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Guatemala Después End of the Class Workshop

Co-Lab: Curatorial Design and Media Practices: Guatemala Después

Guatemala Después End of the Class Workshop, April 29, 2015

Developed by Mae Wiskin, Laura Sanchez and Ivana Garcia

Overarching Question(s):

  • Having taken the course, what does Guatemala Después mean to you now?
  • What do you hope public audiences in New York City (and elsewhere who engaged with the project onsite or online) take away from this exhibit?
  • How would you (re)design the exhibition/a curatorial space and/or curatorial approach?

Goal + Intent:

The goal and ultimate intent of this closing session is to provide closure and critically examine any final issues related to the course and exhibition as a whole. Additionally, based on feedback from the survey responses from students in the course, we believe it is important that for everyone to have the opportunity to actively understand the nature of effective spatial design (as it concerns such exhibition projects), and while engaging with curatorial practices of their choosing.

Additional Background:

The purpose of the course was to “bring together students with interests in artistic practices, exhibition design, digital media archives and civic engagement to work collectively on the Guatemala Después exhibition project currently being developed at The New School in partnership with artists and curators in Guatemala. The course involves a process of co-investigation and design with artists, curators, filmmakers, students and community-based creative practitioners in Guatemala and New York City from 2014-2015.“

Mission Statement:

Guatemala Después is a collaborative project that seeks to support site-specific artistic investigations that may reveal, activate, provoke or transform the ways in which we understand historic memory, repression, healing and forms of utopia or dystopia emerging in Guatemala in the past 30 years, and what is happening today. It also critically examines the political, economic and cultural influences (including foreign policy, migration and creative exchange) between the United States and Guatemala. The project uses an experimental, inclusive and participatory approach towards engaging creative practitioners and the general public using multi-disciplinary forms of investigation and expression (including visual, sound, film, performance, poetry and narrative).

Given this, how have your ideas evolved in relation to the course description?

Workshop Agenda: (4:00pm – 6:00pm)

Venue: Aronson Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center (SJDC), 66 Fifth Avenue

  1.   Icebreaker 4:00 – 4:20pm

Go around the room and have each participant write down a message of their choice; it can be a note of hope, encouragement, intention or reflection to send to our Guatemalan counterparts – place each piece of paper in a container.


    2.  Follow up: 4:20 – 4:30pm

Each participant picks a note and reads it aloud.

  1.  Thinking Through Objects: 4:30 – 5:00pm

Participants will explore artworks in the space and examine them from different angles, using the excerpt below to guide thinking:

Excerpt from Martha Fleming, Thinking Through Objects:

As a collection interpretation, its basic assumption was that objects can be subject to multiple interpretations and have an innate capacity therefore to signify concurrently in a number of different and sometimes even conflicting registers: the chronological, the formal, the disciplinary, the aesthetic. If this quality of ambiguity is embraced, and used skillfully with attention to equally multiple contexts, it means that individual objects can become pivots, or hinges, between separate thoughts and even separate modes of thinking: careful juxtaposition of objects can actually produce new thoughts and new ways of thinking.

What then are the techniques of the representational discourse? What are the practices of making exhibitions that convey meaning?

Conceptualizing exhibitions, designing the way those constellations of objects will look to a person other than the person who has configured them as such, involves deploying as many representational techniques as does writing. One can use objects in similar ways to words: objects can be metaphors, partake of metonymy, synecdoche, allegory, allusion, analogy. Also like words, one can string them together in narratives, in causal relations, in antithesis, chronology or diachrony. One can use relational techniques such as Humour, Intimacy, Distantiation. And one can use techniques that are not so easily deployed with words, techniques specific to space:

  • Perspective
  • Sight Lines
  • Scale
  • Color
  • Light
  • Reflections
  • Transparency/Opacity
  • Surfaces/Textures
  • Time
  • Sound
  • Spatial Divisions
  • Between rooms
  • Inside the room volumes
  • Using room heights
  • Floors as well as walls

Examine any 2-3 artworks or artifacts (including the timeline) in the exhibition and consider how their representation engages with the space effectively and in relation to other pieces in the space and the overall space itself. To what extent does it create compelling new meanings and interpretations or allow them to be understood in effective ways?

  1.  Spatial Design Activity 5:00 – 5:30pm

Each participant examines a copy of the original exhibition design, using specific prompts to augment it, taking on the role of “head art director/curator” of the exhibition. This will enable every participant to rethink and reflect upon how they would spatially design an exhibition.


What kinds of new relationships can you find across these artworks?


Do you see any unresolved tensions or issues emerging that should be investigated further?


Are there new opportunities to activate and engage these artworks in dialogue with each other or the themes of the exhibition?


How would you consider reconfiguring these elements differently – either thematically or spatially? Are there changes you would make to any of the language used in the exhibit?


What is one thing you hope the various public(s) (including different kinds of audiences in New York and in Guatemala) will take away from this exhibition?


Spatial Design Activity

  1. Group Reflection 5:30 – 6:00pm

Given this exercise, participants will be asked to reflect on their original intentions and identify any other ideas that they believe will be important to share with the Guatemalan partner organization Ciudad de la Imaginación before their exhibition planned in June 2015.


Reflexiones de Guatemala Despues


Now that the exhibition Guatemala Despues opened, I can finally take time to reflect on it.

My favorite piece is Maquina de la Fortuna, from Colectivo Kaqjay Moloj, since it references to the power of words, wishes and community. It is a powerful art piece that combines english, spanish and Kaqchikel, engaging people of all languages and cultures. Another piece that was powerful was Sitio Seña, since its main issued, Migration and materiality, are approached in a nonconventional way, tracing signs and creating forms that translated into creative art work. I could connect to those pieces and in my visits to the gallery I could see many interactions between the audiences and that particular artwork.

Regarding Guatemala Despues, the overall museography of the exhibition feels sloppy, there are several art pieces that are poorly hung, such as El olvido que no sabe que es olvido (Yasmin Hage, Alejandro Flores, and Camilo A. Luin), and there are pieces that go unnoticed such as the 3 D printed piece (since it is white, you can barely see the detail being placed in a white stand -there is no contrast).

Although the timeline explains the Guatemalan historical situation, it does not engage the audience in the Guatemalan conflict mainly because the text is too extensive and people do not read it. As a consequence, most audiences do not have enough context to feel connected to the art work.  In one of my visits to the gallery there was a person using the art piece ¿Me escuchas? (Jessica Kairé and Daniel Perera) as an office, disrespecting the art piece and the artists.

Regarding my personal conection to the exhibition, unfortunately, as a student I never felt like a part of the exhibition beyond doing several translations and writing emails. The interactions we had with the Guatemalan artists were forced and rushed which resulted in a difficult collaboration on both ends. This led to very little learning on my part as to what curatorial practices consist of, primarily I simply learned how to manage my translating skills.

As a general reflexion, I learned a lot from the exhibition, in the conventional and the unconventional way of schooling.

By Ivana Garcia


Image References: Guatemala Despues, Retrieved from

Acknowledging Knowledge

Cornejo in her piece “Indigeneity and Decolonial Seeing in Contemporary Art of Guatemala” refers to a colonialist misrepresentation of the indigenous community by Guatemalan artists who were formed in Western countries outside of Guatemala. Through different artistic techniques these artists misrepresent the indigenous body, since they were merely inspired by their bodies and expressed them, even objectifying it at times. He refers to the artists who simply see the indigenous body as a muse, as a “subject matter”, considering this type of art a form of colonialism, since those artists impose their ideas, their power, over the indigenous community.

On the other hand, Cornejo presents artists who show the indigenous community as a source of knowledge. I believe this is a crucial point since by considering the indigenous community a source of information, the artist is empowering them, transforming the indigenous community from a subject matter to a resource, a person of crucial value.

In a lecture by Professor Kjetil Fallan, he referenced to “subjugated knowledge”, referring to the popular, local, regional knowledge. The decolonization of the indigenous community in Guatemalan art is an acknowledgement of this type of regional knowledge, recognizing the value of the indigenous culture without its romantic component. As curator Pablo Ramirez commented in his talk, recognizing the indigenous community as a different type of knowledge -that is literate even though many of their members cannot read or write- is the way we acknowledge the richness of this culture and the value of its history for Guatemala.

As Cornejo explains, modern Guatemalan artists have drawn experience and knowledge from the indigenous community, producing activist art that acknowledges the indigenous culture. Chavajay and Sandra Monterroso are two artists that not only employ performance art as a sociopolitical critique, but also draw knowledge and experiences from indigenous tradition. The way these artists used indigenous tradition as a form of activist art as a healing and condemning process as Cornejo refers, is a de-colonial way of representing the indigenous culture, learning from it and despoiling it from its romantic aspects.

By Ivana García


By Ivana

Hi everyone! I’m Ivana, I’m from Argentina, and I’m a first year student from the Design Studies master program. My formal background is in business, I went to business school and worked in consulting firms such as Deloitte & Touche and small firms for the past six years, but my passion has always been art and design. I have a profound interest in the social world, which is why I’ve been involved with several Non-profit organizations ever since my high school years, and developed social business responsibility projects for the companies I was involved in.

My most significant work experience on a personal level was owning a multi-purpose space called “The Endless House” which mixed a little bit of gastronomy, art, design and music. There you could find pieces by some of the most promising Argentine contemporary artists, unique clothes and objects for sale at the store, and listen to performances by independent musicians. While working at The Endless house, I had the opportunity to meet designers, artists and musicians who taught me a different perspective of the world and it helped me realize in what field I wanted to work which is design. I fell in love with artists and designers and their process thinking, which is why I decided to come to Parsons to study design.

I love learning about other cultures and I have had the opportunity to visit several countries over the years. I went backpacking for a year through Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa and met people from all over the world. Visiting countries so different to my own was a life changing experience that taught me about the universality of communication.

I wanted to join this class because it combines my interests in Art, my passion for politics in Latin-America and social responsibility, and I am looking forward to learning more about this group of artists and how they expressed their grieve through Art.