Fireplace is an artist-run initiative based in Barcelona, Spain, that used to organize series of projects in formats ranging from mural painting, music, performance, sailing, seminars, cooking, work groups, and more. In 2017 Fireplace lost its space due to increasing rents and therefore transformed into a nomadic project. Referring to ecological examples, Fireplace finds answers in the adaptive skills of insects to develop ways to deal with the current situation.
Hi there! Here we are, Fireplace, invited to think and reflect on the future of cultural exchange. But who and what is Fireplace? Fireplace are Ángela Palacios and Quim Packard, both artists, parents, cultural producers, and residents of Barcelona. Our shared interest is to explore the relations between our art spaces, practices, structures, and codes with its cultural context as well as its community, environmental, historical, and architectural environments.
Fireplace is also our families, friends, the people with who we used to share the Fireplace space and the people we work and collaborate with. Fireplace is something close to a cultural platform. It is a meeting point, an organization, a community, a facilitator, a project, a laboratory and an ongoing-active-collaborative-and-practice research project to think and test what an art organization can, should, or can’t be.
»Our hands-on research emphasizes the importance of cultural and artistic production as a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and critical thinking, and as a tool for generating ties between different professionals and worlds of knowledge and experience.«Fireplace
From the beginning of the project in 2015 to summer 2017, Fireplace had a site in the Poblenou neighborhood in Barcelona, Spain, where we carried out a number of exhibitions, sessions, concerts, presentations, collective meals, walks … a series of projects in formats ranging from mural painting, music, performance, sailing, seminars, cooking, work groups, and more. Nowadays, Fireplace works and functions as a nomadic project and entity, collaborating with different professionals and organizations from numerous disciplines. With or without its own space, we keep on organizing work groups, talks, exhibitions, get-togethers, meals, walks, seminars, boat trips, performances, concerts, and so on. Our hands-on research emphasizes the importance of cultural and artistic production as a catalyst for the exchange of ideas and critical thinking, and as a tool for generating ties between different professionals and worlds of knowledge and experience.
Concerning the topics »the future of cultural exchange« and »the future of independent art spaces and initiatives,« we want to approach these ideas from our personal experiences and the ones in our closer context, at the same time taking a little detour related to natural adaptation and the interdependencies and respective sequence patterns that play a role in these evolution processes, seeking to find a connection and »a thing« to point out.
In 1883, Krakatoa Island in Indonesia was left practically destroyed due to a violent volcano eruption. Two months after the event, the people who disembarked on what had been the »island,« declared that the layers of ashes and pumice stones still felt warm. It was pretty unlikely that even the strongest animal had survived, therefore the island was declared deserted. Yet, in the following nine months, life began to reappear in the devastated land. Some blades of grass were found; a solitary spider, too. In the next few years, sporadic site visits to the island were made, and it is known that it took only six years for a large lizard to arrive there, along with a number of insects.
Surtsey Island emerged from the sea near the Icelandic coast in 1963. It couldn’t support life when it emerged, but only six months were needed to catch a fly there and find signs of vegetation in its shoreline areas.
Animals and plants are in constant movement toward new areas – not always consciously, obviously. New habitats tend to be populated with closely related plant and animal species. A disused railroad line or a stone quarry, for example, will receive abundant seeds from the surrounding vegetation, and, over time can even become confused with the neighboring areas. Seeds are transported by airflows or on the feet of animals. Small animals can also be transported by larger ones, floating logs, or other external agents. In other cases, internal forces force animals to migrate.
»Insects can be also devoured by wide range of animals, so, consequently, most of them have developed stunning forms of camouflage and other protection strategies against predators.«Fireplace
It is likely that these animals and plants that move from one place to another won’t survive, as they might not get to reach the ideal place. But because nature’s full potential and fertility, there are always some that achieve their goal and settle down in the new habitats.
Insects barely exist in oceans, but they are present almost everywhere else. They can adapt to many different climates and live on almost everything. Relatively few vegetable or animal substances don’t serve them as nourishment. But insects can be also devoured by wide range of animals, so, consequently, most of them have developed stunning forms of camouflage and other protection strategies against predators. One of the starts of this evolution are mosquitoes. Some of them have the perfect design to conquer today’s world. 
In Barcelona, during the last years a quite strong network of artist-led projects and initiatives has emerged, dedicated and committed to providing a place to share and test things collectively, and whose caretakers use their personal resources and energy to make it possible, without regular funding or institutional support.
One year ago, we were forced to leave our space due to the violent property speculation that is hitting Barcelona (same as other European cities). As buildings are snapped up by property developers and tourist-focused rents increase, the price of the rents goes up and up, studios close and »independent and artist-led projects have to move, change shape in order to maintain a practice and find ways to keep each others’ practices going.« 
Fireplace was just one of a series of these independent art spaces and art bookstores in Barcelona that has lost its own space in the past two years. The independent art scene in Barcelona is somehow careless now, although it seems that things keep on going. But the question, as our beloved friend Eva Rowson says, is: »How do we keep it going?«
»And there’s no need to go far to find the future. Tomorrow is the future, too.«Fireplace
Mosquitoes, urban community gardens, and constant movement. These are the elements we want to take as starting point to approach the future of cultural exchange as raised by the Soft Power Palace team and initiative.
And there’s no need to go far to find the future. Tomorrow is the future, too. So, we prefer to think in the near future when reflecting about it. Then, planning and working for the next three steps. Whatever it would be, we’d better get ready for it. We’d better evolve, tough and elastic, as mosquitoes do so well. It is curious that once we were pretty resilient in facing the future, now we are rather precarious. Quite a relearning would be probably needed here, so we would be tough and elastic again. Yoga may help us. We enjoy it more when it’s outdoor yoga in the park. But how annoying it is when a mosquito bites your ankle in a challenging pose.
Fireplace’s ideas for the two-week residency in Stuttgart compresses practices on community, urban ecology, family reconciliation, local life stories, self-reliance and interdependencies; with which to explore, imagine, and test our toughness and elasticity, and, from there, shed more heat than light on the matter of cultural exchange.
Our intention is that the experiences during the two weeks in Stuttgart will work as a catalyst. No established answers in advance. An open testing ground to get to know more about our environments, far from borders and boundaries. An open testing ground where we’ll glide over ongoing dynamics of sharing, asking, talking, and making together with a practice group comprised of art students and other people from the Stuttgart scene.
The spaces Fireplace will be offered in the Kunstgebäude during the Soft Power Palace Laboratory will be used as flexible spaces to multifunction as a (first-rate) artist studio, a field, a place for gathering, a showcase, a playground, a kitchen, a space for sharing life and a door to leave the museum and go out to explore Stuttgart.
- Text about Krakatoa and Surtsey are from Michael Chinery’s book The Complete Amateur Naturalist.
- Eva Rowson in her article »How do we keep it going«? in: AQNB. Full article here:https://www.aqnb.com/2018/01/16/how-do-we-keep-it-going-independent-curator-producer-eva-rowson-on-how-to-sustain-space-for-each-other-on-our-own-terms/