Listening to artists is often the best way to understand a country. In the words of curator and art critic Hans Ulrich Obrist: “If there was ever a time that the world needed artists, it is now. We need their radical ideas, visions, and perspectives in society.”
We live in a time of transitions: in society, technology, environment, migration, and economy.
HERE/NOW presents these transitions through art. Our first edition presents artwork from Colombia.
HERE/NOW: Current Visions from Colombia features twenty artists presenting contemporary art and photo journalism created in the context of Colombia. The exhibition explores these artists’ responses to the shifting cultural, social and political landscapes of a country scarred by a 60-year long history of armed struggle and includes a selection of powerful photographic images that document it. The exhibition is presented partly at Framer Framed, with a focus on contemporary works, and partly at Beautiful Distress House, where photojournalism plays a more significant role.
HERE/NOW speaks of a time and place faced with the paradoxes of social conflict. By mixing the metaphorical languages of art with the more direct stance of documentary photography, the exhibition seeks to bring nuances and complexity to the understanding of the experience of life and art in the context of social conflict. The different visions featured in HERE/NOW confirm the potential that visual culture has in Colombia as a form of resistance and questioning and the crucial role it plays in building a memory of the present.
The traveler, the displaced, living in isolation. Having no safety or security in your own country, living in turmoil. Making transitions – literally and figuratively. By offering artists a platform, HERE/NOW presents these transitions, makes them visible, and opens them up for discussion.
HERE/NOW also introduces the power of documentary photography, grounding the viewing experience with compelling images of the armed struggle. This additional component of the exhibition, for which Carolina Ponce de León collaborated with non-fiction photographer Stephen Ferry, will consist of the presentation of Violentology, a visual anthology of the armed conflict by Ferry, in addition to photography by other journalists who have captured the Colombian conflict and the aftermath of the peace agreement settled between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in December 2016. These photographic selections are not meant to present a complete picture; rather, specific visual testaments of that experience.
The exhibition brings together both established and upcoming artists, revealing how artistic perceptions on the country’s history of political violence have shifted between generations. The artworks on view at Framer Framed, mainly by artists who came of age artistically in the 1980s and early 90s, can be characterized by the use of conceptual and metaphorical languages to speak of the human cost of the Colombian conflict. These are works that tend to be formally subtle, austere, imbued with a sense of mourning. A highlight is the installation Narcisos by Oscar Muñoz that uses ephemeral materials to relate to memory, loss, and the precarious nature of human life. Muñoz, a recipient of the Prince Claus Award in 2013, is one of the most significant contemporary visual artists in his country and whose work has gained solid international recognition in recent years.
In contrast, the works presented at BDH, primarily by a younger generation of artists who emerged in the local art scene in the last decade, tend to exhibit perspectives that are more critical and cynical in tone and in which humor and irony are meaningful tactics. These works look less at the traumatic effects of political violence and more at the role the media plays in defining the symbolic order that represents the war. The disparities in approaches and languages that rise between the two parts of the exhibition evoke the ungraspable nature of Colombian reality.
HERE/NOW #1 presents an international debate series between participating artists, the curators, and other specialists (journalists, historians, philosophers) who, through dialogue and discussion, will address the role of the artists in critical times.
The debate series seeks to draw attention to social and political transitions like the one in Colombia, which is inevitably connected to a worldwide crisis burdened by a growing number of refugees (Colombia has the second highest number of internally displaced persons in the world), local and international migrations, environmental and natural catastrophes, among many other forms of social and economic inequities.
The debate series aims to address questions directly related to Colombian art such as:
- What does it mean for an artist to practice art in times of armed conflict?
- How are artists engaged with the current transition from armed conflict to peace?
- To what extent can their work make a critical contribution to future change?
- Can an artwork stand independently from its context?
- Can social reality and the artist’s imagination be separated?