Simposio Pasos a Desnivel
The symposium Overpasses. Between acts of resistance and sirens’ calls was held on August 6, 7 and 8 at the Cultural Center of Spain in Guatemala. It was supported by the Foundation for Arts Initiative, the Paiz Foundation for Education and Culture, CREA and the Cultural Center of Spain in Guatemala. It sought to generate a reflection on the idea of contemporary art practices in Guatemala. Its main objective was to articulate and promote a debate on the role of public cultural institutions; and the contributions of independent initiatives, as well as the impact of festivals, biennials and cultural centers during these last decades.
Overpasses (2001) is the name of one of the few published recounts of the map of contemporary production in Guatemala between the 90s and 2000, when an important urban artistic scene gave identity to the Historic Center. The city, on the other hand, was changing topography from the construction of huge overpasses aimed to lighten traffic. Eighteen years later, we return to the name of this book to make a second diagnosis of what the contributions of contemporary art have been.
This symposium was opened as a forum that sought to promote an exercise of critical thinking in the face of political, ethical, social and cultural contentment. During three days, it gathered academicians, cultural managers, artists, curators and other actors, to reflect, discuss and debate how they have experience – and continue to live – artistic practices in Guatemala.
Two complementary activities were carried out during the symposium days. The first was the Mutual Listening workshop, an exercise in reflection on issues that cross cut art and education projects, focused on community practices. It was facilitated by Sofía Olascoaga (Mexico City), artist, curator and researcher. During the night an exhibition with a group of representative works housed by this Cultural Center in its newly inagurated locations from 2004 on, was inaugurated in the Cultural Center of Spain.
PASOS A DESNIVEL. THE EXHIBIT.
The symposium Pasos a Desnivel was complementes with an exhibit. It was a selection of emblematic works, developed between 2004 and 2018. Its authors emerged from emblematic events in Guatemala, such as the Blue October festival (2000), projects such as the festivals of the Historic Center and Urban Art in the late 1990s; and from initiatives such as Colloquia, Casa Bizarra, La Curandería and others.
A space such as the Cultural Center of Spain in Guatemala, where this exhibit was held, evidenced the creative vitality of the artists of those years and welcomed it in its rooms through exhibitions that marked a before and after in contemporary art in the country. Performance, video, installations, photography and action art were the main means. However, the direct intervention of walls and floors was a characteristic feature, almost symptomatic, of what happened there. To this day, the walls of this space show the artistic need to dialogue and experiment with the possibilities of emptiness and its ephemeral condition.
Many of the artists who exhibited in this cultural center lived their childhood during the armed conflict and were not entirely aware of what was happening. They used art as a vehicle for their questions and searches during a postwar period that did not bring answers. In their works we find references to problems such as population outflows and human migrations, the questioning of identities, the body and the territory; the uncertainty of history, among others, but they also opened us up to audacity, daring and black humor. Gathered within the framework of the Pasos a Desnivel symposium, these works provide coordinates on how the contemporary art scene in Guatemala changed from the beginning of the century, and how the view of our present was modified based on artistic practices of the last years.