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First Regional Symposium on Contemporary Central American Artistic Practices and Curatoria Possibilities

l I


I am very pleased to greet everyone to this First Ce~tral American Regional Symposium which we have decided to call Central Themes, conspiring with Sebastian Lopez, artistic director of the Gate Foundation of Amsterdam and our collaborator in the conception and organising of this event. And why "central themes"? Central for whom and for where? Weren t we supposed to be the periphery?

Beyond the progressive erasure of the concepts of centre and

periphery it is about time Central America is not presented as a peripheral area, not only vis-a-vis the international arena but particularly towards itself We must assume our right to a complete membership in the international artistic community and act responsibly

respecting our own context and conditions

understanding them and

starting out from there, not pretending to situate ourselves elsewhere, rather working from within a context which makes us different, yet equal

which defines .us

specifically but that in no way should conduce us to perceive ourselves as subaltern And later on we must never forget where we come from The first part of the solution then is admitting we do not have the exclusiveness of the problem

And I believe we could start out from this idea

So this first Symposium

seeks most of all to act as a point of encounter a space of reflection on themes at the core of our agenda and that in turn pretend to be included in the issues of other

Greeting by Virginia Perez-Ratton


From the very valuable contributions we will have during these three days,

we could say the most important part of the symposium should happen after it. It is difficult to express to all of you how important it is to have you here, and observe

the large response to our summons. invited speakers, artists and curators as well as all the participants who have shown so much interest in the event, registering from several places in the region and from Costa Rica.

I would also like to stress the

stimulating response of our colleagues in Spain, the United States, Peru Chile and other countries, coming as observers of the symposium

To all of you thank you so

much for being here This Symposium is the result of intense teamwork.

An idea which came up about

eighteen months ago around November 1998 from a suggestion of Sebastian Lopez coinciding with a project I had in mind since we had organised the theoretical events around the Central American MESoTICA in 1996 and 1997 to one of which Tomas Ybarra-Frausto had been invited

We started to plan the event since early 1999

Susana Rochna from the HIVOS Foundation -as you all might know the godmother of all the regional independent projects- offered initial support immediately. At the end of 1999

our dear Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, Associate Director of Art and

Creativity of the Rockefeller Foundation showed interest in the project and we 297

submitted it for study The Foundation agreed to collaborate in completing financing and we are sharing our opening table today with them

I wish to express our deep

gratitude for the generous help from both institutions which have made this Symposium possible

TEOR/eTica s smal

team has also been essential in the

organising and conceptualisation of the event. I wish to thank very specially Ruth Sibaja Pedro Leiva Tamara Dlaz and Eduardo Gamboa effective Adolfo Si iezar and Ernesto Calvo

as wei as the belated but

Thanks to all of you for your dedication

energy and professionalism and most of all for your patience and serenity in the midst of the boss s explosions

I wish to thank also al the Centra American colleagues who

have prepared their papers or helped in putting up the exhibition in the temporary ha Is of the National Gallery who have sent their material and contributed in various ways to the Symposium - from stimulating us to pursue the project to collaborating in the everyday work. I would now ike to present Sebastian Lopez, Artistic Director of the Gate Foundation in Amsterdam

Sebastian has done numerous curatoria projects, of Latin American

and European art, and he has done research in African and Asian art.

We met

personnally at the Van Reekum Museum in Apeldoorn on the occasion of the opening of the Central American MES6TICA, pursued our discussions during the 1998 Sao Paulo biennale and we have worked together on this project since We are pleased then, to welcome you to Costa Rica and to this sympoisum, hoping you will enjoy the event and that it will help as a fresh departure towards a situation of better communication, to the establishment of networks, and the weaving of a much stronger regional tissue see in the audience

I am very moved by the presence of all the colleagues I can Now I shall leave you with Sebastian and I wish you much

energy to get you by these days! Thank you very much


Speech by Sebastian Lopez

completing financing

Welcome As Virginia was saying it was about a year and four months ago when we met

to express our deep

here in San Jose, Costa Rica, to think and dream together about the potential need for

:h have made this

getting together ta king and collecting stories about what has been going on with Centra

en essential in the

American art in the last ten years. It seemed important for us to gather a I of the culture

very specially Ruth

workers, without discriminating anyone, that is to say joining people who had been

as the belated but

working in different areas of the visua arts This meant getting together with artists and

for your dedication,

art critics, with people who had been acting as curators, but also join ng together with

;erenity in the midst

writers. Many of them are present here today

路ican colleagues who

For TEOR/eTica to have been involved working enthusiastically on this project since the

the temporary halls

beginn ng is perhaps a commonplace for many of you

ted in various ways collaborating in the

Perez on behalf of Central American art, first at the Contemporary Art and Design Museum and now at TEOR/eTica

he Gate Foundation

being done by Virginia What perhaps is not so common -and still amazes many people

We met

who were asking me about it this morning- is that the GATE Foundation be involved in

sian of the opening

this kind of story It is not common apparently for European organizations to become

the 1998 Sao Paulo )Oisum, hoping you ards a situation of Neaving of a much 1e colleagues I can I wish you much

If we have been able to observe some things from Central

America in Europe, where I am working, it has been without a doubt thanks to the work

of Latin American sian art.

There is no need to explain

something that you know very well which is the intense work being developed by Virginia

interested the way we, at the GATE Foundation are interested in how artistic discourses

Speech by Sebastian Lopez

are articulated -not only in Central America but also in other parts of the world- the way we at GATE try to mix and make those stories that, in general are considered loca or hold a regional dialogue When I say local and regiona

I am not using those terms in a

derogatory sense, but rather in an extremely positive way. Opposite the trends or institutions focalized on the so-called nternational art, the flavor and presence of artists who work interestedly in their space, their context, renovating languages that have to do with the atmosphere in which they work, is greatly important to us Many of us complain that cultura perceptions are different from one side of the world to the other one. And many times Latin America is perceived badly in Europe It seems that the main point of those misunderstandings, lately has been the so-called "multiculturalism " With n that context, in Europe a certain, if not widespread, nterest for the art of some countries, not all, has seen revived regarding Latin America This is how multi culturalism has been interpreted in Europe I differ from those perceptions since if right now I am here in San Jose working with Virginia it is not because I am nterested n that type of projects of the so-called "multiculturalism " When n Europe we have talked about multiculturalism -and this is mportant to clarify- it has most of the time been reflected in some exhibits conceived as a kind of universal carnival of cultures Thus, when we have mentioned the way Europe has been changing, we perceive inside of it different cultural


groups, which are participating in those transformations. That is, ultimately what we are interested in visualizing and implementing at the GATE Foundation When we work with European artists, we are relating ourselves to what we have ca led the "Fourth World " which is the presence of the so-called "Third World" in what is labeled "First World " To conclude, I would ike to mention briefly that we have divided the seminar nto two areas, taking into account what has happened in Central America during the last ten years There is an artistic production section and a curatoria practices section The fact that we decided to introduce curatoria practices as a discussion topic is in anticipation of visualizing and recognizing that, in the last few years, maybe the most interesting statements that have been carried out concerning the art of the Central American region have been made through curatorial projects in exhibitions. Besides that, we wanted the seminar to have a mixture between history and theory History because it is important to recover the works, exhibits and thoughts that have been inhabiting Central American art these last ten years. We will attempt, therefore, to recover that material, to talk about those things telling stories, which in Spanish would be plural stories -that which North Americans call History with a capital h but also the stories. We would like this seminar to rescue both at the same time. On the second day a series of reflections will be carried out on topics that we have freely proposed to the different presenters -topics which had been reflecting in two areas artistic production and the works that artists themselves have been making in the last few years. In relation to that, what pleasantly surprised us -and tells about the region's vitality- is that in a short time we came up with an long list of themes, as well as the connections among them that Central American arts have been dealing with Thus, our days will be exhausting, but that is what conferences are for Unfortunately we do not have the possibility of getting together every day to talk about these things. Let us then make this seminar as fruitful as possible for a want to compile during these days we wil

of us, not only for those stories that we be here, but also to make other things

possible in the future Thank you very much And now I would like to introduce Susana Rochna who this morning was telling me "I am an officer" If someone tells you that, you are going to think that he or she comes from the army. So, I told her路 I wi I introduce you by saying that you are HIVOS head of culture Anyway she is the person in charge of HIVOS' culture area in Central America





Good morning everyone My name is Susana Rochna and indeed I am in charge of the culture area at HIVOS This foundation is known by some people but, in any case, for those who don't know it, HIVOS is the Dutch Humanistic Institute of Cooperation with Developing Countries, which has its regional office here in Costa Rica Within the areas that we work on fortunately is culture, thus having the opportunity to support initiatives as interesting and enriching as these We work on other topics, as any other development agency but this is one of the topics that we are, truly most proud to work on art and culture in general I just wanted to mention two or three thoughts at this seminar's opening ceremony At HIVOS, we have been working together with the TEOR/eTica Foundation and the GATE Foundation during the last two years. In Holland from our headquarters in The Hague, and from here, we have had the opportun ity to share with TEOR/eTica since the beginning of its operation Their work has impressed all of us due to its fruitfulness, creativity and because of the incredible number of things that they are have been doing and generating in this national space that we all share. This seminar in particular seems to us very interesting and valuable to support because it allows a very fruitful space for reflection and exchange, among all the people who are linked to the cultural scene The artist's work, the curator's, the intellectual 's, is usually solitary. So, to have the

Speech by Susana Rochna

possibility of exchanging, enriching their thoughts and those of others, sharing thoughts, reflections, different perspectives, we believe, is a great contribution to the development of the arts. We also think that Central America is really in need of something like this, in terms of being able to identify ourselves within the universe that we all live in, which is this region Thus, I am sure that, during these days, you will have very intense and interesting work. I would like to thank Sebastian and Virginia for having requested our support because, for us, it is really a great opportunity to be part of an initiative that we reckon very worthy Thank you very much


A few years ago -in January 1997 to be precise- Rolando Castellon, our curator at the Contemporary Art and Design Museum, invited Tomas Ybarra Frausto to Costa Rica on the occasion of Mes6tica's second theoretical encounter Both of them have been adventure partners for many years. For me, it is an honor to introduce you to Tomas Ybarra Frausto, one of the people with the must sensitivity and interest towards all the cultural scope of activities, being most willing to cooperate with this kind of projects. I would like, then, to thank him very very much not only for having helped us, but also for being here with us. We welcome him, and are very happy to have him back in Costa Rica. Virginia Perez Rattan I would like to talk, briefly about the place where I live, New York, and the United States in general -a place that, I think, represents many of the realities of this millennium One wonders where is Mexico, if Los Angeles, California, is the third or fourth city with the largest Mexican population? Where is Puerto Rico if New York has more Puerto Ricans than San Juan? Where is Central America, if Los Angeles already has diverse and huge communities from all over the region? So far

within the United States, these

communities that we all belong to wil be the largest minority in a few years. Then, these pathways, these migration influxes, these round trip flows, are creating very interesting

Speech by Tomas Ybarra Frausto

problems. Hence, this historical moment could be defined, I believe, with three words knowledge, confidence and coexistence -knowledge, because we still don't know one another Among the Hispanic groups in the United States, we the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans, the Salvadorans, the Nicaraguans, still have a lot to do to realize what we have in common, what can join us together in a common space. Generally many of these spaces are leff out. The artists from these regions are not known in the United States and although we have many ties, we ourselves don't know each other either Then, what we have to do at this seminar is start that deep knowledge what is it that links us together? who are we? where are we headed? in those cultural networks and corridors that are established between nation and 'transnation

So, I think that the knowledge I was referring to

previously wil allow us to become confident about what is to be discovered in all these spaces. That file that we have, those documents, that local wisdom, those oral, corporal traditions, that image bank, that multiplicity that wonderful imagination swarm, will give us the confidence to be who we are and belong to another wider community My mother used to say when I was a child

in Texas, -referring to us the Spanish

speakers and comparing us to the English speakers- "together but not tangled, my son " Therefore, we have to be together but, at the same time, respect the dignity of each 302

space, each region, each country in order to find the common ties, some guiding strings that will lead us to such a necessary coexistence And it is you

that is, the artists,

critics, curators, who are doing those new cartographies of the imagination, the ones who will allow us to get to know ourselves, have confidence and be able to coexist together That is why I am very happy to be here.

I hope that we will chat and -as Sebastian

said- tell those stories about who we are in order to be able to obtain knowledge, confidence and coexistence. Thanks a lot.


As you may know every seminar must have a dictatorial part; otherwise, we would keep talking till dawn. Therefore, we have invited a moderator who will enforce a heavy hand on those who get carried away We who wanted to have a person with a privileged memory and the capacity to relate, synthesize and analyze, qualities -all of these- which are fulfilled by Cuauhtemoc Medina. I would like to introduce you to this Mexican colleague, an art critic and historian, who is currently finishing his doctoral dissertation, with research about the anti-art concepts in the Fluxus group, at the University of Essex, England. His extensive curriculum vitae reflects that, since 1992, he is a researcher at UNAM's Aesthetic Research Institute, and that he has been a professor at the School of Philosophy and Arts of this university He was also a contemporary art curator at the Carrillo Gil Museum from 1989 to 1992. Moreover he belonged to the Board of Curare, a critical space for the Arts, from 1992 to 1998. Recently in 1999, he acted as the curator for the Mexican part of the exhibit "Five Continents and a City " At the present time, he is part of the curatorial team that, under Iva Mesquita's direction, will organize the XXV Sao Paulo Biennial. He has written for a large number of catalogues, exhibits and periodical publications such as Curare, Poliester (Polyester), La Jornada (The Journal), La Reforma (The Reform), Flash Art and Third Text, besides having participated in several colloquia and international conferences in Mexico, the United States and Europe.

Cuauhtemoc Medina

Virginia Perez-Rattan As you see, Virginia wanted a Mexican to perform as the ogre of this colloquium However, I would like to tell you that, besides coming as the moderator and the fact that I will be very strict with the time allotments, I will try to achieve fluency so that we can all advance in our reasoning productively. Also, I have other two duties one, as Latin American, very delighted to be here, since in twenty years I will be able to say I went to the conference in Costa Rica where it all got started Secondly I also come as a colleague, as a critic and curator -very very curious to see what it is that you have been doing, what you intend to do, what kind of ideas are running around this region, with my mind set on trying to learn very much at the expense of all of you A female artist whom I know used to say the first thing you have to do to become an artist is stop being shameful and I believe the same goes for critics and curators, too. So, I really beg you to be very enthusiastic as to asking questions, drawing whatever may remain lingering in the presentations. Crowd together to try to get the floor, but also be very precise, very exact, and very brief during those interventions. Later on, at the end of the day we will hold a general meeting, where those who were not able to participate after the presentations will be able to do so.


Then let us begin the morning section by explaining the rules briefly There will be three presentations of what, in the event's program, has been called Accounts -that is, the attempt to summarize the context of each of the countries in the region along the nineties the type of production and institutionalism its curatorial attitudes, its relevant projects, its significant moments. Each presentation shall not exceed 20 minutes then, we wi I have 10 minutes for discussing each one of them


Approaches to the 90's


Two main events framed the nineties in Panama


decade began with the invasion by the United States, leaving as a result hundreds of casualties, social and institutional



the thorny


back to

democracy and it ended by the official turnover of the Canal to the Panamanian people. During these years, the ordeal of the invasion, the downfall of the long dictatorship and the gradual dissolution of the North American colonial enclave, kept reactivating the old obsession for rediscovering those features that make up the Panamanian national identity (meaning reality except now without the

homogeneity or absolute

certainty claims that in the past restrained the evolution of critical thinking about this issue.

I will attempt to

outline the various ways in which the most important artists of the decade constitute a significant part of this complex debate.

Panamanian Art of the 90's

A Nation Out in the Open

By Adrienne Samos

out in the open"

Contrary to the rest of Central America, Panama has never been exposed to devastating natural disasters however the Panamanians feel that they live in "a nation (1) Throughout its history


strategic geographical location and unique territorial features



economic ups and downs.




This has generated, among

the popular and bourgeois sectors alike, a feeling of total dependency and, hence, a passive attitude towards their own








characteristic "mosaic culture" which has been made up of throngs of immigrants from ethnic backgrounds and nationalities from around the globe. Although it is no secret that every Central American's view of him/herself is conditioned in a greater or lesser degree by the prejudiced look of the great invader of the XX century the United States, the case of Panama has









crimes and excesses in the political and private spheres

overwhelming phrase that reads "I took the Isthmus,"

are the most difficult enemies to fight. On the other

proffered by a bragging Theodore Roosevelt in front of


his political opponents at the U S. Senate in 1903 was

communism and other "isms"

not a mere exaggeration

earthen feet in the last decade, here and in the rest

Fixed in the Cana


the major ideologies



have shown their

which tore the country in half that colonia presence was

of the world

paternalistic at best, mutilating and choking at its worst

however they were thought of- which gave confidence

to the point of forever shaking the country as a whole

to their believers, has generated growing restlessness

The Cana

has been the great

trans)former of the

The decline of these gods -or demons,

before the insurmountable wrongs that trouble us, as

republican Panama

evidenced in discussion panels, public protests and civic

The political thinker Di6genes de Ia Rosa used to sustain

participation spaces. It is also shown in the disturbing

that even though a progressive feeling of nationa

work of the best Panamanian artists, almost all of them

identity was perceived since the XVIII century

under 50 years old


function as an interoceanic bridge of the world has

The old formulas seem not to be useful anymore to

resulted in a very heavy burden for such a small

express the new and complex visions about the


This is where its "nationa




rea ity






comes from leading to the country subject itself to the

experimentation is starting to transcend the technical

will of Spain first, then of Colombia and during the last

and thematic conventions, as well as the traditional

century of the United States Thus, one of the greatest

easel painting that had reigned virtua ly by itself In the

challenges of the Panamians is to assume an efficient


control of the Canal and all its complex infrastructures,

accusations or biting

without anyone's guardianship.



of the



criticism have not emerged but

not because of excess of introspection The desire to discover the connections between the psyche and the

Urban Intrusions in the Art of the 90's

concrete reality and to trace one's own identity wherever

During the last days of the military dictatorship -which

it may be

in the past, in a marginal community in a

polarized the country into two factions on one side, the

consumption object, in a sign or in an expression, is

ones close to power who considered the populist regime

present ike it has never been before

the best bastion against the bourgeois elite and the

There is some common ground between these artists

North American' imperialism and on the other one, the

the folds of the individual and collective memory the



obscure dynamics of sex, life and death the self-exile

autocracy- the exacerbated ideas and spirits did not

and the nostalgia of the origin the ways in which we are

permit to clearly see that the tyrannies of a domestic

looked at from the outside

and foreign nature were the most visible enemies of civil

expression vehicle, insolent humor as an essential factor


of artistic proposals sordidness in a strange communion




but not the only ones.


Back to a liberal

the aching body as an

democracy and facing the gradual retreat of the North

with beauty or the way in which our sociocultural signs

Americans there is a growing awareness that everyday

affect and are affected by everyday reality Yet, above all 310

an obsession is perceived in these artists most of who

experimenter it was maybe in the early 70's when his

by the way live in the capital city for our vital modern,

first important pictorial work appeared

inspired by

chaotic, Caribbean and polymorphous urban culture, in

indigenous techniques, motifs and rites from Panama

a direct and paradoxical relation to the shocking nature

-such as the "nuchos" or ceremonial canes, the "molas"

of the tropics.

and the ritual chants of the Cuna Indians-- but which he

Indeed it is necessary to keep in mind the extent of the

radically turned around

experience that the inhabitants of the capital are going

4 he said once.

through. Before a painfu predicament, in which the old Zone functioned as a parallel

"The old mythology is dead"

Thus, his imagining started being populated by the whole urban fauna from Panama

extremely military and

mixed with figures

Spartan capital city restricted for Panamanians and in

from the pre-Hispanic mythology and a wonderful

the back of our capital city choked and forced to grow

symbiosis of the animal, vegetable and human realms.

along a narrow east-west axis

Multiple composing and chromatic variations come from

that whole world -that is

to say an immense wooded territory and areas with very

the improvement of his intricate technique,

unique architecture- iterally beside our chaotic urban

consists of "knitting" with the painting that is, marking


mass, has been opening up to us in the last few years.

an infinite series of lines that intersect one another and

No other metropolis in the world enjoys such an


opportunity which

sensation of dense lightness In the 90's his long figures,

in turn

imp ies an enormous





which seem to be born from the earth

challenge integrating into the urban fabric those large

paradoxical sometimes

green spaces so close to us, but which we hardly had a

abandoned their pronounced uprightness to levitate and

vague knowledge of

jump in al directions.


Trujillo's paintings deal with the nagging aggression of the powerful but, above all they capture the gregarious

Two Key Masters The evolution of art in Panama since its inception as a

spirit encouFaging this society and they do it through

republic is due to two essential factors studies abroad

fantasy sarcasm and affection His work constitutes an

mainly in Mexico Spain and the United States and the

eloquent metaphor of the fertile crossing that may take

pupils from

place between the cultures and the temporary spaces

several generations are trained The greatest one in this

that outline a nation This metaphor is so comprehensive

chain of mentors, without a doubt, has been Guillermo

that it has had strong repercussions on the language

tradition of the master around whom

Trujillo b. 1927) because of the deep outreach of his

and the spirit of countless artists.

influence and his remarkable innovative talent. Trujillo

The only other artist from


demonstrates an extraordinary ability to renew himself



-especially painting-






is Julio Zachrisson

and he has been a pioneer of



that generation that a wonderful sketcher

engraving ceramics and brass sculpturing in Panama

and engraver (in fact, he received the first version of the

He has even stood out in a medium as "feminine" as

prestigious Goya-Aragon Spanish award, in 1996 for the

tapestry whose technique is related to his earlier oil

whole of his graphic work) In his engravings from the

paintings and his present- day acrylics. A restless

70's and 80's he recreated a grotesque and sensual 311

world populated by the most hallucinating nightmares

Felipe, one of the neighborhoods where the urban

but, at the same time,

extract of "what is Panamanian" is better concentrated,


bare realism

restricted to the palette of white, black and gray This

but which is being annihilated by aggressive real state

world is the result of his existential ideas, erotic





Velez, who studied cinema in Havana and lived for many


years in Spain and England (he still resides part of the

having lived in Spain for more than 30 years, nobody

year in Manchester), is the Panamanian who has worked

has better translated the spirit of Panama's popular

the most with installations, video-installations and






deep sarcasm and fearless ease

neighborhoods, where he lived during his childhood and

digital art. Velez's recent works reveal a substantial

adolescence, and where he returns every once in a

transformation in their creative focus. Consumption

while, as he says, to "wet my roots."

objects, customs and rites are still integra to most of his

In the early 90's he quit engraving and devoted himself

installations but, when observing them from other



perspectives, those references yield their position to

characterized by its vibrant colors and its shapes within

mind sensorial and cultural associations that transcend

the forms deriving from his observation of the "mol as."

the local sphere, in order to explore the relationships

In his recent paintings, a solitary character stages a

among spaces, times, emotions and language.






unique act of tremendous intensity The drawings using


mixed technique on paper that he exhibited in Panama

perspectives evident in his proposals, Velez can be

at the beginning of 1999 focused on a couple's close

defined as a conceptua artist, that is, not as a maker of

physical and psychic communion

objects but as a transformer of these ones by means of

Embraces generate









the geometric profusion of shapes, lines, planes and


fragmentations that explode throughout the pictorial

trend that attracts the young generations because it

he is closer to a neoconceptual


refuses to take itself too seriously

The works of both masters aim at the main thematic and

demonstrates that parody and self-parody go hand in

and because it

formal trends of today's young artists, whether by


influence or by sociocultural affinity

urban reality the

makes use of an amazing number of media objects and

Just as other artists from this current, Velez

omnipresent tropical nature, the reinterpretation of

techniques, adapted to the traditional and contemporary

aboriginal or traditional techniques, the open sensuality


the carefree humor and the body as a metaphor

following the "molas" technique, but having digital

quilts knitted

by kuna

[sic] women

patterns and the lyrics of an English pop song The Youths: A Selection

signs based on a

The city's popular culture has been the focus of many of


Humberto Velez's

b. 1965) proposals. In his work


around the middle of the decade, which he called "archaeology of the future"


ittle note that found among the

a big pinata floating in a sea of mints, the



of the



translucent and amorphous sculptures made with

he was attempting to

"pabitos" little bags of cooking oil a brand-new curtain

recreate and ritualize the behavior and customs of San

with the image of two beach chairs on a beach or a


video-insta lation and a CO-Rom revolving around the

canons. The multiple components of the Catholic

accounts that 17 people from different nationalities

iconography that came from its passion for the colonial

drew wrote and told (in their native language


Baroque are being left behind and another obsession

Being well looked on Velez

has been taking its place the intricate and oppressive

their fundamental dream continues





of very

marine world


Ricardo Pau-Liosa suggests that "the

density of the figures goes hand in hand with the

archaeologist. Panama's excluded people are the main characters in

density of nature " 6

the oils and pastels

Alfaro has also worked with wooden and mud sculptures.



the videos


especia ly the inhabitants of

For the II Latin-American Biennial of Lima he presented,

San Felipe, a neighbourhood where he lived and painted

together with the celebrated Panamanian photographer

Brooke Alfaro (b. 1949


Sandra Eleta, the installation entitled Comanche which

irreplaceable because of their unique gestures and the

incorporates photography video text and sculptures in








irregular configuration of their face and body by means

mud and cement. This work attempts to establish

of superimposed colour touches. However they all share

defiant symmetries between Gonzalo Gonzalez, a

expressive richness,



homeless person who lives on the streets of San Felipe,


languidness and a promiscuous

and the busts of illustrious citizens that decorate the

closeness. A certain vital rhythm characteristic of those

squares of this historical neighborhood The proposal is

who are resigned to survive day by day elaborating a

displayed in multiple levels, touching deep fibbers of the

-so to speak- cyclical concept of time, can be observed

Panamanians' turbulent sociopolitical

in them His canvases, having boats packed with people

history -and





to a great extent, of Latin Americans-

navigating in rough waters, seem metaphors of both the

marked by constant demagogy and fiery rhetoric. Yet,

so-called "low-income" housing as well as of the poor's

besides all that, Comanche constitutes an unusual

risky life.

homage to this singular character and to the eccentric

Since the early 90's, his painting -in which a tragicomic

underground world that he lives in

view of the absurd is always highlighted- has evolved

Due to the aesthetic and human quality of her art,

from a technique close to the classica masters -such as

Sandra Eleta (b. 1942 is undoubtedly the Panamanian

Rembrandt, Hals and Velazquez- towards a radical

photographer with the most international merit and

transformation of the form

fame The power of her images lies in the way in which

completely breaking away

from the naturalistic mold to venture into the most


daring distortions with the purpose of liberating -and at

psychological or psychic truth and its relationship to the

the same time manipulating-- the figures and the

environment that surrounds it. She has made several

pictorial space itself The spatial unit is dissolved and the

dearly loved series of photographs along her career as

proportionality is handled in different scales. In short,



However her most captivating most intimate and most












as a video and three audiovisual programs.

incongruity" respond to a visual and composition

exhaustive testimony is the one that she dedicates to

research farther and farther away from the traditional

the humble fishing town of Portobelo (the former center


of the rich colonial fairs

whose inhabitants descend

had to teach

me to appreciate,

unlike the 'great

from emancipated Afro-Caribbeans, and which Eleta has

masters' who had to be explained to me. Just like my

made her second home since the mid 70's. (7)

previous work, this one is also monochromic, and it


the installation that she created together

praises strokes created by hands with no academic

with Alfaro, arose from the same vital posture that

training " (8)

originated her previous work Eleta became emotionally

In her work, one can notice the attempt to capture,

involved with the photographed people and established

classify and confront similar

a deep connection between her the camera and the

figures, in a game of visual and mental associations that


or unequa

subject (a boy a family a procession, a tribe or a whole

provides the artist with a lot of room for improvisation


and transmits a strange vulnerability to the spectator

so the preparatory stage is long and slow

Next to

her house in


Eleta created a

It is not surprising that a foreign artist be precisely the

handmade sewing shop so that the townswomen could

one offering a most suggestive of perceptions of Panama

take advantage of their talents, mainly in the art of

City Fernando Toledo b. 1962


a native of Cuenca,

For many years, the shop operated actively

Ecuador has been living in his adoptive country for

thanks to an intense collective effort now these women

almost 10 years, being awarded prizes in three versions

work on order) In 1997 the Colon-native artist Arturo

of the Panamanian biennial Ever since his arrival the

Lindsay b. 1946 reformulated this concept and in the

visual impact caused by this city translated into a series

very same space, he founded a center for training artists

of acrylics called Totems y oasis The icon that is still

inside the community


motivating them to reflect on

their roots and customs. The most outstanding ones,

of his






pre-Columbian totem part palm tree, deriving from the

Virgilio "Janeca" Esquina and Ariel "Pajarito" Jimenez,

half-point arch and part lamppost like the ones lighting

paint aspects of their "congo" rituals in a persona

the streets of this city The following step was the

language that makes use of several elements such as

persistent alteration of these palm trees/lights by means

ribbons and mirrors Lindsay -who lives half a year n

of synthesis, a geometric play and symbiosis. This way

the United States and the other half in Portobelo- shows

the urban tropic takes on a leading role in the artist's

a vivid interest for his African roots in his installations.

plastic ritual

Haydee Victoria Suescum (b. 1961 Texas



vernacular culture


who has lived in



where he also explores the themes of

migration and nostalgia


Near the second half of the decade, Toledo took a

In her case, however the main

significant turn

source comes from the symbols, signs and names shown

he incorporated the human figure

-women and men springing from his totemic icons,

in popular places, such as the public market and

which show obvious influences from Trujillo's "nuchos"

different urban quarters, which even inspired the

and started transcending his intimist view in order to

quasi-abstraction series that she painted during the first

explore the social dimension As of late, he has been

half of the decade


Her present paintings refer more


directly to those themes and motifs. It is about "images


that I have always understood and loved which nobody

iconography 314






in which the artist draws his personal on



architectural plans

photocopied on paper) of luxury apartments buildings,

the city's night underground world On the other hand,

designed by a loca architect. The figures make these

they evoke the palette of traditional popular images

spaces dedicated to housing other people their own

painted on public transportation buses.

Toledo alludes to the cruel irony that on the one hand,

Emilio Torres' work (b. 1944 also comes from a clear-

the excessive offer causes an endless number of

ly "urban" extract. A fearless and experimenting artist,

spacious properties in the metropolitan area to remain

he has successfully gone into conceptual and matteric

empty whereas every day old houses are collapsing or

art. However his profession (producer in a commercial

getting burned (frequently on purpose , leaving their

television channel

inhabitants homeless.


Toledo has prepared an installation for the guest salon in

production in which he uses waste, and synthetic and

the next Art Biennial of Panama

which will revolve

has not allowed him to explore his







industrial materials, is a powerful allusion to the chaos

around the growing pollution in the capital city that, as

and contradictions of the contemporary city

he states himself "is not only environmenta pollution,

Of an even more conceptual nature is the art of Manuel

but it is more profound


it is structural

political and

b. 1950

from Chiriqui

in which his small

cultural "

installations stand out, incorporating texts and all kinds

Having less concrete references, Guillermo Mezza (b

of objects, and through which he reflects on human

1953 also aims at the Panamanians' idiosyncrasy and

behaviour in solitude and in society.

their urban environment. His sharp sense of humor and

Tabo Toral (b 1950

ability for formal synthesis make him the best comics



who has been called Panama's






artist in Panama a style which he began to work with in


the 90's. His series bioGRAFIA de Genoma has been

contradictory sensations that women from

coming out every Sunday on the editoria page of the

ethnic backgrounds and social condition arouse in him

Talingo supplement since over two years ago His oils

Large canvases with forceful shapes and colors show




a certain

I keness











irony cynicism and confusion -in a synthesis of his last

simplicity a feeling of lightness, rudimentary shapes and

two styles a lyrical abstraction that multiplied the line

their way of encapsulating figures and

of the horizon and its mural-kind of painting, populated









underl ning




lines "


by a sort of a nut-men


a valuable fact, especially

because these were totally opposed

one subtle and

Therefore, the key factors of his work are the recurrent


motif of crossed lines and the explosive energy that

full-length women (or torsos, sometimes tied up and


with their faces covered






opposed to each other However

un ike


the other one coarse and hyperbolic. His occupy the foreground

enhanced by several parallel lines that follow the figure's comics



border on

silhouette and at the same time fuse it and contrast it

abstraction and are defined by intense colors and


explosive and incandescent dynamism that stumps the

horizontal vertical and diagonals lines. His versatile nib

contours, creating the effect of neon lights that light up

drawings delve into his technique of tracing "by 315







dripping" with threads of black paint.


"I am attracted by glass, among other things,

The human body is a territory still not very much

due to its fragility. In my paintings I relate myself to the

explored by glass artists anywhere in the world Isabel

fragility of the human form, and I do the same thing with









international acknowledgment, is the Panamanian artist



There are many other coincidences upon

mankind s essential


the the

that has best inserted herself into that XX century

intense, clear light that emanates uncannily from her

tradition, peaking intensively at the body as if it were an

works the expressionistic handling of colour and shape

extension of one's own psyche to extract its hidden

or the purification of all superfluous elements, which


does not mean asceticism since De Obaldfa delights

Fascinated by the labyrinthine tensions and gaps that

herself with the meticulous repetition of patterns,

divide the psychic and physical worlds, her art explores

whether coloured, lined or exquisitely engraved

the meeting points between both of them The shocking

Though abstract, Ana Elena Garuz's works (b. 1971

force of her language lies in the strict control of her

make up "metaphors of an absent body" (11


creative energy even though it may a low room for

mixed-technique paintings denote a great sense of

improvisation and chance. Her pieces, inspired by some

space and movement, and they express a disturbing

pre-Columbian and contemporary sculptures, are cast

visceral quality both because of the way in which she

following the "pate de verre" method

now she is

stains, drips and scratches the surface, as well as due to

and then sculpted

the use of materials that look like bodily fluids. This body

and engraved Her enigmatic variations in texture and

analogy is intensified upon incorporating, in some of her

starting to experiment with lost wax

colour are the form's essential attributes. Men beasts,

works, her own hair and, more recently horsehair -as

warriors, anatomical grinding stones, spirits and canes


means and fundamental

element of the

project ecstasy and hieratic silence

composition- resulting in gestural works having a great

Although De Obaldfa has reached an extraordinary

deal of fineness, dynamism and sensuality Although the

mastery of the glass technique, her full incursion in this


movement frequently

medium just took place in the 90's. Previously painting










had been her main expression outlet. Even though her

expression her creation has been slow and careful

paintings often stage intriguing allegories about the

The use of an integral part of the human or animal body

human condition, and her glass pieces instead move

together with lines of red pigment or substances of a

away from all anecdotic traces in order to forge a solemn

viscous nature, communicates an explicit intimacy that

aura, characteristic of millennia! art, there are strong

is shocking and attracting at the same time Just like the

ties between her sculptural production and the pictorial

recent work of the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo,



More than a work

Garuz's exudes the suffering of the body mutilated by

instrument, this is revealed as the conceptual base of

first one is drawing

torture and the artist's own distressing sense of

her art "I draw all the time. I always work, no matter

impotence With her "follicles" wax and hair sculptures,

what it is, starting from a drawing" she admitted a few

which she now recreates with plaster Garuz has also

years ago in an interview The second one is the human

shown a remarkable capacity to get out of the pictorial 316


Through her own memories, Iraida Icaza (b. 1952

The proposals of the North American artists Lezlie

also projects a discourse sometimes related to women

Milson (b. 1958) Donna Conlon and Emily Zhukov who

The career of this artist, who has lived overseas for

have lived in Panama for several years, can also be

many years (first in Tokyo and now in New York) has

considered bodily metaphors of diverse calibre. Milson

been dominated

by commercial



"hurts" her "characters" -long and slender wooden

without avoiding her personal concerns. Her work is

pieces-- with nails, wires and pikes, and then she covers

characterised by an impeccable craftsmanship and the

them with canvas cloth, reclines them against the wall

delicate combination of multiple images giving away her

or hangs them from the ceiling Her titles also contribute

almost scientific hobby of collecting and "dissecting"

to formulate

her ideas




pictures of faces, parts of the body and diverse objects.

especially gender relations. Her current work shows a







renovated vigour and a wider and harsher repertoire of

fragmentary confines of memory

elements and shapes, among which stand out her

perception distorts and enriches reality

the point where

incorporation of chains and exposed nails, and shapes

In 1998 she presented her Caja iluminada No. 1 at the

recreating breasts and hands.

Panamanian biennial and won the first version of the

Donna Conlon (b. 1966) recently demonstrated an

sculpture award

even more radical change than Milson's. She had been

exploring that path These boxes -based on the singular

which encouraged her to continue

making small semiabstract pieces from diverse stones,

method created by Icaza "to assemble" her pictures-

whose holes, cavities, roundness and textural contrasts

confer much more depth to her proposal due to the

lead her to an inti mist reflection Although she still keeps


very much in mind the rich and suggestive dialogue

-mirrors, wood, glass, fluorescent light, colour prints-

about the feminine condition and her affinity to nature,

that make up suggestive visual

last year she presented a definitely innovative exhibit

according to the spectator's position In the recent Lima

thanks to her tenacious experimentation with such


synthetic materials as latex, paper rope, cloth, glass,

installation of five illuminated boxes in a dark room that

cement and wire Her new pieces, having many sizes,

tempt the spectator to contemplative reflection and to

shapes and textures, contrast and fuse themselves in an

explore diverse affinities between the


organic and






interaction of diverse materials


Like Icaza Eric Fajardo


years ago and






micro and


elements, Conlon, a biology graduate, explores the phenomena


games and vary


b. 1959) left Panama many

like her he has turned the theme of

tradition and modernity beauty and the

memory into one of the focuses of his installations,

ephemeral or the human being immersed in nature and

photographs, sculptures, acrylics, drawings and objects.

the city These concerns are also evident in her recent

Denmark, his adoptive country for almost 20 years, has

a series of

been decisive in the development of his aesthetic and

interventions out in the forest, which she documented

project at Corcovado National


conceptual proposals. Yet, the motif that covers all of his

with photographs.

work is a deep load of nostalgia for his childhood days in 317

his distant homeland "Right now/I stop time/ think/ and

those unusual beings -or personified nightmares- seems

look back" he wrote on the show window of the Danish

to have freed him to deepen more successfully into his

gallery that exhibited his works in 98. Besides, his art is

composing distortions

uncommonly high horizons,

signed by the humor and pleasure of propping up

fusion of planes, etc.

semantic ambiguities between words and things (like

The most genuine concern for rescuing and preserving

the parodies of the Belgian Marcel Broodthaers, one of

the land's spiritual values is found significantly in the

the artists who has influenced him the most)


Memory and nostalgia in direct relation to "the age of

shows the most fertile art, after the capital city. Since

innocence" are also present in Gustavo Araujo's (b.


1965) photographs

he has been

systematic resource of several artists from the area in

elaborating a sketchbook in which he has grouped

relation to a specific formal and conceptual language



Since last year with


The Azuero Peninsula is the region that

Pedro Luis Prados had pointed out that the

-dense, sandy and earthy textures, and shapes inspired


simulating a family album, involving his childhood

by a mystic and telluric world view-

confirmed the

memories, especially the frequent family trips to the

existence of what he named the School of Azuero.

beach (an experience common to so many urban

12 All of this originated in the teachings of Juan Manuel


This "essay" has made it possible for him

Perez, chair of Chitre's School of Fine Arts, who studied

to conceive his current works, which touch on several

in Mexico and transmitted his passion for the painters

themes and possess an oneiric quality. These are images

from Oaxaca to his students.

taken from different focuses and angles, and juxtaposed

Without a doubt, the dominant figure of the School of


in an interrupted sequence. Araujo also experiments

Azuero both because of the quality of his production as

with different supports, such as light advertising boxes,

wei as due to his influence, is Raul Vasquez (b. 1954

cloths and wall or floor paper

an artist from Santa Ana who practices shamanism as a





a certain


lifestyle, and who also advises many young painters and


landscaping, even among artists from other styles, like


Teresa Icaza and Ignacio Espla, who were purely


abstract, or David Solis, Silfrido Ibarra and Alicia Viteri

thousand years ago have been found, and the deep

who used to paint the human figure in interiors. From all

awareness of those remote ancestors is latent in the

of them, maybe the most concerning and secret is


David Solis (b. 1953

atmosphere of the paintings of this "sign hunter"

who lives in France since 1975














according to the title of one of his works)

His landscapes and still lifes from the last four years

region lived


foggy without

-whose warm palette and sense of solitude reflect a

hiding the gaming intention that springs in his childish

certain influence of French post-romantic landscapers,

figures and lines.

like Ravier-

whisper the claustrophobic anguish Small Oases in the Desert

mystery nostalgia and wounded lyricism shouted out by his





Despite the wonderfully done exhibitions that have been


organised in Panama

characters. The visual but not psychological absence of 318

we still have not practised

curatorship in the contemporary sense of the term

for the friend and insults for the enemy'

Talingo has

daring to propose a thesis or a new look of the reality

been conquering a solid position that has allowed it to

through the conceptual forma and thematic association

become a space for discussing and showing different

of different innovative artistic works.

aspects of our sociocultural rea ity as wei as the most

This is so in a way because Panama does not possess

provocative artistic manifestations of Panama and the

spaces to systematically welcome the most innovative


and less commercial expressions of local and foreign art.

Groups of artists and critics in Central America whose

Private ga leries and museums rarely dare exhibit

success lies in their determination to disclose the best

non-conventional works, whether due to the shortage of

local art, do self-questioning and a fertile exchange of


ideas, have not sprouted in Panama





contemporary art or because of the perception that local


public and collectors are too conservative


To make





Here, only the

single growing




matters worse, the State does not offer solid artistic

between some young artists, whether working in team

education of an academic nature, much less one of

or mutually helping and advising one another has been

vanguard The School of Fine Arts of the University of



the recently created Art and Culture

Panama was just founded in 1994 and its precarious

Foundation and ARPA Foundation are processing their

economic and educational situation leaves a lot to be

corporate identity papers to work on behalf of the

desired The National Institute of Culture, in charge of

promotion and curatorship of contemporary art, among

promoting arts development, is in actuality a blown-up

other things. Having similar goals, Carmen Aleman has

elephant of bureaucrats with little budget and null



Foundation towards the end of this year







Amidst this institutional desert, in 1992 Panama's Art Biennial was created

Art of the 90's: Rupture and Continuity

under the sponsorship of the

National Brewery This event has become our window to

Although the decade that has just ended did not

appreciate the occurrence of young art made in Panama

generate vanguard movements like in other countries of

and by Panamanians abroad The willpower to introduce

the region it meant a qualitative leap for art in Panama

changes that will improve each new version and the

Some artists are demonstrating their open commitment


to the era and place that they live in

handling of all the stages restate its


unquestionable value for the country's plastic arts The

experimentation has led them to go into little explored

V Biennial to take place in June, is open to all styles of

styles at a national level

two-dimensiona and three-dimensional art.


It is also necessary to mention the existence, since


of the Sunday supplement Talingo

such as video

photography or sculpture

digital art, Yet,

it is

necessary to keep in mind that painting continues being

from La

strong and healthy

Prensa the newspaper with the highest national edition

However the great change is yet to be seen in the third

In a country without well-stocked libraries or bookstores


and where criticism is usually synonymous with praise

variety of ethnic backgrounds, religions, languages and 319


which contains an extraordinary

cultures, shows disconcerting creative poorness in most

effect that the Zone's colonial enclave had in the city of

of society's strata Contempt and ignorance about our

Panama, see Uribe's essay La ciudad fragmentada,

plural identity are widespread It is urgent -then- in the

Ediciones Formato Dieciseis, Panama, 1989

first place, to fight the excessive centralisation of the

4 Guillermo Trujillo mito y metamorfosis, catalogo del

state power so that each community have direct

Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico D.F., 1997 p. 71

participation on local property and identify itself with its

(5) Adrienne Samos "Arqueologla del futuro entrevista

patrimony documenting it, preserving it and innovating

con Humberto Velez"

in Talingo, supplement of La

it. Other urgent goals are for art to take up a

Prensa, 1 de diciembre de 1996 p. 17 The architect and

high-priority place in the national agenda, to organise

historian Eduardo Tejeira Davis has thoroughly taken



charge of the problem faced by this important sector

strengthen the research rigor in all the fields, and to





See, for example, "tCual Casco Antigua?" in Talingo No.

promote interdisciplinary debates.

263 supplement of La Prensa 7 de junio de 1998 pp.

To the extent that we Panamanians be able to overcome


the concrete and psychological obstacles that keep us

6 Brooke Alfaro. Cuando nuestros mundos se cruzan,

isolated -even from one another- inside this small

catalogo de Ia Galerla Ramis Barquet, Monterrey 1997


p. 2

will we start acquiring a more lucid and

wholesome vision of our reality this way we will be able

(7) See Sandra Eleta


Colecci6n del Sol,

to reinvent ourselves by means of an effervescent and

Editorial La Azotea, Buenos Aires, 1991

transgressing art.

(8) IV Bienal de Arte de Panama, catalogo de Ia Cervecerla Nacional, S.A., Panama, 1998 p. 30 (9


1) Hernan Porras, Papel hist6rico de los grupos

Guillermo Mezza, in Talingo No. 297 supplement of La


Cincuentenario, Panama, 1953 p. 105 "Comentarios"





an interview with

Prensa, 31 de enero de 1999 p. 7

humanos en Panama edici6n de Ia Junta Nacional del (2

Adrienne Samos, "Estampas"

Edward Sullivan, "An Interview with Isabel De


Obaldla" in Isabel De Obaldla Beasts and Men, catalog

panamefla Ed Institute de Estudios Latinoamericanos

of Mary-Anne Martin/Fine Art, New York, 1997 pp. 9 and

Avanzados, Panama, 1991 p. 54.

12. (11

3 As upheld by the architect Alvaro Uribe in a recent

See Giulia De Sanctis, "La metatora de un cuerpo

debate, the integration of the old Canal Zone to the ca-

ausente" an interview with Ana Elena Garuz, in Talingo

pital city is a challenge that can only be compared no-

No. 164, supplement of La Prensa, July 14, 1996, pp.

wadays to the one that Berlin is facing since the collapse

17 19

of the Wall If we notice the fact that Panama City has a

(12 See Monica Kupfer and Adrienne Samos, "tExiste Ia

total of 13 thousand hectares, and only one of the for-

Escuela de Azuero?" in Talingo No. 109 supplement of

mer bases -Fort Sherman- occupies that same amount,

La Prensa, June 25 1995 pp. 4-5

we can have a slight idea of the seriousness of the situation For an analysis of the socioeconomic and urban


Introduction There are several ways of being an isthmus. As an isthmus, we have only been considered to be tributaries of diverse sociocultural spaces interconnected to one another, and sharing a common history In any event, we are framed within a space that has been able to join together its cultural diversity in a limited way due to its recent rupture from the aesthetics of the 'banana republics' cliche. "Now there are several ways of being an isthmus.

at best, an obligated place of

passage between a peninsula and a continent." 1 Consequently and in contrast to the previously stated views that have been discussed the topic of Central America, and Honduras has risen among new sociopolitical and cultural structures, putting together a peculiar process of cultural and institutional transition in those years, regarding the isthmus's new contemporary scene

Honduras, a Space of Silence: An Approach to the nineties and their contemporary isthmian function

"There is a postwar

that began during the decade of the 90's.

generation that continues

The purpose of this introduction is to state an objective

being created based on a

interpretation of the current visual-arts panorama in

type of history that,

Honduras. This reading would be approached from its

although unpublished,

isthmian function within the Central American context of

has existed"

the postwar period, joining together the account of its

(Rolando Castellon

main events and introducing an approximate analysis

Central America The


Mediterranean and the

development of Honduran contemporary art.

Costa Bravas of the

From this perspective, it is necessary to take into

Americas in search of

account the conditions generated


isolation and lack of communication resulting from the







by the region's

war conflicts in the last three decades prior to the 90's.

By Bayardo Blandino

This isolation is for Honduras its main obstacle in establishing a systematic cultural structure that will generate






expressions. Therefore it is convenient to ponder the reasons that


blocked the development of contemporary artistic

around the La Merced Workshops

practices regionally -particularly in Honduras- Basically

Lazaroni 19S2-S5) and the Zots group 19S6

those reasons are criticism and

the nonexistence of specialized art


systematization and





Dante in active

until the SO's. Likewise, this process was characterized by the perpetual projection of the image of a naif

lack of

of its contemporary

Honduras promoted by the work of the primitivistic painter Jose Antonio Velasquez. 4

production the nonexistence of related cultural policies within the official system, and the creation of projection

However and as a result of the lack of systematic and

spaces for the emerging generations of young artists.

global interpretations of the events stated here, they

That is why Honduras' international projection is based

have not been analyzed within what was agreed on in

on a perception preset in all of Central America, upheld


amidst artistic trends and discourses circulating to this

character upheld by them in the local as well as

day from an perspective that, as Virginia Perez-Rattan

international context.

has pointed out, is

Therefore, the nonstop projection of the local and

"limited to a series of colorful






derivations from magic realism, as well as of politicized


and pamphletary expressions." 2

Velazquez -seen repeatedly as an example of Honduran

Now aside from these eventualities, it is also necessary


has been

through the work of

a product of the extreme

to carry out an approximate description of the artistic

unawareness as to the value of contributions made by

production developed prior to these views, specifically

contemporary artists. Besides this, the fact that the

from the 70's and SO's, since these events have a close

inclusion of Honduran visual arts in the main discourses

connection to the artistic production carried out in

did not take place until the late 90 s, in the publications

Honduras in the 90's. Likewise, it would be necessary to

of Latin American Art of the XX century

introduce other important figures from the current

Such studies limited the analysis of Honduran visual arts

Honduran artistic scene, which I will address next.

to a reduced division within the Latin American context,


supported upon the basis of a national identity discourse

Towards the Contemporary Emergence of the 90's

meaning naif) where the same primitivism and magic

"The changes that took place during the year 1990 and

realism narrative is still maintained

since then,

preset discourse has continued being replaced by the

both regional as well as global ones,

demonstrate that the battles have been exhausting behalf of all of our existence.

Later on, this

new figuration, as a possible answer to this phenomenon


in Honduran visual art from the 60's to the present time.

The ideologies and

convictions have been diluted "

Therefore, the aspects considered as a basic for

Joanne Bernstein

analyzing Honduras' contemporary visual arts, from the

The precedents of rupture with the main sociopolitica

local and foreign standpoint, have not paid attention to

phenomena that occurred during the first half of XX

Honduras' legitimization crisis predicament amidst the



in Honduras were characterized -as other

region's war era

Consequently three features that do

similar movements in the rest of Central America- by the

not liberate Honduras' position in the isthmus' conflict,

founding of independent artistic movements grouped

but give rise to its insertion into the discourse of "what 322

is one's own" in the postwar stage are hereby set forth

That is why the new sociopolitical and cultural systems

These are, knowingly

that join together the Honduran postwar nation feel the

Due to its geopolitical position and structure,

need to help demonstrate a rupture within the Honduran

Honduras offered the conditions for a long period of


context. The strategy was that of activating later on the

North American occupation and intervention The effects

artistic projection dynamics promoted by some of the

of a low-intensity war impacted the radical paralysis of

main educational and cultural organizations related to

the country's cultural projection


2 The prolongation of this period, during the so-called

reappeared as a consequence of the internal pacification





by those that

lost decade that concluded in the 80 s, (6) established

in the country.

the promotion of a pacifist image through the naif cliche

Therefore, it is important to take into consideration that,

of Jose Antonio Velazquez's painting, as a result of the

in the approaches to the novel contemporary production

enforcement of the national security doctrine.

of the 90's in Honduras, ( 10) it arose influenced by the

3 The effect brought up by the prevailing militarism of

cultural and institutional transition that took place at the

the decades in conflict isolated the incidence of artistic

beginning of this decade.

workshops, (7) in relation to the artistic development that took place in countries like Costa Rica or Panama,

Relations: with the new contemporary scene of

not directly involved in the war conflict.

Honduras in the 90's

Concurrent to these facts, the Honduran democrati-

From this perspective, Regina Aguilar's discourse

zation process has been described as the classic

developed amidst social turmoil that broke up the

structural-adjustment process during the 90's


conservative and traditionalist official system in office.

Honduras, democracy is built with a contradictory

The trigger of her artistic activity is represented by the

mixture of dynamism and passivity." (8)

public sculpture Trfada escult6rica y un sabio




which was later on taken away from the public

impression that the democratic construction process,

imagining after an intense proselytizing and fetishist

which entered its most active stage in the nineties

controversy concerning the monument's concept and

-particularly in the late years, was determined by a














Aguilar came


exert a change

in the

individual willpower which stimulated the civil society's

formulation of the narratives with

dynamism and caused the political players' protagonism

connotations in the 90's. Los Intocables (1997) 12 is a









strong politica

sculptural set that filters this condition

gainfully to a process of democratic

The public denouncement -formerly of the syste- is no

invigoration and reaffirmation of the civil supremacy as

longer unilaterally directed towards a vernacular fraction

opposed to the military one, without being completely

of itself as was traditionally practiced in the 70's. This

convinced by it, but aware of their importance to be

connotation would demonstrate the new disjunction of

legitimated before a circumstantially-demanding civil

its thematic social discourse in relation to the national

society" (9

order's prevailed signification 323

Her later interventions originated the production of

production of the object-art installation Recic/e-Rehuse-

installations and some projects integrating a contextua




talked-about phenomenon of cloning These proposals







1997) and the series Inspiraci6n personal she put together a group of proposals that be



recaptured a revaluation coming from atavistic forms of

Permanente I and II 2000

a Meso-American nature previously expressed in her






In this case, cartographic




works from the eighties.


1998) (13) she ironically leads one to the

landscape of fragmented urban features. This way a


of power linked








In Cloning






sequence of human representations giving away the criminal actions of a collectivity

in the symbolism of ancestral

which the artist is

femininity opposed to the unjustified presence of the

denouncing instead of contemplating a beautiful and

end-of-century cloned act.

nonexistent landscape, is connoted ( 14) consecutively

In the photographic essay Repetici6n es e/ Lenguaje

recaptured this critical look. The forms of control ing

2000 she proposes this interpretation again A series

sexuality the bodies and individuality as well as the

of recordings of testimonies, it interrelates the personal

progressive invention of "experiments," intertwine in AI

stories of women associated with the current conditions

final a reminiscent space that fits together the material

of domestic violence in Honduras. In this work, the

functions of technology and human procreation

irruptions and

Her installation AI final


In a

breaks in language create tension

narrative fashion, this aesthetic image recreates a group

between the receiver and the originator of the message

of twenty-one nests containing water bags, metapho-

The stories narrated here are integrated visually into a

rically resting on piercing nest structures having strong

series of images of anonymous heads of hair which

apocalyptic connotations.

reproduce the experiences of several human beings

Regina Aguilar's installations would be better included

condemned to the violence that impregnates the

within a contemplative visualizing of such day-to-day

collective anonymity of these faces without names.

situations, directing her look once again towards the


very condition of women as the core of her aesthetic

representations of reality show a reflection of the

discourse -formerly and now as subject of margina ity







intolerance of a "cruel reality of Honduran social plagues." His readings acquire in this context a sense

15) On the other hand

the autobiographical discourse

that is tied to the denouncing of the emergent social

attains in Xenia Mejia a space that would seem to be

awareness during the postwar period in Honduras.

traveling through the limits of a city covered by troubled

Thus, the conceptual deconstructions of the Human

images, instead of a landscape exacerbated in naif

Being within the formal space created in his installations

In her current creative process, Mejia sets

gradually became the core of the thematic and

forth the exploration of a reality recreated from her


aesthetic unit that joined together a series of artistic

personal interpretation and her experiences, rejecting

projects carried out since 1995

the image of a conventional landscape Through the

Temp/a en Ruinas

1995) and Ofrenda y Sacrificio 1997) gave birth to a 324

series of reflections on


his reality and

Within this context, the insertion of artists who give

By using

priority to the implementation of installation-type of

installations as a resource and the incorporation of

proposals, along with other non-traditional media, was

perspective as historical subject of his time

multiple media in his proposals, Arzu Quioto created a

promoted Thus, proposals by Armando Lara (Espacios

discourse of strong liturgical antecedents which he

Interiores 1999


ese signa!!! ... El enigma y Ia Respuesta, 1999) Jacob

later recapture in 1997)


projects such as Puntas

Ritual (1998) and Laudes, Hora

Intermedia y Visperas 1999 Also





Nunez (Occasus Homini

turned out to be



significant projects at the end of the decade which joined this process together through printed language and resources like intertwining texts, pictorial images,


corporality and memory



1999) and Gabriel


or in



Guevara Gradiz (La Conferencia

"through a reading of the signs of the times, whether in life


16 Exilium

Johanna Montero Matamoros Soy

facts " This

is an

interpretation in process that alludes to the fragments of a society and the

Due to all this, the current Honduran contemporary

submissive as to uprooting, the Diaspora

scene has been reaching a certain visibility as to its local

amnesia faced by the contemporary

artistic production, and it is showing signs of new

individual before the transvaluation phenomena

changes in the regional artistic context of the 90's.

Therefore, the aesthetic and discursive changes exerted on artistic production at the beginning of the nineties by


Regina Aguilar Xenia Mejia and Santos Arzu Quioto


Marcel d'Ans, Andre. Honduras, Emergencia diffcil

offered the artists arising at the end of the decade a

de una naci6n, de un Estado. Renal Video Production,

coherent fluctuation space Their proposals activated the

First Edition 1998 Chapt.I A Complicated Geography

growing emerging scene of Honduran art,



discourses are also linked to the reflections on the


In introductory text to "Mes6tica II Re-generaci6n."

individual and his/her human condition, as well as on

This was the second regional exhibit that inserted a



projection of the Central American contemporary art of

development of artistic practices started acquiring a

the 90's into European exhibition spaces. With curatorial

progressive extension thanks to the rupture from the

practices provided from the Contemporary Art and





traditional margins of the socia



discourse from the

Design Museum of Costa Rica, in 1996 it broke away from the stereotyped artistic conceptions of Central

previous decades. Another one of the factors that took part of this

America, just like the "Tierra de Tempestades" (land of

emergent process in the 90's is related to the creation of


alternative organizations concentrating on the opening

Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua in 1994

of exhibition spaces that implement new dynamics upon

which circulated through several English museums.

exhibit that gathered the production from and

the projection of the contemporary art produced in this

(3) "The cultural paralysis that took place since 1930


during the dictatorship of Tiburcio Carias Andino 1932

As a result, some artists, institutions and

private entities gradually joined that process.



* resulted

in severe economic, social and political

crises, "so the local cultural life remained enclosed

Rodriguez and other editors) PROCESO San Jose, Costa

within the same minor affairs of the small country An

Rica, p. 20-209

opening or communication with the outside world was

(9) Idem

not possible, which generated a much more dramatic stagnation



artistic del




Kupfer E








current visual-arts scene of the 90's took place. Some of



a noticeable incidence of artistic

projects carried out by the representative artists of the




10) Since 1995

" *Arte

their main projects were put together from installation-


style proposals, as well as from thematic explorations

Centroamerica II Rodriguez, Belgica Art Nexus May-

with collective and individual projects that inserted new

1991 P-84 87)

dynamics to local aesthetics.


(11) The people from San Pedro were touched by the

"Honduras has found in Velasquez the "deep

country" illustrator -certainly a cliche country that of

presence of Valle -three times, naked, beheaded and


symbolic. Suddenly the monument arose by the side of






unaffected mining centers of the country's central and south-western









controversy broke out.





always having been

Socio/6gicas. p. 344. Idem 1

portrayed as a pensive Sherlok Holmes -with a cape and

(5) As a result of the persistent preponderance and

all- here turned out golden, immodest and reflected in

circulation of Jose Antonio Velazquez's work,

three different statues, one of them headless. Mejia J.

American art publications such as


Arte de America

Francisco, Hablemos Claro. July 1994 P. 42

Latina 1900-1980 by Marta Traba, edit. 1994 Artistas

12) Extravfos (Going Astray

Contemporimeos de America Latina by Damian Bayon, edit. 1981


only indicate the existence of a primitive

collective exhibit by five

Xenia Mejia, Regina Aguilar

Ezequiel Padilla

Ayestas, Felipe Buchard, Allan Macdona!

National Art

Gallery 1997

kind of art in Honduras, but not its contemporary production at the end of the XX century

13) Sculptural installation, XXIV International Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil 1998

(6) Considered by Honduran civil society one of the most

(14) Sacrificio Final

dramatic periods experienced at the end of the century

Biennial of Lima, 1999

because of its repressive effects. It contributed to the


eventual paralysis of Honduran cultural dynamics by



Installation, II Latin-American

Aguilar de








means of the disappearance of cultural organizations

Contemporary Art and Design Museum, MADC, San

showing a leftist character

Jose, Costa Rica, 1999

(7) The workshops described during these periods

(16) Puntas Cardinales 1997) I Latin-American Biennial

correspond to those already cited (La Merced, Dante

of Lima, 1997

Lazaroni, Zots) (8) Salomon, Leticia

( 1999) El sentir democn!Jtico. Estudios

Laudes, Hora Intermedia y Visperas

project exhibited at the 48th art exhibit, 1he

Venice Biennial Panama's Museum of Modern Art, Latin-

sabre Ia cultura polftica centroamericana (Fioraisabel

American Italian Institute, Rome. 326

The nineties have gone by in

El Salvador in an

atmosphere of change. Advances and mistakes seem to have set the trend of this post-war period Immediately after the euphoric period, after signing the peace agreements in 1992, the ideological expectations were confronted with the reality of a tired and worn out country after twelve years of armed conflict. Since then we have lived through eclectic times, times of ordering of








resentment, of overpowering side effects and multiple new influences.

It seems like after ten

years of

confusion we have just begun to lay the foundation to redefine and vindicate our future and ourselves. Without a doubt it has been a transition period

an extremely

important one for that matter upon guiding us to more coherent and truer changes. Situated within this transitory process of the last decade, we can say that Salvadoran art, visual arts and, particularly painting

El Salvador, New Paths

have achieved an exceptional

positioning given their growing popularity. However in spite of the large number of artists, the absence of

By Rodolfo Molina









individuals standing out. Adding up the many stylistic expressions "in effect" during this period in Salvadoran art, only two basic and well-defined

positions could

be distinguished


position of a kind of art that may be called the preserver of a formalistic tradition, and that of a new and more propositional one. The former position has been and continues to be upheld by an essentially conservative audience and market still the majority in El Salvador) producing an art type which is somehow motivated by ideas of cultural identity based on traditional archetypes, whether folkloric or rural inspired by our colonial or Pre-Columbian past, and even sometimes based on a pleasing contemporary view 327

In the latter position we find new art, though still a

and collages in his work.

minority both in its production as well as in

Photography as a means of artistic expression began to


appreciation This one is represented by the effort of

be validated in El Salvador only since the beginning of

artists who think of themselves as part of a new

the eighties, when the exhibition of this medium started


Salvadoran" identity considering it to be a

on a regular basis, especially at the El Laberinto Gallery

true and unavoidable fact. Let us remember that during

The current local scene concerning photography is

the eighties, over a million people left the country

taking an interesting positioning by producing much less

United States, Canada Australia

bucolic proposals

Besides this, there is




more on





the enormous internal mobility caused by the prevailing


insecurity at that time. This mobility

among other

previously I think that it is extremely important to point


factors, has caused El Salvador to go from being an

out the momentum and influence given to this medium

eminently agrarian society to being a basically urban

by the work of foreign correspondents and the local



with the problems and logical consequences

during the armed

conflict period

existing in the overpopulated centers. This new reality of

Without a doubt, Salvadoran photography has been

the urban Salvadoran is probably one of the factors that


has had the most influence on these artistic proposals

appreciated from the work of professional artists such as


Luis Paredes and Muriel Hasbun












Both artists are

investigative edge regarding non-traditional themes and


international exposure

important to mention that together with the innovation

Luis Paredes has worked with intimist spaces where

in materials, the installation, and photography there is

contrast and dualism are achieved by manipulating the

a trend that is somehow undertaking the occupation of

medium (which is sometimes found to be forced) and


through images of the human body elaborated as a




the work media or materials. Concerning this, it is

confirming it with an undeniably pluralistic







blurred, metaphorical presence. Through a gestural and

Some artists working along those lines are


technical dialogue occurring during the process, Paredes

Cuadra, who works with abstract and matterful shapes

fulfills the attainment of evocative, atmospheric and

pointed towards an ancestral neo-expression Cristina

psychic states. His most recent work recalls mementos

Gozzini, having a very personal sense of the free and

of his job as a war correspondent in El Salvador and it

gestural shapes, is capable of taking us deep into

recounts images of burnt or devastated

unspecified settings that nonetheless possess an almost

close-ups of roasted flowers as a cruel metaphor of the

everyday quality Jose Rodriguez is a still very young

devastation witnessed by him


deals more with a personal view of the minimalist






His more recent work

Danish landscape, his country of adoption

expressiveness is stressed by the use of non-traditional materials, the text and the texture

lands, or

Ronald Moran

Muriel Hasbun has developed an interesting piece of

creates installations and paintings within a symbolic and

work based on a personal proposal

sensorial context thanks to the use of organic materia

family history through photography 328

recovering her It is a research

perception and

interpretation task where images

memoirs and impressions are mixed very appropriately By means of family portraits, landscapes, or simple objects, Muriel Hasbun transports us to that limbo that childhood memories may represent, or to the somewhat strange and very personal field of family stories. In her work we can find a taste of everyday life and its particular occurrences it could almost be said -a sense of destiny

It is a very persona view that is somehow

validated and universalized when unveiled before the audience Muriel Hasbun's most recent work goes into the field of installation In this piece of work, the artist has







connotation for example. the clotheslines, clothespins, and the linen canvases on which the photographs are printed

Clotheslines are sometimes inserted with

barbwires路 this way Muriel is able to create a very effective tension a strong impression It is interesting to see how this effect, or dramatization, is under control, measured

It is almost like contained



barbwires are few and far between These, in a way emphasize the installation providing it with strength and a subtle discordance. On the images printed over the linen canvases, children's portraits, texts, old pictures, bandaged hands, and her mother's face are inserted With this collage of emblematic ideas, Muriel Hasbun is half-opening the door of a private family world a world of memories, of daily and incidental events, one of impressions

a segmented


It is a private

experience that somehow the artist wished to "Tender a sol "

in a desire for an intimist dialogue or a ritual

cleansing Muriel Hasbun's work is able to involve us in her inward search it envelops us with her memories, in her particular moments and in her expressiveness which, in her installations, acquires an exceptional nature 329

Postwar is the term that best describes the process that we Guatemalans are going through right now And for any attempt of revising the last ten years of history it is an unavoidable reference

It entails facing ourselves,

recounting the disturbing moral consequences that we inherited from a long period of war and discovering that all we have left is a devastated and plundered human scene, with a series of cities and towns that have grown as a response to precarious conditions, without any order or coherent intentions. This scene is joined by erosion of authority and of credibility in the institutions, and a serious ncrease in violence The only thing that is clear to us is we have to reconstruct everything This postwar scene is no stranger to Guatemalans. It is as if since long ago our house were a tunnel where the only light seems distant, and every sign of reaching for it diminishes during the attempt. The lack of faith in ourselves is another one of the negative elements against which we have to struggle every day So is the

The Art of the Nineties in Guatemala Escaping the Pot of Crabs

lack of memory

That is why any historiographical

attempt should be considered a high-priority effort and a challenge to highlight the achievements and realize the dangers of feeding self-victimization rhetoric. Before a strong trend promoting pessimistic states, it is difficult to realize that, during this whole time, many

By Rosina Cazali

activities continued to develop. And in the case of art, it continued existing by itself The war and postwar periods, as a backdrop, have been an accumulation of situations and experiences that have also caused states of alert. Though it may seem contradictory the recent artistic manifestations are being developed as an antithesis to an introspective tradition and a series of elements that, until recently were considered the right thing for the art made in Guatemala Yet, this path has not been easy and much less unwarranted 330

At the beginning of the nineties art

seemed to have found along its way nothing more than

One could say that photography was becoming then one

a great deal of information gaps or lack of structures.

of the main protagonists of this new period

However these have been filled slowly thanks to the

Gonzalez Palma took it to an unknown field and it

artists themselves becoming professionals, the rise of

crossed technical limits that succumbed before the myth






of the forbidden

of culture


production, communicative experiences with foreign


It was no longer about photography

its only goal of reproducing


as a

as a logical

passport document or its typical use of recording the

outcome, a state more and more aware of building

natural surroundings or the social events. The artist

countries, which tend to multiply and


belonged to a Latin American generation that enjoyed

international scene. One of these strategies begins with

the benefits of the boom in photography exhibits around

self-knowledge as a way of revising and assessing our

the world and a time when this evolution- was making

background and thus shaping a potential future After

its hybridization of genre and media, which implied a

the decade of the nineties is ended and upon starting



the new millennium we are distant enough as to begin



unraveling the metamorphosis that we have gone

Gonzalez Palma 's work would be his peculiar amazement






of the


pointing out the moment when

with the


orig nal


most valuable aspect in

before an individual who, until a while ago, had begun to


inserted ourselves into what we call contemporary art

be apparent for a sector of society especially since the

and its following dynamics.

speeches generated around the celebration of the Fifth

Clearly this means the work of artists that appeared in


the last ten years, notwithstanding some exceptions, but


all of them being in an evolution state. To facilitate their

indigenous, it was obvious that the problem of the

identification, I will start with something which occurred

representation of the indigenous topic by the 'ladino' (1)

in this first approach of the artist to the

in the year 1990 during the Central American Painting

one continued In general, his images recollected many

Biennial, which took place in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

elements associated with the primitive, the tribal, the

There, the artist Luis Gonzalez Palma participated

purity of the natives, all of them recycled through the

with a second version of his well-known photograph La

acknowledgement of the beauty of an outside Fellow

luna. Instead of its typical sepia patinas, the image was







in spite of their coexistence inside the same


it for






competition, there were some fears and rumors that the

unquestionable beauty what the Mexican writer Juan

work would be rejected for not measuring up to the

Villoro calls controlled barbarism

demands of an event linked, unquestionably with the

For Gonzalez Palma as well as for other artists, the

classification of art through the medium Luis Gonzalez'

nineties brought new and varied problematic topics.

work won the second place but, more than coining an

Many of these were channeled by way of identity

anecdote of an ironic nature, the fact of the matter was

concerns and a novel self-assertive production by

the ratification that a group of artists in Guatemala was

women The limits of the expositional space and the use

inserting itself into an important stage of changes.

of non-conventional materials


which were usually

subordinated to the concepts, were reconsidered


deconstructive possibilities of art, such as in the case of



Anibal Lopez. His early work highlighted the theme of







prioritizing of more intellectualized agendas for the


value of pure intuition And whereas during the eighties

having a sociological and anthropological basis that

it absorbed the controversies and discourses

the reference to socia concern was still indispensable,

came up in the mid nineties, along with their respective

the artists of the nineties seemed to have opened up to

frictions during the discussion of the indigenous and/or

a broader thematic repertoire. At the present time the

ladino vindication Currently this interest has expanded

emerging generation

to questionin"g the identity limits of the work of art itself


about the dot com

culture, is opening up to external signs as constructors

Obra en sitio (Work in Site

of a non-classified cultural identity

concept, where the artist places identification cards on

With the tangle of images from the mass media and the

facades of buildings and objects that are determined as

effects of an increasing globalization, many artists are


is a clear example of this

reconciling the traditional and the new aspects in order

One of his latest works begins with the drawing of a dot

to create something innovative. Such is the case of

on a banner placed on the back of a bus that traveled

Moises Barrios, who insists on using the typical banana

the city streets and avenues. This nomadic image

icon to explore and assume a self-criticism of the

suggests a dot that is leaving an imaginary trail behind

banana identity as an indispensable code constituting

itself thus evoking the idea that it is dematerializing

the imagery of the Guatemalan idiosyncrasy

while building its concept.

of the

third-world status and of a certainly peripheral thought.

In another instance, the artist carried out a performance

After five years of obsessive insistence on the topic, the

questioning the limits of human emotions, which are

swallowing up of universal knowledge determines the

identified through the states of vigil concern or escape

codification of a banana virus metaphor









Pablo Swezey maximizes the invalidity of the foul and

Guatemalans are experiencing

cold war through the construction of pieces such as Fat

reception at the Contexto gallery Anfbal Lopez was

which is the name of the first nuclear bomb

offering misinformed diners an elegant dinner while,

financed by North America The irony begins when the

under the same table, a person was being retained The


During a small private

bomb blueprints were found by Swezey in an Internet

domino effect was fulfilled as the guests slowly realized

site, having the possibility of being reproduced to its

the situation and feelings of complicity started to

original scale This work was built for the first time in the


city of Havana at the Wifredo Lam Center (1998) which

As mentioned before, in the last few years women have

distorted what one day was a military secret. Yet, this

acquired new prominence through proposals that are

information having been banned at one point by the

very distant from the traditional and supposedly

highest security systems, and the island having been

appropriate art for women Some of them draw from the

stigmatized as the enemy the incidence of the Internet

values generally associated to the universe of the

reduced it to a computing souvenir


There are also some artists who



In this group is Diana Solares' work.

Marguerite Yorcenar wrote somewhere that the true 332

birthplace is that where we have taken an aware look

world's greatest museums, as a way of being present in

upon ourselves for the first time








Bachelard values





legitimization, the unquestionable



As a plain human

protection, the house in which we grew up contains

being, her presence is shaped by means of the red

oneiric values such as boredom centers, loneliness


centers, dreaming centers that deeply mark humanity

Dario Escobar's work is a result of the generation that

The artist reviews such values to create a series

grew up within a shaky respect for the national anthem,


facing the reality of a television screen, together with






psychological and conceptual connections to some

Batman and the Chapulfn Colorado(2

objects and situations belonging to the context of the


His works

semantic quality anew to objects of an

house, to the feminine identity and her place in the

industrial nature in order to obtain products where the

space, society and time that she is living in, thus

traditional values merge with the recently acquired

becoming a defense before dispersion and madness.

ones, generally massive products of an international

The work of Maria Dolores Castellanos, author of


delicately elaborated sculptural pieces, faces the feelings

The addition of antagonistic elements to the nature of

of pain and pleasure to turn them into a personal

the objects determines a careful reordering of functions

iconography Her sculptures are generally presented as

or meanings. He also elaborates works that strip down

carriers of small messages and secret passages that

the class-discriminating

open different interpretation possibilities.

colonial mentality of days gone by and rooted in the life

Unlike the previous artists, the most recent expressions

of Guatemalans. This idea is gathered in his work

by women are starting to be introduced into positions

entitled Libido

associated to the feminist discourse They border on

architectural detail of the premises where the exhibition

actions questioning gender constructions and








which deals with the recovery of an The







hegemony One of them is the artist Regina Galindo

American-style chalet with a fireplace. During the period


of the exhibition, it is lit. Obviously






the first thing

self-confessional practice, reconsiders the importance

evoked by this event is the making of a ready made, but

that the cathartic element has had in women's lives, and

this fact seems unimportant as you learn about its

many times does it in performances presenting limit



Its purpose is to recover a replica of what prosperity

Irene Torrebiarte and

Maria Adela Diaz, who

means for many people, and as a bastion imported from

incorporate into their photographic work elements of a

the northern Anglo-Saxon culture The fireplace, as a

diverse origin that notwithstanding result in a highly

great irony in a tropical country

poetic discourse, also take part in this new generational

hidden desires to join celebrations such as Thanksgiving

scene of women

Jessica Lagunas has produced an

and the ways in

compensates the

which the climatic and


interesting series of images representing the journey of

differences are made up for

a pair of red shoes through different vestibules of the

His most recent work is a puzzle that drags us towards 333

the forgotten desires for gaming since it consists of an

for exhibiting are more and more continuous. A lot of

enormous elastic bed entitled "Free Way" However the

what has been done in the last five years depended

tendency to use it as a toy disappears upon noticing

more on the young artists' enthusiasm who, as a

that, over its canvas, there is a white and broken line

response to the lack of formal art studies, compensate

that reminds you of that of highways. In Guatemala one

their concerns with self-motivated production Since the

of the outgoing government's most important goals was

museums had become inoperative places and the only

the construction of highways. Keeping its good image

alternatives for artistic dynamics were to be found in art

depended on promoting advancement and progress as

galleries, in the last few years the alternative of looking

the pavement slabs did the same

Before the loss of

for extra-artistic spaces became established Upon doing

credibility in the institutions and the governments that

away with the dependency on the traditional exhibition

run them the idea of Free Way is to reflect how these

spaces, innovative programs under different parameters

public spaces are becoming something vacuous, and the

took shape

mass spaces -such as Cristina's Show- are turning into

As mentioned before, nowadays we are still picking up

speakers for the citizens' rights

the debris left by war However the proposals of art and

To round up the contemporary art scene in Guatemala

of the actors in the last few years are more in tune with

it is also necessary to mention the existence of an

the notion of criticizing the collective alienation caused

interesting phenomenon related to the Historical Center

by situations gone by in society culture, art. Sometimes

of Guatemala City This center has become a physical

the postwar generation has been called that of the

and mental space where interesting groups of young

disillusionment. The vitality that it shows is not that of

artists perform and can be identified Brought together

depressed people but of those who are trying to find

by literature, cafes and bars as meeting points, they

their own spaces, to assume different and usually

arose under the shadow of the rock bands of the

critical positions.

nineties. These youngsters have set up their camp in the

There is an image that could be added to this time of

city's downtown area which is a key point to develop

paradoxes It is said that we Guatemalans seem to be

their works starting from references of the cybernetic

sharing in a pot of crabs, in which those that are trying

culture, the weight of urban chaos, social fragmentation

to get out of it are pulled down by those at the bottom

and the different concerns overcoming the postwar

I am trying to get out of the pot and become part of the


the most interesting

puzzle of our lives to be able to understand this stage of

results are found in their literary and poetic production

art in Guatemala as an affirmation of its life before the

combined with small performing interventions and in the

many messages seducing us to perish every day

From all of them

parallel production of books undertaken with minimum


resources. With






1 Ladino is the term used to define the non-indigenous

establishment of international organizations channeling funds









2 One of the main protagonists of a popular mexican comic TV series

communication with the outside world the opportunities 334

LCan the art of a country be separated from itself? LCan the art of a country be separated from the subjects and processes that cause it? LFrom the entities and events that surround the creator and force him to express, within his artistic reality the escape or the catharsis so that as an artist he can carry out his work? The purpose of art is the humanization of the process and of the object. It is the artist who goes into a trance state and yields through his sensitive fingertips, through the fine or blunt tip of his instrument, through the plan of the skin of his support -which can be paper space, movement or his own body a part of humanity of his society of his particular view of the world, in order to show the world at the same time. \(16i,tJil.i.!n. i,ts ~CY~.tr:-~m~ C.QXY."~.~'路~~~t'f a!il.d.


ways of construction


1\lf. t..e.d1.ni.o.ue.s.,



objective, art does not exist outside of a particular time and space. This is what makes it transcend


statement about a citizen of the world does not exempt

Nicaragua: End-of Century Plastic Art

anybody from his or her artistic responsibility which is, in turn, social You are a citizen of the world when you are able to revolutionize the place and time that witnessed the birth of the occupation or subject of your

By Porfirio Garcia Romano

vocation In order to do that, an artist does not have to become aware

an artist already possesses that


Inertia and intervention. Nicaragua, the Crisis of A Century Someone said that instants repeat themselves. Many times one dreams of a place that one has already dreamt of Some people will say we are living the same instant that we have already lived, but in a higher state Throughout this dying century in Nicaragua we have been living the inertia of a dream, the inertia of what who is asleep. We have been asleep.


Yet, the meaning of this action can also be explained as

few decades ago However knowing the 'how' is also

an intense and loaded dream in which

very determining

in a given

moment, we could have dreamt we were awake But no

because one of the features most

strongly influencing the crisis during this end of century

it was a nightmare an unpleasant dream the state of

is the absence of academic education

inertia and inactivity that has caused and sti


The art education of the last decade was that of the

ntervention We can say today at the start of a new

empiric -and so-called experimental- shop of Rodrigo





Nicaraguan or Latin American

dream liberator



Pef\alba This mid-level education in which there is no

about the








victory of development and independence, has been a

traditional visual art genres and on the other hand it


does not even allow for languages such as assemblage,

The dream of the Nicaraguan rulers at the end of our XIX


performance which

whenever awarded

century which led them to imitate the European culture



comprehension of the concept of art.














identity -which has always existed and which needs not

Inertia and intervention are terms naturally related to

be sought, only be expressed- later was an imposed

art in the Nicaragua of the XX century Still lifes of

dream in the XX century We were beings from this world

grapes and

looking among the clouds for the tip of the Eiffel tower

medieva passions were the themes of the paintings in

or the ights of the Capitol in Washington to reproduce it

the enthronement's' room and the screen for the

in mud and aniline

struggles for resignations, the ever-present subject of

Together with the 'okei

OK) and the bai bai

bye bye

sku I

imposition of product prices

European landscapes and

inertia that established art -as the representation of the

that were mposed on our recently acquired Castilian language, the "calaca"


mediterranean Europe- as an ideal the lock on the door

of memory loss, the

for art as an object, and much less as a concept.

the looting of raw

Art as an object enjoyed certain acceptance only in the

materials, the dinars for the traitors, the lack of

sixties led by Armando Morales who in 1959 won the V

infrastructure, ma nutrition and the prostitution of the

Biennial of Sao Paulo with art from his time and place

new-born country appeared

One of his most relevant works of that time is the series

Throughout this century change has been

in the

entitled Guerril/eros muertos At the beginning of the

spotlight, we have lived through the period of an acute

seventies, abstraction

manifestation of an ailment, awaiting the decisive and

consolidation of any industry disappeared as a resource

risky moment regarding the evolution of matters This

in Nicaragua

having no role to play in the

lack or shortage accompanied by conflict and tension gave

place to


development that,

a dramatic lack of cultura

for example

As the Buzzing of a Bee Ten Seconds Before

art education in

Waking Up

Nicaragua did not appear until the beginning of the

Nicaragua: the Eighties

forties, whereas modern expression appeared in the

Approaching the end of the century

second half of the XX century that is to say unti only a

expression which began with some authenticity of the 336

the artistic

individual, will be a different one. Thus, the decade of






the eighties will witness the appearance and spreading

Nicaragua: Visual Arts of the Nineties

of several trends within pictorial naiveness in the

There is a saying in Nicaragua that goes "you are like a

national scene. The main victory of plastic arts at that

caimito leaf" This is because the leaf of the tree of this

time was the almost industrialization of the so-called

purple fruit called "'caimito" is yellow on one side and

primitive painting which, in the seventies, had achieved

purple on the other one, thus being a symbol of duality.

worldwide fame with the help given by Ernesto Cardenal

The most "sincere expressions" and abundant images of

to the

the revolution and its main symbol fell like idols with


of peasants




archipelago, in the lake of Nicaragua

mud feet in paintings and sculptures beginning with the

This was the time of greatest momentum regarding

Sandinista government's fall in the nineties.

visual arts that the country has had

In general, the

The artists, mostly painters, began to flirt boldly with

so-called modern painting was not rejected In spite of

the market. Whatever seemed to be popular became

the self-imposition of school by many artists -excited

obsolete -the primitive trend, the official competitions of

about the revolutionary mystique, or the market that

an annual nature and the unions, guilds and cultural and

forced them to certain 'Sandinista' realism, the freedom

plastic associations dropping sharply. The supposedly



of artistic thematics

techniques prevailed



existing ones at present are completely nominal

All that allowed the rise of


as part of the crisis the disease called

non-traditional manifestations such as installation

'gallerism' which mostly stresses easel painting with

action and performance.


A very



of the




subsequently disappeared in the nineties, was the

lacking is










environmentalism and iconolatry for sale like if the were

promotion of national competitions of visual art in all its

in a basket on the head, leaning on the false side of

manifestations, both traditional and

postmodernism, which promotes the uniformity and


Besides, the promotion of mural art, which became a

formalism of stylish trends covered under the umbrella

national movement -the teaching of the muralist

of "anything goes."

technique having been established with its own school-

However amid the crisis the other side of the coin

has disappeared

arises from time to time, that which performs art that

Likewise, the cornerstone of artistic expression was


created through the setting-up of popular centers of

processes causing it. Nowadays, one can mention an

culture, of which only a few survivors are dying

alternative plastic art which, through its media, stands


not separate

itself from




like fish thrown in the desert. All this could have been

out on its own in some performers.

the start of the awakening from the nightmare of the

In Nicaragua the end-of-century visual art alludes to the

century but it was nothing more than another dream in

work of Armando Morales who was standing out,

our realities "like the buzzing of a bee ten seconds

among others, as the decade had already started with

before waking up."

his saga of Sandino -a series of lithographs about the hero's life, within what has been called magic realism It 337

deals with the worship and adoration to plastic art and at the same time, to reality Another proposal standing out along the same lines is that of Alberto Icaza who within the postmodernist trend makes a case for the atemporality of the work. On the other hand reference



Mario Madrigai-Arcia makes a everyday




landscape, despite its surrealist and sensual charge In the meantime, Maria Gallo incorporates the indian and mestizo image, thus approaching the religious vernacular matter of the imagery while making a mix-up of angels and homeless children addicted to glue, in a clash of the sacred and the profane In a similar way Aparicio Arthola takes advantage of an expressionist vein



it with

Dadaistic techniques

reproducing the grotesque face of underdevelopment. On the other hand

having a strong expressionist

vocation, David Oc6n delves into and extracts from the popular kitsch in an original proposal that expresses the soul of the vernacular and of what is your own, without falling







postmodern trends.


The Costa Rican art of the last decade is, at the same time, a continuation and a rupture from its evolution during previous decades. Linked to a series of traditions and recurrent thematics in the last half of the century it incorporates a critical and corrosive handling of that thematic, it absorbs new techniques from the international







predetermined groups or trends to become instead a reflection of very particular individualities. This evolution must be understood not only in relation to the interpretations, efforts and

preferences of the

artists a deeper relationship to the international artistic environment, changes of a socioeconomic nature and a sense of examination and criticism towards the national and personal reality also influence it decisively The 70's The 70's was a decade of rupture in Costa Rica developed

Artistic Experience in Costa Rica


to a great extent, under the sign of a

dynamic economic growth based on a development model that, at the end of the period, demonstrated its exhaustion

By Rocfo Fernandez

The Common Central American


reached its highest point of commercial exchange and investment and development expectations back then Besides, the international prices of coffee -the main export product at that time, reached unheard-of levels. Two


Liberation Party

governments from



those of Jose Figueres Ferrer and

Daniel Oduber marked the height of what then was labeled the Entrepreneurial State' lt was a State that, besides administrating the monopolistic sectors already controlled





electricity and telecommunications


devoted itself to

establishing and directing new businesses. That trend although severely criticized by some local sectors, seemed unavoidable and triumphant. 339

Under the state's protection, the visual arts obtained a

pictorial language of the decade

resolute support in the first five-year period by means

It is important to stress Otto Apuy not so much because

of the Direcci6n General de Artes y Letras, and -near the

of his vast production, but because of his artistic



attitude Apuy went through that one and the following

under the protection of the

decades with a restless attitude in relation to media He

of the



Costarricense, created




Ministerio de Cultura Juventud y Deportes in 1978


research and

move from

one technique to

Repressive regimes and insurrectionist conflicts in the

another one without prejudices


region did not seem to alter the development of a



figurative kind of art in Costa Rica in which Rafa


Fernandez's painting alluded to magic realism


experimentation into a basic working principle, insisted

environment would shake when the Museo de Arte

on supporting his proposals with a conceptual discourse

Costarricense promoted competition by means of the

and edited books




Drawing and



Engraving, which





performance collage


candente 1980

essential motivation for our visual arts community The scholarship-holding artists would



to video


drawing to He

Dibujos de Otto Apuy Diab6/ica


from turned


and Figuraci6n

are his editorial background

Contrary to tradition Apuy was not interested in being a

head for Spain and

great artisan, but in developing ideas resulting from his

the State promoted art sales through El Parque de Ia

trips and his reading Ever since his start, he articulated


speeches about each one of his stages, came up with

Around the region the situation was a different one, and

reflexive texts, became interested in installation and

the Central American Biennial marked out the big


aesthetic differences between Costa





paintings with objects. and

His first videos,

Proporciones date from

neighbors. The winning work, Guatebala by Luis Dlaz,

conceptual montage 'Slipperiness Index'

weighed heavily on the local spirit during a decade The

long by 6 meters high Monument,

an insurrectionist setting when the international codes

impression on the public memory in 1986



12 meters

in front of the National

artistic community felt at disadvantage for not enduring








would demand critical contents.

In the 70's, Apuy was more contemporary than his

During this period Otto Apuy's polemic drawings, which

colleagues, an attitude that he enriched and expanded

brought to mind the line of Arnalda Ramirez Amaya and

during his lengthy stay in Barcelona Presently identity

Jose Luis Cuevas


stood out.

Barcelona from 1974 to 1980


who lived


drew ambiguous and

and the human being's conflict with

his/her natural environment are the themes that he

obsessive characters -a gallery of social archetypes

deals with

His mobile sculpture

Transformaci6n del

more than of individual identities. Along with Apuy's

rostra won the 95-96 II Sculpture Biennial

humor and graphic irony the mysterious, ha lucinating

The most relevant private effort of the 70's consisted on

painters Gerardo

the annual painting salons undertaken by the Costa

Gonzalez and Disifredo Garita were high ighted

Rican Tobacco Company an activity that witnessed the


magic atmospheres of the

p astic expectations that foretold changes in the

presence of the group Los Independientes 340


Under the state's protection the visual arts obtained a

pictorial language of the decade.

resolute support in the first five-year period by means

It is important to stress Otto Apuy not so much because

of the Direcci6n General de Artes y Letras and -near the

of his vast production, but because of his artistic



attitude. Apuy went through that one and the following

under the protection of the

decades with a restless attitude in relation to media He

of the



Costarricense, created




Ministerio de Cultura Juventud y Deportes in 1978


Repressive regimes and insurrectionist conflicts in the

another one without prejudices

research and




move from

region did not seem to alter the development of a



Fernandez's painting alluded to magic realism


experimentation into a basic working principle, insisted

environment would shake when the Museo de Arte

on supporting his proposals with a conceptual discourse


Costarricense promoted competition by means of the

and edited books




Drawing and






represented an

candente 1980

essential motivation for our visual arts community The scholarship-holding artists would




drawing to

figurative kind of art in Costa Rica in which Rafa



one technique to




Dibujos de Otto Apuy Diab6/ica


from turned


and Figuraci6n

are his editorial background

Contrary to tradition Apuy was not interested in being a

head for Spain, and

great artisan, but in developing ideas resulting from his

the State promoted art sales through El Parque de Ia

trips and his reading Ever since his start, he articulated


speeches about each one of his stages, came up with

Around the region the situation was a different one, and

reflexive texts

became interested in installation and

the Central American Biennial marked out the big

intervened paintings with objects.

aesthetic differences between Costa


Rica and



His first videos,

Proporciones date from

neighbors. The winning work, Guatebala by Luis Dlaz,

conceptual montage 'Slipperiness Index'

weighed heavily on the local spirit during a decade The


by 6 meters high-



12 meters

in front of the National

artistic community felt at disadvantage for not enduring


an insurrectionist setting when the international codes

impression on the public memory in 1986

would demand critical contents

In the 70's, Apuy was more contemporary than his

During this period Otto Apuy's polemic drawings, which

colleagues, an attitude that he enriched and expanded

brought to mind the line of Arnoldo Ramirez Amaya and

during his lengthy stay in Barcelona Presently identity

Jose Luis Cuevas




Barcelona from 1974 to 1980





drew ambiguous and


his/her natura

obsessive characters -a gallery of social archetypes

deals with







and the human being's conflict with environment are the themes that he

His mobile sculpture

Transformaci6n del

more than of individual identities. Along with Apuy's

rostra won the 95-96 II Sculpture Biennial

humor and graphic irony the mysterious, hallucinating

The most relevant private effort of the 70's consisted on


the annual painting salons undertaken by the Costa

magic atmospheres of the painters Gerardo

Gonzalez and

Disifredo Garita were


Rican Tobacco Company an activity that witnessed the

plastic expectations that foretold changes in the

presence of the group Los Independientes 340


collection of plastic individualities led by the Nicaraguan

Arte Costarricense (MAC) exerted its official leadership

artist Alberto Icaza during a five-year period

from the Galerfa Nacional de Arte Contemporaneo, also

The SO's

contemporary samples that impacted the local artistic

known as GANAC, opened in 1983 There, high-quality In the transition from the 70's to the 80's, the scene


changed dramatically The development model, based

Chacon's curatorship.

of that decade were exhibited,

under Luis

on the substitution of imports, protectionism towards an

At this gallery the Neoexpresionismo Aleman exhibit,

inefficient industry and subsidized agriculture, and the

organized by the Sprengel Museum of Hanover and the

model of a restricted common market reached their limit

MAC in 1984, became a landmark upon promoting some

of possibilities. A grand-scale discussion over a change

years later in 1992, the ambitious Kunst aus Costa Rica

in the development model began This coincided with

exhibit, which traveled through several German cities

the international foreign-debt crisis, which had very

and analyzed how the German expressionism influenced

severe characteristics in Costa Rica, plus the onset of

the Costa Rican visual arts.

the Central American conflict. Even though the country

In the private sector the Lachner & Saenz Corporation

remained relatively isolated from this phenomenon, it

set another landmark by creating the Bienal de Pintura

marked the international environment severely.

L & S in 1984 and developing an art collection with an

The collapse of the development model, the economic

emphasis on emerging artists. There was competition,


painting prevailed, and the references were mainly


administration traditional



( 1978-82)







problems within the



From the creators' side of the street, a group of artists



represented by the regional conflict were outstanding

came together in 1988 under the name of Bocaraca

during that decade.







Around the middle of it, a new development model,

ideologies, as it was customary in the past (the Grupo

having a more open market and a reduction in the

Ocho and the

Grupo Taller) these "promises of the

State's role, started to be forged This was reflected in

decade" made a strategic alliance, created a mark and

the cultural sector which since 1970 with the creation of






the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, had been


strongly subsidized, but in the following decade had to

They were pragmatic as a group they would be able to

face a more unfavorable reality in the wake of a State

have more representative force on the outside It was

and a country impoverished by the economic crisis.

necessary to explore the international circuit of galleries

President Oscar Arias set the main point of inflection


towards the new decade, that of the 90's, with his

modify the image of a country whose plastic market was

museums -having

the official




limited, scarce and anonymous. Pedro Arrieta, Luis

reconciliation of the area, and a relative success in the

Chacon, Leonel Gonzalez, Miguel Hernandez, Fabio






handling of the foreign debt.

Herrera, Roberto Lizano, Mario Maffioli, Ana Isabel

The visual arts scene looked promising The Museo de

Marten, Jose Miguel 341

Rojas, Ott6n Solis and

Florencia Urbina whether individually or collectively

Viacrucis 1990 made up of the stations Vigilia en pie de

consolidated themselves as the key generation that

muerte (I II III) Seis jesuitas a/ amanecer (IV-V-VI)

characterized the production at the end of the SO's and

Esta Hora Nueva (VII-VIII IX)

a major part of the 90's

Oratorio a Steve Biko,

Este es e/ Hombre, La coronaci6n de espinas (X), De a

Within the pictorial tradition

Fabio Herrera became

fines de guerra (XI) Centroamerica, patio baldfo (XII)

the contemporary classic painter The Gesto. Signa.

Este es mi cuerpo Esta es mi sangre (XIII) Madre de

Materia exhibition paintings and paper works from 1993

un pueblo (XIV) and Altar de Ia sangre de Cristo was a

to 1996

whose curator was Efrafm Hernandez for the

transcendental piece of work.

Costa Rican Art Museum throughout 1995 and exhibited

Talent, boldness and synthesis are praised in Solis' work

in March 1996 broke away from the tradition of having

throughout the following

the museum entirely for just individuals with historica

exhibited at the Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo


value This iconographic display allowed the public to

and Galerfa Nacional

appreciate the artist's evolution from realistic art to non

nature and powerful emotional load

In the 90's he

altar-facilities of a sacramental with the most

figuration from "povera" art to object art, from this one

diverse materials

to new realism and a new objectivity until ending in

leaves, candles

abstract lyricism that the artist likes to cal intimism


Herrera got started with the landscaping watercolor

mankind's confrontation with God and with himself


If Herrera is the official contemporary painter of the last


in Barcelona he oriented himself towards matter and

after returning




wheat, firewood



In atmospheres with a great deal of

Solis builds spiritual metaphors alluding to

decade, Solis is the artist who reinterprets religious

abstraction From his work we can point out a versatile

traditions with greater authenticity peeks at the local

and considerable production an interest on matter and

thing and is able to provide his installations with a

gesture, on the architectural structure and the primitive

deeply spiritual sense

and organic elements. His latest work is pointed in two directions


of abstract inclination



The 90's

architectural elements, with an emphasis on matter and

The country started the 90's with some more defined

another one of a figurative trend with primitive signs and

development guidelines

features having a great graphic expression Spontaneity

organized since Luis Alberto Monge's administration

and reflection evidence the simultaneity of action and

19S2-S6 and were continued during that of Oscar Arias

thought singling out his painting







in a less-convulsing regional atmosphere

From another standpoint, during the SO's Ott6n Solis,

The last decade of the century was that of the building

who carried his iconographic language from painting to

of new economic and political development agreements,

montage and from ensemble to installation with great

under the reality of a more globalized world

coherence, impeccable design and making

need for a bigger opening as unavoidable and necessary

metaphoric capacity

a great

authenticity and faithfulness to





and the


himself to his memories, to popular religious traditions

competitiveness, exports and development.

and the Central American surroundings also stood out.

This constructing has not been without confrontations 342

and even social confli):t. Within this pattern, although in

shapes and materials, and another group defends

Costa Rica it continues to be much more decisive that in

installation as the suitable means to express themselves

other countries, the State's role has been reduced and

in these end-of-century times.

more fields of action have been opened up to private

Within the official sector there are changes also. The

enterprise and initiative This has been a gradual but

Museo de Arte y

obvious process that the Rafael Angel Calderon F 1990-

vocation modified the promotion model of Costa Rican

94 , Jose Marla Figueres 0


1994-98) and Miguel Angel






Regional criteria


maintained in one way or another

Diseno Contemporaneo's global


started to


be applied when




bilateral and multilateral relationships with

the country's main challenge is that of a

public and private organizations from the isthmus and

credibility crisis regarding the political institutions, about

outside the area were implemented to diffuse regional

which the citizens are showing themselves more and

art, seminars with international artists were organized,

more skeptical or distant from,

and strong, selective group exhibitions altered the





and the need to



traditional scheme of individual exhibits.

strategies to seize the comparative advantages that a

Mes6tica II-Centroamerica Re-generaci6n constitutes a

more competitive

landmark and a pattern change

interconnected world

inked to

materialistic and technological realities possesses.

Rome, Torino

San Jose, Madrid

Paris and Apeldoorn

(Holland) were

In the field of visual arts, the main novelties consist of

venues to this exhibition by 20 artists from the area,

the creation of a sculpture biennial sponsored

whose curators were Virginia Perez-Rattan and Rolando

"Cervecerla Costa Rica" private sector

Costa Rican Brewery


in the


and the opening of the Museum of

During the 90's, the budget annually allotted by the

Contemporary Art and Design (MADC) in 1994 by the

State to culture decreased sharply achieving its lowest


amount in the history of the Ministry of Culture






& Saenz


disappeared and "Bienarte" a private initiative with a

than 0 6 percent of the national budget. This situation

regional projection, arose.

severely limited the yearly schedule and programs of

Since the I Bienal de Escultura in 1993 until its fourth

museums, and it favored alliances with the private

edition in 1999 this contest has shown that traditional

sector (sponsorships, donations, memberships

sculpture is suffering from a severe lethargy and it has

In the last two administrations, reality has revealed that

become the space being demanded urgently by artists in

private support is an additional help and that the state's

order to experiment without limitations around the

support, a definitive resource, lacks political support.

three-dimensional format.

The profile of museums decreased severely in the face




installations are exhibited performed




of recurrent threats and limitations from the repeated

is no longer

abrupt remarks of congressmen threatening to reduce

now everything is assembling and building

specific income sources to the arbitrary behavior of the

The circle is divided into two irreconcilable positions

Ministry of Finance, by means of severe budgetary

one sector advocates the use of conventiona sculptural

limits and an irregular system of delivering subsidies. 343

The international offering

by the MADC

best instance of how a contemporary artist works in our

familiarized the public with another attitude regarding

country she began with painting, jumped to object-art,

visual arts and other discourses

to installation and to video.






from the importance




None of them is linked to the immediate generations.


They work independently and uprooted from their

art) to the concept of artistic work as an integral

tutors, if they ever had one, are open to exchange and

intellectualization of the creative process process.







support, are less individualistic than their predecessors


and participate in collective exhibitions as comfortably

The Costa Rican artist of the 90's favored the latter and

as if they were an individual one. They produce but do

viewed artistic work as a process with no limitations to

not show off路 they meditate and reflect a lot about their

tools at hand

photography engraving, painting, video,

pieces. Their attitude before the means of production is

objects, digital images, non-traditional supports, texts,

that of research and experimentation They are deeply

etc. Conception of the idea no longer implied personally

critical of the social context, range from an intellectual

material execution by the artist.

Craftsmen would do

and ironic language Chanto, Alban and Monge observe

this and artists would supervise

"Anything goes" and

their environment from



artists "seized" other authors'





introspection and intimism (Jimenez peeks at herself in

images to state new meanings

order to analyze man's bonds to the culture that frames

Private galleries spread throughout the area (Galerla

and defines him

Valanti, Galerla Centro) and the position of the Karpio Gallery as the most effective bastion to hook up with the

Marisel Jimenez

international commercial circuit became consolidated

Marisel Jimenez began her sculptural production in the

The prices went through the roof路 a public relations

80's with very personal pieces full of tenderness (brass

game started

girls and dogs carved in "pochote" wood) La V estaci6n


artists invest on


pictures, promote themselves by means of the Internet,


marked the language that defines her


travel to the most sought-after exhibits and biennials

skillfully combining pictorial and sculptural techniques,

and attend special events. The same way


pigments, iron and wood a door with a broken window

by the Hollywood

alludes to a anti-folkloric Costa Rica that is more and

Almodovar must be legitimized

machinery so that the world acknowledges his talent,

more urban and segmented

artists must climb a world of intricate connections that

neighborhoods each time. term

into large low-income

begins in the Southern Cone and finally reaches Miami

A defender of the

as the entrance port, hopefully backed by Art Nexus



rather than

From this last decade, I have chosen Sila Chanto for

then, she alternated her long stays between Segovia

engraving and Marisel Jimenez for sculpture, two

and San Jose

Marisel left for Spain in 1990 and since Between 1991 and 1993 she designed

techniques having a long tradition in Costa Rica, Jorge

and handmade 26 characters for El retablo de Maese

Alban for photography a medium with growing official

Pedro by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla for the

legitimization and finally Priscilla Monge for being the

"Libelula" Company of Segovia 344

Besides the puppets,

she became involved in the making of 12 scenographies

intervened with pigments The nstallation with an area

and a "teatrino" mini-theater)

of 4 2 by 2 8 m is surrounded by a series of allegorical

This background was the key to develop the piece that

images a sequence of characters supported by biblical

made her the winner of the Grand Prize at the I


Sculpture Biennia of the Costa Rican Brewery in 1993 Retablo de Ia Corte de Carlos Jimenez of




Sila Chanto

a group having

Immersed in a graphic tradition upon which Francisco

autobiographica reminiscences that set a landmark in


Amighetti and Juan Luis Rodriguez's footsteps weigh

artistic experience, upon breaking the official perception around

prevai ng





Sila Chanto makes a deliberate formal and

conceptual renunciation of the values on which that

interested n creating emotional atmospheres, the artist

tradition is based

built a family atmosphere that is a metaphor of

engraving in our country has been woven takes away

repression and loneliness

the myth about the weight of autochthonous and

Marisel's production during the second part of the 90's

popular themes,

She criticizes how the history of

reviews the marginal

position of

ranged between portraits made to order and freelance

engraving in relation to other techniques favored by

work. Personalities such as Joaqu n Gutierrez

tradition and adopts an alternative position in the face

Yolanda Oreamuno Abolishment Odio



1997) the Monument to the Army

Jose Figueres Ferrer

of the legitimization systems of both forma

1998) and Eunice


technical aspects as well as of social relationships

all of them in bronze, show a lot of

More than a polemic and feminist political position Sila

freedom regarding their treatment and expression

Chanto can read people, the signs worn by people, from

The cruelty scope of Catholicism is Marisel's last

the back of the mirror Engraving has allowed her to


develop a very particular ethics the front and the back






exhibited at the MADC and the Museos del Banco Central

she created a scenery loaded with the painful

feelings promoted by religion to have access to God In Pajaro en mana 1999 XV Century House, Segovia

are the same thing

She is always behind the vein of



unthread ng




historical fears, on it. Her usual themes are the strained


relations arising among morals, social conventions,

artist alluded to suffering as the means of purification

eroticism and humor


In Multitud sin nombre

by religious institutionalism as a control


a montage of 16

mechanism This installation consists of a cage-chapel


inhabited by aching birds and built with an old

American Cultural Center Sila handled successfully the

structure, lined with rusty silk and barbwire


In this








Rican North




space, old wooden beams constitute three elements a

multi-sample production was the resource used by her

cross on which a crown of spikes and severa corvids ie,

to point out the many peoples that inhabit in us.

a pedestal for a choir of young crows, and the platform

The theme of Reinventando Ia Bestia

where a group of twisted parishioners nests.


All the characters are made of terra cotta and are

relationships, the erotic bonds with each other Her work 345



was power games, codependency

La espera of monumental proportions, is the multitude

Caribbean at the Dawn of the XXI Century" exhibit in

with no name, silent pluralities in which, in supposed

Paris in 1999

contention and rest, a primitive world captured by the


artist in detail in the sequence Bestia 1 2, 3 and Oos


Bestias nests.

"Bienarte" Award They are silver gelatin prints, toned


2 5 meter-high gauze

works were



Amorexico with


and 1999

a 100

and intervened with acrylic painting Finally a work in progress proves the artist's interest in de-constructing

imprinted 45 characters with a natural format that pretend to be urinating in this space


where she

Currently Sila is working on the piece Muro meter-long


themes related to gender the body and language.

Devised to be

mounted as a labyrinth giving access to an object, the

Priscilla Monge

wall presents several modular possibilities. The act of

A worthy representative of the last generations, Priscilla

urinating alludes to the desire for defining one's own

Monge engages in mixtures. Starting out with painting

space, a rational but useless attempt according to the

by combining different supports and references within

artist's viewpoint. It is a metaphor that takes away the

the same piece, she went on to objects devised by

myth about power positions and the social organization

means of a lot of research and reflection, placing herself

surrounding us.







boomerangs were light their insults traveled and hit the

Jorge Alban

target. Later they became marble


unspoken messages. This way she demonstrated how

makes a subjective recreation of reality by

they turned into

manipulating photographic images. He uses alternative

much connection there should be between form and


substance, between the treatment of materials and the






completely in terms of the conceptual premise of his

transgressing message of her proposals.

pieces, and includes texts to separate the sensorial

Awarded the prize for the 1999 IV Bienal de Escultura,

experience produced

together with Pedro Arrieta and Andres Carranza,

by the

spectator from the rational

plastic work on the process caused

Priscila conceived books out of marble, epitaph-books

in his

that nobody can open up, leaf through or close They are

conscience by words. Identified with the objet and matterful art trend

lifeless and with great perversity allude to the memory


artist reviews themes such as identity paternity sexual

of our fears, our words and our sanity

roles, and domestic everyday life

Her reflections about identity the body the power of

Alban became immersed in this circle during the 90's

words, culture and the man of her time are articulated

Having studied in New York, Jerusalem

Madrid and

by ideas appropriately corresponding to their plastic

Heredia the artist presented his pictures in 1997 over

materialization Nobody handles the sense of humor as

unusual supports

rationally as Priscilla does. It has a cold but deeply sharp

pressed and rusty vehicle junk.

Volkswagen afio desconocido III is a silver image in


gelatin over lacquered junk. This work represented

The artist is on the ball

Costa Rica in "The art of Latin America and the

international circuit, travels to the main conferences, the 346

she participates in the

Sao Paulo Biennial acknowledges her audiovisua talent, she is generous as a tutor for younger artists, has an open-minded yet never sectarian attitude, knows the members of the dream team of plastic arts criticism That is to say she is on the top ten of modernity Without a doubt, she is an artist of her time. Her work is a non-stop reflection of our time. Just like John Cage, Priscilla has been telling us a through the 90's

"I don't understand why people fear

new ideas. I fear the old ones "




The potentially programmatic nature of the title for this symposium does not escape any of the people present here. "Central Themes" may sound like a dull and bureaucratic title to an unaware audience but, to us, it sums up a series of goals or ambitions this event was summoned for

We are trying here to hint at a thematic

common to the central region of the Americas. Secondly the title betrays the wish to raise the issue of the symbolically ex-centric position of the cultural narrative of these countries. It proposes occupying the thematic core disputed to Central America by both the metropolitan narratives as well as by the stories of the Latin American countries traditionally stronger regarding the continent's imagery


"Central Themes"

suggests the task of making a glossary of critical concepts for this region My task as moderator more than summarizing and -therefore- distorting yesterday's presentations, lies in starting to abstract a series of avenues of discussion for a common agenda From the presentations that we have listened to, it follows that the hypothetical conceptual territory of Central American art is not just an extension of the current narratives of Latin American art. We have heard very little or hardly anything about the discourse and vocabulary of globalization It seems that the cultural activist and the art critic in Central America are deeply rooted within the context of their country instead

Occupying the Thematic Center Beginning Account for the 2nd Session of "Central Themes".

of theorizing on the transformation of art's global scene, on the irruption of the peripheral artist in the international exhibit circuit or on phenomena such as migration the generalization of the global mass culture, the mobility of symbolic capital or the fading away of the concept of sovereignty

Except for the case of the narration about

Guatemala, the strained relations between what is local and what is global are still expressed in the ultimately implicitly-nationalistic terms of "opening" or "closure" towards "the outside." This puts aside the record of the effects of the new world order on the country itself or the change in the shape of the constellation of artistic realms around the globe. Even some presentations insisted on demonstrating the willingness to define the aesthetics of what is "genuinely" national It is funny how somebody pointed out in a conversation on a bus yesterday that, in a

By Cuauhtemoc

region where civil wars and aborted revolutions caused massive movements of people,


the topics of migration hybridization, cross-culturing or the dialectics of western or non-western issues are not fundamental ordaining topics. A first reflection on the discussion present in the region suggests that the concern for the very survival of culture or art in our countries shifts the issues of the meaning of the works to the background The impoverishment of organizations, critical traditions and art education were extensively discussed but the idea that the local production is related to the


individuals' effort and imagination, more than to the emergence of specific art programs

models and

presentations dealt very


was also asserted

ittle with generational

In general


ideological or aesthetic struggles

among artists As a rule, the presenters wished to single out artists recognized as "renovators" in their communities, but without

accounting for situations where

individual works or artists are indicating changes of direction

ruptures or dissident

projects. Perhaps because of the fragility of the cultural structure, confrontation and frontal criticism are unaffordable luxuries.

Maybe art in this region has refused to

become problematic enough in order to allow an internal narrative of art stories marked by times of clash among projects, policies

artists, generations and irreconcilable

aesthetics. Yet, maybe the presenters have not delved into indicating the differences which quietly set forth the guidelines for the regional culture An issue that has been worrying many of us is how to relate the very complex political/military history of Central America to the recent history of art. All of the presenters framed their words in a narrative, sometimes very detailed some others simple, of the social confrontations of the SO's However it was hard, if not impossible, for all of them to clearly express the correlation between the works they were showing and that traumatic political atmosphere

Except for the case of Nicaragua,

where the Sandinista cultural policy marked a moment of reactivation of explicit political art and/or of popular production

and the recent Guatemalan scene of

conceptual artists, the political issue is expressed through the art reviewed by us by way of a "humanist" distant standpoint and a strengthening of the differences between "what is educated" and an intolerable context. Maybe as suggested by the discussion following the two short films that we watched yesterday "the political issue" of these works must not be traced in their explicit content, but in the silencing or the sublimation of the immediate history in art forms that record the trauma of this region whether in the form of a longing for "apolitical" art or by way of projections and euphemisms of social violence in the realm of the personal or the imaginary Along those lines, the beginning of a shared reflection on the meaning of the so-called "feminization of Central American art" as proposed by Virginia Perez-Rattan was very interesting

It is obvious that the idea of a non-masculine code taking over the

regiona aesthetics has a reciprocity and strain relation with the patriarchic model of local politics, and the masculine pattern of the revolutionary and guerrilla project. It still remains for us to ask ourselves, nonetheless, to what extent feminization is the subl mation of the silence that art exerts upon the social and political violence in the past history of Centra America It is also pending to see to what extent that same 352

ground is favorable to generate a re-politicization of the artistic discourse that will change not only the accepted or agreed-on definition of what "art" is in Central America but also of what is "political" Maybe this concern could be thought of through an act of Anfbal Lopez that Rosina Cazali kindly introduced to us in her account of the Guatemalan art of the 90's. It is no coincidence that the person that Lopez tied up and hid under the table where snacks and drinks were being served for the "Contexto" Gallery reception was a woman This object of violence, condemned to our accomplice silence, states not only the feminine nature held by the victim iconography in our country the work, in the context of this Seminar can be seen as an explicit showing (or a de-sublimation) of the political subconscious of regional art.


From Public Space to Private Space The decades of the eighties and nineties signified for Guatemala a long period of conflict between the army and the guerrilla

a fact that in the national imagery

represents presently only a temporary interim which is becoming forgotten, diluted and transformed within the whirlwind of the capital city's accelerated growth During this period of time, public space found itself annulled by fear distrust and the tediousness of a state of danger that could not be "seen" but, nonetheless, could






apparitions, in which the population could read the great scope of political repression, above all urban, and the danger of making use of public space for carrying out cultural activities which, while not totally prohibited, were nevertheless always suspicious, bringing about tacit exclusion As of the signing of the Peace Agreement

1) this

situation has slowly been changing The democratization

Poetry, Body and Performance as True Aesthetic Emergencies in Today's Guatemala

processes have had their effect on the appreciation of public space. In spite of this, social practices have displaced themselves from the essentially public to the public-private, such as the tendency to gather and stroll inside the large shopping centers, which were built in the nineties bringing about new ways of using that space. It is undeniable that the imagery molds even that practice In the first half of the XX century socialization was

By Aida Toledo

carried out in the cultural space of the public square or the market. Nowadays, such socialization is preferred inside a 'mall' in the hall' of Bancafe or if one is more daring in some downtown hotel, restaurant or 'cafe' a decision implicating a thousand and one precautions, against muggings and car thefts, to be taken as part of the daily fantasy of those who dare use those private spaces, located in an area now considered "dangerous" 354

and that, in the national imagery still constitutes the

Perhaps it is in Guatemalan urban poetry where the first

area of the ghost square.

changes in artistic records can be appreciated


Undoubtedly the political, social


and cultural changes

young writers of this moment, besieged by media such

are determining new artistic practices. There is a

as television, movies and the telephone, added to new

certain opening taking place whether it is taking place

experiences in a fast growing city have been impacted


by solitude, noise, the haste of a rapidly changing

countries whose political profile is similar is something




different Centra

environment, thus transforming itself into an entity in

that has to be revised

which social communication is becoming more difficult

Besides, the new so-called postmodern era permits

all the time, also due to political events.

cultural homogeneity

ideologically in the loss of the

In this poetry the lyrical subject displaces itself towards

meta-narratives, and in practice, in the use of the new

voices coming from the middle strata, where tonalities

the scope of ultra-swift obtaining of

acquire a more popular and contemporary hue. There is

information, within what analysts call a globalized

a transformation in the voice that sings, a language

nation, (3

deprived of that modernist elegance (in its literary

mass media

which inevitably permeates and screens

cultural i'nanifestations in Guatemala and the other

sense, that is) is adopted

it is sung the way it is

Central American countries, considered the "periphery of

spoken Poetry is characterized by the use of city slang

peripheries" within the Latin American context. 4

and the lingo of youth, linguistically equivalent to the

The fact is that the cultural scene, determined in the last

Mexican "onda" [groove]

twenty years by various forms of social and political

make poetic is made poetic; the human body appears

and what was impossible to

violence, causing the displacement from public spaces to

openly as a body

private and semi-private spaces, has been crucial in the

"overpowering waters" that invade the "dark corners" of

deprived of the "oars" and the

specific case of Guatemala and has had an impact in the

that something which is sex. Additionally the tradition of

emergence of new artistic manifestations, which have

the visual poem -the poem's visual image- is taken back,

not emerged through spontaneous generation, but are

re-elaborated, recycled

precisely the result of the new political opening and the

The poets of the seventies got around to revising the literary tradition of historic vanguards and reworked the

new cultural airs.




they assumed


rebellious and


Change of Aesthetics, Language and World View


The inescapable presence of television, cable, video,

attitudes they did not gather in cafes, but in taverns or


computers, has caused deep changes in present-day

seedy bars, where they discussed their own aesthetics,


they practiced art as something vital, within a political

An accelerated process has been produced

of doing away with the traditional aesthetic, coupled to


other factors that will be commented on later The truth



was these

impossible poets





because, to


is that this process, linked to the influence of the mass

commands of the Guatemalan left-wing Some of them,

media now allows the artist to thtnk about associating

like Ottoniel Martinez, achieved a fusion between politics

elements that were irreconcilable in the past.

and poetry still has to be revised








installations became visible


exhibited in the ruins of

present-day artistic trends -elaboration that may be

Antigua Guatemala

found n the books of Ana Marfa Rodas, Luis Eduardo

There was a new way of interpreting the world in their

Rivera Ottoniel Martinez and Enrique Noriega- is what

exhibits, of occupying the spaces of the past, reworking

has been ca led art of the body and of sexua ity The

the aspect of "mestizaje"

enthroned in the national

purging of sacredness from this type of element, never

imagery thus elaborating a new interpretation of the

touched on by the previous Guatemalan generations, in

visual image postulated by them

a direct language and stripped of traditional rhetoric, is

The body again comes to be of vital importance in the

one of the contributions of this generation to the

photography of Luis Gonzalez Palma

cultural and artistic tradition of Guatemala where the

themes in vogue at the time, such as identity myth and

world view has been modified substantia ly

gender associated with that of nude bodies, in a fusion

who reworks

As for spectacle on the streets and in relation to the

between history and photography Concerning Gonzalez


Palma and the techniques for creating artistic effects




precedents seems to be Teatro Vivo


of the

between the indigenous and the ladino Rosina Cazali

Live Theater) a

group of actors who did not exactly follow a script, they

states the following

interpreted their work on the street and by means of a

In contrast, he obtained an impeccable white in the look

collective direction

of individuals who, according to the stereotype of the

audience participate

handled a topic and

had the

indigenous, had the practice of looking down

They integrated ambiance and

place in Guatemala only because of them


there the generalized idea that his work built a bridge

public, achieving an artistic manifestation that has taken

between the mestizo gaze and that of the native, who

and which



performances carried out by the youths from the capita



city who gather around Editorial Mundo Bizarro

At the end of the eighties and in the early nineties, the

now has become the

historic antecedent of the





Both national and foreign cultural and iterary studies

plastic work of Anfbal Lopez seemed to connect with the

have not yet undertaken serious research on this period

work of Gonzalez Palma in working with nakedness and identity and with that of the poets of the seventies, as

the seventies but undoubtedly it is there where many

to the urgency to confront a society so saturated with

of the manifestations of present Guatemalan cultura production originated and inked It seems to have been

contradictions as the Guatemalan one is in relation to

the first break in tradition

this theme The voluptuousness of the alienated body is

different politica

but it happened in a very

one of the interpretations of the artistic bodies of Lopez

social and cultural context.

Despite the first changes in the world view of the

the gender theme continued in the visual arts, and the

seventies' poets, whose development was interrupted by

fusion between culture and theme was one of the

historic events, being already visible, it was not unti the

pressing worries of the artist. The body which had been

work of Imaginaria group appeared in the eighties,

removed from art through religious interpretation was

another group of artists who organized and carried out

brought back by Lopez who presented a reworking of it

a series of cultural activities among which the first

within a hybrid and misogynous, almost liturgical 356

religious context.

performances where, above all some women fuse the

Irene Torrebiarte's photographic work and installations

different arts seeking to explain to themselves, within

at the end of the nineties give us an idea of the art line

the same process of creation, the world they live in, its

that will be developed in the country originating from

contradictions and the annoyances that these cause in

female imagery (6)


Exhibited at the Contemporary Art

and Design Museum of Costa Rica for the first time and then in Guatemala, Irene created a plastic curtain

Anguish and Inquisition: Performance+ poetry as

assembled from fragments, small plastic bags of sorts

solutions in the artistic work of Regina Galindo

inside of which she placed pubic hair and blood

and other performers


extracted from her own body a work that she would call

If as Rosina Cazali says, the youngest generation of

De Ia violencia a/ sentido.

artists has grown up during the years of greatest

If Isabel Ruiz represented in some of her works the

violence in the country, as most of them were born

violence of everyday female life, in Irene Torrebiarte's

around the eighties -a time when the army dismantled

work elements of the body itself were used to represent

guerilla redoubts in the capital city it is natural that they

the female intimate.

and their art, part of the imagery of forgetting as

The sexual strength and connotations that are observed

essential characteristic of a generation, be the offspring

in this installation, on display for a society -the

of a population that has had to forget massacres, abuse,

Guatemalan one- which does not expose the body or its

crimes, torture and rape, to be able to survive more or

most private parts but through extreme violence such as

less sanely in a country like Guatemala


For Cazali this generation exiled political commitment

fragmentation and transparency of the materials with

and discourses from its work and built its artistic







which this "artifact" (7) of Torrebiarte's was produced

imagery through intimist or critical, but extremely

are to cause in the spectator diverse kinds of sensations

skeptical views. (8) Skepticism seems to be that factor

such as that of feeling discovered at an immoral deed

drawing the imaginary line of art in Guatemala, since the

or hurt and exposed in the face of mutilation, eccentric

XIX century without a doubt tied to the quest for a

sensations directly pointed towards cultural imagery and

national identity for the new republic.

produced by this work as an element arising from the

In order to observe this statement, it is necessary to see

post-modern period, which becomes obvious in this

the journalistic and literary work of Jose Batres Montufar

unforgettable installation

and Josefa Garda Granados to understand how such a

The process of doing away with aesthetics, mentioned at

line is noticed sometimes clear at other times not so

the beginning of this section, caused in part by the new

clear, but always there -subliminal and permanent.

era, the serial reproduction, the new social skepticism

Concerning performances, it has already been noted

and the political opening in Guatemala after the signing

how the writers of Editorial Mundo Bizarro bring

of peace, allows to observe with more detail what young


artists are doing in poetry literature and art and to be

confrontational spirit of that generation of artists. (9) No

able to analyze artistic manifestations such as the

need to recall that their show is in direct relation to the 357
















presentation Although it is not the intent of this writing

contemporary art gallery

to comment on the characteristics of these performers'



programmed for her body

it should

be pointed out that one of the





de Yico

and constituted itself into

of the





characteristic elements of some of their poems is in

There she submerged herself nude in a bathtub full of

direct connection to the neobaroque style, which in

water emerging only when she could no longer hold her

poetry defines one of the current Latin American poetic


trends 10

breathing ability as the first human gesture, since she

-Alejandro Miranda's poems are a good- and

neobaroque example,

Evidently her purpose was

linked to the

sought to reflect how ways of inhaling and exhaling are

11 that Rosina Cazali observes

essential bodily functions

in the work of both Gonzalez Palma and Anlbal Lopez.

therefore, she seemed to

Regina Galindo's name is associated to poetry in the

have been reworking the problematic of contemporary

artistic circle

women in relation to primitive myths. (13) However the

As a first manifestation of change in the

national literary academy she was anthologized in Para

presence of the naked body intensifies the meanings

conjurar e/ suefio (To Plot the Dream

with this evidence, we are allowed to affirm that this

Editorial Cultura,

next to poets such as Ana

representation was done as a quest for the first cultural

Marla Rodas, in an attempt to trace a feminist line of

manifestations, the way in which corporal art found in

Guatemalan poetry written by women

performance reflecting the pre-beginnings of art is

But Galindo's true expectations became consolidated

understood by Jorge Glusberg

when she inserted her performances and installations


alongside other young women such as Jessica Lagunas

downtown Regina returned to performance. There, in a

1998 being 24 years old


post of












and Marla Adela Dlaz, into the activities of the Historic


and Colloquia Center

experiencing and seeing herself hanging from a rope,


An interesting aspect regarding Galindo is her artistic

suspended over an empty space, Galindo turned her

work with the body

boldness into a work of art where, without being listened

corporal art 12

With this precedent, she puts forth

in this type of aesthetic manifestation


she read (shouted out) short unpublished texts

as an emerging artistic form after the signing of the

related to one of her concerns

denouncing domestic

Peace agreements.

violence, a society's abuse of power represented by the Regina exhibited her

family that confines, harasses and does not allow

own nude body before the public. Enclosed in a small

freedom within the private space, or outside of it. That

space, blindfolded

she is facing a basically sexist

is why she symbolically leaped into emptiness-a public

Ever since her first installation

society to irrupt the phantasmagoria of the accusing

space, very close to what we have called the ghost

female body with that image

square, and from there she denounced the repression at

The use of the naked body fills the image presented with

the family's core, the sexist society in which she has

meanings, arising in the public an inversed oneiric

grown up

process in relation to the sublimation of desires.

were collected by the passersby and spectators who,

Her following performance took place in one of the most

steering clear of city buses and cars that did not stop 358

dropping the texts into emptiness, which

before the crowd, tried to seize the "artifacts" Regina dropped, thus producing

subordination of the female body whose only victory -if

in the collective memory

perhaps there is merit in this- is found in the power of

something similar to those flyers that small airplanes

the written word, of writing, the only testimony found

used to drop for the working-class public, especially in the

pasted on the table as a symbol of the family

capita city's marginal sectors.

patriarchal order and the domestic repression of

Poetry is not an accessory element in this performance

Guatemalan women that still persists, even, within the

it is integrated as a basic element complementing the

new democratic process.

denunciation, which reaches a someone -an unknown fellow in the random process of drifting in the air and

Critical Statement

the rouletting process of the lucky number

This brief approach to the cultural processes in which

The other image that the post office performance

national art is being debated allows us to see changes

induces to associate it with is that of the inquisition,

have taken place, if not substantial, at least partial,

produced not only in the image of the frightened

which have been caused in the context of art and

woman, hanging from a rope, but reinforced by the

literature in Guatemala by the political opening

inquisitorial content of the poetic texts. The denouncing

The cultural explorations by the artists of the seventies,

of religious values, the possibility of vindicating the

eighties and early nineties, regarding themes and

torments of the heretical in the female imagery fills with

concerns worked on during a period of harsh violence,

intensity the concurrence of associations which that

terror and social instability seem to have opened veins

diverse public, observer of the performance, handles in

that were once again taken up and continued by young

the cathartic process of that who views the spectacle.

artists after the Signature of Peace. Besieged by new

The work that Galindo has been elaborating, where she

technology these artists are imprinting in their artistic

and her body are used for re-signifying the levels of

work other nuances enriching the recent manifestations

interpretation about certain contents, has one of its

of a kind of art that does not come to a halt.

utmost expressions in Sobremesa after-dinner) whose

The fusion of the different arts poetry and performance,

social and cultural references upset the levels of political

performance and installations, poetry and dance, etc.-

and social power -in the sense that generic differences

makes you reave down memory lane some defeated

are a political issue- in present-day Guatemala

concepts, above all as to the aesthetic view and should

In this work Regina again used poetic artifacts as an

prompt reflection and a quest for alternatives upon.

emerging and critical measure. This time the artifacts

observing how fluctuating cultural processes are, and

did not fly in the air路 they were pasted on tabletops,

how they now depend mostly on globalization and the

symbolizing static memory

interests of new consumer markets.

Galindo's body was placed in a fetal position under the

The best and most intelligent way of taking the cultural

table and this, as observed by the local art critics,

pulse of a country should then be the acute observation

intensified the meanings by producing in the public a

of the artistic trends of the new generations.

series of reflections about silence, the feminine, the power of a sexist society and the submission and 359

explosion of surrealism


Also the unfurling of surrealism

and its implantation in Latin America would have to be

1 Edelberto Torres-Rivas Del autoritarismo a Ia paz

revised and reconstructed in order to throw light on how

Guatemala FLACSO 1998 151 158

this 'ism' served for radica izing the business of undoing

2 I call "ghost square" to what n the past comprised

the officia styles Perlongher in Medusario 26

all the area of Centennial Park, a meeting place for the


populace of the first half of the XX century A place for

For Jorge Glusberg corporal art possesses the

celebrations and encounters of all types, when spaces

greatest artistic force of this time, and it really comes to

were public, open to civic and cultural activities and that

be when the main content is the reference to the artist's

has now been reduced to a space more of a private

body Jorge Glusberg El arte de Ia performance Buenos

nature, in the surroundings of which

Aires Ediciones Gaglianone, 1986 106

in the eighties,

13 Glusberg El arte .. , 109

Oliverio Castaneda de Leon was chased and ki led 3

14 Glusberg El arte ., 109

Rosina Cazali illustrates this aspect very well

mentioning the case of Pablo Swezey and his Fat Man Bibliography

whose construction blueprints were found through a browser of the computer network. Rosina Cazali, "Arte de Guatemala en los af\os 90

Achugar Hugo. La biblioteca en ruinas Montevideo Ediciones Trilce, 1994.

sacando las espinas"

Cazali Rosina Arte de Guatemala en los 90 sacando

without publishing details, 7 4

las espinas Without publishing details

Hugo Achugar La biblioteca en ruinas Montevideo

-Golsberg RoseLee Performance Live Art 1909 to the

Ediciones Trilce, 1994 26 (5) Rosina Cazali "Arte de Guatemala 6

Cazali "Arte de Guatemala

Present Great Britain Library of Congress, 1979


-Giunsberg Jorge El arte de Ia performance

" 12

(7) I use the term "artifact" because it coincides in my critica view with the artifacts Nicanor Parra writes about in his most recent books

Nicanor Parra



(9 Golsberg RoseLee of




"Surrea ist


Great Britain



Torres-Rivas, Edelberto. Del autoritarismo a Ia paz Guatemala FLACSO 1998


Library of

Congress, 1979 34-62 10


-Perlongher, Nestor Medusario Prologue. Mexico Fondo

Performance Live Art 1909 to

of Ru ns"


de Cultura Economic, 1996.

" 16

the Present, "Dada Performance The Idea of Art and the Idea


Universidad Catolica 1972

Santiago de Chile Universidad Catolica de Chile, 1972 8) Cazali "Arte de Guatemala


Aires Ediciones Gaglionone, 1986

Nestor Perlongher in prologue to Medusario

Mexico Fondo de Cultura Economica 1996 25-26 11 The neobaroque in poetry seems to result from the encounter between that baroque effluence which, in spite of its silence, is a constant in Spanish and the 360

Yet, what language should one resort to so that the claim of the past be morally attended to as a pleadingpart of a prevailing social narrative if almost all the languages that survived the crisis have been recycling their







disaffected-insensitive tone of the mass media, and if such mass media are only administering the "poorness of experience" (Benjamin) of a technological present time with no mercy or compassion towards the fragility and precariousness of the remains of the wounded memory? (Nelly Richard, 46) Schizophrenia

I relativism I pastiche I marginality I hybridity I pretense terms


assoc\ated w'th postmooen'l,ty, a mag'c word that intends






contemporary aesthetics whose representations refer to collapsing cultural spaces. It is within the instability of

Aesthetics of Violence: Deconstructions of a Fragmented Identity

these spaces and this type of aesthetics that as Latin

By Anabel/a Acevedo



experienced at the same time than the disillusionment

Americans we have experienced the transculturalization, heterogeneity and hybridization processes -or however these transformations and interlacing are taken- in a particular way since they have taken place along with civi





How can these processes be taken in countries like whose




and violence of its most recent history? "The so-called postmodernity," says Jose Joaquin Bruner "is nothing but the perplexed awareness of the modernity that matured







rationalities that are constantly struggling with each other all of them trying to be interpreted and translated without ever reaching a common language" (p.ll) Bruner is referring to the "rationalities of the market, bureaucracies and 361



labor unions, religious groups, transnational companies,

and the distinguishing features that stem from it" (p.x)

winning armies, the media and technological creations"

The same may be said about artistic manifestations in

(p.10) which, on the other hand, create tensions and

general, not necessarily in a mimetic way but, above all,

aggressive responses in the spaces remaining on the

based on the metaphorizing of that historicity that refers

sidelines of these games and which, in turn


to conflicts of a more existential nature

their own marginal spaces.




my reflections with two


My reflections in this work originate from being aware of

examples from the present in order to comment on a

the marginality and negotiations Guatemalans have

tradition that could be traced ever since the forced and

been forced into as to deal with the violence of their

violent start of an independent Guatemala, and which

history and survive it in a chameleon-like manner I am

could be studied in terms of its loans, its learning and its

trying to approach the representation of what may be


called "aesthetics of violence"

The first event took place in 1998 during the Historical

(1) which has been

present both in literature and the visual arts as well as

Center Festival Alejandro Marre, from the self-named

in the urban spaces through signs that make reference

Grupo Bizarro, read his Manifiesto marreista in one of

to the identity fragmentation and despair


the rooms of the old convent of Santo Domingo while he

violence is understood as the infringement of the law or


was aiming a gun at the audience, and then pretended

the precepts, as profanation of the sacred, as an act of

to be blowing his brain out. This is what the audience

aggression towards the established order the trajectory


of contemporary art could be understood as a series of

Poet, poet

violent acts.

The era of panic is close


here I am referring to the

manifestations and effects of violence upon artistic

The truth is hungry for life

practices regarding the historical context within which

May the morphemes be the same caliber as the

they take place, in this case Guatemala

bullets, then

Although this work's emphasis is on the literature, I am

May the phonemes be blades, seeds and gods,

also turning to other artistic expressions that contribute

May the truth be accepted naked and able to

to a broader view of the reality to which they resort; I


am especially interested in the use of visual elements in

May the panic harden our reasoning

the publication of written texts, and in the incursion of

And may the conclusions be elegant and vigor

some young writers into performance. The enlightening

ous spermatozoa.

guide in this case is represented by Dante Liana's hypotheses








Poet, poet

guatemalteca "literature, as a part of culture, is linked

It is necessary to write shotguns

-both directly and indirectly

For horizontal poets.

and through diverse

entities- to society's general procedures.

it is immersed

Poet, poet

in the country's historical processes.

[and] such a

Don't waste your time writing poetry

relationship grants Guatemalan literature its specificity

You'd better cut it out from the books 362

Steal it

over her nude body herself becoming a text, an object

Exile it

that testifies and makes violence its own

Return it to where it belongs

Dfaz also participated in this same exhibit with the

Marfa Adela

To its causes, to its things, to its beings

installation Yo no culpa ni disculpo in which she echoes

To its names and its men

the same theme

Or to its women

against women

To its natural arrhythmias and its senses.

levels- acquires particular meanings in such a context as


the allusion to violence

-commonplace in different cultural

Guatemala where it has been systematically cultivated Both Regina Jose Galindo and Alejandro Marre were born

Poet, poet Death to textbooks

in 1974 two years before the earthquake where 25,000

And to the gentlemen in suits who can no longer

people died

and which

dramatically changed the


country's physical character Many towns in the high

After the applause.

plateau built with the typical adobe structures, had to

To live poetry, to be a poem

-towns of concrete and sheet upon which television

be reconstructed from scratch, thus becoming pastiches "Marrefsmo" or death!!!!! (Tanta imagen tras Ia

antennas connected to cable TV can now be seen

puerta, 31-2)

Galindo faces the urban space by simulating the fall of a postmodern angel

A picture in the newspaper in which Regina Jose

shotguns and

Marre talks about panic, bullets,


In order to understand the

Galindo's body can be observed pretending to be an

historical significance of the manifestations of this new

angel, hanging from a bridge that links two buildings in

aesthetics which

downtown Guatemala City

notwithstanding, seems so familiar

reading her poems and

-and even "exhausted" to some, it is necessary to take

throwing them on the street, from where surprised

a look at the country's past since the identity tensions

pedestrians picked them up, refers to the second event.

and crises that turn into the expressions and discourses

Probably some of them were holding a poem in their

being faced by us are a part of the historical process

hands for the first time maybe others were not able to

that, paradoxically youths seem to ignore or at least,

read it. Not surprisingly they are inhabitants of one of

not to name

the Latin American countries with one of the highest

The first half of the XX century was marked by two

illiteracy rates in Latin America, and this performance

dictatorships, an earthquake and an invasion

that is,

amid a crowded and polluted urban center seemed a

Manuel Estrada Cabrera's twenty-two years in power

minimum desperate expression next to the chatter of

the earthquakes in 1917 and 1918 that redefined the

dollar exchangers, vendors, office clerks. The artist had

architectural character of Guatemala's capital city -an itinerant, nomadic city relocated three times-

participated before in the exhibit Sin pelos en Ia lengua


Ubico's thirteen-year long dictatorship, and the United

Guatemala, 1999 with the performance El dolor en un pafiuelo in which she appeared naked while texts about

States' intervention in 1954 to overthrow Jacobo Arbenz

attacks against women in Guatemala were projected

Guzman's socialist government. This history of forced 363

transformations and alterations was followed by years of

the so-called postmodernity has not been

constant military governments and coups, ever more

smooth nor logic, or much less general

frequent human rights violations and the guerrilla's

does not allow deterministic analyses or totalitarian

formal outset in 1962 As it has been documented over






therefore, it


a 100 thousand people [sic] died as a result of the

disillusionment and hopelessness as elements of the

armed conflict's worsening

aesthetics of violence that has a reason to exist in the

a million displaced people,

forty five thousand orphans, forty thousand refugees

last one hundred years of the country's history

and a similar number of missing persons is estimated

into account such history I am carrying out a reading

Thanks to Guatemala, memoria del silencio a report by

that considers both the existence of a collective

the commission for the historical clarification now it is

unconscious as well as the aesthetic searches of an


known that just between 1980 and 1983 ninety villages

individual nature

were totally or partially destroyed Its map as an object

Dante Liana in the above mentioned work, states that

that marks the order of spaces, also suffered changes.

"one of the most important contributions of Guatemalan


contemporary literature has been that of examining the

other things

during this same time


increasing migration from the countryside to the city and

phenomenon of violence, not only in regards to its most

an intense emigration to the United States were

evident manifestations but also concerning its most


thus turning deterritorialization into a

moda ity of what is national

hidden causes" (p 271

Regina Jose Galindo and

The outcome was that as of the

end of the seventies, violence started to acquire an

Alejandro Marre were still very young at that time, and

existential character that kept intensifying until reaching

they probably do not remember too much

an exacerbated kind of nihilism that coincides with what

Fina ly in 1996 the final peace agreement was signed However

Gianni Vattimo acknowledges as the "end of history"

by that time, the impact of violence on

within the nihilism of a postmodernity era that denies

Guatemalans' culture and collective psychology was already an unavoidable fact.

the individual's idealisms and stable structures

The final aggression

against its false stability took place in

What characterizes the end of history in post

1998 with

modern experience, on the other hand, is the

Monsignor Juan Gerardi's murder and in 1999 with the election of General Efrafn Rfos Montt

circumstance that whereas in theory, the notion

"hero" of the

of historicity becomes more and more

razed-land campaign in the early eighties, as president

problematic, in historiographic practice and its

of the congress. On the other hand it is necessary to

methodological self-consciousness, the idea of

keep in mind that Guatemala's unity as a country has

history as a unitary process is dissolved, and in


confl cts





concrete existence, effective conditions.


character and multilingualism not completely being

provide it with some kind of really unhistorical

assimilated as elements of identity a growing economic

immobility are established


neocolonialism and the imposition of official discourses that manipulate and refuse an objective historiography

Vattimo also mentions the discrediting of supreme

of facts

values in this contemporary world, to which mankind

As can be seen Guatemala's introduction into 364

reacts with a "-pathetic, metaphysica -vindication of

for instance- can be sensed especially concerning the

other 'truer' values (for example the values of marginal

handling of popular and irreverent colloquial speech,

cultures, of popular cultures, opposed to the values of

self-referral, and the taking away of the sacredness from

dominant cultures

the destruction of the literary

traditional structures and institutions. This happens from

artistic and other canons " (p.28) This makes it easy to

an individual perspective full of the irony of whom sees

understand words like those of the young writer

himself as part of a society being observed with no

Estuardo Prado, founder of X Publishing House, more

idealization and without the hope provided


revolutionary political project. Prado's previously quoted

"I don't think that the future will bring us

by a

anything I grew up during the eighties expecting the

words seem to be the continuation of the manifesto,

third world war I always had an apocalyptic vision


from 1979, by the Cuerpos sin Iugar group written by

I can't plan ahead, or set a goal

Mendez Vides, which gives the impression of being a

expected the end

within thirty years from now

Hopefully I can plan from

prologue to the narrative of this last decade

today to the end of the year" (17) Prado, as many of

A writer must assume his/her temporality

the "rebellious" young writers, gives the impression to

are not concerned with doing, or being, or liv

&e coming directly from the end-of-the-seventies

ing, or the future this world is a damned absur

narrative, (2 which is somehow related to novels such

dity and we can't help it. Fatality brings us

as Las

social hatred, but it plunges us, in turn, into the

catacumbas (1976) by Mendez Vides, Dante


Liana's narratives Jornadas y otros cuentos (1978) and

invaluable and inscrutable field of being differ

La puerta del cielo



by Luis Aceituno. However

Writing is not a skill, or a talent, or any

thing special

this disillusionment, fragmentation and denial of the

One writes, inexplicably, as one

essentials had already been present in novels like Los

lives, absurdly just for passing through unde


sired, by chance. (103-4)


demonios salvajes

by Marco Antonio Flores, and Los 1977)

by Mario Roberto Morales,

which foretold the current value and ideology crisis

One of the first narrative books published in the eighties

although they were still connected to the political

in which personal dissatisfaction prevails over the

sphere, and its skepticism perhaps reached a more

political one is La puerta del cielo (1982) by Luis

round expression in many of Enrique Noriega and Luis

Aceituno, where we can recognize the voice of a young

Eduardo Rivera's poems.

adult who identifies himself with the urban middle class,

However since the eighties, a deeper interest in putting

having a disillusioned

history's experiences into words from a more existential

tragicomic tone, and whose language goes from parody

point of view has been noticed although in some cases

to the popular jargon of teenage expressions. In La

these are still tied to sociopolitical interests, and have

puerta del cielo each narrative confirms this idea of



failure and impossibility路 impossible sexual or merely

Hispano-American narrative since the sixties. That is

sentimental relations religious searches that do not last

why sometimes the echoes of writers such as Jose

longer than what an imposed spiritual retreat does

Agustin -in the case of Luis Aceituno and Mendez Vides,

frustrated dreams of becoming a writer, etc.- everything







anti-solemn and at times

leads to absurdity and parody, even words, whose

I am referring to the members of the Casa Bizarra

unstable and changing codes precisely refer to the


a downtown

house that used to


characters' absence of stability and crisis that is often

musicians, painters, writers, around a shared liking for

demonstrated by a fragmented personality In the face

heavy metal, drugs, and self-referential and aggressive

of the failure of political projects of the past, the great

performances. Writers like Maurice Echeverria, Javier


Payeras, Estuardo Prado and Alejandro Marre came out







sociopolitical problem as their aim, and focused on the

of it.

antiheroic reality inhabiting middle-class urban locations

writers' work coincided with the end of the armed

Paradoxically although the publication of these

where people survive in fear and despair This is, it

conflict and an important opening in the sociopolitical

seems to me, all about a kind of narrative that explores

sphere, recovering the historical memory does not seem

the conflicts of a collapsing identity.


Besides that, there is also an interest in putting into

disillusionment and violence is translated into even more

be the


interest of their texts,

in which

words the national identity's fragmentation resulting

personal ways. Are we facing the end of what is social,

from deterritorialization and immigration The novel Las






Prado are the


mural/as (1999) by Mendez Vides, is probably the work


that best refers to the disintegration of the concept of

unwanted offspring of the end of the utopia, the urban

nation forced

by contemporary emigrations



putative and


castaways of a well-being and abundance society's

establishing movable identities constantly transforming

withered dream They are here to attest to our defeats.

themselves, as well as modifying the concept of the

They don't want to save society or destroy it, either.

traditional, of what is one's own

Their only desire is that of discrediting it." (s.p)

This could not be

after all, if a large number of people in

It is interesting how these writers have turned guns into

countries like Guatemala continuously travel back and

one of their favorite symbols, not as a reference to


forth from urban centers such as Los Angeles and New

political violence, but as a way of showing a more

York -"postmodernity laboratories", as Garda-Canclini

existential type of anger that seeks self-aggression and

has appropriately named them- nothing can have a

laughs at it; in a way it is "oblique violence," according

stable character anymore. "Being urban," says Rosina

to Dante Liano's words "in which of the author's free will,


or in spite of the author's free will, violence appears in a

"means cutting out all relationships with the

rural" (p.1)

This was during the repression years and

yet, that was not the setting of the narration

hidden way" (p.261) These manifestations have been


considered by some as a pose at the wrong moment,

turned their look towards themselves, and violence

which nonetheless has some validity However it cannot

became the existential thematic, through the use of

be denied that this way of expressing

linguistic codes that attack the reader or writing

conflicting identity that refuses the ideals of the past,

reveals a

strategies having syntactic breakups and formal plays

and reveals the "loss of optimism for the idea of

Curiously the Peace Agreement years coincide with the

progress" -pointed out by Carlos Rincon as one of the

presence of a series of young writers who began to draw

characteristics of postmodernism (p.26) and present in

attention to themselves in the most diverse ways

one of Payeras' narratives that might as well identify

(3) 366

other writers in his group

drawn to their predilection for visual images of a violent

Writing, writing and continuing writing as an act

nature, aggression through language, and plays with the

of redemption, as if it were not here, as if life

graphic layout,

did not suck. I sometimes listen to myself and I

covers questioning the order and stability ideas which,

5) as well as to their preference for

get frightened I am somber one cannot go

on the other hand had already been present before, in

about living like that, it is something dangerous

visual poetry or concrete poetry for example. All this,

for one's health and morale.

together with the practice of performance, yielded the

I am thinking

nonsense. But what else can I do? I am an

breakup among styles and the linguistic experimentation

unemployed man suffering from transcendence

that had already taken

delusions, a hopeless pessimist, that which pea

refunctional This is, besides, all about an individualistic,

pie call "a mistaken one." s.p.

place some decades ago

egocentric and to a certain extent, exhibitionistic view that avoids referring to the general causes and focuses

Of course, a lot of the contemporary Guatemalan

on the particular effects, and whose negligences seem to

poetry written by young people contains echoes coming

be intentional Is that an unconscious consequence of

to them from the Beat Generation, anti-poetry faddish

the years of fear repression and censorship? Perhaps.

literature, Brazilian "marginal poetry" the Colombian

The truth is that this self-referential character had

nothingness. Each one of these movements meant to

already been observed before in writers who began

confront the establishment and the literary canons of

publishing during the seventies

we may compare, for

their time some of them, such as nothingness, were a

instance, the cover of the Automicidio semfmtico

response to the violence occurring from the 40's to the

anthology from 1998









(1982) by Enrique Noriega

experimentation and an aesthetic search Yet, what may be

to the cover of Oh banalidad

On the other hand, it is interesting to notice how many

interpreted as a return to vanguard aesthetic

writers identify themselves with the artists belonging to

practices is nothing more than a strategy refunctioning

contemporary Guatemalan

that now responds to the end of utopias. Therefore, such

reflections on history in particular on violence, have

aesthetics of violence that I am mentioning here is not

reacted to the denial of history in the official discourses.


arts and


directed towards any major monster but rather it is

Here it would be necessary to mention the plastic work

worked out into aggressiveness that seems to be

of Isabel Ruiz, Luis Gonzalez Palma, Moises Barrios and,

uncalled-for This is particularly noticeable in the young

very recently

writers who began publishing at the oend of the nineties,

covers and illustrations of literary publications. Images

who deny hope but, paradoxical路ly publish and create

from Gonzalez Palma's visual poetics of disillusionment,

very energetically and are looking for new way of

for example, have been particularly used as mediators




performance to the

Darfo Escobar repeatedly used on the

for many texts. An interesting example appeared in the

creation of editorials by means of publications of a

Pedernal magazine in 1991

rudimentary character ( 4)

Toledo 6) where the topic being dealt with was violence

In many of these youngsters' editions, attention is

and fear in relation to women, although our reading it 367

following a text by Afda


not help


another kind

of broader

that time, the purpose of this work is not to make an


assessment of the works commented on, but to aim

I have presented trajectory of a particular line within

towards the dialogue held between them and the

Guatemalan literature and art, as a way of approaching

historical contexts to which they belong

the effects violence has had on the perception of reality

( 4 )To put these youths' work into perspective, you may

and its translation into aesthetic terms during these last

resort to the introductory essay of Tanta imagen tras Ia

three decades. Talking about violence without naming it,



images and

Rosina Cazali in her essay "Arte de Guatemala

words without making direct

en los 90" carries out a sharp analysis of contemporary

allusions to history fixing our eyes upon ourselves, and

art in Guatemala that includes interesting considerations

seeing ourselves through the lens of hopelessness this

about the work of some of the youngest writers and

is the chronicle of history some have preferred Perhaps,

artists of Guatemalan plastic arts in relation to the

it is may be precisely found in the absences and

historical moment that they belong to.


(S)In their essay "Bad Poetry Worse Society" Iumna M


analysis of the trajectory of the marginal Brazilian

Simon and Vinlcius Dantas carry out a highly correct 1) Of course not all of the Guatemalan literature or

poetry of the eighties, and their comments might as well

plastic arts responds to this type of aesthetics

be applied to a lot of the contemporary Guatemalan

However the insistence on what I am presenting here

poetic production

makes it necessary for us to pay attention to it.

I am

(6 In 1998 John Sayles, a film director from the United

not referring

literature, either

States, used pieces of work by Gonzalez Palma in his

because this one belongs to a more direct way of talking

here to testimonial

movie Hombre armadas in which the violence of a space

about history.

that may be Guatemala during the eighties, or Chiapas

(2) Just as Rosina Cazali commented in an electronic

in the nineties, is discussed

mail from May 6, 2000

rock, MTV and reality shows

have been important landmarks in the bringing up of

Cited Works

this generation of artists, and this is directly linked to

Aceituno Luis. Electronic mail from April 28 2000

the concept of the urban

Acevedo Leal, Anabella and Aida Toledo. Tanta Imagen

In the case of rock, the

teenage years of many of them coincide with the

tras Ia puerta

emergence of many rock bands in Guatemala, such as


Suburban Bohemianism It is outstanding that, since the

Brunner Joaquin America Latina cultura y modernidad


Universidad Rafael Landlvar,

sixties, the rock from that period became essential for


the development of the aesthetics of breaking at that

Cazali, Rosina "Arte de Guatemala en los 90 Sacando

Grijalbo, 1992


las espinas." Unpublished presentation provided by the

(3) A sample of these writers' poetic work may be found


in the anthology Tanta imagen tras Ia puerta (1999)


organized by Aida Toledo and myself Just like we did

Rage." Interview El Peri6dico. Guatemala Friday April 368


"Prado & Payeras.

Excess and

9 1999 17 Liana



Guatemalteca Guatemala Payeras, Javier





Artemis y Edinter 1998.

y once relatos breves Guatemala

Editorial X, 2000 Richard, Nelly. Residues y Metatoras. Santiago de Chile Editorial Cuarto Propio, 1998 Rincon, Carlos. La no simultaneidad de lo simultimeo. Bogota

Editorial de Ia Universidad

Nacional de

Colombia, 1995 Simon, Iumna M and Vinfcius Dantas. Worse Society." On Edge.

Latin American Culture. Minneapolis Vattimo

"Bad Poetry

The Crisis of Contemporary George Yudice, et. al


University of Minnesota Press, 1992


El fin de Ia modernidad Barcelona

Gedisa, 1998


Throughout history


beings have organized

themselves into particular political and social forms. Upon reaching modern times, the political unit that appeared was the nation-state. Phenomena such as the development of capitalism and the use of vernacular languages allowed the strengthening of communities, which started to feel ike cultural units that, within a medium term, based their ideological rationale on the doctrine of nationalism and the construction of what is national A nation is considered the fundamental fact and the utmost purpose of society

whose interest is the

individual's sacrifice and subordination on behalf of the interests of a community -ideal as well as inherent, limited and sovereign

1) Cultural

roots and the

cultural significance of the productions made within it allowed the creation of homogeneous collective imagery a community of signs, and a nation that is proud of an immemorial past and heading towards a limitless future.

Nationalism: Building the Ideal Community or How Artists are Authors

Therefore, nationalism should be understood in terms of the major cultural systems that preceded it, not of politica






entailed the progressive degradation of religion, being diminished by the impact of the growing secularization process in which the sacred community -constituted by the sacred language

Latin) and the omnipresence of

religion- was substituted by the religion of the State.

By Patricia Fumero

The latter built an idea of nationalism based on civic proposals in whose symbols individuals found


identity both collective and particular The main objective of the nation's symbolic construction was fighting the partisan and local divisions, and promoting a national identity between the elites and the popular strata

Among the strategies followed is the

ritualization based on the construction of heroes, which allowed to rescue well-defined characters for the


pantheon of the immortals. Indeed

the recurrent

to subject popular culture. Thus, from then on a clear

representation of battles and the celebration of diverse

diferenciation between what was considered educated

holidays -considered to be national- at the public

and what was popular (associated to barbarism) was

squares of towns and cities allowed the popular strata to

observed The design of the new project of society in

adopt a system of collective values and feelings, as a

turn, entailed the application of sanitary and social






commemorations and activities.



control policies. 4)

The outcome of

The effort to control and change the popular strata's

such a process was the institutionalization of a certain

lifestyle was supported by the educational sector by

world view

fomenting a larger literacy. This process allowed 86.7

In short, the State tried to transfer traditional loyalties

percent of the urban population and 61 3 percent of the

towards itself by using different strategies

rural one to know how to read and write, until 1927

mentioning are the official journalism




Hence, the popular strata's literacy campaign caused a

culture, commemorations and the conversion of home

series of cultural changes, which favored an increase in

elements or symbols into something sacred


the group of intellectuals. Among the main thinkers of

during the construction process of what is national, the

the first decades of the XX century are Joaquin Garda

State became interested in promoting arts and culture

Monge, Omar Dengo, Roberto Brenes Mesen and Jose

as a cultural complement of power



6) These


literate youths


promoted a world view that revalued the national

The Costa Rican identity of the beginning of the XX

cultural productions, contrary to the one upheld by the

century was outlined in the light of the nineteenth-cen-

cosmopolitan cultural project, which belittled what was

tury concepts of romanticism and liberalism Therefore,

native. (7) This new cosmoview fomented the creation

a new cultural proposal arose, whose models were

of novel cultural productions that were incorporated into

drawn by means of productions considered national The

the growing urban cultural market. At the same time,

process became consolidated thanks to the liberal

the popular strata designed their own spaces for public

project for culture, which was associated to the notion of

amusement and cultural experiences, among which

european-slanted and lay urban progress. This progress

music took a predominant place. At the dawn of the XX

and modernity ideal promoted the eurocentric view

century with the arrival of mass culture, theater -the

defining Culture (thought of as fine arts)

amusement par excellence- was gradually replaced by


influence materialized in the different areas of Costa


Rica's everyday life

The music played in theaters was gradually


substituted by the popular one, spread thanks to the

painting, fashion the standards of courtesy and leisure.

introduction of the phonograph and cinematography and

Being modern and liberal meant, to a certain extent,

the start of radio broadcasting in 1930

being part of the secular culture and having a world view

matter of fact, mass culture promoted the shaping of

aloof from religion




As a

new cultural identities and practices during the first half

This way the nineteenth-century

liberal thinkers changed the citizens' behavior patterns

of the XX century

and likings in order to civilize them They especially tried

The transformations of Costa Rican society at the 371

beginning of the XX century were also associated to the

patterns were oriented towards the representation of

popular strata's growing participation in the political

symbolic values that would forge a sense of belonging

scene. In 1913 direct voting was approved, whereas

and integration to a social world based on a new concept

secret voting was approved in 1925 These changes

of art, which was modified to such an extent that it

caused, in turn the modification of the political culture

broke away from



relationships and

of that time, evidencing a need to modify the social and

definitions. At that time, new functions and meanings

cultural policies. The reelaboration of Costa Ricans'

arose within the creative process. Thus, other elements

world view done within growing social conflicts, was









captured with the literary construct of the concho -the

collector/investor and the museums, among others,

Costa Rican peasant idealized in Concherfas by Aquileo

were incorporated

Echeverria, and in Magan's short stories. (9) As to

Contemporary cultural production states problems and

visual arts, the parallel construct was the representation

challenges originating from several questions

of the adobe house as a symbol of Costa Rican identity.

insert artistic creations into this society? What is their

how to

Later on, the social struggles and the (both political and

meaning within a mediatized world? What is the

economic) internal crises, besides the changes in the

communication process like? In order to respond to

shaping of the world order as of the development of a

these and other concerns, artistic production cannot be

new stage of capitalism, as well as the economic

thought of without previous research, and without

collapse in 1929 the two world wars and the beginning

establishing relationships to other disciplines. Cultural

of the Cold War, laid the foundations of the Costa Rica

productions are not the result of empirism, but of

that arose after 1948.

systematic work based on research oriented towards the

The macroeconomic changes promoted transformations

creative process. Creating cannot be separate from a

in the art scene In this case I will refer to visual arts and

formal study or a methodology

their presence in society. Fine arts, in the classic

need to systematize the creative process. Is there

therefore, there is a

meaning of the term, were favored by the modernization

awareness among artistic producers of their insertion

project of the XIX-century society and economy for

into an ideological system? Are they aware of the

since then, pleasure for works of art and the training of

transcendence of the creative process? Which discourse

youth in that field were promoted The result of those

is favored by their works?

changes was the creation of the National School of Fine

The change caused by the new economic phenomena,

Arts, in 1897 along with the culmination of the liberals'

the impact of the ephemeral, consumption and the




the inauguration of the National







transformed the ways of representing what is artistic as

The changes in cultural productions and the economic

well as art. Consumption and the way people consume

development that took place after 1950 aroused new

are elements that should be taken into account. The

concerns among national artists. From then on the


national identity was questioned, and the standards for

consumption lies in the symbolic elements how objects

artistic productions were changed

are appropriated what new meanings are acquired by

The nationalistic 372





them, and what is the change of attitude towards them

State and adhering to the private sector This way new

This way conspicuous consumption is inserted into what

tensions arise between the interests of the enterprise

Norbert Elias called the "civilizing" process. (10)

and those upheld by the different social movements.

Postmodernism promotes a rupture of space, time and







unity fosters an aesthetic conflict and questions the

creator/producer represents the aesthetic values of the

values relating to art and cultural production. The

social group or context to which he is adhered, and he

relationship between the artistic object with what is

represents with it the elaboration of his world view by

allowed by society and reality is becoming more and

means of symbolic images.


there is a

more narrow Questions such as What other needs do

discussion going on about the formation of identities,

objects make come true? and, How do these become

the way these ones are built based on consumption, and

signs? allow you to understand human being's deep

how the financial market determines the way in which

motivations, so the art object becomes humanized

identities are built. What is evident is that citizens are

From this process, a system of meanings arose that go

now more efficient as to their individual decision-making



process in relation to market offers than they are as to

productions become consumer goods mediatized by the

their collective decision-making process relating to the

producers' interests and views and their relation to the

political scene






(12) How does artistic production

social context.

determine this reality? How do we insert ourselves into

The new economic order emphasizes the market as a

the cultural atmosphere based on this context? How

decisive element so that the producers' voice reaches

much of what is produced is in terms of the market, the

the audience, a reasoning that favors popular cultural

spectator's taste or the spectacle's financial/popularizing

forms that are known to be successful

Within this

projection? What is the purpose of image creation

context, we should analyze the function of culture

nowadays? All of these are key questions that should be

producers. The need to create one's own discourse

answered by culture producers.

allowing the fellow man to read the author/producer's

The concept of the modern -based on positivism, what

intentionality is obvious. Just as during the construction

is technocratic and rational

process of what is national, the function of the discourse

focused on linear processes, on humankind's redemption

proposed by the art producer is representing the diverse

based on science, absolute truths, the standardization of

levels of social conflict and the construction of identities.

knowledge and production- has been abandoned by the

Artists are authors, thus entailing that the author's

new culture producers. In this process, the role played

function is determined from certain discourses and

by the transformation of institutions and the rules



In fact, the enlargement of the cultural

and whose beliefs were

governing the production of works and the organization

market allows to experiment with alternative artistic


languages. The artist's independence, fulfilled starting

construction of the identity is more and more dependent

from the growing opposition between the public and the

on external images, which are not perceived as




( 13



private, allows him to separate his production from this

homogeneous, but through a process -heterogeneous

framework, especially when separating himself from the

and dislocated- of image construction As Garda Canclini 373

put it, identity is perceived as hybrid and multiple. The





from a semiotic standpoint.

In other words



discourse in its broadest sense should be the departing

productions to move away from rigid expressions and

point. In this respect, it is necessary to ask oneself'

predetermined rules and patterns, in order to open up to

What does the work mean and in what context does it

new appraisals and forms of artistic expression

take place? This conception starts from the 'bajtinian


has become a

principles, within which the human being is thought of

consumer item, and it is rapidly integrated into the

in this globalization process

based on our relationships with the fellow man and the

economy Art is used doubly first, it induces people to

individual subconscious is built through collective and

consume through advertising, and secondly it becomes

personal experiences. Therefore, within the dialogizing

a commercial object or product. Within the framework of


postmodernism, popular culture refuses to respect the


aspirations and differences previously existing in art.

transformation process whose result is the production of

The difference between popular art and culture is broken

senses, so art as text is mentioned here.


should look for new identity forms, materials, proposals,

and the interaction between both of them is


15) Producers such as Manuel Monestel

the construction of the ego is perceived as 17)






18 Artists

in short, new production techniques and

consider that the changes entailed by postmodernism

ways in order to break away from the inherited

as well as the new ways of commercializing cultural

thematics and look for new solutions. That is why I

goods, demand a great deal of dynamism and response

would like to finish by asking

capacity a situation that seems to incline the orientation

culture producer on the threshold of the XXI century?

What is the role of the

of hegemony towards agile and appropriate phenomena and products. Thus, it seems that the line between what


is educated and what is popular dramatically tend to disappear


16 Postmodernism presupposes the artist's

Benedict Anderson

Comunidades Imaginadas.

Reflexiones sabre el origen y Ia difusi6n del nacionalismo

adaptation to a new ideological and hegemonic system

Mexico Fonda de Cultura Econ6mica, 1993

This way

2 Anderson Comunidades imaginadas p. 30

many artistic expressions respond to this

identity and social crisis predicament, and they are

pp. 22 23

3 See, Maurice Aghulon The Republic in the Village.

seeking to structure new forms of expression

The people from the Var from the French Revolution to

Nationality and what is national are questioned based on

the Second Republic (Cambridge University Press,

the rupture of the old patterns, of the limits that were


built at the same time as separation/exclusion and


Related to crime you can find Carlos Naranjo and

articulation elements. But at the present time, who is

Mayela Solano's studies, "EI delito en San Jose

our fellow man? What happens with all those who


Revista de Historia


No. 20


Carlos Naranjo

"Pilar Jimenez,

migrated? What happens with those who do not have a


homeland or a national identity? How are reality and

bandolero el bandolerismo en el Valle Central de Costa

identity built?


In our time cultural productions should be interpreted 374


81 104

1850-1890 and Juan Jose Marin "Prostituci6n y

pecado en Ia bella y prospera ciudad de San Jose 2850-

discurso oligarquico y Ia narrativa costarricense ( 1917

1930) [sic] both in Ivan Molina and Steven Palmer El

1919)(San Jose, Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica,

paso del cometa. Estado, polftica social y culturas popu-


lares en Costa Rica ( 1800-1950) (San Jose, Plumsock-

intelectualidad en Costa Rica


Editorial Universidad Nacional, 1993)







Morales, Gerardo, Cultura oligarquica y nueva 1880-1914 (Heredia, Ovares, Flora,

development see, Ricardo Jinesta La evoluci6n peniten-

Literatura de kiosco. Revistas literarias de Costa Rica

ciaria en Costa Rica (San Jose, Imprenta Falco 1940

1890-1930 (Heredia,

Editorial Universidad Nacional,

To expand on the Costa Rican penitentiary system see,



divertirse. Libras y sociedad en Costa Rica (1750-1914 )






pp. 130-147 Molina Jimenez, Ivan, El que quiera

emergence of social policy in Costa Rica, 180-1935"

(San Jose, Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica-Editorial

[sic] in Ricardo Salvatore and Carlos Aguirre. The Birth

Universidad Nacional, 1995) pp. 177 186.

of the Penitenciary in

Essays on

(7) To expand see the debate between Carlos Gagini and

criminology, prison reform and social control, 1830-

Ricardo Fernandez Guardia in Alvaro Quesada, La for-


maci6n de una narrativa nacional (1890-1910) Enfoque



Latin America Estudios


Universidad de Texas, 1996) pp. 224-254. Since 1841

historico social (San Jose, EUCR, 1996), pp. 158-168.

efforts were made to expel 'whores' to far away places,

(8) Fumero, Patricia, Teatro, publico y Estado en San

whether to colonization areas like San Ramon


Jose, 1880-1914 (San Jose, Editorial Universidad de


Costa Rica, 1996) Acuna, Gilbert, et al., "Exhibiciones

unhealthy places such as Limon and Talamanca

policy [ ... ] still in 1935 ANCR, Interior Department. File 25112 (1841 Official

ANCR, Police Dpt., File 1069



pp. 3-31



(1897 1950 "

Graduation Paper Universidad de Costa Rica, 1996

Leyes usuales de Ia Republica de Costa Rica

(San Jose, Imprenta Nacional, 1935)


Marin Juan Jose, "Melodfas de perversion y subversion


una aproximacion a Ia musica popular en Costa Rica,

1890 there were 61 police bureaus nationwide, 102 in

1932 1949 " Report presented at the III Central

1900 and 257 in 1920 National Budget of the Republic

American Conference on History San Jose, July 15-18

of Costa Rica, years 1890 1900 and 1920 To analyze







the increase in police bureaus according to provinces in

sociabilidad en las comunidades cafetaleras de San

detail, see, Jose Daniel Gil "Controlaron el espacio hom-

Jose el caso de Moravia (1890-1930)" (Master's Thesis

bres, mujeres y almas. Costa Rica

in History Universidad de Costa Rica, 1998)

1880-1920" Report

presented at the Tercer Congreso Centroamericano de

(9 Quesada, La formaci6n de Ia narrativa pp. 158-168.

Historiadores, University of Costa Rica, July 1996


5) Ivan Molina "Leer y escribir La alfabetizacion de Ia

Norbert Elias. El proceso civilizatorio (Mexico,

Fonda de Cultura Economica, 1992

Peter Burke, "Res

sociedad costarricense (1864-1950 "In

Molina, Ivan

et Verba

conspicuous consumption in early modern




Jobn Brewer and Roy Porter Consumption



Alfabetizaci6n popular




formaci6n docente y genera


and the World of Goods (London, Routledge, 1994

1880-1950 (San Jose, Editorial Porvenir 2000



6 Quesada Alvaro La voz desgarrada La crisis del

11 To expand see, Michael Foucault. Que es un autor? 375

Mexico, La Letra Editores, 1990)


See, Alain Tourraine. i.Que es Ia democracia?

Buenos Aires, Fonda de Cultura Econ6mica, 1995) George Soros. La crisis del capitalismo global.


sociedad abierta en peligro (Barcelona, Plaza & Janes, Nestor









y Ia

globalizaci6n. 13

To expand see, Roger Chartier El mundo como


Historia cultural

entre pn!Jctica y

representaci6n (Barcelona, Gedisa, 1995) 14) To expand see Madan Sa rap. Identity, Culture and the Postmodern World (University of Georgia Press, Nestor Garda



Culturas hfbridas.

Estrategias para entrar y salir de Ia modernidad (Mexico, Grijalbo, 1990)

15) Dominic Strinati An Introduction to the Theories of Popular Culture (Routledge, 1995) p. 218.






popular com

fen6meno cultural ante los procesos de modernismo y posmodernismo" Central American Master's Program in Arts, Universidad de Costa Rica Unpublished, 2000 17) Mikhail Bajtin La cultura popular en Ia Edad Media y en el Renacimiento. El contexto de Francois Rabelais Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 1990)

18) According to Kristeva the text is a translinguistic device that redistributes the order of language, putting a communicative word into a relation -by pointing to direct information, with different synchronic previous wordings. The text is, therefore, productivity. Julia Kristeva

El texto de Ia nove/a (Barcelona, Editorial

Lumen) p. 9-10


INTRODUCTION Carlos Rigby in his poetry and person, embodies his happy metaphor路 Nicaribe I am The poet Rigby like few has suffered, lived and hoped that the promises of the popular revolution of 1979 had responded to the hunger and thirst of justice of the indigenous towns and communities of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua Likewise, his poetic/prophetic voice of denunciation and announcement, demanding the presence of what is coastal-Caribbean

in the

Nicaraguan essence,

is a

seminal contribution to the creation of a precarious multiethnic culture and awareness in Nicaragua (1)

Yo soy de NicaribiaNicaribe soy... yo como mi ron-down patty ron-down pan de coco patti como comida- no como mierda desde el 19 de julio del '79

Nicaribe I Am: the Nicaraguan Caribbean in Claudia Gordillo and Maria Jose Alvarez's Lenses

se me compuso mi hambre & sed de justicia tremenda justicia y libertadquien no ha comido ... ? (2) The musicality

neologisms and politropy of Rigby's

poetry break the linguistic "common sense," (3) to recreate unexpected and violently new concepts starting from Creole English, Nicaraguan Spanish and Miskito it breaks away from the naturalized hegemony of the Spanish-Mestizo's dialectal version opening, this way new phonological, morphological and semantic spaces in the Nicaraguan speech and culture.

By Galio C. Guardian Marice/a Kauffmann

The multiethnic and multilingual ars poetica of Rigby is joined








photographic journey of Marfa Jose Alvarez and Claudia Gordillo all over the territory known as The Mosquitia, the Atlantic Coast, the Autonomous Regions or the 377

Nicaraguan Caribbean legacy and

representations produced by photographers are related

Both artists have left a visual

a documentary collection




to their personal interpretations of the events and

surpassed, and this, for several reasons. The images

subjects that they choose and decide to put in front of

captured in those journeys do not match the image

the lens of their camera

suggested by the epithet with which we, the mestizos

subjects are assumed to have some real content, in the

from the west coast, baptized the Atlantic Coast during

sense that they allow the spectator to have a privileged


access to the events described by the photographed







However those events and


photographs are the testimony of the multiethnic awareness "epiphany" of several indigenous peoples and

Marla Jose Alvarez and Claudia Gordillo, both young

ethnic communities around the Autonomy Project.

women born in the second half of the fifties, daughters

In the photographers' vision, a double construction

of respectable Catholic, high middle-class families, are

process operates. ( 4) First, take place their own choice

part of the large sector of the population that, with great

of the moments captured by their images, to record to


or confirm their existence in a certain space and time

participated in the endeavors of the Sandinista Popular






The second moment in constructing the representations

Revolution These two artists belong to the generation

is that of the selection -made by others- of the images

that introduced

during the eighties, documentary

to accompany textual information or illustrate narrative

photography in Nicaragua Both acknowledge the formal

articles in a publication (5) A third moment takes place

demands as well as the aesthetic importance and

through the spectator's or the public's reaction that, as


Barthes points out, turns the picture's subject into an





detailed print







object transforming it into a total image, subject to

photography according to Claudia's explicitness

many readings. (6)

composition reinforces the message. The photographer

This essay offers a reading of the photographic images

orders the most significant elements in the message

as eminently politropic (7) (metonymies, synecdoches,

helping this way to reinforce the spectator's vision " (9

and metaphors) which, due to their initial adjacency to

Claudia has worked as a freelance photographer During

their referents,

her stay in Italy she got to know Susan Meiselas' book

reflect and

demystify something


Eventually they recreate, redefine and perpetuate new

Pictures of the Revolution It impacted her because it

metaphors or semantic and cultural spaces contributing

was the first time she had seen documentary work on Later on, she studied the North American

to change a mestizo social and cultural context that, due


to its ethnocentrism

documentary art, exchanged information with Marla

hindered the expression


Jose Alvarez,

sociocultural and gender autonomies. (8)



into what she calls a

"self-taught documentational photographer" (10 Documentary



Marla Jose Alvarez is the first female movie director in


the film history of Nicaragua

observation. The artist

She admits that her

The "documentary" nature of journalistic photography

interest for this environment comes from the influence


that the North American documentary style, especially




The 378


that of Lewis Hine, Walter Evans, Dorotea Langue and


Diane Arbus, exerted in her training as a photographer The expression of personal reasons plays a role in the

Ruiz y Ruiz's logic was the same one used by the liberal

choice of the subjects, and in the way in which certain

state to justify its military intervention in the Mosquitia

meanings and values are coded in the image's content.

Reservation in 1893

and to declare as uninhabited

For our interpretation, we retook the postulate that the

"uncultivated and national" lands territories occupied

domestic issue is a political issue When trying to define

and used secularly by indigenous peoples and ethnic

a feminine sensibility to interpret these pictures, it is

communities. In that mestizo imagining and common

necessary to remember that feminine art is based on

sense, the indigenous communities and their residents

women's personal experience. Thus, we believe that

were "illegal, illicit and nonexistent" or at best, mere

these pictures promote respect for the history and

exotic, geographical spaces where the virgin forest, wild

production of one of the most deprived sectors of

animals and the races of primitive Indians were the

Nicaraguan society Likewise, they try to empower those

object of the mestizo civilized curiosity and its daring

sectors and put together a new language that be able

adventurers. It is the same logic used by the last two

communicate that population's experiences to a wide

governments since 1990 to not regulate and nullify de

public from the west coast, mostly antagonistic or

facto the Autonomy Law

skeptical in front of the autonomy aspirations and claims

During the first years of the Sandinista


of the indigenous peoples and ethnic communities of the

Revolution's administration, the predominant view on

Nicaraguan Caribbean

the Atlantic Coast was integrationist and folkloric, with its emphasis on the countless natural resources without

Sociopolitical context (1980-1990), revolution

being exploited the backwardness and exoticness of the

and epiphany of the multiethnic awareness

indigenous communities, and the beat of the local "palo

Mr Frutos Ruiz y Ruiz, Commissioner for the Atlantic

de Mayo" -a view revived thanks the restoration regime

Coast in Adolfo Dlaz's Conservative Government, wrote

experienced in the country along this decade

in 1925

transition from an integrationist view to an incipient

The true Coast, Mosquitia, is not of any other interest at

autonomist view in the middle of the revolution was not

the present time than that of an ethnologic curiosity the

easy. The strongest internal reactions pointed out that

different races of pure Indians that are meant to

the coastal

disappear in a few days,

dismembering of the national territory. However for

Indians who have not


autonomy was the first step for the

contributed a bean to civilization, and without any value,

most of the indigenous communities, autonomy "was

even because of their number

the road to heaven" and the possibility of exerting full

they are a few

thousands, should be studied. The few blacks -which

economic, political and cultural rights.

seem a lot for this is a depopulated country- do not even








offer that rarity, since they do not even have a language

extraordinary July 19

of their own and are only craved for as load beasts by

plethoric of hopes and illusions. For the indigenous

foreign companies, preferred over the rest of

peoples and the ethnic communities of the Caribbean 379

1979 full of frantic energy

Coast, the revolution and the revolutionaries very soon

annihilate them in the name of the mestizo civilization

became the epitome of the mestizo ethnocentrism

progress and development? For people from the coast in

For the revolution and its leaders -ignorant about the

general, the fight against the revolution was resisting

history of contradictions between the mestizo society of

the mestizo barbarism and vulgarity

the Pacific Coast) and the Caribbean towns- the Coast

To some extent and with relative success, the view

and its people had been rescued by the revolution The

represented by Ruiz y Ruiz has begun to be subverted

naive and arrogant motto of the "awakening giant"

by including in the national culture debate the role of its

indicated that those "backward and sleepy" towns were

representations, signs, narratives and above all art as

finally being redeemed Very soon, the transgressions

a language and

crimes, abuses and ignorance about the historical rights

representative practices of that culture meet. Those


significant practices work according to the principles of




of the



place where the most

communities and ethnic groups. The revolutionaries'

representation through language. Thus, photography is

inability rigidity and schematic character and the use of

a representational language that makes use of images

those conflicts by the U S. government resulted in the

on photosensitive paper to communicate photographic

nightmare of war

meanings about people, events or scenes.

The efforts to destabilize the Revolution turned the

From Claudia's pictures selected to be presented in this

Caribbean Coast's territory into a militarized area and

Symposium, it is necessary to notice the elements and

the risen and armed natives into cannon fodder of a civi

situations continuously repeated as well as absent

war While the government was discussing the strategies

elements, whether obviously or subtly To a certain

to solve one of the most conflicting situations in its

extent, this is due to the fact that the visited

history whole communities were running away from one

communities or settlements were experiencing their own

side to another in the mountains and rivers or towards

times of crisis. (12

the border with Honduras looking for survival

and uncertainty fear rejection of most of the indigenous "to the

The pictures capture the anxiety

In that context, it is fit to ask to what extent was the


photographic narrative of these two artists permeated

Revolution" in the Caribbean Coast. Or they reflect the

conditions and

duties of the

by and/or did it pick up the ideological discourse and the

daily observation of a severe crisis and war situation

ethnic view of the dominant political class and culture?

Marla Jose's pictures concentrate on the Creole and

Moreover in what way does that photographic material

"Garlfuna" communities of the South Atlantic region Her

that documentary collection, help to build a cultural

characters are active, spontaneous and natural


reconstruction of what is believed to have happened in a

camera frames them without disturbing their chores.

highly conflicting situation?

The lenses concentrate on people's faces and activities.

How can one openly say amidst the war and beyond

Many of the faces of the women and girls in the pictures

words that the indigenous peoples and ethnic groups

are severe

had every right not to feel citizens of a National State

uneasiness and concern

whose laws, culture, programs and policies had not acknowledged them as such but, instead had tried to 380

they do not reflect enthusiasm, rather

Photographi s contribution to the development of

the creation of the new multiethnic and multilingua

awareness about the multiethnic and multilingual

"common sense " In the first one, the landscape of the

character of nicaraguan society

little island south of Bluefields is absent. However

Claudia Gordi lo's photo San Carlos del Rfo Coco.

Claudia concentrates on one of the most transcendental

Votaci6n de Ia campafia electoral de 1990.

facts for that community the rescue of their language

1990 was

taken nine years after the recently narrated story A

The picture shows a woman raising her voice among a

pregnant woman with a wide-open smile, squeezes her

group of Rama Indians Men, women and children are

belly on the

paying attention to the woman's reading of a publication

ne of the population awaiting to deposit

their vote, in the first voting in the history of Nicaragua

written in their language

to elect the Governments of the North and South

background reinforces the definition of the characters

13 The light that serves as

Atlantic Autonomous Regions. The picture shows that

who partake of the moment with expectant, full of

most of the voters are women having tough and

surprise eyes In the picture, Claudia's mission at the

determined faces The women raise their identification

CIDCA and Lewis Hine's lesson "I wanted to teach the

cards forecasting the punishment vote received by the

things that had to be corrected I wanted to teach the

Sandinista government in the 1990 elections. They are

things that had to be appreciated"

poor people who wearing boots and rubber slippers or

each other

bare feet, tolerate the heat on the street with the same

The Pan de Yuca Bahami 1987) of Marla Jose's picture

determination with which they endure their poverty

is a surprise for the "yucca-eating" mestizos of the



The serenity of the atmosphere that surrounds the

Pacific region

woman and the child

that we eat in the Pacific region as "bufiuelos" "vigor6n"

and the relative calm of the

environment can be explained because the communities

It is another way of preparing the yucca

fried pork dish or simply boiled with salt.

on the Pearl Lagoon basin were less affected by war

Bahami is a "garlfuna" word It is the name of the bread

However in Marla Jose's photo Pescadora de Laguna de

that rises crispy on the big wooden plate The Bahami is

South Atlantic region 1989 the preeminence of

also one of the offerings prepared by the garlfunas for

the cayuse in the picture reveals the significance of this

the celebration of their healing ritual In just one object,


means of transportation communities

in the daily life of the

In this image

the artist gathers the sentiment, tradition and history of

the multip e roles

an entire community that can recognize itself in that

undertaken by the woman in the home economy and

image This image of the Caribbean gastronomy reflects

the mystery about the father's presence or absence in



whose look seems

photography -Walter Evans

"If the thing exists, it is

destined to reproduce the long chain of marginalisation

there, why photograph it?)

well because it is there!!

ife of that crestfallen baby

and poverty were captured








The following two photographs

Leyendo textos en

Those four records were made when the peace talks and

lengua rama Rama Cay South Caribbean Coast, 1989

the autonomy project were already in progress. The

and Pan de Yuca

1987) contribute to the

whole work of these two artists allows one to appreciate

rupture of the Spanish-speaking monolingualism and

the economic social and cultural conditions of the



indigenous communities of the Nicaraguan Caribbean

related to the topic.

and to understand that their cultura expressions are

Capturing the cultural images and expressions of the

symbolic creations representing and

recreating the

Nicaraguan Caribbean was possible thanks to the

world that serves them as reference This way they are

photographers' own ability to communicate, beat the

linked to the reality that is their context, but they

obstacles, prejudices and distances.

generate new semiologic and semantic spaces that

although Claudia and Marfa Jose identify themselves

18) That is why

contribute to transform that reality

with documentary photography we consider that the

The pictures of women voting and the fisherwoman wrap

concept of humanist photography as used by Hamilton,

the long and dense journey in search of peace and

describes their work better because their main focus was


the daily life of most people from the communities and

Those two pictures exemplify what Paul

Friedrich calls "terminal definition of the subtext."


cities affected by war Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas

They are trope-images that in a flash transform and

This conception of humanist photography represents a

culminate the enormous chain of values accumulated in

critical objection and a rupture whit the previous

Claudia Gordillo and Marfa Jose Alvarez's humanistic

practice of looking at the Caribbean Coast as a virgin



unexplored wealth




Indians, voluptuous blacks all covered by the veil of The humanist pictures of Maria Jose Alvarez and


Claudia Gordillo

mestizo discourse and imagining

Photographs a low us to relate to our own intuitions


individua ities

that had been the dominant model in the 19


Other pictures, of the series the Walla galla show how

The expressions of

Marfa Jose was able to penetrate into the deepest

collective life, its representations and symbols allow us


to comprehend a reality that may no longer exist but

documentationa practice

that, by means of the images, still circulates and

The garffuna world view worships their ancestors with

produces new meanings.

the rite of the Wa Ia rooster The whole ethnic group

Peter Hamilton defines documentary photography as

takes part in the oneiric call made by the spirits to save

humanist photography that is, which focuses rna nly on

a sick relative The support of the whole ethnic group

ordinary people's daily life

and the sick person's faith are the key to the healing or

17) Claudia and Marfa Jose

of the







were accepted as part of the great coastal community

acceptance of a "good death " 21

thus being able to be participatory observers and this

El Walla galla para Dona Valentina Colindres de Estrada Orinoco Pearl Lagoon

way see the communities and subjects represented in their pictures "from the inside "

1987) shows "dona" Valentina

By representing the

and the musicians seating with their drums inside a

daily ife, solidarity identity of a group and situations

pa m bamboo and soi floor house That construction is

absent from the predominantly mestizo culture, the

made especially to celebrate the rite of the Walla

work of these two artists constitutes a contribution to

rooster which orders that the community meet in a

the making of a new multiethnic Nicaraguan culture and

place never having been inhabited by human beings.

a considerable enrichment for the national iconography

The center of the room is the "diabasen" occupied by 382


two earth piles with the shape of a tomb representing

" (22

That encounter with the "otherness"

the spirits' symbolic place. On top of the piles are two

is related to the search for one's own self (23)

"huacales" (calabash tree gourds


Jose was aware that she was getting a record of

liquor) and two "guaro" (sugar cane liquor) bottles for

something that nobody had ever seen, and that made

the ancestors to consume. Probably

her aware of how multiethnic and diverse we are as a

with "chicha"

the white hen


running around the room is the sick person's offering

nation. The opportune relationships and information

which, according to the ritual, should be the first

contributed to Marfa Jose's chance to be invited,


photograph and film, probably for the first time in the

Two children seating against the wall quietly observe the

history of documentary photography in Central America,

procession that passes by in front of them This is the

one of the deepest cultural expressions of the garffuna

moment when Dona Valentina sostenida por familiares,


(Orinoco, Pearl Lagoon, 1987) arrives at the place of the

Different journeys

spirits. Dona Valentina is carrying a bottle in her hand

Gordillo's pictures in order to try to reveal





Claudia her

while, from the hands of the other women roosters that

interpretation of the facts, events and people that she

will be sacrificed during the rite are hanging. Dona

chose to place in front of her camera When looking at

Valentina's face is transformed, and her body in spite of

the next three pictures, we wonder what she was

being supported, seems strengthened

documenting and if we should judge her for the

More offerings have arrived at the place of the spirits,

authenticity of the representations or the depth and

which will finally be consumed by the community,

subtlety of the feelings that she put into images. These

gathered during three days and two nights for this

eminently "metonymic" pictures ended up inventing



Dona Dominga

a "garlfuna" healer and

spatially and, above all, physically what

assistant to Orinoco's Shaman, is the one who serves as

later on would become prototypes, metaphors and icons

a middlewoman for the community and organizes the

of indigenous women

Bendici6n de las ofrendas (Walla gallo, Orinoco, Pearl

A drawn curtain lets through light that illuminates a

Lagoon, 1987)

Sumu/Mayangna girl, wearing her Sunday clothes,

Marla Jose's pictures allow us to get to know the spirit,

sitting with modesty and dignity and it allows to see the

the genius of the "garlfuna" community. These pictures

child's sweet and curious look through the window The

as a representation allow linking the things, concepts

Morava education is reflected in the posture. The girl is

and signs that constitute the core of the production of

Marbella, hija del pastor Moravo de Karawala, (1988)

meanings of that community. The need to understand a

The light in the picture captures the eclectic religiosity


atmosphere in the Preacher's home. This aspect is



bound to the

need for

recognizing oneself in that space, can be some of the

reinforced by the altar decorated with a mat and flowers

additional reasons that tinge Marfa Jose's fascination

for the image of a Virgin That image above the girl's

behind her lens. About her experience at the Walla Gallo,

head appears as a protective sign

Marfa Jose comments that "she felt as if she were in

The hieratic face and the twitched hand of Jovita Knigth,

another country She realized the presence of Africa in

mujer sumu de Karawala, (Rfo Grande de Matagalpa 383

revea her tension in front of the camera The

paradigms, discourses and semantic spaces allowing to

indigenous woman's beauty and appearance seem to


see and understand in the seemingly objective external

confirm the statement that each picture, as a good

reality unknown aspects.

trope, tells a story and keeps a secret. The long hair an

An illustrative example of the power of representations

unfa ling sign of beauty for indigenous women


is the engraving America by Theodor Galle ca 1580

down in a wavy fashion as a refreshing cascade

The text says

covering half of the feminine body The beautiful Miskita del Barrio del Muelle

"America discovered America and once

he ca led it ike that, he always awakes it and arouses Puerto



Without a doubt, this is one of the most

fu ly exerting her freedom enjoys her

illustrative and influential icons in the relationship

hammock while looking at us with determination In the

between conquerors and the conquered ones that laid

Cabezas, 1988

wooden room some ordinary ife objects are observed

the foundations for the colonizing discourse and the

the net, the water tank, the "kola shaler" and of course

mestizo imagining

the hammock.

The bed holds preeminence in the

America introduces itself as an exuberant and sensual

composition whereas its center is occupied by the

feminine figure, surrounded by cannibals, wild animals

religious print placed in the room's niche These pictures

and magnificent trees The Conqueror erected with all

show the intimacy of the contact between those

his gear an astrolabe on his hand

depicted and the photographer According to Claudia

conquest banner and the ships, power and reason

when she got closer to people, she requested their

symbols, contemplates the barbarism embodied in the

permission to photograph them She would establish a

feminine figure that naked and quiet contemplates him

relationship with the family and the people responsible

from her hammock. The engraving and text is an icon

flanked by the

for the household and where the relationship was most

and index that have rebuilt the image of America as that

intense, the picture reflects the person's nner self the

of an

ndigenous, weak, unprotected and expectant


most. " 24

The men and women in Claudia and Marla Jose's Documentary photographic as politropes that

pictures reflect different spheres of an era

reflect, recreate and perpetuate semantic and

history In these pictures religiosity laboriousness and

duty and

beauty can be appreciated Their material production

cultural spaces Diane

such as the palm bamboo and "tambo" constructions,

Arbus's phrase disturbs us with its unmercifu truth " .A

the big wooden plates and the hammocks, alleviates the

picture is a secret on top of a secret. the more it says,

precarious material conditions of everyday life and

the less it reveals.

demonstrates the inexhaustible capacity to survive

Upon elaborating a conclusion for this essay


" 25) A good picture, ike a good

under the most adverse conditions

misleads in an exact proportion to the

The people's

amount that it reveals, but that is the price of any

dignity appearance, pride as well as their attitude and

revelation This is partly due to the fact that pictures are

confidence would seem to come from the assurance that

not only memories but representations of a constructive

everyth ng that surrounds them at the different levels of

nature that, bes des reflecting/signifying create new

their world view belongs to them 384

Through the metonymic inventory of daily actions, the

experienced non-critically In this case, they constitute

pictures become metaphors and icons that rescue the

what Gramsci calls "common sense" or in another

economic value of house chores, the spiritual value of

context "folklore."

their subjects, thus reva uing and resignifying women

common sense contribute to the subordination situation

from the coast.

of the people when making inequality and oppression

Many elements in the popular

Paraphrasing Hine and Evans, we could say that in order

situations appear as natural and permanent. However

to raise new awareness, it was necessary to teach the








things that had to be corrected and teach what had to

conscience or ideology in a merely negative sense

be appreciated

Common sense is contradictory because it contains truth


these contradictions that one can obtain advantages and

elements and distorted elements, and it is based on 1 This essay has been enriched by the participation of

influence in a fight for the political hegemony

Galio Guardian, a social anthropologist, founder and

4 Hamilton in Hall 1997 86.

former director of the Research and Documentation Center of the Atlantic Coast and

5) In the eighties the CIDCA invited Claudia to work in

Member of the

a photographic series that would support researchers in

Autonomy Commission Ga io had the necessary vision

their presentations inside and outside the country Her

and decision to support several works that resulted in a

images have been useful to illustrate the editions of

significant number of these pictures. Personally I had

Wani a quarterly publication of the CIDCA and many of

direct participation in the 80's supporting


from the

National Autonomy Commission in Managua

of the


that approach

the topic of the

Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast.

process that untied the Autonomy Project of the

6 Barthes, 1981 14.

Indigenous Peoples and Ethnic Communities of the

(7) Friedrich 1991 19-55 We use the politropy concept

Atlantic Coast. So we agreed with Galio that our first



Friedrich s argument in

his article

approach to the images would be from the possibi ity

"Politropy" For Friedrich it is necessary to overcome the

offered by them to rescue the hope, dignity and respect

classic view that began with Aristotle, in which the

of life and the environment. Finally we think that this

metaphor is the preeminent figure of speech a "primus

way we are making a symbolic payback to those social

inter pares" to which other less relevant tropes such as

players that have populated the work of Galio, Claudia

metonymy synecdoche, irony are dependent upon For

and Marfa Jose during more than two decades.

Friedrich both poetic language as well as prose are full

2 Wani 8 1990 53 3 Forgacs. 1988 323-362 Gramsci

of metonymies, synecdoches, ironies, metaphors that Each person according to

belong to more inclusive and generic macrotropes,

has a series of conceptions about the world







that are often contradictory among them and therefore


form an incoherent entirety Many of these conceptions

stand out. These macrotropes are not subordinated to a

are imposed and are absorbed passively from the


outside or from the past, and they are accepted and

reinforcing and backfeeding mutually to create 385



contiguity and analogical ones but rather interact synergically

perspicacity ambiguity and richness of meaning

13 The Rama language rescue project was directed by

(8) Trachthenberg 1980 88 The debate now seemingly

the linguist Colette Craig Grinevald, a collaborator of the

overcome, on the artistic and/or technical nature of

CIDCA. Towards the center of the group, listening

photography is similar to the debate in rhetorics about

attentively appears Miss Nora Rigby then one of the last

whether figures of speech

speakers and an outstanding collaborator of the project.

metaphor, metonymy and

synecdoche, are mere decorations to beautify verbal

14 Hamilton in Hall 1997 86.

expression or if they add new semantic knowledge/con-

15) Lane in New The Yorker 2000 84.

tents. Maybe one of the most well-known arguments on

16 Friedrich 1991 24.

the nature of photography is that of Baudelaire, who

17) Hamilton in Hall 1997 76-149 "Representing the

argued that "photography therefore, should return to its


true obligation, which is that of making use of the arts

Photography," Other topics about humanist photography

and sciences.

are historicity empathy communality monochronism

such as painting and shorthand, which

have not created or supplemented literature."

France and Frenchness in Post war Humanist

18)In the case of Marfa Jose she found her knowledge

(9) Interview by Galio Gurdian to Claudia Gordillo.

of English useful and being married to a member of the

Managua, August, 1999

community allowed her to be inserted into the Bluefields

(10) Idem.

creole families. In the case of Claudia, her view of the

(11 Ruiz y Ruiz F 1925.

Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua was influenced by the

(12) It is the case of the 51 indigenous communities of

work researchers from the CIDCA, especially by the field

Rio Coco in the borderline with Honduras which, starting

works of Charles Hale in Karawala and Colette Craig

from the events of Red Christmas in 1981, began to be


evicted militarily, transferred and relocated

in the

incorporation of a historical and socio-anthropological

interior of the


perspective to her photographic work.

Nicaraguan territory.





ideologists of the Tasba







20) In the communities of Pearl Lagoon there was some


affinity with the Revolution and above all with the local


Pri or Free Land


19) Pataky 1956.

ignorance and contempt for the population's habits and needs


designed and created living conditions such as for a

Sandinista authorities, this allowed the establishment of

project in a suburban neighborhood in the Pacific region

a pilot autonomy project there, and that Orinoco's

militarily controllable. One of the main claims of the

garffuna community were able to carry out its ritual

indigenous population when arriving in Tasba Pri was the

(21) Idiaquez. 1997 80-81 22 Interview by Galio Gurdian to Marfa Jose Alvarez.

closed spaces, distance from the river reduced size of

Managua August, 1999

the assigned piece of land and excessive closeness of the houses between each other Very different to the

23) Marfa Jose commenting her pictures states "I don't

open and free spaces of the traditional communal

know if due to the orphanage state in which I was in

settlements. This is one of the elements absent in the

regards to my family

picture. In general, in this selection, there is absence of



most charismatic residents or natural leaders who, when 386


felt fascinated

with the

I devoted myself to photographing the


showing them my work, began little by little to open up

Documentary Photography

the doors to their houses. And that is how I was able to

International Nederland

enter those interiors definitively inhabited by women,

The New Yorker


Evans reinvented American photography"

into laborious matrons.

through their daily chores,



maintain the customs,

"The eye of the land

Trachthenberg, Alan

Leete's Island Book. New Haven, 1980


Wani 8

Interview by Galio Gurdian to Claudia Gordillo.

(25) The Editors of Time Life Book. S/f路 204. (26) Americen Americus retexit, & Semel vocauit inde semper excitam.

Bibliography Lucida



Photography Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc. New York, 1981 Fernandez, James W. Beyond Metaphor The theory of

tropes in Anthropology


University Press.

California, 1991 Forgacs, David An Antonio Gramsci Reader Selected

Writings 1916-1935. Lawrence and Wishart. London, 1988. Hall

Stuart. Representation. Cultural Representations






association with The Open University London Idiaquez, Jose sj



El culto a los ancestros en Ia

cosmovisi6n religiosa de los garffunas de Nicaragua. Institute Hist6rico Centroamericano. Managua 1997 Pataky





Universal Bonanza, Nicaragua 1956. Ministerio de Cultura

"Tres poemas de Carlos Rigby"

Managua, 1990

Managua, August, 1999



Classics Essays on Photography

languages, the oral history that saves that population


How Walker

Lane March 13 2000

from oblivion "



Poesfa Atlantica. Ministerio de

Cultura Managua, 1980 Ruiz y Ruiz, F Informe sobre Ia Costa Atlantica de

Nicaragua. Tipograffa Alemana Managua, 1925 The Editors of Time-Life Books Editors Life library of 387


Warning This paper undertakes the link of the Costa Rican State versus the visual arts practice, in relation to one of its possible dimensions

that of mutual legitimization, in

two lines the legitimization of the State through by art and that of the legitimization of art by the State. We are interested in presenting this type of approach since it could offer an explanation of the socio-cultural and historical dynamics of plastic production in the country

It is important to clarify that this is not a full or much less, exhaustive explanation and

as such,

It is, therefore, partial

it leaves out some aspects of the

undertaken phenomenon, compelling us to recognize that there are things not explained by it. In order to wholly understand the kind of issue set forth by us, that is to say that of the State-plastic production link in Costa Rica we should take into account, at least, two types of factors

Art and State in Costa Rica: A Mutual Legitimation

an internal one, characteristic of

plastic production dynamics itself and an external one, which has to do with the interaction between that production and

its context. These reflections deal

mainly with an aspect of the second type of factors, leaving aside some considerations characteristic of the

By Rafael Cuevas

internal dynamics of plastic production

Molina A Few General Considerations Given the clarifications above, which evidence the explanatory boundaries of these reflections, here is their main premise, hypothetically stated politica

in Costa Rica the

need to legitimize the State has, greatly

impacted the visual arts dynamics, during their climax and recession periods. This statement is supplemented with a subordinate one

the importance of the State's

impact on the visual arts dynamics in Costa Rica stems from the nature of the Costa Rican State, which has favored the consensus over repression This aspect has 388

impacted not only the cultural production dynamics

social identity different from the one prevailing during

being dealt with, but also other social dimensions, for

the colonial period

instance education and literature. Such an impact has

that required inventing a tradition and caused interest

been different in each one of them, both in terms of its

for "their own things"

which entailed a "civilizing" process in turn, this fact contributed -in

nature as well as of the specific historical moment being

the field of literature for instance- to the appearance of


the first works allowing us to talk about the beginning of

In general it may be stated -along the same lines as

Costa Rican national literature.

well- that the Costa Rican cultural field has been greatly influenced by the State since, at least, the

Colonial Art

decade of the seventies in the XIX century when, within

Costa Rican colonial art evidenced the poor nature of the

the liberal regime, the trends laying the foundations of


what may be called the country's modern cultural

comparatively weak presence. The close alliance that

of Costa







identity became solid in Costa Rica Such an identity has

existed, during this period in history

gone through two big reconstruction instances since

Church and the State is well- known In those places in


one that originated in the forties during the XX






between the settled


century (and which developed mainly throughout the

convincingly such as in the cases of Mexico, Peru, Cuba

following thirty years

or closer yet, Guatemala)

around the beginning

and another one that started of the 80's and

local schools for religious


painting, image-making and architecture flourished In

developing nowadays. As a general comment, each of

the case of Costa Rica, many of the works of this kind

these periods, which have decisively influenced Costa

came from Guatemala

Ricans' social identity should be associated with political


projects that have been promoted by specific social

Amighetti, the Costa Rican artist, states that. "the work


the first one, with the



It was art whose models Concerning



iberals supporting

was always done with an eye on the models that came

themselves on coffee growing the second one, with the

from abroad, without having modified essentially the

Social Christians and the Social Democrats insisting on

interpretation of what was imitated " (1)

capitalist modernization, and the third one with that of

have been any other way because the colonial State

the neo-liberal technocrats.

imposed a culture reproduction model in which the main

During each of these historical moments, the State has

ideal to be imitated was whatever was made in the

It could not

acquired a certain profile, in accord with the interests

metropolis. I would like to note here that, in my opinion,

and needs of the hegemonic sectors. Thus, a liberal

Amighetti's affirmation regarding colonial art cannot be

State, one of a social nature and a neo-liberal one may

accepted as exclusive for this period

be rightfully mentioned

evidenced later on in this paper, imitating foreign

Within each historical context,

As it will be

the State has created specific ways of relating to civil

models seems to have been a constant of culture in our

society and, specifically

to the field of culture. For

countries. Some people have characterized this attitude

example, the liberal State's main task was the creation

as "colonized", in the sense that what is made in the

(or "invention" of the Costa Rican nation implying a

world metropolitan centers is valued over one's own 389

1897) and in the emerging School of Fine Arts 1897)

things, and they consider that such a pose originated


precisely in this colonial past.







contradictory too because although it was interested in

Art During the Liberal Period

"what is national " that national essence was created by

the Image of the

means of a deeply spurious eye that, essentially

National Monumental Art: Statuary

despised it. This position where two contradictory poles

In accord with the needs of the liberal oligarchy in



scorned the physical features of an "Indian


girl from Pacaca" 3 but, on the other hand it strove to

monumental art -capable of promoting and encouraging

set the defining and distinctive characteristics of "its own

nationalistic home values in the making- was the one to

thing " It was within the framework of this essential

receive the privileged attention of the State. That is why

contradiction that the ideals and values of national art

in the last decade of the XIX century appeared what

were created

at the


of this




products not fitting

to the

artist and researcher Jose Miguel Rojas has called

dominating and contradictory patterns of the liberal

"solemn art" of a public nature, through which the

State and oligarchy were excluded from the official

homeland was exalted

cultural project. Such was the case, during this period

Since the mid

1880's the

government had planned to erect monuments devoted

of the painter Enrique Echand who when painting one

to the Campaign

sculptors in

of the historical moments established as a pillar of the

agreement with its aesthetic model This was found in

new Nation the "burning of the hostel" by national hero

France, seat of the new metropolitan model to be

Juan Santamaria


against the North American fi busters in 1856


of 1856 and


That is how the monuments to the hero

Juan Santamaria (Aiajuela


during the Central American war

abide by the canon that

sculpted by Aristide


vetoed the hero's

mulatto features and distorted face

Croisy and cast by A. Drenne, and that of the historica

did not

He was thus

deeds of 1856 at the National Park (in the capital city

relegated al his ife to a secondary and obscure position

San Jose

in public administration

sculpted by Louis-Robert Carrier Belleuse

the inspection of handcraft

were built and revealed In accordance with the model

courses in secondary education

of beauty to be imitated the features of the statue with









which the hero Juan Santamaria was represented by the

contradictory expression in Costa Rican painting around

European sculptor are those of a French gan;on

the late 1920's, through the so-called first vanguards or new



Amighetti stand out in it.






The motifs of this new

Painting also played a role in that first instance of

generation's painting corresponded to and functioned in

creation and exaltation of the national identity The

the "Central-Valley-oriented" image created and turned

official art was an academicist type of art that referred

dominant by the liberal oligarchy In it, "The rural or

to the neoclassical iconography in agreement with the

semi-rural landscape of the Central Valley

already mentioned

beautiful adobe houses surrounded




its utmost

with its

by exuberant

nature became a symbol of features such as equality

expression in the decoration of the National Theater 390

peace, democracy and freedom Costa Rican essence " 5)

in other words, the

cultural policies prevailed providing the main goal of the

Other authors have shown

State's link to culture -in general and art -in particular路

through an iconographic analysis, how Quiros' painting

patronage, dissemination and promotion Each of these

originated from a look that idealized the objects being

policies allowed the creation of spaces for legitimizing

the inspiration for his work, in terms of the dominant

the hegemony of the new strata in power

values. (6)

Broadly speaking, the following question may be asked

This generation's painting found in the

National Salons (Plastic Art Exhibits a soundbox and a

why did the hegemonic strata feel the need to make an

confirmation of its legitimation within the country's

important effort to be legitimized in the artistic field, this

dominant classes since they reaffirmed their position at

being relatively small at the beginning of the period at

the top of society when showing themselves as the

issue? The explanation may be found not in its size, but

group that held not only material but also symbolic

in its influence in society in general the voice of artists


that is to say it developed within high culture

and intellectuals seems to have been influential in the

and had the capacity to enjoy art. Thus, "the social and

shaping of public opinion and the social consensus

political hierarchies revealed yet another aspect that

mechanisms, thus the need to gain their respect and

separated them from the popular strata " (7) Just as it

incorporate them (co-opt them

had happened forty years before, those that did not

degrees, into the political-ideological project in the

adapt to the dominant beauty patterns and values

making The key concept here is that of co-opting, which

suffered marginalism

refers to a flexible process that does not demand

The paradigmatic case of that

in different ways and

historical moment may be that of the sculptor and

unconditionedness and is based on the mutual reception

painter Francisco Zuniga who, as it was customary in

of benefits.

other places (Mexico and Guatemala, for example

Whereas during the period of the liberal project -at the

sought and found inspiration and points of reference in

end of the XIX century-

literature played the leading

the indigenous population and cultures of Costa Rica


which, in accord with the dominant valley-centered

However plastic arts were not left out of the costs and

mentality became a real heresy

benefits of applying co-opting mechanisms. Mentioned

in the



dealt with, theater did

in an outline format, some of the benefits received by

A New Turning Point: Patronage, Spreading and


Promotion as State Policies (8)

legitimation are








The liberal State crisis started its resolution as of the

1) creation of museum infrastructure and exhibition








of the

paternalistic or welfare State, promoted by Social-


Democratic political forces. In following this ideology

academic training in arts


or reinforcement)

of opportunities for

the country's modernization implied reaching social

3) social legitimation by means of awards and contests.

"equalization" (9) levels in which access to education

These benefits were received very positively by the

and culture held an important place. 路Within the context

members of the Costa Rican artistic community given

of this type of State, and in relation to culture, three

the state of "defenselessness" (10) that the artists were 391


In fact, one of the first actions by the General

Direction of Arts

social commitment since the mid 60's, in which some of

a predecessor of the present-day

Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports

the most distinguished personalities of plastic arts in

was opening an

that country participated

exhibition venue on Central Avenue in the capital city of

such as Roberto Cabrera

Padilla, Elmar Rene Rojas, Marco Augusto Quiroa and

San Jose, in 1962 -a place which quickly became a

Ramirez Amaya -some of whom even had to go into

cultural attraction center The policies associated with

exile These differences in the respective cultural fields

the welfare State were clearly outlined within Costa

came out, partly

Rican society by the end of the 70's, when this model

Painting Biennia

began collapsing

but its reminiscences,

in a long

University Confederation

transition period lasted until the mid nineties and even, until


at the famous Central American organized by the Central American CSUCA) and the Ministry of

Culture, Youth and Sports of Costa Rica in 1970 where

For instance, the construction of

Luis Dlaz, a Guatemalan

carried off the palm with

museum infrastructure in the country which may be


a work of political denouncement that

stated -without any doubt- to be the most extensive and


with the Costa

consolidated in the Central American region, spanned

concerned about the technical manufacturing

Ricans' works


from the seventies to the nineties, when the Costa Rican Art



Contemporary Art and

The Welfare State Crisis: the Nee-liberalism and


Museum, the National Gallery of Contemporary Art, the

Globalization Era

National Gallery etc., were created

Whereas the end of the XIX century raised the challenge

On the other hand the State policies had an important

of creating the national State within the Costa Rican

impact on the training of professionals of the visual arts

society the last two decades of the XX century have

at state universities. There is no doubt that, along these

been immersed in an opposite context in which the

same lines, Costa Rica shows much more favorable

nation-State has been questioned from different fronts,

indexes than the rest of the region


This caused the








appearance, since the mid eighties, of new generations

neo-liberal type of State intended to redirect the State

of artists with theoretical and technical tools that

policies towards a withdrawal of its duties, undertaken

allowed enrichment regarding options and trends in the

since the 60's

Costa Rican cultural field

activities where state patronage was expressed as a

more significant for those artistic

Now how was reversed legitimation that is to say that

subsidy -such as in the case of the performing arts- and

of the State's by artists, expressed? First, probably

less so for visual arts. The signs of the times are about

through the thriving of an indulging and not very critical

to reach them as is the case of the state exhibition halls

art. A glance at the cultural field dynamics in the

that are starting to transfer installation costs to the

region's neighboring countries helps us, in this respect,

artists either by charging for their use, or for the

to demonstrate more clearly this feature of the Costa

preparation of catalogues conce~ning


It is my opinion

Rican art from a major part of the second half of the XX

however that


In the case of Guatemala for example,

new conditions is expressed in another realm that has

considerable groups of artists assumed a belligerent

more to do with a new attitude regarding artistic



visual arts, the impact of these

non-commercial art to be expressed

practice and its contents. In relation to this, there are two ideological cores that, in my opinion, exert the

contrast with


American countries in this respect allows us to have a







what is happening

Again, a brief

in other Central

nee-liberal policies and ideas which discredit activities

clearer look at the circumstances in Costa Rica, since in

flourishing under the umbrella of the State, and promote

those other countries, the situation is the other way that is, not the State and its exhibition-space

private initiative and a certain worship of technologies


and 2) that of the globalizing processes, which allow

network, but the private-gallery network is the one

knowledge and interaction

offering greater

Both cores interact with each other and help to outline,


support and prestige. This,

once again the Costa Rican artistic field Thus, we are

strong role played by the Costa Rican State. Regarding


legitimation, however, we are witnessing a dichotomy

must be a result of the predominant and

1) A boom in private partnership initiatives by groups of

on the one hand, circulating through those spaces allows

artists who get together

one to get positively

positioned in the cultural field,

in terms of different objectives but, basically to provide

be valued acquire

prestige, be validated

mutual support to

on the

themselves without the State's help.

other hand, the ever more present tendency to make

2) An increase in the scope of proposals related to

non-commercial proposals leads artists to establish

postures characteristic of groups more and more leading

contacts and relationships with financing sources that


offer legitimizing support -before Costa Rican society.







environmentalists, peace movements, etc. 3)







technologies, especially those linked to video.

As I

4) The also growing crossover of national boundaries.

between art and the State have been varied and

hope to have been shown, the relationships

In spite of its withdrawal

the State has not stopped

persistent. Given its characteristics, the Costa Rican

playing an important role, even in the promotion of

State has become interested in upholding art as an

these new proposals that are no longer centered on it.

element legitimizing the political projects that have been

Regarding this, the role played since 1994 by the

expressed through it. But, on the other hand, the arts

Contemporary Art and


Museum should be

have also profited from the benefits that, in exchange, the State has offered to them Therefore, it has been a


mutual legitimation relationship.

Within this new context, it is important to think about which

are the circulation

spaces and



legitimizing entities for these important new trends in


contemporary Costa Rican art are. Even with some

(1) Francisco Amighetti

Catalogo de arte religioso

exceptions, such circulation spaces continue being, to a

Museo de Arte Costarricense

great extent, gallery rooms and

Atenea L.L.

state museums,

San Jose


1995 p.2

although there is a growing private-gallery network in

(2) Remember that in Latin America in general, and in

which some of them sometimes allow this often

Costa Rica, in particular Spanish culture (both clerical 393

and rural) became associated with the "backward"

Ia dinamica cultural en Centroamerica ( 1978-1990

colonial model that the new nationalistic social forces

(EUNA, Heredia 1993) and El punta sabre Ia i -polfticas

were trying to get rid of France, the promoter of the

culturales en Costa Rica (1948-1990 (MCJD San Jose

modern values coming from the Enlightenment and the

1995), as well as in the "Educaci6n y Cultura" chapter

French Revolution, became the model to be reached

from the book Rafces del Estado de La Naci6n (PNUD-

both in the political and economic spheres, as well as in

EUNED, San Jose 1999)

lifestyles, fashions and art.


(3) This refers to the famous controversy held, in the

magazine of the Study Center for the National Problems,

field of literature, between Ricardo Fernandez Guardia

around which some of the main Social Democracy

and Carlos Gagini in

ideologists of the 40's grouped together

1894 regarding the relevant

It is the term given to this process on the Surco

models for Costa Rican literature at the end of the XIX

10) That is the expression used by the painter Rafael

century. The former considered Costa Ricans to be " .. a

Angel "Felo" Garda to describe the situation that Costa


Rican artists were in until the 1940's. See interview



people ... "


concluded that " ... Out of a graceful and delicate Parisian

carried out by Rafael Cuevas Molina in El punta sabre Ia

girl, Houdon's Diana may be born

i. cit. p. 163

but by living God

with an Indian girl from Pacaca only another Indian girl

(11) A more detailed comparative analysis in this

from Pacaca can be made."

respect can be found in Rafael Cuevas Molina


( 4) In 1885 Ezequiel Jimenez Estrada had already used

Contemporaneo Centroamericano"

in his painting the motifs that thirty years later would be

de Cultura, Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia

spread out by the nationalistic generation, but the


historical conditions did not allow his proposal to assume the role of expressing what is national in the field of painting (5) Eugenia Zavaleta Mercado

"Las Exposiciones de

artes plasticas" (1928-1937) en Costa Rica


Artium's degree thesis路 University of Costa Rica


p.226. (6) See, for example, Ivan Molina's work "Mas alia de Ia casa de adobes. El trasfonfo social de Ia alta cultura de Costa Rica 1850-1950)" in Re-vision de un siglo, 1897 1997路 Lecture Series on Art and Society Costa Rican Art Museum 1998. (7) Eugenia Zavaleta op. cit.


(8) A detailed analysis of this period and its impact on the Costa Rican and Central American cultural field can be found in my works Traspatio florecido -tendencias de 394

San Jose 1998

in Revista Nacional

The purpose of these reflections is without a doubt pretentious. Their aim is to be as effective for one side as it would be for the other The first side groups the professors and academic officials who very seriously assume the responsibility entailed by the uncertain work of educating people to become artists and, what is even more uncertain, legitimizing them through the granting of a degree that proves them as such The latter are the youths that dare to register in such art schools motivated by a not always well-defined vocation and the innocent illusion of becoming creators legitimated after joyfully or painfully going through a similar -or perhaps shorter- period than the one needed to overcome the requirements corresponding to the training in any other profession, from math to veterinary medicine. Legitimation is not a new phenomenon

it has always

existed in all the spheres of human practice. A brief and routine trip down mankind's history would confirm it

Reflections upon Some Current Problems in the College Teaching of Art

-regardless of specific cultural points of reference, which

Anyhow by skill of the arts, those who are

we will refrain from using here precisely to be brief

meant to be already are

What does change is the legitimation mechanism as the


same brief and routine journey down history would

Even if they wil

never know it.

confirm it again

Gabriel Garda Marquez

these very mechanisms possess a permanent basis meritocracy


However in spite of their mobility





meritocracy -although stable as a principle- is at the

same time flexible and metamorphic in relation to merit determination, even in the framework of a single

By Irmino Perera Dfaz

temporal-geographical reality. Even so, it seems obvious that in different periods and contexts, social awareness favors some specific merit that ends up characterizing the kind of prevailing meritocracy Which is the distinctive feature of the contemporary meritocratic practice? Or in other similar words, which is

the essence of the current legitimizing practices of professionals? The answer is univocal 395

in terms of







degree-cratic, or as they say in Colombia

by this state of metastasis. It is the segment related to art's professional practice.


accurately and cynically, diploma-cratic times.

Dealing with the topic of the colleges' legitimizing role in

If the competence of this judgement sounds suspicious,

the professional education of artists is extremely

the best investigative report to imagine is within

complex due to the many sides making it up, and

anybody's reach

the diversity of possible approaches. It is also a

the job offers for the employment of

professionals appearing in the classified ads section of

dangerously thorny subject because of the number of

any newspaper whether national or foreign it does not

frameworks, academicisms and traditionalisms of all

matter which one.

kinds and origin following it.

The first and sometimes only selection criterion is a

A first approach may be attempted from what Hugo

college degree. The second one is experience a false

Ceballos, a humble painter yet a sincere thinker defines

synonym for competence and, worse yet, which is

as the problem of the teachability of art (2) and which

measurable only by means of the devaluated scale of

revolves around two questions What is teachable in art?

time gone by. The third criterion is nationality which

and How do you teach it once it has been defined?

though being third does not mean it is not excluding,

These are apparently easy questions that have been

but which fortunately escapes the main interest of these

discussed to boredom, but have not been completely

reflections. Degrees, on the other hand, have their own

resolved, negatively reflecting on our contemporary

scale that increases its levels as they become massive

academia spaces, where curricular reforms follow one

bachelor's, licentiate, master's, Ph Ds.

after another without this having meant -at least to this

The serious consequence generated by this practice of

day- the overcoming of the ancestral prevalence of

diploma-cratic professional legitimation has been the

technicality criteria and the classic values of the techne,

growing process of turning college degrees into another

based on the disproportionate acknowledgment of craft

merchandise, with use and exchange values governed

over concept. Of course this is not all about devaluating

singly by the market logic, whereas universities are

the technique's role and the need for developing skills

forced to become a business -a privileged business at

indispensable to materialize artistic capabilities and

that, keeping in mind that only they

intentions by means of concrete practices, regardless of




by virtue of

their sign or orientation


responsibilities before culture, have the authority to

Art teaching

just as it happens with












its socia specificities

merchandise. Yet, the curious thing is that everybody

characteristic of art itself, artistic practices and their

knows it, very well

acceptance in each era

but nobody does anything

During a major part of the Middle Ages, when the value

Diploma-cracy has been affecting us since long ago, so long that it seems to have metastasized in our fragile

of artistic creation was constructed based on respect for

social organism

a general system of preset standards, the artistic

However there is a segment of that social organism that

teaching processes' objective was to assure that pupils

cannot remain unaware of the negative effects caused

would have the necessary mastery to meet the demands 396

of the standards, good knowledge of the technique, and

A second approach may be attempted based on the

learning of the craft.

analysis of the essence of the college as an institution












reflections to avoid

encouraged considerable changes in the understanding



historical "paneos"



difference and seal

depth, or any other scientific resource -considering that

of individuality were incorporated to the criteria system

they are some sort of emotive emanations coming from

by which artistry was defined back then Ever since, the

an already long, personal pedagogic experience- it is

interest in the creative component characteristic of

plainly assumed here that a university is defined in its

of art. The artist's originality

artistic practices would also hold a significant place

simplest sense as a high educational institution or a

within the art teaching processes.

higher education center

Throughout the twentieth century, from the historical

The highlighting above is not fortuitous. It obviously

vanguards, to the most controversial poetic ones from

intents to emphasize the main objective of the following

the postwar period and the new artistic behaviors, to the

questions if a university is the institution in charge of

nostalgic appropriations of its last decades, a subversive

higher education in the different knowledge areas,

and contentious thought prevailed as opposed to the

where are the other supposedly lower levels taught in

previous languages, codes and resources.

Such a

the specific case of art education? How can a university

problem-stating spirit should have been reflected more

grant a higher education degree in art to students who,

accurately and extensively on the artistic teaching

in many cases, just started taking classes four years

processes, but it did not happen like that. It would be

before, or perhaps less, having no idea whatsoever of

reasonable to think that the renovating force of these

what art means and lacking any previously developed

-sometimes extreme- experimentations was not enough


to blow up the well-known conservative trend of every

In most cases, college represents the preschool level in

pedagogical process, or that perhaps the intensity of the

art teaching This is so not only because of the kind of

changes, the fragility of many trends and the excessive

students welcomed and the type of professionals



graduating, but also so due to the generalized lack

institutionalized teaching, ended up betraying and even





of a common project having appropriately-defined

frightening it.

consensual criteria, concerning the program's academic,

Convincing proof of the distrustful attitude held by

formative and instructional objectives, the graduate's

college institutions regarding these new practices is the

profile and many other fundamental aspects towards

continuing division of programs following traditional

which its work should be guided

genres, namely painting, sculpture and engraving This

Colleges are not clear either at least in present-day

has remained in almost all of the educational programs

terms, regarding the objectives of establishing art

in the art schools of the most important universities in

schools, or in relation to the implementation of adequate

the continent, and also accounts for the controversial

policies explaining the insertion of the latter and the

denominations of the legitimizing degrees granted by

orientation of their links to other strata under the


concord of a single university system 397

What has been stated so far should not be taken as an

the narrow and anachronistic intradisciplinary ties,

out-and-out questioning of the college teaching of art.

insofar as it defines art as a rigorous object of study in

On the contrary these reflections are motivated by a

its multiple manifestations and

deep conviction about the need to achieve increasingly

privileged field of symbolic elaboration that does not

more demanding


visualize itself as excluding other types of knowledge,

levels in artists' formation This conviction results from

but rather gathers all the elements of sensibility




as a

conceiving present-day art as a rigorous discipline as to

research and creation to be able to introduce a

the making of its codes and signs, which works as an

globalizing intel igence and wi lpower option that tells

effective tool for approaching culture as well as a

about the experience of the specia encounter of the real

peculiar type of knowledge that which Georg Gadamer

with the imaginary and the symbolic. It will be so

called one of acknowledgment and interpretation trying

provided that it sees art as an irreplaceable constructor

to establish its significant differences regarding the


knowledge comprehension

model that encourages







interdisciplinary character thematic possibilities, variety of supports, use of space.

science in general

It will be so as long as

Getting the college-level art teaching processes and the

it acknowledges the possibi ity of the existential

degrees endorsing them to free themselves from the


shadow of the legitimizing diploma-cracy and establish

particularities in their languages

the necessary credibility criteria, which in fact they have









as well



as the


never possessed in our cultural context, entails first of

operation and the way they impact art's characteristics

all their adaptation to the peculiarities and demands













contemporary art.

Another difficult but unavoidable task to be faced by the

This forces them to establish a profound closeness to the

college education of artists lies in getting students to

reality of the processes determining the operation and

provide themselves in a peculiar way with an art vision

place of artistic activity as part of the social whole, as

that will meet their personal expectations in terms of

well as to their relationships with other spheres of

their individual artistic development, without conflicting

human activity

with the conditions suggested by its specific historical

Placing the current artistic practices in the field of

moment. This vision cannot be the single reflection of a



particular artistic trend it can only be reached through


research that wi I establish its possible historical points




the not

demarcation only



merely-artistic languages, but also between different

of reference, thus allowing to explain

types of knowledge that wi a low and sustain proposals

conditions, as well as its operational possibilities and

based on anthropology ethnology

its origin's

limitations regarding the specific requirements of a

psychology socia

given historical moment.

sciences in general, and even mathematics, biology and engineering

What has been

An art major will certainly be so as long as it overcomes

extraord nary importance that should be granted to the 398

mentioned so far points out the

theoretical aspects related to artistic research in any

elements making up creative language,

current improvement strategy for college art teaching

To encourage the analysis, research, experimentation

programs. The incorporation of the latest results

and confrontation that may be generated based on the

obtained by the art-science development operations is

artistic act in specific cultural points of reference

an indispensable condition for the successful expansion

To encourage, from a totalizing approach to reality the

of this process. This situation compels the teaching staff

free manifestation of the individual's creative values, as

to permanently continue studying the developments in









contemporary art and even to be willing to go beyond

perspective about them

their own creative method in accord with the new

The reiteration of the verb 'to encourage' is not a

courses of action and new paradigms of the artistic field

clumsy redundancy. It is an obvious sign of the author's personal credo


in the field

of artistic formation,

an art major should be

creating the appropriate conditions for identifying and

characterized by its limitless opening to change and

developing the abilities that we are born with as part of

exchange, while developing a serious work of specifying

our genetic information package is the only thing that is

and finding a place for plastic arts. This should be so


keeping in mind that the art of our time stands out due

As Garda Marquez assures, only he who is born an artist

to the permanent restating and revaluation of concepts,

is an artist (5) but one cannot wait for these vocations

even its own ones, as well as to its enormous capacity

to come up

to assimilate multiple factors

before it is too late and we miss them

As an academic proposal


ideas and

our task is to go out and look for them

tech no log ies. The proposal of a core of three major general objectives


guiding the improvement of art college education

(1) Gabriel Garda Marquez. Un Manual para ser Nifw.

programs may work as a synthetic and generalizing

Taken from Volume 2 of the Documentos de Ia Misi6n

conclusion of the expectations and challenges to be

Ciencia, Educaci6n y Desarrollo.

faced by those universities having this type of programs,

Desarrollo. Presidencia de Ia Republica, Consejerfa para

and which are really interested in honestly fulfilling their

el desarrollo Institucional


Educaci6n para el

Colciencias, Santafe de


professional legitimation duty. On the other hand they

Bogota, D

should not forget that, in the paper's classified section,

(2 Hugo Ceballos. La profesionalizaci6n de Ia carrera de

adds for painters, sculptors or engravers are never

artes. En Pensar en Arte Ed Cortesfa de Serge Herbiet

found, and that the frustration of many degree-holding


artists -again, art at the avant-garde- can be the reason

Comunicaci6n Visual., Medellin 1992

3 See Peter Burke. El Renacimiento. CRITICA, Grupo Grijalbo-Mondadori, Barcelona, 1993

for a devaluation process of cardboard-diploma as star




Lupe Alvares.

The Artistic Trend in Art

Teaching In Aesthetics and Art. ISA, La Habana, Cuba, 1993

The objectives are

5) Garda Marquez, op. cit.

To encourage the knowledge and management of the 399

I am a man of letters and work with an idiom limited by an extremely extended code but one of difficult appropriation

language. I am not speaking, therefore,

as an expert in art criticism, but as a person who is trying to approach plastic arts in such a passionate and critical way. That is why before going ahead with this brief presentation

I wish to express my gratefulness

and admiration to the painter Mayra Barraza, with whom in the last two years I have had the privilege of sharing some of the points of view that I will present here. However

as they usually say

I am the only one

responsible for the mistakes that may be stated at this lecture. The first question is

Why talk about success and

prestige? Plastic arts and, in general, aesthetic culture seem to be invaded by some distortions that may often make us think that one leans more towards abstract success (acknowledgements, the price of the work, the personal background) than towards the concrete merits

Success and Prestige of Plastic Artists

of the works. I believe that a series of organizations that usually confirm talented people as well as mediocre ones, using

By Miguel Huezo Mixco

similar procedures, play a role in constructing the idea of success and prestige surrounding artists and, in El Salvador







unavoidable to immediately think that for one as well as the other case, the most powerful reasons usually operate in terms of a goal which is to SELL. Selling is not a crime or anything like that. However in essence it is an extremely rudimentary and often degrading motive and therefore, it is regrettable that this be precisely the reason why artists, galleries, cultural institutions and the media work. It is common to hear artists (certainly I am also

including writers

talk about the importance of adding

lines to their personal background by taking advantage 400

of unimportant events that are barely picked up by the

that lies at the bottom of that injustice the great loser

press, to use later in their personal or collective

within this procedure is the work itself since,



granting more attention to the repercussions, it is as if

bureaucratic institutions, or of scholarship sponsors.

the production of the very same work made no sense.

The confirmations coming from the media or official

This is in fact a phenomenon dominating the mentality


and work of several Salvadoran artists






favor both


quality as




the notion of

mediocrity In countries like El Salvador the institutions

success has replaced the quality of the work. In other

ruling the cultural and artistic work usua ly make use of

words, the value of an artistic work is measured in direct



proportion to its public impact and its price And as an

acknowledgments and confirmations (issuance of postal

artist's prestige begins to grow the price of his works


also begins to rise sometimes capriciously The public







construction of public monuments, naming of streets,

impact and the price, I insist, have been institutionalized

parks or schools

as a sign of the value of a work of art.

agreement and

criteria taking into account political counterpoises and

weighed more than those of quality

consensus are

Regarding all those sorts of mechanisms for prestige

In an artist's

building, I feel that artists have been led into a trap first

confirmation, both in the world of official culture and in

of all because I think that a field of action of greater

that of commercia success, the media play an important

freedom before the public has been taken away from

role. The artist of our times has learned how this

them Yet, the challenge posed by this predicament is

mechanism works quite well and knows that one of the



unquestionable authority of this sort of art officials or if














acknowledgment. Making the news, getting space on the

on the contrary they will have the nerve to break away

main newspapers or in some newscast about society

from the notion of success and prestige being imposed

events, is something that an artist cannot let go. Some

on them by means of extra-artistic criteria

From this

of the artists' most frequent reproaches towards art



galleries are exactly along those lines

currently being done by a group of Central American


galleries, they

are not capable of summoning the press and

penetrating the so-ca led





artists, mostly young

of the

better appreciate


determined to give its own

content to what is commonly


as "artistic

installations" or "ephemeral art" -works which surely do

newspapers. Another one of the most frequent complaints is that the

not enjoy the price level that, to put it this way a more

media are usually unfair because they often do not only

conventional art, the one that is made with the purpose

put quality works and mediocre works on the same level

of consolidating prestige by way of sales, does.

-by granting them the same space and a similar

Paradoxically these renovating and, in a way more risky

treatment- but they also condemn good works to silence

and freer expressions offer artists the possibility of

whereas there is a lot of fuss about others that might as

renovating their contact with a public not only different

well be considered to be of very poor quality

from that of buyers and "connoisseurs"

This reproach however neglects a more serious fact

much wider and ther efore less specialized 401

but probably These

painters, but not only them, are also claiming for an art

escape that whole machinery of galleries, collections,

critique that overcomes both the incomprehensible

scholarships, newspapers, etc. Nobody should give up

specialized metalanguage as well as the frivolity of

an attempt to request a scholarship, refuse to give an

social-note reporters. Deep down, what I really think is

interview to the cultural supplements, or hurry to take

at stake in all this is an idea subverting the ingrained

down his paintings from the gallery It is just necessary

concept that considers art objects something to be seen

to realize what kind of cultural construction we are

and admired

Perhaps the work of art could also be

riding on and acknowledge whether we are playing the

considered something more gaming, less ecstatic, but

role of pleasing jesters in it or not.

this would mean opposing the trend of success and

In El Salvador for example, where there is not an art

prestige that seems to be dominating art all over the

museum per se, artists have been cornered into art

world now The same way that some people are capable

galleries that, according to how they work, might as well

of paying more for a dress or a shirt if it has a brand

be considered plain stores or boutiques. In such cases,

name label there are also people who do not buy good

the construction of the idea of success and prestige

paintings by less known painters because they feel safer

meets much more serious faking In fact, art stores are

buying the work of renowned painters. Of course there

the ones establishing the "quality" criteria (that is to say

are more pathetic cases. Some painters reap success

impact and success) for artists. The taste of the owners

and prestige by imitating famous painters.

of those establishments defines the rise of an artist. And

Thus, success indicators have moved away from almost

it is not an exaggeration to say that many artists do

all considerations to quality. It may sound extravagant

their job in order to please the reduced though powerful

to say that the true acknowledgment of a work is to

circle of art buyers.

acknowledge it, to go over it, to make it your own little

On top of that, art criticism does not exist either, and the

by little, discovering it in every bump of its textures and

one that exists does not have the means allowing it to

colors. There are artistic languages that are difficult to

exert a healthy influence on this world governed by

understand thus requiring of one attitudes, which one is

forgeries. Cultural criticism is handled by not very

not always totally prepared for Therefore, it should not

qualified journalists. In El Salvador it is relatively easy to

be understood as contempt. Likewise, the important

stand out and acquire prestige. Searching for success for

thing about a poem is what it says and how it is said, but

the success itself is a very ingrained custom that not

the editorial industry has taught us to look in books for

only is a patrimony of artists, but also has grown

the author's success and background, his prizes and

immensely in the so-called business world I believe that

acknowledgments, rather than the vital adventure

this idea of success coming from the business world is

Every time one sees less art and more signatures and

having harmful effects on quality In El Salvador and


maybe in all of Central America nobody, among artists,









acknowledgment and success is turning out to be quite

is as exposed to its damages as painters are. I wish


these ideas were useful for a debate.

that is why it is important to state it as a

problem, to question it, knowing that in the strict world of the cultural standards in effect, it is very difficult to 402

1 The orchestra-artist A little while ago, I heard some artists talk about a recent exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum of Panama, and declaring the artist involved had been able to make it there because he was rich This and other similar comments suggest that many local artists, as well as the general public, think that the doors of the most important museum in the country are closed for them

They do not perceive it as a participation and

experimentation center On the other hand, I do not think many of those artists realize the great deal of organization required by an exhibit at that museum -regardless of its quality

Their comments simply

overlooked the existence of a complex promotion, procuring and setup process. It seems as if these steps were not part of the work system for many people. The lack of planning and organization are problems that may be attributed not only to the cultural structures of our countries, but -in many cases- also to attitudes and

Practical Dreamers. Artists as Initiators and Curators

mental structures of the artists themselves. One of the most difficult barriers we have to face is our own





governments for many years has caused a widespread mentality of inertia, very especially

By Humberto Velez

on the part of

visual-art artists. The idea, which still persists in the younger discovered








and the State should assume the whole

responsibility for making their work known

Many of

grown-up artists still continue waiting Another problem is isolation during the creation process. Cooperation with other artists from different disciplines is






more of




for or

complexity At this point in time, when the media have bursted worldwide, making digital works as a team is unquestionable. Although the idea seems to be a truism, 403

the question is why is it not being done?

are an insufficient explanation to understand a process

The challenge is adopting an organizational structure

having to do with the changes in art since last century

and a work system that do not only assure the project's

as much, or more, as with poverty in our countries. Not

artistic quality but that be financially feasible and lay


the bases for other future projects. I am not only

contemporary art. Explaining the lack of interest of our

referring to the ever-important search for international

societies by blaming underdevelopment is reductionist

funds, but for those that are at hand the local ones.

and unfair Moreover on our behalf I would say that in



our human and social specificities lie the meaning of an

relation to

artistic activity and a vital will that may fill the spiritual

visual-art artists their work is basically collective. They

void prevailing in certain cultures, and fire them with




video-makers are one step ahead

directors in








know that work should be divided into areas as different


as art direction and accounting

A project's positive

Talking about artistic experience also implies talking

outcome is the result of this knowledge. Many of the

about ethics. Art and ethics go together I am not

visual-art artists still distrust group participation

referring to

"political compromises"

usually of a

Individualism and the difficulty to give in or come to an

partisan nature, or to moralistic or class-discriminating

agreement make it a living hell

not to mention the

attitudes. I am talking about the relationship between

search for and administration of financial resources.

we the artists and the public, about our personal or

Very few of us escape that gap. Art and administration

social reality through the artwork, and the way in which we express and communicate our ideas or emotions. Not

seem to be incompatible. The





to think of that public is a lack of consideration


curator- appears as an answer to the lack of support

should look for the way to make a "click" happen so that

policies for art in our countries, as well as to the

they be touched by the vanguard contemporary works of

well-known -and sometimes deceitful- lack of funds,

art. How can the public be criticized if we are not

because policy and budget go hand in hand, as rice and

building the bridges that meet their interest? The

beans do. It seems, therefore, that the only choice is the

challenge is ethical and significant. to talk about daily

self-organization of projects, both his/her own as well as

matters, about topics -whether intimate or social that

other artists' The financing, organization, curatorship

involve all of us, through contemporary means and in

and artistic creation become, in short, a single labor

societies having limited economic resources. This is a

that, in fact, has already been assumed by artists in our

task in which creativity passion and adventure are at

countries, whether willingly or unwillingly.

stake. Bill Viola said

2. From the Tropics with Love

functional position in people's life for the practical

The endless difficulties presented to us by the culture

survival of art's living practice "

"it is necessary to reestablish the

bond between art and the public, to restore art to a

public officials are a well-known issue Besides that, the artists making

3. Artists and Agitators

installations and digital art face a

In our countries it seems as if there is no other of

surprised or dismayed public. Educational deficiencies


acting than as artistic agitators. According to the

cultural scene The difference in Panama is that exhibits

Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish

or alternative spaces are almost non-existent, and

Language, the word 'agitation' has, among others, the


following meaning

consistent with the traditional and oligarchic values are

"To disturb, to upset, to move the



not saleable



spirit violently." Agitating, more than an avant-garde or

not carried out, either Recently a few galleries have


hosted installations temporarily but I suspect that their


is a condition




environment. Every artistic activity adding something

proposals are not genuinely participatory accessible to

novel, or stirring thoughts up, is -at least in Panama-

the wide public,

and this is rather a new elitist

agitating per se anyway a tremor that is staggering for

manifestation seeking to become updated

the foundations of an eminently conservative "status

Until very recently exhibiting in renowned commercial galleries

quo" Panamanian





especia ly






exclusively meant selling for decoration

Museum I am not

interested in art. Because of having a tertiary economy

romantic it is necessary to sell in order to get by but

based on the revenues coming from the Canal's traffic

there are very few possibilities of showing and selling

plus the fact of a floating population, its interests have


been exclusively economic. Its mercantilist model is not

making digital art. There are no public funds, and gallery

like the Catalan one, either Catalans, as experienced

owners are not willing to lose money on non-recoverable

merchants, have comprehended that the development

exhibition costs, either


installations... not to


Thus, it would seems that

of art and culture also provides fat profits they are the

making "non-saleable" art, in traditional terms, is to

capitalist and worldwide paradigm of the economic


relationship between art and culture

Artistic activities entail demanding governments to

Panama, in spite of being the core of the transoceanic

execute their task of promoting arts. There will always

traffic in the continent, is not a country open to the

be the excuse of prioritizing "the basic needs over the

world paradoxically it prefers to look at itself due to its

superfluous ones" but this explanation has even been

historical insecurity -a result of the occupation, for

heard in rich countries where investments on art are

almost a century of the central part of its territory and


Then, how can one reconcile government

its key resource by the U.S.A. Due to those and other

interests and art? This is a difficult question whose

reasons, the cultural scene has been relegated to the

answer may have a political air about it. Looking for

folkloric manifestations acting as reinforcers of the

reasons within the Constitution and Human Rights is a

national identity or on the other end, to the imitation of


the U S. society's lifestyle. That does not mean that we

possibility would be assessing and explicitly listing the


term justification


are less Latin-American, but more dispersed We need

results of artistic work in order to help comprehend its

confidence, and the national oligarchy as to art, has

importance. Recently a discussion has taken place in

taken it from the classic and conservative models of

Panama, around the advantages of using the money


obtained from the privatization of public companies.

Trade and art, as in every country

Concerning the future investments that would come out

dominate the 405

of the so-called Fiduciary Fund allotting a percentage

places, Panamanians need to see a work of art in private

for the development of cultural and artistic activities has

spaces to start valuing it.

not even been mentioned

It seems that an artist's diversified activity -which

Our governments are not

considering them a resource that we can all benefit from

covers "saleable" and "non-saleable"

either but rather as another activity to be kept within

works, has not become a part of the gallery-owners'

the state operations.


Rethinking artistic experience -at least in the [Central



Isthmus and




or to order)

They do not even see as profitable the of promoting

a new





installations or including unifying the gallery-owner and

artist- as well as the art object seem to be tasks

agent roles since, how many important Panamanian

originating from the state in our societies. The questions

collectors have at least one installation? and especially

about what art is and who defines what art is are

how many banks -which are almost two hundred in our

commonplace It is impossible to obviate a resistance

country- do? "Corporate art" collections -so common in

that starts in the classrooms of the School of Fine Arts

countries having or housing headquarters or important

at the University of Panama, when art with a -political

branches- with all their pros and contras, do not include

educational or other- message is mentioned as well as

sculptures or installations in Panama Besides, some of

in the Contemporary Art Museum -for the time being-

these -basically painting- collections are bound to

private galleries and the National Government. It seems

decompose in their warehouses. Is this a sign of lack of

like all of them are trying to stop a train that is running

business vision or simply a resistance to change?

over them

In the last few years and with some exceptions, the

as in the showing of Lumiere's short fi m

Recently I talked to the Director of the National Institute

Contemporary Art Museum of Panama has not shown

of Culture, in charge of art in Panama

exhibits endorsing its name. Oddly enough

about the

it is a

situation of this institution "The problem is political and

museum that sells artwork as if it were a private gallery

budgetary" he said "Politicians appoint officials without

The exceptions have been the very few installation

any interest in operative positions, and they are

exhibits, which have caused some disappointment to the

practically irremovable " Besides -and I know this first

institution's accountants and expenses to the artists'


pockets. In most of the cases, the work was valued

any support to an artist or group of artists is

considered a personal favor or it has a partisan politica

according to


Museum's Technical Council is made up for the most

So far there has not been a single private gallery in

part, of people having a great deal of social relevance

Panama that has shown works of a non-saleable nature

but debatable artistic knowledge Furthermore, many of

not even for a few days Obviously a gallery-involving

them openly oppose the exhibition of installations


because they do not consider them to be art. Lately







its sale capacity

Besides that, the

promotion of young artists and vanguard forms of

however several artists have been able to "slip" their

expression to keep the public, buyers and collectors


up-to-date has not even been thought of As with every

coexistence -not its acknowledgement- with this style

public, and especially due to the absence of exhibition

Presently the new museum director wishes to turn it 406







into a more participatory space for the youth and

works of art, have been shown mostly by foreigners

non-traditional arts. The main difficulties are of a

residing in Panama, and Panamanians who have lived in

financial and ideological nature

The museum is a

United States and Europe. Especially and for the first

private non-profit institution that does not receive direct

time, a generation of middle-class Panamanians has

financial support from the government, but a scanty

been able to travel and return with modern proposals,

annuity from its prominent partners. Also, some of the

trying to relate what is local to some ideas running

Technical Board members maintain a conservative and

around the international scene Better than relating, I

class-discriminating attitude For the general public, the

should say the relevant attitude would be rethinking

Contemporary Art Museum is a space for the favored

what is Panamanian and Latin American within the world



context at an at-least-symbolically important time such



it is also an



intellectual pedantry




as this change of centuries.




influential artistic proposals in Panama previously and


with some exceptions, was financially possible only for

4. Redefinition and Reformulation

artists belonging to well-to-do families. One of the

During the early days of January this year I met a

benefits of globalization, if any has been facilitating the

famous Cuban art critic in Havana

true communication between our environment and other



questions were not focused on the Panamanian artistic

places having a great deal of artistic activity

happening, but on what would happen with the Panama

country being a commercial bridge, our local motto is

Canal Ever since that conversation, I began to reflect on

"Panama -Bridge of the World, Heart of the Universe"

the new relationships that will arise between artistic

In a

but the artistic communication with the rest is,

activities and this aquatic route, and I am not referring

amazingly almost null

to the already countless manifestations of "nationalistic

The field of criticism has been just about the same. With


the exception of the Talingo cultural weekly critical work

One of the main reasons why I returned to Panama at

is almost non-existent in the country The indulgence

the end of last year along with other thousands of

between "artistic bands" or the so-called "rented pen"

Panamanians who live overseas, was to witness the

for exhibition catalogs is run-of-the-mill stuff Worse yet,

reunification of the national territory For us, that narrow

the artists themselves are not used to commenting on or

stretch of land and water is an indissoluble part of our

writing about their work. I mean commenting, not

lives, the same way that when one talks about Cuba, it


There are not even debates about the


proposals nobody is openly against them, at least not

influence on the island During the last ten years, after

on the newspapers. If somebody disagrees, there is no

is impossible not to think about the

the invasion, Panama has tried to adjust itself to the

open and public opposition

responsibility of administrating the aquatic route and

yes, there is no debate but a continuous affirmative






Thus, before this eternal

apathy very convenient for selling


qualitative change.

It seems that in order to carry out non-traditional art, it

Although sporadically installations and even digita

is necessary to contravene and innovate at the same 407

time, not only as to contents, but also in the way

personal likes. The vision to select works transcending

projects are made viable.

the local limits and that may be inserted with an

It has been said repeatedly that the private enterprise is

identity outside of our region

not sufficiently interested in supporting arts. I do not

continuous task which, often, has been possible thanks

agree completely. I have been able to confirm that there

to the association with other artists or curators doing

is the result of a

is a new attitude on the part of young entrepreneurs

similar activities. Concerning the collective exhibits by

who get enthusiastic before new proposals and wish to

young artists, it is important to take into account that it

be part of them On the other hand, some artists believe

will be necessary to break away from stereotypes and

that, as they live in a country that is not interested in

show the singularity of our expression

financing art, it will always be necessary to work with

concepts of modernity, superiority underdevelopment

few resources. I think that adapting creatively to

and backwardness permeate the expectations of the international




Usually the

limitations is different from carrying out a piece of work


deficiently because the effort to find more funds was not




made. This attitude, which had true and practical

As I mentioned previously the Canal is essential for

foundations in the past, now seems to be neglectful.

Panamanians. It would be a good idea to make use -now

Cooperation among artists is a creative and practical

that we are able to- of its open areas to carry out

need. In digital art, for example, collective participation


is almost indispensable, regardless of the artist who

performances. For many of us, it is a space to be







came up with the idea Even for assembling exhibits that

discovered, which we never had access to. That is why

include installations, it is common to have artists like

our geographic location represents us so well Currently


photographers, designers, musicians, etc.

"ARPA" a foundation for the promotion of vanguard arts

working on them. In turn, artists can act as promoters,

in Panama, is in its process of formation "ARPA's" main

managers or sellers for other artists in a certain project.

interest is helping young artists to get training as well as

Film directors and theater folk know exactly what I am

creating true alternative spaces. Perhaps, it would be

talking about. Moreover this kind of activity enables

important to include an increase in the overseas

artists to be trained in the tasks of promotion and

projection of Panamanian artists and help in organizing

curatorship of their own works and those of others.







There are very few curators in Panama Practice itself

between artists and institutions among its objectives.

has provided and still provides them with experience.

Since our society has been based on the relationships

A. curatorsn;p ar;ses out of the

cont~nuous prac.t~c.e



t.nc out.s\dc, t.hb b the opprop:r+o::•t.e


to be

personal and teamwork, and it increases with the view

artistically consistent with this idea Man Ray said about

and experience abroad Artists who have lived or are

an artist's work: "The streets are full of admirable

living abroad, especially have the possibility of keeping

craftsmen, but so few practical dreamers."

a fresh and curious look on the works of their colleagues. They can also sense what works may be able to reach different kinds of public, regardless of their 408

Yesterday's session was marked by the references to the par excellence unifying machine the State As the perspective system that subordinates each moment of the vision to the pyramid of lines directed towards an escape point, the registration of the Nation-State carries with itself the western and colonial) notion of centrality. The centripetal effect of the State is, in a way indifferent to its degree of development. From the presentations we listened to yesterday it follows a dialectics where the gravity force of the Nation State is as pernicious for contemporary art as the origin flaws characteristic of the State in Central America The possibilities of autonomy in culture are limited (or are exerted) in spite of (but also opportunistically through) an institutionalization that does not acknowledge any goal other than national representation, the preservation of the hierarchical stability and the maintenance of a hegemony. This institutionalization is structurally incapable of exerting its duties completely but it is all the same. In any case, the state's centrality constrains our speech The problem with the relationships between culture and administration is, of course, the problem of the XX century However it is necessary to ask ourselves to what extent this is still a "central theme" The analyses of the co-option of the artistic field by the different States are, I believe, too evident. But maybe -as commented by many in the

Beyond the State's Perspective (Summary of Second Day and opening of 3rd Session of "Central Themes". Cuauhtemoc Medina

hallway or during dinner the doubt still remains of how valid the Latin American intellectuals' obsession with the threat of the state control of culture is nowadays. When referring to "institutionalization"

yesterday's presentations left aside the

emergence of new powers that perhaps are now the true agents of artistic validation I remember how years ago in Mexico, the art critic Olivier Debroise made a mockery of what we called the "curador paracaidista" (the parachute curator) back then It was about this European or North American curator who would land in a city for three days, would draw out his laptop and video camera and, notwithstanding, would end up overseeing "THE" regional exhibit, which indeed would change, in spite of our totally justified supposition about his ignorance, the art history of a cultural scene [sic] It is not about "denouncing" that work pattern, since the accusation immediately becomes an anecdotal and trivial expression but it is about beginning to analyze which is the true mechanism of cultural legitimization nowadays. That would entail taking notice of what is evident at this meeting

there are

international circuits that usually operate counter to the general trend of local orthodoxies. They do not just highlight frequently the artists that had been silenced in their communities. More importantly they create a complex network of relationships where, for example, a foundation from the local civil society can act with the 409

complicity of metropolitan organizations to destabilize the unified image and representativeness of a country. We know that the game of creating and channeling symbolic power is our game in art. The strange thing is that we do not seem to perceive the number of cracks, paradoxes, opposing interests, misinterpretations and institutional flaws that one can take advantage of by being on the fringe or pretending to be on the sidelines. Realizing that the State, in spite of its perspective system, is not the whole Institutional system not only leads us to understand the variety of powers at stake. To put it in one sentence

it entails that the old messianic project of the "arielista"

intellectual struggling against the bureaucrat/ "Caliban" has to give way in order to learn how to act deftly and strategically that is to say with a responsible opportunism It is for us to explore in the future what "responsibility" is meant by this stake. We will

do it based on our opportunism in the present time. I believe that, for all of us, the chance of peeking at the emergence of the Guatemalan vanguard during this seminar has been an astonishing experience So, this means taking an ethical advantage of an unmanageable situation It is not only that poets and artists are now processing in Guatemala the intolerable thematic of the genocide, the anomie and the hopelessness. They have also given a classic avant-garde turn of the helm upon finding gold in the cultural desert. It seems as if over there artists have taken advantage of the absence of institutionalization, or its absolute political/military control, to directly take part into the social imagery. The culture of Latin America has been to a great extent, all about a King Midas-style stake obtaining refinement starting from adversity. All of us were left with a phrase attributed to the poet Simon Pedrosa and cited by Anabella Acevedo lingering in our heads "We transform hate into energy" Let us hope that this day be faithful to such a phrase which, more than bearing witness to the attitude of the vanguard in Guatemala, must come up as a demand for all those who operate on a regional scale. Thank you very much


Relatores y ponentes:


Anabella ACEVEDO Guatemala

Ph D. en Romance Languages with a major in Latin American Literatura and a minor in Portuguese, The University of Georgia, Athens

M.A. in Spanish by The University of

Georgia, Athens, GA Y Licenciada en Letras y Filosoffa par Ia Universidad Rafael Landfvar Guatemala Se ha desempenado como profesora y asistente en universidades de Guatemala

Mexico y Estados Unidos.

Ha obtenido numerosas distinciones


Bayardo Blandino Honduras

Artista, Egresado de Ia ENBA, Honduras. Actualmente se desempena como Coordinador de Mujeres en las Artes "Leticia de Oyuela"

de producci6n Artfstica

Honduras. Ha

desarrollado su labor en las siguientes areas Proyecto "Mujer y Cultura" Mujeres en las Artes



Curador jefe del

proyecto Sala

MAC (Mujeres de Arte

1997-99 Coordinador general para MUA INSTALA'99 Coordinador

de Producci6n Artfstica del Proyecto "Espacios Publicos para el Arte Femenino Contemporaneo" Mujeres en las Artes, 1999-2002 Curador Jefe del CAVC (Centro de Artes Visuales Contemporaneo

Mujeres en las Artes

Coordinador general del Foro

Regional de Arte Contemporaneo "Construcciones de Identidad en el Espacio Publico" 2000

Forma parte del equipo de colaboradores del Comite de Centros Culturales,

Honduras, C.A.

Rossina CAZALI Guatemala

Realiz6 estudios de Licenciatura en Arte en Ia Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala Investigadora para Ia Historia General de Guatemala (Artes Visuales siglo XX) y McMillan Dictionary of Art de Inglaterra Ha publicado ensayos sabre arte contemporaneo de Guatemala en Mexico


Costa Rica

En Guatemala ha curado

importantes exposiciones. Fue curadora par Guatemala para Ia 23째 Bienal de Arte de Sao Paulo (1996 y co-curadora de Ia exposici6n El cuepo en/de Ia fotograffa (MADC, Costa Rica, 1998) Como curadora independiente 1265 Kms. Arte contemporaneo de Guatemala en Cuba

Centro Wifredo Lam, La Habana, 1998) Colaboradora para las

revistas ARTEFACTO de Nicaragua y ART NEXUS de Colombia en Guatemala para Ia revista ARTERIA 1995-96

Suplemento cultural EL ACORDEON del diario el Peri6dico

y Ia publicaci6n feminista Actualmente conforma

LA CUERDA. Cofundadora del proyecto COLLOQUIA.


proyecto alternative de curadurfa en

Guatemala que ha realizado los proyectos Vivir aquf, en el Museo Ixchell del traje indfgena mayo 2000 y Octubre azul ( octubre 2000)


Rafael CUEVAS MOLINA Guatemala

Guatemala, 1954 Estudios

reside en Costa Rica)

Latinoamericanos (IDELA)

Profesor e investigador del Instituto de

de Ia





Actualmente dirige Ia Maestrla en estudios Latinoamericanos en esa universidad Editor del Suplemento Cultural, publicaci6n mensual sabre arte, cultura e identidad de Ia Universidad Nacional

Miembro Fundador del Programa en Identidad, Cultura, arte y

Tecnologfa (ICAT) de Ia Universidad Nacional

Miembro del Consejo Academico del

Centro de Investigaci6n en identidad y Cultura Latinoamericanas


Universidad de Costa Rica Escritor y artista plastico. Ha realizado numerosas exposiciones individuales en Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico y Cuba Ha publicado dos novelas (AI otro lado de Ia lluvia y Vibrante coraz6n arrebolado, ambas en 1998) y los Iibras de ensayo. El punta sabre Ia i: polfticas culturales en Costa Rica 1948-1990 (Ministerio de Cultura, juventud y Deportes, Costa Rica, 1994

Traspatio florecido

tendencias de Ia dinamica cultural en Centroamerica (1978-1990) (EUNA, Heredia, Costa Rica, 1993) Coautor de Rafces del Estado de Ia Naci6n PNUD San Jose, Costa Rica, 1999) Ha publicado mas de 60 artfculos sabre arte, cultura e identidad

Rocio FERNANDEZ Costa Rica

Periodista especializada en tematica cultural

Licenciada en

periodismo por Ia

Universidad de Costa Rica, tuvo a su cargo Ia pagina de Arte del diario Excelsior y dirigi6 el suplemento cultural Ancora del peri6dico La Naci6n

Mereci6 el Premia

Nacional de Periodismo Cultural Joaquin Garda Monge en 1985 y dirigi6 el Museo de Arte Costarricense de 1993 a 1996. Fue profesora en las escuelas de periodismo de Ia UCR y del Colegio Universitario San Judas Tadeo, consultora de prensa independiente (editora del Foro Financiero Banex 1996-1998), columnista de Ia secci6n Tinta Fresca de Ia Revista Dominica!, diario La Naci6n) y desde abril de 1998 fue socia fundadora y directora del programa academico de La Nueva Escuela-Centro de Artes Visuales.

Patricia FUMERO Costa Rica

Maestrla Centroamericana en Historia por Ia Universidad de Costa Rica y Maestrla en Educaci6n por Ia Universidad de Framingham, Massachusetts. Se desempef\a como profesora en Ia Universidad de Costa Rica e investigadora del Centro de Investigaciones en Identidad y Cultura Latinoamericanas CIICLA) de Ia UCR. Es Presidente de Ia Junta Directiva del ICOMOS (Consejo Mundial de Monumentos y Sitios) Organismo consultivo de Ia UNESCO y de Ia Comisi6n de Historia del Instituto Panamericano de Historia y Geograffa (IPGH) organismo de Ia OEA. Es autora de varios artfculos sabre cultura e identidad

publicados en Iibras y revistas en Alemania



Mexico y

Centroamerica Entre sus obras destacan Teatro, Publico y Estado en San Jose, 18801914 (San Jose, Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica, 1996), Fiesta y Develizacion El Monumento Nacional, 1895 (Aiajuela, Museo Historico Cultural Juan Santamaria, 1998) La sonora libertad del viento. Sociedad y cultura en Costa Rica y Nicaragua en colaboracion con Ivim Molina ,(Mexico, Instituto Panamericano de Geografla e Historia, 1997)

Porfirio GARCIA Nicaragua


1958) Graduado de arquitecto en 1981; Master en Metodologla de Ia

Ensenanza del Diseno Arquitectonico y Postgrado en Filosofla en 1983 Es Profesor Titular de Ia Universidad Nacional de Ingenierla (UNI) Nicaragua Fue Director de Ia Escuela Nacional de Artes Plasticas y profesor de Ia Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) en Ia impartio cursos de Estetica Apreciacion del Arte, Teorla e Historia del Arte. Como artista plastico ha participado en numerosas exposiciones dentro y fuera de Nicaragua

Ha publicado mas de doscientos artlculos sabre artes plasticas para

medias de prensa, revistas y catalogos. En 1997 ubico su poemario Primera carta esencial Entre 1997 y 1999 en el suplemento cultural Nuevo Amanecer de El Nuevo Diario, publico en secuencia semanal 90 escritos de una serie sabre Ia historia de las artes plasticas nicaragUenses. El andar de Ia plastica nicaragUense. Actualmente se encuentra en proceso de publicacion su libra Contribucion a Ia plastica nicaragUense.

Miguel HUEZO

(EI Salvador 1954). Poeta y ensayista Ha publicado cinco Iibras de poesla, siendo el


mas reciente Comarcas, ganador del Premia Centroamericano de Literatura "Rogelio

El Salvador

Sinan" de Panama Es autor de los Iibras de ensayos La casa en llamas. La cultura salvadorena a finales del siglo XX (1997) y La perversion de Ia cultura (1999) Desde 1997 es Director de Ia casa editorial del Consejo Nacional para Ia Cultura y el Arte de El Salvador Asimismo, es editor de cultura de Ia revista Tendencias


matutino de La Prensa GrMica y colaborador permanente del periodico La Opinion, de Los Angeles, California Sus trabajos se han publicado en revistas tales como Vueltas y Letras Libres (Mexico) Casa de Poesla Silva (Colombia) y Casa de las Americas (Cuba) entre otras. Ha sido becario de Ia Plumsock Foundation de Nueva York (1993) y de Ia Casa de Escritores y Traductores de Saint-Nazaire, Francia (1999) Actualmente reside temporalmente en La Antigua Guatemala como parte de Ia Beca Rockefeller de Humanidades (2000)



(Nacida en Paris, reside en San Salvador desde 1959) Realiz6 estudios de Filosoffa en Ia Universidad Jose Simeon Canas, de El Salvador Fundadora y directora de Ia Galerla El laberinto desde 1997 un centro cultural donde se presentarfan exposiciones de artes visuales, espectaculos de danza, teatro, cine experimental poesfa, musica, historia etc. y que cierra sus puertas en 1977 78. Ha escrito un centenar de artfculos publicados en folletos y en Ia prensa local y extranjera Entre 1995 y 1997 funge como miembro de Ia comisi6n de curadores del Consejo Nacional de Cultura


Actualmente se dedica de modo independiente a consejerla artfstica

curadurla y


Maricela KAUFFMANN Nicaragua

(Managua, 1955) Historia de Arte. Formada en Ia Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) de Managua, realiz6 estudios de Historia del Arte y Arte Latinoamericano en los Estados Unidos, donde obtuvo una Maestrfa en Arte en Ia Universidad de Texas en Austin Investiga sobre el papel de las mujeres en las artes.

Rodolfo MOLINA El Salvador

(EI Salvador 1959) Se gradu6 de Ia Maestrfa en Bellas Artes en The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Programa Fullbright Universidad Einstein, San Salvador (1984

1989) y de Arquitecto y Pintar en Ia Presidente de Ia Fundaci6n Julia Dfaz. Ha

sido Director Nacional de Artes en el Consejo Nacional para Ia Cultura y el Arte, Concultura, entre 1993 y 1998 asf como Director del centro Nacional de Arte durante


Ha participado en varios seminarios y encuentros realizados en


Madrid Israel Santo Domingo, Paris, Honduras, Lima El Salvador Georgia, San Jose Como artista ha expuesto de manera individual en El Salvador Guatemala y Estados Unidos, asf como en numerosas muestras colectivas nacionales e internacionales.

Irmino A. PERERA Cuba

Cuba, reside actualmente ne Costa Rcia) Master en Artes Filos6ficas, Universidad de Kazan, Rusia Vicedecano del Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana (1994-1995) Profesor y/o asesor de los programas de arte en varias universidades colombianas

1996-98) Jurado Internacional de los VIII Salones de Arte Colombiano 1998) y de Ia Muestra de Cine y Vfdeo Costarricense

1998) Conferencista invitado al Seminario

Internacional sobre Educaci6n Artfstica Medellin, 1998. Actualmente es profesor del Programa de Posgrado en Artes de Ia Universidad de Costa Rica


Adrienne SAMOS Panama

(Panama 1961

Se especializ6 en Artes Humanidades y Letras Hispanicas en Europa

y Estados Unidos. Fundadora y directora del suplemento cultural Talingo, que se publica en el diario La Prensa de Panama todos los domingos desde mayo de 1993 Es crltico de arte Ha escrito para revistas, catalogos y diaries locales y extranjeros.

Aida TOLEDO Guatemala

Licenciada en Letras por Ia Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala Especializada en literatura brasilef\a por Ia Universidad de Pittsburgh Ha escrito los !ibros de poesfa Brutal batalla de silencios 1990

Realidad mas extraf\a que el suef\o 1994


Pittsburgh no cesa de ser Pittsburgh 1997) Bondades de Ia cibernetica (1998) En los ultimos dos af\os se ha especializo en Ia poesla de escritores j6venes de Guatemala En 1989 fue distinguida como mejor estudiante por Ia Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala Recibi6 el premio de poesfa centroamericana en 1992 Fullbright Laspau scholarship de 1994 a 1997

Ph D. Qualifying Examinations passed with Honors en


Humberto VELEZ Panama

(Panama 1965) Estudi6 Derecho en Panama y luego Cine en Ia Escuela Internacional de Cine de San Antonio de los Banos, en Cuba En 1992, se traslad6 a Barcelona, donde realiz6 videos personales importantes -como Ex6tico

1994 y Cybers (que particip6

en el celebre Sonar Festival de 1997) y trabaj6 como videasta para el Ayuntamiento Se le considera pionero de diversos medics artfsticos no convencioanles en su pafs. Desde 1995 reside parte del tiempo en Panama y el otro en Manchester Inglaterra Ha presentado sus videoinstalaciones en Panama, Costa Rica y Austria


Profile for TEOR/éTica

Temas Centrales (English Version)  

1st regional symposium on contemporary central american artistic practices and curatorial possibilities.

Temas Centrales (English Version)  

1st regional symposium on contemporary central american artistic practices and curatorial possibilities.

Profile for teoretica