Archive for the ‘Buenos Aires’ Category

La Araña

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I lived with the artist Monica Millan in Buenos Aires. She is from the subtropical province of Missiones in Argentina and often works with communities in Paraguay. This is why, when I told her about a scary spider I saw in the bathroom one morning, and she asked me how big it was, after showing her with my two fingers making a small circle, she said, “Ah, no es nada!! En Missiones…” then she put her two hands together to make the largest circle she could, to show me the size of beasts they have up there.

Always check under the bed

She reassured me they were harmless and wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t bother them. The usual speech. Then I remembered some strange marks I had found on my arm, in a circular pattern, and I showed them to her. “Ah, si. De una araña…” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. So they do bite! And likely while you’re sleeping!

It was then that I noticed the spider tattoo on the back of Monica’s neck, and also the spider on the tank top she often wore around the house. Living with someone who revered what I feared, I had some work to do.

Some weeks later, when Bergitta moved out (a tango-dancing Swedish painter who had been living there) I changed bedrooms. I moved into the wood-paneled room with a window onto the garden. The one with the orange light, magenta mosquito net and the spider painting hanging on the wall.

On the wall above my bed

One night there was a full moon. I went to sleep with its silver-blue light shining directly on my pillow. Sometime in the middle of the night, straight out of a deep sleep, I abruptly opened my eyes. And I opened them WIDE. What I saw, was a fat-bodied spider dangling right above my face, back-lit by the full moon. I heard my voice whisper, “ooohh…my god,” as I slid horizontally off of the bed, out from under gravity’s pull on that 8-legged body, and switched on the lights. I inspected the hell out of that wood-paneled room and found nothing but my own fear.

My bedroom’s closed shutters, through the grape vines in the garden, where the cat stalks the night and the queen spider watches from the banana tree

Standing in the middle of the room, now having put on my tennis shoes, I asked, what the hell just happened? Was that real? And even now, I’m convinced the sequence of events began with opening my eyes and that it wasn’t a dream. But like a big baby, from then on I slept with the lights on, so that during the night I could wake up and immediately scan the room for anything menacing. Though after that, I didn’t see another spider. The only pests remaining were the mosquitoes.

Full moon night in Barracas, Buenos Aires

Road trip: day 1 + 365

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

A year ago today, I was making my way from Buenos Aires to Misiones in Argentina. It was the beginning of three weeks on the road. Yesterday I mentioned this to the friend I road-tripped with, and he said,
I can’t believe you KNOW that.

Yeah. Well.
I often think about what I was doing exactly one year ago. Especially if it was the start of something big, or a transition.

I relish thinking, wow, one year ago I was doing this or that, I was here or there! The list of all that has happened in the last 365 days then flashes through my mind and I’m always in awe at how much can happen in a year.
And the changes.

Then I think, I wonder where I’ll be next year at this time…
the possibilities are huge…

That is why I look back. It makes me turn around again, and face forward with eager optimism.

Night, from Cochabamba 411. San Telmo.

I left Buenos Aires on a late-night bus and arrived in San Ignacio early the next day.

My instructions to where I would be sleeping were:
3 blocks on main road
left on dirt road
small red sign on pine tree: Pisa Alquiler, 50 m
5 blocks til paved road
you’ll see it

Quiet, dark night in San Ignacio.

Day One in Central Park, Buenos Aires

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Mariana and Fabian getting ready to mount Yuyo's canvas in his studio in Central Park, Barracas, Buenos Aires.

…feeling nostalgic tonight. It’s almost midnight in Buenos Aires. I’m in Paris.

My cheeks are still chilled from the walk home along the frigid Canal St Martin. It’s hot and muggy down in BA and there will probably soon be a downpour.

One year ago today I watched a huge canvas being put onto an 11-by-3 meter frame in a studio in my neighborhood in Barracas, BA. Yuyo (Luis Felipe Noe) would soon start assembling his work for the Venice Biennale, a process I would continue photographing for three months in Argentina, plus another two weeks in Venice.

Today was day one.

Projection at UNESCO

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Monday night I was invited to show some of my photos, in the form of a projection, at UNESCO in Paris. My friend, painter Paola Noe, is having an exhibition of her paintings there, and because her father Luis Felipe Noé (the subject of my photos) would be in town, fresh from the Venice Bienale, she invited me to participate.

I’ve made a few slideshows using iMovie, they were quite short and simple. This time I had hundreds of photos taken over three months to select from and there was a story to tell, not just some pretty pictures. It was a fun challenge, and editing images and sound together like a puzzle can get addicting.  The response Monday night was really positive.  After many many trials at ways to compress it for web, here it is, and more importantly, here is Yuyo Noé.

Appearance in La Nacion

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Just back in Paris from the Venice Bienale.

A photo from this project documenting Yuyo Noé’s creative process was published in La Nacion in Buenos Aires on Sunday.

Noe working at Central Park, in Barracas, Buenos Aires. March 2009.

Noe working at Central Park, in Barracas, Buenos Aires. March 2009.

1 de Mayo

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

1 de Mayo is being honored a day early in Buenos Aires, today, the 30th of April. There has been virtually non-stop drumming on and near Avenida 9 de Julio since 11 this morning. It’s 7pm now. I went out to look around, through crowds composed of about 93% men. When finding my way through dense herds of them, I feel like some kind of passively hunted animal they often prefer to call bébé. Anyway. I love percussion and a good manifestation, and the day was perfect for it.

Last Days at Central Park

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

These are my last few days in Buenos Aires before I head north on a big bus. Jungle…to desert…to salt flats…and, perhaps…to Chile.

4pm light at Central Park, Barracas, Buenos Aires.

4pm light at Central Park, Barracas, Buenos Aires.

I am spending part of every day at Central Park, the studio and office complex in Barracas, photographing the painter Luis Felipe Noé (known as Yuyo, and sometimes Master) and his dedicated assistants as they work intensely on his works of art for the Venice Biennale. Time is running short. It all gets packed up in about a week and will be re-constructed on the other side of the ocean, where I will see it again at the end of May.



For two months I’ve watched him create; using brush, pen, finger, pencil, mop, ink, glue, paper, canvas and paint. He is Master to many and I’ve relished watching him work. He and everyone around him have been so warm, welcoming and helpful; the heart of my experience of Buenos Aires.

Spending time with him and the artists who assist him has expanded my field of vision. My dreams are saturated with color and my reality is full of new ideas.

Simply blue

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Today’s blog is brought to you by the color blue, over Buenos Aires.

Poet's Garden: Palermo.  Rooftop: San Telmo.

Poet's Garden: Palermo. Rooftop: San Telmo.

Surfing the City

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

On Friday I climbed a water tower on the 25th floor and stood in the wind, shaking just a little, looking down at Buenos Aires.  A 360-degree view and nothing to hold onto.  It felt like surfing the world.  I crawled to the edge and laid down on my stomach to take some photos.

Perched above BsAs

Perched above BsAs

The water tower is on top of my friends‘ flat in Congreso, where I was invited to dinner, which led to my first all-night poker game.  I was SO close to winning, and then . . . didn’t. Anyway. They claim to have the best view in Buenos Aires, they may be right.

Here is Congresso from their flat and mine.

Congresso, near and far

Congreso, near and far

Somewhere Over the Autopista

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I moved this week. I wanted to see the city from higher up.

Sitting in my bed on the 14th floor, I look out on the autopista 25 de mayo and it feels like the building is in its path. Lying down I see the sky and think of Georgia O’Keefe being drawn to New Mexico.

Looking out on autopista 25 de mayo

Looking out on autopista 25 de mayo

But on the ground…
on the ground in Buenos Aires is another experience.

Walking on loose sidewalk tiles concealing muddy pools of water that splash your feet,

you don’t hear your cell phone ringing above all the noise.

You hold your breath crossing the street in the billowing black cloud left behind by the bus.

You keep your bag close and look over your shoulder.

You duck into a kiosco searching for something that costs 1 peso so you can get enough change in this short-of-change city to take the bus.

You keep walking because at the kiosco “no hay moneda.”

You smile sweetly at the banker and get 10 pesos worth of coins instead of the allotted 5.

You hear a honk, a “tsst tsst,” or an “hola mama,” grit your teeth and get used to it.

You step into the middle of the street to get the bus driver to stop, then jump off at your destination as he slows down just enough.

Then aaaahh, you hear the ubiquitous bandoneon coming from the music store door,

While the cartoneros on the corner work on sorting today’s garbage.

You stop at your favorite café with its black-and-white tiled floor to get a café con leche and buttery medialunas.

You say Hola to all of your neighbors, who recognize you on the second meeting.

You get lifted up to piso 14 and lie down and look at the sky.

Setting west over the autopista

Setting west over the autopista

A Walk Through Central Park, Barracas

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

For the last few weeks I’ve been photographing the creation of a piece of artwork for the Venice Biennale, which I will follow over to Italy at the end of May. The work is being created in a studio in Central Park, a huge puzzle of studios in Barracas, Buenos Aires.

The building takes up one whole block, between Avenidas, California, Iriarte, Vieytes and Herrera. Built in 1889, it was originally a match and matchbox factory until 1928, when it became a printing and graphics company, continually expanding its space until it went bankrupt in 1993.

Since the rehab and re-opening in 1998 its 50,000 m2 of space has been offices and artist studios… The painter Pérez Celis painted the exterior of the building and had a studio here.

I live two blocks away. It is my landmark to know when to get off the bus.

Ouch, hey give that back!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

My Lumix was stolen on Saturday. It was my new note-taking device. The last photo I took with it was of mushrooms growing through the sidewalk. I should have taken them as a warning not to go further.

Fungus grows under these stones, go back!

The lesson: when someone says “that is hot, do not touch it,” believe them. Even if someone tells you, “well, if you take this street you can walk there alone,” remember this: the heat will still be there and you might not feel it until it’s too late, when you’ve already been spotted.

I was in La Boca. I’ll save the details because my parents will just worry.

This photo is from one week before, when I was walking with friends.

And this is the view from the clean and pretty Proa gallery, looking in the direction of where I was robbed. See those tall buildings on the right?  Do not walk on the other side of them alone. Get on the damn bus.


From the upstairs balcony.

Fumigation led me to the cemetary

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I went up to the Centro Cultural Recoleta on Monday to see an expo of a photographer named Res.  The place was closed for fumigation, eek.  Will try again today.  Walking back, I stopped in the cemetery…

Notes from Buenos Aires

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Tomorrow it will be two weeks that I have been in BsAs and I’ve only taken two tango classes. It’s not why I came here, but I keep meeting people with a tango mission, who try to master it every single night. The challenge interests me, particularly when it involves creating something beautiful, which tango tragically is, but my patience can only handle it in small, well-spaced doses.

Smells like normous jasmin.  And a view from Parque Lezama after a torrential downpour.  Barracas.

Madagascar jasmin. Looking out from Parque Lezama after a torrential downpour. Barracas.

Why did I come to Buenos Aires?

That is what people keep asking, so I’ll try to answer. I can be vague and say a number of factors and people entered my life a while back that, when all put together led me to a city in South America I hadn’t considered living in before. But I also needed to get out of Paris for a while, find new subjects, add some new colors to my palette and open up my senses to the Spanish-speaking world. And in Paris, Argentina was in the air everywhere I turned. Si si, c’est vrai.

Church squeezed and shadowed.  Tiles in San Telmo.

Church squeezed and shadowed. Tiles in San Telmo.

So I’m here.

The shock of the first week is over.

I’m eating empanadas daily. It’s like the crepe: ubiquitous and cheap.

Practically everyone I meet is a talented artist.

I’m living in a semi-industrial and economically-challenged neighborhood. It’s relatively safe, but you have to be very careful at night. While it’s at the southern edge of the city, where I might expect a sort of peace, it is the noisiest place I have ever lived.

El sol, direct and indirect

El sol, direct and indirect

From the red-tiled garden, under sun filtered by grape vines, I hear :

The elevated train passing every two minutes, which I no longer mistake for a coming thunderstorm.

The man who drives his pick-up truck up and down the block with a grainy megaphone announcing “naranjas, uno kilo cinco pesos!”

A faceless person who blows a rhythmic whistle every morning, bright and early. Why?

The occasional low-flying helicopter.

Heavy trucks and buses bouncing regularly and violently on the broken pavement, making enough noise to put a pause into a conversation.

And… the occasional mini neighborhood batucada on the corner, which is always welcome.

Arriving in Buenos Aires from Paris is like going from noir et blanc to Technicolor, in sound and sight.

Architecture and the watcher of the bridge in Puerto Madero.

Architecture and the watcher of the bridge in Puerto Madero.

PS. As I write, I have been bitten at least 4 times by mosquitoes despite the OFF! I’m slathered in, the next-door poodle is barking at the Dalmatian that hangs out all day in his barred window and Vicentico is singing to a fast rhythm on the radio.

And a sculptor friend in Paris just wrote to say, “I hope you know what you’re doing. Times are difficult. I have no money to make sculptures so I’m taking photos.” Ahem, my response was more aggressive than I usually am, and is a blog entry for another day.

Liberating the grape vines

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Home alone in Barracas today, working on photos.

Just me and Anita, taking a break to climb for grapes in the garden.


Buenos Aires in black

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I went to Colonia, Uruguay earlier this week to look around, get some fresh air. A calm three hour boat ride across the Rio de la Plata gets you there. On the return trip, we all watched the sun sink into the Buenos Aires skyline. I’m not sure how many people really watched, most looked through a phone, a compact or an dSLR.   Sunset photos are some of the most boring, so I won’t share mine (well, I couldn’t resist it completely).  Instead, here is the city dressed for night.

Approaching Buenos Aires, 10pm

Approaching Buenos Aires, 10pm

The air is thick in Buenos Aires

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


But it´s supposed to rain tomorrow.  

I arrived in BsAs yesterday to a warm welcome and a hot sun.  Below are my first impressions, and also my first photos with my Lumix.  

Resulting from numerous warnings about theft, I bought a compact camera to use in the street when alone.  It was a tough decision as I hate compacts.  I didn’t want to give up any of the quality and functionality of my 5D just because someone might take it from me.  The Lumix feels like a silly toy.  We’ll see how it goes, I saw a few people with “big” cameras on the street today. 

That said, my back doesn’t mind traveling lighter and I’m learning how not to shoot through a viewfinder.   And even to not look at all, as the sun is so damn strong, I can’t see the screen anyway.  


Big plants, colorful walls


Hot sun, less-hot garden

Hot sun, less-hot garden


Hot chicas at the obelisk

Hot chicas at the Obelisk