Espacio en Blanco

The building that houses Espacio en Blanco was once a house. It was later converted into offices for architects and engineers. Espacio en Blanco opened four years ago onto this confused formal/informal history, on the terrace, presenting talks and screenings directed towards an intimate public of friends. Since then, it has expanded into a pair of former offices in the building, layering their already complicated histories with that of an art space. This spatial expansion has allowed for an expansion of both programming and public: Espacio en Blanco now presents exhibitions, performances, and workshops in addition to the talks and screenings it began with, addressed to a broader public that arrives, in their cars or the cars of others, from across the sprawling Monterrey metropolitan area. This expansion in space, programming, and public has added the need to acquire grants and donations to the original exchange-based economy.

You park in a strip mall and walk past the artisanal dessert shop, the salon, the boutique kitchen store, to a brown door. Next to the door is a sign: Espacio en Blanco. As you walk up the steps, you first encounter the patio, where maybe a group of five or twenty people is sitting, standing, drinking and smoking. Maybe somebody invites you for a beer, or maybe you keep on walking up the steps, where you will encounter first a wall text, a centering mechanism between the convivial terrace and the slightly more formal exhibition space and office. The texts are strong, but not ostentatious: the last time I was there, I was struck by the text for a recent performance—dubbed a “session” on their website—that used the feminine “la” for the Anglicism “performance,” which usually uses the masculine “el.” Performance is a word borrowed from English, a language in which nouns are not gendered. There is no reason why “performance” should not be a feminine noun in Spanish.

It is this calm critical strength that holds Espacio en Blanco together. Its location, in a boutique mini-mall in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico’s richest city, does not give confidence that it will not be the sort of glorified furniture store that passes for “art spaces” in many rich cities or neighborhoods throughout the world. The large, comfortable terrace, perfect for the Sunday barbeques traditional in Monterrey, does not make sense as part of an office building, empty on Sundays. The exhibition space, a pair of bizarrely laid-out former offices, would feel uncomfortable, somewhere in-between the bloodless anonymity of a white cube and the exaggerated intimacy of an apartment gallery. Further, if the space made a bludgeon of its intellectual acumen, like many independent art spaces do, it wouldn’t invite you to a beer on the porch, and you would certainly notice the awkward layout of the exhibition space and wonder why, as Julius Eastman put it, “If you’re so smart why aren’t you rich?” Luckily Espacio en Blanco asks you if you need a tequila, beckons for you to come upstairs, and reminds you—as if you had already thought of it yourself—that performance should be a feminine noun.