Iván Argote’s work engages social, political and art historical issues through diverse media such as video, photography, collage, sculpture, painting and performance. Often personal experiences and memories, such as private family stories from Colombia, his country of origin, form the starting point of his work. In the 1970’s, his politically engaged
father, a school teacher by profession, organised a “protest class” with his primary school pupils.
This provided the inspiration for Argote’s ongoing project Activissime, a series of workshops Argote has been organising since 2011. With groups of schoolchildren from 4 to 9 years old, he orchestrates protest movements in public space on issues the children feel concerned about. For the Biennale the artist organised a workshop with a group of local
schoolchildren from Thessaloniki. The idea of the project is to ask the children to formulate critical questions about their own situation, and to have them use public space as an interactive playground, where they can freely express and share their ideas. The action is not only about the pleasure of making things together, such as posters and panels with slogans based on the questions and suggestions of the children, but it is moreover about raising awareness about the importance of civil responsibility, social action, and public participation.
Activissime also acknowledges the formative power of education, and highlights the importance of certain basic human rights –such as freedom of expression or the right to protest– which children should be made
aware of at an early stage. Apart from Activissime, Argote also presents another two works in the exhibition: Reddish Blue (2015) and Alone (2011 –ongoing). Reddish Blue features a slide projection and series of collages which link the ideological underpinnings underlying the colours of faded Kodachrome and Ektachrome photographs with social and emancipatory moments of the 1960s and 1970s; Alone is a series of snapshot photographs of dogs, temporarily tied in public spaces outside shops or supermarkets, waiting for their owners to return. The patient, sad, but nevertheless hopeful demeanour of the dogs reflects their optimistic belief that they will soon be unleashed again. Underlying all these works is an interrogation of the notion of public space, civil
society, and our role within it.