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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.81 Santiago ago. 2012 

ARQ, n. 81 Space for Culture, Santiago, August 2012, p. 62-66.



Spaces of transformation

Art and Community


Pablo X. Almeida *(1), Pablo Ayala *(2), Karina Cortez *(3), Martín Samuel Tituaña *(4)

* Member of Tranvía Cero Collective, Quito, Ecuador. (5)


The southern Quito communities got involved in a series of art projects that bring together art and everyday life. The events trigger an augmented use of public spaces and deepen the links between the neighborhood and its inhabitants.

Palabras clave: Urbanism - Ecuador, urban art, community, architecture and politics.

The Tranvia Cero Art Collective was created in 2002. Our approach comes from the democratization of public space, the interrelationship and articulation of such with the community and from a constant critique of the ways of interpreting culture and its "museumification", questioning the formal register and aesthetics of the visual arts. We confront the exercises of institutional and academic power, the artist circuits and the citizens themselves with the intention of reformulating and reflecting from an integrated vision of the artistic practice.

To begin this text it is necessary to briefly understand the surroundings and the city in which we have developed the majority of the Tranvia Cero's proposals. Then Quito is converted into the stage of our discussion and negotiation of diverse issues concerning cultural policies; here, financial, political, educational and cultural services are consolidated in the central, north-central areas of the city. In a city with a long sausage shape, the inequalities are visible in the measure that the city grows towards the extremes previously destined for the worker population. For this reason, the collective, along with many other autonomous organizations, decided to initiate acts to give visibility to spaces to the south of Quito, in which the non-existence of alternatives is evident. As such, starting with the visual arts, we laid out guidelines for recognizing these areas and used their cultural richness as a flag with which to demand action aimed at creating more inclusive public policy.

The Collective's work began by promoting community art projects and transversely promoting the use of public space. We considered public space not just a static place or that space laid out in plazas, streets or parks. The public for Tranvia Cero is also conceived from the sector, neighborhood, the corner, the store, the streets, the steps, the community center, the field, but above all the dynamics, circuits, disputes, conflicts, negotiations and tensions generated within them. These are the elements that build the neighborhood as a public space in itself; our work tries to mobilize these fields in an articulated way, their dynamics and sociopolitical, cultural references intervened upon. Tranvia Cero seeks to expand the effectual space of the socio-cultural actors around communitarian work, inserting an integral vision in the creation, production, circulation and diffusion. Whereas before the quagmire was considered a circuit where only the pre-established production of the diverse areas of the arts reached, this process has driven us to propose a joint creation where the participation of the various interested actors would be predominant in the construction of art and community projects in a broad vision and dynamic of the use of public space.

The implementation of art-community projects came from work methodology of the interrelationship of artist, community and urban space that implies that the artist must know the context of the neighborhood before beginning the project. From there the artist's or group's work tries to recognize the problems, voids, mistakes or skills of the procedure of a sector and the impact of public policy as a reference and a tool that allows for a coherent way of acting with the community. Then the artist's work, more than that of a builder of objects, is to be a dynamizing element of processes and actions. He or she assumes the role of instigator for the promotion of a collective construction that encourages participation, understanding it not only as a space for fulfilling the role of spectator but in some way converting it into a co-author of these artistic projects and maybe as a generator of possible public policies. The methodology incites and promotes the work in collaboration with artists, collectives or institutions and not the imposition of an extreme vision that often times does not respond to the cultural or artistic interests of the area.

These tools for working and interrelating allow for the articulation and re/articulation of the social fabric that in many of our areas and neighborhoods is deteriorated by disinterest, individualism, political struggles and others. They also make possible the implementation of a dialogue that has art as its fundamental axis and in many cases re-activates the use of public space from a perspective that goes beyond that of spectacle. When intervening a space, the first step is the dialogue with the direct actors, as the growth and rhythm of the accelerated life of the city often generates major distances and tension in socio-cultural relationships. This happens much more in the peripheral areas without conditions that guarantee an appropriate quality of life. For this reason, the forms of joint work help somewhat in mitigating these voids, starting from these open dialogues. Another point that drives one to consider the community as more than the achievement of basic services is the thinking of it as a space for cultural mobilization.

Taking Tranvia Cero's experiences, the idea of articulating and re-articulating allows for the work to be reinforced with the local cultural organizations without ignoring its processes, contexts, logistics, forms and characteristics of know-how. It incentivizes, and has dialogue as its essential tool for knowing, recognizing and sharing knowledge. To this we add the support of capacitation programs that can contribute to raising the quality of its management and, in the case of artistic groups, improve the quality of the product and its work tools. The last objective is that the local organizational processes mobilize the public spaces of the community in the long term. This support, in terms of capacitation, economic investment, the recovery of the tangible and intangible goods of a neighborhood implies a responsibility for the basic and local cultural groups in terms of preventing the maintenance of a sustained work, independent of the participation of institutions, promoters or artists.

This methodology privileges the collective construction process of art and community projects more than the creation of the artistic object as a final, predominant product (painting, drawing, sculpture, theater or dance). In the minimal spaces of community dialogue opened in the neighborhoods, the initial idea of the project can change, gain potential, collapse or disappear if the artist does not become involved or participate somehow in the dynamics unique to the neighborhood and above all, in the rhythms and realities of its inhabitants. The process is a temporality that opens and builds new scenarios and horizons, not only with respect to the project but also to the relationships of the art and artist with the community and with the dynamics of its everyday reality. The multiple scenarios and realities generate tension and question the impact of the projects and also of our understanding of the public domain.

Controlling the results is impossible and, more than the artist's interest, looking after the collective result is a must. In some cases the task involves small format artistic presentations in which the registry of video, photographic, audio and drawn work is presented. This process in itself does not promote the spectacle as the primordial end but seeks to stimulate channels of dialogue, participation, creation, production and collective circulation.

As community work, what is interesting is the support to the cultural processes of a social base: we believe that it is in this sector in which major consideration should be invested.

One of the supports of this form of working in art from the communitarian perspective has meant making various demands of the base cultural organizations visible, especially those linked to the procurement of a city equitable in the construction of its cultural policies, distribution and redistribution of infrastructure and the economic investment to culture. This means to give visibility to the local cultural and artistic constructions of the neighborhoods and generate a level of affirmation of the multiple identities that combine, co-exist and are constantly transformed in a neighborhood.

Many years ago it was quite complicated to understand or have a neighborhood as a valid role model and reference it with contemporary visual arts; this was not considered a legitimate space for the artist and his work. Many of these sectors are still not considered at the same level as a gallery or museum: it is not a site where high culture can stand, be, create itself, produce itself and much less circulate and spread. However, this form of work permits that, annually, we can discover a new neighborhood and how it generates the space to see itself, its references and its people.


Hall of fame

This is based around the basic need of collective recognition that, although still anonymous, is just. The true "stars" and "heroes" are made and forged with their own vital processes and not necessarily by means of spectacular media phenomena. The stars of the Walk of Fame can be admired in the park of the Ciudadela México as the testimony of a day when all everyone shared a bit of some Hollywood-style glamour..


Underwear speakers

Underwear speakers is a process of dialogue and collective construction of an artistic product taking place during the months of July to September with the women of the Venecia neighborhood located to the south of Quito. The project looks to bring visibility to a problem that affects everyone: violence towards women. The artistic product was an installation of underwear intervened by a group of neighbors; through artistic production the women expressed a transversal desire and the right corresponding to all women, independent of skin color, economic status, origin, occupation or creed: "We want a life without violence". As the Spanish saying goes, we begin with how "the personal is political," we "put out our rags in the sun" because we do not believe that our "dirty clothes are washed at home". We build our space, for women, to speak about ourselves..



The symbolic references of a city are a fundamental factor in the relationship of its inhabitants with their surroundings. However, institutions that ignore the expectations of the collective in which they intervene, such as needs and conformation characteristics, generally establish many of them. The present project seeks to give place to a participative process in which neighbors of The lucha de los pobres -located in the south of Quito- can be those that name the currently unnamed streets they live on. It consists of appropriating the urban space, that "draws" new forms of representing the city and its agents are the members of the community involved.



BORJA, Jordi y Zaida MUXÍ. El espacio público: ciudad y ciudadanía. Electa, Milano, 2003.

FISKE, John. Reading the popular. Routledge, New York, 2002.

GEHL, Jan. Cities are for people. Island Press, Washington, 2010.

GUZMÁN, César; MAYA, Tania; KADAMI, Samira and Carmen GIL (eds.). !La calle es nuestra... de todos! Bogotá ciudad en movimiento. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, 2009.

MENDES DA ROCHA, Paulo. La ciudad es de todos. Fundación Caja de Arquitectos, Barcelona, 2011.

WHYTE, William H. The social life of small urban spaces. Original c.1980. Project for Public Spaces, New York, 2010.

ZUKIN, Sharon. Naked city. The death and life of authentic places. Oxford University Press, New York, 2010.

1. Pablo X. Almeida. Licensed in Visual arts, specializing in Painting and graphic arts, Universidad Central del Ecuador, 2005. His work has been shown both nationally and abroad.

2. Pablo Ayala. Licensed in Visual arts, specializing in sculpture and graphic arts, Universidad Central del Ecuador, 1999. His work has been exhibited throughout the country.

3. Karina Cortez. Licensed in Visual arts, specializing in Painting and graphic arts, Universidad Central del Ecuador, 2009. Her work has been shown both nationally and abroad.

4. Martín Samuel Tituaña. Visual artist. Licensed in Visual arts, specializing in sculpture and graphic arts, Universidad Central del Ecuador, 2007. His work has been shown both nationally and abroad.

5. Tranvía Cero. is made up of plastic artists from the Facultad de Artes de la Universidad Central del Ecuador, of the Instituto de Artes Visuales de Quito, self-taught artists and cultural agents. Starting with their activity in the south area of Quito, they promoted independent spaces for the production and diffusion of art; their works in painting, sculpture, printing, photography, installations and performance have been recognized in various expositions and participations in both national and international spheres.
The first actions of the Collective were realized in 2002, with the participation of Pablo X. Almeida and Carla Villavicencio -from the La Mancha Social Club art studio- and Samuel Tituana de Akaros art studio, who create links with the cultural movement of the south sector of the city and other organizations like Al sur del cielo, Centro Cultural del Sur, Teatro de la Guaba, Centro Cultural Paccha Callari y Dionisios Teatro, among others. After these they realized the Primer Encuentro Internacional de Artes Plásticas BIEN HECHITO AL SUR 2002. Posteriorly organized the Primer Encuentro de Arte Urbano AL ZURICH in 2003 and the following versions in 2004 and 2005. During those years the artist, Pablo Ayala, the photographer, Luis Herrera, the cultural agent, Nelson Ullauri, Ernesto Proano in organizational work, the publicist, Sofía Soto and the visual artist Omar Puebla join the Collective. In 2008 the graphic designer Adrián Balseca joined the group; starting in 2010 the Collective counts on the participation and support of the artists, Karina Cortez and Silvia Vimos. Currently Tranvia Cero consists of Pablo Almeida, Pablo Ayala, Karina Cortez and Samuel Tituana.

BORJA, Jordi y Zaida MUXÍ. El espacio público: ciudad y ciudadanía. Electa, Milán, 2003.         [ Links ]

FISKE, John. Reading the popular. Routledge, Nueva York, 2002.         [ Links ]

GEHL, Jan. Cities are for people. Island Press, Washington, 2010.         [ Links ]

GUZMÁN, César; MAYA, Tania; KADAMI, Samira y Carmen GIL (eds.). !La calle es nuestra... de todos! Bogotá ciudad en movimiento. Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, 2009.         [ Links ]

MENDES DA ROCHA, Paulo. La ciudad es de todos. Fundación Caja de Arquitectos, Barcelona, 2011.         [ Links ]

WHYTE, William H. The social life of small urban spaces. Original de 1980. Project for Public Spaces, Nueva York, 2010.         [ Links ]

ZUKIN, Sharon. Naked city. The death and life of authentic places. Oxford University Press, Nueva York, 2010.         [ Links ]

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