art events, trends research, training in new technologies, and an underground art review. Prescient in its apprehension of Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse and the ensuing crisis, in the wake of which barter clubs sprung up spontaneously around the country, the foundation established its own medium of exchange as early as 1991. To belong you must offer something—computer classes, dog walking, legal counsel—for which you are paid in the group’s own currency, the venus, allowing you to purchase a service in your turn. The organization is anarchic, accepting all proposals from its members. Thus it has been known to host events such as neighborhood fashion shows (member artists clothed and made up by their colleagues walked up and down a chosen city block, lined with multifunctional furniture designed by group architects), auctions of forged paintings, and even an orgy.

The foundation’s most recent happening, held on the terrace of the Galería Alberto Sendrós, was a fundraiser to celebrate the appearance of an issue of its underground review, Ramona. Wine bottles that had been transformed into art objects by sixteen Argentine artists, including Guillermo Kuitca and Léon Ferrari, were put up for auction. Vivi Tellas, an important avant-garde theater figure, served as auctioneer, achieving a perfect pitch of ironic enthusiasm. The bottle art included lyrical drawings of a man dancing, I only drink when I’m drunk (all works 2004), by Sebastián Gordin; Kuitca’s glued-on bit of paper, called Il desserto rosso (Red Desert) after the Antonioni film, depicting figures trekking through a russet landscape; signature work by the likes of Marcelo Pombo, with tinklingly explosive collages of drugstore-bought materials (shiny stickers, ribbon bows, minuscule plastic figurines); and a contribution from Fernanda Laguna, owner of the alternative art venue Belleza y Felicidad, whose bottle featured a melancholic cotton-ball cat. In a satisfying superimposition of events, Ferrari, in his familiar loopy black-ink script, was covering the blank label of his bottle with the official text of protest against the threatened closing down of his current retrospective by influential Catholic groups at the very same moment that hooligans, who had snuck into the show, were breaking bottles that were part of his installation representing the reverberations of American colonization. With the bidding ranging from dramatic to lackluster (as audience members drifted off to the back to pour themselves more wine), some bottles went for next to nothing, others (like the Pombo) for serious money, but altogether the auction raised enough to pay the magazine’s rent for the summer. In a second act of the evening, participating artists were each awarded a wine bottle by another artist as recompense for their labors. Who got what was by luck of the draw. In a culminating gesture of relational aesthetics, several of the art objects were uncorked and tested by audience members, by that point too well lubricated to gripe over quality.

Maxine Swann