Artists: Jonathas de Andrade (Brasil), Pilar Quinteros, (Chile), David Guarnizo, (Colombia), Christian Salablanca (Costa Rica), María José Argenzio, (Ecuador), Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, (Ecuador), Angélica Alomoto (Ecuador), Rometti Costales (Francia & Ecuador), Naufus Ramírez Figueroa (Guatemala), Edgardo Aragón, (México), Gabriel Acevedo (Perú), Diego Lama, (Perú), Marco Pando, (Perú), Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, (Puerto Rico).
The title of this exhibition arises from the conjunction and meaning of the words horizon and wandering. The horizon is a background that serves to organize the experiences of consciousness. It is a sphere in which real and imaginary things are inscribed, the limit of the totality. But a horizon is not a closed and finished limit, but rather is open, changing. The wandering, meanwhile, is not linked to the idea of escape or renouncing a state of affairs, Instead it is understood as an ethical option that implies the affirmation of a place of enunciation—alternative, different, diverse, intercultural—of official narratives.
For the exhibition Wandering Horizons, the curatorial strategy consisted of mixing the decolonial thinking of Walter Mignolo with Trevor Paglen’s concept of “Experimental Geography” to relate contemporary artistic practices with the ideas of physical and human geography, and Latin America’s colonial past. For Mignolo there is a relationship between the history of the past and the politics of the present, making the stories and voices of the Indigenous and mestizo cultures of America ever present. Therefore, Mignolo’s merit is to think in a different way about the dynamics of cultural development and the different logics put in place to shape the social structures present in Latin America. Paglen, in turn, relates the concept of “Experimental Geography” with the cultural production of space and territory through artistic production.
Related to these ideas, the invited artists in Wandering Horizons build a line of thought that addresses issues related to the diverse concepts of travel, exploration, migration, nature, spirituality, ritual, memory, gender, race, power, and violence in relation to cultural miscegenation and syncretism. The exhibition is an encounter with works of contemporary art: spells in Puerto Rico, colonial and Indigenous architectures of Ecuador and Mexico, a ritual dance performed in the Amazon, a Guatemalan cemetery, the desecration of Zapotec tombs in Mitla, Mexico, and fishermen from northeastern Brazil who embrace tilapias while accompanying their deaths.
The exhibition highlights the work of thirteen contemporary artists and an artistic duo, who hail from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe. These artists’ work explores the complex ways in which the notions of identity and territory, addressed in contemporary art, function as instruments for an organic inclination towards other ways of being, feeling, and knowing. These experiences induce the subjects to dismantle the power structures inherited from colonialism and modernity, and to replace them with thoughts and emotions of an inquiry into the real, a translation of uncertainty and ambiguity. In doing so they critically review our colonial pasts and modern development in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Wandering Horizons is articulated in two thematic fields: Physical Geographies: Displacements of the Gaze, Travels, Territories and Nature and Human Geographies: Identities, Memories, Violence, Rites and Spiritualities. The exhibition brings together works produced from 2009 to 2018. Instead of being divided into sections, the exhibition weaves these themes into an articulated set. The set of works that make up the route does not require elaborate readings to provoke a tune. Although Wandering Horizons assumes in advance the difficulties of interpretation that accompany any exhibition, it is designed to implicate the public.
Physical Geographies: Displacements of the Gaze, Travels, Territories and Nature
The representations of territory and landscape are constituted from diverse loci of identity. In this evolution, the artworks leave traces, mark their paths, their pauses, their absences and emergencies in a random way, without there being a guided route for such a journey. This allows geographies, territories, and landscapes to be represented in different ways. Traveling reflects a personal search for the meaning of life without possible guidelines and without verifiable results. The exhibition design is also therefore an allegory of the work of the artists, built as a way to find, see, and face the territory, the unknown. In their impressive journeys these artists create documents of physical and human geographies. They reflect on the colonial policies, cultural stereotypes, exclusions and discourses imposed by hegemony. They reveal the relationship between art and geography, with the knowledge of space and place, as well as the relationship between territory, identity, and history.
In ‘Smoke Signals’ (2016), Chilean artist Pilar Quinteros traveled to Serra do Roncador, in Mato Grosso, to follow in the footsteps of explorer Percy Fawcett (1867-1925), who disappeared in the 1920s during an expedition in the Brazilian jungle to find “Z”, an ancient lost city that was believed to be El Dorado. Karina Aguilera Skirsky also traveled to make her work. In ‘The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios’ (2016), she embarked on the realization of a video performance, reconstructing—as exactly as possible—the route taken by her great grandmother, who in 1905, at the age of 15, left her hometown of El Chota, Ecuador, going through several weeks of an arduous journey with the purpose of working for a rich family in the great port of Guayaquil.
‘Return to the Temple of the Sun’ (2014), by the artist Marco Pando, is a travel blog made in the deserts, mountains and forests of Peru. We adventure on a film journey with Tintin, the hero of the comics. The original images of the animated film, Tintin et le Temple du Soleil, made by Belair Studios in 1969, are intertwined with images of real Peru. Pando’s cinematographic proposal transforms the European vision. David Guarnizo utilizes performance in his action ‘The Distance to the Horizon’ (2015), in which he walks through an extensive territory with the intention of reaching the horizon line. This work reminds us that the delimitation of a territory also occurs when, through a particular gaze, we turn the land into a landscape.
The journey is a defining element in the practice of Rometti Costales; it determines the choice of materials whose essence irremediably refers to our relationship with nature. With ‘Rain Modules’ (2018), Rometti Costales exhibits a circumference made with palm leaves, disassembled and disseminated in modules. It is part of the collection of Azul Jacinto Marino, a shaman, poet and anarchist, an essential figure in the world of artists, who in addition to these modules also keeps a wall, a caposillo, and a column made of the same material: layers of rain and a woven piece of palm leaf known in Mexico as a feather cloak for its similarity to the wings of a bird.
The history of colonization produced a racialized and patriarchal regime, a regime of oppression, disease, dispossession, violence, and genocide. This is what defines coloniality. The conceptualization of “nature” as external reality of (white) man is the first way in which the right of exploitation within the modern colonial system was exercised.
In ‘Rastro’ (2009), the Ecuadorian artist Angélica Alomoto makes a reference to the body merged into the natural environment as a “plural individual.” The artist experiences from the Indigenous gesture and ritual the different ways of understanding “existence, states of being, permanence and transmutation” of the body and its connection with nature. This ritual dance performed in Napo, in the Amazon of Ecuador, is recorded and projected onto a structure that contains the traces resulting from the dance ritual performed on clay, water and oil.
The video ‘O Peixe (The Fish, El Pez)’ (2016), by the artist Jonathas de Andrade, features fishermen in the northeast coast of Brazil who practice the ritual of hugging the fish they catch. The affectionate gesture that accompanies the transition from life to death is a testimony of a relationship between species that is impregnated with strength, violence and domination. The work speaks to the urban dweller’s lack of connection with nature.
Human Geographies: Identities, Memories, Violence, Rites and Spiritualities
Memory can be used as a resource that contrasts spaces, geographies, borders, routes, displacements and diasporas in different temporalities. This can be considered as a playful use of memory, as subjects slide between the different moments of individual and collective history, to what exists today, to that which allows us to glimpse future virtualities. Space, identity, the experiences of the artists, and cultural landscapes are constituent parts of the following group of works.
Diego Lama presents ‘Los inocentes’ (2011), a contemporary adaptation of the story, ‘Cara de Ángel,’ by the Peruvian writer Oswaldo Reynoso, which explores topics such as sexual awakening, gender identity, and racial conflicts to describe the postcolonial mentality rooted in Lima society. In the video Lama resorts to the use of visual poetry, producing a critique of power structures to reveal different articulations of the human condition in relation to desire.
Although violence is often presented as the object excluded from society, it is the main engine of human history and a discrete component of social self-modification. This can be seen in the recent artistic practice of Christian Salablanca, who has been interested in the topic of urban violence. Three of his videos appear in the exhibition: ‘It Escapes from the Hands’ (2018), ‘Transfer (Yesterday I Dreamed)’ (2017) and ‘In My Defense I Will Not Say Anything’ (2016). In these three overtures, the artist addresses urban violence via vulnerability and the body, the human, and the animal, situations of survival and illicit economies, as well as displacements between orality and image. His work is concerned with the relationship between language, words, and visualities.
With ‘The Most Castilian of America’ (2015), by María José Argenzio, the title is taken precisely from the text by José Gabriel Navarro, The Municipality of America During the Assistance of Spain, where Spanishness and devotion to Spain, appreciated in the jewels of Quito art, were an example of civility that obscured the barbarism of colonial imposition. Navarro’s work constitutes an installation in situ where allusions to columns turned into ruins subtly reveal their interior covered with gold leaf. The process consists of taking a mold of ancient architectural elements from the city of Quito, where this tension between the development of Hispanic architecture and Indigenous labor is revealed.
‘Secret Client’ (2013), by Gabriel Acevedo, has two precise references. First, the ritual acts that the Shining Path terrorist group carried out in prisons in Lima at the end of the 1980s. These consisted of Maoist-style choreographies, with synchronized movements in which red, square cartons were displaced in the air by hundreds of Senderista inmates. Second, the artist replaces the Maoist uniforms used by this guerrilla group with a costume similar to the uniform worn by employees of a well-known supermarket chain in Peru. This company has been organizing its own patriotic festivities for more than 30 years and symbolizes in some way the new Peru post-terrorism.
The practice of Edgardo Aragón is anchored to the contexts of abuse, violence, and abandonment that prevail in Mexico and takes the form of photographs, videos, installations, and sound interventions. ‘Cannibal’ (2017), snoops in the tombs of the past to think about the tombs of the present. Divided into three parts, ‘Cannibal’ is a study of the land, tombs, and common graves of Mexico via myths and sound. The video is accompanied by an interlude where a voice-over recalls the story of Mitla, “the land of the graves.” The voice is that of the musician in his journey through the tombs, reflecting on how the system is fed and reinforces the work’s focus on the capacity of the dead to be heard.
In his video performance entitled ‘Life in His Mouth, Death Cradles Her Arm’ (2016), Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa staged the nocturnal transition from night to dawn within the General Cemetery of Guatemala City. Along with this change of light, the artwork follows the continuous melting of a block of ice, which is wrapped in a blanket as if it were a baby and cradled by the artist who stands firm and still throughout the performance. The duration of the performative action was dictated by the transformation of the ice from a solid to a liquid state, while the final video work presented in an abbreviated meditation on the transformation of the material, the passage of time and the surrounding architectural characteristics. Although the artist’s works often convey a sense of extravagance and fun, they also allude to tragic and traumatic events that have shaped the social and political climate of present-day Guatemala.
‘The Head Killed Everyone’ (2014) by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is a mixture of Indigenous mythologies with characters, geographies, and the current culture in Puerto Rico. The title refers to how a shooting star was interpreted in local mythology as a disembodied head, crossing the sky, indicating the arrival of chaos and destruction. Cats are very common on the island of Puerto Rico and in this video the cat is presented as a mythological entity, capable of announcing the alternations that will transform the world. Beatriz Santiago Muñoz produces videos and films that point to the construction of a post-colonial Caribbean imaginary. The work arises from long periods of research, observation and documentation, in which the camera is present as an object with social implications, and as a mediating instrument of aesthetic thought.
Through this exhibition we travel through landscapes that occur just as life does: the everyday life of being or living in the world. The selected works reflect on the cultural and visual representation of territory, identity, and the cultural landscape, understood as a set of circumstances, structures, conditions, and histories that are the outline of a place, a body, a collective. Thus, these artworks encourage the viewer to reconsider the notion of the spaces and the bodies that we inhabit, that we transit, that we occupy, or that we abandon in this contemporary moment—a moment in all its urgencies, political conditions and historical narratives, whose instability is crucial for the definition of our individual and collective identity.