Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art, 1995-2010

Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art, 1995-2010


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In Collective Situations scholars, artists, and art collectives present a range of socially engaged art practices that emerged in Latin America during the Pink Tide period, between 1995 and 2010. This volume's essays, interviews, and artist's statements—many of which are appearing in English for the first time—demonstrate the complex relationship between moments of political transformation and artistic production. Whether addressing human rights in Colombia, the politics of urban spaces in Brazil, the violent legacy of military dictatorships in the region, or art’s intersection with public policy, health, and the environment, the contributors outline the region’s long-standing tradition of challenging ideas about art and the social sphere through experimentation. Introducing English-language readers to some of the most dynamic and innovative contemporary art in Latin America, Collective Situations documents new possibilities for artistic practice, collaboration, and creativity in ways that have the capacity to foster vibrant forms of democratic citizenship.

Gavin Adams, Mariola V. Alvarez, Gustavo Buntinx, María Fernanda Cartagena, David Gutiérrez Castañeda, Fabian Cereijido, Paloma Checa-Gismero, Kency Cornejo, Raquel de Anda, Bill Kelley Jr., Grant H. Kester, Suzanne Lacy, Ana Longoni, Rodrigo Martí, Elize Mazadiego, Annie Mendoza, Alberto Muenala, Prerana Reddy, Maria Reyes Franco, Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, Juan Carlos Rodríguez

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822369417
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 11/03/2017
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bill Kelley Jr. is Assistant Professor of Latin American and Latino Art History at California State University, Bakersfield. 

Grant H. Kester is Professor of Art History at the University of California, San Diego; author of The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context and editor of Art, Activism, and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage, both also published by Duke University Press; and author of Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art.

Read an Excerpt


Lava la bandera

The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-Montesinos Dictatorship


Ars brevis, vita longa


The overthrow of a dictatorship is not usually the result of a single masterstroke, but rather of the slow yet relentless construction of democratic consensus in each sector of civil society. There is a cultural overthrow of dictatorship as important and decisive as its economic, political, or military overthrow. For what is thus obtained is an alteration of public consciousness that is also an awakening of the most intimate individual consciousness — and a lasting turn in the prevailing common sense of the times. Such transformations are not necessarily foreign to artistic initiatives, when these are subject to an extreme — and critical — socialization. The struggle for symbolic power in the public sphere — in public space itself — encouraged for Peru the reconstruction of those civic ethics that the dictatorship of Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos pretended to suppress by generalizing among the population a certain post-(civil)war syndrome. A major contribution to this liberating process was the overflow of an ethical agenda that for years had been consolidating itself from within the relatively sheltered spaces of art: the stubborn will to expand the limits of what is speakable, sayable, conceivable even, in a social context where political repression was often internalized as psychic repression.


The task was to fight the power, of course, but not just under its evident manifestations as a de facto regime. The struggle was also — and more crucially — against the subtle prolongations of the dictatorship into the individual habits and cultural practices that sustained that despotic power and made it viable. The cultural overthrow of dictatorship is not content or complete with the mere discrediting and displacement of the tyrant of the hour. It also implies the slow but decisive transformation of our traditions, all so authoritarian, demagogic, clientelist, caudillistas. ... And it requires as well the arduous construction of a new civil society. A new citizenship, an active citizenship, articulated beyond the state, before the political parties, as a vital and living participatory act: a live and alive intervention in the social processes — and in history itself. This strategy made it possible for core groups of persons emerging from the visual arts scene to contribute in a decisive way to the still recent democratic turn in Peru. A feat accomplished through a cultural praxis that offered a differential plus to the struggle for citizenship: a symbolic surplus value.

The results were artistic experiences that radically socialized themselves to the point of renouncing their own specificity, generating instead groups of critical intervention in the broader cultural and political spheres. Due to testimonial needs and space restraints, I will here comment only on the Colectivo Sociedad Civil (Civil Society Collective, also known by its Spanish acronym CSC). And due to reflexive exigencies, I will privilege, out of the Colectivo's ample trajectory, the republican rituals it conceived for the recovery of a civic self-esteem, rescuing public space for a democratic praxis, restoring the city to the citizenry.

Les Mots et les Choses

Even in its self-assumed denomination, the Colectivo Sociedad Civil suggested a sense and purpose that went beyond any artistic or partisan vocation. The CSC intended instead to prioritize the factual and symbolic reconstitution of our usurped citizenship — and of its lost social fabric. With this prospect in mind, the CSC postulated the cultural edification of democracy as the necessary dialectical complement of the cultural overthrow of dictatorship. The underlying premise was that only cultural change renders any social or political modification irreversible. We must, however, avoid any messianic temptation. The trajectory of this and other groups is only part of a vast and diverse scene. And the origins of that "move" (rather than movement) go back at least to the protests provoked in 1997 by the dismissal of the members of the Constitutional Guarantees Tribunal. This arbitrary measure was meant to dismantle the juridical obstacles to an illicit presidential re-reelection already in the works, in flagrant violation even of the fraudulent charter imposed by the dictatorship itself. The civic mobilizations against this abuse thus became the prelude for a new political sentiment.

The unprecedented overflows of that cultural-political libido infiltrated and corroded and overwhelmed the logics of psychosocial control made instrumental by the regime through the fascistoid imperatives of martialization and simulacrum: the exacerbation in local terms of a certain generalized symbolic embezzlement that would characterize our (post)modern times, transforming Peru into a pauperized society of spectacle. Especially in its televised version: from the news-less news programs to the reconstructed assaults on the Japanese ambassador's residence, the fujimontesinista power structure evidenced itself as a pathetic but hypnotic reality show whose deliberate manifestation would precisely be Laura Bozzo, the infamous show-woman, almost in the same way that the so-called Vladivideos acted as that system's terminal Freudian slip.

Sex, Lies, and Vladi-tapes: God in His (Her) infinite mercy has willed to make of our extreme periphery the paradigmatic center of the (post)modern condition, its emblematic mise-en-abyme, its exemplary vortex: a provincial techno-political vanitas, a subtropical memento mori of simulacrum, in which the voyeur and onanistic powers-that-be videotape each of their own acts of corruption and debasement — and the runaway president renounces by fax an investiture whose only legitimacy was its mediatic fetishization. Under such conditions, it became a fundamental political task to simply make it possible for words and things to signify once again, to once again convey sense. But to reconstruct those specificities of meaning implied raising our suspicions over meaning itself and its capital vocations.

Las trampas de la peruanidad: The traps and entrapments of Peruvian identity, of so-called Peruvianness, a category historically constructed through a permanent game of exclusions, appropriations, resignifications. ... The act of unraveling those entanglements, however, also made it possible to liberate the latent promises contained in their very construction. If Peru does not exist, as has so often been argued, it should perhaps be reinvented. As indeed Peru has been reinvented in so many progressive ways through the unfinished cultural attempts to broaden the very concept of citizenship. Or through the continuous efforts to dispute new and homegrown values out of the official discourses and emblems.

The renewed subjectivity, the supposedly dead subject that thus returns, that thus is founded, is the new community, almost the communion: a utopia brought forth at the dawn of this new millennium by an incipient civil society fostering a radical concept of citizenship. Radical because, among other things, it is formulated not from the hedonic solipsism of a certain dominant globalization, but through local ethical imperatives whose collective vocation recoups and revives — resignifies — the most rhetorical values and emblems of a purported "national identity," and of a shared sense of belonging: those values, for example, that configure the very idea of Motherland — or even the imagery of religious emotion. Few experiences put this trance into such a paradigmatic scene as the Peruvian flag's almost liturgical transmutation during the civic mobilizations against the Fujimori-Montesinos dictatorship. An essential part of this was the redefinition of public space through a renewed sense of praxis: the critical intersections of city and citizenship, of polis and politics; also, predictably, of ethics and aesthetics.

Lava la bandera

Let's make (brief) history. The transformation and continuous diversification of the Colectivo Sociedad Civil has blurred its origins in a visual arts scene that, toward the end of the 1990s, had managed to rearticulate its civic consciousness after gradually overcoming traumatic circumstances. For years, the anguished awareness of the disasters of war — subversive and counter-subversive — had been compounded by the fears derived from the persecutions organized against the critical intelligentsia, even during the failed experience of electoral democracy spanning the period between 1980 and 1992: the precarious Peruvian Weimar Republic, which was liquidated with eloquent ease by the self-inflicted coup d'état imposed by Fujimori and Montesinos in that final year.

The new type of dictatorship that was thus enforced legitimized the campaigns of stigmatization and silencing that fostered censorships, exiles, imprisonments, and murders, even within some artistic circles. Those repressive mechanisms also gave place, however, to renewed tactics and strategies of symbolic dissidence: shrewd acts of signic revelry often quite notable but weakened by their isolation. Among the various proposals that intended to overcome that dispersion there stands out, as an antecedent for the CSC, a self-produced exhibition that proclaimed its militancy from the very polysemy of its highly charged title: Emergencia artística: Arte crítico 1998–1999 (Art Emergence/Art Emergency: Critical Art 1998–1999).

The show opened on the 27th of October of that last year, in parallel — not in opposition — to the second Lima Ibero-American Biennial. It thus benefited from the circulation and opening generated by that event in order to precipitate a democratic consensus against censorship and authoritarianism. Almost immediately Emergencia artística constituted itself as an unavoidable referent for cultural discussion and for symbolic resistance to the perpetuation in power of Fujimori and Montesinos, who had already made plain their will to force the dictator's reelection. Practically all the founding members of the CSC had participated in that show. These and other previous relations proved crucial, since they made it possible for the Colectivo to come into existence at a moment's notice when, on the presidential election night of the 9th of April of the year 2000, it became obvious that the dictatorship intended to perpetuate itself through a scandalous fraud.

More than half of those who would form the initial core of the group took upon themselves the commitment and the frustration of an arduous collaboration with the NGO Transparencia (Transparency), which attempted to independently supervise the elections. But those intentions and efforts proved insufficient to prevent the flagrant wrongdoings in an official vote count intent on imposing a forged definitive triumph for Fujimori even in the first electoral round. The Colectivo's sudden crystallization was then fostered by the rapid and massive mobilization of a citizenry that in such a supreme hour declared itself in militant civic alert and reclaimed public space for political protest. The CSC's contributions to the demonstrations gave iconic presence and permanence to the tensions and intensities of those heroic days. But above all, these first initiatives by the Colectivo almost intuitively rehearsed the relational structure that would later characterize its entire symbolic praxis.

The action that best fulfilled that vocation was Lava la bandera (Wash the Flag), a participatory ritual of patriotic cleansing begun by the CSC under the relative protection offered by the Feria por la Democracia (Fair for Democracy) which several civic organizations staged on the 20th and 21st of May 2000 in the centrally located Campo de Marte. On May 24, however, just four days before the second electoral round (as fraudulent as the first one), the Colectivo confronted the police and assumed considerable risk by moving Lava la bandera smack into Lima's Plaza Mayor (Main Square), where it would afterward reiterate the action every Friday around the colonial water fountain of that emblematic site. This location proved determinant for the symbolic foundation of the redemptive spirit postulated by the ritual: an act of dignification for the national emblem that was at the same time a propitiatory gesture calling for transparency and honesty in a historical process soiled by grave and murky irregularities.

The liturgical instruments were minimal but significant: water (the lustral water, the primordial cleansing liquid), soap (Bolívar brand: the name of a liberator), and ordinary plastic washbasins (red in color) placed on rustic wooden benches (cheap but gilded: the altar of the nation, and at the same time a wink at a popular phrase about Peru's opulent poverty). These elements waited there for any and all who brought Peruvian flags, of whatever size but made from cloth to be washed by the citizens themselves, and then hung on improvised clotheslines that crisscrossed the Plaza Mayor. The establishment's symbolic center (executive palace, ecclesiastical cathedral, town hall, even Francisco Pizarro's absurd monument) was thus transformed into a gigantic communal drying green. And the most heavily guarded public square — under permanent surveillance by video cameras, riot troops, and armored vehicles — became an extension of the domestic backyard.

"Dirty linen is washed at home." Thus, using a popular proverb, complained Martha Hildebrandt, then president of the subjugated national Congress, unaware of her implicit admission of the dirt imposed on the nation by the regime she so strategically served. Unaware too of the fact that one of Lava la bandera's multiple meanings was precisely the vindication of the Plaza Mayor as everyone's home: a citizen's agora. A citizen's agora. There is undoubtedly an emotion that is aesthetic, erotic even, floating among the hundreds of damp flags waving the humidity of their folds and crevices under Lima's proverbial, sometimes poetic, drizzle. But just as suggestive is the spectacle of the speech act, the word spoken and recovered by persons from every walk of life as they group in diverse circles, accompanying the ritual with multiple discussions that extend well beyond the ritual itself. And when agents from the National Intelligence Service (Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional, SIN) attempted to infiltrate the crowd, instigating it to react violently against the patriotic laundering, the people opted instead to debate and refute their nonsensical arguments, overwhelming them with a democratic practice that proved too disconcerting and ultimately scared them off.

That was not the only repressive strategy, to be sure. Inevitably there were a number of illicit interventions against the CSC (including the usurpation of its electronic mail), as well as constant threats, literal and symbolic. A skull was thrown into the house of one of the Colectivo's members. Another received the gesture of a gunshot at point-blank range, but there was no bullet in the pistol. On the 9th of September the regime's yellow press tried to initiate a psychosocial campaign against Lava la bandera by dedicating scandalous headlines to the indictment of a strip-tease dancer for her "presumed offensive misuse" of the flag in a spectacle where the banner was turned into a vestment. The intent was to generate antecedents for judicial persecutions of the Colectivo, but that purpose would be frustrated by the dictatorship's imminent downfall (barely a week afterward the first Vladivideo was made public).


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Table of Contents

Introduction / Grant Kester and Bill Kelley Jr.  1
Part I. (Un)Civil Disobedience  19
1. Lava la bandera: The Colectivo Sociedad Civil and the Cultural Overthrow of the Fujimori-Montesinos Dictatorship / Gustavo Buntinx  21
2. Interview with Caleb Duarte of EDELO Residencia / Raquel de Anda  43
3. Grupo Etcétera: Project Description / Rodrigo Martí  58
An Interview with Etcétera / Etcétera  62
4. Artistas en Resistencia: Project Description / Kency Cornejo  79
An Interview with Artistas en Resistencia / Kency Cornejo  83
5. A Long Way: Argentine Artistic Activism of the Last Decades / Ana Longoni  98
Part II. Urbanism  113
6. Galatea/bulbo Collective: Project Description / Mariola V. Alvarez  117
"Participación" (2008) and Tijueneados Anóminos (2008-2009) / Bulbo  120
7. Interview with Tranvía Cero / María Fernanda Cartagena  130
8. Art Collectives and the Prestes Maia Occupation in São Paulo / Gavin Adams  149
9. Frente 3 de Fevereiro
Project Description / Rodrigo Martí  165
The Becoming World of Brazil / Fremte 3 de Fevereiro  169
10. Interview with Mauricio Brandão of BijaRi, October 9, 2011 / Mariola V. Alvarez  186
Part III. Memory  199
11. Skins of Memory: Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction / Pilar Riaño Alcalá and Suzanne Lacy  203
12. Some Frameworking Concepts for Art and Social Practices in Colombia / David Gutiérrez Castañeda  220
13. Chemi Rosado-Seijo: Project Description / Marina Reyes Franco  241
An Interview with Chemi Rosado-Seijo / Sofía Gallisá Muriente, Marina Reyes Franco, and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz  245
Part IV. Indigeneity  255
14. Ala Plastica: Project Description / Fabian Cerejido  259
Otros-Nosotros: An Interview with Ala Plastica / Grant Kester  261
15. Interviwe with Pablo Sanaguano / Maria Fernanda Cartagena  279
16. The Empowerment Process of Community Communication in Ecuador / Alberto Muenala  297
Part V. Migrations  305
17. Of Co-Investigations and Aesthetic Sustenance: A Conversation / Colectivo Situaciones and Electronic Disturbance Theater / B.A.N.G. Lab  309
18. How Three Artists Led the Queens Museum into Corona and Beyond / Prerana Reddy  321
Part VI. Institutional Critique  339
19. Lurawi, Doing: An Anarchist Experience—Ch'ixi / LXS Colectiverxs  343
20. Con la Salud si se Juega: Project Description / Fabian Cerejido  367
The Tournament: Nodes of a Network Made of Undisciplined Knowledge / Juan Carlos Rodríguez  369
21. La Lleca Colectiva: Project Description / Elize Mazadiego  388
Exodus to La Lleca: Exiting from "Art" and "Politics" in Mexico / La Lleca  391
22. La Línea: Project Description / Elize Mazadiego  403
The Morras Project / Interdisciplinario la Línea/La Línea Interdisciplinary Group: Abril Castro, Esmeralda Ceballos, Kara Lynch, Lorena Mancilla, and Sayak Valencia-Miriam García   406
Contributors  413
Index  423

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Performance - Diana Taylor

"Collective Situations offers an impressive survey of the artistic, activist, and collective work being done today in Latin America, making it an invaluable contribution to the intersections between Latin American studies, visual arts, performance studies, and indigenous studies. Readers will learn an enormous amount from its capacious scope."

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