Unflinching Arte Paiz Bienal Seeks Justice in Guatemala
The exhibition includes works by Aníbal López and Paz Errázuriz that deal with rape, armed robbery, and assassination.
Vanderlei Lopes, Cavalo (2013). Bronze and earth. Variable dimensions. Photo: Isabela Matheus. Courtesy Pinacoteca del Estado de São Paulo.
The 22nd Bienal de Arte Paiz opened in Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala last week.
Featuring 40 artists, the biennial is the largest in Central America and the second oldest in all of Latin America after Bienal de São Paulo, whose 34th edition begins in September this year.
Entitled Lost. In between. Together, the exhibition takes its name from a 2013 publication edited by Yoonis Osman Nuur and Jonas Staal that examined the plight of We Are Here, a group of over 200 refugees in the Netherlands who were denied a path to citizenship.
Chief curator Alexia Tala told Ocula Magazine such denial of citizenship 'is terribly violent and is in many ways the same violence that the nation state exercises in Central American countries with large indigenous communities — they too are "lost. In between. together".'
'The state recognises the Mayan presence and uses it in many forms of exoticisation, to sell the country within the framework of tourism through a kind of folklore, but denies them their forms of justice, their forms of coexistence, their forms of medicine, and even their political organisation,' she said.
Artistic responses to issues associated with colonisation, exploitation and the marginalisation of indigenous populations have been arranged under three themes.
The symposium 'Perverse Geographies / Cursed Geography', which took place on Saturday, included a proposal by Staal and lawyer Jan Fermon to collectivise Facebook. 'Pasts. Eternal. Futures' features solo projects by Guatemalan artist Aníbal López and Chilean photographer Paz Errázuriz. And 'Universes of Matter' is an exploration of traditional art practices.
More than 60% of the works on show were commissioned especially for the biennial.
Adjunct curator Gabriel Rodríguez described the inclusion of works by López, who died in 2014, as 'a fair and necessary retrospective to dignify Guatemala's most important artist of the last 30 years.'
'He gives special attention to the everyday relations where economically and socially harmful practices are normalised as a result of an accepted and rooted culture of violence,' Rodríguez said.
These relations are at play in works such as El Préstamo (The Loan) (2000), where the artist committed an armed robbery and used the stolen money to fund an exhibition, turning the victim into an art patron and spectators into accomplices. In Testimonio (2012), which López staged at documenta, a real Guatemalan assassin was presented for interrogation by the public.
Works by Errázuriz were chosen from numerous series created over the past 40 years. They include Sepur Zarco (2019), which documents the first court case brought by Mayan women against soldiers who committed acts of sexual violence during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, and Trans Guatemala (2019), which was created in collaboration with the Guatemalan transgender community.
'[Errazuriz's] images do not simply reveal the faces of Indigenous women, which were kept hidden from the press and television; what is powerful here is how they are portrayed, their dignification,' Tala said. 'The effect is confrontational and awakens in us profound questions on inequality, capitalism, injustices, marginalisation and, ultimately, cruelty.'
The 22nd Bienal de Arte Paiz continues through 6 June.
The full list of participating artists is included below. —[O]
Francisca Aninat (Chile),
Hellen Ascoli (Guatemala),
Ana Teresa Barboza (Peru),
Marilyn Boror (Guatemala),
Edgar Calel (Guatemala),
Sebastián Calfuqueo (Chile),
Benvenuto Chavajay (Guatemala),
Manuel Chavajay (Guatemala),
Jonathas de Andrade (Brazil),
Emo de Medeiros (Benin-France),
Detánico & Lain (Brazil),
Elimo Eliseo (Guatemala),
Paz Errázuriz (Chile),
Forensic Architecture & Forensic Oceanography (United Kingdom),
Rafael Freyre (Peru),
Wingston González (Guatemala),
Antonio José Guzmán (Panama/Holland),
Yasmin Hage (Guatemala),
Ayrson Heráclito (Brazil),
Diego Isaías Hernández (Guatemala),
Jessica Kairé (Guatemala),
Vanderlei Lopes (Brazil),
Aníbal López (Guatemala),
Oswaldo Maciá (Colombia),
Nelson Makengo (Congo),
Andrea Monroy (Guatemala),
Uriel Orlow (Switzerland),
Alejandro Paz (Guatemala),
Oscar Eduardo Perén (Guatemala),
Antonio Pichillá (Guatemala),
Ángel Poyón (Guatemala),
Fernando Poyón (Guatemala),
Naufus Ramírez Figueroa (Guatemala),
Naomi Rincón Gallardo (Mexico/USA),
Óscar Santillán (Ecuador/Holland),
Maya Saravia (Guatemala),
Angélica Serech (Guatemala),
Jonas Staal (Holland),
Pablo Vargas Lugo (Mexico),
Heba Y. Amin (Egypt).