Madrid

Armando Andrade Tudela, UNSCH/Pikimachay, 2012, 16-mm film transferred to digital video, color, silent, 11 minutes 26 seconds.

Armando Andrade Tudela, UNSCH/Pikimachay, 2012, 16-mm film transferred to digital video, color, silent, 11 minutes 26 seconds.

Armando Andrade Tudela

Galería Elba Benitez

Armando Andrade Tudela, UNSCH/Pikimachay, 2012, 16-mm film transferred to digital video, color, silent, 11 minutes 26 seconds.

Armando Andrade Tudela’s work employs an array of strategies derived from the aesthetics of modernism to articulate social and cultural ideas associated with both his native Peru and Latin America more broadly. This mission inevitably brushes modernism against the grain, however, undermining its emphasis on the autonomy of art. He photographed and archived abstract geometric motifs printed on the trucks that drive across the interstate expressways of South America (the slide projection and artist book Camión, 2003); linked cocaine, a longstanding issue in Peru’s social and economic life, to utopian communal projects of the 1960s (Inka Snow, 2006, a mixed-media architectonic model); and later remade patterns reminiscent of Op art and Minimalism using rattan, a palm-derived material (Rattan, 2009). Many of these works address the relation between past and present, which is particularly visible in Peru, where evidence of ancient civilizations sits side by side with the failed social projects of our own time. Rooted firmly in the past, Tudela’s references range from the archaeological (the geometry of Inka Snow recalls the Nazca Lines) to the geological (as in the rocky formations in the film Marcahuasi, 2010, or in the caves of Pikimachay in the project recently on view in Madrid). But by weaving together these seemingly divergent threads, he makes sense of the present as a multilayered construction.

The primary work in the artist’s first solo exhibition in Madrid was UNSCH/Pikimachay, 2012, a 16-mm film shot on the campus of the Universidad Nacional de San Cristóbal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, a city in southern Peru. Built in the late 1950s in a modernist architectural style, the university’s then-new campus—an addition to the original one dating back to the seventeenth century—was one of Peru’s grandest educational projects. Today, however, it represents a scar on the country’s recent history. It was at the university that Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the revolutionary organization that was founded by Abimael Guzm.n, a lecturer in philosophy at UNSCH, and that gained notoriety in the 1980s for its brutal violence, first took root. The film is silent, even though much of the footage shows teachers and intellectuals in conversation, as if highlighting the notion that such concepts as narration and speech lie strictly under visual scrutiny. In an adjacent room, other conversations can be read on a digital printout hanging at eye level against an architectural module, but we cannot see who is talking. The strategic disconnect between image and text reflects a sense that something is always missing in any attempt to reconstruct history.

Tudela, according to the gallery press release, is interested in the pedestal as a “support structure that presents, isolates and inevitably endows a given object with a given meaning.” Here, the university campus itself serves as the pedestal that supports Tudela’s plot, one that, sadly, is anything but fictive. In one of the more penetrating testimonies that we can read but not see, Enrique Moya, rector of UNSCH in the mid-’70s, explains the conflicts he experienced. How could he close his eyes to the demands of the state, even if he was an advocate of the poor? And at the same time, how would he allow Sendero militants to dominate a state institution? The tensions on campus, a place that should have been a haven for critical thought, became unsustainable. As images of the caves of Pikimachay, which allegedly housed the first communities in Peru, slip past in the footage, we become aware of how the idea of shelter evolves toward an approach to architecture as a means to construct power and dreams.

Javier Hontoria