[eng] Victoria Guzmán and Paula Valenzuela - Humanizing the interview: a pandemic feminist project

 (Chile, 2021)

One would have to delve into the soul and head of an artist to be fascinated by the thousands of relationships she establishes with the world; political, sensitive, intellectual, social and aesthetic relationships, an electric current constantly connecting heterogeneous ideas, spinning a myriad of references through processes that may - or may not - converge into acts of creation. 

Curiosity for another person turns thought into ideas, and those ideas into actions, and so we got to know each other, the researcher and the artist, the artist and the researcher, between Victoria and me, or me and Paula. I sought her out and she responded, or she sought me out and I responded. Perhaps we don't really know who sought out who: perhaps we will never know. But that impetus, that mutual rapprochement, resulted in an unexpectedly fruitful encounter, amidst the desolation and uncertainty of a global pandemic. 

We met virtually, and despite the coldness of the screen and the remoteness of our bodies, a trust and intimacy arose that allowed us to devise a project, in a clash in which intuitions, interests and desires were quickly matched. It was something ineffable: as if everything had already been discussed, as if the plan had already had an origin, somewhere before, before the social networks, before the zoom, before the virus. 

We began to exchange criticisms, observations, interests. It was a matter of few days, a handful of emails and a video call, for our meeting to become something more: a project that would involve twelve other women, twelve souls, twelve heads, twelve bodies and twelve artists, who would make 2020 a year full of unsuspected crossings. A transcendent project, arising from a shared awareness of the difficulties faced by women in art spaces, and the need to contribute from our possibilities and practices - as an artist, as a researcher - circulating and making visible the variety of expressions and proposals of women artists in Chile today.
We proposed the project as "interviews" with these twelve women artists, giving rise to a new series of encounters, now in groups of three, whose tone, content and length were not defined beforehand. Nor did we know exactly what it would mean to get involved with them, to have their time and they ours, especially in the difficult conditions of mass confinement. These were moments without much clarity, of uncertainty and even discomfort - making the project even more challenging, engaging and dizzying. 

As the first interviews went by, we realized that they were really conversations: labyrinthine conversations, real drifts, that dealt with life, work, failures, ambitions and collapses, expectations and beliefs, both theirs and ours. In the midst of confinement and loneliness, of precariousness and hopelessness, each meeting became a creative and luminous space, of rest and support, of laughter and exchanges, of frankness and strength. Spontaneously, these moments then guided the process of transcribing and editing each encounter. In this way we managed to humanize the interview: recognizing that we do not always express ourselves as well as we would like when speaking, opening ourselves to surprising drifts that went far beyond our previous schemes, and including the stories and vulnerabilities of the interviewers themselves. More than twelve interviews, they were twelve dialogues: horizontal, surprising, close, intimate. Defying the canons of the genre, each text was reviewed by the artists, who had full power over their own words and ideas, agency over what to relegate to the intimacy of the moment and what to publish to a mass community, and authority to further refine the opinions and processes that would then be shared. 

Thanks to these pillars of collaboration, co-creation and trust, we overcame our own ideas about how an artist is supposed to relate her work, and how a researcher is supposed to guide, messing up the roles in each conversation, delivering a breath of refreshing freedom. We may say that we did not know it would be like this, and neither did the artists: if we could synthesize this project, we may say that they took a risk by saying yes, and we took a risk by inviting them, daring and exposing ourselves together. In moments of precariousness, fear and doubts, we chose to lift each other above the exhausted competition, looking for ways out of the infertile patriarchal logics. The sense and direction of this project was, and will continue to be, to give value to what really matters: creation as a search beyond success, human scale over consumption and overproduction, the bond of community over unbridled individual interest. 

It is possible that feminism unfolds more forcefully in this way: by disarticulating those logics that do not let us travel along diverse paths, that prohibit and inhibit us, models that deny intuition, depth, spirituality, drifting, the swaying of a conversation without an established objective, without a goal to reach. We dared to dismantle what is supposed to work - because what is supposed to work today is more questioned than ever, and by questioning and resisting it we begin to move towards building something better. 

Today the conversations, that lasted ten months, transcribed and published in the digital sphere (the blog El Gocerío) continue their course adding another medium: a physical book. After virtuality we also want to touch, we want to smell, feel, underline. Above all, we want others to be able to do it in their own way, and to continue talking now with more people, inviting them to imbibe with the richness of the imagery and methods of these twelve creators.

All twelve interviews are available at :

* María Victoria Guzmán (1990). Lawyer and graduate in Aesthetics and Philosophy from the Catholic University, and Master's Degree in Creative Cultural Industries, King's College London. Specialized in cultural memory, sociology of culture, and museums, professor of museum studies and contemporary art at the Universidad del Desarrollo, researcher in various cultural projects, and critic in El Gocerío with publications in the specialized journals Palabra Pública, Artishock, Rotunda, among others.

* Paula Valenzuela Antúnez (1988) Visual artist graduated from Finis Terrae University, with a major in painting. She has participated in group and individual exhibitions following a line of self-management in spaces inside and outside of Chile. She develops her artistic work combining painting, cultural management and the audiovisual world. She participates in the Collectio-Collectio platform, she works at the international documentary film festival DocsBarcelona Valparaíso and collaborates with Mediamorfosis Chile.

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