Tinto mata Coca Cola Local Activism and Social Observation

by Claudia Zanfi

Contra la hamburguesìa transnacional papa criolla y tamal.
Contra la lògica del misil resistencia civil.
Contra la guerra total no violencia local.

So opens the section dedicated to the project by Raimond Chaves and Gilda Mantilla in the Going Public ’03 book. A large poster held up by demonstrators waving red flags against globalisation and all forms of repression.
Reflecting and making others reflect on the delicate equilibria between economics, art, politics and culture – with continuous reference to Latin America – is clearly one of the main aims of Chaves and Mantilla’s work. In their hands, art becomes a clear and direct means by which to make the state of the world more understandable. Chaves and Mantilla’s work focuses principally on an in-depth analysis of various social phenomena to be found in popular neighbourhoods (barrios) among common people, minority groups and the socially disadvantaged.
The barrio provides a flexible platform from which to gather data through interviews, drawings, photographs, stories, song and dance sessions, posters, flyers, newspapers, civil pressure groups. Everything that can be elaborated, discussed and developed to bring about “creative improvisation” is instrumental in the diffusion of local cultures and communities through the voices of the inhabitants themselves, the common people. This is a grassroots technique which operates among the hidden-most folds of social politics, and which draws out parallels and ties between art and popular movements, social protest and criticism of the ruling hegemony.
From the barrio, the pair’s interventions spread out to the key points of the urban fabric: the streets, the corners of the squares, yet public spaces are each adopted for their specific characteristics, not simply as performance stages. The artists’ favourite places in which to communicate with the public are those of a temporary nature set up in zones of passage. Chaves and Mantilla’s aim is not simply a question of highlighting that which is scarcely visible or hidden, but rather one of tapping into the process of transforming local culture and society. If anything, the artists seem to take on a vital role in the transformation of a fast-moving society. Once the line between political intervention and culture has been blurred, art is free to flourish through experimental communities, through the creation of new forms of representation, becoming more direct and participatory.
This is the basis of the HANGUEANDO project (a name taken from “hanging around”): a travelling project which gathers together the group’s experiences with the general public. With the use of their moveable platform – Estaciòn Movil – the two artists create a temporary research base which allows their participants to tell their own stories and interact collectively. Raimond Chaves and Gilda Mantilla thus create a space in which to interface with the public and put together a collective art project.
For the “Going Public ‘03” project, they set up a workshop dealing with the local setting with local people using the provincial railway network of Modena (several stages of this work were documented in the video presented at Larissa). People’s own stories transcribed onto paper, along with photographs both of the people interviewed and other people at the railway station were all posted on the walls of the station and published in the project’s newspaper on the platform.
This publication was the outcome of a workshop project carried out with the station employees, the railway workers, taxi drivers, train drivers, ticket office workers and commuters. Thus a wide range of people linked to the theme of mobility and commuting took part in the project, recounting their own experiences, their memories, their adventures – or sometimes misadventures – of life.
Through this kind of project, the creative process is brought back into contact with the city and its inhabitants. Suffice to say that over 1,300 people use the provincial railway network of Modena every day. Of these, 60% are students, 30% workers, and 10% pensioners. Of these, %12 are non-European immigrants. Traditionally, these categories of people live in different areas, often distant from one another. A project which leads them to come together as a whole in the station hall and take part in this sort of collective activity represents a remarkable opportunity for cross-cultural meeting and integration.
Hangueado aims to constitute a real territorial research workshop allowing for a type of open, grassroots approach which gives space to a range of points of view and which focuses on collective living in the urban context with a view to understanding its newly emerging structures, while valorising it and opening up new spaces for discussion.