REVIEWED: Bogotápolis

By Renata Domitran
Jaime Avila Ferrer, Talento Pirata, 2013. 
Courtesy of the artist.

Colomborama is a large exhibition project bringing the Colombian contemporary art scene to Oslo by showing in different exhibiting spaces and venues around the city. Its primary exhibition Bogotápolis, is held from 28 February until 5 May. Bogotápolis presents the work of eleven contemporary Colombian artists whose work relates to the Colombian capital Bogotá and its socio-political issues concerning violence, narcotics, crime, globalisation and marginalisation.  The artists come from different walks of life and the versatility of their backgrounds serve as a platform for their approach in dealing with everyday realities in Bogotá.

Upon entering the exhibition space, Talento Pirata (2013) by Jaime Avila Ferrer (1968) is the first work to confront viewers. It is a large installation piece consisting of 4,000 CD covers spread over 80m2, constructed as groupings of puzzles on the floor and surrounding walls. Each puzzle set creates a large photo of life in Bogotá, reflecting on their day-to-day issues of piracy and problems with the active illegal industry of selling music and films. These enlarged images encased in CD covers, bring the reality of illegal actions into a neutral exhibition space, allowing for a new kind of dialogue. Spectators walk between photo CD puzzles as though they are real buyers on the streets of Bogotá, aiming towards an illegal purchase. 

Carlos Castro, Empire, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.
Carlos Castro (1974) refers to socio-cultural issues of Bogotá's history in his work Empire (2011). This work alludes to the founders of Rome - Romulus and Remus, and instead of a wolf, Castro uses a stuffed stray dog from the streets of Bogotá. The work draws ironic parallels of cultural identities, recognition, and its real meanings in society today. Similar connotations are visible in Traspie (Stumble) (2007), Castro's appropriation of Robert Gober's work Untitled (Leg). Castro re-contextualises Gober's work by dressing up the leg in labels such as Nike and Adidas, making a statement about the growing industry of forgery.

Carlos Castro, Traspie (Stumble), 2007. Courtesy of the artist.
Edwin Sanchez, Knife Lessons, 2007.  
Courtesy of the artist.

Single-Channel video Knife Lessons (2007) by Edwin Sánchez (1976), engages with the large extent of violent conflicts present in Bogotá. The video consists of three short acts showing a sincere and open street mugger who first draws a knife; then hand-makes it from a broken blade and melted plastic cup; in the final act he explains and shows how to best defend yourself and attack or kill somebody. Sánchez is deliberately confronting the audience with a disturbing reality that provokes aversion and contradictory feelings of compassion for a deprived individual who is victim to his harsh living environment. The brutality of his actions create an inner conflict within the viewer and leaves an open gap between questions of morality and empathy.

Wilson Diaz, Laboratorio de Coca, 201. Courtesy of the artist.
Wilson Díaz (1963) presents a series of photographs titled Laboratorio de Coca (2011), depicting coca plants growing in different neighbourhoods. Díaz addresses the problems around coca plantations and its drug related crimes, in contradiction to the plant's ancient use of its medical attributes. With the Latin name for coca plant, Erythroxylum novogranatense, displayed in green neon lights glowing in a dark room, Díaz alludes to the importance of the coca plant’s presence in Colombian society.

The rest of the artists presented in Bogotápolis are Maria Isabel Rueda (1972), Elkin Calderón (1975), Carlos Bonil (1979), Miguel Kuan (1980), Edinson Quiñones (1982), José Alejandro Restrepo (1959) and Andrés Felipe Uribe (1982).

Bogotápolis is a story divided into eleven individual experiences of everyday life in Bogotá. It shows an illusion-less actuality of people’s lives. However, it is also filled with a good dose of humour, irony and fantasy, qualities necessary for survival in disadvantaged circumstances. On a very personal level, Bogotápolis generates contradictory emotions in the viewer. The relationship between human actions versus existential challenges makes it difficult to judge. This exhibition is foremost about survival, with an undertone of consequential actions in political, social and cultural realities. It reflects on personal experiences of the darker sides of living.
·        BOGOTAPLOLIS,  STENERSENMUSEET. Oslo. 28 February – 5 May 2013