Después de Guatemala Después: Three Questions Post-Launch

1. What does the visitor take away?

In a recent interview with Radhika for a different class project she mentioned (wildly paraphrasing here) that when she plans exhibitions she is constantly looking for that “thing” that lingers. She used the metaphor of a burr that you might find tucked away in your sock at the end of a long day. It is the “thing” that follows you around without having even realized it.

After the Guatemala Después launch, I’m still not entirely sure what that thing is. The works in the exhibit are more or less impactful in their own ways but I’m not sure together what they have to say about memory, healing, or trauma. This may be because there is no one thing– people are still struggling to negotiate the past in their own unique and different ways. This is a fair, and yet as curators I wonder how we could have better assembled these disparate elements into a coherent whole that offers something larger than any one art work could have done alone.

How could we have created a stronger presence for the exhibit?

Due to time/communication constraints I don’t think we really got to take advantage of the huge window facing fifth avenue. If our exhibit was about trying to make these issues more visible and engage a wider audience I think it was a missed opportunity not to consider how we would draw in visitors from the outside.

This street and the interior hallway get a lot of foot traffic but in my observations, few people actually lingered or attempted to understand what was in front of them. Or on the other hand if they did try to engage they were often confused or bewildered. Sitting in the hallway for our design symposium this past weekend, I had quite a few individuals approach me to ask what this work was and why the video was being projected. This was both a tactical problem as the sign for the video was not easy to distinguish, as well as a conceptual problem as people couldn’t easily draw associations and connections between the curatorial statement and the art works in front of them.

Furthermore, in my time at the gallery I saw almost no one (outside of opening night) attempting to truly engage with the timeline. This was likely because the text was quite small but also because reading a heavy amount of text in such a transient space is difficult. So again, how could we have created a more dynamic and magnetic presence?

How can performance art retain it’s performativity?

La Máquina de la Fortuna and Hipnosis are both pieces that draw heavily on this notion of an “intervention.” Their pieces look at the enunciative possibilities of words and language to change our relationships with past, present and future. A challenge for most pieces like this is how to bring their messages to life in the exhibition space. La Máquina de la Fortuna encourages interaction, and provides an interesting form of engagement as the visitor must press a button to receive their fortune. It’s a simple gesture that could likely be expanded in more nuanced ways but this tactile experience is still enjoyable.

This is in more of a contrast to work like Regina Galindo’s, whose intervention exists solely in video and photographic evidence from the event. Her process is captured in the documentation from that day and yet this doesn’t fully reveal the complexities of this work. I really enjoyed the “Take a Photo, Tell a Story” project at the Prison Obscura exhibition– the ways it blended, audio, image and space to create a more visceral experience. Perhaps it would be worth exploring other models like this that effectively translate public interventions into more sensorial representations.

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