"Creating the past and forgetting the future. Sandra Monterroso and Alfredo Ceibal's participation in "This must be a place for hummingbirds"
Posted on Nov - 25 - 2019
courtesy: Galeria im Körnerpark and Nihad Nino Pusija
Last Friday, November 16, in the Neukölln, a southeastern borough of Berlin, the halls of the Galerie im Körnerpark, presented the work of Guatemalan artists in the exhibition This might be a place for hummingbirds. Curated by Çagla Ilk and Antje Weitzel, the exhibition welcomes a new generation of Guatemalan artists who are rethinking and challenging Guatemala’s historical trajectory as well as contemporary conditions.
Besides bearing the scars of a violent civil war and brutal oppression in the 1980s, Guatemala's society is also troubled by experiences of violence, corruption, and trauma. However, in the face of adversity, artists and creatives are vocal about their critiques of the status quo and present their work to proposed ideas of a better life, while engaging with the international discourse.
The exhibition includes the work of Marilyn Boror, Edgar Calel, Will Fredo, Regina José Galindo, Esvin Alarcón Lam, Joaquín Orellana Mejía, Ángel Poyón & Fernando Poyón, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Maya Saravia, Deborah Stratman, Johanna Unzueta as well as Scoop Art’s Sandra Monterroso and Alfredo Ceibal.
While walking through the gallery, Alfredo Ceibal’s
Event Horizon/ World Society of Volunteers (2012-2019) draws attention and invites the passerby to dive into his fantastic and intricate drawings. The Antrophocene is a new layer of the Holocene, where humanity has marked the earth beyond foreseeable repair, similarly to how historical events have left civilizations forever changed. As past cultures underwent the destruction of their way of life through violent acts of conquest, continuous damage is being collectively inflicted on the environment, where the trace of humanity will remain beyond the event horizon of our human myopia.
In an attempt to go beyond the conceivable and deny the state of affairs for an alternative present, Ceibal’s drawings overstep the constraints of the canvas and venture into the unexplored and barren walls of the gallery. Fueled by hopes for a new society, free from the horrors and damages of history and capitalism, the artist’s imagination transcends the limits of an uncertain future that swallows any possible foretelling of things to come. His landscapes and characters become ephemerous, only promising not to remain and to disappear, dissolving into a melioristic dream. All the fears that tarnish Guatemala today, dissipate into quiet oblivion, if only for a moment when Ceibal’s fantastic world intoxicates with endless possibilities of a better world.
At the back of the exhibition, Sandra Monterroso’s La otra linea historica, cara o cruz (2017) occupies a corner of the gallery. A string concatenates square pieces of fabric dyed with native achiote pigments, embellished with black feathers and bronze coins. Taking a closer look, the coins feature the profile of Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas (1484-1566) an important figure in colonial times. In his time, de las Casas was a pivotal character, being one of the most vocal critics of the Spanish colonization of the Americas as well as an active advocate for the rights of the indigenous people. Mixing traditional Pre-Hispanic techniques with coins, symbolical artefacts which the Spanish use to introduce western notions of currency and value, the portrait of de las Casas appears alternating between heads or tails, alluding to the fortuitous nature of historical events and outcomes, where two cultures collided to form one converging path, interlaced in antagonistic synchronicity.
Leaving behind the artwork feels similar to taking temporal distance, and as the face of de las Casas, becomes indistinct and anonymous, Monteros’s linear constellation becomes an homage to her nameless ancestors.
Monterroso’s next piece entitled Tus tortillas mi amor (Your tortillas, my love) is a video performance where the artist appears preparing tortilla dough by chewing and spitting out maize. As she makes enough, she shapes the tortillas and fries them in the traditional comal, while reciting poetry in the Q’eqchi’ Mayan language. Through action, the artists address gender roles and by performing one of the most quotidian activities in parts of Guatemala, she alludes to the Mayan cosmogonic myth of Mayan creation in the Popol Vuh, where the gods came together to inhabit the world with new creatures made out of corn.
Whilst walking around the exhibition halls of the Galerie im Körnerpark, surrounded by an international and local crowd, Guatemalan artists created an atmosphere, constructed by the interpretations of their country. A history of violence and oppression in Guatemala has not diminished artistic spirit, and against all contemporary obstacles, historical traumas, and de-colonial urges, artist’s voices like Alfredo Ceibal and Sandra Monterroso remember the past but strive to move forward into a brighter future.
The exhibition This might be the place for hummingbirds will run unto February 5, 2020, and was made possible with the support of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe / Programme Open-Sector Funding, the Exhibition Fund for Municipal Galleries, the Fund for Exhibition Fees for Visual Artists, and the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations.
By: Gabriela Martinez de la Hoz