Top image: Any Place Like This, by Milena Bonilla, moss – soil – little stones – weeds – some rubbish
Milena Bonilla (Colombia)
Milena Bonilla first came to our attention when Maddi Nicholson attended a Visiting Arts and British Council curatorial visit to Bogota, Colombia in 2004 and had been struck by images of the artist delicately sewing up torn seats on packed public transport buses as they moved around Bogota. Repairing the scars of urban decay.
Whist with us Milena struggled to deal with the British winter, with its cold dark nights and the leafless trees which she had never previously experienced. She spent many hours up a step-ladder, beside a tree outside the Art Gene Gallery meticulously tying plastic mistletoe leaves from a local pound-shop onto the seemingly lifeless branches, an attempt to resuscitate them – she had assumed the trees were all dead. This occurred much to the bemusement of passers by; many of whom couldn’t resist asking her what on earth she was up to. One notably became annoyed saying “Ave-yer got permission to do that love?”
This very personal and ‘quiet’; direct-action based approach to healing the sites of our intimate lives is typical of Milena’s sensitivity towards the creation of personal and ultimately shared Utopias; something which we aim to inspire in our communities through our design cafe programme. decay
Image above: Any Place Like This, by Milena Bonilla, grey sky – empty house – weeds – bricks – roof – plants – fragments of pink painting – gas tube – window – board covering the window
When someone says to me, “you have the freedom to…” I get terrified. This is a consequence of the mechanisms of a “structured’ society in which one is limited by preconceived notions about what is a ‘given’. Those limitations could manifest themselves as fear. I may be paranoid, but perhaps that paranoia has helped me to realise (on the other hand) that if I make art, it is because “it moves on the field of the possible”, as Duchamp’s work shows in its complex structure. If people have a creative freedom of choice over their own ‘possibilities’ then we find a way to better approach Life itself. So romantic and old fashioned, is it not? But I like that notion.
My usual state is one of confusion in relation to what it means ‘to make art’. I’m not sure if the problem is essentially a question of giving form to objects or ideas: ‘concepts’; (if not objects then why I am making… whatever?) Perhaps the notion of ‘materialising’ now has another kind of meaning in artistic practice: One that is not so radical as it was in the conceptual art of the 70’s, but one which takes account of the context in which that conceptualisation happens and allows it to influence /shape the object in the place it is created: at least in so far as it is useful to ones practice: the purposes of art. For me, art should ‘speak’ about global things but ones that can equally be ‘read’ in local places. Or conversely it should speak about very local things that can be understood in a universal context (global art world?). My personal experience as an artist: direct contact with my life is the principal ‘material’ with which I create, I guess. I am not saying that my work or art must be autobiographical, it would be silly. I mean, when you have an experience, even if that is close to your private life, you are having a ‘human being’ experience (one relating to the human condition), it is an experience that you are sharing with humanity since the moment you start to have it. Life is simple at last. All of us are suffering and smiling the same maladies. For that, the love songs that become successful… (across the whole world)
Utopia / the generic, the specific
My project at Art Gene consisted of a series of explorative works around the problematic relationship between the generic in cities and towns and the reality of these places in terms of architecture, consumerism, economy and other social issues. In the case of Barrow-in-Furness, my exploration started with British T.V. commercials which exemplify a British generic (consumerism for all the country), seen in the context of some specific gestures referencing its architecture.
Image below: Any Place Like This, by Milena Bonilla, pavement – legs walking – wheel – water – hand with tissue – shoes – leaf