Strategic Immersions: First Stop


2018 Grants & Commissions Exhibition  



Centro Cultural Metropolitano de Quito | October 6 - November 28, 2018


 Quito, Ecuador 


The 2018 Grants & Commissions exhibit, which has traditionally been presented in Miami at CIFO Art Space, will become an international traveling exhibition program this year. The award recipients will have the opportunity to present their work at the Centro Cultural Metropolitano in Quito, Ecuador. The exhibition will be on view and open to the public from October 6 through November 28, 2018.


Photo: Left to right first row: Mid-Career Artist- Magdalena Atria (Chile); Emerging Artist- Fredman Barahona (Nicaragua);Emerging Artist- Rubén D´Hers (Venezuela); Left to right second row: Emerging Artist- Daniela Serna Gallego (Colombia); Achievement Award recipient, Horacio Zabala (Argentina); Emerging Artist- Laura Huertas Millán (Colombia); Left to right third row: Emerging Artist- Víctor del Moral (Mexico); Mid-Career Artist- Lázaro Saavedra (Cuba); and Emerging Artist- Gala Berger (Argentina).


Since 2003, Miami has been the headquarters for CIFO’s Grants and Commissions Awards. After fifteen editions there, the exhibition of this important acknowledgment of Latin American art will travel for the first time to a different city: Quito, Ecuador.


This choice coincides with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the designation of the Ecuadorian capital—along with Krakow—as the first cities to be declared World Cultural Heritage sites by UNESCO.


Both the production grants awarded to eight emerging and mid-career artists, and the achievement award, will come together in the exhibition to be presented in the Centro Cultural Metropolitano (MetQUITO), which is located in one of the most storied buildings of the historic city center. Its origins can be traced to the 17th century, when it opened its doors as the Colegio Máximo de los Jesuítas (Jesuit Collegium Maximum) next to the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus.)


The Jesuits, the last of the influential orders to reach these territories in colonial times, set up residence on this site that benefited from a central location on the grid, but was rendered unusable by the Zaguña ravine, which ran across it. By filling in this gorge, which flowed down from the Pichincha volcano, the Jesuits came to dominate the center amid the other great religious orders. 


From that point on, this structure has operated as a university, a tobacco factory, a military barracks, and a key site in the struggle for independence. It was in this location that the August 2nd massacre took place in 1810. The first public library was located here, and for a short time in the 20th century it housed the offices of City Hall.


The building fell into disrepair. Following a restoration carried out by the Fondo de Salvamento del Patrimonio Cultural (Fund for the Recovery of Cultural Heritage), in the year 2000 it opened its doors as the Centro Cultural Metropolitano, one of the most important cultural spaces in the city.


We reference these colonial and republican processes with a certain historical fascination because they show that each period has its own strategies. And this edifice, which has witnessed a history of colonization, education, freedom, and state-building, continues fearlessly to expand its memory, offering new strategies that will precisely destabilize many of the hegemonic discourses for which this edifice was created. This is a constant reminder that history is permanently being rewritten.


Each of the works selected this year by CIFO for the Grants and Commissions is infiltrated by contemporary discussions from different approaches. Some of them place an emphasis on the most crucial social struggles, which require the greatest reflection for their depth and reach to be comprehended.


This is the case of Gala Berger’s Alianzas de la Resistencia (Resistance Alliances). The work tells a social history of Latin American feminisms in a board game format, on a human scale. Each square contains a historic event that represented a milestone in the struggles for rights or a situation that marked a reversal. The work reviews key actions of civil resistance, as well as political and economic decisions that have been the playing field for the history of the female body, read from the perspective of male power as a docile and servile object. The game ends in an idealized future towards which we are struggling in the present. A future in which it will be women, and not the state, who possess full rights to our bodies.


Fredman Barahona undresses the contradictions of freedom in the heteronormative society imposed by patriarchy. The artist returns to his country of origin, Nicaragua, to convey to the farm workers how abusive that context had been for him, growing up as an effeminate boy. He brought 400 new machetes to exchange for the machetes currently in use by those who shared his history and understood the vindication that such an exchange represents.


Before the Sandinista Revolution, the machete symbolized the feudal condition of farm work, and after 1979 it signified the liberation of the working class. In Machete Dress, Barahona’s performance alludes to a drag show when he wears a dress designed with the exchanged machetes. His gesture is a reminder of how the queer body has been erased from the narratives of revolutionary process and reconstructs the sensibility of LGBTQi identities in this context.


The politics of the body is ascribed to Politics with a capital P, and hence it becomes necessary to rebel before this imposition and reveal the absurdity of the false hegemony of thought and action.


In 1959, the Cuban Revolutions converted those who had lost their lives for their revolutionary ideals into “martyrs.” Using this premise, Lázaro Saavedra’s Mártires (Martyrs) becomes a tragicomic declaration.


While the old revolutionaries demonized the leisure of the foreigners who had turned Cuba into their amusement park, conservative businessmen disguised as revolutionaries, entrenched in power, continue selling this demagogical discourse even as they include in their business plans the construction of new golf courses for tourists. Saavedra uses a humorous tone to rename that hotel and golf complex “The Angola Martyrs,” for the 2,077 Cubans who died in the war in Angola for the same ideals their leaders are now betraying.


Espejismos (Mirages), by Laura Huertas Millán, also takes aim at the discordances of power. In her work, she proposes non-linear narratives around the multiple lives of coca. To this end, she takes as an example the Uitotos community of Colombia, where a ritual known as “Word of Life” is practiced, in which tobacco is used to cool the mind and coca paste to sweeten the word.


This act of collective ethics for the political life of the group is contrasted with the life of clandestine laboratories. In the latter, the Uitotos work in enslaved conditions to extract processed cocaine for export. The installation uses ethnography as fiction while at the same time using experimental anthropological immersion through fictional cinema, devices that through their contradiction confront the sensory privations of human ambition and the unjust subjection to the system.


While the former works delve into the issues of our political being, the works to come raise our awareness of our sensory being.


Faint Music imparts awareness of our most immediate habitat. It confronts us with the auditory reality that surrounds us, bringing us to understand the duality of the homogeneous music/noise in which the everyday apparatuses of our household environment envelop us. Rubén d’Hers unfolds his “indoor soundscape” as a permanent sonorous reference that goes unnoticed, a sound that is as invasive as it is imperceptible.


Daniela Serna investigates how the production of texts and the use of language in the contemporary context, understood through mediatized relationships, the immediacy of information and the flow of content, elicit a permanent adaptation in the use of language and, hence, prove its relativity. Perífrasis (Periphrase) explores at different levels a reading process that annuls itself through the relationship of text/present tense, deploying language as experience.


In paLíndro, Víctor del Moral also follows the trail of language. This piece seeks to destabilize the logics of writing, taking the text to its physical dimension; as the artist puts it: by translating text into texture. To do this, he manipulates a sculptural/staged activation device that renews our relationship with words and their architecture, and makes them habitable, proposing to explore identity as a negotiation between language and landscape.


paLíndro, in affinity with Magdalena Atria’s Cogollo de Toronjil (Lemon Balm Shoot), entails an agreement between the geometric and the organic, between the systematic and the capricious. Both these works duplicate geometries. Atria achieves this through materiality and intuition, and del Moral through the text as an object. Nevertheless, Atria’s work does not attempt to transmit a discourse, but rather allows a series of patterns to be imposed on a material as malleable as modeling clay, proceeding from that intimate act of handicraft to monumentality by virtue of its multiplication in a gesture of conscious creation.


This year, the Achievement Award was granted to Horacio Zabala with a work that sheds light on the research carried out by this artist in recent years. Hipótesis para 25 Signos y 17 Monocromos (Hypothesis for 25 signs and 17 monochromes) forces apparently incongruous categories into cohabitation, establishing a dialogue between monochromes and mathematical signs. The monochromes represent radical abstraction, tautological and iconoclastic, while the mathematical signs are images that can be read. The bonds between these presences reveal secret encounters through conceptual relations that elude the visual. Through this action, they resituate the functional logical relationships beyond common sense, taking it into the region of contemplative freedom—interpretative of sensibility.


On this first stop, the works come together as strategic immersions that reveal other ways to delve into topics that echo collective anxieties, revealing correspondences in the space we inhabit, and allowing for an awareness of this space. They plunge into the world so that we can shed its certainty and remain on alert.


Pily Estrada Lecaro

Quito, July 2018


The exhibition will be on view from October 6 until November 28, 2018.