Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Train lectures - Peruvian Art from the 60s

by Miguel Lopez. He curated an exhibition “The persistence of the ephemeral – origins of Peruvian non-objectivism (1965-1975)” two years ago. Whilst researching through the archives [where?] cultural institute in Lima he discovered some Black and White photos hidden - a lost conceptual art piece produced in 1974 of fabricated news stories but not documented at all in the museum's collection.

Bearing in mind this was a period of military dictatorship and political repression in Peru, visual experimentalism of the 60s was mostly destroyed and only fragments have been saved in private/public collections. The military dictatorship began in 1968 - an explicit way of nationalism which involved censorship and persecution of artists and musicians who were not promoting the traditional types of art or music of Peru. For example Santana was deported in 1971! and no English songs were allowed. Saying this it was a complicated situation and indigenous languages were encouraged and promoted to stop them dying out and some artists were supporting the revolution producing political posters as they were hoping it would bring about social change.

What to do with the work? It could be seen as a triumph of the work that it had infiltrated the collection! but also not good news as this piece of history had been lost. Researching more avant garde work from the 60s and 70s demanded going against the mainstream, an opportunity to intercept and redistribute history. To show in parallel to the traditional 'allowed' art. Describing the exhibition Miguel spoke about the first room which had the theme of 'Erosion and dissolution of the object'. These artists didn't want to called artists - just manipulators. First work is a sign saying 'Oh and the Chinese guy on the corner?' with yellow arrows which go out of the gallery to the shop on the corner which is run by a Chinese immigrant. This early conceptual art was trying to reintegrate reality into the gallery experience through participation.

[Note] An important critic in 1968 argued that the avant garde scene was just a copy/imitation that was happening internationally but also that it was locally relevant. For example one artist arranged for a thief to steal a handbag at the opening - a commentary on the danger of the street outside.

In 1970, Emilio Hernandez presented an exhibition called 'Art Gallery' attacking the idea of an institution, dismantling the idea of a gallery into its component parts, location maps, portraits of the staff, architectural plans, a copy of an invitation etc, a fake window on the wall and a catalogue of conceptual pieces. Highlighting the politicisation of art, questioning the revolutionary dictatorship. What was the role of the museum as an institution at that time? Thats why on the poster for the exhibition the museum in Lima is erased - just a white space as a symbolic representation of this.

Also work by Teresa Burga 'A world that disappears when you try to approach it'. Is a participatorary piece that you are the main part of. The light panel disappears as you approach it down a long corridor. Also a sign that reads 'This exhibition is within your mind. Live your life.'

Questions from the audience - Isn't it a paradox the persistence of ephemerality! and also the erasure of the museum and then the reinstatement of the work in an institution 40 years later - all be it a cultural centre.

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