November 19, 2022 -
December 22, 2022
La Balsa Arte Bogotá
Sala principal. El secreto del zángano, La Balsa Bogotá

Secrets of ‘monte bravo’ - The visible universe is the crust of the invisible world.

A priest of black hands and white cassock invites us in. Where? What is this natural space? A shrine, a temple? Or perhaps, a tropical forest where the ‘manigua’ falls dramatically towards the ground? Is it, maybe, ‘monte bravo’ where the souls lay over the leaves before the night falls? The edge of Atrato river where the  ‘zánganas’ -  witches of dark wings - fly over? It could also be the secret laboratory of an alchemist in pursuit of the last resource/fragment of nature. The damp shelter of a ‘yerbatero’ -herbalist- that knows the vibration of sacred plants. The den of a ‘chinango’ that knows how to activate with words the medicinal and spiritual powers of the gliricidia, comfrey and rosemary. Indescribable space. More than a physical location, this is a mythical territory. That one of the white and black magic. The good and the bad. The healer and the killer. The one that governs everything.

The robe prompts a clue. It is not moved only by the wind of the jungle, but by invisible pagan energies that the priest modulates with western gestures. Powerful image where catholic tradition that shaped America collides with the african resistance that this official narration precisely left out. The continent's history sits over this body, this skin, this gesture, while the mystic breeze reveals to us that we are crossing a threshold. Abism where the spiritual and the fleshly, the cosmic and the earthly, the solar and the lunar reverberate. Subtle frontier, dynamic. Where an unprecedented crossing is possible between the natural, human and supernatural forces.

In this space, mysterious characters try to communicate with the sacred and are surprised in their extraordinary attempt. Because each video of Astrid Gonzalez pursues that subtle gesture, that precise word, that unique bodily expression, indispensable to summon spiritual forces. The artist captures with respect these ritual actions. She has extracted them from her research in Chocó. However, she discards the documentary gaze, instead, she embraces the silence, the synthesis and the forcefulness of poetry; and the freedom of fiction, instead of the dry boxes of anthropological commentary. For this reason, she avoids literally replicating the traditional forms of ‘alabao’, for example, to invite bodies, voices, contemporary metrics and rhythms that also involve the sensibility and experience of the urban subject.

She says that, although her ‘ciarrón’ navel is buried in the Pacific, where her ancestors are from, she was born and raised "in the city of eternal spring and the imaginary of the ‘sicariato’", in a Medellin that is desacralized, overflowing, on the margins of the telluric rhythms and the gods. His perspective will then be marked by the extreme tension between different narratives and planes: that of the present and that of mythical times, that of the profane and the magical.

She wants to account for this dislocation. For this reason, the contemporary music of the installation does not pretend to imitate the ancestral chants, which will nevertheless retain their symbolic force. As in the voice of the ‘cantaoras’, the same cultural imprint is present in them in compositions that resist, exorcize, liberate. And, above all, they manage to modulate the words of today's Afro people. Revitalized words that will activate the plants of the installation.

These have been planted by the artist, emulating with her hands potent gestures of the priest and the wisemen of healing. They are not docile beings, because the plants inside them enclose another force independent of the human: that one of the vegetal time that no one can alter. That is how they will untangle during the days of exhibition at a self-governed pace that answers to other clocks, laws; while they listen and just obey the cycles of the moon.

They will firstly take roots timidly, then leaves. They will green when the moment is fitting. At the end, they will wither and they take brown and ocher tones. These are the shades of the exhibition. With the brief cycle of the sprouts, the artist proposes a meditation around life and death. This one will not have, however, the catholic dramatism, but the pagan joy of knowing that when they die they will have fulfilled their performance completely, according to the lesson learned in Brazilian cosmology.

The result is this particular jungle, made of wheat sprouts and video screens, of lunar rhythms, of catholic prayers upset by African utilizations, of liturgic white cassocks conversing with magic black cloaks, of secrets, metamorphosis, appearances and urban harmonies. These pictures, words, plants and chants insist in the belief that establishes the Pacific territory: the sacred always articulates the world of the living. If healers in the African diaspora look to defeat the malefic powers of the environment and restore the health of a community through sacred plants, this ‘monte bravo de Gonzalez’ also tries to do so regarding our times and their physical and social illnesses.

Sol Astrid Giraldo Escobar, Curator

Selected images

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Studied Plastic Arts at the Bellas Artes University Foundation in the city of Medellín, graduating with honors. Works from different disciplines such as video, photography and sculpture, addressing reflections on the historical processes of the Afro-descendant communities in America. Her relationship with art also goes through research, for which she obtained a scholarship to study the Certificate of Afro-Latin American Studies, directed by A.L.A.R.I, Harvard University, Boston. Her work has been exhibited in Brazil, Chile, Peru, Angola, Lisbon, and Colombia, recently at the Museum of Memor...

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