The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, published in the catalogue for the first edition of the Bienal Barro de América (1992), the art critic Roberto Guevara discusses the concept of being uprooted and what that means in terms of a Venezuelan event that seeks to establish a connection between the materiality of the soil, clay, and the languages used in contemporary art. After describing the idea behind the new Bienal and speaking about the honored and/or invited artists’ contributions, Guevara reviews the participants’ work, which he groups into a number of different categories, such as the sense of being uprooted; tradition and survival; memory and the creation of connecting spaces and architectures; and the development of conceptual correspondence and metaphors. He also mentions the opportunities for experimentation and creativity that this confluence of media, languages, and techniques opens up.
This essay by the Venezuelan critic Roberto Guevara (1932–98) is more than just an introduction to a unique exhibition; it is also a reflection (something hitherto seldom undertaken) on the subject of the relationship between traditional media and contemporary artistic languages. The Caracas Bienal Barro de América was focused on displaced languages and techniques, and sought to show the great value to be derived from combining expressive elements and apparently dissimilar media. 57 artists—whose common denominator was clay—took part in the event that advocated a return to primordial structures and a dialogue between materials and artistic discourses. The first edition of the biennial adopted its symbolic stance on a date steeped in historical significance—the Fifth Centenary of the meeting of two worlds (1992) and the desire to promote the integration of Latin American peoples.
Guevara’s curatorial essay sheds light on the dialogue that the Bienal advocated, and systematizes the participating works that fell outside the boundaries of materiality. He thus acknowledges the visual arts within the context of contemporary art, arming himself with a conceptual framework through which to consider (and organize) works inspired by notions of belonging, memory, or a conceptual approach. Guevara is right when he says that it would be impossible to “materialize” recognitions or categories for participating works due to their rich discourse and unrestrained nature; his classification system is primarily inspired by a need to group specific interests as they are expressed within the context of the exhibition. Guevara’s review reveals the great diversity of works and strategies based on clay—from traditional forms to new media, and from self-legitimization to a re-working of earlier ideas. It was, in fact, a whole new field that would be explored over the course of four more editions of the Bienal (until 2004).