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Art & Theory
Interview at La Culpable, Lima Peru
by Marí­a Fernanda Cartagena

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María Fernanda Cartagena: What role does theory play in La Culpable?

Miguel López: I don't think we work on a strict theoretical plane. What we feel is important is not to view local artistic production as the mere act of seeing works and contemplating them, but forcing the possibility of thinking about them and discussing them. The portfolio sessions we organize have a lot to do with that, it's not a matter of showing work but of coming up with ideas, putting them on the table and seeing what happens.

Luz Marí­a Bedoya: Our theoretical pillars are Miguel, Rodrigo and Raimond. Their more active incorporation during the past few months has defined the way we're working now. It's important to be able to work so closely with the other side; artists dialoging with curators, who in turn are artists. Miguel is a photographer and Rodrigo is a poet. That gives us a kind of organic approach and support that we previously lacked.

Raimond Chaves: Anyway there's a weak point there. We're still not very good at getting all that we can out of the theoretical aspect that is implicit in our practices. I view it as one of our future challenges. Not so much soaking up theory, but viewing all these things we're doing, what's being constructed from a theoretical point of view. I think this is something we've been overlooking.

Miguel López: That takes us back to what's been happening on the scene for the past twenty years, a reduction of spaces for critical discussion. It's impressive to see the speculative production of theory that was taking place during the eighties and how it's been shrinking atrociously to the point that now there are hardly any spaces for discussion.

MFC: Why did this happen?

Rodrigo Quijano: For many reasons. During the nineties critical spaces were reduced due to the change in format in the press, which began emphasizing the link with entertainment a lot more, and that coincided with the rise of the dictatorship, which of course was not interested in any critical space per se.
This also coincided with a crisis of implosion and disorder in the scene, in which artists didn't have a clear idea where they were going. There were some critical opening that was closely linked to the social theory of art, which in turn was closely associated to certain leftist sectors that went into a crisis at the end of the eighties due to international and local issues. One of the most interesting Marxist critics, Roberto Miro Quezada, died of AIDS at the end of the eighties. Mirko Lauer, who had links to the social theory of art post Juan Acha, retired from the critical scene and became more involved with politics. This was in addition to the disappearance of physical critical spaces like newspapers and trade magazines.

The crisis in galleries at the end of the nineties rapidly became a factor for artists to coalesce around and it made them react in a collective way. One of the strong points that sparked the beginning of La Culpable was Philippe Gruenberg and Pablo Hare's experience with the Galerí­a del Excusado (Toilet Gallery), which was a bathroom in the bookshop where Philippe worked and where they started doing shows. That two-meter bathroom was a few steps away from two relatively important galleries. There was a crisis in those spaces and independent, collective spaces started forming, not always with clearly-defined ideas. Between the end of the nineties and 2005 a small, very motley scene came together and this is what MALI and the Barranco Contemporary Art Museum, etc. are now devoted to promoting. This gives some credence to the idea that there's a kind of renaissance or the emergence of some kind of contemporary thing, which is real and important, and is not just linked to the activism of spaces like La Culpable. What La Culpable does is to bring together and coalesce a series of independent artists and it's a point of reference. It's incredible how we've become a reference to people we don't know, without having really done much.

Miguel López: That is also a reflection on the deficiencies in the art scene, of its major limitations and needs.

Luz Marí­a Bedoya: We're like consultants, MALI comes and ask us about things, they want ideas.

Philippe Gruenberg: The thing is that La Culpable, with all its limitations, is actually an antenna of many ideas.

MFC: Isn't there an antagonistic relationship with the institution?

Luz Marí­a Bedoya: No. Quite the opposite. They're an example (referring to Miguel and Rodrigo). They're part of La Culpable and have worked at MALI.

Rodrigo Quijano: The work we do is very specific. There's no confrontation because in fact institutionalization is so precarious that trying to confront that would be a totally snobbish gesture. There are no real museum institutions in Peru, no real art institutions. The market is basically social, rather than any existing interest on the part of a real growing or speculative market. There's very little of that. It's not that we're ideologically in agreement with this, either as La Culpable or individually, but frankly there's no reason to confront something that hasn't even begun to take place, and in anycase we have to live off something. I don't work in the Museum itself; I'm part of a curatorial committee that selects young artist's work for museum acquisition. That has helped to reactivate a small interest by a certain kind of collector in a certain type of artist, whereas before the Museum was basically a place without eyes and ears that didn't want to look outside its own confines.

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