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This is a brief article on Dutch artist Karel Appel—founder of the COBRA (COpenhagen-BRussels-Amsterdam) group—who at the time was in the process of completing a mural in one of the streets in Villa El Salvador, the largest “young town” (slum) in Lima. Appel stated that “it was in places like these that priests and artists excelled in their jobs.” He identified with its self-managed communal structure and the vitality of its inhabitants, adding that “the soul of the poor invariably maintain an unsuspected wealth of solidarity among themselves.” He found, in his opinion, a happiness that could not be found among the Parisians, a place where “people rarely smile anymore.” Although Appel claims to have produced more than a hundred murals, he says that it is his first time working in a “nascent town”.
This interview was published while the mural in Villa El Salvador was being created. Directed and created by Karel Appel, the work acquired a collective meaning due to the collaboration of the local inhabitants, as these would assist with painting and filling in areas of colors previously configured by the Dutch artist through a work system created by him and which he described as the following: “When you get to know how to vibrate to the rhythm of emotions held by these people, that is when great works are created.” The mural had received the support from the town’s organizations using the external walls of the ex-communal bank building of Villa El Salvador (between the avenues of César Vallejo and De La Revolución). The building became the first communal self-managed bank in Peru. The bank itself was created by the military government and modified when it became part of the current municipality in that district. Such architectural transformations, in addition to some acts of vandalism, have actually caused the mural to disappear. On the same night of this interview, Appel gave a quite commented conference at the INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura). [For further reading, please refer to the ICAA digital archive for the following texts: [“El retablo es ‘Folclor Dadá’ y es arte, opinó plástico holandés Karel Appel: ‘lo que vio en la Escuela de Artes Plásticas no era arte’, dijo…”] (without author) (doc. no. 865535); “Pintores peruanos continuarán labor del artista Karel Appel” by Felipe Adrianzén (doc. no. 865553); and “Villa El Salvador: Kerouaciana” by Karel Appel himself (doc. no. 1052138)].