Together with curator Gabriel Rodriguez Pellecer, Chilean curator Alexia Tala has been in charge of organizing the 22nd Paiz Art Biennial in Guatemala during a year with a pandemic crisis and persistent social and political instabilities, not just within the country but in Central America in general.
The biennial is one of the first of its kind in Latin America, and started 45 years ago as an influential local competition supported by the Paiz Foundation. Over time, the event has become one of the most striking platforms for the dialogue on contemporary art in that region of the Americas with the participation of jurors, critics and international artists like Brazil’s Aracy Amaral and Regina Silveira, Cuba’s Carlos Garaicoa and Mexico’s Belgian Francis Alys. The 22nd Paiz Art Biennial in Guatemala will be held from 6 May to 6 June 2021.
Curator Alexia Tala spoke with us about the event.
C&AL: How has the pandemic affected you?
Alexia Tala: It has forced us to think repeatedly about how to take advantage of the situation. Ultimately though, it has been worth it, and one very positive effect has been the democratization. This year, the Venice Biennial and the Guatemala mini-biennial are in the same boat, up in the air, in the cloud, and the opportunities are more equal. And so now is the time to take risks and aim for a wider scope, for educational projects and international dialogue.
C&AL: In a socially and democratically fragile country like Guatemala, where does an art biennial draw the line between the political and the aesthetic?
AT: There are two Guatemalas: the poor and the rich, one of power and one of dispossession, one where a genocide took place, and one where it didn’t. In the Hugo Quinto collection there is a canvas painting divided in two; one half is a flowery tablecloth with the words “A genocide happened here” and the other half is an elegant white tablecloth which reads “No genocide happened here”. That piece made me understand that these two places both exist in the present. And there, at the intersection between those two places, the biennial is located.
In order to see the present and glimpse into the future, we need to look at the past, where history and ancestral knowledge is contained.