Archives As Resistance
Fredi Casco, Voluspa Jarpa, Carlos Motta, Óscar Muñoz and Rosângela Rennó
Featuring a selection of works by five international artists, mor charpentier explores the entangled links between art and archives, compiling multiple material and conceptual explorations around the archive and rewriting and changing narratives.
Archives As Resistance
The archive, as a repository of the past, is a source of information that, regardless of its medium or nature, becomes a place that can be visited countless times.
It is precisely in this revision of the past that new discourses emerge and are given that from a small fragment allow to reconstruct or complement a story in its entirety. Part of its importance lies in the fact that it manages to recover the recent, distant, personal and social past by questioning official truths, reflecting on the established, and unveiling hidden stories.
The use of the archive in art expands these revisits and rewritings to plastic explorations without ceasing to engage with its content and proposing new perspectives and ways of approaching more complex issues from the present.
mor charpentier presents the work of five international artists who use and approach the archive in multiple forms. Óscar Muñoz uses the photographic archive as the basis for his exploration of unusual image supports while revealing and giving new meaning to everyday and historical stories. Rosângela Rennó‘s work leads us to question and reconstruct common discourses through images that refer to elements of personal vulnerability in both couples and inmates. Voluspa Jarpa uses newspaper, magazine covers, and declassified documents to propose the archive as an anthropological object. Carlos Motta‘s works propose the revision of the past as an opportunity to recreate and write new narratives, questioning how many pasts are violently erased. Finally, Fredi Casco‘s work recovers and uses archival documents to support drawings that recreate phantasmagoric scenes from the past.
This piece is based on the photographic work done on the Ortiz Bridge —in the Colombian city of Cali— by itinerant photographers, called “fotocineros”, who worked daily in this place from the mid-1950s to the 1970s, when other instant and color photographic media such as Polaroids, photo booths and the profusion of “one hour” photo labs, displaced this procedure that initiated the democratization of the photographic portrait and opened its accessibility to a wider spectrum of people.
“Just as in Blow up —the story by Cortázar made into a film by Antonioni, where a photographer enlarges and scrutinizes an unsuspecting snapshot and discovers the signs of an unnoticed crime—, in the group of 100 photographs I have noticed, among several singularities, some that, although not conclusive, are true metaphors of our society (…) In trying to order them chronologically, I have also found minimal and secondary stories, which reveal key elements of the spatial cut-out in the photograph, such as that of a little girl who, holding her mother’s hand, turns to look backwards. Something outside the photo frame attracts her more than the photographer in front of her. There is, apparently, no tension in this image, if it wasn’t for the fact that in another of these photos I found the reason for her attention: another mother walks with her child in the opposite direction and the girl’s gaze is directed towards him and the photographer who is photographing them. Two snapshots taken at practically the same moment, by two photographers in opposite positions. As in the amorous rhetoric, the girl is ‘abducted’ from the photograph where she belongs. She does not appear in it, because she shows in the other one —somebody else’s— which captures the ‘abductor’ in frame and smiling for the photo.”
– Óscar Munoz
Haber estado allí
Haber estado allí
Haber estado allí, a photograph taken by Sady Gonzalez, is the image of the body of the leading Colombian political official Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, assasinated on April 9th, 1948. The photo was taken after the autopsy of the corpse at the Court of Justice, and then published in a special edition of the newspaper El Tiempo celebrating its 100th anniversary. In this image, a number of people make an effort to be included within the photograph, demonstrating the importance of documentation of their presence within that moment.
Haber estado ahí, 2011 (detail)
Cerimônia do adeus
Cerimônia do adeus, 1997-2003, consists of forty black-and-white photographs of Cuban newly-weds from the 1980’s. They portray anonymous couples taking leave of their weddings, intimate moments that also render the vulnerability of the image itself as a material trace.
“What motivated me were my own memories of seeing wedding couples inside cars, as the last photograph of the ceremony. Many family albums had one. This last shot somehow symbolizes the end of the passage ritual and occurs in almost all wedding documentation in Brazil and in Cuba, mostly after the Second World War. My father, for example, photographed one of my aunts inside the car agitating the hand as saying goodbye through the window in the mid-1950s and I used this image for the first time in 1988.”
– Rosângela Rennó
Ceremônia do adeus (Group 8)
Cerimônia do adeus, 1997-2003, (Details)
In Cicatriz 1996-2003, Rosângela Rennó undertakes a kind of mental archaeology. Using the glass-plate negatives she discovered in São Paulo’s State Pennitentiary, she enlarges photographs of former prison inmates to the point where, on the one hand, the cold detachment of the original mugshots becomes tangible, while, on the other, they are quickened by the palpable reality of their scars, tattoos and, in some cases, even the whorls of hair on the backs of their heads. The result is a painful visual uncovering of the repressed unconscious –for the inmates, a late but all-important step out of the shadows of anonymity.
– Urs Stahel, curator
Rennó’s metaphorical Cicatriz refers to the scarlike qualities of tattoos and to her technique of installing texts and photographs by surgically cutting and the inserting them into the museum walls. Yet it is the artist’s play with memory that most poignantly evoked scarification. Rennó has tackled the issue of social amnesia elsewhere. Her work on the trauma of public and private events may at times resemble forms of research and investigation, yet it is in fact quite speculative, poetic, and melancholic.
–Adriano Pedrosa, Artforum
Untitled (Tattoo 5)
Untitled (Tattoo 7, A and B)
Every secret intelligence operation needs a public space in which to confuse the public opinion and establish a narrative that prevails over the search for truth. Gladio (the name of the most notorious secret army known in Europe) presents the covers of magazines and front pages of newspapers that are exemplary of the use of this strategy of tension. The artist has intervened these printed covers with black oil plaster and stains of a semi transparent solution, preventing the viewer from reading the underlying texts. Analogously, the mass media acting on the heat of ghastly a acks, respond with an initial story that helps to veil the truth and its complexity by shocking the public.
Based on 22 groups of declassified documents ranging from 1941 to 1993 from the CIA archives, the US State Department, the intelligence services from Italy, Germany, France and Belgium, as well as leaked NATO files, this work deals with the surveillance of French intellectuals during the 1980s, juxtaposing the available printed files to Michel Foucault’s words about secrecy, a central concept in Jarpa’s work. While Foucault dictated his class in Security, Territory and Population in the Collège de France, the international secret services devised strategies to influence his thinking and that of his fellow citizens, strategies that went from the manipulation of public opinion to the seeding of false flag attacks to stop the advance of left-wing politics in Europe at all cost. This work inaugurates the exhibition Waking State, the first in which the artist frontally addresses the secret operations of US agencies in Europe, closing with this show a cycle of work in which Jarpa sought to understand how foreign agencies and governments have operated at the margins of legality, over and over again, in Latin America and Europe.
Dispositivo Foucault, 2017, (Details)
Searching for We’wha
These five triptychs combine photographs from the American West (new Mexico and Arizona regions) with line excerpts from American Indian poetry in an attempt to reconstruct imaginary aspects of the life of We’Wha, a famous member of the Zuni tribe, who was born male but who lived her life in a feminine gender expression.
Searching for We’wha aims at questioning gender fluidity, indeterminacy, neutrality and non-conformity using We’wha as a symbol and image of the ways in which Two-Spirit American Indians express gender in non-Western non-traditional ways. They are often accepted and revered by their tribes, and in We’wha’s case she even became an official representative of their social interests. The project documents indigenous territories, ruins and sacred landscapes as it invokes We’Wha and the ways in which certain traditions have been violently erased.
We’Wha will neverbe found since she doesn’t exist anywhere beyond colonial narratives but the photographic and textual trajectories reveal Western epistemological and representational processes and their ingrained moralism.
Searching for We’wha
Searching for We’Wha, 2014, Selection
My Dearly Beloved R. (Monument to Alexander von Humboldt)
My Dearly Beloved R. (Monument to Alexander von Humboldt)
My Dearly Beloved R. (Monument to Alexander von Humboldt) is a photographic triptych that depicts a monument to Prussian geographer and explorer Alexander von Humboldt accompanied by a love letter written by the scientist to his soldier Reinhard von Haeften who apparently, surprised by von Humboldt’s declaration, left his job to marry.
The piece brings to light von Humboldt’s sexual orientation, a fact that has been systematically hidden from historical narratives about his life and work. It is told that the scientist burnt all of his personal correspondence before his death in an attempt to control his legacy. Yet some documents, like this letter, have surfaced over time making his legacy more interesting and complex indeed.
My Dearly Beloved R. (Monument to Alexander von Humboldt), 2013, (Details)
Pascua dolorosa (Painful Easter) is a series, part of the project Spectres) consisting of five drawings made on old worksheets documenting land surfaces in Caapucú, a forest exploitation area. It was in this area that one of the most violent episodes of the repression of the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner took place. It happened in 1976 and became known as the Painful Easter, during which the peasants were kidnapped, tortured and many of them killed. It is not known how many died, because at that time the peasants did not have identity identifications, since they did not officially exist for the state. In 2009, human bone remains were found in the Caapucú region during ground measurement work. It is thought that these remains belong to those workers killed during the Pascua dolorosa.
The issue of land ownership in Paraguay (and in Latin America in general) is an problem that dates back to colonial times. The high concentration of land in the hands of a few people, next to the fact that landowners very often obtained it thanks to corruption and obscure political favors, makes the distribution of land one of the most relevant problems in the region.
Arete Gua’u uses military war manuals made in Paraguay as support, on which the artist draws characters wearing practical clothing linked to the military camps that were created on dispossessed lands.
In this series, Casco focuses on the role of the military outfits of the time, which he draws on explanatory documents regarding this type of clothing and accessories. In these clothing devices such as the capes that are transformed into camping tents, the makeup linked to the Guarani tradition and the glasses for night use, the tension present in the territory is evidenced from the history that has marked those who inhabited these land.
The title of the work refers to the celebration of the Guaraní people’s festival that is called Arete Guazu, where several symbolic representations take place, and in which the concept of sharing is a central pillar. Through the historical critique that Casco proposes in these pieces, the idea of sharing is questioned as a verb on which there must be a historical review by the Paraguayan people from their own political account.
Maskoy leader René Ramírez, in conversation with Fredi Casco, told the artist that one of the tannin factories of the Spanish businessman, landowner and banker Carlos Casado was invaded by animals such as armadillos, crocodiles and even monkeys after its closure. Parting from this, Casco became interested in the transgression of this narrative to understand some of the Paraguayan past.
The title of the work refers to the image of an animal, particularly a spectral animal, referred as a ‘bicho’ (or ‘bug’). Casco wonders about the variations of the idea of a bug, and even about the role of the shamanic animal in Paraguayan culture. These animals are understood as animal-spirits, emanations that take shape in these animals that begin to inhabit inhospitable places.
Casco’s proposal in this series is to show these documents, which have been kept in abandoned offices and archives as physical elements that are now inhabited by other beings: the bugs painted with pastel and graphite. Through this conception, the urge to face the past takes place in the physical, rather than in the intellectual domain. Here, the images of these non-domesticated animals demonstrate the reverse side of a history of national development whose support is a series of documents from the same factory, which are now the background of these small narratives full of bugs