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Curatorial Practices
Interview with José Carlos Mariátegui
by Maria Fé Nevares

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José Carlos Mariátegui

"can yo_h_ar m_ ?"




MFN: How has video-art benefited or been affected by the crisis of institutions such as galleries, museums, biennials, etc.?

JCM: I really believe that video-art and other hybrid means of artistic experimentation were born from a crisis in established art. All these institutions were reluctant, at the beginning, to show video, because they considered it something transitory and without weight in their relationship with the beaux arts. Experience has shown that the mass media allows a greater perception of the contents of this form of art, and have given rise to an art-current against established conservative trends. This has definitely benefited the process of social tolerance which has occurred in the twentieth century, and which I believe is one of last centuryí­s great contributions to Mankind.

On the other hand, video-art has also been affected today by these same established institutions, since it is now considered ‘establishedí­ art, and therefore many artists who previously participated in it as an experiment have been seduced by the museums and galleries to become artists but only with video work. This seems terrible to me, because it has resulted in the commerce of works which can, by nature, be reproduced, and which many galleries have tried to protect by limiting their reproduction, as if such mass media works could actually be restricted within circuits.

However, many of these Biennials or Museums now have artists from other non-Western nations who participate actively in this mainstream, which has some advantages and some disadvantages but is, in general terms, positive since it offers greater variety and is truly an evident sign of a cultural tolerance which did not previously exist ...

MFN: What is the reaction of video-art to the development of technologies which, in the case of Peru, still remain at a craftsmaní­s level?

JCM: This is a very interesting question, because it is true that there is no notable technological development available in Peru, something which can be seen in Brazil, to cite a clear example. But this tendency makes use of the technologies as post-industrial tools. Even though we are not the countries that develop the technology, we still use the same creative resources as the people of those regions. This aspect of industrial under-development gives rise to a quite erroneous preconception that creative work using the technology of a poor country is primitive or ‘out of fashioní­. The only thing I can say in this respect in that although our countries lack the recent technological development, it was not always this way and, in any case, our creative development has not come to a halt, since what we create is significant in local and global terms. On another aspect, the action of assimilating technologies developed by others allows us in many cases to give a second reading to the creative use of these tools. We cannot deny that the technology process has reached all sectors: in the poorest districts of Latin American cities, one of the elements which is seldom lacking in homes is a television, so we therefore have as an immediate reference to an already-expanded technology.

MFN: When we speak of trends, in what way have video artists in Peru come together? Which would be the most radical?

JCM: The interesting thing of video in Peru is that, since we are still at the formation stage, there are no clear trends but, rather, the existence of a fairly strange diversity if we compare it with other countries in the region.

For example, in the case of artists such as Ivan Esquivel, who has been utilizing video more in the form of conceptual art, heí­s been recently applying it as a way of criticizing the established ‘video-artí­ media, as well as the explosion of video-art and banal art currently considered as contemporary art, not only in Peru but at an international level. This critical pressure is interesting, since it has become a criticism of the critics themselves from an artistí­s viewpoint.

There are also other artists with a conceptual profile, but tending more towards social and political matters. Eduardo Villanes and Angie Bonino are good examples of this trend.

The urban chronicles and exploration of the city and its people are often related to elements of an infantile or adolescent fantasy, as in the case of Roger Atasi. In this same line, but with perhaps a greater emphasis on intensive synthetic visual treatment, is the work (surprisingly prolific) of Carlos Letts. Radicals? We could speak of Zavala...

MFN: Which are the most outstanding works?

JCM: A short while ago I was asked which is the "video hit" in the history of Peruvian video art? It is difficult to speak of a single video as a "hit". But if I analyze what a hit represents, we can take into account not only that the work is good, but that it has had an impact on various types of audiences (local and foreign) and that it endures over the course of time. "Atipanakuy" by Alvaro Zavala is possibly one of the most brilliant works and I could possibly consider it as "The Hit", since it combines the elements already described and endures over time. However, there are two other works which come to mind whenever I think of Zavala, these are Eduardo Villanes with "Identity Transfer (after Dennis Oppenheim)" and Ivan Esquivel with "Number".

This is also a matter we could discuss at greater length, since there are young artists with notable potential who are genuine representatives of their times, such as Diego Lama, Carlos Letts, Jose Luis Carbajal, etc...

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