Architecture is Stage and Inspiration for Visual Landscapes of Argentina's Al Ver Verás

Design Features Al Ver Verás
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Architecture is Stage and Inspiration for Visual Landscapes of Argentina's Al Ver Verás

One of Buenos Aires’ most striking architectural landmarks—the Italian-built Palacio Barolo, with a design modeled after the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy—is both stage and canvas in the latest collaboration by Al Ver Verás. It’s not the first time that the Argentinian artist collective has taken up temporary residence on a rooftop, using the surrounding buildings and walls as the nighttime stage for their signature pop-up show.

The group calls the genre “music to watch”—in short, it involves projections of light, art, and images that seem to dance across the skyline to the rhythm of their original score, performed live. But they custom-design a new show for each setting, and the Palacio Barolo, once the tallest building in South America, is their grandest stage yet.

We caught a viewing of their latest open-air spectacle, performed before a crowd of hundreds on a terrace high above Avenida de Mayo, the elegant Parisian-style avenue that runs through the heart of the city. Afterward, we sat down with the only female member of the seven-person group, Martina Fraguela, to talk about artistic collaboration, a fateful turn on French television, and the surprising creative potential of an overhead projector.

Paste: Tell us about Al Ver Verás. How did the project begin?

Martina Fraguela: Al Ver Verás was founded nine years ago when Daniel Selén and Diego Gentile, two friends who grew up together in Buenos Aires, started experimenting with combinations of music and images.

I met Daniel after that. Now he’s my partner both personally and creatively. From the time I met him, I participated in the project in small ways. But I officially joined the collective five years ago, at the same time as Maxi, the percussionist. Later, we added Ale, the saxophonist, and then Axel, the bass player.

Paste: What’s your role in the creative team?

Fraguela: Dani and I work together on the projected visuals. We each approach visuals in a different language. He tackles the digital image, while I work with the analog or “artisanal,” as I like to call it. I use overhead projectors—the image on these devices is static, so in order to create movement, I have to be interacting with the images in real time. I have to perform live.

People like to see the images projected onto the buildings, of course. But generally speaking, they’re also interested in seeing how the images move through the projector. How the materials go into this old artifact, and how they come out of it. The overhead projectors are like small stages in themselves.

Paste: You create each show specifically for a place: in this case, it’s Palacio Barolo and a section of Avenida de Mayo. How do you choose these places, and how does the process work? Do you visit the site or study the architecture before you start?

Fraguela: Yes, we make each show for a particular place. The place shapes everything, from the repertoire of musical themes to the visuals we choose. Before we plan each show, we have to go to the place and spend some time there, looking around and doing various tests to see what music and images might work, where we can place the different musicians and artists in relation to the audience and the “stage.”

In the search for new places, we began to search satellite maps. That’s how we discovered this location. The owner of the place, Federico, already knew us from a documentary that we participated in last year. He saw us on French television, on the ARTE channel, and so he was happy to work with us. What a beautiful coincidence, a lovely stroke of luck!

Paste: The Palacio Barolo is widely considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires. What is it like to do a show in this special part of the city?

Fraguela: It’s really exciting to interact with this giant! The Palacio Barolo—the real estate alone, with the number of domes and antique buildings on all sides of it—makes for an amazing stage. What we love about this particular terrace is that it’s so open. Spectators can view our work in a full 360 degree panorama.

Paste: Are there other places in Buenos Aires (or the world) where you would like to do a show?

Fraguela: As a group, we’re eager to try different places in the city, and also create shows for natural environments. The idea of taking the show on the road is certainly stimulating. In March we are waiting for the first Alververacito—my first baby—so we will have to take a small break. The experience of parenthood will mark a new era, and likely new inspirations.

Paste: You are the only woman in the group. Is that an advantage or a challenge?

Fraguela: It’s neither, really. We’re a human group and we get along very well; there’s a willingness to collaborate and to keep the dialogue open. We are friends, and we meet with our families for meals, we go out and have fun together. Through our work and our friendship, we’re enjoying life together.

Al Ver Verás is: Diego Gentile, Maxi Di Monte, Alejandro Chomicz, Axel Eandi, Daniel Selén, Martina Fraguela. Tickets and information.

Interview and translation from Spanish by Bridget Gleeson.