Bogotá- A City-On the Edge

Bogota Postal card

Bogota-A City-on the Edge

Curated by: John Angel Rodriguez

This exhibition brings together a group of four contemporary artists from Colombia. These artworks take the viewers through an interpretation of the main themes that could define the current Colombian capital city situation.

Bogota- A city- on the Edge is an art exhibition which selected art projects and artworks bringing into play the different city’s environment social issues, in order to show how Bogota has become an important art location. Not only identifying where we are in the world, but also showing our extemporaneous distance to the art world. In this way, the viewers that will be attending this show are going to have the chance to see the implications of being and living as an artist in a city like Bogota.

In the context of a South American city like Bogota we must address many different subjects to understand its social absurd edges. First the political game that has been played there during the recent decades includes things such as: re-interpretation of neo liberal North American politics, hybrid pop-culture citizenship identities and fictional plans of urban modernisation. These factors have contributed to the loss of its key social goals; jeopardising the spread of further developments, to mention just a few examples -the absence of an adequate public systems of transport or a proper urban infrastructure- not because of the lack of financial resources, but the inability to cope with abusive administrations.

The events that have been taking place in Bogota akin to science fiction stories, nevertheless those narratives that the artists have suggested as motives to create new artworks are now social realities. In some of the cases the artists have transformed those social narratives from its original referents and in other cases they have shaped their practices into social critical views. Therefore this exhibition pretends to offer a reflection about the problems inside of this city and move away from typical representations of undeveloped environments.

This exhibition is presented in the framework of a long-term project titled Cities On The Edge, in which the ‘edgy’ position of Gdańsk is explored. The project’s point of departure is the meaning of word ‘edgy, ‘which describes contemporary culture and the states of many contemporary cities being.

Artists Review:

FiftyThousand

kinetic Installation, 1,000 pesos banknotes, springs, sensors, electric motor, 2010

Adriana Salazar has developed a body of work that explores the possibilities of mechanism of repetition establishing a varied range of relationships between nonsense actions performed by kinetic machines and found quotidian objects. To achieve this idea she plays with notions of failure and recurrence; for instance her kinetic sculpture (Crying and Consolation Machines, 2007) behaves in this direction. The actions that this mechanism performs- become meaningful if we look at the short term solutions that citizen’s from Bogota are used to see from the local government to solve their urban development needs- for instance low quality works alongside the city have been delivered as placebos for unfinished infrastructure plans.

In the last years Bogota has experienced different kind of attempts to fix its huge problems, but in the vast majority of the cases, the only real visualisation of those endless projects were the massive piles of abandoned files in the archives of the city council. This behaviour has become epidemic, being repeated over and over again, and reshaped into different administrative models performed by the minutemen politicians.

Despite the corrupt politic system that has contaminated Bogota’s administration, Adriana’s practice proposes a positive aptitude towards this situation; adding elements of fantasy that she thoroughly translate to her kinetic pieces and found objects, whereas doing this she creates unique devices. The mechanical reaction of her kinetic sculptures allows the viewer to link their own experiences to the external environment where the piece is located.

Machines as metaphorical interpretations of clumsy movements and processes that have found their existence in a system where the absurd mixes with the complexity. Adriana creates kinetic artworks that are presenting to the viewer repetitive actions, responding to the endless unsolved situations that Bogotá’s inhabitants have experienced within the urban landscape.

Adriana is presenting at this exhibition a Kinetic piece titled “Fifty Thousand, 2010” this artwork uses one thousand pesos bank notes, she is interested in the concept of money as an object and how this has lost its meaning, taking into consideration the current financial crisis. This situation has integrated all economies around the world, but in the context of the Colombian political climate, speaking about crisis is not a new subject at all, people there has grown up looking at these unbalanced government budgets and the external debt has been a recurrent topic discussed in the regular basis for Colombian families. The attractiveness of Fifty Thousand relies in the fact that the bank notes start shaking when the viewer approaches towards the installation. This action could be understood as a form of expressing the instability of these money paper objects, because at the end they are the simply representation of a number of credits that do not exist in the tangible world anymore.

Painting intervention, mural, acrylic on wall,pipe, 2013

Andres Londoño is displaying at this exhibition a site-specific installation that incorporates the most representative elements of his practice; one might say that his activity could be defined as a crossover between conceptual figurative paintings, in-situ interventions and his dazzling attributes as an art mediator.

Andres` aptitude towards art market and its protagonists figures has been a recurrent motive for his recent art creations. Londoño has manifested an interest with reference to the figure that plays the curator and the art dealer for the artist career. To this respect the artist stated:

“I’m trying a social phenomenon in cities like Bogotá, pointing out how popular beliefs have been associated to the humidity apparitions, and how those apparitions turned into meaningful icons. I want to move this project to Poland incorporating characters from the art scene there, this will be my way to join together and make a bridge between these two cultures, which put together the apparitions -as a metaphor- of the figure of cult that some art players have gotten from their worshippers.”

In 2007[1] Andres started painting directly on the walls, with the purpose of faking mouldy stains that subtlety had hidden the most relevant art characters from Bogota. Portraying figures such as curators, art dealers and journalists, whose determinative appreciations about art were crucial for some artists career success.

At the time Andres initiated these installation apparitions’ paintings, it was also the beginning for his Kunstomerservice[2] project, which is a customer service for the arts.  Andres conceived this as an art platform where his artworks get involved with the public: requesting feedback or asking for complaints, suggestions and achievements. In that order of ideas, the service that he aims to propose creates a dialog that is intended to generate an aesthetical result.

Another interesting aspect of Andres practice is his attraction to international contemporary art trends and the themes derived from those aesthetical movements. His aptitude is a way to refresh recurrent domestic subjects that usually the local art scene refers to such as violence, poverty and kitsch culture.

This behaviour might be perceived as a way to ignore the social Colombian reality in an escapist form, nevertheless this could be also understood as a special capacity to propose his point of view about Colombian struggles. Andres instead of denying Bogota unsolved troubles, has been constantly superposing our local conflicts with his creative referents, and this situation is very important because represents a narrow segment of artists from Bogotá whose researches are exploring another kind of formats to express the same domestic themes.

Paisajes de Polvo

Landscape made-out of dust, ink drawing on plexiglass, 2013

Jaime Avila has made an artwork especially commissioned for this exhibition “Dust Map”. The background of this piece comes from a painting that he did originally on 1994. At that time he painted a piece that was part of a series of artworks titled Dust Landscapes that is an ongoing project. Jaime started doing those pieces after the capture of his father’s extortionist. He decided to give out one of his artworks as a gesture of gratitude to thank the special anti extortion squad named GAULA[3].

This work was a birds-eye view that pictured the mountains range where Bogota was founded. While being an art student Jaime always had had an appealing visualisation of Bogota, as he is not from this city, then he used to travel to his parents countryside house quite often. Hence this recurrent journey by plane towards Bogota became x somehow an imaginary thread that fed his thoughts. Subsequently he elaborated those imaginary sketches shaping it into paintings and any other sort of artworks.

Jaime Avila has consistently used paint, drawing and photography techniques to set up his installations, but drawing has always been the foundation of his practice. His drawings are where he plays, sketching freely and swiftly, testing out ideas or visualising thoughts as they come to him. Drawing was an escape route into his imagination and later as an adult artist. This process of visualising thoughts is a singularity in Jaime’s practice, it is an attempt to use a system of mind mapping as a way of performing a kind of writing technique and in his case modifies the representations of Bogota’s troubles, formerly described by many other art practitioners and specialised south American theoreticians.

In “Dust Map” Jaime does not attempt to depict exactly the geographical morphology of this specific system of mountains, rather than doing a representation, he prefers to give freedom to his imagination, making a composition where he recreates sensations, impressions and memories. For this reason the formal qualities of those paintings are particularly distinctive, as he elaborated a mental landscape about Bogota city, which has been kept and recorded in his mind to date. While deflecting the artists’ interest in how our memories are perceived to follow a certain chronological order, it is also an example of how visual formations, particularly those offered by fiction literature, have become possible.

The structures and languages of the urban sites we occupy still hold a desire for building an ideal city; living in an urban jungle connotes architectural profusion and confusion. We still keep the thought of creating urban development plans that could implant spaces of green and patches of nature within our overcrowded cities.  To this end Bogota was founded on a rich plateaux and is surrounded by a massive system of mountains, however the indiscriminate growth of the city caused the destruction of its rich fauna and flora, since the priority to build houses in these new unplanned neighbourhoods was providing shelter and maintaining family lifes; at that time thinking about the balance between nature and urban intervention became unnecessary. Likewise images and remnants of forest and greenery into the heart of the urban landscape has become an attractive motive of creation for many artists.

Jaime Avila has been one of the most representative artists that have used the urban landscape of Bogotá and another South American cities as his inspirational motives, seeking for similitude and differences to incorporate those urban physical qualities within his artistic observations. Next he transfers these characteristics in his artworks looking for a new interpretation of these urban South American troubles. For this reason one might say that Avila’s practice does not attempt to take advantage of this social inoperative system that Bogotá’s vulnerable inhabitants have been experiencing in the last five decades, rather than illustrating those social discrepancies, Jaime has found a way to show the bond of these absurd situations, at the same time as extracting the essence of these problems to display installations that are situated under the umbrella of the visual splendour and conceptual elaboration.

States of simulation, installation, MDF, wood, plexiglass, video mapping-projection, 2013

Alberto Lezaca began his art practice studying fine arts and producing independently industrial music[4]; at that time he recorded those experimental sounds using tapes and CDs. The way he used to distribute his music pieces were basically through specialised music stores and radio programs, where he went invited to speak about his musical innovations.

Something that is an outstanding feature about Lezaca practice is his process to achieve his conceptual maturity. He started doing Industrial Music from this practice, he was connected to electronic devices and software, while editing his tracks discovered patterns of visualisation and from these findings he got the idea of 3D mappings that subsequently he managed to materialise in sculptures.

Alberto works on different mediums and has a strong attraction to scientific –technologic knowledge, nevertheless he conceive those fields as territories to express his philosophical interests about art. He sees art as whole and does not try to make a differentiation between new media art and contemporary practices. Alberto uses technology as a mediator to fulfill its main themes, which usually have come from diverse sources, for instance sci-fiction, literature, video art and its particular ways of appropriating software-coding languages.

In the framework of this exhibition Alberto will be re-elaborating an installation. “Estates of Simulation, 2011” in order to set up this artwork he will incorporate a vary range of techniques such as mapping, video and sculpture that he will be combining with 3D models and the architecture of the space where the installation will be placed. This particular piece refers to the failed urban plans that have been dumped repeatedly in Bogota, he is pointing out the recurring and vicious circle that has wrapped up the imaginaries of development that the Bogotá’s inhabitants have kept for many years as an idealised dream.

In Alberto´s observations one more time we are facing an artwork that indicates the levels of fiction that have embedded the political campaigns. Political projects have offered and promised the construction of undergrounds, highways and functional infrastructures, which hypothetically aimed to solve the main problems of Bogota city, for example its lack of an adequate public transport network, civic security and a proper policy to manage public space. Nonetheless all those fictional plans were mere untested projects delivered only with the purpose of feeding an imaginary spirit of change that citizens from Bogota have conserved within the collective imaginary. To this respect it is important to clarify that Alberto is working on a different direction, he is not interested in corruption, useless infrastructure or dysfunctional bureaucracy. He departs from those realities to get the viewer to another states of visualisation where the artwork becomes evocative at the moment that detonates a visual and sensorial experience, which is indeed his main artistic purpose. Alberto is convinced that art is a method to give freedom to the users, in this case the citizens of a city that has been frozen in a dream of contemporary modernisation.


[1] “Introducing the Band” At El Bodegón Gallery, Bogotá. 13th April 2007.

[2] The term Kunstomerservice comes from the linked words “kunst” and customer service, in which “kunst” means art in German language. A customer service for the arts, Kunstomerserviceis a help desk provided to meet the opinions generated by the public, it provides a platform to all the people that accidentally, incidentally or premeditatedly becomes affected by the visual arts.

[3]Los GAULA are elite units created by Act 282 of 1996, exclusively devoted to preventing and acting against kidnapping and extortion. This consists of highly qualified personnel to conduct hostage rescue operations and dismantling criminal gangs causing crimes that undermine personal freedom of Colombians.

This content was originally published by the National Army of Colombia at the following address: http://www.ejercito.mil.co/?idcategoria=71.

[4] Albero Lezaca first bands were named Sensoria and Mala Muerte recorded by the Music Label Front Line Assemblage.


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