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Artist Bernardo Oyarzún and curator Ticio Escobar represent Chile at the 57th Venice Art Biennale
Installation view of Werken by Bernardo Oyarzún, 57th Venice Biennale. Photographer: Daniela Aravena Jordán.

VENICE.- The National Council of Culture and Arts Chile announced details of artist Bernardo Oyarzún and curator Ticio Escobar’s presentation for Chile at the 57th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2017.

Bernardo Oyarzún represents the Chilean pavilion in the Arsenale at the Venice Art Biennale. The exhibition has been curated by Ticio Escobar.

Mr. Ernesto Ottone, Minister of Culture of Chile, said: “We are extremely happy with the decision made by the jury. I have admired the work of Bernardo Oyarzún for many years and am very excited about this project. Oyarzún explores the relationship between contemporary art and indigenous peoples, and I think this project will offer an important insight into the subject.”

Oyarzún’s project explores the theme of the current representation of the Mapuche community, a group of indigenous inhabitants of southcentral Chile and southwestern Argentina. The exhibition, entitled Werken, features an impressive installation of over 1,000 Mapuche kollong masks, traditionally used in ceremonies, located in the centre of the room, forming an area which occupies approximately 10 x 11 meters. The walls of the room feature red LED scroll signs that display 6,907 Mapuche surnames. Oyarzún’s work often combines anthropological, social and historical elements in order to present a critique of Chilean culture and society.

The masks were made one by one by forty Mapuche artisans who live in different communities in southern Chile, from a direct relationship established by the artist with each of them.

Curator Ticio Escobar is an academic, art critic and cultural promoter. In 1979 he founded the Museo del Barro (Museum of Pottery) in Asunción with the objective of preserving Paraguayan culture, and in the same year founded the Museo de Arte Indígena, Centro de Artes Visuales (Museum for Indigenous Art, Centre of Visual Art), of which he was director until 2008. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Visual Arts at Museo del Barro.

Regarding the election of the project that represents Chile at this Biennial, Ticio Escobar said: "I was interested in proposing the work of Bernardo Oyarzún, whom I consider to be one of the most solid names of contemporary art in Chile, because it allows me to work with historical contents and powerful politicians without neglecting the aesthetic and poetic dimension of the work. The indigenous issue, which has preoccupied me and occupied me for decades, allows me to enter into central problems of the reality of Latin America from the perspective of art. "

The selection of Bernardo Oyarzún and Ticio Escobar to represent the Chilean Pavillion at the Biennale was conducted through a call for curatorial proposals from Chile or any other Latin American country, held by the National Council for Culture and Arts (CNCA). More than 20 projects were submitted and evaluated by an international jury.

The work of Oyarzún at the Venice Biennale presents the issues surrounding Latin America’s indigenous peoples, a theme rarely explored at major exhibitions of international contemporary art.

Chile’s participation at the 57th International Art Exhibition in Venice is commissioned by the National Council of Culture and the Arts (CNCA) and organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through its Cultural Affairs Bureau (DIRAC) and Fundación Imagen de Chile.

Bernardo Oyarzún was born in 1963 in the province of Los Muermos in the south of Chile. He currently lives and works in Santiago. His work is inserted in a proletarian context, it’s references are taken from the marginal sectors of society and it has an anthropological basis that is associated with Latin American identity, its native roots and mestizaje. He combines anthropological, social, historical and ethnical elements in order to present, in a critical way, Chilean culture and society. For his installations he commonly uses documents and photographs of his personal history and origins, which are linked to the native forests of southern Chile and Mapuche culture, indigenous inhabitants of southcentral Chile and southwestern Argentina. His breakthrough was “Bajo Sospecha” (Under Suspension, 1998), an exhibition inspired by a past event, when he was arrested by Chilean police after being confused with a criminal. Oyarzún has exhibited at 18 solo shows in Chile and abroad, as well as 30 international exhibitions and biennales.

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