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.