Political Activism featuring Wilson Díaz

2:45 | Published on July 2, 2014 | 77 Views

Pablo León de la Barra, Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Latin America, reveals how Latin American artists have employed the strategies of Conceptual art to subvert the region’s political and economic systems and situations. The curator describes how Colombian exhibition artist Wilson Díaz makes work that explores the damage wrought in his home country by its cocaine trade; featured in Under the Same Sun are a neon text, and works on paper that Díaz made with coca leaf pulp that allude to the plant’s roles as medicine, consumer product, and illegal narcotic.

For more information, visit the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

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Since the early seventies, late sixties, a lot of Conceptual artists were using Conceptual art as a way to manifest themselves politically, especially because they were working in repressive regimes, under military dictatorships. Conceptual art proved to be a less visible way of dissent and protest, a way of infiltrating the system, a way of subverting it, and transmitting messages. So political activism continued to be present in different ways, and in different artists today.

In the exhibition is Wilson Díaz, who’s an artist from Colombia, born in the town of Pitalito. He comes from a town where the drug economy was always very present. The cocaine trade in the daily life of every inhabitant was there—there was no way to escape from that. So different works that he’s done have to do with finding out how the coca leaf is present in everyday life, how the coca leaf also had historical everyday uses, as part of the culture, but also how its illegal economy, and its consumption beyond the borders of Colombia has produced a climate of violence, and of murder, you know? Which has affected, in a way, many of the inhabitants not only of Colombia, but of the rest of Latin America.

Of the works we’re presenting, one is two drawings—the drawings are made with the pulp of the coca leaf. And in one, he writes the indigenous names of the cocaine leaf, and in the other, the scientific, or as he calls it, the colonized name of the coca plant. So, we go back to the idea of indigenous knowledge, to the idea of how the plant was used before, and how now, even though illegal, it has been transformed into a merchandise that produces a worldwide economy of millions, you know? And the other work is a neon piece that says “The movement of the liberation of the coca plant.” And of course, in doing so he liberates the coke economy of all that has violently affected people like him, his family, friends, and most of the people around him.