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‘A Few In Many Places’ by Protocinema aspires to progressive exhibition models

Curators Mari Spirito and Abhijit Toto present site-specific installation art across Istanbul, New York, Santurce and other cities through environmentally sensitive methods.

by Shraddha NairPublished on : Jul 24, 2021

In the second-ever edition, Protocinema presents A Few In Many Places. The annual festival employs a unique exhibition format. It is curated across multiple locations, collaborating with artists to create site-specific interventions in the form of conceptual stimuli. This year the exhibition takes place between Guatemala City, Seoul, Istanbul, Santurce and New York City. The installation art seen at the event looks to environmentally sensitive exhibition-making models of reducing exploitation (of natural resources, labour and knowledge) and consumption (no shipping or flying). This year, collaborators present works on continuing inequalities happening in both physical and digital realms. The exhibition opened on May 8 earlier this year and will continue to be on view at these multiple locations until August 28, 2021.

In discussion with curator Mari Spirito about this experimental event, and its evolution from the first edition, she says, “I feel great! It's incredible that we were able to realise a completely new exhibition model in 2020 and then, on top of that, be able to make modifications and test it again in 2021. Protocinema has its own cycle of reaching in and out, like the tide, in and out, across the street and across the globe. We expanded geographically and also focused further in each location. We added a sixth city and expanded our collaborators by co-curating this edition with Abhijan Toto and adding on ‘Agent Partners’ of artists and curators in each city. The emphasis in all aspects kept underlining the impulse and value of human connection, as Jorge’s practice forefronts: collective belonging. This means talking more between cities and simultaneously activating more in each city. It has been super stimulating, especially after long periods of lockdown and curfew.”

Documentation images from Jorge Gonzalez's Bateyes del Chibal at Santurce | Protocinema | A few in many places | STIRworld
Documentation images from Jorge Gonzalez's Bateyes del Chibal at Santurce Image: Sebastián Meltz-Collazo, Courtesy of the artist and Protocinema

Protocinema emphasises methodology and engagement in their curatorial approach. This is further underlined as Spirito says, “Another way we changed this year was to publish texts for ProtoZine developed by pairings of our collaborators: Mari Spirito with Jorge Gonzales Santos; Gim Ikhyun and Miji Lee, with Esvin Alarcón Lam; Lila Nazemian with Abhijan Toto. This further linked our overall show together. Working in a responsive mode means that we are in a constant back and forth with external forces, each city, culture, all our collaborators, audiences - yet also internal forces, meaning our own critique. How can we do this better next time?”

Antonio Pichillá‘s performance Mother Nature in Guatemala City | Protocinema | A few in many places | STIRworld
Antonio Pichillá’s performance Mother Nature in Guatemala City Image: Courtesy of the artist and Protocinema

Protocinema, which is an institution based in Istanbul and New York, focuses on cross cultural experiences which are inclusive, accessible and site-aware. These values focus the organisation’s energy toward fostering creative and empathetic relationships across borders. In doing this, collective traumas are unearthed. This is revealed at the multiple locations of A Few In Many Places. Spirito elaborates saying, “The conceptual focus of this year's edition is also an expansion and deeper dig on ‘breaking cycles of violence’ to include more forms of existing oppression as well as more support platforms for voices to be heard. For example, rights of Afro- Caribbeans in Santurce, Puerto Rico, or Chinese immigrant descendants, and women's rights in Guatemala City, Vietnamese refugees in Bangkok, current internet boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, or citizenship, as well as cycles in our own minds altered by virtual reality or in own bodies as intergenerational somatic knowledge. We ‘threw the net wide’ as they say and added another important aspect, that of working collectively”.

Welcome to Ogasawara on display in Seoul | Protocinema | A few in many places | STIRworld
Welcome to Ogasawara on display in Seoul Image: Courtesy of the artist and Protocinema

While the first edition of this event examined similar ideas of inherited cycles of violence, the event this year not only explores new cities but also develops deeper curatorial pathways with intrinsic value system. Spirito, Executive Director at Protocinema, says, “Time and time again, in making this unexpected exhibition model - to make one group show across six cities - we kept coming up against new hurdles. Things that came out of the pandemic or out of our collaboration or out of application of simply different ways of looking at things - of doing things. The hard-edged linear thinking that comes with the modern mind, which is collapsing before our eyes, has even more cracks in it that we did not foresee. For example, we saw that firm ‘old school deadlines’ were not possible to stick to. So, we said, instead of numbly forcing ourselves to comply with an existing idea (which is completely reasonable and normal in pre-COVID times) such as presenting an entire work the day an exhibition opens. Seems simple enough, yet is not. Let's respond to what the conditions are asking for. The conditions asked for flexibility and space for uncertainty. Responding to the circumstances we made’ 'Phases of Deadlines’ in which part happens now and then another part gets added on later, to support the person making the art... The ‘How we do It’ is equal to ‘What we do’, which effectively translates the conceptual intentions of this year's edition."

Zeynep Kayan's Zeynep Kayan, from one one two one two three series  | Protocinema | A few in many places | STIRworld
Zeynep Kayan's Zeynep Kayan, from one one two one two three series Image: Courtesy of Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul | Berlin and Protocinema, Istanbul | New York

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