Joëlle de La Casinière, Ecos Pueblo (People’s Echoes), 1973–2022, ink-jet print on paper, 47 1⁄4 × 31 1⁄2".

Joëlle de La Casinière, Ecos Pueblo (People’s Echoes), 1973–2022, ink-jet print on paper, 47 1⁄4 × 31 1⁄2".

Joëlle de La Casinière


Between 1971 and 1974, French-Belgian artist Joëlle de La Casinière conducted a series of research and study trips to Peru and other Latin American countries with Michel Bonnemaison, Carlos Ferrand, and other colleagues from the Montfaucon Research Center, a radical art collective that was active in Brussels between 1968 and 1973. These journeys resulted in a group of films, photographic series, and collages, as well as audiovisual recordings pertaining to the agrarian reform instituted by the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture. The exhibition “De vuelta a Lima. Tesoros Ocultos del Montfaucon Research Center” (Return to Lima: Hidden Treasures of the Montfaucon Research Center), curated by Paris-based François Piron, featured a selection of these works, thus enabling documents of a tumultuous moment in Peru’s history to return to the country. The early 1970s were characterized by the constant desire to enact reforms in different sectors and by the emergence of new social organizations that were La Casinière’s subject, such as those of Villa El Salvador, a district on the coastal shore of Peru that was built by the community itself.

The exhibition opened with Ferrand’s portraits, from the 1970s, of women in the market of the Peruvian port city of Iquitos, shown smoking, eating, preparing products for sale, and engaged in other daily routines. This intimate, contemplative series fostered an atmosphere of waiting and latency. A barrage of phrases cut from newspapers and magazines followed in reproductions of La Casinière’s collages, as declarations such as MAÑANA ES EL DIA (tomorrow is the day), HASTA AQUÍ NOMÁS (enough is enough) or SE VIENEN CAMBIOS PROFUNDOS (big changes are coming) reflected a sense of political rupture and an anticipation of new beginnings. These statements were interspersed with English and French phrases, religious images, and labels or advertisements for diverse products—projections and desires for transformation proffered by Christian iconography and the seductiveness of consumer goods. The final space of the exhibition featured Again on the Seas, an audiovisual piece La Casinière created in 2015 using archival photographs taken during a 1974 trip to Peru—her last until her return this year for the exhibition—contextualizing the voices and images present in the collages. Comprising a succession of natural and urban landscapes, the images move from snow to dune to valley. The thin lines of the horizon and of the open road mark a rhythm that is a sustained repeated vantage point. In his curatorial statement, Piron suggested that exhibiting these works in Lima might help revise the historical narrative of that time.

The trajectories of La Casinière’s journeys and the discourses interconnected in the collages allowed Peruvian viewers to revisit a shared history while evincing the value not only of preserving archives, but also of promoting their transits and exchanges. Seeing their country through her eyes was a reminder of how much has changed in fifty years, and how much can still change.

Translated from Spanish by Michele Faguet.