Despacio’s mission is to keep doing what it has been doing for the past decade: consistently exploring new models of artistic and curatorial practice while remaining a driving force in the continued development of Central America’s artistic voice.
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Rostros Vivos

ArchivedHappened in November 2016
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San José
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Despacio

These living faces are still here, discredited by a nation hiding behind the curtain of nationalism. 3,000 posters, 12 faces, and one action are reflected in silenced portraits. Beyond the loss of belonging to a place bound by borders or the dignity of possessing a passport, these images show the reality for people trapped between physical and conceptual barriers, positioned between misery and precariousness. This is life for African, Haitian, and Cuban migrants stuck at the northern border of Costa Rica.

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In 2015 and the current year, there has been a growing problem with migration through Costa Rica. South and Central America have become corridors to “the American Dream." Because of socio-political and economic factors in each of their regions, emigrants from Africa, Cuba, and Haiti are the protagonists of this scenario. After leaving Brazil, they managed to cross an entire continent, only to find themselves stranded in Costa Rican territory. Countries such as Nicaragua, Panama, and Colombia have taken preventive measures and closed their borders to the transit of these peoples. Nicaragua has gone so far as to condemn humanitarian aid as a form of human trafficking.

Rostros Vivos came into being in spite of the propaganda of the 2016 Nicaraguan elections in order to expose those other living faces that occupy a very different socio-political context and ,as a result, brutally neglect the human rights of the vulnerable people—men, women, and children alike—who live day to day in dire uncertainty.

We do not know much with certainty except that they are caught by the lines of a map. In these twelve photographs, juxtaposed against the emblematic hat of Augusto César Sandino, are the faces of those subjected to utter anonymity.

In collaboration with the artist Julia Murillo, the artist Habacuc traveled to the northern border to capture the plight of these people living in limbo, not know if they will ever be able to continue on their long and arduous journey through this passage to a better life.

Rostros Vivos, which could only take place a few days before the presidential elections in Nicaragua, is disclosing the discrepancy between the original radical ideas of the Sandinista National Liberation Front that are still used and cited in speeches of the political elite, but are in reality nothing more than empty words echoing a political strategy.

An inability to communicate is, for the living, the closest thing to death. In the case of these migrants, whatever they say, nobody seems to listen. In light of the elections, perhaps these photographs will not last long on the streets and are fated to be just another layer beneath the city and in the collective imagination, buried under the propaganda that turns our eyes and disconnects us completely from our own humanity.

Thoughts by Erno Hilarion

The exhibition of Guillermo Vargas Habacuc in Despacio in San José, Costa Rica opens its doors to the public from November 18th to December 17th, 2016.

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Articles about the situation:
→ The Guardian: 600 US-bound Africans stranded
→ Tico Times: Crisis at the border
→ Tico Times: African, Cuban migrant children in limbo

Portraits made in collaboration with Julia Murillo

¿Cuánta Tierra Necesita un Hombre?

ArchivedHappened in May 2016
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San José
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Despacio

Adriana Arroyo sets up unexpected relationships between debris from a civil engineering materials laboratory, the urban landscape of security grills and abstracted imagery of volcanic land in Costa Rica. These unlikely affinities that she exposes, test our preconceptions of the public and private and also hint at the fragility and temporality of the structures we have grown to depend on.

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A Geometry of Rubble

In 1886, the same year that saw the release of his celebrated novella The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy published “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, considered by Joyce to be the Russian author’s best short story.

With a title like that, it’s not hard to imagine what the story is about. Tolstoy, a vegetarian and anarcho-pacifist, was never one to choose his words lightly. As with all his works, this text is as relevant as ever.

Adriana Arroyo has presented us yet again with a body of work, that is to say, of questions revolving around the earth, its changes, what emerges from it, what concerns us. Giving another turn of the screw to her 2015 show Geotropism (KM Gallery, Berlin), Arroyo digs deeper into our dialectic relationship of possession-impotence with the landscape. At what point does the landscape become a belonging (how much land does a man need?). Besides the conventions of the law, what defines possession? What ultimately is appropriation?

Answering in the form of a question is a well-known mechanism. However, Arroyo takes the more interesting route—asking questions with declarative statements: gates are ornamental / bars are fragility.

After photographing them in 35mm film and enlarging the negatives in digital high resolution (even the process is dialectic: chemical-digital), Arroyo combines images of the slopes of Costa Rican volcanoes with those metallic structures that are no longer ornamental. And symbolically, she places a geometrical figure of construction rubble in the center of the exhibition. Note the contradiction: a geometry of rubble. In her words, “the contrast between how the landscape is formed: volcanoes/tectonics, how we divide and alter it: security/segregation-based architecture / the peculiar aesthetic of gates / bars and how we negotiate it, use it, domesticate it: structures, the mixing of materials for roadways, etc.”

Towards the end of Tolstoy’s story, we sense the inevitable tragedy of a protagonist who desired, at a high price, what he did not really need. The final sentence is devastatingly pragmatic. Adriana Arroyo’s work, on the other hand, doesn’t try for a verdict, a resolution. It remains a question. A doubt under construction.

by Luis Chaves

The exhibition takes place from May 5 to July 3, 2016. The opening is on May 5, 6-9pm.

Adriana Arroyo was born 1981 in San José, Costa Rica. She currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

In 2013 she concluded the two year studio programme at De Ateliers, Amsterdam. Recent solo shows include 'Geotropism', Gallery KM, Berlin, 'Estratos Inestables', TEOR/éTica, San José and `Unstable Strata´, Galerie Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam. Recent group shows include: Money, Good and Evil. A Visual History of the Economy, Kunsthalle Baden-Baden (2015), ‘A Paradise Built in Hell’, Kunstverein Hamburg (2014), ‘On White I’ and ‘On White II’ at Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp and Knokke (2014) and ‘I appear missing’ at Galerie Gabriel Rolt (2013).

Her work has been screened at among others the Berlinale Forum Expanded (2011), Germany, Toronto International Film Festival (2011), Canada and the Oberhausen Short Film Festival (2011), Germany. Arroyo´s work is included in the Caldic Collection, Wassenaar (NL) and the Hedge House Collection, Wijlre (NL) as well as several private collections.

Adriana Arroyo is represented by Gallery Gabriel Rolt, Amsterdam and Gallery KM, Berlin.

Selected Video Works

ArchivedHappened in November 2015
9.9336674000
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Despacio

Over the course of one month, Despacio made way for screening a selection of video artworks by international and Costa Rican artists. The solo-presentation of each video has been accompanied by a culinary event, that became an arena for discussion and exchange.

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The program was launched as an open platform for screenings and events on the interface between experimental off-culture and established video artists, as well as artists with almost zero critical history.

Featuring work by

Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker (Panama)
Fischli & Weiss (Switzerland)
Keren Cytter (Israel)
Alejandro Bonilla Rojas (Costa Rica)
Diego Arias Asch (Costa Rica)
Julian Gallese (Costa Rica)
Alejandro Ramírez (Costa Rica)
Carlos Fernández (Costa Rica)
Habacuc (Costa Rica)
Lucía Madriz (Costa Rica)
Marton Robinson (Costa Rica)
Eva & Franco Mattes (Italy)

The screenings took place from Nov 5 until Dec 12, 2015.

Diego Arias Asch – $400

ArchivedHappened in September 2015
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San José
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Despacio

Not long after we met, I saw Diego by chance in a local market disguised as a street vendor. He was selling unauthorized copies of Ben Hur, secretly blended with homemade footage of Jesus Christ’s journey to the cross. For which he visited several nursing homes dressed as the son of God and picked and recorded fights with the elders.

How are Diego's paintings? Not less absurd, and equally revealing.

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Diego Arias Asch’s attitude towards painting is the same as his attitude towards life.

Let me set an example: Not long after we met, I found Diego in one of Costa Rica's large market places (Alajuela’s Central Market), where he disguised himself as a street vendor. He was selling unauthorized copies of Ben Hur.

However, no one knew that these copies had been partially edited with footage of a homemade version of Jesus Christ’s journey to the cross. Diego visited several nursing homes dressed as the son of God where he tried to pick fights with the elders; the scenes were musicalized.

Thoughts by Guillermo Tovar Carazo

The exhibition took place from September 16 to October 16, 2015.

Diego Arias Asch, born 1988, is a visual artist and filmmaker based in San José, Costa Rica. He graduated from the School of Communications of the University of Costa Rica, specialized in audiovisual production. He studied drawing and animation with artist Guillermo Tovar Carazo.

In 2009 he started producing highly manipulated and irrelevant documentaries, prominent among them is ‘I’ve Lost My Friends’ (2012), shot in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Festival. In 2010 he established the Doyle Club for the production and diffusion of his collaborative projects. In 2012 he performed as a staff dancer for a Flaming Lips gig.

In 2014 he co-created the Feliz Feliz publishing company in order to publish a young man’s first novel; he then closed Feliz Feliz and is currently editing Doyle Club’s second art-book. From December 2014 he’s been performing on a long-term feature by filmmaker Neto Villalobos about himself and his relationship with designer Paz Gutiérrez Guerinoni.

His first feature-film is programmed to be released in mid-2017.

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