Exchanges Between Artists

Creating Ballast In Latin America

A network for research and projects, the Lastro platform is a mainstay for residencies, study groups, exhibitions, publications, archives, non-credit courses, and cultural programming, with the goal of building connections between artists and art and culture professionals in Latin America.

The creation of these glossaries as well as other acts of affirmation and struggle form an inventory of anti-colonial processes. They are initiatives for recovering, recognizing, and valuing what is ours, the ways that we make, think, and feel. The identification of our language, our desires. Of a history that has always existed but which we were never told. And, above all, naming the oppressor – a defining act of anti-colonial thinking.

Distancing from our neighbors

Throughout history, we Latin Americans have been subjected to a long process of political isolation. For Brazil, this segregation from neighboring countries took root in a very visible way. Painted as a problem of language difference, Brazil’s lack of inclusion in Latin America’s development is undoubtedly due to ideological strategies to weaken the region. This distancing can be seen across the continent, to varying degrees, even in the face of similar political and historical events. On the whole, one observes a broad devaluing of what is local, rife with veneration of the North.

System of resistance

A handful of connection initiatives have emerged from this, as attempts to strengthen ties and cultural recognition. And the curation of art, when thought of as a network of circuits, plays a fundamental role in the formation of networked thinking, developing systems of resistance. Designing new worlds, new flows. To lie in the space between.

It was curatorial practice, starting from this bias, that led to the creation of “Lastro – Free Exchanges in Art”, a project that arose from a desire to build a network that unites several visual arts scenes across Latin America. Today, however, after 13 years, Lastro has become entrenched in thinking about the tactics that fracture the structure of hegemonic knowledge. That is, seeing itself as a possibility based on access to an anti-colonial Latin American epistemology, in addition to the belief in the total legitimacy of the creative and intellectual production of the global South that foresees the collapse of the colonial project.

Lastro is based on collaboration and autonomy. As a network, project, platform and research, it takes on these characteristics according to the proposed context, shaping itself from its residencies, affective connection, study groups, exhibitions, publications, a library, live archive, non-credit courses and actuation in cultural programming. In each case, its underpinning is self-management.

Starting in 2005, in Buenos Aires, as an initiative for the exchange of portfolios between artists from Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, the project was developed during its first ten years with the objective of cataloging Latin American art agents and spaces. Throughout this period, 17 residencies were held, which were conducted on a digital platform between 2010 and 2015, with approximately 2000 registered users, including artists, curators, researchers, art spaces, galleries, institutions, and artistic projects.

The Lastro website also published calls for submissions, events, discussion forums, and critical essays on contemporary art and culture in Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Cuba. In addition to online mapping, the project also consisted of a library of nearly 900 titles, including catalogs and books on contemporary art, art history and sociology, published in South American countries and Cuba.

Study groups and workshops

After completing its first decade of operation, the platform also began to lead collective projects. The residences and exhibitions Lastro em Campo – percursos ancestrais e cotidianos (Lastro in the Field – ancestral and daily pathways, 2015/2016) and Travessias Ocultas – Lastro Bolivia (Hidden Crossings, 2017/2018) were conducted using self-management dynamics for fundraising, travel logistics, and conceptual lines of research.

Recently, one of the topics Lastro has devoted itself to is the study of anti-colonial processes in Latin America through study groups and workshops. The Grupo de Estudos Lastro (Lastro Study Group) is a collective for study and production in art, writing, and activism. The group has been meeting in São Paulo on a weekly basis since 2017, based on a common interest in deconstructing hegemonic narratives and employing as a work dynamic the production of works, political-aesthetic exercises, and publication of fanzines.

Discussions and developments are prompted by readings of authors from the global South, film reviews, web content, and everyday situations. Identifying itself as an intention to break the pattern, Lastro exists – and resists – as a strategy for the collective, using experience as a tool for dialogue. In short, a project that is free and autonomous in its connections.

Beatriz Lemos works as a curator and researcher specializing in networking. She is the creator of the research platform “Lastro – free exchanges in art”. Currently, she coordinates the autonomous programs, Lastro Al Janiah (series of initiatives at the Palestinian restaurant and cultural space in São Paulo), and the Lastro Study Group at the Casa do Povo (SP).

Translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry.