Shoot the Shooter: Panorama of Contemporary Latin American Video Art
Curators: González y González *
This selection presents the audiovisual proposals of 10 important international artists. The exposition includes artists Alberto Baraya (Colombia), Jota Castro (Peru), Regina José Galindo (Guatemala), Carlos Garaicoa (Cuba), Jorge Macchi (Argentina), Cinthia Marcelle & Tiago Mata Machado (Brazil), Yoshua Okón (Mexico), Wifredo Prieto (Cuba) and Chileans Eugenio Dittborn and Christian Yovane. The expo is set as an important platform to showcase the work of a significant group of Latin American artists who, in spite of their important participation in the international art circuit, are generally unknown in our country, save for exceptions.
Even when the artists are of different generations, in their work one can appreciate a strong inclination toward the analysis and questioning of social realities, in clear tune with what is called “political art”. Actually, most of the works gathered here are marked by reflecting critically on diverse subjects involving the economic, cultural and political realities that affect our societies in the context of globalization. The points of view and cutouts include subject matters and questioning regarding violence, racism, immigration, as well as geopolitical issues and the history of art. Without falling into the cliché of the exposé-documentary, nor assuming redeeming postures regarding the aforementioned topics, the videos included in this cycle describe, often with humor and irony, the conflictive relationships between art and violence; economy and body; exploitation and needs; locating themselves at a good distance from the typical discourse of political correctness. Also, they are far from the cynicism that is evident in many works of contemporary art, the kind that is “committed” and takes the expected sides, which in turn only becomes diluted by the effects of the artistic market’s marketing – both in local and international scopes.
Another one of the selection’s features is that none of the artists included is described as what is formally known to be a “video artist”; quite to the contrary, all of them work in diverse media and formats such as drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, performance art, installation art, etc.; where video is seen as yet another format in which to develop their personal research. This, many times, makes their audiovisual experimentation much more essay-like, reflecting all their material, technical, conceptual and visual experience onto video format.
In terms of audiovisual language, most of the selected videos in this conservatorship privilege unique framing, direct and frontal points of view toward the aforementioned phenomena of global reality, without succumbing to the technological fascination for the format, but using it austerely as a tool to register actions or small visual essays, in synch with a clear medium economy. In most cases, the works are accomplices and silent witnesses of simple, provocative actions that are a part of the poetics of each author’s work. In a recurrent relation with the history of film, these works also owe themselves to certain practices that relate them to performance and video art, where gestures, movements and actions were registered by a camera as a unique means of survival. Works by Bruce Nauman, Valie Export, Joseph Beuys, Hermann Nitsch, Vito Aconci, Chris Burden, Gina Pane, Paul McCarthy and Juan Downey, among others, resonate in the audiovisual works shown in this exposition.
* González y González is born in Santiago, Chile, in January 2010 and is located in the city’s historic center. It promotes, through individual and collective expositions, the work of international contemporary artists with projects that are critical and socially contingent, emphasizing especially a group of Latin American and Chilean artists, both well-renowned and emerging, whose work has as a common axis a reflexive character regarding the history of art and social, political and historical processes.
González y González is proposed as a project of promotion, communication and reflection on the great diversity of current artistic practices -from video to drawing, photography and the object- which are properly inserted in the debate on the complex relations existing in our contemporary societies, with solid conceptual support.
ALBERTO BARAYA (COLOMBIA)
Born in Bogota, 1968. Lives and works in Bogota, Colombia.
Courtesy of the artist.
In the context of his project Herbario de plantas artificiales, artist Alberto Baraya went on an expedition along the Putumayo river, in the Colombian Amazon. On board a military vessel, a bucolic landscape appears, constructed by three thick lines of sky, vegetation and water. This fetishized version of the “National Geographic”-type landscape is quickly dismantled by the registry of a shooting exercise performed by Colombian soldiers on the water. The loud noise of gunfire, as well as the splashes on the water’s surface, takes us to a story of this landscape that is much more political -specially when we consider the Colombian situation- than contemplative.
JOTA CASTRO (PERÚ)
Born in Peru, 1965. Lives and works in Brussels, Belgium.
Courtesy of González y González, Santiago, Chile.
Thought to be one of the most radical artists because of his permanent questioning of structures of political and social power ruling the world order; a Graduate in Law and Political Sciences in France, Castro worked for the United Nations for years, starting a striking artistic career in 1998, which has led him to partake in the most important art events in Europe and the rest of the world.
An example of his critical attitude toward political processes in Europe is his video Presidencia Italiana. On July 2nd, 2003, Silvio Berlusconi went to the European parliament in Strasburg to present his work program for the European Union’s authority. During his presentation, he became involved in a strong argument with German Member of Parliament Mr. Schulz. Castro’s video shows their argument, including Berlusconi’s racist remarks against gypsies, but adapted into an operetta, written and performed by soprano Maud Gnidzaz.
REGINA JOSÉ GALINDO (GUATEMALA)
Born in Guatemala, 1974. Lives and works in Guatemala.
Courtesy of Galería Prometeo, Milano, Italy.
Courtesy of Galería Prometeo, Milano, Italy.
Since receiving the Golden Lion in the 2005 Venice Biennial, Regina José Galindo has been consolidated as one of the most important performance artists in the international art scene. Her work combines strong social critique involving the situation of violence toward women in her country (Guatemala), with formally economic, emphatic, and at the same time poetic work strategies.
In Shoot the Shooter we present two brief videos. On one hand, Limpieza social is a performance seen in 2006 in Trento, Italy. In it, the artist is submitted to strong pressure from a water jet like those used to calm protesters or shower new prison inmates. Completely naked and with clear signs of pain, the work concludes when the artist can no longer resist the “punishment”. Her body, completely vulnerable, acts as a metaphor for those other bodies that suffer in the most complete impunity and neglect. On the other hand, Autofobia shows us the artist shooting at her own shadow. The idea of body is now shown from the notion of a double that is a part of us but also something that is foreign to us.
CARLOS GARAICOA (CUBA)
Born in 1967 in Havana, Cuba. Lives and works in Havana and Madrid.
Yo no quiero ver más a mis vecinos (I)
Courtesy of the artist.
Yo no quiero ver más a mis vecinos is about the notion of limits, it is the recording of how a wall is builded around the artist’s house, relating it with images of most political and segregationist walls that exist in the world: the Berlin wall; the Ramallah wall that separates Palestine from Israel; Hadrian’s Wall in England; Woomera in Australia, the Tijuana wall in Mexico, the Malecón in Havana, Cuba; and the Great Wall of China, among others. The existence of the Malecón, in his own Cuba, incites this work, making an invitation to continuously trespass the limits imposed geographically and politically. Frontiers, which have been marked through history and are still marked by these walls, are shown in this work as a form of denunciation, forming a sad quote of segregation at a global scale.
JORGE MACCHI (ARGENTINA)
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1963. Lives and works in Buenos Aires.
La balada de Matsuyama
Courtesy of the artist.
“Chunosuke Matsuyama, captain of a Japanese ship, sunk with 44 sailors in 1784. Shortly before dying of starvation in a Pacific coral reef, he carved a brief chronicle of the tragedy on a piece of wood, sealed it in a bottle and threw it into the ocean. 150 years later, in 1935, the bottle appeared in the small coastal town where Matsuyama had been born”.
This small story is the text that can be read in Jorge Macchi’s video, La balada de Matsuyama. What the video shows us is a perforated card that, when passed through the mechanism of a music box, produces a musical piece. The card’s holes draw letters which configure the text. The resulting music is composed randomly depending on the position of the holes in the card. The randomness of the text and music is a common element in Macchi’s work. Using diverse media and formats, the artist attempts to establish unthought-of relationships between images and materials, with the goal of defying our perception and decomposing our certainties.
CINTHIA MARCELLE & TIAGO MATA MACHADO (BRASIL)
Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1974. Lives and works in Belo Horizonte.
Courtesy of Galería Vermelho, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
This video is presented as a performance choreography of sorts, where chaos reigns. In the video, trash bins, bicycle pieces, chairs, petroleum tanks, fluorescent bulbs, home appliances, buckets, stones, bricks, etc. enter the projection crossing from one side of the street to the other, where they fall evoking a bombing, a street revolt or a civil war, finally transforming the frame into a ruin. On the other side, the one from where the objects were thrown, a counter-offensive effort is evoked: gas bombs fill the environment. The choreography of objects reappears alluding situations of conflict that are so contingent nowadays, such as those that happened during the so-called “Arab Spring”, the Indignants movement, or even closer; the student uprising in our own country.
YOSHUA OKÓN (MEXICO)
Born in 1970 in Mexico City. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Courtesy of the artist.
During the last 15 years, Yoshua Okón’s work was been known for his use of humor, parody and sarcasm to question social and artistic conventionalisms. The video Coyotería is the result of a performance that reconfigures the famous action by German artist Joseph Beuys done in 1974 called I Like America and America Likes Me. If for Beuys the coyote symbolizes the North American continent’s pre-colonial spirituality, for Okón the coyote is referred as much to the Aztec use -which speaks of European colonialists, hungry for riches- as to the name that is currently given to the employee that eases bureaucratic procedures for immigrants who attempt to cross the frontier from Mexico to the United States. Thus, while Beuys lived for a week with the coyote in the Rene Block Gallery in New York, surrounded by the mysticism of his attire and stage design, Okón played Beuys’s shamanic role surrounded by newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, TV Guides; covered with a synthetic blanket and holding a policeman’s baton.
WILFREDO PRIETO (CUBA)
Born in Sancti-Spíritus, Cuba, 1978. Lives and works in New York.
Courtesy of Galería Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona, Spain.
The eloquence of a gesture and the apparent neutrality of action define Wilfredo Prieto’s artistic trajectory. His work, varied in its scales and contexts, acute and critical in its foundation, reflects contemporary conflicts, eluding the contextual significations and widening its range to philosophical and global concerns. His work proposes spaces for reflection toward power-based relationships, paradoxes in social relationships and the effects and incidence of economic and political fluctuations. In different formats -installation art, video, performance art- Prieto handles a peculiar poetic of scale, which grants significance both to the triviality of an object and the banality of a gesture. In the video Lemon Green, the camera focuses on a lemon that is randomly stepped on during a parade until it exits the frame after someone trips on it. In this case, the de-contextualization of a simple lemon, representing the idea of the obstacle, is contrasted with a massive political action.
Text: Direlia Lazo
CHRISTIAN YOVANE (CHILE)
Born in Santiago, Chile, 1978. Lives and works in Santiago.
Cuando la Luz del Sol se esté Apagando
Courtesy of the artist.
This video shows the interaction between a small figure of current pope Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI) and the metal stylus of an old gramophone or phonograph. The music corresponds to the bolero La Barca, by Roberto Cantoral, performed by the famous Chilean singer Lucho Gatica, an icon of romantic music during the 50s in Chile, and later in Latin America.
The presence of this miniature, situated in the center of the acetate disc (and which is revolving circularly), articulates an unspoken dialog with the gramophone’s stylus; the needle travels toward the tiny figure while the song plays, until it intercepts it, and finally knocks it down.
It is not only the formal relationship (established by questions of scale and montage strategies, mainly) that defines this narration’s interpretation, but also the context expressed in the bolero’s lyrics attempts to in some way depict the state of an institution that, in spite of its “terminal illness” (stemming from abuses of all kinds, particularly cases of pederasty committed by clergymen and which have been documented and denounced before the civil authorities of many countries), keeps exerting a crucial influence in terms of ethics, education and economy, with disastrous consequences.
Text: Christian Yovane.