II Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Rural

In 1981, the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM) in Colombia organized the Primer Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Urbano. This was a four-day colloquium including an international conference of contemporary art, as well as an exhibition and a series of art performances. It was initiated by Alberto Sierra, then curator of the museum and also one of its founders, and it was conceptualized and directed by Juan Acha, a critic living in Mexico at the time. The Colloquium was groundbreaking, to say the least. It summoned a group of influential Latin American critics, curators and visual artists that presented or deliberated on concept-based artworks and experimental artistic practices. Their ideas and work were given visibility and sense in that forum, even when these were considered alternative to the cultural establishment of the region.

It's worthwhile noting that the Colloquium took place while the city of Medellín was celebrating the fourth edition of its art biennale. With few exceptions, most of the work included in that biennale were easel paintings and sculptures requiring pedestals or incorporating its own base. For its part, the Colloquium questioned the uses and values of those very formats and structures for art. It sought to create a framework for practices that had eschewed conventions of object-making in art and the mueseological space in itself. And it did so by commissioning lectures that traced non-Western art historical genealogies, as well as by introducing contemporary artistic practices that occasioned time-based work. It centered then on a new spatialization of art, one that regarded the reasons and the manners in which artists were moving away from making discrete objects and, at times, of the museum.

More than three decades after the first edition of this Colloquium, MAMM organized its second edition, which was held on March 10–11, 2017 in Medellín, Colombia. The museum's chief curator, Emiliano Valdés, invited me (Sofía) to direct this newer edition of the Colloquium. The main objective of the initiative remained the same: to address the questions that are raised “by the new media that art in Latin America is assuming and can assume.” This newest edition also assumed the original title, except for making a slight spatial adjustment of sorts: it replaced “urban art” for “rural art.” The change was done to explore ways in which artists have been using the field of visual arts to develop projects outside urban centers, particularly, with work that may sensibly contribute towards social integration, as well as to a cultural revaluation of property and the natural environment.

As in its first edition, the II Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Rural brought together a group of curators, critics and artists actively working in Latin America. The expectation was that their lectures, performances or projects shed light on ways in which the concept of “arte no-objetual” can be considered today. This partly involved considering the manners in which much of contemporary art is invested in, or has an impact onto, domains beyond the field of visual arts, if at times polemically. In other words, the Colloquium considered artistic and cultural processes from which a kind of art/work that is not object-based ensues, or at least not entirely so; on art that is encountered as event, of which its various iterations manifest, unfold and change with time.

Approaching the very idea of a so-called “non-object” art form insinuates an emphasis in processes and speech acts. The conceptualization of the colloquium took this into consideration. It also considered that many visual artists intently have an expanded artistic practice, creating not only a type of labor and a given community, but likewise offering the theoretical frameworks and main spaces for aesthetic experience and, no less, the socialization of information. This edition of the Colloquium thus highlighted the work of artists whose practice involves field research, cultural management or arts pedagogy and criticism, and that in some cases also extends to social activism. It invited them to develop project-based work, as well as to narratively share their ideas and processes or those of their contemporaries through a program of lectures and public talks.

In terms of format, the II Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Rural included an art conference held at MAMM, as well as a number of performances in the museum’s outdoor Plazoleta, a series of café meetings around Medellín, and an excursion to Jardín Circunvalar, which is located on the city outskirts, to experience its grounds and the art projects made especially for the colloquium and developed on-site or elsewhere but with its local communities. Other spaces of activation included the museum’s social media networks, for a number of artists have been commissioned to create and present works on digital platforms. In terms of contents, and to a large extent in respects to how these contents formally manifest, this Colloquium will re-addressed some points outlined in its first edition in order to contextualize artistic production.

At the outset, it asked participants to reconsider what is non-objectualism or if non-objectualism is postmodern, which were among the inquiries raised in the first edition of the Colloquium. On the other hand, a selection of themes originally addressed then were taken as a starting point in this new edition, only to be adapted to the new tools and knowledge available. For example, if the first edition of the Colloquium tackled with video, the new edition tackled digital/social media; if the art of corporal actions was approached, it now approached that of social activism; if film and the document were considered, it now considered the place and forms of testimony and narrative in the visual arts; if Marcel Duchamp’s work was an underlying reference, it now explored repercussions of work made by a regional artist with an expanded artistic practice, such as Lygia Clark.

This back-and-forth approach intended to elucidate differences in the social contexts of the 1970s—which informed the cultural practices dealt in the first edition of colloquium, and which could be considered a period characterized by dictatorships, exile and civil wars—from that of our contemporaneity—where, for example, the experience of neoliberalism produces other kinds of social exchanges and mobility, caused from reasons as disparate as market trends and professionalization, as from public insecurity and economic inequality. And of course, the invention of Internet was taken into account! Undoubtedly, this approach insists on revisiting history to draw the contemporary, at the same time that is acknowledges the potential of changing pasts and shaping futures to come. Ultimately, the II Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Rural was an experience.

In this webpage, you can download PDFs detailing the program, and here below you find snap-shots taken in the process of organizing the Colloquium, as well as images of various moments, sites and participants of the event itself. (As soon as video documentation of the colloquium lectures are posted online, I will include a link here.) Now, if you would like to read the lectures and essays about the 1981 edition, you can access here a digital copy of the book Memorias del Primer Coloquio Latinoamericano Sobre Arte No-Objetual y Arte Urbano. This book was published on the occasion of the MDE07: Encuentro Internacional Medellín 2007, curated by Alberto Sierra, Ana Paula Cohen, Jaime Cerón, José Roca, María Inés Rodríguez and Oscar Muñoz.

Here is the official website of the II Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetual y Arte Rural. Might as well mention that all the materials included there are in Spanish, as are the PDFs linked in this very webpage, and that this was the language of the event overall.