Sandra Gamarra turns the Spanish Pavilion in Venice into an ephemeral museum to decolonize artwork (and minds) | Culture | EUROtoday

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In the choice museum that Sandra Gamarra has simply inaugurated within the Spanish Pavilion on the Venice Biennale there are adulterated variations of work by Velázquez, Murillo and Zurbarán. Tropical gardens wherein romantic painters, dazzled by their sensory ecstasy, forgot to incorporate the native inhabitants, on which the artist has inscribed a handful of quotes from ecofeminist thinkers. Taxonomies of castes in colonial Mexico that accounted for all potential unions between settlers and indigenous folks, reflecting institutional racism but in addition the function of ladies as a mere reproductive machine. And additionally photos of abandoned cities in right this moment's empty Spain, reproduced on copper sheets because the painters did throughout their grand tour by the ruins of Italy and Greece, which Gamarra has exhibited in show circumstances loaned by the Mint.

Gamarra, born in Peru 52 years in the past and residing in Madrid for 20 years, is the primary Latin American to characterize Spain on the world's largest modern artwork occasion. Her venture, Migrant artwork gallery, revisits, reinterprets and repaints round fifty historic work from Spanish collections, from the interval of the Empire to the Enlightenment. They relaxation within the Prado, the Museum of America, the MNAC of Barcelona, ​​the Military Museum of Toledo, the Thyssen-Bornemisza assortment or in museums in Valencia, A Coruña, the Canary Islands or Melilla, though they don’t seem to be all the time displayed of their rooms. Gamarra reveals them on this pastiche of an encyclopedic museum, extra mischievous than violent in its dissidence, which covers the basic genres in portray – landscapes, portraits, nonetheless lifes, scientific illustrations and botanical drawings – to disclose, all the time with a half smile, the colonial bias that hides the Spanish inventive heritage .

“If there is something that has radicalized me, it is having a child. The ability of our generation to invent solutions is extinct,” says the artist.

The venture opposes the imaginative and prescient of the museum as a impartial or apolitical entity, and proposes one other institutional mannequin that isn’t afraid to confront the colonial wound and dares to handle points as thorny as racism, sexism or extractivism. A convincing try to decolonize inventive establishments, the trendy verb because the Minister of Culture, Ernest Urtasun, used it, and which so bothers sectors of the suitable and the intense proper? For Gamarra, this cultural conflict appears to matter little to him: he has been coping with these points in his work for 15 years with out being bothered by how a lot or how little they irritate. “The political context has not changed my proposal. If there is something that has radicalized me, it is having had a child. I have realized that the ability of our generation to invent solutions is extinct,” mentioned Gamarra in Venice, a couple of hours after the inauguration.

The room dedicated to 'virgin landscapes' in the Spanish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, with works from the Prado and Thyssen reinterpreted by Sandra Gamarra.
The room devoted to 'virgin landscapes' within the Spanish Pavilion on the Venice Biennale, with works from the Prado and Thyssen reinterpreted by Sandra Gamarra.Oak Taylor-Smith

His pavilion is “a tool” donated in life to those that will come after. “Decolonization cannot be limited only to the restitution of works of art. It has to be a process that is maintained over time,” says the artist. Next to her, the venture commissioner, Agustín Pérez Rubio, nodded. “It is a word that I feel less and less comfortable with, because its use is being abused until it breaks. Museums must be decolonized, but it will be of no use if we do not also do it with the school, with the historical narrative and with our own minds.” In one nook of the exhibition are the Domund piggy banks, ceramic containers that represented Afro-descendant or Asian kids, which have been used to gather pesetas for the Catholic missions. “I had one when I was little,” admits Pérez Rubio, a member of a technology that ate Cola-Cao for breakfast and had a Conguitos snack.

In the identical room seems Gamarra's reinvention of The three mulattoes of Esmeraldasthe portrait of Andrés Sánchez Gualque that the Prado used because the picture of its exhibition Tornaviaje, the primary devoted to the artwork produced within the Spanish viceroyalties, and which he managed to transform, with a clumsiness that was made ugly by social networks, into three chocolate bars with the share of cocoa superimposed on them. “It may seem like an anecdote, but it says a lot about Spanish society,” says the commissioner. “Of all those involved in its manufacture, no one saw it? And, if they noticed, no one said anything?” Gamarra has crammed one other room with portraits of Afro-descendants, “hidden in the official narrative,” which he has coated with cloaks out of modesty or tenderness. One of them incorporates a quote from Paul B. Preciado: “The trans body is to normative heterosexuality what Palestine is to the West, a colony whose extent and form is perpetuated solely through violence.”

Agustín Pérez Rubio, curator of the pavilion: “Museums must be decolonized, but it will be of no use if we do not also do it with the school, with the historical narrative and with our own minds”

The venture goals to “put its finger on the sore spot,” as Pérez Rubio acknowledges. The titles of the rooms, corresponding to “cabinet of illustrated racism” or “altarpiece of dying nature”, additionally go away no room for doubt. And, on the similar time, these accountable aspire to impress “calm reflection” that may lead us to a unique future. It is not any coincidence that the tour ends with a “migrant garden”, illuminated by the pure gentle that infiltrates by the roof from the Venetian lagoon. A postcolonial oasis that replaces the monuments in honor of the conquerors with others that honor the indigenous leaders who died for the emancipation of their nations, such because the Peruvian Micaela Bastidas or the Bolivian Juana Azurduy.

The 'cabinet of enlightened racism' imagined by Gamarra in the Spanish Pavilion, presided over by a version of 'The Three Mulatos of Esmeraldas' (1599).
The 'cupboard of enlightened racism' imagined by Gamarra within the Spanish Pavilion, presided over by a model of 'The Three Mulatos of Esmeraldas' (1599).Oak Taylor-Smith

The exhibition is a part of the continuity with respect to Good authoritiesthe controversial exhibition orchestrated by Gamarra and Pérez Rubio within the Sala Alcalá 31 in Madrid in 2021, when the Community of Madrid censored the textual content of the introductory panel and compelled the deletion of phrases like racism o restitution. This time, nevertheless, each have felt supported. “Maybe we weren't the favorites to win the contest, but they understood us. The respect has been brutal,” says the commissioner. They don’t worry that, with the inauguration of the pavilion, criticism from sure sectors will return. “Let those who have to be bothered be bothered,” Pérez Rubio resigns, specifying, out of a need for transparency, that the venture value 400,000 euros (compared, the French pavilion prices 4 million).

Both want to take part in a mirrored image that leads Spain to apologize to its former colonies. Will they get to see him in life? The diploma of optimism of every one differs, though artist and curator agree on an thought, which they pronounce, like two heads which have been working hand in hand for months, nearly in unison: “We do not work for today, but for tomorrow.”

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