CHAPTER I

BODY POLICIES

Body Politics addresses the relationship of the body to space, understood as a form of knowledge. The body in the public arena in the form of the mouths that Graciela Sacco pasted on public walls during the 1990s, as a way of replicating the title she gave to these interventions: Bocanada —in English, “breath,” “mouthful”—literally “mouth-nothing,” is a reference, via a somewhat dystopian image, to the neoliberal policies of Menemism that submerged Argentina in unemployment and poverty, and precipitated the economic and food crisis in which the country began the twenty-first century. In 2018, likewise intervening in the urban landscape, were posters by the feminist collective Nosotras Proponemos (nP [We propose]) —a Permanent Assembly of Women Art Workers created in 2017. The posters were produced for the campaign for the legalization of abortion, an urgent policy of bodies. It is about body politics not only in relation to social agendas but also as new ways of creating and managing the significance of those bodies. It is this sense that is explored in the performances by Silvia Rivas, María José Arjona, and Joiri Minaya. They investigate the relationships of the body to space, of the body to objects. They confront us with situations that bring to bear the body’s limits and senses.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

The mouths (fragments of bodies) that Graciela Sacco printed as heliographic posters and pasted around the streets of Rosario and Buenos Aires starting in 1993, make reference to the widening social differences caused by the neoliberal experiment, which ultimately led to Argentina’s 2001 crisis. Graciela Sacco reclaimed the relationship between the artistic avant-garde and the political avant-garde, as proposed by the 1968 exhibition Tucumán Arde (Tucumán is burning), an event she researched, publishing in 1987 (together with Silvia Andino and Andrea Sueldo) the first study produced about this movement. She employed the heliography process, printing with light, an old technique used for copying architectural plans. She photographed, projected, and then printed these wide-open mouths on emulsified paper. These are anonymous mouths, distinct and identical. The accumulation of these images in public space, as well as in exhibition spaces, interrupts and challenges. The symbol is as confrontational as it is enigmatic.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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The title is Bocanada, which means “nothing in the mouth.” It is an expression that is difficult to translate. What I do, is to do some kind of disturbance to the language of the street. I think all the works are political, but there are works that are more political in the sense that they are socially committed. I am very committed with my time, with what happens around me, and all these things are things that happen around me. I question these things. For example, if someone opens their mouth, it is because they need something, and I like to stop the meaning of the action at that point: what somebody could need. It is a question. What could we need? It could be a shout, it could be someone who needs food, who needs something else. That is the meaning for me. The idea is that people do not look for hunger, hunger looks for the people, and it is produced, it is not something that happened. And then with the work, I am trying to ask these questions. I never have an answer for this, what it means, for me it is a question...

Graciela Sacco, Making of America Latina 1960-2013 , Fondation Cartier pour l 'art contemporain, Paris, France, 2013.

Making of América Latina 1960-2013, Fondation Cartier pour l' art contemporain, Paris, Francia.

Since 2015, the #niunamenos movement has brought feminism back to the streets of Argentina. An intergenerational movement took up second-wave feminism’s unfulfilled goals of the 1960s, activating them through the agenda of the present. The right of Argentinean women to govern their own bodies was only recently legalized, on December 30, 2020, with the passing of the Law of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy. In the heat of the demonstrations that inundated the streets, artists came together to join the general struggles of feminism and to activate them within the field of art.

 

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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On November 7, 2017, in response to the unexpected and premature passing of the artist Graciela Sacco, who persistently confronted the patriarchal behaviors of the art world, and, one hundred years after the October Revolution, the Permanent Assembly of Art Workers was created. On the same date, the Declaration of Commitment to Feminist Practices in Art was launched, consisting of thirty-seven topics written collectively on social networks. In a just a few days, there were almost three thousand members. Nosotras Proponemos (We Propose) brings together artists, writers, curators, and cultural managers who decide their actions in assemblies. NP has carried out effective actions to raise awareness about discrimination against women artists in the art world, calling for equal representation. Also, it has actively participated in mobilizations and performative actions for the right to legal, safe, and free abortion, together with groups of women, lesbians, trans, transvestites, and non-binaries; and it has manifested itself against all forms of physical, symbolic, economic, and institutional violence, against female and feminized bodies...

"Nosotras Proponemos", Bienal 12, Porto Alegre, Feminin (s): Visualities, Actions, and Affects. 

In 1993, Liliana Maresca posed naked on top of a collage of images of those who implemented the neoliberal dictatorial project of international politics from the 1970s to the 1990s, in both Argentina and the world. The images are from an investigation by the Argentine newspaper Página/12: To what extent does the global economic order instituted in those years allow us to understand the current state of the world?

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

(...) On the one hand, I felt that my corruption was parallel to the country’s corruption, and, on the other, I realized, somewhere, that ... I had preserved myself in some way, at a high price ... At the same time ... the temptation was always there ... harassing me ... and I did not know for how much longer I would be able to escape from that corruption ... Now I believe that I will never fall, that I am innocent.

 

 

Liliana Maresca, in conversation with León Ferrari, Fondo Azul, June 27, 1993. Unpublished video transcript, Archivo Adriana Miranda.

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(...) There are things about reality that affect me that I cannot avoid seeing and that bother me, and then I try to find an answer and I get involved ... body and soul, and I get naked. I think I got naked to show that I was also involved in all that ... that disgusting thing that I hate about society but that is also constantly asking me to define my position ... I realize that this drags me along, as if were something that grabs me by the hair and rolls me over and says “you too are a prostitute” ... but at least I am living it, at least I say: I am a prostitute and I see myself rolled in that mud. And I try to get out somehow ... telling the others that this sucks ... I think I’m going to die thinking that this has to change ... and I put all my energy into that.

Liliana Maresca, in conversation with León Ferrari, Fondo Azul, June 27, 1993. Unpublished video transcript, Archivo Adriana Miranda.

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The action culminated with Liliana, now dressed, installing the images/billboards throughout the ecological reserve of Buenos Aires. There, where the rubble of highways constructed by the civil-military dictatorship was dumped into the coastal shallows; where nature responded with wetlands, forests, birds, nutrias, and lizards. Along this perimeter of the city of Buenos Aires, the blossoming of new ecosystems remind us—as in the present pandemic— that when humans leave their mark, nature responds with biodiversity. The destruction of natural barriers between ecosystems created the conditions for the pandemic. But in the 1990s, the rubble in the ecological reserve—with little sign of nature’s plenitude as seen today—preserved all the brutality of a landfill. It was there that Liliana Maresca took her collages and installed them as notices that interrogated the mutant signs between the destruction and the emergence of life.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

Video made in the Ecological Reserve, Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires, Public Image- High spheres , 1993.

Excerpted from Frenesí , 1994, video-catalog shows Liliana Maresca retrospective.

Production Adriana Miranda, production Liliana Maresca and Adriana Miranda.

In the video and photographs of the performance Intempestivas (Untimely acts), María Teresa Hincapié is seen in a kind of extreme ritual ceremony, invoking references to the violence in Colombia and in which mythical and religious citations intersect. José Alejandro Restrepo made the video, but María Teresa inscribed the recorded performance with an essential sacrificial dimension. The redefinition of the body that collapses and activates itself as a form results in a performance that explores the limits of the space. It is a space in which she moves between televisions, sings, and extends her body under the spotlight to the slow rhythm of prayer. Everything happens on a stage.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink everything notes.

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We made Intempestivas (Untimely acts) in 1992. I was more interested in violence and political violence. There are some hints of what the mythical and mystical connections could be that I still didn’t see very clearly, but there was also something about micropolitics. We did a scene about domestic violence. They were very experimental works, not always finished or completely successful, but that was their state, their status as experimental works. And when I found the scenic cube, it immediately triggered a number of projects and performances that we did with María Teresa at that time, which were for me very important and revealed the possibilities between language and the visual of the performing arts.


José Alejandro Restrepo, on Intempestivas, interview with the magazine Cambio 16 (Bogota), 2006.

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Intempestivas (Untimely acts) was the second artwork in which I invited María Teresa to participate. That meeting was something really interesting, because at the end of the 1980s, I think there was a confluence, a kind of destiny that makes us find ... certain wills that seek out that common space. On one hand, she was a theater actress, a bit in crisis with the problem of representation, still inside the performance. And, on the other hand, in my case I wanted to investigate the relationship between image, video, and direct presence, in likewise intermediate spaces (other than the gallery space itself or the museum space). I was very interested in alternative spaces, I was even very interested in the scenic cube as such. So, I pride myself on having “kidnapped” her, having taken her out of the world of theater and inducing her into the world of performance...

José Alejandro Restrepo, Rethink Everything, Talk #4, June 27, 2020.

María José Arjona  investigates the expressive power of body politics. Politics in a broad sense, as a repositioning of the meaning that can be extracted when a body explores its relationship with space and with an object as human as is the chair, in its long history. There are numerous artists who have exploited this object and are vivid in our memories, from Joseph Kosuth to Esther Ferrer. The latter is particularly relevant, as Arjona’s work is closer to an affective investigation than to an analytical one. In the photo-performance La belleza del animal en cuatro patas (The beauty of the four-legged animal)—which she realized during an artistic residency at the Watermill, Long Island, a center founded by theater director Robert Wilson—María José is seen exploring distances, the relation between the chair and the space. It is a biometric action in which she, with her body folded, places herself in and on an object both common and universal. Watching the series we feel the rhythm, the system, and the attempts to arrive at a method centered on a single object in space, making it evident to what extent the chair turns her into an affective subject, into a body-chair-animal.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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The work emerged in the middle of a harsh winter. During the process at Watermill, I was working outside for the architectural potential of the center in the middle of the woods, and because originally the proposal was based on that relationship with the outside. Robert Wilson had collected a large number of chairs that appeared in his works. It is a primordial object in his cosmology. I was very interested in the chair that appears in the video because it contains lines that are nonexistent in the center: the curves, the rotund, the organic, and a mixture of materials such as the body and the wood that make the forest and the skin appear. It is at that moment that the animal emerges, which also relates to the four legs of the chair. With these elements in mind, I begin to move around the chair and notice the choreographic intention that objects possess, those ritual movements that only emerge when the body begins to communicate horizontally with an object, with its very nature. The space in which I decided to make the video is the closet of the artists’ living quarters. It is a kind of archive of bodies that are no longer there and that leave behind skins or vestiges.

María José Arjona, Rethink Everything, Talk #1, May 30, 2020.

Silvia Rivas’s work can be thought of in dialogue with that of María José Arjona. Both explore the relationship between space and the body. In Rivas’s work, the contact between the two is a question of survival, through an exhausting relationship in which the box conditions the body. In this confined space, undoubtedly suffocating, life is maintained and reproduced. The situation is perceived as extreme. Rivas delegates the action. In this case, the woman is her daughter. The concept of “delegated performance,” introduced by Claire Bishop, is appropriate here. She made this multichannel video, broadcast on multiple monitors, following Argentina’s 2001 crisis. In the country at that time everything was extreme. We are confronted with the perception of a limit, even an abyss, which presents a mirrored relationship between two times during which it seems everything is being reformulated.

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

When I made this series I was already involved in the video-installation work that I timidly began in the 1990s, with the moving image as a tool in order to have a temporal syntax with which to transmit experiential situations. That is my work. Generating a solid experiential association, even if it comes from oneself, is not self-referential. The relationships apply to any human being. Here the woman is enclosed in a space, a minimal cube, in which she creates resistance against the walls, against that limit, which is a box, without a really clear spatial identity, and at the same time enclosed in the television cabinet, that box that encloses life, today more than ever. Devices possess a reality from which it is increasingly difficult to differentiate ourselves. Yet one organizes oneself in a space like these boxes in which there is a woman, a human being—in this case is a woman and my daughter. I made it in 2002, at a time of terrible crisis in Argentina. I tried to convey an experiential situation that encompasses more than just the crises and circumstances that one experiences as a person. One may be clinging onto a moment in which making a false move is not an option, where the only certainty is being alive, be it in jail or at home. Circumstances like the ones we are experiencing today.

 

Silvia Rivas, Rethink Everything, Talk # 1, May 30, 2020.

Biopolitics, ways of reproducing life, rethinking the body. What is the tension between the body and what is outside? This is the drive and the question that Joiri Minaya’s video Satisfecha convey. After she dunks soft forms (made of stuffed cloth) into coffee and sugar, the artist then introduces them into her mouth until it is full to the extreme. Coffee and sugar reference the colonial condition that is replicated in the form of pushing the body to its limits. It’s about a woman. In her work, Joiri investigates how stereotypes of gender and race are articulated in the gaze directed at the body of a Caribbean woman, who is addressed as an exotic subject. .

Andrea Giunta, Rethink Everything notes.

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Satisfecha is a performance that I did for video, although later, in 2013, I did it live at the Dominican Republic’s Museo de Arte Moderno. At that time, I was creating works that were an internal, personal exploration, as well as of the domestic space. The body played an important role, be it the female body or the male body of my partner, the body and the domestic space. I made soft cotton-filled fabric sculptures and I put them in my body; they had to do with the idea of social projection toward the female body, as well as gender and societal roles. It is from a series where I use these forms, dipping them in coffee and then sugar, and then putting them in my mouth. It is a reflection on the idea of resignation or the idea of getting comfortable with the role that you find yourself in. But at the same time it is from a position of power, in which I carry out that process myself, not as something external; societal demands with respect to roles and to my complicity, and doing the same thing to myself. Coffee and sugar were very important. They are substances associated with the colonial history of the Dominican Republic and the Latin American continent. They are also substances that have to do with work and performance, they wake you up, they give you energy. It is a wake-up call to the situation of resignation and complicity in a patriarchal system.

 

Joiri Minaya, Rethink Everything, Talk # 2, June 13, 2020.

BIOGRAPHIES | CHAPTER I

Graciela Sacco (b. 1956-2017). Santa Fe, Argentina.

Visual artist who represented Argentina in various international biennials, including Shanghai (2004), Venice (2001), Havana (1997/2000), Mercosur (1997), and San Pablo (1996), among others. She was awarded the Artist of the Year, by the Argentine Critics Association (2001) and the Konex Prize (2002/2012), among others. Her works have been cataloged in leading national and international publications such as Bomb, Art Nexus, Art News, Le Monde, and the New York Times. Today, her work is part of national and international collections, both public and private.

 

Nosotras Proponemos [We Propose] (Collective association created in 2017) Buenos Aires,  Argentina.

A Permanent Assembly of Women Art Workers. We—artists, curators, researchers, writers, gallerists, art workers—state our commitment to feminist practices that attempt to expand awareness of the patriarchal and sexist behavior pervasive in the art world, behavior that regulates how we position ourselves. While this statement addresses, first, the historical exclusion and devaluation of women artists, its proposals can be embraced by women, men, or those with nonnormative identities. It sets out to act as a suggested guide to personal and institutional practices.

Liliana Maresca (Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, 1951 - † Buenos Aires, 1994)

From the early 1980s, she was an emblematic figure in the Argentine art scene. Her work is part of collections such as: Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires, Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires, Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires, Museum of Contemporary Art of Rosario (Argentina); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Spain); Tate Modern (England), among others. In recent years, her work has been included in exhibitions such as Verboamérica, MALBA (2016); Radical Women. Latin American Art, 1960–1985, 
Museum, Brooklyn Museum and Pinacoteca de São Paulo (2017–2018); and her retrospective El ojo Avizor, Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (2017).

María Teresa Hincapié (b. 1956 - 2008). Bogotá, Colombia.

Pioneer artist of performance and a very influential figure in Latin America. She began her artistic career involved with theater and was part of the group Acto Latino. In 1987, she was introduced in the field of performance based on Parquedades, a work by the artist José Alejandro Restrepo, which completely removed her from the theatrical forms and from the conventional notion of “spectacle”. She won the first prize at the XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas, Colombia in (1990/1996). She has participated in international exhibitions and fairs such as I Bienal de Valencia (2001), 51st Biennale di Venezia (2005), and 27th Bienal de São Paulo (2006), among others.

José Alejandro Restrepo (b. 1959). Bogotá, Colombia.

He has worked on video art since 1987. His work encompasses single-channel video, video-performance and video-installation. Some of his participations include: Transhistorias, Banco de la República, Bogotá (2001); Tempo, MoMa, NY (2002), 52 Venice Biennale (2007); Bienal de Mercosul, Porto Alegre (2009/2011); Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA (2015); Religión Catódica, Fundación OSDE, Buenos Aires (2017); Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, Los Angeles (2017); and A toi appartient le regard (...) la liaison infinie entre les choses, musée du Quai Branly, Paris (2020). He lives and works in Colombia.

Silvia Rivas (b. 1957). Buenos Aires, Argentina.

She represented Argentina in the 3rd and 5th editions of Mercosur Biennial, the 8th edition of the Habana Biennal, Bienalsur 2019, and the 15th edition of Video Brazil. She exhibited her work frequently in prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Latin America Art of Buenos Aires among others. In 2001, she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. She was also honored with the Diploma to the Merit by the Konex Foundation, Residence Fellowship at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio, USA, and the Arte Digital Argentino Prize at the International Art Biennial de Buenos Aires. She lives and works in Buenos Aires.

María José Arjona ( b.1973) Bogotá, Colombia.

She initially received dance training and then devoted herself to the performance. She graduated from the Academia Superior de Artes of Bogotá. She has exhibited her work in different museums, galleries, and international events: Third Thrienal of Guangzhou (China, 2008), MADRE museum (Italy, 2010), Morocco Biennial (2012), 43 Salón Nacional de Artistas (Colombia, 2014), NC-arte (Colombia, 2014), La Caixa Forum (Spain, 2015), Kunsthalle Osnabrück (Germany, 2016), Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá (2018), among others.
She also participated as a re-performer for the Marina Abramović retrospective at MoMA (NY, 2010) and in the artists’ residence program of the Watermill Center (NY, 2009). She lives and work in Bogotá.

Joiri Minaya (b. 1990) USA - Dominican Republic.

Multidisciplinary artist based in New York. She attended the escuela Nacional de Artes Visuales (DR), the Chavón School of Design, and Parsons the New School for Design. Minaya has exhibited across the Caribbean, the US and internationally. She has participated in residencies at Skowhegan, Smack Mellon, Bronx Museum, Red Bull House of Art, Art Omi, and Vermont Studio Center, and has received grants from foundations including Artadia, Rema Hort Mann, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. She has been awarded in two Dominican biennials (25th Concurso León Jimenes; 27th National Biennial) and her work is part of both national collections.

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