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September 19, 2014
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Let there be light: the photo feast begins

City Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi speaks at the opening of the 25th edition of the Festival de Luz.
By Veronica Stewart
For the Herald
Festival de la Luz brings to BA 178 exhibits from 500 artists until September 30

The sala Cronopios at Centro Cultural Recoleta welcomed a crowd of people with Humberto Rivas’ work, its walls crowded with a selection of the photographs he took from 1967 to 2007.

When taking a small tour around the room, one couldn’t help but get a Tower-of-Babel-like feeling; everybody seemed to speak a different language, with varied accents and levels of skill. The credentials around some people’s necks set the artists apart from the rest of us mortals, and yet it was the only thing that marked the difference, since attendees of all shapes and sizes were taking pictures as well. Some were carrying professional cameras while others just used their cellphones, but none of them wanted to be left out of what City Culture Minister Hernán Lombardi later called “a party.” At the opening of the 25th year of the Festival de la Luz, it was hard to tell photographers and enthusiasts apart.

As the room filled with people, it became apparent that Rivas’ work was a fine choice of an exhibit to welcome this year’s festival. The Argentine photographer took pictures as varied as the different kinds of people present at the opening event. He took pictures of animals that range from adorable dogs to disturbingly haunting chickens. He took pictures of places as small and specific as living rooms and beautifully-lit corners, as well as historical buildings right in the heart of London. He took pictures of flowers and objects, but what really stand out are the pictures of people. He took portraits of men and women, and even of everything in between. One of the most interesting pieces of the exhibit is a collage shaped like a cross, where an androgynous figure — whose limbs, chest and face clearly have different owners — stares right into whoever chooses to stand in front of it and let themselves be absorbed by this artistic kind of Jesus.

With an unpunctuality that reminded people that even though the Festival is international, its host city is still Argentine, the welcoming ceremony started an hour late. However, it was short and sweet, just long enough to let all those involved in its organization and set-up to say a few words. Elda Harrington, founder and head organizer of the festival, was the first to speak.

After 25 years hosting the event, she was visibly enthusiastic about the turnout it has managed to create, and spoke excitedly of the 178 exhibits from more than 500 artists that will take place during the festival. She also pointed out that Chile is the first guest country in the history of the event, and that “we decided that 5000 km of shared border were too much to ignore.”

Chilean Ambassador Marcelo Díaz and Pedro José Sanz Serrano, Spain’s advising minister, were next. They both thanked the government of the City of Buenos Aires, since it is one of the driving forces behind the festival and its main sponsor. On behalf of Chile, Díaz thanked the organizers “for this opportunity to be a part of the Festival de la Luz as guest country, so that we can continue to foster an exchange in this cultural fabric we are knitting every day.” Sanz Serrano, on the other hand, pointed out how Rivas, an Argentine who spent most of his life in Spain, was a symbol of union between both countries, and how this complicity is something “we all hope will grow.”

Finally, Lombardi thanked Elda Harrington for her hard work as an organizer and a curator, and explained that “the organization of an event as broad, generous and outstanding as the Festival de Luz requires a titanic effort as well as a clinical eye, which is why the work of the curator is so important.” He pointed out that even though the room was filled with cultural managers such as himself, they were only a link in the chain, but that it was the artist who was truly essential. He marvelled at the cultural activities Buenos Aires constantly has to offer, and called it “a relay race that never ends in that it creates citizenship, which is what culture is all about.”

@verostewart
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