Outside the street is a dead end, killed by a fence closing train tracks on the other side. Parked bicycles fill the front yard of the old-looking eclectic building. Pay thirty pesos argentinos (a few dollars equivalent) at the door of the house and in the next room a bearded man sits nude under a spotlight on a couch with legs crossed and holding an invisible ice-cream cone to his forehead.
The place is Casa Presa, a communal living space a little off the ritzier neighborhood of Belgrano in northern Buenos Aires not far from a warehouse or studio equivalent in Echo Park or Silverlake. The event is held monthly, called Dibujo Jam. In the corner a standup bassist and a drummer improvise abstract jazz.
In the other room a dark-skinned girl holding her head of black hair back and making an imaginary letter in the air with her arms in front of a wall of artist prints. Both spaces are filled by a crowd of people observing silently, drawing and nodding their heads back and forth from paper to subject while a dog wanders sniffing around jealous for attention.
The price of entry pays the models who hold the contorted, daring, and seemingly uncomfortable nude poses for five to ten minutes at a time in a few sessions of about 40 minutes. Then walk through the photo-covered hallway by the line to the bathroom to get to the backyard where a bar serves reasonably cheap beer, wine and fernetcolas and makes pizzas.
Outside in the yard odd tables and chairs sprawl on the lawn, Christmas lights dimly light the space, murals and paintings cover the surrounding. A couple guys hit a steel drum making UFO noises while glasses are tipped and joints passed.
The drawing jam ends and people graze around inside to get a better look at the art and people come out for another beer and a smoke and stick around till the wee hours, finish the booze, pass around some guitars, play some songs, and we take off back to the other side of the city satisfied and well inebriated.
It makes me think, more kids should be doing this in the States. There must be someone doing it somewhere but in my years of hanging out in the Bay Area and LA DIY scene I have yet to witness it outside of University art programs.
Perhaps it`s the idea of standing in the same room as a naked peer that could raise issues. I know laws prohibit bars in LA and SF from showing complete nudity in the same place you serve alcohol, but here we’re not talking about a stripclub, the crowd was young eclectic and eccentric and there was relaxed concentration.
The human body should be appreciated more often in this way outside the classroom and in a relaxed atmosphere. The west coast boasts some of the most open sexual liberty in the world and nude modeling is hardly explicitly sexual. In the live model setting the human body takes another role as an anatomical form to study.
It’s not just for those who draw. I can find it parallelable to those hip house poetry readings slash parties we had around in Berkeley except that it involves the audience in an opposite way. The performance becomes the subject of the crowd’s doings and not the other way around. It’s like everybody is writing poetry where the model is a muse for the audience to create.
I didn’t go with the intention of drawing but the band and the wine put up a good mood. It’s that the live sketch creates something that photographs can’t capture. It raises questions about the difference between a shutter and the eyes, between snapping a moment with a camera and capturing it with your eyes, your hands, and a piece of paper.
Check out Jam de Dibujo at facebook.com/JAMdeDibujo
and Casa Presa at facebook.com/CasaPresa