I felt completely unable to start this piece of writing. Even the slightest murmur could have salvaged my muted despair. But silence entombed me underneath this unceremonious mound of doubt, where I could only hear the hissing noise of total emptiness. Every sentence felt clunky, every thought irrelevant, every metaphor nonsensical. My world was blank and pitch black, filled with dirt. The only words I could muster (and with great effort) were an email to the editor that read:
“Dear Paul, I resent how nice, supportive and polite you’ve always been to me. Would it kill you to be rude? Fire me. Kahuna fucking matata!”
Sigh, if only I had the abrasive self-centredeness required to send outrageous emails, or a work (un) ethic that allows me to quit at the finishing line. I was on my last commission for the Editor-in-Residency at un Projects and I felt like getting evicted, one deadline away from returning the keys. I asked for an extension instead, claiming that I would hand in a piece about artist run spaces in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was my last chance to exit the program smoothly, to hide my inability to write this piece.
“Rock and loaded, Paul,” I thought to myself, with an arrogant sense of victory, as I held a banana smoothy on my hand, to imbue the writing experience with an athletic character. I looked at the mirror and used my free hand to shoot an air bullet. Pew, pew.
But my humidifier was not releasing calming scents fast enough, Paul. The banana bread at the bakery was meh, Paul. The ylang ylang essential oil didn’t relax me on time, so I moved onto homeopathy but everyone knows it is a slow healer, Paul. I believe in “like with like”, hence I procrastinated my late deadline, Paul. Two weeks had suddenly passed and I was also late for the extension, Paul. I was busy attending a psychic expo with my partner, where I bought Uruguayan amethyst, Paul. Time is running out once again, so let me tell you about Grupo Ascencio, located in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico, Paul.
Grupo Ascencio is currently run by emerging artists Syndell Razo and Leonardo Ascencio in Colonia Obrero, where they have an exhibition space, studios and home. Located in a large avenue and with interiors that resemble a second floor apartment, one feels an odd sense of urban anonymity. Essentially the dream of most artists, the premises are easily partitioned with locked doors, allowing their home and workspace to co-exist. Grupo Ascencio has been operating since 2019, borrowing symbols from large brands as their own logotype, claiming a strong visual identity that sits somewhere in between post internet revival and grungy pop culture, with a Mexican inflection. Of course, this is representative of the wider artists they show, who have a propensity to co-opt brands and make statements about our suffocatingly interconnected world.
While the gallery grounds their activities in a physical space, they partake in other ventures such as self-publishing and offsite projects. For instance, I asked Leonardo to send me an exhibition that epitomises Grupo Ascencio, and they sent me a group show at Armen Daguer, another gallery in Guadalajara. Curated by Grupo Ascencio, the show was called Hasta La Discordia Siempre (Until discord forever) and included a range of highly graphic works. One of the funniest pieces was a ceramic plate called Fainal mesash (a Spanish bastardisation of ‘final message’) with a depressed cat from Tom and Jerry sitting alongside a really ugly mouse (presumably from a 4chan meme), with a message that reads “change da world my final message goodb ye”. Like, lulz.
Amongst other reasons, I was in Guadalajara to undertake a studio residency with Interior 2.1, run by artists Bruno Viruete and Daniela Ramírez, in Colonia San Juan de Dios. Their downtown space is located in a second floor dwelling typical of historical districts, bearing an imposing gallery wall with chipped away paint, steel doors and a rooftop serenaded by barking dogs. Their premises house a gallery and studio spaces, where they stage a range of activities, including drawing sessions on Wednesdays, set to the rhythm of romantic music. Interior 2.1 has also published two colouring books with Impronta Press, who also runs an exhibition space. Printed on risograph, the books gather contributions by various artists (including myself), who offer line drawings for colouring. They also invite artists to contribute a small artwork to hang from a Christmas tree on holiday season. In a more conventional note, they participate in art fairs as an independent space.
Interior 2.1 began as an exhibition space within a studio, in the defunct space TRAMA Centro, in 2015. It is my understanding that they are the oldest artist run space in Guadalajara and by random chance, I was their first exhibiting artist. As I was in Guadalajara at the time, where I met Bruno Viruete while he was invigilating a commercial gallery, who invited me to show. Since then, they have occupied several spaces but their activities have been typified by a casual personality and a kitschy sense of humour. They are easy to talk to, have a lot of respect for their neighbours and host good shows.
Okay, phew...we have reached the conclusion and I have met my word limit. The lesson here is that sometimes one’s just gotta do it: they opened an artist run space in their home or studio, I typed whatever word came to mind. The important thing is that we are acting on our thoughts, feelings and desires. And I am desperate to get off the keyboard. Or something like that.
Diego Ramírez is an artist with dreams, a writer with hopes and a facilitator with beliefs. He has shown locally at ACMI in partnership with ACCA, NGV, Gertrude Glasshouse, Westspace, Sydney Contemporary, Blakdot and internationally at Deslave (Mexico), Human Resources (US), Torrance Art Museum (US), Art Central (HK), and Careof (IT). Ramírez has written locally for Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art and Australia, Disclaimer, MEMO, un Projects and internationally with NECSUS (NL) and BLUE journal (US x FR). As a facilitator, he is the former Director of Seventh Gallery and sits in panels for Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne, and is a peer assessor for Australia Council. He is represented by MARS Gallery.
un Projects’ Editor-in-Residence Program is supported by the City of Yarra, Creative Victoria and City of Melbourne.