Lima

Flavia Gandolfo, untitled, 1990–91, gelatin silver print, 97⁄8 × 14". From “Hay algo incomestible en la garganta: Poéticas antipatriarcales y nueva escena en los años noventa” (Hard to Swallow: Antipatriarchal Poetics and the New Scene in the 1990s).”

Flavia Gandolfo, untitled, 1990–91, gelatin silver print, 97⁄8 × 14". From “Hay algo incomestible en la garganta: Poéticas antipatriarcales y nueva escena en los años noventa” (Hard to Swallow: Antipatriarchal Poetics and the New Scene in the 1990s).”

“Hard to Swallow”

Espacio Germán Krüger Espantoso

Curated by Miguel A. López, “Hay algo incomestible en la garganta: Poéticas antipatriarcales y nueva escena en los años noventa” (Hard to Swallow: Antipatriarchal Poetics and the New Scene in the 1990s) bore witness to a moment of great change, bringing together more than two hundred works created between 1988 and 2002—complex, violent decades in the political history of Peru—by roughly one hundred artists and collectives. The Spanish title is a line from Montserrat Álvarez’s poem “Algo está mal no son precisamente” (Something’s Wrong It’s Not Exactly), from her 1991 book Zona Dark. The pieces on view showed how works that arise from discomfort, anguish, and nonconformity can challenge us to recognize ourselves, raise questions, and seek new forms of being and creating.

The works were grouped thematically in order to convey the curator’s totalizing narrative of the art of this period, and while this was informative and stimulating, it made for an overwhelming experience. Chapters about self-representation as a way to question the patriarchal system and the political exploration of intimate and domestic space featured, among other works, paintings made by Natalia Iguiñiz and Sandra Gamarra toward the end of their studies; in both cases the artists depict themselves in private spaces, such as small rooms or under the blankets of a bed. Also included was a never-before-exhibited series of photographs, “Luz,” 1997, by Luz María Bedoya, which portray the woman who took care of her as a child, as well as Gilda Mantilla’s Bazar Bambi, 2001, which fills four display cases with the most diverse and fabulous objects linked to the imaginary of the intimate, the feminine, and family life, including old photographs, makeup cases, small mirrors, and little kitsch ornaments of flowers and dogs. In the sections dedicated to the representation of sexual pleasure and the transition between genders were watercolors by Patricia Camet that, through the fluidity of the brushstrokes, reveal nudes and sexual scenes. Here also were photographs by Flavia Gandolfo documenting the daily life of the Lima drag and transgender community of the early 1990s. The emergence of new spaces for collective creation outside traditional institutions was highlighted by contributions from, for instance, the Andean Rural History Seminar, which supported the work of Amazonian indigenous artists, including Elena Valera (Bawan Jisbe), a Shipibo-Conibo who uses natural dye to paint images of Amazonian animals.

Violence and pain charged some images, among them photographs by Nelly Plaza: portraits of women victims presented alongside text fragments of the testimonies they gave to the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission between 2001 and 2002. Also revealing were two paradigmatic photographs by women photographers from Peru’s years of armed conflict. Neither included any women. The first, by Mónica Newton, captured a scene from the 1989 Marcha por la Paz (March for Peace); the other, by Ana Cecilia Gonzalez Vigil, showed the late Abimael Guzmán, leader of the Maoist-inspired terrorist group Shining Path, following his capture in 1992. The section thus left us reflecting on the hidden and complex role of women during political violence.

All the pieces were accompanied by wall texts indicating the late-twentieth-century Peruvian exhibitions in which they were originally shown, amounting to a cartography of exhibitions from this period. Here was an opportunity to revise our understanding of the recent past. The exhibition was an invitation to continue the task, to continue creating new archives, to renew points of view, and to deepen our knowledge of the work of a valuable and diverse group of artists. It left us with a feeling of strain and unease in our throats, but also the relief that comes from finally allowing ourselves to shout out.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.