The section, that presents historical works that broke paradigms in the history of art, seeks to rescue Ante América, a collective exhibition curated in 1992 by Gerardo Mosquera, Carolina Ponce de León and Rachel Weiss, and organized by the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango of the Banco de la República. Gabriela Rangel, writer, researcher and curator of this component of ARTBO | Fair proposes to activate the memory of this exhibition in order to put it in correspondence —as a palimpsest— with works by contemporary artists from the hemisphere, placing Bogotá as the center of this story, thirty years after the commemoration of the Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America.
Ante América, dos tiempos
The context of 1992
The year 2022 brings the countdown of three decades of the commemoration of the so-called Fifth Centenary of the Discovery of America (Quinto Centenario). This historic milestone was marked by a series of institutional celebrations and cultural programs organized in 1992 throughout the region, many of them recalling, uncritically, the arrival of the fleet of Christopher Columbus in America. The Fifth Centenary also evoked the processes of conquest and colonization that took place in 1492 a few years after the fall of the Berlin Wall; the end of dictatorships in the Southern Cone; the beginning of the peace processes in Central America, the resurgence of the armed conflict between the guerrillas, the State, and the drug cartels in Colombia; Venezuelan Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frías’ staging of a failed coup; and Fernando Collor de Mello’s impeachment from the Presidency of Brazil; everything on the threshold of Internet dissemination.
Even though in 1992 there was no clear regional consensus on the problematic effects attached to this historical event, today it is considered that the arrival of Europeans in the Americas forced the creation of a community for the Spanish language (Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English) to the detriment of the rich existence and legacy of native languages. This also brought the universalization of the Catholic religion to the point of excluding the beliefs of the original peoples of the Americas and added the thorny problem of slavery as a system of labor, generating a racial violence that continues to overdetermine the structure of our social relations.
In addition, it is argued that the conditions established by the Emperial regime of the Spanish monarchy and the subsequent European colonizing trade companies, rendered impossible the foundation of sustainable national constructions in the present. Premised on the principle that the conquest caused the total or partial destruction of the Amerindian cultures that preceded the arrival of the Europeans, and prompted the forced labor and genocide of Africans, who were transformed into an abstract work force as a result of slavery. It also imposed a political, economic, and social colonial regime that lasted until the emergence of the emancipation processes in the 19th century.
Thirty years ago, the now controversial Quinto Centenario, which in 1992 offered a supposedly universal framework for rethinking regional cultural identities at the end of the 20th century, reappears to polemically evaluate a set of imaginary constructions emerging from a cultural archipelago that no longer operates from the Center-Periphery, North-South binary systems.
Recovering Ante America
In a context where the threat of the advent of a new Cold War, with a complicated chessboard of international relations in which national narratives have de-fragmented to de-structure local identities from iconoclastic perspectives and activisms, we propose to reposition Ante America (Bogota, 1992) curated by Gerardo Mosquera, Carolina Ponce de Leon, and Rachel Weiss, as a pioneering post ethnographic exhibition that stated from its declaration of intentions that it presented a "meta and multicultural" model. The transversal vision of history proposed by this groundbreaking exhibition and its postmodern centrifugal lines, also projected the intellectual scope reached later in the emblematic book Beyond The Fantastic. A volume edited by Gerardo Mosquera and published in England (ICA London) where a new generation of critics and curators from the Americas examined culture and visual arts of Latin America, stripped of the nostalgia of utopian resistance articulated during the Cold War under the influence of the Cuban Revolution. The ethno-poetic approach of the curators of Ante America chose to examine historical relations of the colonial past and the present social formations marked by fractures, violence, and unresolved aspirations of very diverse communities, often antagonistic to each other, in order to confront the celebrations of the Fifth Centenary from a pluri-temporal perspective and in tune with the realities of the visual culture of the Americas from the concepts of difference and the right to opacity, both taken from post-colonial theory.
Ante América was presented at the Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango (Banco de la República) in Bogotá and included two additional modules: "Cambio de Foco", a photography exhibition, and a theoretical seminar attended by Frederick Jameson, Nelly Richard, and Mari Carmen Ramírez, among others. It was an exhibition that traveled to several venues, generating an unusual critical reception for Latin American contemporary art.
For ARTBO | Fair’s 2022 Referentes section, I propose to present a selection of works by some of the artists that were represented at Ante América and by the photographers of the "Cambio de Foco" exhibition module, including a section with both catalogs, a diagram of the tour in various venues and documentation of the shows and the symposium. This selection will be contained in the fair's exhibition space designated for Referentes, along with integrated works by contemporary artists who were not represented in the 1992 shows and who today intervene in the narrative of the past with contents that in 1992 could not be addressed in the multicultural agenda required by the Zeitgeist concurrent with the end of the modernization processes that deconstructed Ante America and its modules. These artists work on the following issues: the Venezuelan diaspora, migratory processes, the autonomous identity of native peoples, art as a therapeutic space, the biosphere and necropolitics, gender and sexual diversity, the marks of slavery and modernity as a vehicle for experimentation, formulated outside the framework of the historical avant-garde.
Gabriela is an independent curator and researcher based in Brooklyn, New York. She recently served as Artistic Director of Malba, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (2019-2021). From 2004 to 2019 she was Director of Visual Arts and Chief Curator at Americas Society in New York. She holds an M.A. in Curatorial Studies from Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson), an M.A. in Media and Communication Studies from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (Caracas) and Film Studies from the Escuela Internacional de Cine de San Antonio de los Baños (Cuba). She has also worked at the Fundación Cinemateca Nacional and the Museo Alejandro Otero in Caracas, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. She has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions of modern and contemporary art with artists such as Erick Meyenberg, Marta Minujín, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gordon Matta-Clark, Arturo Herrera, Leonilson, and Alejandro Xul Solar, among others.
She has also written for specialized magazines such as Art in America, Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, Parkett, and Art Nexus. Has edited and written for art publications including Terapia (Malba 2021), Pedro Reyes Sociatry (2022), Contesting Modernity (Museum of Fine Arts Houston, 2018), Abraham Cruzvillegas, Empty Lot (Tate, 2015), Marta Minujín: Minucodes (Americas Society, 2015), Javier Téllez/Vasco Araujo, Larger than Life (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2012), Arturo Herrera (Transnocho Arte, 2009), and A Principality of its Own (Americas Society-Harvard UniversityPress, 2006), among others.