Fabiola Heredia, Director of the Museum of Anthropology of the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba talks to Juliana Farías, a Researcher at the Universidad Estatal de Campinas and Carol Alves, a Researcher at the Fundación Getúlio Vargas, about the different ways in which racism manifests itself in Latin America beginning with an examination of the works La conquista de América (The Conquest of America, 2019) by Washington Cucurto and Éramos as cinzas e agora somos o fogo (We Were Ashes and Now We’re Fire, 2018) by Maxwell Alexandre. They emphasize the contextual nature of racism and examine how different currents in social history such as colonialism and dictatorship led to discriminatory practices becoming ingrained in contemporary society. They also emphasize the role of women’s movements in Latin America in raising awareness of the consequences of these forms of violence.
Today, alongside the call to raise awareness about caring for life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are constant manifestations of violence against individuals belonging to historically demoted communities. With urgent pleas being made from various parts of the globe, it is crucial to ask ourselves how racism and xenophobia inform and shape us, and particularly the specific forms they take in the Argentine context. How do the many forms of racism operate among and within us here and now?
What happens when we enunciate race? There have been numerous theoretical attempts to define it in terms of multiculturalism and diversity. But these concepts conceal the way the various markers of social difference operate in the processes that make racism invisible. Is it possible to build identities and identifications outside social markers which we are quick to make essentialising by using biologicist or culturalist arguments? What does it mean in contemporary societies to be indigenous or white or black or a woman or trans? How to recognise ourselves without simplifying the complexity of what we are?
There are several groups of artists and intellectuals that position themselves by highlighting the hierarchical value chains associated with identities. They describe and expose behaviours, gestures and practices associated with them. We would therefore call on you to share your thoughts and works on the forms of racism’s social production with the Museo Moderno.
Just as racism in our context is cloaked, silenced and reshaped to carry on operating in other ways, the same is true of certain works in which, though not addressed explicitly, exclusion processes based on corporealities and phenotypes are also foregrounded. This is because, while racism is associated with the contempt motivated by ethnic origins, in this part of the world it is interwoven and expressed in other forms of social differentiation, such as gender, class or religious affiliation.
We are therefore proposing aesthetic and political devices as triggers to ask ourselves the question, ‘Am I racist?’
Washington Cucurto, La conquista de América, 2019 Acrílico sobre papel montado en lino, 183 x 233 cm Fotografía de Gustavo Lowry. Gentileza de Galería Sendrós, Buenos Aires.
Cucurto nació en Quilmes en 1972. Es poeta y editor de Eloísa cartonera. Publicó más de cincuenta libros entre narrativa, poesía y poesía visual. Entre ellos se destaca Cosa de negros donde relata una historia que describe la violencia machista en el mundo de la cumbia, el amor, el sexo, la lucha de clases y el movimiento inmigracional durante los 90 en Buenos Aires. Pese a estar traducida a muchos idiomas y haber obtenido un importante reconocimiento en el campo cultural, la literatura de Cucurto continúa generando seguidores y detractores con la misma intensidad. Como artista visual realizó exposiciones en casas de amigos y en noviembre de 2020 realizará una muestra de pinturas en la galería Sendrós de Buenos Aires.
The contents of this Modern Museum’s program were produced in collaboration with Fabiola Heredia, Director of the Museum of Anthropology of the National University of Cordoba.
Like his books, the paintings and collages that Washington Cucurto has made for the past four years reflect his interest in the city and the violence it harbours. Where the main character in his books is immigration, in his most recent paintings Cucurto examines the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, in June of this year on large canvases featuring references to comic and street art. In these painting/collages, the artist constructs chaotic, strident urban portraits in which police violence is meted out against minorities and marginalized populations.
Identidad marrón (Brown Identity) is a collective of indigenous, brown skinned people, descendants of the original inhabitants of the Americas, that seeks to expose structural racism in Argentina from a critical perspective, asking questions with a view to generating change across society. Their actions are part of a larger fight against discrimination waged in the spheres of art, law, social sciences and education.
Identidad marrón presents this overview of the different archetypes of brown/indigenous people found throughout history. The visual arts in Argentina have historically been dominated by the white gaze and even today brown and indigenous artists find it harder to make their voices heard. This video questions the status quo and promotes some of their work.
‘My work includes everything that makes me who I am,’ says Sandro Pereira. His work makes use of his body and its image to examine normalized bodily and racial models. In this video, Pereira reveals his interest in identity and its fragile structures as well as emphasizing the importance of the body in his most recent works.
In 2018, Lucía Reissig and Bernardo Zabalaga combined their jobs as cleaners, on both the material and immaterial planes, to put their heads together and think of cleaning as the active transformation of a territory: a practice that renews our relationship with life and energizes the flow and fabric of our private life. The video they present today is a visual record of this collaboration accompanied by oral accounts
Through ‘La Chola’, an alter ego he’s been adopting in his performances for several years, Mauricio Poblete presents an oral overview of his practice right up to his latest drawings, done during the quarantine which return to his mythograms, which refer to the indigenous painter Guamán Poma de Ayala. ‘La Chola’ was born out of a biographical, matriarchal exploration of his Bolivian heritage. Poblete sees action art as a means of creating a collective ritual out of a private event. ‘I’m a colonizer of the images of the history of art, books and YouTube videos, looking to challenge models of beauty, indulge in flourishes of impoverished pop and use the body as a spur for reflection about the notion of identity, be it cultural, sexual, gender, national or class.’
Mauricio Poblete (Mendoza, 1989) took under and post-graduate degrees in the Visual Arts at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. He has taken part in numerous collective and solo shows. His first production Nascita di Chola, was exhibited at Casa Colmena and presented a series of photographs of his alter ego La Chola. He has taken workshops with Diana Aisenberg and Max Gómez Canle, among others and took part in the Artists Programme at the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in 2018, the 2018 Artists Programme at Marco Arte Foco and the Training and Experimentation Platform for trans-disciplinary artists at the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires in 2019. He is a member of the dissident artistic collective Comparsa Drag. He lives and works in Buenos Aires.
Across a single day, #MuseoModernoEnCasa presents three works by Judi Werthein: Manicurated (2002), Brinco (2005) and This Functional Family (2007), accompanied by this conversation between the artist and Javier Villa, a museum curator.
In these projects, Werthein explores three different contextual dimensions – the museum, the geopolitical frontier and the home – as they relate to communities that have been historically marginalized and discriminated against. From bringing the ghetto into a museum space as she did with her manicure salon at the Bronx Museum, to the fabrication of trainers that at the Mexican border become a tool for illegal immigration but on the American side a coveted consumer fetish, or the simple change of skin between owner and servant or a manager of a colonial company and an immigrant, Werthein makes connections that examine issues related to inclusion, immigration and racism.
Judi Werthein (Buenos Aires, 1967) is an artist and co-founder of the Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas de Buenos Aires. Her artistic practice is focused on the processes that shape and construct individuals and collectives. She studied Architecture and Urbanism at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Galleries that have exhibited her work include the Tate Modern in London; De Appel, Amsterdam; Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut; The Bronx Museum for the Arts, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; Center for Contemporary Art, Vilna and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. She lives and works in Miami and Buenos Aires.
For inSite_05, a project that invited artists to carry out research and production specifically linked to the border between Tijuana and San Diego, Judi Werthein developed Brinco: a training shoe brand made in China and sold as a luxury item in the US but given away in Mexico to help migrants cross the border illegally. Exploring how an object can be perceived and used in different ways depending on the context, the project sparked a global debate in the media and art world and the artist found herself the focus of different opinions and perspectives, some of which characterized her as a revolutionary or a terrorist, and she was forced to leave the country after receiving death threats. Project Brinco continued to be a media phenomenon, forcing art to present a public agenda and also raising awareness of the basic issue: illegal immigration and the different sensibilities and voices that revolve around it.
Judi Werthein, Brinco, 2005, inSite_05, Tijuana and San Diego
Invited by the Bronx Museum to develop a project that interacted with the collection, Judi Werthein decided to set up a manicure salon in which customers/visitors could choose from between ten artworks from the museum’s collection hanging in the gallery to have painted on their nails ‘to take with them’. The project was inspired by the museum’s lack of neighbourhood initiatives to involve local Bronx communities in its activities. Werthein thus appropriated a popular practice in the area to introduce new perspectives on the collection and radically transform the museum, creating a living, effervescent meeting place that facilitated cross-overs between Afro-American, Latinx and artistic communities, among others.
Judi Werthein, Manicurated, 2002, The Bronx Museum of the Arts
In 2007, commissioned by Centrum Beeldende Kunst to create am artwork for a public space in the City of Rotterdam Judi Werthein came up with an action that entered into privacy of the home: a film to be shown on the city’s television channel. It was made in the Sonneveld house, designed by a famous Dutch exponent of functional architecture, which is currently open to the public. While visitors continued to tour the museum, the artist recreated the life of Mr Sonneveld, manager of the largest tobacco factory in the country (whose raw material was grown in the colonies), his family and his servants. The artist tells the story with one simple but powerful twist: the rich, modern avant garde family is black while the servants are white. This exchange of colour, introduced silently into homes, addresses the issues of racism and colonialism, which generally seem remote and invisible to the Dutch. It was a potent message from one house to another. The artwork also challenges the notions of progress and freedom championed by modernism through subjects such as Sonnevald by lifting the veil on the role of slavery and exploitation in the colonies in the rise of European avant garde culture.
Judi Werthein, This Functional Family, 2007, single channel video, 13:00 min, CBK Rotterdam
An empathetic gaze on the everyday racism experienced by black women every day. The discovery of an ancestral power emanating from curly hair, transcending the whitening process. In the words of the filmmaker Amaranta Cesar: ‘Kbela addresses capillary transition as a form of emancipation of the black women and is, as its director says: “an audiovisual experience about being a woman and going black.” In the piece, ‘going black’ refers to the experience of a subjective journey that runs from oppression to emancipation via the transition involved in returning to the thick texture of black curls. The work follows this journey avoiding individualism, symbolism and naturalistic representation through a sequence of performatic scenes that together signal the performative character of race and the collective aspect of the emancipatory process of self-affirmation.’
Memory, forgetting, commitment and empathy are the four closely interwoven themes of Dudu Quintanilha’s work. His pieces are generally structured around group and community activities while mistakes and noise are highlighted as being intrinsic to communication and the relationship we establish with others and ourselves. In this video, Quintanilha looks back over some of his recent works to consider how identity, inclusion and the collective interact with and challenge each other.
The anti-racism activist and member of DIAFAR (African Diaspora of Argentina) Sol Duarte transfers Steve Biko’s concept of Black Consciousness, developed during the struggle against apartheid, to the Argentine context. In our reality, the term ‘negro’ has multiple meanings and DIAFAR sees it as being profoundly linked to identity above all. Duarte also analyzes the different levels of racism in the system/world where we live and in our country in particular.
Paladar negro is the name of playlist #006 in out musical cycle Listen [Visual sounds] in which curators Jorge Haro and Leandro Frías present a series of albums containing sounds from Africa followed by others that reveal the transformations, derivations and adaptations that have appeared in the Americas.
This playlist – prepared by the curators of our Listen [Visual sounds] cycle, Jorge Haro and Leandro Frías, invites us on a journey around the world through a selection of sounds that celebrate the enormous ethnic diversity and unfathomable cultural richness of the planet.
We invite you to dance at home. Rulock will present an overview of Afro-American music and dance from the 70s to show how funk expressions form part of an ancestral legacy expressed in the voices of the time.
In this interview with Flora Alvarado, a member of the Colectivo Identidad Marrón, we offer reflections on the practice of inclusive teaching that is respectful of racial differences. Alvarado analyzes the mechanisms by which racism is introduced into the classroom by both students and teachers.