Portfolio: Guillermo Srodek-Hart, Short Stories II

Guillermo Srodek-Hart has a show at the Dina Mitrani Gallery in Miami from February 9 to March 30 called "Short Stories." The exhibition includes images taken during the artist's travels to photograph interiors in remote rural towns outside of Buenos Aires. These interiors - frequently crowded with highly organized objects - tell as much about the lives lived there as about the spaces themselves. Accompanying the photographs in the show are texts that further explore the lives of the people that the artist encounters in these isolated towns.

This is the second of three posts in which we will present a selection of these images and their complete accompanying texts. The first post was published on Tuesday and can be found here.

Srodek-Hart (b. 1977) studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, Boston, and received his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. He was awarded the Klemm Prize in 2005 and the Petrobrás Award 2006, both in Argentina. In 2008, he was among the 30 artists chosen to be part of the book Contemporary Argentine Art, Artista X Artista. His work is included in the North Dakota Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan.

Leili Bicycle Shop, courtesy of the artist and Dina Mitrani Gallery

Leili Bicycle Shop

"My father was born in Chernobyl and my mom in Kiev. They immigrated to Argentina around the time when the Germans began to harass the Jews. They could foresee Hitler's war was coming. The ship arrived in Buenos Aires in 1933. They spent a night at the Immigrants Hotel and the next day they were put on a train destined to Moises Ville. At the station there was a paisano, we use that word to describe a fellow Jew. The paisano took them straight to work on the alfalfa plantations. That's how he started.

The paisanos were very enterprising people. In 1889 when the first Jews got off at Palacios station, which was the nearest spot from here, the immigration officials gave them an ox tied to an old plow and said: 'Go in that direction' And off they went. They made their way through the mud and the vegetation, they marched inland for 10 miles until they found the right spot, and built this town out of nothing.

These people came from wars, from hunger, from death. They had seen the horrors. And so they worked. They worked hard, maybe 20 hours a day. They didn't care. They were fighting for a future, starting over. They adapted. Look, I used to be a cop, and then I started fixing bikes, and I also do tombstone engravings in both Hebrew and Spanish for the whole province. This one I finished last night:

Here lies don Meyer Fritzler in the year 5771 at age 88.
The soul of the departed will last in those who survive him."

Cerutti Market, courtesy of the artist and Dina Mitrani Gallery

Cerutti Market

Via Facebook:
Guillermo / 20 December 2011
Hi Marisol, its Guillermo Srodek-Hart, we met a couple of years ago when I took a photo of the market in San Agustin. I would love to talk to your grandfather about the place. I will be traveling in January. Will someone be there?

Marisol / 26 December 2011
Hi, what's up? I do remember you very well… yes I'll be around, but the old guys will probably have the store closed for the summer holidays. I will be available as of January 15th. I have the thesis I wrote for College about the town of San Agustin.

Guillermo / 26 December 2011
Cool. I sent you a "friend request" but won't be offended if you don't accept it. Also, let me give you my cell phone and can I ask for yours please? I will be on the road most of the time and it will help me to have it handy. 011 15 61 98 06

Marisol / 26 December 2011
I accepted you! Yes no prob, 0342 155 22 19 that's my number.

Guillermo / 2 January 2012
Hey, and Happy New Years! I hope you had a good time. When you say you will be on vacations from the 1st till the 15th, does that mean you will be unavailable or that’s the best time to reach you? Thanks.

Marisol / 2 January 2012
Happy New Years!! Yes the first 15 days I won't be around it's complicated. Let's try meeting on the 3rd week. If I'm at work, it should be after 5pm in Sta Fe. All the info is in my thesis.

Guillermo / 2 January 2012
Cool. But I really would like to chat in San Agustín, where I took the photo. It's only a 20min drive from where you live. I could pick you up and drop you off afterwards. I am trying to get into the atmosphere of the places I have photographed to do my writings. If the store is closed we could sit in the little plaza right in front of the market. Looking forward to this.

Marisol / 2 January 2012
Well in that case I have to say in advance that I can only meet you in the weekend, cause that's when I go to San Agustin. Don't worry about my transportation. Safe trip and see you soon!

January 23rd 2012. Via text messages, a day before heading to Santa Fe:
G: Hi its Guillermo. Can you meet me tomorrow afternoon?
M: Look, the week is just starting and I work. On top of that my family is on vacations there is no one around. If it helps, we can start working on your project from here.
G: Hmm, I'd rather not communicate by text message on this subject. Look, don't worry, if you are busy, we can drop it. I don't want to be a pest. Thanks though.
M: No! Not by text message, I meant we could meet up here in Sta Fe and I could hand you my thesis.
G: Sounds good. But do you think we will be able to chat?
M: Yes. Tomorrow around 8pm. Dinner. Meet at your hotel. So long.

24 January 18:51pm
M: Guillermo, how are you? I have to ask, how long you will be staying in town.
G: I leave tomorrow to Buenos Aires, sorry, just one night.

I am getting dressed in the hotel. Exhausted. I've been driving since 6:30am. It's almost time to meet up with Marisol. This will be my last interview for a while. Phone rings.

M: Guillermo, how are you?
G: Marisol, how are you?
M: I'm fine, but I have a problem. I can't see you tonight. A friend of mine unexpectedly showed up and i's my only chance to see him. We are going to dinner to catch up. Sorry. But I can swing by the hotel and drop off my thesis. You can read it tonight and leave it at the front desk before you leave tomorrow.
G: Oh… ok… see you.

Thirty minutes later Marisol is standing outside the hotel. The night is terribly humid. I try to stay focused but am under severe attack by flying grasshoppers and cockroaches. Rain had finally poured, bringing relief after a long drought. It seemed every insect in the province had woken up and copulated.

She hands me a thick binder: 'Hope this helps.'

'Thanks,' I reply.

She walks towards a white car with some dude sitting on the passenger side with the door open. A hairy leg in a flip-flop sticks out. I turn, grab my dog and head over to a pizza place around the corner. Three slices and a beer. We sit in a bench. Small animals crawl around the warm cardboard box, they slip from the sweating beer bottle, tickle my neck and shoulders. They're everywhere. My pup throws bites in the air trying to catch the flying aliens. He refuses to eat my leftover cheese pizza. That's a bad sign. On the corner I spot a prostitute dressed in pink spandex. Cops drive slowly past her. She waits and then paces across the plaza to the central monument. She sits with a group of kids and some guy, probably her family. I eat and drink fast. It's not the best atmosphere, really. Back at the hotel I go through the pages of Marisol's thesis. As I suspected, it's got nothing of what I am looking for. The few things I read talk about potential developments in the small town of San Agustin. Touristy stuff. I think my brain quit halfway through it although my hand kept turning the pages. My frustration grew as I realized that the more contemporary options I had used to communicate, the worse it went for me. Facebook, emails, text messages, cell phones, it all came to nothing. This was a good lesson.