To arrive at CAC Ses Voltes in Palma de Mallorca, visitors must descend the steps at the foot of the city’s Cathedral and walk along a path that runs adjacent to an inlet of seawater flowing in from the Mediterranean. Passing under an archway visitors then arrive at a central courtyard surrounded on all sides by 18th century stone walls.
Since 1985, Ses Voltes has served as a government-run cultural space, acting as host to exhibitions, performances and concerts of all kinds. In 2013 the space was handed over to brother and sister team Amir and Eva Shakouri. Amir and Eva have since developed an international artist residency program to offer support to artists during the production process and provide audiences with privileged access to artists’ studios. This exchange fosters dialogue on a key area of activity: the research, experimentation, and innovation which take place during the creative process. The focus of CAC Ses Voltes is to provide a breathing space for the activities which enable artists to push the boundaries of contemporary practices.
Amir and Eva recognize that contemporary art can be challenging when one lacks the resources to understand the process and thinking behind its making. With this idea in mind, Ses Voltes has established itself as a platform for artistic engagement that goes beyond a mere exhibition program. Acting as an arts incubator, Ses Voltes sponsors artist residencies, conferences, workshops, screenings, courses, events, guided tours and studies to facilitate the development of visual artists. In this way the center positions itself at the nexus between creative production and audience understanding.
The residency program invites artists to propose projects to Ses Voltes for which the spaces, services, infrastructure and supplies of the center that could provide significant aid for their realization. To inaugurate the residency in 2013, the center selected 27 year old Iranian artist Elnaz Javani. The initial presentation was a collaboration with Mojgan Endjavi-Barbé Art Projects, which strives to encourage cultural and artistic dialogue between Iran and other countries worldwide, as well as with The Circle of Fine Arts of Mallorca.
Within the nearby 250-year-old, barrel-vaulted galleries, which once served as the artillery for the old barracks of Palma, Javani’s delicate fabrics have been strung in the manner of drying laundry. This series of works was inspired by stories of immigrants to Spain being fooled by human traficking organizations. During her research, the artist came across a police operation led by the Spanish Guardia Civil that dismantled a network of human traffickers that covered most of Europe. She embarked on a meticulous investigation and gained access to the secret recordings made by the intelligence services, videos recorded by hidden cameras and copies of false passports and identity cards which she used to create a new body of work titled Dealing with People. As a migrant herself who has suffered the trials and tribulations of traveling with the ‘wrong passport’; through this project, the artist sought to generate a complicity with Europeans from privileged backgrounds who have the ability to travel freely.
In the piece, Javani has appropriated the ID cards of unknown individuals, changed the information and printed them onto fabric, thus falsifying the documents herself. She sees the identification card as a metaphor for inequality, and governments’ de facto ownership of the fate of the individuals they represent. Those who possess the ‘correct’ ID card, such as Europeans or Americans, have the world presented to them at their fingertips, while other groups with Middle Eastern or African documentation, for example, are significantly restricted as a result of their nationality. These soft, medium sized pieces of fabric hang with a false ID printed on the front with sewn designs on the reverse as well as threaded detail that overlays the printed image. The resulting artwork is both political and poetic.
Javani works principally with fabric for its resemblance to flesh. Fabric can be molded, lacerated, torn, wrinkled, shapeless, and sewn in the way of skin; it also bears the marks of its experiences. Her works are deeply connected to human struggle, particularly that involving female or cultural identity.
The Ses Voltes presentation of Javani’s work took place in three parts. The production of the false identity cards was carried out in printing studios located at the Joan Miró Foundation in Mallorca. A preview of the evening before the official opening brought together the artist and members of the Guardia Civil who had helped her access the classified information.
Following this inauguration, Mojgan Endjavi-Barbé and the owners of CAC Ses Voltes presented the second half of the residency whereby, an artist from Spain was invited to travel to Shiraz in Iran to carry out an art residency. To commemorate this, an ephemeral installation was presented at the customs port after nightfall. Attendees were invited to enter a large, dark container where a single mirror was placed at the far end, a sound installation created by the artist played fragments from the recordings gathered by intelligence officers, and a searchlight waved back and forth through the opening. This all-encompassing and sensory experience was purposefully unsettling, designed to recall the inhumane treatment of immigrants. With views of the Cathedral off in the distance, guests could imagine the experience of those who had travelled from afar, only to be held back with their destination at arm’s reach.
CAC Ses Voltes’ goal of becoming a point of collaboration between creative professionals and various institutions has resulted in its joining forces with Mallorca’s Joan Miró Foundation. The legendary Spanish Surrealist’s printmaking workshops have been opened to other artists for use, fulfilling the his desired intention for the space. Artists involved in residencies are able to use the workshop as one of the resources at their disposal. CAC Ses Voltes is also eager to expose the great artistic talents of the Mallorcan art scene, both through inviting international artists to produce projects within their facilities, and by sending Mallorcan artists to create work abroad. Mallorca’s dynamic art-scene is notoriously active, where many historic buildings are transformed into unusual exhibition spaces for contemporary art. The Ses Voltes opening coincided with the presentation of a Tony Cragg solo show in Sa Llotja, and a Jannis Kounellis exhibition at Oratorio Sant Feliu, a 12th century chapel which today houses the Kewenig Art Gallery.
By Ellen Von Wiegand