La Guerra Que No Hemos Visto: Un Proyecto de Memoria Historica
The War We Have Not Seen: A Historical Memory Project
Museo La Tertulia – CALI, Colombia
[January 27 to April 17 2011]
A Project by Juan Manuel Echavarria
Curated by Ana Tiscornia
With this show having been mounted first by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota late last year, its second and extended incarnation at Cali’s premier modern art museum is well merited. At first glance, the colourful collection of paintings strikes as infantile, primary pieces looking for a home on a fridge somewhere. A second look, though, turns into a stare. These are not the works of children, but of fledgling artists – former combatants in Colombia‘s ongoing internal conflict. Organized by Echavarria into workshops aimed at bringing the etchings of war from the mind to the surface, aimed at capturing and preserving the collective memory.
Grand pastoral scenes of green hillsides are scarred with blood and big blue skies sub in bullets for birds. Tiny figures are out of scale with the works, but perfectly in scale as they relate humans to the universe. Tiny figures carry guns and knives. Tiny figures are being shot and stabbed.
The title is an interesting choice, no mistake undoubtedly, in the selection of ‘el preterito perfecto’ or ‘the present perfect’ for the tense. Perhaps as a student of the language, the choice stands out more prominently, but its use conveys that this War is not over, that past events continue into the present. Not the “War We Did Not See” but a translation more along the lines of “The War We May or May Not Have Seen But Could Still See”.
So, who’s fighting you ask? In general terms, it’s FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionares de Colombia] aka versus paramilitary groups sponsored by Colombia’s government [the US among others]. Those interested can read up on the conflict and its roots in La Violencia. Not to say that there has not been a marked improvement in safety and security for citizens and visitors alike, especially in the last five to ten years. Rather, to acknowledge what Colombians freely do, that a tougher past has given way to a tough present, but in spite of this, by and large citizens remain optimistic and well positioned for the future.
Below are a few personal highlights from the show. It is interesting to note that no individual artists are credited in the show – nor are they credited in the online catalogue – testament it seems to the still sensitive nature of their past and present roles in society.
After a few days exploring within the city limits of Medellin, Colombia – I wound my way up and out of its central valley into the hills of nearby Santa Elena. A new friend invited me to make a painting on the premises and this is how things shaped up.