Buenos Aires

Adriana Lestido, Untitled, 1992, gelatin silver print on fiber paper, 9 1/2 × 14 5/8". From the series “Mujeres presas” (Imprisoned Women), 1991–93. From “Pensar todo de nuevo” (Rethink Everything).

Adriana Lestido, Untitled, 1992, gelatin silver print on fiber paper, 9 1/2 × 14 5/8". From the series “Mujeres presas” (Imprisoned Women), 1991–93. From “Pensar todo de nuevo” (Rethink Everything).

“Pensar todo de nuevo”

The proliferation of online viewing rooms and live streaming since the global spread of Covid-19 has challenged us to rethink the time and space of the exhibition. Launched in May but in development since before the pandemic was known to have reached Argentina in March, “Pensar todo de nuevo” (Rethink Everything) became Rolf Art’s first show “conceived for an online format” (albeit with a physical version due to have opened by press time). The online presentation counteracts the limitations of screen-based exhibition formats by focusing on image-based works that translate effectively into the virtual sphere.

Curated by Andrea Giunta, who also helmed this year’s Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil (which was likewise migrated online, if less smoothly), the exhibition gathers twenty-four artists and one collective in a structure comprising six chapters. On entering the website—available in Spanish and English—we are welcomed by a fragment of the curatorial text. Scrolling down the page, we find a two-minute promotional video about the show—a kind of teaser featuring images of the works and the curator speaking about the show—followed by a list of participating artists, and, finally, the chapters, which must be entered separately: “Body Policies (I),” “Forms That Administer the Body (II),” “Affects (III),” “Memories That Are Present (IV),” “Urban Signs (V),” and “Bodies and Nature (VI).”

Drawing on feminism as both critical theory and practice, the works are rooted firmly in the present, with an eye on the radical questioning of hegemonic systems. The body is a constant throughout, linked to self-determination, affect, memory, public space, and nature. Given its questioning of monuments, Marta Minujín’s installation El obelisco acostado (The Obelisk Lying Down), 1978, resonates powerfully at a time when iconoclasm has become part of popular and antiracist uprisings around the globe. The multichannel video work Llenos de esperanza (Full of Hope), 2001–2003, by Silvia Rivas, shows the artist struggling within a small rectangular space and can be read as an analogy of the lockdown that continues to affect so many people around the world. Adriana Lestido’s photographic series “Mujeres presas” (Imprisoned Women), 1991–93, compiles images of everyday life in captivity; the work is timely in a moment characterized by preventative isolation and an urgent need for the social reinsertion of those who’ve been imprisoned. Florencia Levy’s Tierra de ciervos (Deer Land), 2017, is represented by a photograph of an artificial lake of radioactive waste in northern China. Suspected of espionage, the artist was arrested for taking the picture; the second part of the work, accessible through a QR code, is made up of shaky footage of her detention and interrogation. The reminder that the country where the novel coronavirus originated is a high-surveillance society where the police wield enormous power might lead us to ask what will happen in our own countries in the wake of the new controls necessitated by the pandemic.

In its digital form, “Pensar todo de nuevo” can be read in two ways. On the one hand, it critically examines our present-day reality with historical works that have acquired new meanings; on the other, it invites us to think about what kinds of artistic experience are made possible, and which are foreclosed, by virtual media.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.