Voluspa Jarpa and Jordi Colomer opened the 2022 season of BIENALSUR Dialogues


At the UNTREF Rectorate of the city of Buenos Aires, Chilean artist Voluspa Jarpa and Spanish artist Jordi Colomer reflected on ways of experiencing the city through their work

The first meeting of the series of BIENALSUR 2022 Dialogues was held on the last Friday of May at the auditorium of the Rectorate of the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero with the participation of artists Voluspa Jarpa and Jordi Colomer, who reflected on ways of experiencing the city through their work.

The activity, open to the public and broadcast simultaneously on the video platform BIENALSUR.TV, was the kick-off of this series of meetings between artists and curators from different parts of the world aimed at thinking about contemporary problems from an artistic perspective.

Diana Wechsler, Artistic Director of BIENALSUR, pointed out that the approach to the city and the ways of inhabiting it has always been an important topic at BIENALSUR. “It is not by chance that we are thinking about the city because it is in the city where the art scene is present. Art as we know it in modernism takes place in urban spaces. One of the characteristics of BIENALSUR’s policies has been to draw maps where cultural metropolises are in line with very small towns or those that are considered to be outside any circuit,” she noted.

Voluspa Jarpa’s presentation focuses on the Sindemia project, which addresses the experiences of social upheaval in Santiago de Chile in 2019, will be on display in October at MUNTREF Hotel de Inmigrantes.

The trans-Andean artist referred to the onset of the revolt with students demonstrating against the increase in the metro fare. “The students did what they called evading, they jumped over the metro turnstiles for two weeks. The government decided to close it, but the metro system is what connects such a big city as Santiago, so people were stuck at seven o’clock in the evening on a Friday with no way to get back to their homes and suddenly the city collapsed. The next day there was a curfew, with the military marching in the streets with tanks. That was a radical change from the way we lived, it reminded us of the coup d’état. The whole city went into a state of organized rebellion” she said, showing a piece from Sindemia: a map of Santiago where green dots covering a large part of the sheet represent the pockets of rebellion.

“This changes the narrative of this well-organized, neoliberal Chile pleased with its development, and new things begin to appear,” added the creator.

Jarpa stopped at one of the epicentres of the protest, the now renamed Plaza Dignidad, where there is a monument to General Baquedano, a leading figure in the War of the Pacific who also “pacified” Araucanía and was a repressor of the Mapuches.

“The police fired almost two million pellets at the demonstrators in the area of Plaza Dignidad, which resulted in massive human rights violations. To date there are almost 500 wounded with eye trauma, most of them very young,” she continued.

Jarpa said that the weapons used by the police for this type of situation have very specific protocols that were not followed. This was reflected in another of the works that make up Sindemia: a series of photographs of the trees near the square.

“Police officers are supposed to aim downwards so that there is no danger of any of those weapons producing a serious injury. However, when we look at the trees on the protest ground zero, they look like some sort of sieve with traces of bullets, pellets and tear gas bombs all over them,” she said.

She also spoke about what happened to the monument to Baquedano and how it radically transformed the city. “It was systematically defaced by different groups, women, and collectives. Climbing the monument to paint it and disguise it was quite a feat. Then the military said it should no longer be there and removed it. There you can see the periphery of Santiago right in the centre of the city. There are no ornaments, grass, flowers, flags or anything left in the square. There is no longer this national, republican history; all that has gone,” she added.

In turn, the Spaniard Jordi Colomer showed some of his works in which he proposes an appropriation of the city and its architecture. Based on a distinction made by French sociologist Michel de Certeau, Colomer pointed out that while places are organized in advance and anticipate certain behaviour, spaces are experienced and created by the inhabitants beyond any foresight. “My work has to do with excess and overflow,” the artist remarked.

Along this line, he also spoke about Anarchitekton, a series of photographs and videos made between 2002 and 2004 in cities such as Barcelona, Bucharest, Osaka and Brasilia. He showed a video in the Brazilian capital of the so-called roads of desire. “Brasilia is a city designed for cars, it is so perfectly planned that there are no traffic lights, you go from one side of the city to the other free of traffic. But the residents of Brasilia have oddly insisted on creating this whole network of roads like some sort of geometry added to the perfect planning of the city, as we can see here on the Eje Monumental Avenue. It is an example of how to literally create space and new roads that were not foreseen”, he stated.

He also made reference to certain actions in the Catalan city focused on new luxurious buildings close to the beach. “I believe that architecture can be read, like novels and stories. Similar buildings can also be found in Miami, Singapore and Santiago de Chile. They seem to express the desire of the city at this historical moment to be on the map of global cosmopolitan cities, all of which look alike,” he said and added that the most interesting thing was the bewilderment that the performances generated with the scale models of the buildings. “People asked us if we were protesting against these new buildings or if we were making a commercial. Unexpected things always happen, that’s what it’s all about,” he concluded.

To see the Dialogue click here

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