El Museo del Barrio,|
Jul 25, 2007 - Jan 06, 2008
New York, NY, USA
El Museo's Bienal: The (S) Files 2007
by Aldo Sánchez
A bull’s-eye painted on the floor, the wall and the ceiling greets the S Files spectator and highlights the threshold of the showroom of the Museo del Barrio, site of the fifth edition of this biennial, titled 007 El Museo’s Fifth Bienal. The piece is by Augusto Zanela (Quilmes, Buenos Aires, 1967) and aims to place the visitor in the bull’s eye (bull’s eye of what?). It is a literal piece that defines the curatorial tone of the exhibition.
The name S Files - a project created ten years ago by the curator of the museum, Deborah Cullen - refers to "the selected files", which describe the biennial’s operating system and contradicts the nature of the term biennial. Through an ongoing invitation to participate, the museum constantly receives files from Latin American artists who live, have lived or have carried out projects in New York. The curators then make a selection of the files they have received, visit workshops and choose the artists to be presented at the exhibition. More than a biennial, the show is an open-invitation showroom.
This time the exhibition was curated by Elvis Fuentes, the curator of El Museo, and E. Carmen Ramos, the curator of the Newark Museum, and is divided into three sections: the first showcases works that deal - according to the curatorial text - with adrenaline, and tackle the subject of the risk involved both in the creative process and in a piece’s montage and interaction with the public; the second focuses on nature and landscapes, while the third deals with appropriation and piracy.
In addition to those three themes, there is another that is offered as a supplement and showcases artworks that look beyond piracy or that are viewed as transgressors. Such is the case with Bolívar, a collection of objects collected by Eduardo Gil in places in the U.S. that bear the same name and that seeks to present an ironic questioning of the current tensions between the U.S. and the Bolivarian Republic of Chavez’s Venezuela: a comment that acts as a situational joke but is not an effective piece, since the origins of the names of those places have nothing to do with president Hugo Chavez’s ideological platform in his current mandate.
Moreover, each edition of the biennial features a special section given over to an invited country, in this case Ecuador, with an exhibition curated by Rodolfo Kronfle under the suggestive title Ecuador: La vida en estado puro [Ecuador: Life in its Pure State], featuring works by Fernando Falconí, María Teresa Ponce, Saidel Brito, Manuela Ribadeneira and Pablo Cardoso.
The title refers to the Ecuadorian government’s slogan to promote the country and tourism, an interesting allusion if one believes that "Ecuador is not a country, it’s a landscape", as photographer Armando Salazar(1) points out in reference to the film Qué tan lejos (Just How Far, Tania Hermida, Ecuador, 2007) and Kronfle’s quote of Zizek’s statement that the Nation-State "sublimates" organic and local forms of identification into an all-encompassing "patriotic" identification.(2) Two exemplary works, one by María Teresa Ponce, the other by Fernando Falconí, serve to illustrate the ideas referred to by the curator.
A reflection on the Ecuadorian countryside and unfulfilled modernity, María Teresa Ponce’s (Quito, 1974) photographic series Oleoducto [Oil Pipeline] portrays country scenes blended digitally with inhabitants of the region photographed in their everyday activities, which she also eliminates or situates conveniently. They are places crossed by the oil pipeline that runs from the Amazon to the Pacific, whose subtle presence gives her work highly significant content dealing with the history of art and economic (non) development.
Fernando Falconí (Guayaquil, 1980) makes an intelligent running commentary about institutionalized education, history as invention, the perception of landscape and popu