“A lot of my work has this feeling of displacement. I put things where they completely make sense but they’re not there. Some of my work is almost obvious but ridiculously enough no one has done it before which is the surprising part. I’m no genius, I’m just using common sense.
My name is Diana Cristancho and I am a sophomore at Florida International University. I’m majoring in Recreational Therapy in the hopes of becoming an Occupational Therapist. I was born and raised in Miami, which has allowed me to experience the different parts of the city. Even though I have lived here all my life, there are a variety of places I haven’t visited. Due to this course, I have been able to visit and learn about a large part of the city and its history, as well as its connection to the art community.
Agustina Woodgate was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1981. She attended the National University of Visual Arts and studied visual arts and communication instead of fine arts since there isn’t a fine arts major in her country. It was a different kind of program that was focused on theories. After she finished her bachelor’s in 2004, she moved to Miami with her partner at the time. It was a spontaneous decision where she expected to stay in Miami for 1 to 2 years and ended up staying for 15. The first ten years of her life in Miami consisted of her getting her practice and career established. In the last five years of her life, she spent her time mostly outside of Miami. Two years ago she moved to Amsterdam after being invited to pursue her masters in Sandberg Instituut. Woodgate experienced a new form of education in the institution which led her to state, “it is one of the most interesting and best schools in design in Europe and perhaps in the world.” The Instituut used radical pedagogy which she described as a “different kind of model of organization in terms of knowledge and the institution itself.” At Sandberg, she was part of the PUB, a publishing platform where she worked with other students to experiment with different modes of publishing. She has also been a part of other smaller knowledge-sharing platforms. For example, in 2015 Woodgate was able to work with RAD (Research Art and Dialog) by Gean Moreno, who works for the ICA in Miami. Woodgate stated, “this was a turning point for me. Not only by the people that I met but also by the perspective that it allowed me to discover.” Another informal source of knowledge she worked with is the radio station she has been running for the past 10 years.
In Argentina, Woodgate had limited resources and made the most of everything she had. Now in her work, she is constantly recycling material and using objects that most people would consider trash and useless. For example, she stated, “my very early works were made from my hair that I found in my shower.” This encompasses a huge part in her work because not only is she being sustainable but the reuse of old items adds to the symbolism of her work. As a young girl, she would create comic books and engage in experiments with her brother as well as collect random objects. Her involvement in comic books and experiments can be seen as her creative and scientific qualities. She almost approaches her work like it’s a science experiment. She finds something that intrigues her, she researches it and then experiments with this new-found knowledge. She mentioned that she doesn’t usually have a set plan for her works. She tends to go wherever her research and mind takes her.
In her childhood, she thoroughly enjoyed parks and playing in the streets. She translates this love of the outdoors in her works by exhibiting them in public spaces. Examples of these outdoor exhibits are “The Source” and “Hopscotch”. She stated, “I’m really into openness, not so much into artwork that is vernacular that you can’t access it.”Her “Stuffed Animal Toy Skins” are another example of how her childhood has affected her art. Her attachment to a teddy bear led to research on the connection between child development and stuffed animals. In the end, that research blossomed into the creation of her rugs.
Although she was born and raised in Bueno Aires, she doesn’t focus her art on the culture of Argentina. However, her early childhood experience taught her to make the most of the resources she found around her. She said, “being Argentinian, you are resourceful. You don’t have a lot of stuff and in school, we only had one sink to clean our paintbrushes.” Even though she encompasses qualities of her life in Argentina, she feels her cultural identity isn’t from that culture alone but a variety of cultures derived by other people and the interactions between them. These interactions and interconnections between cultures are discovered through her radio station, RadioEE. It is an online, multilingual, and nomadic radio station that discusses the topic of movement and mobility. Being nomadic, they travel to different locations around the world and broadcast from different parts of the city. By constantly moving around the city and interacting with locals, Woodgate was able to experience their culture. Depending on each location, the conversation of movement and mobility would change. Being a multilingual radio requires adaptations to different languages as they broadcast in Portuguese, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Hmong. “We are lost in a world of radio,” said Agustina, but she still finds a way to turn her radio into a source that anyone can access. Through her radio, she fosters cultural relationships by introducing locals to their neighbors. That being said, she spreads cultures to the public through her projects and artwork as well. For example, in 2010, she participated in O, Miami Poetry Festival’s mission in making every citizen in Miami experience a poem. She had 50 character poems printed on clothing labels and visited thrift stores, illegally sewing the labels to the clothes. Poetry is a culture of its own and Woodgate took a huge part in involving others in the poetry community and its culture.
SUBJECT OF ARTWORK
Woodgate’s work taps into the knowledge and the relationships of people and their surroundings. She intends to fuel conversation about important subjects to the public. Her radio station is the means to achieve her objective. The broadcast promotes discussions on a variety of topics, but it also supplies her with new ideas and knowledge which in turn sparks her imagination and results in her unique creations. She explains, “I do a lot of research before I do a sculpture or anything, but a lot of it comes through the radio.” Her Radio focuses on the topic of movement and mobility around the world and engages in politics and policies. She pulls from this knowledge and does further research on each issue of conversation, making the radio an extension of her art, but also the center of her work. In “Stuffed Animal Toy Skins”, she researches and discovers the psychological meaning of Teddy bears and their influence on a child’s transition into adulthood, while also discussing human relationship to the animal world and the unnecessary need for humans purchasing different parts of animals. With her rugs, she takes the skins of stuffed animals and sews them together which looks identical to cow skins without actually killing an animal. Another piece that was greatly influenced by the radio was “National Times”. It is a set of 40 slave clocks run by a master clock. She didn’t know what a master clock was until one of her segments in Washington D.C. led her to visit the master clock in the U.S. Naval Observatory. There she discovered its role and its function. After that, she purchased 40 slave clocks and explored the clock’s network and how to program it.
An important part of her art includes the deconstruction of her research and the material she attains for her pieces. This is reflected in her radio project in the constant movement of materials and equipment needed to access the internet. She is breaking down all the rules of radio and is finding different ways of doing it. In every location, she has to consider transportation whether it is on a boat, in a car, or on a 16 person bicycle. The mobility of the radio itself is a challenge. She also experiences problems she can’t control such as traffic and being stopped by the police. All these aspects tear apart what a radio typically is and gives a new meaning to it. Another great example of how she includes deconstruction is through the way she separates the materials of maps. She used sandpaper to dust off the ink of world maps and used the dust to create other works. By deconstructing her art, she forces her viewers to see the world from a different perspective. In her point of view, “art is a tool for communication and a way to expose things from different angles” (“Artist Agustina Woodgate Considers Everything”, 2019, p. 6). In her radio, she speaks about topics like sea level rising while on a boat. She takes locals to Biscayne Bay, the Miami river, Turkey Point, and Stiltsville while discussing this topic that threatens the lives of Miami residents.
Another important quality of her work is the displacement of it. “I put things where they completely make sense but they’re not there. Some of my work is almost obvious but ridiculously enough no one has done it before which is the surprising part. I’m no genius, I’m just using common sense.” She did this with the poetry bombing by hiding poems in the pockets of clothes.
FORMAL ELEMENTS OF ARTWORK
Woodgate emphasizes how she usually doesn’t know how her art will turn out until it’s done. At the end of her process, some elements have meaning, but she doesn’t tend to care about aspects such as line, light, and color. She stated when talking about the “Stuffed Animal Toy Skins”, ” It looks pretty in the end but that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m not going behind color and aesthetic.” Although she doesn’t focus on aspects like color, there is a definite intent in the shape and texture of her works. In “The Source”, fountains are made in the shape of a pedestal intentionally. She found it ironic how when people drank from the fountains, their heads became the bust of the statue. Texture and material are also very important. She did “The Source” in Miami and Buenos Aires and the material changes depending on the location. In Miami, the fountains are made out of oolite and keystone coral. She uses this material because Oolite filters Miami’s water source but it also is the reason why sea levels will rise and why there is the intrusion of seawater.
The shape is also influential in her piece “Hopscotch”. It maps around different locations, such as Buenos Aires. “Each segment comes out of a drain and goes into a street drain, thus utilizes the city’s sewage system to travel” (Woodgate). The shape of the “Hopscotch” isn’t very spontaneous, but the shape of the “Stuffed Animal Toy Skin Rugs” is. When she took the stuffed animals apart from the seams and sewed them together, she realized that they looked like cow skins and went with it.
The biggest element of her work is the material she uses. She collects trash and recycles it in her work. “I’m like a waste management studio,” she says. Although she does collect trash, she is selective about what garbage she chooses. Most of the material she gathers are tools. For example, slave clocks, used stuffed animals, and globes. All of these objects were used at one point no matter the reason. They all influenced someone’s life, great or small, and now they’re just trash. Woodgate takes these objects and pulls out the meaning they once had. She explains, “I try to focus on objects with a function disguised as art.”
Since her radio is also a part of her art, you have to discuss the elements in it. Although you can’t see aspects of line, shape, light, color, and texture in it, other components put the radio and its meaning together. This must be considered because publishing and research are a crucial part of her work. The radio includes factors such as location, variety of vehicles, and the fact that they use ADB (Audio Digital Broadcasting) systems instead of AM and FM systems. Throughout each broadcast, they use different mediums such as sound, music, experiments, archives, and interviews.
EXHIBITION AND PROJECT HISTORY
Woodgate’s first showcase was in Anthony Spinello’s gallery. She was also represented in the Barro gallery in Buenos Aires. Once she moved to Miami, she was part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival in the summer of 2018. She did a large project called Concrete Poetry. In this project, poetry would be put on the sidewalks all around Miami-Dade County. One of the most influential exhibitions she had was in 2019 when her piece “National Times” was installed at the Whitney Biennial, curated by Rujeko Hockley and Jane Panetta (“Artist Agustina Woodgate Considers Everything”, 2019, p. 3, 6).
In terms of her radio, she has been all around the world, including Vietnam, California, Miami, Vienna, and Turkey. The most memorable experience she had was in Berlin, where she worked for two years. She was involved in a public project in an abandoned amusement park in East Berlin. “It was very influential in my work and the process of thinking. It had to do with the policies, public parts, and maneuvers around a site that is abandoned.”
Woodgate’s approach to art compared to other artists I’ve seen in this course is in a completely different category. When I first looked at her work from afar, I was intrigued by it and how it looked. As I dug deeper into her work and the meaning behind her pieces, I began to grow passionate about it. The intention behind her work excited me and made me want to know more about her and her art. In my high school, my teachers always tried to instill an inquisitive mindset: one that encouraged us to learn not only about local topics but about topics world-wide. Even now, the honors college tries teaching us the importance of learning different topics that have nothing to do with our majors. In her own way, Woodgate does this as well. As a multidisciplinary artist, she spreads her knowledge and stimulates conversations with the intention to reveal systems and our relationships with it, and between us. It is very important to be introduced to a variety of viewpoints and to be educated on international issues. This is what leads me to admire Woodgate’s work. She spreads her knowledge to others through her art and shapes it in a way that fosters relations, relevant topics, discovery, and knowledge.
Agustina Woodgate. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.artsy.net/artist/agustina-woodgate
Art Basel. (n.d.). Agustina Woodgate goes straight to ‘The Source’ ahead of Miami Beach. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.artbasel.com/stories/agustina-woodgate-goes-straight-to-the-source-art-basel-cities-miami-beach
Artist Agustina Woodgate Considers Everything. (2019, April 6). Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.culturedmag.com/agustina-woodgate/
Uszerowicz, M. (2016, September 8). In Conversation With Agustina Woodgate. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.ravelinmagazine.com/posts/in-conversation-with-agustina-woodgate/
Woodgate. Selected Works.PDF. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://agustinawoodgate.com/