MAVI Museum of Visual Arts, Santiago de Chile °
José Victorino Lastarria 307
Santiago de Chile
artist / participant
Arturo Duclos: Utopia’s Ghost / el fantasma de la utopía
Curator: Paco Barragán
June 8–August 20, 2017
Is the idea of utopia still necessary, let alone possible? Is utopia still valid as aspiration for a better or even perfect society? Or has utopia simply turned into nostalgia and a kind of new kitsch?
The exhibition Arturo Duclos: el fantasma de la utopia [Utopia’s Ghost] at the Museo de Artes Visuales (MAVI) in Santiago de Chile tackles these fascinating issues by reflecting on the major revolutionary movements of Latin America that tried to impose by force a more just society: Tupamaros, EZLN, FARC, Sendero Luminoso, M-19, MIR, 26 de Julio, FPMR, MRTA and FSLN.
Utopia as nostalgia
Arturo Duclos, one of the younger members of the Chilean avant-garde, the so-called Escena de Avanzada, has always been interested in the idea of utopia and, particularly, in the inherent ambiguity that underlies the construction of utopia by Thomas Moore, and how this ambiguity has been sufficiently strong to accelerate history by means of battles, movements and revolutions.
Departing from the symbolism and iconography of the flags of these revolutionary movements, Duclos confronts the spectator in a thought-provoking way not only with ideals associated to the spirit of liberation, messianism and social utopia, but the exhibition also establishes fruitful connections with the fate of the many recent leftist populist governments that have existed in Latin America during the last 20 years: from Chávez, Kirchner, Morales, Correa and Lula to Mujica.
Never has mankind known such a period of stability and prosperity, but at the same time—as Thomas Piketty has keenly shown us—never has there been so much inequality in the world. So, if the unpredictable future is no longer a place for utopia then it seems to be safe to look into the malleable past for possible answers. It also allows us to conclude that today’s utopian spirit is imbued with great dosis of nostalgia.
Utopia as kitsch
With an interdisciplinary approach that covers diverse forms, from sculpture, drawing, installation and painting to video and performance, Arturo Duclos: el fantasma de la utopia [Utopia’s Ghost] presents five thematic constellations—Banderas/Flags, Caporales, Escudos de armas/Coats of Arms, Memorabilia and Machina Anemica—as well as Cuartel General/Headquarters, a public tent that will function as a mediation point for the public during the length of the exhibit.
Utopia as the new kitsch? Kitsch as utopian? These seemingly contradicting concepts run into each other more than we are willing to admit. And in this sense, in many of these works Duclos interacts and challenges, both from a conceptual and a formal point of view, the idea of kitsch understood as a saturation of concepts, colors and forms.
“I was always interested,” affirms Arturo Duclos, “in reading these configurations that proceed from the popular culture unconscious and that take the place in these paramilitary groups with a hierarchic regime based upon the religious dance groups.”
With regards to the conceptualization and design of the exhibition, curator Paco Barragán explains that “We are very well aware of the tenacious Alfred Barr’s ideology that persists in modern and contemporary art museums, and for this reason we conceived several Stimmungsräume in order to create a more challenging context for the spectator than the aseptic and anemic white-cube walls would allow.”
Both avant-gardes and revolutions have become parodies subjected to postcapitalism.
Now, the question, according to Arturo Duclos, would be: “What can we do in order to reanimate utopia?”
This exhibition has been generously sponsored by the Chilean National Fund for the Development of Culture and the Arts-FONDART through its 2017 open call.