Living Time: Art and Life After ‘Art-Into-Life’: Claudia Calirman

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After ‘Art-Into-Life’. We’ve asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Claudia Calirman (Assistant Professor at John Jay College (CUNY)), who is presenting in the session “Life” and Transnational Curating.

“Art and Violence in Latin America Today”

I would argue that the most interesting artistic practices coming out of Latin America today dealing with the interplay of art and life address harsh aspects of reality by reenacting and even exaggerating them. The artistic outcomes can reasonably be labeled perverse, as they, in many instances, cross the line between what is acceptable and what is intolerable. These artists overstress the violence embedded in everyday life in major cities in Latin America, creating a kind of hyperrealism.

In order to expose existing mechanisms of injustice, violence, and inequality, artists such as Santiago Sierra, Anibal Lopes, Reginda Galindo, and Teresa Margolles among others, mimic society’s authoritarianism and lack of ethical values, exposing in radical ways diverse forms of brutal violence and exploitation. They are not looking for a meaningful or constructive way to engage with society. On the contrary, by blurring the lines between legality and illegality, ethics and lack of values, they push their artistic practices to the limits.

These artists are not promoting violence, but rather enacting and aestheticizing it to raise public awareness. In a world bombarded by images of poverty, tragedy, and exploitation, it is easy to be numbed and indifferent to violence. Riveting works of art today have the capacity to wake up the viewer, to create a sense of discomfort, to undo the numbing and the saturation created by the daily assault of images of violence. What would be a responsible, committed approach to representing such violent conditions in Latin America? Where do artists cross the line to the point that their practices are considered unacceptable? When does the socially redeeming shock value of their works exceed its moral turpitude?

By engaging the audience in strategies involving illegal actions and disturbing performances that include hired killers, abducted passersby, prostitutes, drug addicts, illegal immigrants, and marginalized figures, these artistic practices today are radical and extreme.