Under Construction. Latin America Narratives in the CIFO Collection




Monumental Callao, Peru | April 27, 2019 - July 27, 2019  


suwon lee wb

Suwon Lee. The Clash (El Choque), 2008. Installation. Photographs and neon lights. Photo: Courtesy CIFO.



Narratives and Relativities



Under Construction. Latin America Narratives in the CIFO Collection is a new project from the Cisneros Fontanals Foundation for the Arts | CIFO in collaboration with Fugaz | Arte de Convivir (Monumental Callao, Peru). The works seen here are the product of 18 artists recognized in various editions of the CIFO Grants and Commissions Program for Latin American artists. The purpose of this Program, which CIFO has been sponsoring for years, is to highlight the artists and the vital artistic production of a region that is constantly redefining itself. As a result, what we see here are unfinished stories, approaches to dissimilar realities that have no intention of dictating absolute truths, but rather of questioning them.


These Latin American narratives are constructed through the filtering and negation of symbols, of discoveries in the continual flux of identities. What is “Latin American” and what is narrated from Latin America are two categories that foster questions with multiple responses, like palimpsests composed of superimposed social and historical experiments. In recent generations, the artists of the region have been developing quests with a Universalist vocation, be it through the language of conceptualism or the use of the audiovisual in the guise of video art, performance art, documentary, or the various hybrids of them all.


Nevertheless, in some cases – Suwon Lee, Fredman Barahona, Alicia Villarreal, Lázaro Saavedra – the autochthonous and the local become a phatic device, a provocation. This is the way they express their intention to use elements of local origin—the daily life of the Korean community in Venezuela, the symbolism of the machete in the rural communities of Nicaragua, the pretentious failed project of the Ochagavia Hospital in Chile, the counterpoising of elements fraught with significance and ideology in Cuba, such as “martyrs” and “golf.” Still, such elements raise questions that inundate and overwhelm the narrow conjunctural framework, and truly foster the analysis of a greater magnitude of problematics, along the lines of the existential repositionings and identity crises entailed in emigration in the work of Suwon; the marginalization of minorities, particularly queer minorities, in the processes of adaptation and social struggle in the name of patriarchal cultural systems together with the prevalence of the macho as a paradigm, according to Fredman; the timely academic reflection upon and constructive criticism of diverse aspects of history in Alicia’s work; or the patenting of utopias and ideological pills as a tool governments use to mobilize and manipulate the masses, in Lázaro’s work.


Without indulging in absolutism, the perceptible essences here are a critique of history as a socio-philosophical construction or official story—Carlos Castro—who uses engravings by the European explorers of the Magdalena River in the 19th century to create detailed “engravings” in wood inspired in landscapes that no longer exist, reaffirming the sense of unreality with which the conquistadores themselves created and imposed a History with a capital H of the nations of America on the basis of Eurocentric paradigms and theories. In this way they become examples of tangential, inquisitorial narratives, as occurs in the Leningrad, Petrograd, Petersburg Series from 2006, in which Carlos Motta revisits a series of monuments from the zone of Communist domination of the former USSR, following the route of monuments published in a book from some fifty years ago. Motta pairs them with images of the same monument captured by his lens in the 21st century, where the evident passage of time and the architectural impact of the ideological drift are made palpable. The historical endeavor is not gratuitous here, but rather dissects the relevance of the monument as the physical mark of ideology, placing it face to face with itself in a dialogue with its diachronic reflection, and by means of a photographic essay it de-constructs and re-situates a historical document.


A sort of leitmotiv can be carved out through these works, consisting, in this case, of planting reasonable doubts in the viewer, who should feel the urge to scrutinize official narratives: whether they relate to queer identities and to the broader sense of otherness—as in the case of Fredman Barahona himself, or Felipe Meres, for whom the study of methods of asexual reproduction and the unraveling of biological categories on microscopic levels allow him to process reflections upon multiplicity and the legitimacy of gender identities, from the fullest diversity, and from acceptance. Just as the dichotomic concepts of lucidity/madness attain a critical definition in spaces of confinement, like the now abandoned madhouses and sanatoriums where Silvia Gruner develops her photographic study, En la oscuridad [in the dark].


In terms of communication, three perspectives must be mentioned, those of María Evelia Marmolejo, Julieta Aranda, and Víctor del Moral. María Evelia and Aranda articulate prodigious critical studies of discursivities and the repetition of the message to the point of its being emptied of real content. In the case of Marmolejo, she works with oral discourse, bringing together a group of words tendentiously repeated by the mass media, until a sort of maddening collective paroxysm is produced. The artist uses this as a background for her performance, in which she incarnates a “doped” subject, lacking in will and volition, and plagued with limits, borders, prejudices, and a fraught vision of her surroundings. In contrast with the alarming context revealed by Marmolejo, Aranda develops a study of language in which she weaves, with pure sarcasm, a critique from the written word, taking her inspiration from the practical demonstration of a theory that holds that a monkey, placed before a typing instrument, in a period stretching to infinity, could at a given moment type out a literary work by Shakespeare, for example. A true fragment of arbitrariness in opposition to the intellectual conception of the act of writing, while winking its eye at Dada and Duchamp.


In the meantime, del Moral takes recourse to the palindrome to expound on the essences of language, from its linguistic structures to its physicality, necessarily poeticized and with high doses of fictionalization and improvisation, but only as devices for the activation of content. All contents taken from language, intersecting at the points of identity, philosophy, and the various levels of communication—individual or collective. For Víctor, words, grammatical structures or spoken language, can have a concrete counterpart and hence they can be aestheticized. The video-poem we are showing here is the product of provocative experiences, of the interaction with stage, sets that the artist himself creates and designs, and within which he develops his performances.


The diverse branches of science also constitute ideal platforms for elaborating artistic investigations. Among them, those of artists like Felipe Meres, by means of biology applied to the reproduction of certain species; as well as Adrian Regnier, who does a study of observation and documentation of celestial patterns that in the long run pay tribute to a musical staff or sound notation, marrying astronomy and musical creation; while Iván Argote takes his inspiration from the tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, in England, from which Isaac Newton unleashed his studies on gravity, and which allows Argote to establish a face-off between the notions of the rational and the poetic for the image in motion. In the case of Horacio Zabala, mathematical notation is the language employed as a metalinguistic vehicle, in his reflections on the very notion of the signifier and the signified, in the dichotomies between calculation and improvisation, the rational and the emotional, all aspects that contribute to designing a semiotics applied to reflexiveness from which to filter and submit its aesthetic and linguistic resources.


To a greater or lesser extent, the intention to create fictions spans the entire group of artists in Under Construction…, particularly in cases like that of Juan Carlos Osorno, who recreates instruments or failed inventions from different periods, which he converts into microfictions with a tragicomic flavor, along the lines of modern Icaruses always destined for the most ostentatious debacles; or in the case of Milena Bonilla, who observed and documented the behavior of the red deer, in the zone previously occupied by the Iron Curtain on the border between Germany and Czechoslovakia, for the purpose of identifying patterns of self-confinement and limitation among the deer, who for generations had learned not to cross certain borders; in this way her Enchanted Forest becomes a critical fable with innumerable interpretations in a period like the present, in which the sense of the border and of territoriality weighs so significantly upon human society.


The works of Marta María Pérez Bravo and Begoña Morales constitute one last fold of the narrative, in an appeal to the sensitization and intensification of their own daily practices as narrative resources. For Marta María the intimacy, strength, and delicacy of the repetitive movement of a hand combing a head of hair, or caressing another hand sculpted in ice, generate a literary image of signifiers through reiteration as a linguistic resource. The intentional contemplative sense thus produced in the viewer submerges us in a state of gradual self-reflexivity, in which this cyclical movement frees us from the superfluous and remits us to our own experiences. The evidence is displaced and appearance is diluted, as the ice inexorably melts. Begoña’s oeuvre similarly puts forth a sort of sound poem through which she draws a map of her own home by means of a recording of the sounds of its different spaces. Their everyday quality, and the way in which she subverts the categories of private and public, the contamination between the sounds of the surroundings outside and those that are produced inside the apartment, is also a method for questioning the relationships between the individual and the collective, and the “I,” the ego, shifting within essentially fluctuating social and historical dynamics.


Sergio Fontanella 


Artists selected for the exhibit


Carlos Motta (Colombia)

Suwon Lee (Venezuela)

Begoña Morales (Peru/México)

Alicia Villarreal (Chile)

Julieta Aranda (Mexico/Germany/USA)

Marta María Pérez Bravo (Cuba/Mexico)

Iván Argote (Colombia)

Milena Bonilla (Colombia)

Adrian Regnier (Mexico)

Silvia Gruner (Mexico)

Carlos Castro (Colombia)

Maria Evelia Marmolejo (Colombia)

Felipe Meres (Brazil)

Juan Carlos Osorno (Colombia)

Lázaro A. Saavedra González (Cuba)

Horacio Zabala (Argentina)

Fredman Barahona (Nicaragua)

Víctor del Moral (Mexico) 



The exhibition will be on view from April 27 through July 27, 2019, at Casa Fugaz in Monumental Callo, Peru.