José Ballivian’s perception situates itself between the massive and popular. An artist that dialogues with spaces of social and cultural contradiction and exhibits them, translated into a visual language.
José Ballivian is a contemporary artist born in La Paz, that is part of the first generation of neo-conceptual artists of his country. In 1997, he began his studies on Social Communication Sciences in the Universidad Mayor of San Andrés (AMSA), but he later discovered his passion for visual arts and decided to enter the Hernando Siles National Academy of Fine Arts. His professional performance swings between his work as an artist and as an independent curator.
Being still a student from the Art Academy, he was chosen on 2000 to become a part of the Pedro Murillo National Hall, and, in 2001, of the International Biennale of SIART. They both produced a special motivation and awoke a passion that would soak his life with art.
Ballivian looks for dialogue in his artwork. An intimate dialogue with himself, rummaging in order to get to know himself and others, the viewer, so that he is able to decode his message and reproduce it his own way. He looks for the encounter with aesthetical territories, understood from the body’s landscapes, and hybrid nature to capture the essence of matter movement, of everyday world towards exhibition scenarios. In this permanent investigation, he uses all the resources at hand, defining artistic creation as “small clouds that change with the wind‘s velocity. Sometimes these clouds transform into stormy clouds; the cause and effect over life itself. This effect somehow gave emotional balance to my way of perceiving my surroundings during the productive moment.”
His artwork has changed through time, from more complex and intense work to more controlled pieces, trying to take as much time as needed in order to define the final product. His production is based on themes that go through the popular, marginal, and hybrid, represented in multiple forms such as drawing, sculpture, installation, performance and art videos. These multiple styles allowed him to become a global artist that can encounter social themes from different expressive angles.
Ballivian is very rigorous with his work. He goes through a series of steps to get to a piece’s explosive point, but discipline is fundamental: being demanding with himself. He adapts to the necessary productive times, in every technique, he uses, to end each piece, as he also stops action for some moments to gain contemplation space and encounter idea with matter. In some occasions, he has spent 14 hours a day creating some drawings.
From half-breed to art
Ballivian grew up in a city characterized by strong socio-cultural contrast between Spanish colonialism and natives from the Andes. In the context of this phenomena, from some time, a contradictory cultural miscegenation develops, which is characteristic of his territory. Nowadays sharpened and promoted by mass media apparatus that indulge everything, because, as he states, “they are a part of globalization.” His chore is to explore these features from a plastic view, since this framework allows an infinity of aesthetical figures that can be found if they are explored. His compromise whilst working with the theme of identity, what is popular and ancient is authentic, since he is a half-breed artist who tries to decipher the difficulties of a changing surrounding the best way he can (some of these changes can reflect his country‘s political background). It is his social compromise expressed through art; a way to encounter his own identity.
Jesus Martín Barbero, philosophy master, proposes a shift from “media to mediation,” in other words, looking beyond communication media, and making a halt in message reception, resistance and appropriations that are cultural and socially produced by those massive elements. In this line of work stands Ballivian, who in a visual way, creates dialogue from the contradictions of a nation that is expressed in the union of elements that one owns, and others that are imposed.
Art is a process of coming and going for the artist. His birth and professional choice, life casualties. However, his unlimited production points out a rigorous, sustained, and constant work that is not random, but instead, an everyday effort to show, to create infinite representations on a visual level.