Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
My name is John H. Guevara, I am an independent art organizer in Chicago, with my main project being Chuquimarca, an art library project space.
How long have you been running Chuquimarca Projects and what was the inspiration behind opening the library project space?
On paper, Chuquimarca launched in Spring 2019. However, research for the project started years before that. Initiating a project like Chuquimarca came as a response to a billion of things but, on the text and resource level, it was a response to not finding an archive or library with specific modern and contemporary art books and cultural micro-histories.
The connotations of the term “library” are tied to fraught notions of what knowledge is deemed important and who should have access. What does it mean to you to offer a library at Chuquimarca Projects?
To exhibit art projects within a library space context is to automatically throw the projects, works, and artists into a political conversation. Archives and historicization tools like libraries are political and charged spaces by default, and working in this context is such an important critical and somatic exercise to collectively work through. I think holding space and time to center those conversations even without an exhibition is one of the tasks for the library.
Can talk a bit about 19 in 2021: A Drone’s Eye View, as well as its ongoing reading group facilitated by Chuquimarca?
19 in 2021: A Drone’s Eye View is a virtual group show by Nat Pyper, Bárbara Baron, Julio Córdova, and Marissa Macias. This project was to be a physical show in our exhibition space with fashion, sounds, videos, etc. however due to COVID19 safety, we decided to make it fully virtual with a SF+ reading group, titled I Dream I Was A We. The reading group list was put together by Nat Pyper and gathers speculative fiction, essays, & poetry that address contemporary crises and liberation struggles by writers including Octavia Butler, Lou Cornum, Angela Davis, W. E. B. Du Bois, Saidiya Hartman, Ursula K. Le Guin, José Esteban Muñoz, and others. The project as a whole was featured in New City’s Art Top 5 for November 2020!
What has been your experience offering such a range of interdisciplinary programming & what advantages do you feel it offers in spurring cultural discourse in Chicago?
I love that the program came out interdisciplinary! That was for sure a side effect of radical experimentation and listening to the maker’s wants and needs. It really speaks to the fact that the art object and exhibition-making can only go so far if we are trying to reach for just futures.
Can you introduce us to Tanda, your experimental cohort program which is being hosted in part by Artists run Chicago 2.0, the current exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center?
Chuquimarca’s Tanda is an experimental cohort program that aims to help individuals with research through self-directed and collective learning by way of knowledge gathering and sharing. It is always cumbersome to explain the format in writing and if you have not been in a real-life tanda (an informal communal lending circle that is practiced across cultures, from Latin America to the Philippines), then it’s hard to understand the amount of trust, creativity, and gamble it is to use this format as a way to exchange and share knowledge. Check out the website for a more detailed description!
What is it like operating within an open call premise?
The program operates with both a call for proposals and for testing out programs. Our call for projects is framed around co-participation where we ask for group projects with 2-4 makers that want to contextualize their work within the library’s focus. The makers can include writers, artists, curators, etc. The task is to make the call as open as possible, to include plural perspectives, and to be autonomous; an apparatus that holds each other’s work in conversation.
What do you feel a curator or arts organizer offers in the Chicago art world today & do you feel those roles, as previously defined, are changing?
Art curators and organizers build worlds as much as the next artist does, and they should be considered as creative makers as well. There are so many curators and art organizers working in Chicago that do super cute and important work and with such flawless fashion, I find it hard to remember what the definition of stereotypes for those roles was tbh, lol.
Do you have any upcoming projects or shows?
Yes, we have one more project coming out this year. It is going to be part happy hour, part cooking show, and part virtual DJ set!
What are you reading right now??
Everything in the SF+ reading group list -Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction is so good!
Interview composed by Amanda Roach.