Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The School of Panamerican Unrest

The School of Panamerican Unrest is an artist-led, not-for-profit public art project that seeks to generate connections between the different regions of the Americas through discussions, performances, screenings, and short-term and long-term collaborations between organizations and individuals. Its main component will be a nomadic forum or think-tank that will cross the hemisphere by land, from Anchorage, Alaska, to Ushuaia, Argentina, in Tierra del Fuego. This hybrid project includes a collapsible and movable architectural structure in the form of a schoolhouse, as well as a video collection component. The project, which seeks to involve a wide range of audiences and engage them at different levels, offers alternative ways to understand the history, ideology, and lines of thought that have significantly impacted political, social and cultural events in the Americas.

After its official launch in New York, the SPU initiated its road trip in Anchorage. From May 19 through September 15, the SPU will make 30 official stops. The journey will be documented in video footage that will result in a documentary to be launched in 2007. Daily updates of the trip will be available at A virtual bilingual forum discussing aspects of this trip was initiated in January of this year and can be accessed at

Initiated by Mexican artist Pablo Helguera, and with the support of more than 40 organizations and more than 100 affiliated artists, curators, and cultural promoters in the Americas, The School of Panamerican Unrest responds to the need to support inter-regional communication amongst English, Spanish and Portuguese speaking America, as well as its other communities in the Caribbean and elsewhere, making connections outside its regular commercial and economic links. In contrast to Europe, which over the years has been orchestrating its cultural integration through an open flux of dialogue, many Latin American countries still have a limited cultural exchange amongst one another, and often limited to the connections offered by the hegemonic points such as New York, Miami, or even Madrid. Many years after the initial impulses by various Latin American intellectuals such as José Vasconcelos, Simón Bolívar, José Martí, who once envisioned a unified cultural region in the Americas, this project seeks to revisit and evaluate the meaning of those ideas during the time of the Internet and post-globalization. In the debates, programs and roundtable discussions, the project will seek to articulate and debate issues that pertain to local concerns around culture and society. We will also seek to discuss ways through which artistic practice in the Americas can acquire an influential role in public life, political, cultural and social discourse, enriching their respective communities in a productive and proactive manner.

As an artistic project, the SPU seeks to innovate by combining performative and educational strategies, creating new forms of presentation and debate about political and historical subjects and creating a discussion infrastructure that will break with the usual academic formats, and the predictable means of communication and debate that are normally used in the art world. The project is inspired by the travel itineraries of those who once crossed the continent, ranging from missionaries, explorers, scientists, revolutionaries, intellectuals, writers, and others. In the utopian spirit of those who once conceived the Americas as a unified entity, the SPU will cross the continent literalizing the very idea of Panamericanism.

Once the journey is completed, the documentation of it will be brought together in the form of a publication, a documentary and a traveling exhibition.

Pablo Helguera (* Mexico City, 1971) is a visual artist living and working in New York. His work usually acquires unusual formats, ranging from experimental symposiums, phonograph recordings, exhibition acoustiguides, or nomadic museums. Helguera usually departs from historic research or from interests surrounding the very nature of art, the viewer's perception of it, and the role that art making and culture in general plays in politics and society. He often combines literary and musical strategies, as well as pedagogy and education theory.


SPU Itinerary

SPU Video

Universes in Universe

Creative Capital

Programmable Revolutions: A Binational Interpretration of the Modernist Dream / by Pablo Helguera