JA.CA van
The Kombi used for the Mobile Device for Shared Actions project at JA.CA (2015). Photo: Disclosure

Searching for a single definition that explains what JA.CA – Centro de Arte e Tecnologia is is a thankless task. Independent art space; artistic collective; non profit organization; residential space; education and research center; association focused on cultural management; and various other definitions could be used. And none would be wrong. Officially, it is possible to say that JA.CA – with a name derived from Jardim Canadá, the neighborhood of Nova Lima (MG) where it was born – emerged as a proposal for a postgraduate project on collective practices and is today a Civil Society Organization. But that says very little about its performance, which will be expanded with the opening of a space in Belo Horizonte, Arrudas, in partnership with the Periscope gallery.

“People took a long time to understand  what was the JA.CA. We wanted it to be a laboratory, a place for research, but in the beginning it ended up working more like a gallery. It took us a while to get ourselves exactly as we wanted.”

Francisca Caporali

“Broadly, we understand JA.CA as a training space. But the beauty of participating in a project like this is that we can have few certainties and work with more doubts. In other words, today we understand each other and practice a way that can be drastically changed at another time”, says Caporali. In fact, JA.CA has already changed its address, reduced or increased its size several times and developed different survival strategies over the years, sometimes in a more experimental way, at others in a dialogue closer to a universe of service provision. .    

To understand such plurality and elasticity, it is necessary to briefly go through the space history. Conceived by Francisca Caporali while studying for her Masters in New York, JA.CA was opened in 2010, when the artist returned to Belo Horizonte and joined her friends Pedro Mendes and Xandro Gontijo. With funds raised by the Rouanet Law, the trio opened the space in Jardim Canada, a neighborhood with a very peculiar history in the city of Nova Lima, part of the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, and started its activities that mainly included residences and exhibitions. “People took a long time to understand what JA.CA was. We wanted it to be a laboratory, a place for research, but in the beginning it ended up working more like a gallery. Even because artists, when they enter a space like this, immediately think about putting together an exhibition. And it took us a while to get ourselves exactly the way we wanted to”, explains Caporali.

The JA.CA team at its headquarters in Jardim Canadá, in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte.
The JA.CA team at its headquarters in Jardim Canadá, in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte. Photo: Disclosure

The choice of Jardim Canada was due to the family relationships that the three founders had with the place. The neighborhood's history dates back to the 1950s, when the subdivision was launched, but due to lack of infrastructure, the region only started to have intense occupation in the 1980s. Closer to the south of Belo Horizonte than to the center of Nova Lima, the Jardim Canada is nestled between the edges of a natural park, a mining area, luxury condominiums and a federal highway. The initial occupation, with housing for condominium employees, industrial sheds and services connected to the highway, has diversified over time. “It's a strange place, which has gone through a process of intense speculation, but it never quite happens. Today it is much more urbanized than it was ten years ago, being a neighborhood that has also found a vocation for craft beer and gastronomy. But it is a place with a lot of internal inequality and full of paradoxes”, says Caporali.

New ways

From a better understanding of the surroundings, JA.CA realized that the huge amount of waste generated by companies, mining companies and condominiums could become work material, both for the resident artists and for the space's own projects. In this scenario, the creation of the joinery, in 2012, and the entry of Mateus Mesquita – Pedro and Xandro ended up leaving, the first to run the Mendes Wood gallery –, in addition to partnerships with architecture students from UFMG, opened new avenues of experimentation. for the JACA. Projects such as the Expanded Bus Stop, made with discarded wood in the neighborhood, and DESEJA.CA, which used materials for carpentry, weaving, stamping and design projects from that time.

The move from JA.CA to its current headquarters, after an exorbitant increase in the rent of the old space with the paving of the street on which it was located, took place in 2014, from the construction on a new land in the same neighborhood of a space divided into six containers. . Thought of as transportable or collapsible, the headquarters becomes less vulnerable to the real estate speculation that has already made JA.CA move twice. Joinery, library, living area, kitchen and all spaces can be transported with relative ease if necessary.

JA.CA van
The Kombi used for the Mobile Device for Shared Actions project (2015). Photo: Disclosure

Caporali's rapprochement with Samantha Moreira – founder of Ateliê Aberto (1997) in Campinas, one of the longest-running autonomous spaces in the country – took place more intensely from Indie. Management, created jointly by the two spaces and carried out in 2014. The project, financed through an award from Funarte, proposed to map spaces of independent management – ​​at a time when there were many of them, before the crisis and the cultural dismantling in the country – in different cities and place them in dialogue in an “artistic residency”. In other words, instead of holding an artists' residency, a residency was organized with representatives of these “intentional spaces”, as they were called at the time.

“One thing that is very strong in independent spaces are parties, the kitchen, that affective place that every home has. It is in this doing together, in cooking, in informal conversations, that many approximations, many partnerships happen”, explains Moreira. In this way, the entire residence was designed based on food, “digestion and indigestion”, to actually discuss the management of independent spaces – their powers, structure, team building, projects, sustainability, etc. “And since having a space like this is having to do everything, unfold, the subtitle of the project was 'how to whistle and suck cane at the same time'.”

Joinery pieces produced for the DESEJA.CA project, in 2011.
Joinery pieces produced for the DESEJA.CA project, in 2011. Photo: Disclosure

Other outstanding projects by JA.CA over the following years were the Mobile Device for Shared Actions (2015) and Praça Viva (2016). In the first, from the purchase of a Kombi and approval in the public notice Itaú Cultural Directions, six artists (also linked to gastronomy, architecture and other areas) were selected for a 60-day residency to develop itinerant actions with the Kombi. “We did film screenings, performances, a portable school, kitchen. This made it possible to leave the headquarters and amplify the actions: not the community going to JA.CA, but us and the artists going to the community”, says Moreira.

In Praça Viva (2016), JA.CA teamed up with teachers and students from the Benvinda Pinto Rocha Municipal School to occupy a public area that should have been a square – according to the neighborhood’s urban planning – but which was used as a parking lot for trucks. . After negotiating with companies, JA.CA used materials discarded in the neighborhood to, alongside the children,  finally transform the space into a public square.

Big steps

Over the years, in addition to projects in the neighborhood, JA.CA has expanded its activities outside Jardim Canada, either in Belo Horizonte or in partnerships with institutions in other cities. There was, for example, the creation of a space for artists' studios in the center of the capital of Minas Gerais, in addition to the organization of debates, lectures or audiovisual shows in different locations. The entire process and years of learning culminated, at the end of 2017, in the approval of a JA.CA project to carry out the educational project of the four spaces of the CCBB, in Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. “We went from less than 10 people to around 100”, says Caporali, reaffirming once again the need for JA.CA to adapt to new circumstances.

“We both have this artistic background and we've already had our own works. At this moment, we want to be more in collective projects than individual ones, but we don't stop thinking of all this as our works of art”

Samantha Moreira

In order to work with the CCBB, JA.CA deepened its activities in the pedagogical area and, despite being linked to a large institution with its own rules and guidelines, it did not fail to carry its baggage as an independent and experimental art space – including taking artists and curators for the processes at CCBB. “We have to understand how to act in each place, but always maintaining coherence and working autonomy. And we believe a lot in this place of meeting, of coexistence, which governs all our projects”, says Moreira.

Also in 2018, another novelty was the choice of JA.CA, based on a public notice issued by the city of Belo Horizonte, to coordinate the 7tha edition of Bolsa Pampulha, linked to the Pampulha Art Museum. With the selection of ten participating artists, JA.CA coordinated the six months of performance by the artists alongside curators Julia Rebouças, Beatriz Lemos and Monica Hoff.

Visit of children with the CCBB Educativo
Visit of children with the CCBB Educativo. Photo: Disclosure

In all these projects, whether working with the community, at a residence in Jardim Canada, CCBB or Bolsa Pampulha, Moreira and Caporali emphasize the desire to closely monitor and participate creatively in all the processes. “For we understand all this also as our artistic works. We both have this artistic background and we've already had our own works. At this moment we want to be more in collective projects than individual ones, but we don't stop thinking of all this as our works of art. They are our experiments, needs, desires”, says Moreira.

Caporali also states that despite this current focus on administration and management work, JA.CA has never had such a strong functioning in the sense of being a kind of artistic collective. She and Moreira emphasize, at this point, the need to mention the name of the other members of the group, in addition to two of them and Mateus: Marcio Gabrich, Artur Souza, Sarah Matos, Daniel Toledo, in addition to the various partners who joined the over the years. “Because we live in times of political and economic seesaw, we understand that it is this affective place that holds us in these moments of money drain, for example”, says Caporali. “And if there is a dark moment today, it is time to reinforce the meetings, to think about possible projects. It is clear that in this context it becomes even more important to resist.” And it is in this sense that JA.CA opens Arrudas, its new space for workshops, debates, exhibitions and meetings in downtown Belo Horizonte. 

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