Artists Art Issues Exhibitions About Us Search

featured exhibition
7th Cali Performance Festival, Colombia

Bookmark and Share

Without crown by Luis Fernando       Ramírez

. by        Dick el demasiado

. by Juan       Mejí­a

Entrance to the festival by Juan       Mejí­a

Entrance to the festival by Juan       Mejí­a
Helena Productions,
Nov 18, 2008 - Nov 22, 2008
Cali, Colombia

7th Cali Performance Festival, Colombia
by Luisa Ungar

3. Liminal space

After the talks, which Helena refers to as "the educational part of the Festival", we attended the performances. As in other festivals, these were varied, wide-ranging and took place simultaneously so we were fortunately unable to tackle them all. The site, an unused former flour mill, consisted of several empty warehouses: the actions were divided among four large interconnected yards, six smaller surrounding spaces also connected to the yards, and a large platform at the end of the central patio. The criterion for distributing the physical space was unclear and seemed to respond more to the minimal technical requirements of each piece than anything else (a dialogue between different performances, for instance). Thus the actions that required a lot of movement shifted around the large yards (the Pipipause group, the Brazilian dance group Contemptus, and the Taller para la Construcción de un Paisaje Indefinido), those carried out in a fixed point in space (Rolf Abderhalden, La Performola, KaliKadaver) took place in the smaller spaces (which were not interconnected), and the groups engaging in musical actions took turns on the platform at the end of the day. The confined space meant that one was very close to several actions, and those that required tables (merchandise-related actions) took place against the walls of the space.

That led to a paradox: although the performance events were in keeping with the intuitive nature of Helena Producciones, the physical space sometimes tended to turn the Festival into an exhibition in which the physical relationship between the viewers and the performers was not important. Visitors wandered around the spaces watching the different actions rather than taking part in them, thus emphasizing our condition as tourists, and at times our activity in the event was reduced to reading the technical cards placed above some of the non-programmed actions, and eating empanadas. The latter was in keeping with one of Helena's interests: "to recover a sense of community temporarily". One action that reflected this aroused our suspicion: on entering the building in the morning we came across a clown rapping over a megaphone, inviting people to step into the Harinera space. The action, performed by the Ecuadorean artist Omar Puebla, was significant in itself but seemed to contradictory in that it took place inside the festival building.

As part of the spatial dynamic, some of the actions went beyond the limitations of the building. Some addressed issues dealing with the repeatability of the performance, thus generating tensions between presentation and representation, which are characteristic of this genre. Carlos Monroy's Performola, a "jukebox of performances performed at the request of the public", played with the idea of quoting and revising the history of art by offering the public a menu of other artist's performances for Monroy to reproduce. The participants in the "Taller para la Construcción de un Paisaje Indefinido", coordinated by Juan Linares and Erika Arzt, gave a concert reflecting the forms of appropriation they had witnessed during the week at the Harinera. They played with radio broadcasts, played the theremin and worked with photocopies. The Cali group El Camión (The Truck)(10) parked itself at the edge of the space and shouted soccer-fan style chants, climbing on the vehicle which shook as they jumped. The chants questioned institutions dealing with the field of art in Cali. Rolf Abderhalden's piece (for some the most moving in the Festival) dramatized the perverse names given to sexual diversity. Marí­a Alejandra Estrada's body massages highlighted an intimate corporal activity and engaged the public directly.

Since it began the festival has played with liminal elements by stretching the envelope of customary borders. Being aware of this leads to an understanding of Helena's work, which is post-disciplinary and rejects essentialist notions.(11) Liminality, however, is a threshold that raises questions around which are the borders demarcated by the festival, as a mobile scenario, and what happens beyond these frontiers. One action in particular appeared silently to acknowledge this issue: using an eraser, a young man kneeling on the floor quietly rubbed out the footprints people left on a strip of white cardboard with their shoes as they walked on the cardboard. He rubbed out the spontaneous drawings left by the dusty soles, thus highlighting the subtlety of the shoeprint. This light and intimate gesture that served to erase another gesture contrasted with the noise of the performances taking place around him, thus acting as a parenthesis in these surroundings.

Luisa Ungar


(1) At the Seventh Performance Festival, Helena Producciones consisted of Ana Marí­a Milan, Leonardo Herrera, Wilson Diaz, Claudia Sarris, Juan David Medina, and Andres Sandoval. On this occasion the Festival was carried out in conjunction with the Salón Nacional de Artistas.
(2) Wilson Dí­az's text "Una versión de Helena Producciones" reviews Helena's history, research, curatorial strategies, and varied exhibition formats (parties, television, printed matter, etc.) in the book Festival de Performance de Cali Colombia, ed. Helena Producciones, December 2006. For an outline of Helena's history, visit
(3) Notes on the Seventh Cali Performance Festival, by Ana Marí­a Millán and Wilson Dí­az. Urgente periodical, November 2008 - January 2009.
(4) "When performance seeks to form part of the economy of reproduction, it betrays and belittles the promise of its ontology", in The Ontology of Performance: representation without reproduction, Peggy Phelan,
(5) "40 000 indigenous people marched from Piendamó, Cauca, to the city of Cali, some 18 000 sugar cane workers went on strike for two months to demand decent wages, and thousands upon thousands of people whose savings were affected by illegal financial speculation blocked the streets demanding their money back". In Le Monde Diplomatique, year VII, number 74, December 2008.
(6) The issue of representation was thus at odds with the belief: the indigenous version of the deaths during the march was officially denied until another version, that of the U.S. network CNN, highlighted the army's role as perpetrator of the crime, after which the president had to correct the official story.
(7) This issue has been addressed by Colombian artists such s José Alejandro Restrepo, among others.
(8) El Bodegón is an independent space for art activities based in Bogotá. Some of its members took part in the Sixth Cali Performance Festival with the Pomomiseria collective in a piece named Limpieza Social (Social Cleansing).
(9) Helmut Batista and Yuri Firmeza from Brazil, Omar Puebla from Ecuador, Wilbert Carmona from Nicaragua, Juan Javier Salazar from Peru and Juan Carlos Rodrí­guez from Venezuela.
(10) And goes beyond the debate as to whether this is "disciplinary hybridization", which for the more conservative amounts to "aesthetic promiscuity".
(11) And goes beyond the debate as to whether this is "disciplinary hybridization", which for the more conservative amounts to "aesthetic promiscuity".

3 of 3 pages     Previous Page

back to exhibitions