“What I look for is contact with total reality, with all that is renegade, all that is set to one side” Artur Barrio wrote in 1970. The marginal, organic and visceral nature of Barrio’s work refers to the horrors inflicted on bodies during the military dictatorship in Brazil between 1964 and 1985.
This encounter, organised under the framework of the exhibition on the artist held in the Museo, reflects on the connections between artistic practices, extreme violence and the precariousness of life. Barrio began working on his situaçoes (situations) in 1969, distributing bundles or packages made from organic matter, meat, bones, blood, and cloth, anonymously abandoning them on river shores, in landfills or on streets. Consequently, thousands of people unexpectedly came across these disturbing bundles, which laid bare that which was concealed and secret yet also known or suspected: signalling the remains that those who were kidnapped, tortured or who disappeared became at the hands of dictatorial power.
While on one side Barrio’s work alludes to the repression Brazilian society lived under during this period, it also raises questions concerning how this violence continues today in the murder of political activists such as Marielle Franco or the militarised hounding of the poor, black and marginalised population. These “situations” encourage debate on violence, not only in Brazil but also in other places such as Mexico and Eastern Europe, interrelating different transient artistic practices which denounce violence inflicted on bodies.
The session will also feature the participation of Mexican philosopher Helena Chávez McGregor, Brazilian researcher and activist André Mesquita and art historian and cultural manager Bojana Piškur.
Helena Chávez Mac Gregor is a researcher at the Institute of Aesthetics from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. From 2009 to 2013, she was the academic curator at the University Museum for Contemporary Art, Mexico, where she founded the Expanded Campus of Critical Theory programme. She currently teaches in the postgraduate programme of Art History. Her curatorial projects include The End of Work (Ex Teresa Arte Actual, 2018) and Critical Fetishes: Remains of the General Economy, with El Espectro Rojo (Museo de la Ciudad de México, 2011 and CA2M, 2010). She recently published her first book, entitled Insistir en la política, Rancière y la revuelta de la estética.
André Mesquita is head of Mediation and Public Programmes at the São Paulo Museum of Art and a member of the Southern Conceptualisms Network. His research focuses on art, politics and activism, and he has curated exhibitions such as Losing the Human Form. A Seismic Image of the 1980s in Latin America (Museo Reina Sofía, 2012). His recent publications include Mapas Dissidentes: Proposições Sobre um Mundo em Crise (1960-2010) and he is the co-author of DESINVENTARIO. Esquirlas de Tucumán Arde en el Archivo de Graciela Carnevale (Museo Reina Sofía, the Southern Conceptualisms Network, Ocho Libros, 2015).
Bojana Piškur is an art historian and curator at the Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana. Her work centres around art-related political issues, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and Latin America. Some of her most recent work includes A Glossary of Common Knowledge (with Zdenka Badovinac and Jesús Carrillo), 2014-2016, and Museum in the Street (with Zdenka Badovinac), Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2008.
Presentations by Helena Chávez, André Mesquita and Bojana Piškur
Helena Chávez, Matter and Violence. Aesthetic Strategies in Recent Contemporary Art in Mexico, 2006–2018
Twelve years ago, a spate of violence caused by the drug wars broke out in Mexico. Faced with this situation, a number of artists and activists have since persisted with giving body and form to this process through actions whose precarious materiality – earth, blood, thread, images of poverty — have enabled a community to be generated.
Starting from materiality as a form of representing violence in the work of Artur Barrio, Helena Chávez sets out an exploration of the limits of this community of mourning and the possibility of thinking about a material aesthetic which not only makes violence visible but also pronounces its condition and spotlights its perpetrators.
André Mesquita, Synaesthetic Terror
The work of Artur Barrio is a radical example of the way in which art can renounce its objecthood, with interventions in public space and the search for a place of expression outside art institutions converging in this artist as a symbol of resistance that poeticises daily life. In these actions, or situations, the body of the artist is placed at the centre of a critique of social cohesion. Thus, André Mesquita looks to review the social and political nature of these interventions in the face of state violence in Brazil.
Bojana Piškur, The Art of Absence
Since the civil war that engulfed Yugoslavia in 1991, the previously formed “Yugoslavian common cultural space” was reduced to different local art scenes marked by the idiosyncrasies of each one. How did local artists at that time approach the tragedies of a war defined by genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing?
Bojana Piškur sets forth an approach to the concept of “absence” and how Yugoslavian artists responded to the horrors of war, the remembrance of victims and mourning processes.
Round-table discussion and idea exchange
Presented and moderated by: Ana Longoni, director of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department