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Questions on place and space in Latin American Art
by Maria Clara Bernal Bermudez

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Johanna Calles

Brigida Baltar

Nelson Leirner

Maria Elvira Escallon

Sebastian Diaz Morales

Francis Alÿs

The surrealist map of the world for instance implies that had the map been drawn in reference to the cultural input of Mexico or Peru, these places would have been bigger in our imaginary geography than Europe or North America. Then there was the need to escape the given territory this is the case of "The South is our North" (1943) by Torres- Garcia or This is not America by Alfredo Jaar. Now there is not only the need to escape such given territory but any idea of territory there is the need to be able to appropriate from different places the elements to build a new space that has little to do with geographic location.

Talking about Latin American art, art from Latin America, art produced by a Latin American artist in Europe or North America, art produced by a European or North American artist living in Latin America is not the same thing even if we insist in a common classification. Talking about contemporary Latin American art is more complicated than that because the strategies of representation have necessarily to include the processes of mobility that characterise Latin American culture today. The border culture that was so important during the 1980çs regarding the geographical line between North America and Mexico has lost its physical specificity as a place and has become a space that exists everywhere in Latin American art and culture. This space of contact is what might be called a Creole space, where the process of encounter is more important than the end result of it. A space that can be understood from what Bergson and Duchamp amongst others have proposed as a series of passages rather than stoppages.

Alternating between exercises of place and displace, works like: Esta bien si piensas que esta bien by Nelson Leirner, Nuevas Floras by Maria Elvira Escallon, Papaver somniferum by Juan Fernando Herrán or 15,000,000 fifteen million Parachutes by Sebastian Diaz Morales have changed the notion of place replacing it with temporary stabilizations of space. They have created new strategies to defy the common place given to Latin American art by working from the idea of mobility. With this approach the artwork necessarily picks up elements from different places but it does not simply look to present and represent these elements but to incorporate and transform them. Quoting Flusser again "the advent of the expelled in exile leads to "external" dialogue. The expelled is a catalyst for the synthesis of new information. If he becomes aware of his own situation of uprootedness, then an internal dialogue begins within himself; which is to say, an exchange between the information he has brought with him, and an entire ocean with waves of information that toss around him in exile. The objective is the creation of meaning between the imported information and the chaos that surrounds him." These efforts as I said before have to be recognized.

In 2001 Gerardo Mosquera wrote the article "Good-bye identity welcome difference: from Latin American Art to Art from Latin America" making reference to the reactions to an earlier article entitled: El arte Latin Americano deja de serlo. However, as happens too often, the intentions of these articles were soon forgotten. Art history in Latin America does not only have selective memory as every attempt to do history it also suffers from a major ailment which is its short term memory. In art as in our political life short term memory affects us because we do not seem to be able to recognize mistakes made in the past or possible answers given in the past we are always ready to discard old proposals in order to impose new ones. After the aforementioned article there was no major change we continued using the term Latin American art (not without certain hesitation) and continued inventing more essentializing terms, we seem unable to escape this viscous circle. I doní­t want to suggest that Mosquera is some kind of prophet that we must follow but I want to point out that there were some questions there that were ignored or recognized just in the surface like the need for a shift from the way we name art produced in Latin America or by Latin American artists.

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