Buenos Aires Through The Lens of Local Artist Elisa Insua
By: Naomi Matlow
“My favorite thing about porteños is that we are very passionate, very talkative, very introspective and we have an insatiable sense of humor.” – Elisa Insua
We are thrilled to share a city we love through the words of an artist we love, Elisa Insua. Elisa was born in Buenos Aires, and the creative, resourceful, and innovative spirit of her hometown deeply influences her work to date. From Argentina’s history of European colonialism to the openness and authenticity evident in every conversation with a native porteño, Elisa inspiringly shares why one month living Unsettled in Buenos Aires this fall (or Argentinian spring!) is sure to be unique, uplifting, and inspiring.
Name: Elisa Insua
Current Location: Madrid, Spain
How has growing up in Buenos Aires influenced your art and your approach to creativity?
Buenos Aires is a very creative city, with a thriving art scene. People manage to do amazing work with very little resources and very little funding. My working with discarded materials is no exception. Argentina is a very unpredictable country, where laws and rules of the game change every year. I guess this has made Argentinians adaptive, resourceful, resilient and entrepreneurial! Chaos seems to feed our ideas. On the other hand, the insecurity that we have from a constantly fluctuating economy obliges us to be quick, sharp, focused and attentive.
Has traveling between Buenos Aires and Madrid changed your artwork in any way?
Being on the move has always been eye-opening, and being away from Latin America has given me the chance to analyze my country, and my continent, with more perspective and objectivity. On a more physical level, in Spain I have started working more with metallic objects than plastic (mainly because there is a gigantic junkyard that collects metal two blocks away from my studio!) and this has led me to rethink my work in relation to Spain’s economic exploitation of Latin America in the 16th and 17th centuries.
What makes Argentina so vibrant and creatively innovative in your eyes?
I think Buenos Aires is a very fertile ground for anything creative as it is for its crops. As a relatively new nation, everything feels raw and with that vertiginous power of potentiality. There is still so much to be done! Self-managed cultural centres, theaters, and galleries pop up in every corner of the city. It has a flourishing street-art scene, amazing music, and it has more theatrical plays than any other city!
The first thing that comes to mind when trying to explain the country’s creativity is its unique mixture of native Latin American culture with European culture (mainly Italian and Spanish but also German, French, and Slavs). These varied ingredients have made a very interesting broth. European immigrants that came by the millions between 1880 and 1930 arrived with a big appetite to fulfill their dreams and to find new adventures. This spirit of ambition, adventurousness, big-dreaming, and hard work has been kept intact to this day. We are a very eclectic and open society, very forward-thinking, and always craving new things.
What does it mean to you to live unsettled? How does it positively impact your work?
I am a very curious person, always intrigued by different countries, cities, and their societies. Traveling and switching places has been very nourishing for me intellectually and creatively. It makes me see things from new perspectives and this gives me the chance to reinvent myself. When I travel I am exposed to different aesthetics, textures, smells, materials, artworks, architecture, cuisine, dance, music, and all of this inspires me.
Additionally, sharing my artwork with a new and different public always brings new views, new ideas, and new suggestions for my work. And the challenges of trying to create art in a new location always forces me out of my comfort zone and into finding new materials to work with, connecting with local artists, and finding new and interesting opportunities.
What is your favorite thing about being porteña?
My favorite thing about porteños is that we are very passionate, very talkative, very introspective, and we have an insatiable sense of humor. I think we are masters in the art of conversation — we don’t have difficulty getting involved in deep and vulnerable talks (which I very much enjoy!).
More Argentinians visit psychologists than any other country in the world. Everyone I know is very open about therapy and usually share conclusions and thoughts with friends! We are always in a hurry and doing everything as fast as possible, but when it comes to conversations, everything slows down and we can stay for hours dissecting facts or having heated discussions. Everyone is strongly opinionated!
What helps you maintain a sense of work-life balance?
I am not great at maintaining a work-life balance, but I tend to go on a lot of vacations (if you put them all together, maybe it’s three months a year!), to compensate for the very intense and stressful sprints of heavy work I might have before big exhibitions or the completion of large projects. To keep myself sane, I celebrate every achievement (big or small) by treating myself to a good book, a good movie, or a massage.
What does your dream workspace look like? And do you currently have it?
My dream workspace is a very large warehouse, very well ventilated, and filled with natural light. It has great artwork hanging on the walls, a small patio full of plants, a small kitchen, and a big table to share lunch with others. It is a shared studio with different artists who I admire and who I like to collaborate with. Everything has wheels on it in order to move everything around (tables, artwork, chairs, tools, people, you name it!). The space may also have a green screen for making videos, a music recording room, and an infinity wall to photograph artwork. And, last but not least, it has a great audio system to listen to good music while we work.
I do not currently have this place (I have been renting temporary studios for the last 7 years), but it seems very possible that I will have it in 2020. Time will tell! 🙂
Follow’s Elisa’s incredible work on Instagram at @elisainsua