Sights and Sounds: Peru

March 28 - April 24, 2014

Sights and Sounds: Peru features new work by Eliana Otta, Rita Ponce de León, José Luis Martinat, and Cristian Alarcón Ismodes, selected by Miguel A. López.

Installation view of Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video in the Goodkind Media Center. Photo by David Heald.

In Peru, motion pictures and video have been a powerful device for political critique since the mid-1990s. This is especially meaningful in a country whose recent memory has been shaped by a hijacked mass media and a culture of surveillance. Yet it was the broadcast of footage of government authorities bribing politicians, officials, and TV station chiefs that led to the fall of the last dictatorship in Peru in 2000. The great impact of all this is reflected in an emerging art scene that uses commercial media to comment critically on pressing issues: globalization; migration and diaspora; social activism; history; modernization; the confrontation of Andean and Western culture; and public space.

Unsurprisingly, there is a vein of work dealing with a political past that refuses to be left behind. Cristian Alarcón Ismodes and José Luis Martinat both endured armed conflict and dictatorship in their youth and now explore the memory of their experiences with black humor and irony. Eliana Otta focuses on the longstanding social problems that result from colonialism, inequality, and marginalization. Rita Ponce de León, preoccupied by language, imagines the body as a tool of expression and explores its participation in the public sphere.

Miguel A. López

Miguel A. López (b. Lima, 1983) is a writer, artist, and researcher. He has published in Afterall, ramona, e-flux Journal, Manifesta Journal, and Art in America, among other journals. As a member of Red Conceptualismos del Sur, López co-curated Losing the Human Form: A Seismic Image of the 1980s in Latin America at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2012–13). He also co-curated Altered Pulse at the MUAC—Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, UNAM, Mexico City (2013–14).


Eliana Otta (b. Lima, 1981; lives in Lima), Refundación (Refounding), 2011, stop-motion animation, sound, 5 min., 27 sec, © Eliana Otta. Two tigers descend the Cerro San Cristóbal, the peak overlooking Lima. Arriving in the capital city, they dismantle the Government Palace. This grandiose building, built in 1535 by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro on land that was spiritually significant to the Incas, has been partially destroyed and rebuilt numerous times throughout Peru’s tumultuous political history. In this video, the artist whimsically imagines the ultimate destruction of this house of power, and envisions the potential for a new order with a radically different social basis.

Rita Ponce de León, David, 2012, video, 1 min., 46 sec., made in collaboration with Laura Alderete. Artwork © Rita Ponce de León, provided by 80M2 Livia Benavides Gallery, Lima.  This video is inspired by David Alfaro Siqueiros, the Mexican social realist painter known for his large murals. The transit of the hands or the body sketching, the emotive—almost theatrical—intention: these are paths to rethinking Siqueiros’s ideology that drawing must permanently adhere to architecture, and his interest in the total work of art.

José Luis Martinat, Cárcel (Jail), 2013, video, sound, 6 min., 16 sec. Artwork © José Luis Martinat. Cárcel is Martinat’s sixth video exploring situational tropes in popular Warner Brothers cartoons, which have been broadcast widely in Latin America for over four decades. (Other topics in the series include the city, the road, and war.) The artist erases all characters and dialogue from well-known animations, preserving only the backgrounds. A sense of narrative lingers in these abandoned scenes, no longer a stage for comedy.

Cristian Alarcón Ismodes, Propaganda. 10mo aniversario (Propaganda. 10th Anniversary), 2010, video, sound, 2 min., 18 sec. Artwork © Cristian Alarcón Ismodes. This video is the would-be trailer of a propaganda film celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori’s “great victory”—his fraudulent election in 2000, imposed despite mass protests. The trailer is envisioned as if produced by Toho Studio of Japan—that is, in the style of Godzilla (1954). Fujimori’s ten-year authoritarian administration came to an abrupt end when he fled to Japan in 2000; he was later convicted of human rights violations, embezzlement, and bribery. Nevertheless, he still enjoys a measure of popular support, and the fictive trailer leaves open the question of whether the real monster is Fujimori or the mob of angry protesters in the streets.

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