“Artistic mediation is key to the resilience of societies”
From a cloudy cloud forest in Xalapa, Mexico, Antonia Isaacson reflects on the transformations of artistic mediation in Chile in the Latin American context. Currently, she lives in a nature reserve, a space in which she has activated biocultural experiences such as educational drifts through the forest; a community cinema and cultural center, and a community kitchen during complex moments of the pandemic.
These days, when the week of artistic education was celebrated, Antonia tells us, she prepares various didactic games in tune with a practice she calls ludic mediation and designs projects –personal and collective– through Animala. She is also co-founder of the Artistic Mediation Network, made up of 17 members who come from transdisciplinary fields. A decade has passed since this collective path began to install a concept and practice that, until then, was scarcely known.
How do you synthesize artistic mediation from your experience?
Although you can find many definitions of mediation, it is important to note that the concept does not account for its entire scope. These are encounters, forms of collective gathering where the focus is neither decisive nor Cartesian, that is, it implies a creative and experimental process. Mediation is creating the meeting condition for action for the welfare of people. Currently, I design mediation devices, creative games… ludic mediation is emerging in different contexts; in schools, for example, for educational purposes. In fact, there is a game on Human Rights that we developed as a Network together with the artist Celeste Rojas Mujica, called “Constelación de un enigma”, which presents universal symbology and an emotional key on a board. Game strategies are even useful for difficult topics to be addressed.
How was the beginning of this transdisciplinary path?
When we started talking about mediation in Chile more than 15 years ago, most of us came from working as guides in artistic and cultural institutions. We were a group that wanted to have an active participation in the design of the activities. Then, with this change of perspective, a kind of crisis occurred at the institutional level, a major turnaround. It was a space that we won, the result of the decision to make visible the work we did. We discovered that there were possibilities of working from art and not only for art.
Transdiscipline was given by default. We were raised believing that we specialize in only one thing, but in the world of the arts those limits are expanded. This happens above all in a context like the Chilean one where, many times, there are not enough resources to live only from art, so you have to learn from different fields. It is also true that there is a personal break with the categories that are exclusively linked to the professions we study. I studied art, but I wasn’t interested in shutting myself away to create. Then the concept of community artist did not exist in such a defined or explicit way, now it does.
How do you conceive mediation in a nomadic or migratory context?
To do mediation it is necessary to awaken a desire to contribute to the harmony of the place you live. Here, I live in a kind of jungle. Nature sensitizes me and I link myself with the environmental, ecological problem. This is how we seek through a collective to make these themes visible. Through the cinema (Kiltro cinema), we show films that we do not see in commercial cinema, about indigenous peoples and we defend a type of socio-environmental content; a sensitivity that I also sought to activate through Liquen, a biocultural space that we activated during the pandemic together with a community kitchen in tune with what was happening in Chile in 2019.
Although here I have not been fully dedicated to mediation, but to cultural management and artistic creation, I have activated some environmental education experiences. For example, together with an entomologist friend from the National Institute of Ecology of Veracruz (INECOL), we hiked through the forest, designing stations where things happened. I prepared fanzines with images of forest species and conscious conversations were activated. This is similar to the work that we were developing together with Amalia Pascal in the Collaborative Art residencies of Red Cultura.
It is also important to say that in Mexico artistic mediation is not so popular, or at least, institutional spaces do not have the concept so incorporated, especially in the provinces. On the contrary, we see that Chile is one of the leaders in artistic and cultural mediation; the transformations, in a smaller and younger country, are faster.
Why do you think Chile leads on these issues?
We have learned to work and collaborate in groups, as a form of resistance but also of survival against the neoliberal logic of Chile. In addition, initiatives have emerged that understood that mediation was a necessary path. When the institutions do not guarantee access, you have to generate it, that is, from civil organization. When we decided to come together as a network, it was also to generate labor support and independence to develop our own projects, and at the same time, collaborate with institutions autonomously. This is how diverse organizations come together and find a shared space in those exchanges. Even after the pandemic, the medium became more flexible, available to look for new ways to create, and that is a resilience effect. A strong field for mediation management in Chile is audiovisual. This was seen in that time of pandemic, where the medium reacted very quickly by designing, for example, educational sheets to work with school communities.
Antonia Isaacson is a graphic artist and cultural mediator, co-founder of Red Mediación Artística where they develop collaborative art projects, and design and implementation of artistic mediation programs. She also owns her arts and design studio Animala Artes Gráficas. Recently, she was in charge of the editorial design of the book “Expanded Mediation”, and these days, she studies the potential of Artificial Intelligence for the field of mediation.