Emergentes – 10 projects by Latin American artists (part 1)

After yesterday’s brief intro, here’s a heftier coverage of the Emergentes exhibition which opened last Friday at LABoral center in Gijon, Spain.

Emergentes is the 7th exhibition hosted at LABoral since the center opened in March 2007. Everyone had warned me that LABoral is big. Very big. 4.094 square metres is dedicated to exhibition spaces. Besides, LABoral is also also a centre for research, production, training and application in the field of visual arts and industrial creation so an area of almost 700 square metres will be allocated to workshops and laboratories.


I’ve lived in Asturias in the past and although no one will ever convince me that there can be a more beautiful region on earth, it is the last place in Europe where i would have expected to see emerge a mega center for art, science, technology and advanced visual industries. Mine and steel industry in decline? Yes. Goats in Los Picos de Europa? Yes. Gigantic squids frolicking around Luarca? Yes. Eating your own weight in beans? Yes. But a new media art center? According to Rosina Gómez-Baeza*, that’s precisely the point. Asturias has long been isolated from the contemporary art scene, even if the region was certainly not poor in cultural events. Actually, LABoral is more than your usual art center. One of its main objectives is to work in collaboration with the industry (the center is supported by Fundación Telefónica which each year organizes Vida, the International Competition on Art & Artificial Life) to produce, explore and create new forms of cultural expressions. And with someone like artist and engineer Erich Berger as their new Chief Curator, the centre will undoubtedly manage to go way beyond its regional role, and leave an imprint on the international art scene as well.

0aarellan2.jpgIf i had to imagine the dream center for media arts, LABoral would tick all the right boxes. Except one: it is a bit off the usual art maniac map. Cheap companies like easyjet, air berlin will get you to the nearest airport: Asturias (sometimes also called Oviedo). After that there are buses but that’s a long ride. Am i sounding like a cheap version of gridskipper, here? Right, let’s head to the Emergentes exhibition then. And as i’ve been a bit long, i’ll just highlight one project and the rest will come later on this week.

8520 S.W.27th Pl., by Fernando David Orellana, consists of six identical robotic rodents with a shared operativity. Each one of the double-headed robots lives in a tubular, narrow and transparent house. The dwellings are identical, apart from the number on the front porch. They are the numbers of the houses where the artist and his friends lived when his family emigrated from El Salvador to Florida.

Infrared sensors installed at one end wall and piloted by a random number generator control the linear movements of the rodents: backwards, forwards, or hesitant quasi-immobility.

520 south west 27th pl speaks of the process of free will. The work resembles our mental decision process in that the sensor system permits external forces to influence each kinetic movement. Empathy is elicited at several levels: flickering head-lights on the robots convey the effort of decision-making, and the range of movement types amongst the six identical creatures parodies our sense of individuality.


The robots, made out of two reconfigured Gemmy Corporation Dancing Hamsters toys, look harmless and although they have probably not been designed (one could say that they have actually been un-designed), they are cute and one feels for them, especially when they bump their heads on the extremes of their houses.

Video of the robot assembly for the sculpture 8520 S.W. 27th, PL.

Another video, presenting the installation.

* The current Director of LAboral and ex Head of the ARCO art fair in Madrid has been recently interviewed by Domenico Quaranta for rhizome.
More images of Emergentes.