The author of the book “Feminismo y arte latinoamericano” and co-curator of the exhibition Mujeres radicales: Arte latinoamericano (1960-1985), visited Chile, invited y the professional association ACA (Associate Contemporary Art) and the department of Art og the Alberto Hurtado University to give a talk and a masterly lecture. Arte Al Límite talked with her about her role as a main curator of the 12 Biennial of Mercosur, which will be focused on relationships of art, feminism and the emancipation of bodies.
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“I think maybe I’m very short-sighted. I see you well, but I do not see further, I lose the sensation of distances and people, so I have not perceived the aggressiveness, except when someone calls me and subtly threatens by phone “, tells calm and joking the historian of art Andrea Giunta, about the intimidation she received for her curatorial work in the exhibition Mujeres radicales: Arte latinoamericano (1960–1985), which was exhibited during the last four months of 2017 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California; and that until mid-November, he was at the Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo.
The reason for the intimidation? Since 2010, when she and her co-curator, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, began the research that gave rise to the exhibition, several reasons were outlined: that it would contribute to making odious divisions; that the really valuable works of women artists had already been recognized and it did not make sense to make them an exhibition; that the show would contribute to the stereotype of Latin American machismo and that would affect the internationalization of the region; that the feminist was kitsch and we are in a rather queer phase; and that it was an old-fashioned subject, which is now too much. However, in times where gender equality is part of the UN agenda, or the #Metoo movement has a cover every week, these criticisms have lowered their volume.
“If we had placed only one man in the exhibition, everything would be over. But for that reason, with Cecilia Fajardo-Hill we thought that if something is so traumatic we had to expose it and work it “, explains the curator about the exhibition that has been constituted as an expository milestone, being one of the first efforts to compile historical and critically the multiple discourses and artistic practices of 116 Latin American, Chicana and Latina women in the United States.
In many cases, these artists turned their bodies into places of political experimentation, seeking their own freedom in a context of social agitation and repression, through a visual language that allowed them to pose new and radical ways of understanding the world. However, many of these artists who emerged in those years, then were erased from the historical account. “There are great artists who have not been erased like Lygia Clark, Ana Mendieta, Liliana Porter and Beatriz González; o Read Lublin, which has recently been recovered. But there are other artists who in the seventies and eighties impacted with their work of performance and their works, and then were erased from national histories. So, what will happen now that these figures emerge again? There is an important fissure, an important interruption of the continuity of those decades. It interests me that these artists who were in Mujeres radicales have a continuity in the presentation. In the Mercosur Biennial they present their most contemporary works, “explains the art historian.
In the Mercosul Biennial, unlike the exhibition Radical Women, Andrea Giunta will be able to approach art, feminism and the emancipation of bodies, without establishing a period: “Obviously it will have an important presence of contemporaneity, but it will also be honored historical figures, alive and not alive. In addition, it will have an international representation that exceeds the framework of Mercosur and the framework of Latin America, although this will be the most represented continent, “she said.
Art, feminism and emancipation
For many it was not a surprise that Andrea Giunta was chosen to take on the challenge of healing the 12th Mercosul Biennial that will take place between April and July of the year 2020. “If you are looking for a person who comes from the world of the academy, who has curatorial experience and works with women artists, you do not have many options left. For me it was very natural, “says the third woman to cure one of the most important artistic events in the Southern Cone, after her compatriot Victoria Noorthoorn (7th Biennial of 2009) and the Mexican Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy (9th Biennial of 2013).
According to Andrea Giunta, this is a great opportunity to delve into the contemporary scenes: “I think we are working on topics that are very young and consecrated figures are not necessarily having the most current views on these issues, so we have that expand the framework towards more contemporary sensibilities, always thinking that art is a field of knowledge, and therefore, of emancipation “, she reveals.
” The body of one is a legal territory on which one can operate without asking permission, it is the field of absolute legality”
What contrasts can you see and what could continue in the work of the artists of Mujeres radicales, and of the young artists that you will include in the Biennial?
Young people are doing a work on the affectivity of their own bodies, their own emotions, they work a lot with the self-portrait, with the autobiographical record that curiously has many points of contact with the records used by women artists in the sixties and seventies. This work, so self-centered, was criticized in terms of a narcissism and the same can be applied to the works of young people who are working insistently on their own bodies. However, there is a view that is much more interesting than the obvious and disqualifying of narcissism and is that one’s body is a legal territory on which you can operate without asking permission, is the field of absolute legality. On the other hand, in terms of contrast, in the works of the sixties and seventies there was more fluidity in the interdisciplinary dialogue, that is, much more crossing with the scientific language that emerged then, such as sociology, Lacanian and Freudian psychoanalysis, or medical speeches. At this moment, it seems to me that there is more needing to affirm oneself in one’s existence, in showing oneself. Of course, I am generalizing, not all artists work like that, it was what I found remarkable when establishing contact with works that I am now closing.
Has the relationship changed of technology with artists?
At the moment I do not see that the technology implies a jump in terms of the languages that are used. In the sixties, in fact, the artists came a lot to videos, photographs, photocopy machines, polaroid. As there was a constant migration with the supports that were used to fix the identities, they were used in a very creative way. I do not know if this research with media, languages and technologies is so important at this moment. It gives me the feeling that first we are working on how these technologies allow us to exacerbate the searches of a self that is being defined between an affective combat and with an exteriority, not only internally, but also at a social level. Perhaps there is a weariness of the digital age, since we are completely exposed to digital media. Perhaps art recovers a sense of uniqueness that you do not have in digital.
“I am going to work very aware so the Biennial has a high poetic-political content and avoid, as far as posible, being sensored”
Ten years after starting your research for Mujeres radicales, in the Mercosur Biennial you propose yourself to address the relationship among art, feminism and emancipation, in which way have your ideas been changing with regard to this relationship?
When I started Mujeres radicales, eight years ago, I worked from a gender perspective of theoretical and philosophical analysis, analyzing specific poetics. Not from this willingness to make a mapping of what is artistic feminism in Latin America and how it was linked to militant feminism, which was the focus of Mujeres radicales. At that time, it was the first turn, since I had to study a lot of stories and I think my ideas changed fundamentally when in the process I realized that the theory generated answers, which did not happen. We can work on queer sensibilities, on fluid sexualities, on the deconstruction of genres, but, nothing of that happens and much more in the context of current feminism, when violence towards women has increased in a tremendous way.
On the other hand, in the period covered by Mujeres radicales, we did not find women identified as artists who belonged to the Afro-Brazilian or Afro-Latin American community, nor indigenous authors. I think this is a more recent process. They are empowered voices that now have a space in the art world, which on the other hand is also much more attentive, much more open and permeable.
This biennial will be mounted in a Latin American context that is focused on the Right representations, in which the discussions of genres and reproductive rights, among others, have setting the agenda, how will you face that?
We have a long experience of creating in emergency contexts. Where one can not necessarily express his messages with all obviousness. I am going to work very consciously so that the Biennial has a high political poetic content and to avoid, as much as possible, being censored. It seems to me that it will be a triumph for the Biennial to remain open throughout the period, regardless of the artists that participate and the poetics that work. So, obviously I am designing many strategies of elusive decires, of opaque forms to refer to themes that are very present in the artists. The art is putting together in friction with what cannot be pronounced, is more lasting and effective than the art that says everything at the first glance. I’m even excited about the idea, I do not feel it as a limitation, but as a challenge.
What importance will have the city of Porto Alegre in the biennial?
I think it is important that the Biennial is not a UFO that lands in the city, but has a dialogue with the institutionality of the city, work on the insertion of the biennial in the city. Porto Alegre is a city on the edge of several countries, which I find very interesting from a geopolitical and cultural perspective.
After fifteen months of the opening of the Biennial, in what phase are you?
I am looking for the curatorial team, contacting artists and institutions with which I am going to plot, among its collections and archives, relations with the Biennial. In October 2019 we will hold a seminar for emerging and non-emerging researchers on feminism and activism in art. It will be held at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and for three days will present three lectures. Then we will work on a publication that will be a frame of reference for the future, and that until now will be published in English and Portuguese. In terms of the contents of the Biennial, we only know that it will focus on femininity and feminisms. Especially in its capacity to establish networks in a society that is in a moment of tension and fissure. We understand that the Biennial can be a propitious scenario to reactivate dialogues that are suspended and to express expressions that have always turned women into a social articulator. We want to highlight the capacity of the feminine to restore the social fabric.