by Gerardo Montes de Oca Valadez
Cantina Corazón was one of the two first open working groups that curators Nataša Mackuljak and Ivana Marjanović created for WIENWOCHE 2016 “Forever Together”. The 2016 edition of the festival aimed to work on the politics of connection, love, and friendship that together with their complexities, ambivalence, and conflicts, are seen as the basis of collective solidarity actions. The intention was to create a platform to share and celebrate the extraordinary acts of connection within the ordinary and, in a situated approach, make them expand in the city of Vienna.
Thus, understanding the realm of emotions as a space of struggle, resistance, and emancipation, and affects as part of political matter, I conceptualized Cantina Corazón as a temporary hybrid space for celebratory gathering, resistance, struggle, and emancipation. It aimed to overcome the psychosocial and political borders that come together with power structures and practices. I asked: What does Vienna offer, by and to whom? What and who is Vienna? What does Vienna do to us?
Vienna? What do we do with Vienna, with others? My experience as a social psychologist, psychotherapist, and activist in Mexico play a crucial role in my artistic and curatorial practices – as for Cantina Corazón I was interested in creating a space in which our glocal trajectories, histories, and singularities converge, touch, and recognize each other in a festive manner. Such encounters could perhaps allow for the re-thinking of our own individual and collective inscriptions, intersections and interactions in Vienna. In turn, I hoped, this could help form new communities of friendship or, at least, create a cultural programme in which people could enjoy themselves, regardless of artistic, professional, and neoliberal logics and interests. Cantina Corazón was thought of as a space made –mainly but not only– by and for people of colour, as an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-heteronormative, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist space that navigates within such structures but allows to imagine other possible forms of relating. A space in which any form of violence, exclusion, segregation, and exploitation was to be avoided and, if necessary, dismantled. On the contrary, it was thought of as a space for celebration, mutual recognition, emancipation, and exchange.
Cantina Corazón alluded to the Mexican traditional and popular bars where, oftentimes, the poor, the excluded, the exploited, could gather and celebrate. The project did not want to hold onto self-victimization, but to go beyond. Together with the recognition of power structures and relations in society, reproduced at times also within the circles of the “subalternized“, the project considered the complexities, tensions, conflicts, contradictions, and different values of our lives in Vienna. From there, irony and humour were the propellers for self-critical thought and celebratory action in art formats. Most of all, we all wanted to gather and enjoy being together. At the same time, the project alluded to the endless diversity of cafés in the world, with Viennese cafés included, without the imperial legacy some of them carry.
The project had a democratic spirit and was open to anyone who wanted to participate. That posed several challenges and brought many advantages. We released an open call with no selection process so anyone who enrolled in the project could immediately engage. This enabled us to work outside of an artistic and activist bubble. The curators of the festival and I wanted people to participate in the project, beyond the professional labels and motivations. The openness of the concept of the project involved another challenge. Cantina Corazón was a concept and a departure point to collectively develop a real project. However, that depended on several factors: the number of people that would respond to the open call, the people themselves –who–, their motivations and ways of working together, group dynamics –with their potential tensions and conflicts– and what, as a collective, could be done. Uncertainty has been an important part of my professional and sociopolitical experience (as a psychologist and activist), and I believe it is inherent to any democratic relation and process. It was indeed an essential element in Cantina Corazón. This made fair distribution of labour/ payment (Cantina Corazón) within a hierarchical and institutional one (WIENWOCHE Festival) a challenging task.
The group developed in interesting ways and several sub-groups branched out along the process, just like the overall concept Cantina Corazón ramified into various projects that were part of the overall Cantina Corazón programme. We ended up with a full-week programme in two different locations, we had several open call as well for open mic evenings, poetry slams and concerts open to all. We also had a lot of fun with karaoke nights, participatory performances and parties. The development and implementation of the project involved a great deal of collective and individual work, negotiation, understanding, patience, and understanding. What did the participants –both members from the working group and guests– get out of the Cantina Corazón? We were 13 members of the project and had around 40 or 50 guests on the stage –musicians, performance artists, spoken word artists, etc. The audience was close to 300 people on the best evenings. It was a complex, at times difficult, and beautiful transient experience in which Vienna may have not changed, but some of us did learn about Vienna and some of its communities, tensions, limitations, and possibilities. Many of us met new people, made new friends, and the experience was enriching. The project succeeded in having participants who did not come from the regular artistic nor the activist fields only, as well as in having a broad audience during some of the evenings.
Five years later I still wonder, how can we –whoever the “we” may be– embrace the multiple possibilities that the city, or rather we, the peoples and communities, can offer? In other words, how to activate our multiple possibilities and enable each other democratically? How can we make Vienna as pluriversal as possible, beyond dominant logics, structures, institutions, and practices? Celebration, mutual recognition, and friendship are indeed part of the answer.