A Postmodern Patron

                                                                                                                                        Galego / Español
On the first draft of this feature I wrote that, perhaps, the A Peregrina’s house doesn’t have the greatness and pomposity, which on its day, five hundred years ago, did have the Lorenzo de' Medici’s florentinian residence; there, where, a thirteen-years-old Michelangelo Buonarroti practiced his firts incursions on the Carrara’s white stone. I did also write that the person responsible for this creativity space to be possible, on a crisis context, was a sort of a postmodern patron. But, it all sounded a little far away from reality, thus idealized. Nevertheless, the truth is that in a place called Sarela de Arriba, on the outskirts of the city of Santiago de Compostela, there is an old house where a few people is living in and paying only two euros per day. In exchange, the are given an space where they can, freely, create, create and create. Which other word, that is not patron, would you rather use to describe a person who have almost literally gave away his own property to whoever wants to come along and introduce themselves in the so reviled, and at the same time, admired, world of the artistic creation?

Olmo Blanco (Boiro, 1982) it’s known by the name of o bedel (the janitor) at the A Peregrina’s house, and he is the patron we’re talking about. He decided to make a good use of his family house, after it had been abandoned for ten years. In the summer of 2010 he created the Episodio Piloto (Pilot Episode), an artistic meeting willing, not only to show art pieces, but also to create an encounter for all those creators who might want to join in. In 2011 took place the second edition of this event, and from last-year September, and so on, the A Peregrina’s house has been filled with life.

At the present time, Diego Vites (O Grove, 1986), Ania González (Vigo) Iztiar Álvarez Bocalandro (Madrid) and Paulina Funes (Mendoza, Argentina), plus Olmo Blanco, are living at this art house, but at its workshop do also work jewelers like Bruno Varela (Cambados, 1983). The idea came to Olmo's mind because the house was too big for him to work and live on his own, and now as he says “working is easier, because with more people you can always find motivation, exchange ideas and innovate”. It is a proposals and ideas’ melting pot , and it awakes a feeling of well-being and fraternity. “In the past few years we have made a lot of progress, we make this place and habitable place”, Olmo adds and follows, “the space defined itself little by little and now it has a meaning”. 

Places as A Peregrina’s house are necessary for people like Diego Vites, who yet arrived from Tenerife needed a place where he can work, and get in touch with his Galician artists colleagues. “It all came for living together in here”, Diego says, “the space defined itself day a day”

A shed, a storehouse for the art pieces, a jewel workshop, painting, sculpture, a forest at the a backyard, with a trailer where music groups have rehearsed and recorded soundtracks, beautiful views and surroundings, plus people who share the same concerns as you do, and just for 2 euros per day. For Itziar Álvarez it’s a retirement from the Madrilenian urban lifestyle. “I’m here trying to find my own voice; find what I want to do with my life”, it’s a break from the nonstop life at the city, and also “having a morning coffee with this views has no price”, she comments. 

None of them think that making a living out of art is easy. They basically depend on art contests and occasional sells. Is this an underrated profession? Well for Olmo it is a two-sided coin because “the public events are surrounded by glamour, but the reality is far away from that”, they are “Bohemian myths”, adds Diego. Depending on which kind of style you’re working in, you can have good and profitable times as an artist but, exceptionally, at this profession, you don’t always get paid for your final product. “Often they pay you for the art-piece production, and they offer you a success promise for exhibiting your work on a well-known gallery”, affirms Diego Vites. Olmo does even remember to use his work as currency, what he thinks, would be very interesting, but (personal note) I doubt any MP would willingly accept an sculpture salary no matter how much for Galician culture could it represent. 

For Bruno Varela the reality is even darker. He has his own space at the A Peregrina’s house, where he works with silver, black amber and varnish, but contests or jewel exhibitions hardly exist, and he depends on sells and particular orders, in a field often underestimated, and he has to compete against industrial production as well. Although there is a long-time tradition on jewel-making in Santiago de Compostela, and it has also public demand, he sees his future as jeweller complicated, chiefly in a market that “keeps on selling the same things that centuries ago”. In addition, he claims that in countries like Turkey, jewellery is part of the University studies. “The fact that jewellery in here [Spain] is not part of a degree implies your chances and means of financing, as scholarships, are really low”.  

Markets and taboos
¿Do we still have forbidden topics on art? Diego and Olmo consider that we do. Themes as sexual modesty, religion, politics and social issues could have been treated on previous art experiences but “our society hasn’t got over them yet”, according to Olmo. The institutional markets only approve and promote artists and art pieces that “will perpetuate their point of view” and galleries, whose purpose is mainly economic, have also some weak leaks where ideology prejudices can go trough, helping in the maintaining of the status quo. 

Diego Vites considers that Galicia artistic cultura de seu (its own culture) is a culture of smallholding creation. Different and small organizations spread throughout Galicia achieve on producing an authentic and original culture production. For Olmo Blanco what's institutional is out of cultura de seu. “The society does no go to [exhibition] centres and those centres does not represent the society”, concludes.

If Susan Sontag happens to come back from her grave, nowadays, and here in Galicia, she might think, she is actually in the past, and not in the 21st century. She, who wrote this in On Photography, published in 1975, would have thought that in 2012 things would be, on the Western world, in another level:
“The freakish is no longer a private zone, difficult of access. People who are bizarre, in sexual disgrace, emotionally vacant are seen daily on the newsstands, on TV, in the subways. Hobbesian man roams the streets, quite visible, with glitter in his hair.”
Well, maybe is because we still have a long way ahead. Given that Franco (Spanish dictator) died in that year (1975), and that Mr Manuel Fraga (Franco’s ex-minister) have just perish. Perhaps the big change is yet to come. But certainly not the one People's Party has promised to bring on our country.

PD: the guys and girls from A Peregrina will come back soon. Stay Tuned.

                                                                                                                                       Galego / Español

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