By their very nature, art interventions suggest a union where art and its surroundings come together to create often intangible and playful installations. In the case of art collective Al Ver Verás, their chosen playground is the Buenos Aires skyline. First showing in 2007, the group have since gone through a process of organic experimentation; adding images, music and buildings, until its winsomeness bloomed into their current performance.
Rooftops are gold in this city and as I mooched to the top of the beautiful San Telmo house hosting the night, I had no idea just how much magic would be cast over us – and on to the sides of the familiar tower blocks by which we were surrounded.
As the band of artists and musicians settled in to position, a mellow dance soundtrack, sometimes industrial sometimes erring on the side psychedelia, orchestrated the moving images which danced, literally and figuratively across concrete. A bewitched audience hushed.
Concentric, spiraling circles flashed first – whose graphics were quickly overtaken by layered animations of which I could make out reptiles. Enchanted by each sequence of images, the more I watched, the less my brain paid attention to seeking out any kind of narrative, instead becoming somewhat hypnotized by their metamorphosing.
As one show of wonderment ended, another building illuminated. Light seemed to hail down rhythmically in time to the strings played on a small Andean charango. This momentary flitting, like moths under a lamp, was the work of visual artist Martina Fraguela’s hands floating under the light of an overhead projector. “I love using my hands and making things so I can explore this artisanal side through my work,” says the Bellas Artes graduate. And whereas the rest of the collective are distinctly on digital imaging, Fraguela is all about analogue. She mixes inks in water, slaps paints across books, physically playing and moulding what’s projected. Every show is unique in that aspect she told me, “There’s always a variable…despite using the same methods or tools as it’s all done live.”
And what comes first, the images or the music? For Al Ver Verás, it’s all about experimentation. Seeing images and trying different things to see what fits, what aligns. Selén explained, “It’s not that one comes before the other. It grows. We’re constantly searching, never thinking it’s so defined and concrete. We’re looking to amalgamate, create this union, this interdependency which the performance relies on.”
Swivelling to view images at a full 360 degrees at some points, each spectator can see what they choose to see, can see how they want to interpret the repeated ballet dancers pirouetting at obscure angles across the facades in harmony.
In one moment a city scape is overlaid on to the very urban-ness on stage, then footage of a herd of deer skitting right and left – leaving the audience surrounded by their curious gaze. Now we are in their habitat, not the other way round. The inspiration came from Selén looking out from their studio’s ninth floor balcony, ‘I started seeing the buildings like mountains, for a moment the cement becomes this beautiful landscape.’ A city encased within a city, albeit a temporary one, suddenly makes you take a new look at where you live, right there, bare and gargantuan and projected on to the very surfaces of our surroundings. ‘The shapes of Buenos Aires lend themselves to be played with and they attract us so much that we almost lose ourselves in it practically,’ Selén added.
It’s a Saturday night in San Telmo and although the rush and hubbub of the streets below is silenced-out, occasional eruptions of whoops and claps wave across the roof tops from neighbours on the roof across the street who’ve also been enjoying the show with a bunch of friends and an asado. Daniel even gives them a shout out on the mic at the end.
“We don’t try to turn off the city,” he says, “we’re looking to intervene, to sink into it in a way and generate these fantastic reflective moments, but the protagonist is the urban, the image and the music and us as spectators enjoying it,’ Selén ends, with a huge smile on his face.
Al Ver Verás are unique in that there really isn’t much of an intervention movement like this and so far the neighbours have been happy to have their homes used as canvas. ‘We always work with the outside walls of the tower blocks and so it doesn’t disturb the residents much. The new buildings have flats on all sides which take away that possibility but thankfully there’s still lots of these older blocks in Buenos Aires,’ Selén assures.
As the buildings are returned to their naked form, unblemished and seemingly unaware of the art that had been careening on their surfaces just moments before, the concrete blocks suddenly looked so barren. ‘We enjoy flowing with it and enjoy sharing it with the people who come or the neighbours who come out to watch,” Daniel admits that the search for this playful magic has them trapped.
Al Ver Verás are: Diego Gentile (Music, música), Daniel Selén (Visual composition, composición visual), Martina Fraguela (Visual art, arte visual), Alejandro Chomicz (Sax, saxo) and Maxi Di Monte (Percussion, percusión).
Al Ver Verás are ambitious for more projects and apart from the forthcoming weekend performances, they move the magic indoors as the seasons change.
New performances will be available along the year. Stay tuned at Al ver verás fanpage.
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