Arts and Conflict
Video art window screening
October 29th - November 4th, 2020
Within the conference "Arts and Conflict: Contesting the Unavailability of Cultural Heritage" (October 30th-31st, 2020)
The traditional relationship between art and memory has historically been linked to the practice of erecting monuments to conform specific narratives and meanings related to somehow conflicting or complex past events, such as battles and wars. The function of remembering was thus delegated in these monuments –usually vertical and figurative–, so that memory remained fixed, unchanged. By creating these public spaces for official memory, monuments propagated the illusion of a shared narrative, in which the historical accounts sanctioned by States were presented as naturally true.
These monuments and memorials in turn point to the voids within official memorialistic and historical accounts. It has become evident that monuments –like any other cultural production– are contingent symbolic constructs deeply ingrained in the political, historical, and aesthetic realms. Therefore, especially since the end of the 20th century, monuments have more and more become sites where the confrontation of symbolic and cultural conflicts are unfolded. We are witnessing this unfolding of conflicts over monuments time and again this year, with the tearing down of statues of colonizers and slave traders around the world. As it has repeatedly happened throughout history, images are nowadays again in the center of our current political, social and cultural disputes.
This video-art window screening program aims to display some of the ways how contemporary artists have worked around the topics of conflict, memory, and cultural or natural heritage, contesting the official narratives. The notion of counter-monument will guide us through their artistic strategies, for counter-monuments seek to deny the illusion of a permanent and immutable memory and a fixed and unchangeable history. These artworks operate as devices for activating multiple and diverse memories –and not as a replacement for the single official narrative–, by proposing entangled transversal links to the events recalled. These artworks operate by bringing fragments to the fore, by acknowledging memories as situated, incomplete, and deeply subjective. Counter-monuments celebrate their change over time and geography, and seek to stimulate memory by explicitly pointing out its inevitable evolution throughout history. They aim to foster the visibilization of repressed histories, those of the victims. In this way, the past is constantly reformulated in the present, giving rise to different possibilities for memories in a continuous process of construction, in order to rethink the unresolved remains of the past. The artists presented in this video-art window screening program also place history and its political conflicts –unresolved, only silenced– back in the center, bringing the past to the present in a sort of non-linear conception of time as open, multiple and with the possibility of being completed, redefined and, therefore, linked to the political. Arts have become critical sites for alternative social imaginations.
With works by: Felipe Castelblanco, Carolina Caycedo, Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Adela Jušić, Yoshua Okón, María Ordóñez, Daniela Ortiz and Sarah Vanagt.
Friday, Oct. 30th, 11:30 - 13:20 & 14:30 - 16:20 hs
Saturday, Oct. 31st, 17:30 - 19:20 hs
Monday, Nov. 2nd, 16:00 - 17:50 hs
Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 3rd & 4th, to be announced.
Video program (Duration: 1 h 48 min)
"The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey", Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia, 1993, 31:20 min.
In a series of 1992 performances, Coco Fusco and performance co-creator Guillermo Gómez-Peña decked themselves out in primitive costumes and appeared before the public as “undiscovered AmerIndians” locked in a golden cage — an exercise in faux anthropology based on racist images of natives. Presented eight times in four different countries, these simple performances evoked various responses, the most startling being the huge numbers of people who didn’t find the idea of “natives” locked in a cage objectionable. This provocative video, directed and produced by Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia, suggests that the “primitive” is nothing more than a construction of the West, and uses comic fiction to address historical truths and tragedies.
"Réplica", Daniela Ortiz, 2014, 04:29 min.
Reproducing the position of the indigenous person who appears before the Spaniard Bernardo Boyl at the base of the monument to Christopher Columbus in Barcelona, Daniela Ortiz kneels before the Spaniards attending the celebration of Spain's National Day on October 12, 2014.
"Little Figures", Sarah Vanagt, 2003, 15:45 min.
Can the fantasy world of a child provide a secret passage into the past? This question is the starting point of Sarah Vanagt's video. Three children of immigrant background —a Philippino boy, a Rwandan refugee girl and a Moroccan boy— carry out an imaginary conversation between three historical statues on the Mont des Arts in Brussels: a king, a queen, and a medieval knight. This results in a blend of personal experiences, story twists and connections, as well as shreds of previously overheard information on the country's colonial past.
"Octopus", Yoshua Okón, 2011, 18:28 min.
Inserted within the US tradition of civil war re-enactments, Octopus re-enacts the Guatemalan civil war. Except, civil war re-enactments traditionally take place in the actual fields where historical battles happened and are performed by people who did not actually fight in the war. Instead, for this occasion the site responds to a symbolic nature: the battlefield is relocated to US soil at a Home Depot parking lot in Los Angeles. And it is performed by the actual combatants who, during the 1990s fought in the war that is being re-enacted: a dozen members of the Los Angeles Mayan community, all recent undocumented immigrants who gather to look for work as day laborers at the same parking lot where the shoot takes place.
The title makes reference to the nickname used in Guatemala for The United Fruit Company, UFCO (nowdays Chiquita Banana), a US Company based in Guatemala and directly linked to the CIA led coup and to the following civil war. At the time, UFCO was by far Guatemala’s largest land owner with tax exempt export privileges since 1901 and control of 10% of Guatemala’s economy through a monopoly of its ports and exclusive rights on the nations railroad and telegraph systems.
"The Sniper", Adela Jušić, 2007, 04:09 min.
The aggressor’s sniper campaign against the population of the besieged Sarajevo during the last war was an inhuman violation of the rules or customs of war, directed principally towards civilians. Adela Jušić's father was a member of the Bosnian Army from the outset of the war through 3 December 1992 when, as a sniper, he got killed by a sniper bullet which hit him in the eye. Right before his death she found his notebook into which he continuously, over several months, listed how many soldiers he had killed during his combat assignments.
"Zombies en la orilla", María Ordóñez, 2020, 15:03 min.
"Up-river: A vertical expedition across the Putumayo river", Felipe Castelblanco, 2019, 14:01
Up-river is an experimental film and installation developed after a series of trips upstream the Putumayo River in Colombia (2018-2020), going from the jungles in the Lower Amazon all the paramos in the way to the high Andean mountains. This film takes the viewer on a vertical journey aimed at exposing unlikely relations between the under and upper worlds and across indigenous ancestral territories. The journey upstream the river is rendered through a cinematic cartography that reveals a complex eco-social landscape extending across layers of occupation: from oil drilling sites and areal fumigation over indigenous lands, to satellite surveillance over the rainforest. The film follows a river that more than anything, depends on cloud formation and the fragile equilibrium of a vastly diverse region.
Along the Putumayo river, indigenous thought, trees, soils, clouds, humidity, light and shadow form an entangled territory, which has agency and its very own form of bio-political resistance.
"This is not water", Carolina Caycedo, 2015, 05:20 min.
“This Is Not Water” is the first of a series of short videos that Carolina Caycedo calls “Water Portraits”. These water portraits consider rivers and water as social agents within contemporary environmental conflicts, and invite us to decolonize landscape and our contemplative relationship towards it.