Like all of the best things in life, El Tarro had very humble beginnings. Shortly after arriving in Melbourne, Jorge and Claudia moved into an old building in Carlton. Consisting of four flats, the building had a shared roof area and a lot of space within their flat that Claudia felt had a huge amount of potential.
“We always went in and out of our building, and always thought the space was just perfect. I had a dream, and it [told me], ‘You have to create this space’,” she remembers. But unlike the billions of dreams that are dreamt and lost every night, Claudia and Jorge decided to make theirs become a reality.
Luckily, their neighbours were a like-minded and creative bunch, and before long the couple were hosting performance evenings in their makeshift theatre – using the structure of the building to hang drapes and decorations – while their kitchen became the backstage area.
“So we started putting little things on there every month. People would come – friends and neighbours – and then all the artists would start showing their stuff: visual arts, theatre, performance, music, whatever. We just wanted to create space where it’s not always about the final thing. Experimentation is very important. Artists can sometimes do that in their own studios and can share work with their peers, but not with an audience. There’s that idea that that art you present needs to be finalised before people can enjoy it.”
El Tarro attempts to destroy that misconception. They describe it as an artist’s studio that has an audience there, bearing witness to the process. “We focus a lot on people just being creative. Not everybody needs to be called an ‘artist’,” Claudia argues. ”There are people who just have amazing ideas and don’t have a place to share it with others. Our whole organisation is about ‘people, art, people’. People connecting with each other using art, and that’s the way that we see El Tarro. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ‘artist’ or not.”
And so we come to the age old question, what is art? El Tarro doesn’t discriminate. From puppets, to jugglers, to actors, singers, painters, sculptors, the list is limitless. Everyone who has an idea is welcome to share it in whichever forum they may choose for their next event.
“There was one event we did in Melbourne,” Jorge remembers, “and we had the band all spread out through the gallery. The guitarist on one side, the drummer on the other side. Plus there was performance, and an installation, plus a little bit of circus and visual art. So it’s a lot about crossing over different art forms.”
The building that birthed El Tarro has been demolished now, like a lot of the spaces El Tarro have worked in since, but El Tarro has remained, moving from space to space, finding its feet as it goes. “It began as the ‘smallest performing space in the world’ because the original space was miniature, but since then we’ve bought El Tarro to San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Sydney,” Jorge recalls. “Because it’s a moving space, we can take it anywhere”.
And this Saturday, they’re taking it to a huge old school building in Abbotsford, in one of El Tarro’s biggest events to date: The Summer Revolucion. Inspired by, no prizes for guessing, the spirit of the revolution – a spirit that is alive and well in South America. “The revolutionary spirit, it’s a different way of presenting where we come from. But you can still sense the Melbourne element there. We’re interested in mixing and combining, and of course opening a space for any type of artist who feels inspired by what we throw out. It’s always an experiment.” So, what can one expect of El Tarro this time?
“Loads of bands will be playing including LABJACD, Madre Monte and Abbie Cardwell and the Chicano Rockers. There’ll be a ‘dance in the dark’ room in the upstairs hall. We’re going to have a protest march around the field. There’ll be games, piñata and Latin American food. We have a visual art space called the Church of the Revolutionary Spirit with installations and sound scapes. There’ll even be a Mexican wrestling match.”
They’re excited, and the passion they feel for their events is contagious. “The experience is going to be awesome. The actual experience of going into this space…you’re coming into a new world.” And what a world it promises to be. Whether you’re an art connoisseur or a little kid who likes getting their face painted, this is an experience unlike any gig or gallery you’ve been to. Jorge makes the ambition clear: “We just want the audience to be inside the art.”
BY KATE MCCARTEN