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July 1, 2015

The politics of art and art scenes in Latin America (II)

The mnemonic and democratic function of art in public spaces is one of the themes in this second issue on art and politics in Latin America. In her article, "The Evocation of Memory through Street Art in Guatemala and Argentina", Kate Bailey discusses artistic interventions as forms of memory about the history of violence in the two countries. From the examples of Daniel Hernandez-Salazar, Fernando Traverso and Regina Galindo, Bailey demonstrates how street art, as a more genuinely democratic form of expression, dialogue and intervention, and due to its ability to pinpoint locations or spaces where episodes of violence previously occurred, is effective at keeping memory and historical reflection alive.

In a different perspective, Michelle Sommer discusses the project Comboio of the favela Moinho in São Paulo, a long-term project set in relation to the Bienal and to biennial models in general. Among other things, Sommer reflects on how an artistic social practice that is inserted into an institutional context such as a biennial can be an accelerationist "kick" to the internal dynamics of an ongoing collective action, by binding different temporalities into a single, coinhabited time – what Bruno Latour would call "the great Complicator" – where the shared democratic space is understood as time publicly in common, as opposed to independent time frames.

The question of the possibility of evoking and understanding the past in the present – specifically the nature of colonialism – returns in Lucía Naser’s article on the works of contemporary dance of Tamara Cubas. Notably, Naser demonstrates how Cubas’ choreography deconstructs the colonial “other” inherent in self-reflection, and thereby reveals the “archive” of the past as performative and presently forceful rather than being an entity of finished knowledge. Herein, there seems to lie a great potential of dance, performance and choreography as a means of reflection.

Collector, curator and filmmaker Jim Nikas gives a historical account of one of the less known origins of the aesthetics of social movements, namely the graphic works of José Guadalupe Posada. In his article, Nikas traces the main steps in Posada’s historical influence, from his early relationship with his publisher, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, via Frances Toor’s periodical Mexican Folkways and the Mexican muralists, to the Taller de Grafica and the Civil Rights Movement. Thus Nikas demonstrates Posada’s undeniable contribution to the art of social movements and in particular Chicano Art.

In her article “Caring, Curiosity and Curating, Beyond the End”, Carla Macchiavello writes about Ensayos, an open-ended research residency set up in Tierra del Fuego, Chile, based on a methodology of trial and error, and which attempts to think beyond purely anthropocentric terms to create cooperative dialogues among all sorts of residents and agents on the island: scientists, artists, park guards, local human and nonhuman inhabitants (past and present), including the beavers, sheep, forests, marshes, docks, plastic remains and rocks.

The question of (co-)habitation reappears in Claudia Arozqueta’s article on artistic approaches to the problem of inadequate housing in Latin American cities (Teresa Margolles, Livia Corona), and her reflections on the powerful yet fragile aesthetic processes at work in self-built houses (Sandra Calvo, Abraham Cruzvillegas).

Last, but not least, Alessandro Zagato provides an original piece of research into the aesthetics of Zapatismo, with the farewell ceremony of Subcomandante Marcos as a key example. Zagato, who himself withessed the event, analyzes the Marcos figure as an aesthetic and somehow ironic emblem, also explaining why it became a temporary but necessary tool in the communication between the EZLN and the local population, to facilitate the mediation process between different languages, cosmologies and imaginaries.