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This text is the second chapter in the book Festival de Performance de Cali-Colombia (2006) published by the Helena Producciones collective. In it, the collective’s cofounder, artist Wilson Díaz, describes the academic and social context from 1996 and 1998 in which the group organized the II Feria de Performance and a series of lectures that attempted to generate a framework for reflection on performance practices. The lectures were geared to forming an audience with the conceptual and historical tools necessary to understand the festival. The chapter also contains the catalogue to the II Feria de Performance, featuring a photographic record and short description of each action carried out on what was called “the day of performance,” as well as (in some cases) a text by the artist. The festival took place on November 7, 1998, in the auditorium of Santa Librada, a public school in Cali. The text’s approach to presenting and categorizing the festival’s activities is the model used for all the later editions of the festival registered in the book.
In this chapter, Colombian artist and curator Wilson Díaz (b. 1963) refers to two important earlier curatorial events: Sin titulo (1996) and I Festival Municipal de Performance y Acción Plástica (1997) organized by Díaz himself along with Juan Mejia (b. 1966). Both exhibitions gave rise to scandal at the Academia de Bellas Artes of Cali for three reasons: their experimental nature; the inclusion of works formulated by students that made use of dangerous materials like drugs and weapons; the involvement of two professors in what was deemed an event “lacking in seriousness.” These events were important to establishing the performance genre in Colombia as a counter-discourse within art that stood in opposition to the art system and to the academy. In them, the “artist” was envisioned as the figure who questions art’s role in society; artists turned to a group of widely recognized intellectuals to make themselves heard. In this case, a group of professors gave the participants absolute freedom as well as prestige as artists rather than as mere students.
Díaz emphasizes the fact that the curatorship of the festival was later entrusted to the Helena Producciones collective. Determined to create a space of dialogue outside the academy and concerned with the discontinuity of similar projects, the collective decided to hold the II Feria de Performance. This change of hands yielded a nationwide event that was more open to the public. It eschewed the schemes of traditional exhibitions in an attempt to be less elitist and more experimental. The decision to undertake an experimental performance event along with pubic lectures in order to help create an audience for the festival is representative of Helena Producciones’s conceptual and practical approach to public education, an approach it has put into practice since the time of its founding in 1998.
The catalogue places emphasis on performance practice as such; its photos and brief descriptions attempt to be faithful, precise, and specific as they address the performances in question. This intelligent approach in no way attempts to augment or to underplay the contents of the performances. It stands in marked contrasts to others approaches to performance in Colombia, which rely heavily on philosophical theories and naïve tendencies.
Along with Ana María Millán, Wilson Díaz directed LOOP, a television project with sixteen episodes broadcast on the Canal Universitario of Cali from 2001 to 2004. Díaz taught visual arts at institutions like the Universidad del Valle, the Conservatorio de Bellas Artes of Cali, and the Universidad del Cauca (Popayán) from 1996 to 2003.
For further information on the historical context surrounding the emergence of the performance festival as well as the process by which it was entrusted to Helena Producciones, see doc. no. 860414.