Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This essay, written by the art curator María Clara Bernal and published in the catalogue for the exhibition Displaced (2007), explains why it is important to address the subject of displacement as an essential feature of the contemporary world of art. As she looks at the works of the fifteen Colombian artists who were selected for the exhibition, Bernal finds a “recurring theme in the development of recent art in Colombia: the question of place.” This leads her to discuss the curatorial motivation behind the concept of “creative exile” proposed by the Czechoslovakian theoretician Vilem Flusser (1920-1991) and the idea of “translation” considered by Édouard Glissant (b. 1928), from Martinique. She also considers the discussions of the delegates to the 16th Pan-American Summit of Heads of State and Governments (Uruguay, 2006) and the subject of migration. Bernal identifies the various levels from which she approaches the curatorial project: I) From potential displacement to the potential of displacement; II) Physical displacement; and III) Mental translation or displacement.

Annotations

It is not just the Colombian curator María Clara Bernal’s ideas on the subject of displacement that make this document, published in the Displaced catalogue, worth reading. This subject, so current and yet so infrequently addressed in local curatorial projects, is also important because of the Colombian government’s censorship of one of the works in the exhibition. Carlos Medellín, who was the Colombian ambassador to the United Kingdom at the time, requested that the video Rebeldes del Sur [Southern Rebels] by the Colombian artist Wilson Díaz be removed from the exhibition at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery—that was part of the Swansea Art and Music Festival, Wales (2007)—because it was seen as a defense of the guerrillas. Paradoxically, the exhibition had secured the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And, in the exhibition catalogue’s introductory essay Fernando Araújo, who was the Colombian Chancellor at the time, stressed the importance of the exhibition precisely because of the arguments made by both María Clara Bernal and the curator of the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Karen Mackinnon. This situation demonstrated that there is still a profound lack of understanding in Colombia about the subjects addressed and the contemplations proposed by contemporary art. Although it has recently become common to see a dialogue between art and other fields such as history, anthropology, sociology, and geography, this lack of understanding concerning artistic discourse can still be found, especially in the area of video, installations, and electronic art.  

 

The Displaced curatorial project came about as a result of a ten-day visit that Mackinnon took to Bogotá on a trip sponsored by Visiting Arts, Wales Arts International and the Colombian Ministry of Culture. During those ten days, guest curators, critics, and artists explored the contemporary arts scene in the country under the guidance of Bernal, who was subsequently invited to co-curate the exhibition.

 

María Clara Bernal is a graduate of the Visual Arts Program at the Universidad de los Andes. She earned her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in History and Theory of Modern Art at the University of Essex. She is currently (2010) the researcher for the project “Surrealism in Latin America” at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Her most recent publications include: Antología de textos críticos: Luis Camnitzer 1976–2006 [Anthology of Critical Texts: Luis Camnitzer 1976-2006] (Bogotá: Universidad de Los Andes, 2007); Más allá de lo real maravilloso: el surrealismo y el Caribe [Beyond Marvelous Reality: Surrealism and the Caribbean] (Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, 2006); and the essays “Traducción/Translación: el arte en la esfera transcultural” [Translation/Movement: Art in the Transcultural Sphere] in Cuadernos Grises 2 [Grey Notebooks 2] (Bogotá: Universidad de Los Andes, 2006); “Aproximaciones a lo transcultural en las artes visuales del Caribe” [Explanations of Transcultural Aspects of the Visual Arts in the Caribbean] in El Caribe en la nación colombiana, Observatorio del Caribe [The Caribbean in the Colombian Nation, Caribbean Observatory] (2006).

Researcher
Eliana Salazar Moreno
Team
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Credit
Courtesy of Maria Clara Bernal, Goleta, CA, USA