Come on baby light my fire
A conversation with FirePlace about Fireplace
Once upon a time there were two visual artists, Quim Packard and Ángela Palacios who were searching for a work space where in addition to being able to work there themselves they could invite others and above all else create a space where interesting things could happen which would also be open to the public. After searching and searching they came up with a place with a beautiful courtyard and a huge access door in the Poble Nou area, not far from the sea or the neighbourhood rambla, and they called it FirePlace. Its name evokes the gentle intimacy of the hearth and sets the agenda for a calm and spontaneous approach to work, far removed from the rigid structures of the art institutions where programmes are decided up to two years beforehand with little margin for the unexpected. FirePlace is also literally a place where fire happens and in this sense it’s the opposite of calm and serene but rather somewhere passionate, a place of change, in continual movement. Both interpretations are useful to define the essence of this project, small scale but enthusiastic, that also came about through the intention of identifying synergies and collaborations with other independent art spaces around the city and above all else to transgress the area of the visual arts and its public (sometimes sectarian in their outlook) to be inclusive of other disciplines, especially music, which both Quim and Ángela are especially interested in (one example being the stimulating play-list of music that Angela features on her wordpress page or Quim’s periodic practice sessions as a musician).
Reviewing the activities that they’ve already carried out over the last six months since starting out is like reading a restaurant menu where it’s impossible to order because everything looks so good; A Walk with Pessoa by artist Enric Farrès, Stone Soup by Espai Nyam Nyam, Fog Bowl exhibition (Ariadna Guiteres and Estanis Comella), Dublab.es Broadcast, performances by Daniel Moreno and Sophia Washburn, Firemusictime, GreenshakeTalk with Ariadna Guiteras, Welcome to Europe! From Portland (Oregon) Magic Gardens and Jason Urick in concert, Asterisco Mariposa - Exhibition by Mimosa Echard... The Anglo-Saxon nomenclature reveals its international vocation, aiming to promote an artistic exchange between here and abroad, breaking down the borders between creative disciplines and nationalities.
Asterisco Mariposa, by Mimosa Echard. Photo: Kiwi Bravo
FirePlace, co-working space, Photo: Primoz Zorko
When I ask them about their modus operandi on deciding the gallery programme they say that it is they who make suggestions to the artists, musicians and other creatives, to develop proposals for Fireplace, though sometimes they are approached with proposed initiatives. And as we’ve already said, FirePlace being an open and dynamic space, if the proposal is interesting enough they’ll try to make it possible. They do not operate in a systematic way, but through trial and error, leaving room for risk taking, a way of working that they attribute to the fact that they are artists, given that the day-to-day nature of their work is developed according to procedure and continuous search. These last six months of experimentation have helped them to sharpen and define the format they want to give to these activities, which from October onwards will be presented as "FireSessions", events lasting a single day where different things will happen: exhibitions, performances, concerts, lectures, etc.. All concentrated within a session of several hours duration. They also organise "Walks", tours of an artistic nature where places of interest in the neighbourhood and the city can be discovered.
Fireplace, Opening concert, Photo: Adrian Shinder and Eulalia Rovira
I also wonder about how FirePlace has influenced their own work as artists. Within his own practice Quim often reflects on the dynamics of exhibition spaces and introduces other artists working as a curator, FirePlace represents a logical extension of that work. Angela, however, on the other does not explicitly deal with the collective within her own work, but is used to working surrounded by other artists and, like Quim, values the contributions that this provides. Therefore FirePlace is also a co-working space not just for artists but for designers, curators and small business projects which also aims to provide a place of artistic residencies, where artists from other parts of the world can temporarily immerse themselves to develop their own work or specific projects.
FirePlace, photo: Primoz Zorko
I also ask them about the financial aspects of the project which right now is funded mostly by their enthusiasm: there isn’t any money to pay the invited artists and creatives, or for that matter for Quim or Ángela. Things happen here thanks to their dedication and the determination of all those involved with the project. They are conscious that this way of working can only be on a temporary basis and that at some point people are bound to get tired of working for free but right now enthusiasm (and a ten year contract for their space) is enough to keep them going while looking for financial subsistence elsewhere. They aren’t ruling out looking for some type of funding at some point in the future, but they are also aware that it takes up a lot of time and that it’ll only cover half of the running costs which doesn’t really justify all the effort.
I mention that in Barcelona the recession seems to have led to the emergence of independent projects, but Quim is reluctant to talk in these terms fearing that such considerations may end up justifying the neo-liberal cultural policies and scant funding provided by government agencies. Undoubtedly it’s more interesting to think about how new technologies can provide these alternative and self-managed projects with more visibility and can come about despite the lack of resources, and this also leads to a discussion about the side effects of these technologies and the need to carve out a space and a time that fosters real, physical encounter. That is perhaps why Quim and Àngela joke that when they first thought of developing this project they agreed that it should be “like Facebook, but better,” a place that, just like the definitive social network, would be rich in exchange and expression, but where bodily presence and speaking face-to-face rather than typing would be the norm. And that brings us back to the idea of fire, its properties of illumination, changing and transforming its essence, in its ability to heat, burn, and invoke the collective, the group. That is FirePlace. Better than facebook!