Highlights of 2019

Looking Back at an Intense and Interesting Year

Friends and collaborators of Contemporary And América Latina (C&AL) reflect about artistic highlights of the year that is now ending.

Tiago Sant’Ana, Brazilian artist

2019 was a complex year regarding the political context of Latin America. We had the insurgence of various popular movements against liberal governments (such as in Chile), while in Brazil one saw the strengthening of the extreme right – with the appeals to violence against minorities, contingencies in the cultural sector and censorship in the arts.

As a response to this, several artists have worked to counter the advance of conservative policies by articulating not only macro political issues but also factors that operate in an attempt to change subjectivities and the imaginary. In this context, one of the highlights of 2019 in the Brazilian artistic panorama was the collective exhibition À Nordeste, which took place at SESC 24 de Maio in São Paulo. It’s curatorship revealed regional tensions within Brazil itself, showing how much of the artistic production coming out of the Northeast region of the country points, both historically and contemporarily, to areas that escape conservative policies.

In addition to this exhibition, I highlight the research in the body of work created by the visual artist No Martins, by filling his paintings with an aesthetic and political vigor through the casting of a glance on the narratives, life forms and resistance of the Afro-Brazilian population in contemporary times.

Albertine Kopp, head of the Caribbean Art Initiative (CAI)

CAI is gearing up for its first major project that was awarded to us by Kulturstiftung Basel Hermann Geiger (KBHG): in 2020 (May to July), CAI and under the curatorial leadership of Yina Jiménez Suriel and Pablo Guardiola will be running the inaugural exhibition in KBHG’s new permanent exhibition space in Basel. The exhibition will feature contemporary art from the whole Caribbean region and is a major milestone for our still young non-for profit organization. Getting this traction that drives us forward was a big achievement for CAI in 2019 and we look forward and hope to enlarge our family in 2020! Happy New Year.

Lia Colombino, director of the Museum of Indigenous Art in Asunción, Paraguay

In Paraguay we are experiencing a certain split between politics and visual practices. The political outbreaks in the Latin American region do not have a resonance in this country. We are submerged in the long post-dictatorial nap. Art has been for Paraguay a place of resistance, something that still exists today but has not had the incidence that would be desired in the sense of an interference, something that stops the flow, for a second, of the daily and tired becoming of days.

Marina Reyes Franco, independent curator from Puerto Rico

Making art and working in the cultural sphere in 2019 Puerto Rico involves creating and pushing forward projects in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis since 2006. Uncertain political futures, mass migration and the devastation left by the passing of Hurricanes Irma and Maria – and the terrible way they were dealt with – have left many people struggling still. Simultaneously, this attention on Puerto Rico has also created more opportunities for artists and cultural workers, myself included, to remain in Puerto Rico and keep making headway within our established interests and concerns. Being able to stay home, be close to my family, and also commence work at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, with future plans for exhibitions, artistic commissions and inter Caribbean exchanges, is the most personally transformative thing that’s happened to me. At large, there is no doubt the events of the Summer of ’19 were the most important. The fact that hundreds of thousands of us – colonial subjects – rose up against the governor and other members of his administration after a 889-page Telegram chat filled with disdain for the people they had power over was leaked to the Center for Investigative Journalism was incredible. For 12 days in July, Puerto Ricans were in the streets demanding his resignation and he finally was forced to leave office and the island too. Immediately after the news broke, we celebrated but also a sense of dread fell over me: AND NOW WHAT? The activism and contributions by artists also helped bring about the immense popular mobilization of people who never thought they would be part of a political protest before. We have a lot of work to do, but art gives us ideas for possible futures.

Keyna Eleison, Brazilian curator

Art and politics have never been separated from each other. The current violent and silencing structure makes a point of developing hollow arguments to formally justify the difference between one and the other, but as something coming from humanity, art and politics are in the field of life, they have the same agency: people.

Nowadays it has produced a hostile environment and the art field is trying to realize its maintenance powers and implosions in the status quo. And the most striking point is that many of the powers are not dichotomous, do not oppose and often go together and complement each other. Just as a real critique of bureaucratic errors can lead to a more corrupt rather than freer and more conscious structure, the art scene is set in the revolution and can be supported by old and despotic discourses.

As a curator, my revolution comes in assuming the possibility of error in criticism and the constant revision in discourse, so that it is updated, strengthened without fear of falling into contradiction. I research and work to may be free to understand my role in doubt and in its formative and deforming need.

Within hostility I come with love as a method of developing concepts and apprehending epistemologies, the presence of bodies as literature and pedagogy in spaces and temporalities.