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Between September and November 2019 UK-based artist Sarah Duffy traveled to Lugar a Dudas in Cali as part of the Triangle Fellowship Programme.
 
Sarah Duffy (b.1986) is an Artist currently living and working in The UK. Duffy graduated in 2013 with a MFA from Goldsmiths, University of London, after which she became the inaugural recipient of The Acme Goldsmiths MFA Studio Award. Projects and exhibitions include: Solo Performance Om3am x Sarah Duffy hosted by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Jos Bitelli and Felix Melia; The Claremorris Open for which she was awarded a prize for live performance by curator and contributing Frieze editor Tom Morton; Mount Florida Screenings at Glasgow Museum of Modern Art; A Faraway Rendez-vous at SixtyEight Art institute as part of Copenhagen Art Week and Solo performance Enjoy The Silence at The Camden Arts Centre. In 2018, Duffy took part in 'The Ol' Switcheroo' at Jupiter Woods, London alongside Sophie Jung and Rebecca Lennon; a residency at Chateau de Bosmelet  as part of Diep Haven Festival which was followed by an exhibition at Phoenix Brighton and  a 3-month residency in South Korea as part of The Seoul Museum of Art’s international residency program.

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In recent work, I’ve been thinking about the shifting nature of the spaces we inhabit and the borders and maps we create to delineate our environment. I’ve been questioning how we orientate our own ageing bodies in a world that keeps morphing and moving - politically, environmentally, spatially - and the effect this has on our sense of self. 
After taking a short course in field recording and soundscape composition in mid 2019, I became fascinated by how I might be able to detect, or even capture, some special invisible characteristic of an environment purely through sound. The residency at Lugar a Dudas offered me an excellent opportunity to continue these investigations and I set out with a plan to make field recordings around Cali, fully intending to create a multi-channel sound installation. However, it wasn’t long after my arrival that I realised I needed to embrace this experience with a less rigid mind-set and feel my way through the process.
A few days into my time there, I was told that the problem with Cali is that nobody ever wants to leave, and I ended up feeling this rather acutely upon my own departure. It is a complicated place with a difficult history and stark divisions in wealth, but it has a frenetic energy and intensity that gives it a distinct power. Music and dance are such important parts of life in Cali and at times I felt completely lost in the heady ecstatic mood of it all, happier than I’d ever been and strangely lacking in self-consciousness.

At other times, I felt immobilized by what I came to learn about the political situation in Cali and elsewhere in Colombia. Many of the things I had believed about the ongoing conflict, turned out to be false, or otherwise heavily distorted by European media. This was especially apparent to me when some of the other residents and myself went on a guided tour of El Museo de Memoria at Museo la Tertulia. The exhibition gave testament to the many forgotten and displaced citizens of Colombia who have been caught in the midst of conflict for decades. I was also introduced to people that are working hard to prevent censorship and to make their voices heard as well as championing others who have been repeatedly marginalised in Colombian society and left out of international news reportage.

Being confronted by such accounts of suffering left me feeling conflicted about my role as an artist in residence and the amount of privilege I had been afforded. Fortunately, I was amongst a deeply thoughtful and insightful group of people, both at Lugar a Dudas itself and within my cohort of fellow artists. Many evenings were spent sitting together and trying to make sense of what we were doing, as well as our individual motivations and intentions. This process ended up feeling as important as the actual making of the work and kept me feeling accountable in some way. I also felt quite exposed at times, by the intensity of our discussions and some of the experiences we shared, but I believe this feeling of vulnerability made me listen more carefully to others and opened me up to new ways of articulating my thoughts.

Lugar a Dudas actively encourages this kind of openness and provides a safe place to explore uncomfortable and difficult areas of an art practice. It is an extremely important cultural hub for the creative community of Cali, offering free film screenings, talks and a beautiful library of artists’ books for the public to browse. It feels like a genuinely welcoming environment and quite particular to the atmosphere of Cali. It also has a regular programme of open studio events at the Artists’ Residence around the corner, and I had the opportunity to test out my ideas in front of the public at various stages of my 8-week stay.

Throughout the residency, I spent a lot of time just recording on instinct, collecting sounds from spaces that gave me a kind of buzz, or intuitive sense of rightness. One day, I came upon a huge ancient tree at the top of a hill, situated right next to an electricity power station. The tree was full of birds that sounded like they were trying to mimic the humming of the power grid and it struck me as a remarkably absurd set up. I started recording there and then found myself returning to this strangely sacred spot several times. Eventually I started to pick out a tune from the rhythmic hum of the power station and I began to work with it in postproduction, adding my own voice to create a harmony with these sounds from the ether. This became the backbone of my final performance ‘Receptor’ which took place on my penultimate day in Cali. Despite not originally intending to perform, I felt it necessary to make my body into a kind of conduit through which this composition could travel. I ended up feeling quite transformed and invigorated by this particular performance and I am delighted that it now has a second life as a video work, filmed and edited by Cali based filmmaker Mateo Grillo.

You can view a short excerpt from the 12-minute film here.

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Lugar a Dudas (Room for doubts) was established in 2005, is an independent, not for profit space, in Cali, in the Valle del Cauca region.

Lugar a Dudas aims to promote and disseminate  contemporary artistic practice. As its name suggests,  the organisation works as a laboratory for research, lively discussion, reflection and critical analysis and which hosts an exciting and busy programme of exhibitions, workshops and events. They also house a wonderful archive, dedicated to the visual arts, which includes over 3000 books, magazines and videos.

Please visit their website for more information.