ARTISTS WITHOUT BORDERS
HANGAR: A CONCEPTUAL AXIS OF ARTISTIC CREATION
Hangar began its life as one of Barcelona’s foremost textiles factories, Can Ricart, producing sunshades and textiles for the leisure industry. Later, a group of creatives – over fifty acrobats, painters and performers known as the Makabra collective – set up studios in the abandoned factory compound but were forcibly removed during the construction fever of 2006, and the factory itself only narrowly escaped the demolition threat that hovered because of 22@. But while La Escocesa broke out of the 22@mold, Can Ricart, now known as Hangar production centre, is a product of the council’s new cultural strategy in Poble Nou.
Text by Natasha Drewnicki
Photography Alex Delanderon
Today Hangar is a renovated new-media centre that includes fifteen individual studios, a media lab, equipment-rental service with in-house technicians and a consultancy with international exchange programme. The site regularly hosts mini-festivals and audio-visual performances, drawing crowds from the centre and beyond. Subsidized by the Catalan government and the city council, Hangar focuses on production and research through an infrastructure of grants and artist training workshops.
Canadian-born Giuliana Racco and her Italian partner Matteo Guidi have just been granted a two-year residency at Hangar after completing a three-month stint. In their work they explore themes of survival in the face of harsh limitations, which is exactly what attracted them to Poble Nou.
“We needed a suitable place to reconcile the research we’d done in Israel and Croatia,” Giuliana says. “The centre is becoming overrun by tourists, but they don’t get to Poble Nou. Different creative realities are forming here. It’s extremely important to continue producing work and creating original projects here that aren’t reliant on tourism,” says Giuliana.
Hangar’s international reputation means that competition is increasingly tough, but there is a strong sense of camaraderie and assistance within the centre. “The artists here are very dedicated and you can harness that atmosphere to really bring your work forward and connect with others here. There’s a strong network,”Giuliana tells me. “We’re actively involved in the community at Hangar, with meetings and presentations every week. It helps us understand how to maximize our time and increase productivity.”
With a background in graphic design and anthropology, Matteo investigates imaginative practices in tightly controlled environments as a means of escapism and survival. Giuliana, trained in visual arts and linguistics, is concerned with narration and movement.
Hangar’s systematic character is the perfect springboard for the pair, whose studio is neat and structured. For their current collective project, “The Artist and the Stone,” they both spent 7 months in the West Bank researching concepts of immigration, beaurocracy and citizenship.
They plan to compare the technical implications of moving an artist versus shifting 10,000 kilos of stone to Europe. Which is more complex to move? Life in the West Bank provides a unique set of circumstances because special permissions are required to enable the passage of both objects and people. The scale of this multimedia project is vast, with the goal of gaining deeper insight into the ramifications of survival in the political context of a globalized world.
This project consolidates the research that Matteo undertook in Italian maximum-security prisons, Cucinare in Massima Sicurezza. During his residency there, he met prisoners who repurpose everyday objects to overcome the suffocating order of life behind bars. A coffee-maker is used to mash potatoes or crush nuts, a razor-blade chops garlic.
These simple acts allow prisoners to reclaim a semblance of power and identity over their lives. “Prisoners live a very passive life behind locked doors and barred rooms, but they can rebel against these confines by taking control of the way they prepare food. Whether in the middle of the desert, a refugee camp or in prison, food is the one constant for survival – a basic human need,” Matteo says. “Cooking and sharing a meal becomes a cathartic experience for them.”
At the core of these projects are political issues of social engagement and identity. Overcoming limits also resonates with Giuliana and Matteo on a personal level. “Matteo was convinced we’d find new energies and opportunities here because of the crisis. We’ve been forced into becoming more resourceful because of limited opportunities; it’s given us a real urgency to create. We have to keep creating to keep the economy going.” It seems that Matteo and Giuliana’s art imitates life.
Creation centres such as Hangar and La Escocesa are a soothing antidote to the apathy that can spread from bleak economic prospects. These workspaces help artists to break through the difficulties of economic instability to drive progress through well-organized and pro-active residences, far removed from dizzying tourist traffic of the centre.