Department of Art and Art history and GSAHA (Graduate Student Art History Association) are hosting 2012 Eleanor Greenhill Symposium on Saturday, March 31th in ART 1.110. This annual Symposium showcases the breadth of new research by Art History graduate students for the department and the campus community. The Symposium is designed to encourage the sharing of scholarship and ideas.
CLAVIS will be proudly represented by Dorota Biczel and Luis Vargas-Santiago.
Read on below for the program of the Symposium and Dorota’s and Luis’s abstracts.
2012 Eleanor Greenhill Symposium
Saturday, March 31 • ART 1.110
CLAVIS Students’ presentations
Self-construction and the meaning of democracy: Los Bestias architecture group, Lima, 1984–1987
Los Bestias, one of the constructions of “Deshechos en Arquitectura,” Lima, Peru, 1984. Courtesy Alfredo Márquez.
In my paper I consider anarchist, informal architectural interventions realized in Lima, Peru, between 1984 and 1987 by an amorphous collective called Los Bestias (The Beasts). Since the group built them with their own hands, using recycled and discarded materials, it was often nicknamed “architects-masons,” “architects with dirty faces,” and “kings of trash.” I argue that at the core of the contestatory endeavors of the Bestias were the vital issues of collective existence and decision-making. Their actions rearticulated the very meaning of the term “democracy” during the period when the concept itself was under assault as a result of extreme violence unleashed by the two sides of the Peruvian Civil War (1980–2000): the Maoist guerilla group, Sendero Luminoso, and the governmental military forces.
Concentrating on two of the Bestias’ projects, Deshechos de Arquitectura (1984) and Lima – Utopía Mediocre (1987), I trace how the group’s ephemeral, makeshift proposals were crucial exercises in the grassroots efforts to reformulate the beliefs on who and how would have the access and the right to the city; to planning and to utilization of urban space. Taking the phrase “democracy building” as an architectural metaphor, I see the Bestias’ projects as decisive attempts to construct the city from the literal and metaphorical ground up, harnessing the energy of the emergent youth subcultures and the new migrant populations, during the time when such venture seemed least likely to occur. The collective rejected homogeneous entities proposed by the dominant ideologies, “Leninist-Maoist” revolution and neoliberal modernization. Instead the Bestias envisioned a collective body that operated on participatory, non-identitarian principles of subversive, pragmatic realism of an anarchist kind: a society that refused hegemonic powers and that did not strive to totalize itself.
Zapata in the Mirror: A Transnational Reading for Mexican Art
Whereas Mexican art and culture are widely recognized as key elements to the formation and growth of Chicano Art, art historiography written from Mexico has overlooked and sometimes ignored the work of Mexican-descendant artists. In fact, by looking to scholarship and exhibitions produced in Mexico in the past five decades, one could presume that Mexican art history has been reluctant to incorporate Chicano artists and/or works of art comprising Mexican iconographies within its narrative. Drawing from the idea of mirrored images and Freud’s concept on the “narcissism of minor differences,” I aim to analyze why this omission has taken place, as I also attempt to demonstrate a need to rethink Mexican art history through the lenses of Transnationalism and artistic diaspora.
Different representations of Revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata—drawing from examples of Diego Rivera’s murals and Speedy Gonzalez to the work of Chicano artists—will serve as sites for discussing the intertwined and complex visual network between Mexico and the U.S., and between Mexican and Chicano art narratives. I will read Zapata’s visual repertoire in the light of processes of consumption and transformation of Mexican imaginaries in the U.S. Historicizing Zapata’s image in American visual culture, therefore, serves as a useful tool to locate and understand the innovation, affirmation, and transformation of identities for Mexican and Mexican-descendant populations on both sides of the border.