Fernando ‘Coco’ Bedoya, Paulo Bruscky, Mariana Bunimov, Jorge Caraballo, Elda Cerrato, Emilio Chapela, Guillermo Deisler, Nicolás García Uriburu, Anna Bella Geiger, Rafael Hastings, Luis Hernández Mellizo, Alicia Herrero, Maurício Ianês, Leandro Katz, Jonier Marin, Juan José Olavarría, Horacio Zabala


Frontera / Border

A border is a paradox, at once a real phenomenon and something spectral. It is a line − of Euclidean geometry − drawn on paper to sketch out a map. It is nothing more than an abstraction. And yet it is not a neutral abstraction. On the contrary, it has the power both to reveal the real world and to conceal it, and, what is more, to intervene in it. What do the lines demonstrate to us?And what don't they demonstrate? What is left out by the hand that drew them, and why? Surely it is hardly us to whom the map we meant to decipher is addressed?[1] On the one hand, the line can suddenly register ostensibly established divisions imposed by some nation-state: a product of the imaginary, which tries to demand sovereign power over bodies and their movements through space. The bleeding wound on the face of the earth, lives lost, lives destroyed, the line becomes a wall.... On the other hand, the line is free: it allows for a reimagining and a reordering of the world.

The works gathered together in this show encompass over 40 years and several different artistic generations. Despite the continued insistence on the importance of map-making and its pointed deconstructivist critiques, we also note definite generational interests, which reflect particular geopolitical, social and cultural tensions over the decades.

Evident in the 1970s and '80s is a huge concern for the geopolitical construction and configuration of the region known as Latin America and its identity. On the one hand, this zone is seen as an object constructed by the intervention and interest of the United States − the fierce experimental field in which to try out shock doctrine, as applied by military dictatorships. This is clearly and tersely shown by Paulo Bruscky in his América Latina: the continent superimposed with its target aimed at Brazil, the land marked by three red bullet holes. The other face of this intervention − the everyday violence of neoliberal economic policies − is also acutely shown in the photocopies (xerographies) of Jorge Caraballo, El Sueño de Reagan [Reagan's Dream] and IBM, in which each of the countries is represented by its new image, composed of its own name plus the logo of some transnational company based in the U.S.A., as in the title of the latter of the two works, in which the computer company IBM is meant to signify the “IBeroaMerican” region. The continent, stereotyped as magical, exotic, erotic, is present too, more subtly and much more humorously, in the works of Anna Bella Geiger. In 1972 Horacio Zabala understood the power of abstraction well when he wrote “Este papel es una cárcel,” "This paper is a jail." One of his most iconic works becomes usefull for rethinking the maps which the artist continues to produce to the present day, insisting on erasing the familiar, as occurs as well in others made by his contemporaries.

Though art of the '70s is firmly associated with ideological conceptualisms and their political turn, we already see forming at this time another sort of consciousness and concern which seems to dominate the works of younger artists. In this direction, consciousness of the global scope, of the permanent and absolute porousness of borders, and of their violently imposed character, is expressed almost prophetically in the works of Nicolás García Uriburu. His World Water Environment (Ambiente acuático mundial) aims to encompass and unify the whole world's waterways. Let us imagine that his characteristic jade green pigment moves, starting with seas, little by little penetrating into rivers, and flows into the smallest streams and creeks, ultimately to vanish and reunite with the earth. This environment comprises everything, all we can imagine and describe. The rivers no longer separate the nation-states as artificially assigned border-lines. Quite to the contrary: they unite them, denying the national and nationalistic concerns through the element we all depend on: the water that sustains us. Likewise, in SUR, from 1994, the continent loses its famliar form, less by its inversion à la Joaquín Torres García, than by a negation of its fixed outline rigidly separating the sea from the land. This imaginary, which I would call hydrographic, is present in the most recent works − in Luis Hernández Mellizo's Costa [Coast] and Alicia Herrero's series El Viaje Revolucionario [The Revolutionary Journey]. Whereas, in the latter artist's words, her hydrographies form “foreclosed or silenced natural and cultural bonds of union" that call for an interruption to political division in Latin America," they also point to their planetary pressure, the expansion of union to a worldwide level that implicates humans and the non-human alike.

This final notion aims to posit a new geopolitical consciousness – a planetary consciousness – loosened at last from the abstract boundaries established by human powers.


                                                                                                                     Dorota Biczel


Dorota Biczel is a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Texas at Austin (USA), a researcher and a freelance curator.










[1] Some of these ideas have been taken from Mapping Latin America: A Cartographic Reader, edited by Jordana Dym and Karl Offen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).