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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

According to Mosquera "this notion of ‘Latin American Art ceasing to be Latin American Artí­ is facilitating the process of making contemporary art more ‘Latin Americaní­ in a practice less determined by a sumptuary market and with greater cultural meaning in relation to its context."(3) There have been efforts on the curatorial front, Exhibitions like Heterotopias (1991) proposed to see or to represent Latin American art from the perspective of the non-place. This perspective shifted the weight from the geographical stereotypical view of the continent to a more open approach, liberating art from a series of expectations. However, denying the existence of the place brings also rather uncomfortable implications of non-existence. It is maybe more important in the case of Latin American art to talk about the "non-spatial place" (a place that gets consolidated under ideas like community instead of geographical space).

With this situation in the arts it seems a paradox to try to use the term Latin American art today because although it has tried to redefine itself every so often it still carries its specific geographic implication. We should be able to talk about an art of the routes. However this would be a lie too, although context is no longer the sole obsession of art production in Latin American art it has not disappeared as a preoccupation either. In fact what has happened is that cultural context has become an internalised material that is part of the text. As Mosquera says "Context is a basic factor in the works of the artists who have established a new perspective which, more than naming, analysing, expressing or projecting contexts construct works from them."(4) therefore I propose to see it as an art that looks for roots in its routes.

The work of Francis Alçs revolves around this. Alçs is a Belgian artist that lives and works in Mexico, he is a problematic and challenging artist. Just as his actions of changing place (from Belgium to Mexico) his works are also displacements or rather abolishing of place. Walking is one of his more recurrent actions, walking with a magnet in his shoes through Havana in 1994 or Walking with a Cube of Ice through the historical centre of Mexico in 1997. His work When Faith moves mountains (made in collaboration with Cuauthemoc Medina and Rafael Ortega) is a paradigmatic work in terms of place, space and territory. This action took place in Ventanilla, Lima. On April 11th 2002. Five hundred volunteers were called in order to form a line to move a sand dune situated in the surroundings of the city of Lima. This human comb pushed forward a certain quantity of sand with shovels in order to move the dune from its original position. The actual displacement was of an infinitesimal proportion, but not its metaphorical resonance.

For a long time now Latin America has been concerned with the experience of boundaries, and transcending them. Ití­s about how identities form, prove themselves, and transform along their boundaries. This is what makes it topical in a global situation where almost all boundaries are shifting, changing, sometimes even vanishing, then forming anew. Inside and out, in subjective experiences as in the experience of subjectivity, in dealing with physical matter as in dealing with information, it is a time of uncertainty. Thus the work of contemporary artists does not speak from a specific place but from their condition of transience therefore their context cannot be a place (a country) but the contact zone where different cultures meet every time he stops in his routes.

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