Changing Places / Espacios Revelados

Changing Places / Espacios Revelados (Spaces Revealed)
Artist: Siemens Stiftung Foundation
Location: Various neighbourhoods in Santiago de Chile, Chile, mainly Yungay
Year: 2017
Researcher: Laura Zarta

Changing Places / Espacios Revelados (Spaces Revealed) entailed eleven days of site-specific installations, performances, and other artistic works, transforming abandoned buildings and squares into experiential art spaces in Santiago de Chile. The interventions took place in the core of the city; the historic Yungay quarter. The works focused on raising questions about cohesion (sometimes fragile) of the area, such as: "Who are our neighbours? What do I share with the people next to me?"

Changing Places / Espacios Revelados was a project developed mainly in the Yungay neighbourhood, one of the most emblematic places in Santiago. This neighbourhood arose as the second wave of urbanisation built in the city, and the first checkerboard-like planned urban area in Chile. Its name refers to the won battle between Peru and the Old Bolivian Republic in 1839 which helped Chile, in the long run, to gain their independence.

A great part of the Yungay territory was declared a Typical Zone (Emblematic Zone) in 2009 by the Chilean Council of National Monuments. The neighbourhood was one of the oldest commercial areas and the first one to organise the famous cités (collective housing model of the city) of Santiago de Chile. These buildings were created to hold the large migration into the city (late 19th and early 20th century), during a time of modernisation and industrialisation of Santiago. This characterises Yungay as a heritage centre given its historic architecture. Nonetheless, with time these spaces were abandoned and forgotten by the city and its population. The reasons varied from political conflict, to natural disasters, to waves of migration and displacement, creating a situation of decay around the neighbourhood.

Its declaration as an Emblematic Zone allowed it to gain more attention from the government, but still not enough support from its citizens. It was thanks to the collaboration between the Siemens Stiftung Foundation, the Creative Heritage Foundation, and the Culture National Council that the project Changing Places / Espacios Revelados was developed. This proposal consisted of inviting national and international artists to intervene with their art the most iconic buildings in the area, to give back to its architecture the life it once had and to leave the citizens with a renewed sense of belonging and admiration for the place.

The artistic interventions were meant to reactivate the cultural activities of the neighbourhood connecting heritage, art, community, and memory. The program lasted 11 days with artworks varying between site-specific installations and performance that overflowed the area with creativity. The different interventions, which worked hand in hand with the community nearby, also left permanent impacts, with new site-specific artworks and other programs which continue to mobilise the creativity of the locals. Seminars, workshops, and visits accompanied the artworks. The educational activities incentivised the activation of these spaces and built engagement among the visitors.

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The Siemens Stiftung Foundation initiated the project in Santiago as part of their series of Changing Places projects. To develop the proposal the foundation collaborated with the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura (Culture National Council) and the Fundación Patrimonio Creativo (Creative Heritage Foundation) and found sponsorship with Santiago de Chile’s Municipality, the Province Municipality, and the National Monument Council. The 30 artists were selected based on their experience with similar spaces, plus the social value their works could give to the space.

Some artists arrived weeks before the installation day to get to know the place and the local culture and create a more accurate response that integrated the community into their response. On the other hand, the spaces were selected based on their historical impact and were meant to be intervened in ways that enhanced their history or future potential.

All the buildings were chosen as references to the times before the coup d’etat in 1973. The idea was to frame the urbanisation changes the city had gone through over the years, but also to remember a past that was not hurtful and that could connect with today's life through contemporary art. Around the project, the organisers created multiple seminars addressing community engagement such as urban planning, community gardens, social transformation, and education programs.

The Program was divided into three main focuses: the first was ephemeral installations which were based on artistic installations in buildings, houses, old sites, and disused structures; the second one was temporary appropriations which made tangible and intangible knowledge transfer strategies materialised through workshops, talks symposia, drifts and guided tours; and lastly permanent appropriations, which sought to apply the strategy of achieving perpetuate actions, methodologies and infrastructures in the nodes identified to strengthen both social cohesion and the rescue of trades and practices that determined the strengthening of the social fabric of the selected neighbourhoods for the long run.

Changing Places / Espacios Revelados reactivated the cultural scene of the Yungay neighbourhood and its surroundings by bringing new perspectives and alternative initiatives to the local inhabitants. With all the work invested in the community, the historic sector was revived with artistic and cultural spaces. As the zone grew its potential, some historical businesses. The impact was especially reflected in the building of an artistic community, making this neighbourhood the new cultural centre of Santiago de Chile. According to the Gatopardo news, the cultural project has “... given visibility to a vulnerable zone to recuperate an important piece of the collective memory of the Chilean capital.”

Part of the proposal was to leave a permanent program that created the infrastructure and resources for the locals to develop, continuing to drive re-consolidation of the area, and sustain the historic memory of the city.

The artistic activation of Yungay has increased its tourism and bettered the area's economy. The initiative has inspired similar projects around the city such as FORO, an intervention that occurred with the collaboration of seven galleries that intended to bring attention to the urban changes of the city. It consisted of creating exhibitions inside an abandoned building that was about to be demolished. In terms of the social impact, Artishock (a contemporary art magazine) says the importance of the project lies in “The reaction to the current [in 2016] urban and social situation, where what obsolesce in addition to urban planning is the individual, finds in the self-management of communities new possibilities for social, political, economic, and cultural evolution.” The artistic interventions and collaboration among the locals of the community continue to grow thanks to the footprint that Changing Places / Espacios Revelados left on the historic zone of Santiago de Chile.

Siemens Stiftung is committed to sustainable social development. They focus on three key themes: Access to Essential Services, Connected Societies, and Climate & Sustainability. They adopt a proactive approach to shaping the transformations required to tackle these challenges.

By working with partners from the fields of Education, Social Entrepreneurship, and Arts & Culture, they reinforce collective learning and locally based, sustainable structures. Their projects and networks center around Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Since art has repeatedly motivated to work along the fault lines of society, Siemens Stiftung believes that confident cultural scenes have a decisive influence on sustainable development. Artists create spaces and spark debates in which a society communicates about itself and its future. Together with their partners, they try out new forms of community and make people curious about how art follows its own rules.

How does a city address the tension and conflict created by rapid economic, environmental, and societal shifts? How do residents create a sense of belonging to an urban space? The “Changing Places/Espacios Revelados” program revives and reimagines abandoned buildings and public spaces in South American cities. Artistic interventions create new perspectives on neighbourhoods and what it means to coexist in a city.

Progress Agency