Voluspa Jarpa about the Shanghai Biennial | “Censorship is economic in Chile”

The artist, one of the three invited Chileans to participate in the most important biennial of Asia, which will be open until March 10th of 2019, took her work of declassified documents to the most restrictive country in the world. Voluspa Jarpa tells Arte Al Límite about her mounting experience and the reception of the Chinese society to her works.

The curator Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico) knew the work of Voluspa Jarpa when it was exhibited in Matucana 100, December of 2017. Then he invited her to be part of one of the 67 participant artists of the Shanghai biennial, which in this twelfth edition is inspired in prorogress, a portmanteau coined by the American poert E. E. Cummings that suggests the ambivalence and anxiety in early twenty first century, produced because of the transformation and the stalemate that strongly contradicts optimists and pessimists.

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According to the artist, the paradox of curatorship has to do with how to look at contemporary times from the signs of ambivalence of contemporaneity. “Many times, all the promises of progress for some societies, contradictorily, mean setbacks for some of their social sectors. This in the context of China is significant because China, and especially Shanghai, is an extremely advanced city, which has developed exponentially “, explains Voluspa Jarpa about the city he did not know and whose development impressed:” it is very sophisticated, there is a lot of spending on contemporary architecture. You have the feeling that you are in another moment of history, in a place that societies will probably be in the future. ”

The artist brought to the Biennial three works that continue with the line of research she has developed over the past 10 years on the censored documents that the US Intelligence Services declassified on different Latin American countries.

Two works that had already been presented at the exhibition En nuestra pequeña región de por acá,  curated by Agustín Pérez Rubio at the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (MALBA) in 2016 and Matucana 100 in 2017; and another that was part of the Sao Paulo Biennial, but articulated in another way, falling from almost 30 meters high.

How was for you working with censorship, in a country where the contents opposed to the government are openly censored?

That was part of the reflections. In China censorship is institutional, has a methodology and bureaucracy to operate, and you as a visitor must know how to deal with it. Cuauhtémoc Medina always stated that the role of the curator is that of a mediator in any situation, and in this case, the situation is the institutionalized censorship that the Chinese have. In general, we artists do not deal with censorship, the curatorial team and the Power Station of Art team -the place that housed the Biennial- were in charge of dealing with that.

What situations did your pieces deal with?

They adapted a situation. The problem was that the censorship staff of China wanted to read all the documents and therefore, that all documents with text were translated into Chinese. That was impossible because there are 600 in the acrylics and thousands in the printed. We told them, ‘look at the documents are censored, and many are no longer documents, they are subject, some transparent, laser-cut acrylics’. Then there was an ambiguity about whether or not they contained text. Then they said ‘OK, this is going to have a little string down so that people cannot get close to the work’ and that’s how it was solved. Although it was not so real since the work crossed three floors and the second and third can be read.

 

What did the teams that work with feel facing censorship?

They mention it, but it’s like when we argue against the system. It is part of your life. It’s like you told me ‘good and how Chile deals with being the most neoliberal country in the world.’ Well, I do not know, you go and pay your damn isapre and you know the consequences this has on your life. It is not a taboo subject, it is only part of a system. On the other hand, to what extent do I not live in a society with censorship? Because if I want to ask for money for a project that the elites of power bother, I will also go through a natural filter. In Chile, censorship is economic, we have our own systems of censorship and restrictions. We also live in something like that, only in a more diluted way and that does not act in an institutionalized way.

From this edition, open to the public until March 10, 2019, artists from 26 different countries participate with a notable Latin American presence that could be explained by the presence of the continent at a curatorial level, since together with Cuauhtémoc Medina, the Colombian María Belén Sáez de Ibarra participated as co-curator of the Biennial, as well as Yukie Kamiya from Japan and Wang Weiwei from China. From Chile, in addition to Voluspa Jarpa, Alfredo Jaar and the artist with residence in Germany, Macarena Ruiz Tagle, were invited.

“This is the first time that there is a Latin American representation that big, it was easy connect with others, because they are people that you come across in different places and keep conversations with them”, tells the artist and academic of the Universidad Católica.


What challenges did you face taking your pieces to the other side of the world?

I do not think I could have made this montage in another part of the world. I had thirty editors who were ten days before me preparing everything and when I arrived we worked seven more days. They built two remote-controlled elevators to do the assembly. They were very friendly and professional, and their technical deployment was impeccable.

How the opening was?
Impressive, because it was the art week in Shanghai, then two fairs were inaugurated with the ambition of the international art market placed on the city. There was a lot of international audience that also went to the VIP opening. About 7 thousand people that day and the first day open to the public about 10 thousand people. The massiveness of China is impressive. However, I was in the non-commercial sector and I did not go to see the galleries because I did not have time and because at that moment it was more interesting to see the works that were in the biennial, which were critical and memorial works.

How was the reception of the people who saw your work?

It was interesting because, as at the inauguration, there was a lot of “art fair audience”, there was produced what always occurs when you find art that is referred to the market, which is a more formal art, and critical art, which is referred to the construction of speeches. These clashes of intellectual disputes of contemporary art are again in another scenario, on a global scale and geopolitically displaced. At one point I made a guided tour for this fair public, I explained what my work was about and there was a great silence. Then I said, ‘well thank you very much, see you later’.

Was there any critical lecture of your work?

On November 10 I had a conference with Professor Zhan Rulun, who is one of the most important philosophers in China, on the relationship between philosophy and art. He read the entire book of Malba that I gave him before the conference, and passionately said to his students ‘the others do matter, justice and history are important and we will all have to face the judgment of history’. He affirmed categorically: history is always an edition, it implies forgetting, we struggle to establish what can be forgotten and what is not, we are a collective. I said it to the young people who were in the stands, I said it from my work. He told me permanently, you are a philosopher and I told him ‘but if we artists also think’. He was super rigorous and respectful of my work.

Is the most distant instance to the west context that you have participated?
Yes, it was a very important experience for me. I do not have exactly the words. I still have not finished digesting the experience, but it was a very, very good experience. The people were very kind, very hardworking and open. I was very impressed by his ability to work as a team. I thought it was a remarkable society, young, full of energy, with all generations talking to each other. The Chinese have a strong desire to communicate with other places.

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