David Pérez Karmadavis La manada (The Crowd), video, 2009.
The relationship between art and justice in countries trying to make the transition from years of conflict to a peaceful democratic society is being investigated by a major new exhibition at firstsite in Colchester featuring the work of leading Guatemala-based artist David Pérez Karmadavis.
The exhibition Karmadavis: Art, Justice, Transition opens in the University Space on Friday 10 November and has been organised through a partnership between the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America, the Essex Transitional Justice Network and the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies (LiFTS) at the University of Essex.
The guest curators collaborating on the show are Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli from LiFTS and Dr Sanja Bahun, Senior Lecturer in LiFTS and ETJN co-convener.
The exhibition brings together a selection of Karmadavis’s videos and photographs that are often based on performances. The work particularly focuses on two highly-charged political situations, the tense border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the legacies of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war.
Transitional justice is one of the key themes of the exhibition – resisting oppression, supporting justice and safeguarding culture in the aftermath of social unrest, conflict or natural disasters.
Dr Bahun said: “This exhibition will bring visibility to those aspects of academic work which presuppose active engagement with the ‘real’ world. People sometimes think literary scholars are working in ‘ivory towers’, but we are both inspired by and actively engaged with social reality, particularly with cases of injustice or situations which require political action.
“There are three components to this exhibition – the art work, raising awareness of certain political situations and certain political injustices, and our work as scholars. We hope this will forge connections between these three elements.”
The exhibition echoes many of the themes of the research work undertaken by the curators. Professor Fumagalli is preparing a book on the literary and cultural history of the politically tense border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, while Dr Bahun is working on a research project about the arts and transitional justice.
Like the research of the curators, Karmadavis’ art is politically and socially engaged. He says his work “investigates elements that affect the collective, allowing me to be part of it”. His work inspired by the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is exemplified in the exhibition by the video Estructura completa (Complete Structure), which was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2011. Meanwhile, his work on the human impact of the civil war (1960-1996) and the ongoing process of political, legal and cultural transition in Guatemala is illustrated in the exhibition by the work Identificación (Identification).
A range of activities have been developed to complement the exhibition. This includes public talks, a regular ‘art in context hour’ where visitors can speak to postgraduate students about the social contexts and issues covered by the exhibition. There are also research papers and a symposium dedicated to the issues of justice, transition, migration, and the ways in which art can intervene in, or support, these social and political developments.
Karmadavis: Art, Justice, Transition is at the University Space at firstsite in Colchester from 10 November 2012 to 10 March 2013.
For images of artworks in Karmadavis: Art, Justice, Transition, please contact Sarah Demelo at email@example.com or 00 44 (0)1206 874438
David Pérez Karmadavis
David Pérez Karmadavis was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He has lived and worked in Guatemala since 2006. He studied at the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo (1996-1998). He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Fine Arts and Illustration, Altos de Chavon (1999-2001). He is a multidisciplinary artist who moves between performance and the visual arts. His work has been exhibited individually and collectively in important national and international exhibitions.
ESCALA Guest Curators, Dr Sanja Bahun and Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli
Dr Sanja Bahun’s area of expertise is international modernism and her research interests include the theory of comparative arts, world literature, psychoanalysis and women’s and gender studies. Professor Maria Cristina Fumagalli’s research focuses on Caribbean literatures, art and cinema. She is particularly interested in border studies and the relationship between literature and place. Her book, On the Edge: A Literary History of the Border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic is funded by the AHRC and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.
The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is an accredited museum based at the Colchester Campus of the University of Essex in the East of England. ESCALA stimulates research, awareness and appreciation of art from Latin America among the academic and wider community. For more information about ESCALA and its activities and to consult our online catalogue please go to www.escala.org.uk
firstsite is a leading contemporary arts organisation in the East of England. The University of Essex is one of several partners to firstsite and enjoys the opportunity to work within a designated space: the University Space, within the building. ESCALA’s exhibitions at firstsite attracted over 39,700 visitors since opening.