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2004 | 2005


May - 2005



Myth in the day

Ancient rites and a search for a modern identity coalesce perfectly in a new exhibition of Chilean art

One of the most moving artworks are children's drawings. They are often a pure and direct expression of a child's candid violence. Such clarity and honesty is present at the National Museum of Art in its temporary exhibition ‘Chilean art crossing borders’.

This touring exhibition unites the works of Chile's contemporary and modern artists, showing signs of a vibrant artistic life from between the Pacific Ocean and the Cordillera Andes.

The eleven sections of Chilean art offer 78 works of painting, sculpture, photography, found objects and mixed media, grouped according to themes. Some of the transcontinental pilgrims depict the landscape of their home, like Josefina Guilisasti's Combina-tions, a diary-like series of views on the same melancholic homeland.

Other Chileans speak of their rich and deep identities, whispered like a childish chant in a mestizo language of naivete and seriousness, such as The saint, a black and white photograph by Mariana Mathews, illustrating the mergence of native and Christian rites on Chilean land.

'Precolumbine' art is the family name of many of the artists in the exhibition. Zinnia Ramirez chants For life and abundance, a work of ceramics and natural elements and a good luck charm of her ancestors. A knotted-fibre sculpture, The Chiu-Chiu princess by Ester Chacon and Osvaldo Pena's Tree of life, carved in cypress wood, are the feminine and the masculine symbolic embodiments of fertility, seasoned with a pinch of humour.

When ancient myths are expressed through contemporary art, a memory of the self is retrieved. Isabel Margarita Perez says Gracias a la vida, using a pre-columbine technique of knotting, the Quipu, an Inca artifact used for counting. Mauricio Guajardo replies with Lemu Kura (stone woods in the indigenous Mapudungun language), the name of his carved granite and forged steel vision of the petrified forests of Chile.

Storytelling through art is also a major theme. In Francisco Copello's With Chile in my heart, he shows a canvas-size heart, big enough for a distant and vivid series of tales about his homeland.

When Chilean art crosses borders, it charms, speaks out and lives out today's fears and yesterday's rumours of indigenous myths in an honest, direct and moving manner.

‘Chilean art crossing borders’ is at the National Art Museum, Calea Victoriei until May 15.

Open Wednesdays to Sundays, 11:00 to 19:00 hrs.




Creature comforts


Inside a rusted cage hang all the toys needed to keep a wombat, lemur or small lynx happy: a wooden assault course, straps dangling from the roof to swing upon, even ropes and teddy bears for the animals to play with, plus paper bedding to pull apart and scatter around the cell, along with as much food a beast can eat before throwing up.
Frederico Camara's 'Peisaje' [Landscapes] at the Galeria Noua is a small collection of photographs of French and German zoo-cage interiors, minus the animals. These are clinical and desensitised, but safe environments for keeping creatures numb, weak, non-violent and stupid, much like a school, university or mental asylum.
Quite banal, most of these interiors lack the surreal qualities of some of the more bizarre zoo designs, except one cage which resembles a kitchen space for an Orang-Utan. It has human dimensions, a door and photographs of his ape relatives on the walls, plus shelves and a waist-high cupboard. Its domestic setting is only betrayed by prison bars and, in the middle, a drainage channel to a plughole.
Brazilian-born and London-based Camara is attempting to use these pictures of zoo interiors as an allegory for the contradiction of freedom with security. The argument seems to be that in order to protect ourselves, the objects and the animals we own and the environment, we have to isolate these things and put them behind bars. But there is a fear that the artist has opened his allegorical net far too wide. Any institution, be it a hospital, office or even a family could also deserve such an assessment.
The artworks also claim to be: “a metaphor for how people relate to each other and establish territories that divide society by race or religion”. But what is he trying to illustrate by using zoo interiors: that some creeds are similar to animals?
Lacking a consistent allegorical focus, these pictures are nothing more than professionally-made photographs that could serve as a mildly compelling brochure for cost-effective animal housing solutions, which a designer could use in a sales pitch.
Also on display is Camara's installation Gifts Attempts to sweeten the population of a city, which occupies a small room where three videos show a man pouring honey into a reservoir that feeds Stuttgart's drinking water. This attempts to be an ironic reversal on the fears of chemical warfare, but instead is a pointless situationist exercise as effective or profound as someone in the street walking up to a despondent pedestrian and saying: “It takes more energy to frown than it does to smile!” then expecting some kind of positive response.


'Peisaje' by Frederico Camara at Galeria Noua, Strada Academiei 15.

Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 to 19:00 hrs. Until 15 May