The exhibition Losing the human form. A seismic image of the 1980s in Latin America has been organised by Museo Reina Sofía
in collaboration with AECID, and curated by Red Conceptualismos del Sur. This show presents a vision of the tensions between art, politics and activism that took place during the 1980s in several Latin American territories. Through more than six hundred works photographs, videos and sound recordings to graphic and documentary material, as well as installations and drawings, Losing the human form makes out an image that, though not aiming to be panoramic or representative, does invite to rethink a series of micro-narratives and localised case studies, capable of allowing the viewer to approach a thoroughly unknown period.
The show evokes an image of the 1980s in Latin America that establishes a counterpoint between the effects of violence on bodies and the radical experiments in freedom and transformation which impugned the repressive order. Stricken bodies / mutant bodies. Between horror and festivity, the materials gathered show not only the consequences of mass disappearances and massacres under dictatorial régimes, states of siege and internal wars, but also various collective urges to devise modes of existing in a permanent state of revolution.
The exhibition points out the multiple and simultaneous appearance of new ways of making art and politics in different parts of Latin America in the 1980s. It presents the results of an ongoing research project, conducted under the auspices of Red Conceptualismos del Sur, whose first phase has concentrated on certain episodes in the Southern Cone, Brazil and Peru, with the inclusion of some individual case studies in Mexico, Colombia and Cuba. The historical period under consideration begins in 1973, the year of Pinochets coup détat in Chile, and continues up to 1994, when the Zapatista movement inaugurates a new cycle of protests that relaunches activism at an international level. The period corresponds to the consolidation of neoliberalism as a new hegemony, the demise of the real socialisms and the crisis of the traditional left.
The exhibition renders this panorama complex by retrieving experiments which suggested forms of resistance through fragile supports like serigraphy, performance, video, poetic action, experimental theatre and participative architecture. These practices can be grouped into three main areas. The first is visual politics, driven by social movements like the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and Mujeres por la Vida (Women for Life) in Chile. The second is acts of sexual disobedience, which include experiences of transvestism and corporalities that defy the traditional construction of genre. The last is the underground scene, which used music, partying and the do-it-yourself ethic to construct microcommunities and so make it possible to re-establish the social ties broken by terror.
All these experiments led to a loss of the human form, tensing and warping the humanist concept of the subject, and gave rise to new subjectivities that meant a crisis for familiar modes of existence and a transformation in ways of understanding and engaging in politics.
Through the exhibition, the spectator will discover the heterogeneity of cases included in the project. Episodes and experiences that go from the images registered by critical photojournalism during the Chilean and Argentinean dictatorships to the survival of the Arete Guasu ritual in an aboriginal community in Paraguay. From the actions of sexual subversion and performances in underground spaces in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru or Mexico to the creative strategies used by the human rights movements in the Southern Cone when it was time to make visible all people who ended up missing due to State terrorism. Also, the body is one of the key issues of the exhibition.
A powerful feature of the show is collectivity, not only in its very conception (and the involvement of more than 25 researchers) but also in its representation (most authors worked with or belonged to groups or collectives). One can find political organizations, such as Madres de Plaza de Mayo and Mujeres por la vida to collectives of artists as 3Nós3, Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis, Taller NN, C.A.Pa.Ta.Co (Colectivo de Arte Participativo Tarifa Común), Polvo de Gallina Negra, Gang, CADA, Periférico de Objetos or artists such as León Ferrari, Néstor Perlonger, Ney Matogrosso, Juan Dávila, Gianni Mestichelli, Paulo Bruscky, Clemente Padín, Sergio Zevallos, Miguel Ángel Rojas, etc.