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1st Biennial of the End of the World 2007

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Los Señores de la Playa by        Kcho

Diversions by Rochelle       Costi
Rochelle Costi

Alinhavado [Tacking] by Flaminio        Jallegas
Flaminio Jallegas

Em seu cantu by Patricia       Gerber
Patricia Gerber

[Pilgrim Board] by Julián       DAngiolillo
Julián D´Angiolillo

[Pilgrim Board] by Julián       DAngiolillo
Julián D´Angiolillo

[Pilgrim Board] by Julián       DAngiolillo
End of the World Biennial,
Mar 30, 2007 - Apr 29, 2007
Ushuaia, Argentina

1st Biennial of the End of the World 2007
by Teresa Riccardi

Recently, in Ruinas --a brilliant and devastating essay by the Lebanese artist and critic Jalal Toufic-- the issue was raised regarding contemporary art representations in the Arab world and their contexts as follows: What does Lebanon have that is site-specific? In search for an answer, the narrative intricately progresses as it gives shape to the idea of ruins as places stalked by survivors inhabiting a city that has been devastated by the Israeli wars of invasion from 1982 through the present. In the process, he describes a city that, by its ornaments and patrimonial details "like some spatial-temporal labyrinth" recovers today’s memory of what has been a certain place in history and, along with it, today’s history of the reconstruction of Beirut’s central district.

Toufic’s experience of migration and exile with his family in 1982 is important, in this narrative, and surely in many other life narratives, which explains why it was appropriated by the curatorial intelligentsia when it made up its mind to incorporate for the first time Lebanon’s pavilion in the 52nd edition of the Venice Biennial. No matter how distant the latter may seem, the globalized scenario in which we find ourselves today forces us to think through these resonances and to imagine and adapt our perceptions in the face of experiences difficult to ignore. 1982 is a key year. Ushuaia --located 600 miles from the Malvinas Islands and now a British territory-- is the closest witness to a war that many Argentinians find difficult to forget, one that is recalled through a traditional, wakeful commemoration on the night of April first at the Monument to the Islands, far away from any biennial. If we are forced to imagine, then we know how easy forgetting can be, how simple it can be to deviate from the actual memory of an event or to put a slice of fiction in its place. Going back to the Biennial, we know that it dealt with other matters and that it chose to refer to a different type of urgency, although we can not help observing, in a self reflexive way, allowance for a different way of remembering.

Between past and present, the works presented made the invisible visible. From the curatorial perspective, site-specific projects were chosen that marked an institutional interest in favor of historical places, museums and cultural areas of the city. And if it is true that the proposal managed to establish links with the history of the place, the very nature of the spaces themselves neutralized the exhibitor’s experimental risk and the discursive quality of the works. For example, one might consider the succesful installation of collages that make up León Ferrari’s L’Obsservatore Romano series at the historical prison, along with José Rufino’s "furniture" constructions, and also the installations and drawings by Alexis Leyva Machado (Kcho) at La Casa Bebán. But considerably less successful were the prison themes photographs by Rochelle Costi installed at the sports centre. The site managed to dilute one’s readings of a project dealing with the analogies packaged into the notion of "deviation" between cros-eyed individuals and prisoners. This work, if considered at the prison site, might have lead one to consider the regulatory and social reinsertion mechanisms imparted within disciplinary societies while taking, as starting point, current normalized and "aestheticized" behaviors.

Installation and video tend to be considered canonical at many present day biennials and this case was no exception. Nonetheless, the inclusion of body-centered performances is worth noting, among them the performance Cara o cruz versus Cruz and Jorge Orta’s blood donation for the Malvinas; the works of Brazilians Falminio Jallegas and Patricia Gerber; Bijari’s collective actions, and Gabriel Guaraci’s RaioXexpandido, along with the ironic and surprising proposals by Canadians BGL - all suspect strategies that without a doubt, held the public’s attraction.

More consciously, the artists resorted frequently to fiction in order to place into perspective Ushuaia’s specificity and the strategic game that tourism brings to the site. There were projects that managed to stand out and which articulated heterotopic meanings. This contrasted with strong localizing factors but were nevertheless persistent in the imaginary display of a territory inhabited by a multiplicity of regimes. Ushuaia presents itself as a prosperous place where the supply of tourists grows and their demands enter into the "free play" of the service-oriented market. This dynamic makes watching and observing the region’s panorama, very interesting. With so much recent prosperity, Ushuaia lives thanks to diverse immigrants. This facts reveals a generational absence or lack of Tierra del Fuego natives and problematizes the idea of an end of the world landscape, to include issues of escape or flight. Those who arrive from elsewhere, as immigrants, create fictions, compose new sites, settle in, dwell, and build in a place where the history bears no weight. They give birth to new mythologies and refer back to other stories. The sound recordings, drawings, and photographs by Paul Senderowicz in Transient shelter, are about memories over distance, like a fragile refuge, ephemeral, made of ice, created so that the histories or mythologies appropriated by their sensory double will "settle" here.

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