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In this essay, José Ignacio Roca describes the theoretical guidelines he observed while curating Face Value (2002) and discusses the videos produced by nine contemporary Colombian artists that he included in his project for the Latin American Freewaves segment of the video and new media festival L.A. Freewaves in Los Angeles, California. Referring to the theoretician Douglas Crimp’s essay about Blow Job, the 1964 film by Andy Warhol, in which Crimp scrutinizes the face that appears in the film, Roca argues that “This collection of videos includes works (…) in which the frontal portrayal of a face has been taken as a unifying formal trope.” After establishing a connection between that “formal trope” in his curating process and Warhol’s Blow Job, Roca suggests that—in the videos at the exhibition and in Blow Job—there is both a “visual discourse” and another one that takes place “outside the frame.” In his opinion, all the videos involved, despite their clear differences, address the idea of identity.


This essay by José Ignacio Roca (b. 1962) is important because Roca, one of the most outstanding curators and critics in Colombia, discusses key topics through which to interpret the work of the nine important contemporary Colombian artists that he chose to include in Face Value (2002). These topics include identity, pornography, art and art institutions, and the gay subculture. This approach also helps to establish connections between the videos produced by these nine artists and those produced by artists working in other countries or other genres. 


The essay also suggests another approach to studying the works shown in Face Value when it says that: “In general, [the selected works] develop an interesting narrative on the concept of identity in terms of its social, sexual, or political specificity while refusing to be pigeonholed into any expectations concerning what might be considered a “Colombian style.”


Face Value was an exhibition of videos that Roca presented at the Latin American Freewaves segment of the L.A. Freewaves video and new media festival in Los Angeles, California. It included works by the Colombian artists Fernando Arias (b. 1963), François Bucher (b. 1972), Santiago Echeverry (b. 1970), Juan Fernando Herrán (b. 1963), Oscar Muñoz (b. 1951), Lucas Ospina (b. 1971), José Alejandro Restrepo (b. 1959), Carlos Salazar, and Sandra Bermúdez who was born in the United States (b. 1968). 


José Ignacio Roca was the director of temporary exhibitions at the Banco de la República from 1994 to 2008. In 1998, he created Columna de Arena [Column of Sand], a website where, since 2005, he has published articles about Colombian and Latin American contemporary art. He is a member of VOTI, The Union of the Imaginary, an online forum for the discussion of curatorial projects. He is currently the artistic director of the quadrennial exhibition of contemporary prints, Filagraphika 2010, to be held in Philadelphia, USA.

Juan David Berrío
Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia
Courtesy of José Roca, Bogotá, Colombia