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Puerto Rico: The Art World Finds a Space

In Puerto Rico, the art blogs have become vital spaces of discussion, debate, deliberation, critique and information. Blogs like Carlos Antonio Otero's El Naufragio de las Palabras [ES], Pedro Velez's Box Score [ES], Arnaldo Roman y Lilliam Nieves’ Trance Líquido, Abdiel Segarra's Conboca [ES], Carmen Olmo Terrasa's Donde Veo Arte [ES], Javier Martinez's Autogiro [ES], Teo Freytes’ MSA Xperimental [ES] and Karla Marie Ostolaza's Fractal [ES] are forums for discussion, interchange and exposition of contemporary art. They have obtained what other virtual entrepreneurs anxiously desire: to convert their spaces into necessary references and centers of a type of information that you simply can't find in any other place.

Following is an interview with the artist, blogger and reporter Carlos Antonio Otero, who started his blog in 2008. This interview – in an abbreviated version – was originally published in Diálogo, the University of Puerto Rico's monthly.

Global Voices (GV)- Why did you start an art blog? What do you write about in your blog?

Carlos Antonio Otero (CAO)- The idea came up after interviewing the artist Teresa López for a newspaper report about contemporary art and she asked me if I had a blog about my pieces. I said no, and then she asked me why I didn't use this platform to channel my interest in documenting part of the contemporary art scene on the Island. My principal interest is to show which artists are doing the most work in the country, narrate their histories, and present and talk about their works of art. The restlessness is owed to the fact that the traditional communication media are not documenting the contemporary art scene, in terms of the new proposals and the emerging and non-emerging artists. There's a very particular emphasis on the established artists, and even inside this group, very few are talked about. Always the people are the same, and when one converses with people who don't necessarily know art, they think that art is what the media present about this or that artist, and they don't know about a whole world that is much bigger and much more diverse, even in our Island.

GV- When did Puerto Rican art blogs begin to proliferate?

CAO- The first effort to document the local cultural scene on the Internet arose in El Cuarto del Quenepón, created in the beginning of the 90's by María de Máter O'Neill. The actual facility of a blog didn't exist, but she worked hard; she had collaborators and broke with the traditional media to divulge information that she didn't find space to diffuse elsewhere. That effort lasted some years and with the arrival and proliferation of blogs other “sites” came up… El Naufragio is one of the most recent and has gotten a satisfactory acceptance because people have recognized the seriousness of the work that it does. Practically, we became a network because we all know each other, recognize each other's work, and make references to the information that we publish in our platforms. And above all, it's about a voluntary nonprofit effort. That's very important, because we don't review exhibits and elaborate about the work of one or another artist in exchange for something. It's simply a commitment to give voice to a scene that's there and even the connoisseurs of art on the Island refuse to recognize.

GV- Why do you think the art blogosphere in/about Puerto Rico has grown so much?

CAO-It's an unstructured movement in which we all agree, and it has proliferated precisely because of the need to tell the contemporary history of art that isn't being told anywhere else. And there is a need for this information; if not, we wouldn't exist. We have a generation of artists who have not experienced the formal critique of art; we don't know where our critics speak or write. We don't see that reflection, and the academy seems to produce mutes. So the blogs and the different platforms of the web have become the alternative. Even with their defects and virtues, even with their limitations, blogs are a serious and valid alternative in the majority of cases.

GV-What has the Internet offered art bloggers as a communication platform?

CAO-The Internet is the most viable, efficient and cost-effective platform for art bloggers, and bloggers of any other subject. We can't make a newspaper or magazine for the same cost, and neither can we make a television or radio program. So the Internet offers the possibility of communication and diffusion, and the public has all these alternatives to choose whatever they like or whatever fills their needs. Because of the diffusion, you can read anything in any part of the world. El Naufragio has followers in the United States, Spain, London and Latin America, and the same thing happens with the rest of the blogs.

In the art world there's this interesting blog dynamic that we haven't seen in other areas in Puerto Rico. There are also various interesting literary blogs. I haven't heard if anything has happened in sports, and in news reporting I haven't seen anything similar either. In the case of news reporting maybe we're used to the media validating us, which is a very traditional structure or dynamic. And perhaps this is because we're used to news reporting being done by salaried professionals. In the case of art, as artists you make your way and make your space, and you don't paint, you don't draw, you don't make sculptures or videos, or whatever it may be, necessarily because someone is paying you. In art there's a necessity to release creativity, to share a proposal, to make a commentary, and it's done because it's done. And this moves you to do things, sometimes against all obstacles – obstacles that stem from economic limitations, from lack of support, from anonymity.

2 comments

  • I fondly imagined Facebook would be a much better place for promoting and discussing my own writings and meeting people with the same love for Arts and literature. I ended up closing down my Facebook page and returing to the world of blogs. However, I can’t stress enough the fact that a blogger needs constant encouragements (by giving him/her feedback and constructive comments), all the more so since blogging can be sometimes very frustrating.
    Puerto Rico bloggers, carry on!

    • You are right Mohamed… sometimes its like we ride across a wild sea, but that is what makes it interesting. Thanks for the good vibe :)

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