Diálogo 365: CARPE DIEM Curatorial Statement

Seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.

 Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

~ Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Horace)

The Latin aphorism Carpe Diem, from the verse in Horace’s Ode I-XI, is often interpreted as “seize the day” or “seize the moment”. The Epicurean Roman poet exhorts us to focus on making the best of the current moment – that evanescent “now” that only lasts the briefest moment – because the future always is and will ever remain fraught with uncertainty, and in effect ungraspable and unfathomable. If we ponder this from the vantage point of our postmillenial condition of virtual simultaneity, we can also ask ourselves: is it possible to grasp the “now” as a moment of total awareness, of total recognition that the time has come to take control of one’s destiny in order to manifest a new tomorrow? As a means to present a compelling visual response to this lofty challenge, a group of thirty one artists of Latino descent have been selected to take part in a new exhibition aptly titled Diálogo 365: CARPE DIEM. This ambitious project, somewhat in the vein of a salon-style showcase, emerges as an effervescent collaborative curatorial initiative that equally embraces and challenges the typical interpretation of Horace’s poignant words as they reverberate through the millennia into our complex and vertiginous times.

A call for artistic proposals issued during the Spring of 2012 invited artists to create and submit work in response to the agro-gastronomic imagery associated with carpe, which literally translates into to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather, to eat food, to serve, to want, and also including the additional meanings of the verb as in to enjoy, seize, use, make use of from the usage by the Roman poet Ovid. At a momentous time in which the political power and voice of Latino communities throughout the United States has become more amplified, more resonant, and more nuanced than ever, Diálogo 365: CARPE DIEM asks artists to take into consideration their role and importance as the most vital of cultural ambassadors. The phrase in the Pirkei Avoth (Hebrew: פרקי אבות‎),1:14 – “And if not now, then when?”, provides direct and insightful spiritual inspiration, as well as delectable food for thought.

Scheduled to take place between October 18 and December 7, this timely edition of Casa de Venezuela’s Diálogo 365 has been included in the 2012 Calendar of Events of the City of Philadelphia Art in City Hall exhibition program, currently under the direction of Mr. Tu Huyhn. An exceptionally generous and receptive collaborator, Mr. Huynh has at all times ensured that the smallest detail of this endeavor benefits the latest community of artists that has take form as part of an asserted curatorial process. Once selected, every artist proceeded to issue a personal statement bringing together some of their impressions, considerations and interpretations of carpe diem as the common theme. The selection of works, and the inspiring and often provocative statements issued by the artists as they engaged with the call, could not be more impressive. The final group of thirty artists, representing fifteen countries, was carefully selected over the course of the summer. All manner of works by established and emerging artists, from the two-dimensional to the performative, were intently evaluated and considered. As it is the mission and goal of both Diálogo 365 and The ~curARTorial LAB, special attention was placed on the work of emerging artists with inspiring (and inspired) results. Worth noting, for example, is the fact that a considerable number of artists chose to create new work, resulting in what is in fact an innovative cultural statement of and in the moment. In addition, one last work was selected by the vote of the general public on October 5, as part of the activities in support of Latin Bridges, a citywide multimedia campaign geared towards the promotion of local Latino artists. Needless to say, because City Hall is a highly significant historical venue that is the fulcrum of Philadelphia’s most prestigious cultural milieu and center of the City’s political life, and because the Fifth Floor Community Gallery remains a public area within the building, we chose to accept work that complied with all of the special requirements and conditions inherent to these particular circumstances.

As this year’s Chief Curator of Diálogo 365, my final remark entails a moral, for not long after I was invited to curate this exhibition by the Board of Directors of Casa de Venezuela, we learned that the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture would host its first East Coast gathering in history in Philadelphia. The theme chosen for this historic gathering: Seizing the Moment Now. It should come as no surprise, and it is certainly no coincidence, that I was immediately inspired to propose CARPE DIEM as the theme of the 2012 Diálogo 365 groupexhibition of US Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean contemporary art. Carpe diem may be what comes closest to a valid and rational philosophy that is both bold and practical in our uncertain, often ambiguous times. CARPE DIEM is both vision and conviction, and it is my sincerest hope that every artist chosen to walk this path of communal creation have been as deeply affected by the vertiginous consequences of such a realization. After all, the seizing any moment can only happen in the fullness of the now.

 Anabelle Rodriguez-Lawton, Chief Curator of Diálogo 365

Diálogo 365: CARPE DIEM is an exhibition initiative of Casa de Venezuela in collaboration with the Office of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy of the City of Philadelphia & Art in City Hall, the Office of Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez, and The ~curARTorial LAB. 

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