Romina Muñoz Procel
We get inspired by talking with cultural figures from different countries. This is the only way to feel the living pulse of the international art community, find out the current state, difficulties, and trends, and even look into the future. Today we are going to Ecuador to speak with Romina Muñoz Procel

Educator, researcher and co-founder of Editorial Festina Lente. She was co-founder of MEDIAAGUA experimentation platform, member of the Muégano Teatro Foundation and part of the artistic collective Las Brujas.

She was a teacher, Academic Commission of the Visual Arts career and member of the Research Department of the Instituto Superior Tecnológico de Artes del Ecuador (ITAE, 2010-2015). She was Director of Research at UArtes (2015-2016), Head of the Mariano Aguilera National Prize (2017- 2018) and Director of the National Museum of Ecuador (2021-2023).

She holds a Bachelor's degree in Visual Arts and a Master's degree in Archaeology. She currently teaches Visual Thinking at UDLA. She has conducted several curatorial research projects on modern art and contemporary artistic practices, most of them related to Ecuadorian women and the importance of the archive to rethink the processes of artistic valuation.

- Romina, I propose to start with a philosophical question. More than 15 years of your life have been devoted to art. you live in it in different roles - both as an artist and as an archaeologist and as a researcher and as an art educator. Do you agree that art is a way of understanding life, along with science and religion?
- Yes, art is a path of questions. We cannot think about humanity without creation. Creating is a fundamental part of us, it is what allows us to understand life and embrace it. I really enjoy what art offers in this sense, more than the certainties it gives you, it's about the possibility to work with your shortcomings, to confront yourself; and to open up spaces of transformation.

Perhaps, it is important to clarify that I do not consider myself an archaeologist. I studied archaeology because I was interested in learning about the different methodologies and questions that this discipline poses around materiality, about what to do with the nakedness of materiality. My work as a curator and teacher is closely linked to these interests. I am a fan of archives and forms of symbolic production of the past. We cannot think of humanity without materiality. This is why I chose to study archaeology. It is a discipline that sheds light on how material culture reveals fundamental aspects of human identity.

Someone once told me that I shouldn't put gasoline where there is nothing to ignite, but I love to shake and stir things up in places where apparently there is nothing to find. I love to dig in this sense. I like associating my work with the animal/physical dimension of a rodent, that sneaks around until it finds what it doesn't even know what it wants.

- You have devoted a lot of time to research (as a member of the Research Department of the Higher Technological Institute of Arts of Ecuador (ITAE, 2010-2015), Director of Research at UArtes (2015) and Head of the Mariano Aguilera National Award (2017-2018). Can you share with our readers which discoveries made a particular impression on you and what, in your opinion, the international cultural community should know?
- At ITAE's Research Department, we were concerned about motivating research and production among the institute's students and teachers. We had an important web portal called deskafuero, a discussion forum where we disseminated these projects. In addition, the three members of this department were part of the Academic Commissions of the different careers. This was a very important experience for me, first because I was one of the first graduates of this same institute, so I was able to work from my direct experience; but also because it allowed me to raise a series of questions about the role of artistic education in the Ecuadorian context. Beyond graduating people, we were interested that these people who passed through the institution have an honest commitment to their practice and we were interested in installing curiosity. That can only be achieved through hard work. ITAE was very skillful in this, it had the intuition to promote creative environments beyond the traditional curriculum that usually hinders the creative processes. In addition, something fundamental for me was to be part of a generous project that always had its doors open, everything was possible, you just had to find the way. This is very important because it is a break in a country marked by the precariousness and bureaucratization of life, where everything is denied. I also learned there about the need to create links with diverse communities. Nothing makes sense if you don't work with other people if you don't open doors. That was my biggest learning, and I think I've been replicating it in my other jobs.

My time at the Direction of the UArtes was more rushed, precisely because of the bureaucratization I was telling you about. However, I was fortunate to work with Ana Longoni and Albeley Rodriguez, two important researchers with whom we were very much in tune in understanding our work as a form of resistance. They were very important to me, to not feel alone and to understand the importance of sustaining an ethical compass even in the most difficult moments. In that framework, tired of suffocating institutionalism, I opened with my partner, the writer Jorge Izquierdo, a publishing house dedicated to literature and art. There it goes again, Art is a form of resistance; and so is love.

At the head of the Mariano Aguilera, I was fortunate to get to know several projects linked to art education and community practices in Quito. Perhaps my greatest challenge there was to try to articulate that production with the history of this event, the most important in the country, created in 1917. Unfortunately, the country's art institutions do not promote or take care of their historical memory. This is essential in order to address the value of this institution in the present.

- Until recently, you worked for several years as an Executive Director of Museo Nacional del Ecuador. During this time, the museum began to hold interesting exhibitions at the world level. Your dismissal caused a serious resonance in the art community. How do you assess what is happening and what future do you see for the museum?
- I spent two years as Director of the National Museum. A museum with a long history. It was created in 1969, 54 years ago. In my inaugural speech at the exhibition "Judith Gutierrez Another Paradise", in which I reflected on the trajectory of this creator, a key figure in order to understand the variety of gestures that question gender identities and motivated a new art sensibility in Latin America, I invited the public to think why, in that long institutional period, the museum lacked its own building and a stable staff to fully comply with its operation. I did so because I believe that these shortcomings are linked to the lack of debate and citizen empowerment. Fifteen years ago, the museum changed its administration to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. The results of this change are questionable. I think it is essential to make a historical review of its scope. For this, I think it is essential that citizens are empowered and watch over these spaces that guard the artistic and cultural heritage of all Ecuadorians. I was dismissed the next day. Curiously, my speech, which invited to a historical reflection, was taken as a personal insult to the authority of the Ministry, which has only been in office for two years.

For me, the future of museums should be marked by autonomy and professionalization. There is a lot of artistic and research potential in Ecuador but unfortunately there is a centralization of processes in public institutions, which have a confusion between public and state. Many institutions are more concerned with pleasing the ruler in office and not attending to the real demands of the sector.

Ecuador's museums have fascinating collections and people, but they are in a vulnerable situation. I think it is essential to give them autonomy, to guarantee labor stability, to look for referents of museums in the world to try to replicate the good working models. There is no need to invent lukewarm water, as we say here, we just need political will. We just need to believe in them, to understand their importance.

- How do you see the future of Latin American and in particular Ecuadorian contemporary art?
- I do not see the future very clearly, but I know that there are many intentions to open new spaces. Both in Guayaquil and Quito there is talk about the interest in creating private museums dedicated to contemporary art. I think this would be a very positive thing as it would help promote local collecting and links with the international art scene. Unfortunately, public institutions currently lack resources and conditions for the acquisition of works. Therefore, the creation of these museums, in addition to motivating the art market, which is essential to sustain this form of work, would contribute to the appreciation and dissemination of contemporary Ecuadorian art.

There are valuable workers who need stimuli to expand their searches and for this it is essential to promote exchanges with other scenes. It seems to me that in Ecuador, since the Covid 19 pandemic, questions about the type of consumption we have, are being promoted, which has invited to vindicate certain forms of local production, among them local art. However, there is an evident labor crisis and a lack of institutionalism that does not contribute to the artistic ecosystem.

Something that I see with great interest is that there is currently an awareness of questioning the absences in the art circuits and their historiographic narratives. There is a willingness to summon diverse voices and promote new narratives.

- What parting words can you say to those who want to devote their lives and careers to art and are just starting their journey?

- Art is a fascinating trip because it has that transformative power. Sometimes you may feel you are swimming upstream, like the salmon, who use that operation in order to multiply. In those moments lies the potential of creating new ideas and of creation itself. In order to enjoy the process one must sustain the ability to be surprised. Awe. Open doors, be curious because we make art for the world.
Cover Photo - Edgar Dávila Soto