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b. 1963, Pitalito, Colombia
Wilson Díaz was born in Pitalito, Colombia in 1963, and attended the Estudio Artes Plásticas en la Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. His work is informed by the complex sociopolitical context of his native country, and its force and poetics arise from its formal simplicity and open, searching quality. This results in outwardly simple documents rooted in moments and encounters that are often lost to history, yet which form the vital fabric of human experience.
Díaz’s practice includes music, painting, performance art, photography, and video. While the range of mediums and approaches is broad, Díaz’s oeuvre is unified by his enduring commitment to exploring the roots of conflict and corruption in Colombia, specifically by interrogating the ubiquitous representation of this violence in the mass media. In capturing intimate moments and tracing complex constellations of human and political influence, his art offers persuasive alternatives to conventional perceptions shaped by ideology and propaganda. Alongside his individual practice, Díaz is a member of Helena Producciones, a grassroots collective of artists formed in 1998 to build an inclusive creative community in the challenging context of Cali, Colombia, and which produces a regular performance festival.
In the video Southern Rebels (Los Rebeldes del Sur, 2002), Díaz shows a group of uniformed, armed members of the Marxist-Leninist group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia–People’s Army (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo, or FARC) performing Colombian folk music to an audience of tourists and local residents. The soldiers perform two songs in the Vallenato style, a highly narrative genre that traditionally gave voice to the struggles of Columbia’s rural poor. In Díaz’s work, however, the singers are shown to have replaced the traditional lyrics with their own, singing first about the beauty of the landscape and love, then about the war they are waging against opposing paramilitary forces. By appropriating a form of popular protest song and conflating beauty and violence, the soldiers embody the contradictory nature of human identity and the ambiguity of repression. In a number of other works, Díaz employs or refers to the coca plant, investigating it as the locus of economic, political, and social exploitation and conflict within Colombia.
Díaz has had solo exhibitions at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá (1998); Museo de Arte Moderno de Barranquilla, Colombia (1999); and Museo de Arte Moderno de Pereira, Colombia (2012). He has participated in group exhibitions including Visionaries, Media in Latin America, Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango, Bogotá (2009); Master-Copy, Centro Cultural Colombo Americano, Bogotá (2012); Six Lines of Flight: Shifting Geographies in Contemporary Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012); and Bogotápolis, Stenersenmuseet, Oslo (2013). He has also taken part in the Bogotá Biennial and Venice Biennale (both 2003); Liverpool Biennial (2004); Havana Biennial (2009); Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2011); and Open-Air-Skulpturen-Triennale, Berlin (2013). He has held residencies with the Cité Internationale des Artes, Paris (2002–03), Gasworks, London (2004), and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2009). Díaz lives and works in Cali, Colombia.