The 20th. Paiz Biennal
Posted on June - 15 - 2016
Like many other art events, biennales have proliferated over the last couple of years. In Latin America, they’re spawning the different corners of the continent and prove to be fair opponents to the older installments located in the western hemisphere. But it is in Guatemala where one of the most important cultural events in Central America takes place: the Paiz Biennal, celebrating its 20th installment this year.
The Paiz Biennal sprouted in 1976 as a result of the collaboration between Rodolfo Paiz and Zipcaná de León and their shared interest in providing a space for free expression in a military-oppressed Guatemala. What started as a competition following the Salon-structure grew into a more sophisticated event.
The last Biennal held in 2014 was titled Transvisible, and it was curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, a recognized British/Venezuela art historian and curator based in South California. This particular installment gave the Biennal a critical academic importance because it dealt with underlying thematics that currently affect Guatemala society. It was perhaps the most politicized Biennal, but it was sure a turning point for future years.
This year the 20th Biennal in, Ordinario / Extraordinario: La democratización del arte o la voluntad de cambiar las cosas, was curated by Alma Ruiz, and it includes among its ranks a varied ensemble of international artists that show to the eager and curious public, works like they have never seen before. As the past Biennal had a graver nature, this event is charged with ludic interactions and dialogues. The artworks strive to invite the spectator to interact and break the, sometimes, uncomfortable distance that contemporary creations build.
Like never before, the lists of artists include more international artists than national ones. The selection of Guatemalan representatives is Esvin Alarcón Lam, Marilyn Boror Bor, Buró de Intervenciones Públicas, María Alejandra González Escamilla, Juan Maurilio Mendoza Canajay, David Pérez -Karmadavis-, Proyecto Sitio-Seña and Sergio Valencia Salazar. Alarcon Lam’s installation is located in La Casa de la Esquina headquarter, and it is an impressive assemblage of vertical chromatic lines coming from found and altered but parts. Boror Bor’s work is in the Cultural Center for Spain. As her work revolves around language as a form of domination and exclusion, the artists created a subtle dictionary of forgotten objects.
Some works are more interactive and are great crowd-pleasers such as the work by G.R.A.V., a post-war collective that consists of Horacio García Rossi, Julio Le Parc, François Morellet, Joēl Stein, Jean-Pierre Yvaral and Francisco Sobrino. The work that settles in one of the spacious rooms of the Municipal Cultural Centro, where sets of unconventional staircases occupied the room and invited the spectator to try and climb them. There is no doubt that the demography that most enjoyed this work was playful school kids.
Also as part of the Biennal, there were collective public space interventions such as the trademark crosswalk and Rikrit Tiravanijas’s massive question mark sign constructed by volunteers in the Central Plaza.
The joint efforts to bring the works closer to the Biennal-goers and the general public went even further thanks to all the panel discussions between the international and national artists and the art history classes taught by academics and artists.
It is without saying that this biennial offers its public a wide array of activities, distinct and exciting works of art and different perspectives. Although this vibrant display can seem a bit uncanny at the beginning, with a little reassurance, it certainly will bring any inexperienced spectator a step closer to new ways of artistic creation. It is not to be missed.
By: Gabriela Martínez
Photo Courtesy: 20 Bienal Arte Paiz. Artist: Rikrit Tiravanija