The Local Turn, Miguel A. López, Gabi Ngcobo and Andrea Torreblanca
COMMONPLACES Q & A with Andrea Torreblanca, Director of Curatorial Projects at INSITE

Commonplaces is a platform for producing work with curators, artists, and communities, working locally in different regions of the world. Since March 2021, curator Miguel A. López developed a project from Lima, Peru; curator Gabi Ngcobo from Johannesburg, South Africa; and Andrea Torreblanca from San Diego County and Baja California, US/Mexico.

For Commonplaces, each editor-curator conceived a context-specific theme from which to develop a project through three distinct but interrelated components: first, as guest editor of an online and printed special issue of the INSITE Journal; second, as curator of a long-term Commission with artists to develop new work rooted in the place where the project takes place; and third, as organizer of Conversations to be presented both locally and in formats accessible to distant audiences. The special issues of the INSITE Journal devoted to Commonplaces include contributions from writers, artists, and scholars responding to the project's theme, documentation of the realization of the artist's commission, perspectives from fellow curators on other relevant works, and selected extant texts. INSITE will also present moderated dialogues among the three editor-curators, exploring the intersections (and disjunctions) of their experiences.

Miguel A. López’s project, Common Thread, was centered on a collaboration with a Shipibo group of women artists from the Cantagallo community in Lima, Peru who spent over one year creating new textiles and paintings that respond to their experiences during the pandemic. This sixth edition of the INSITE Journal (May 2023) focuses on Miguel’s project and includes texts by Peruvian anthropologists and theorists who explore the context of Indigenous art, language, and cosmology and its socio-political implications.

Gabi Ngcobo’s project, Reverse Forward and All at Once, is being developed through two commissions with South African artists Nolan Oswald Dennis and Nyakallo Maleke, who are exploring the concept of thinking in reverse through language, geology, and an expanded concept of drawing that seeks to reimagine physical, social, and political places of knowledge. The project’s first public exhibition began in May 2022 as a work-in-progress installation at the Javett Art Centre (University of Pretoria), where both artists developed an installation that evolved over time through interventions, collaborations, and performance.

Andrea Torreblanca project, The Sedimentary Effect, will run from 2021 to 2025 and includes three chapters that explore contemporary perceptions of phenomena, architecture, and spirituality through microhistories of the San Diego County-Baja California US/MX region. To date, the project has included a five-day Conversation that took shape as an expedition with artists interested in landscape to a natural reserve in San Quintín, Baja California; a Commission with Mexicali-based artist Pastizal Zamudio in their former home—a construction yard built in 1975 by renowned architect Christopher Alexander—and a three-day event in a newly commissioned pavilion at the same site with architects, urbanists, and theorists to discuss housing production, architectural philosophy, and urgent urbanism in border cities.

Several questions were central as INSITE imagined new formats that would address both its deeply rooted interest in conceiving platforms for the creation of new work in the public sphere and the exigencies of the current moment: What if curators and artists didn't travel to INSITE’s physical base for periodic editions, but instead were invited to immerse themselves in their own places of origin or residence? What narratives and microhistories might emerge as projects unfold at their own pace and rhythm in these disparate geographies? What mechanisms might INSITE employ to make visible, disseminate, and provoke a broader dialogue about the knowledge gained through the projects?