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La Biennale di Venezia 57: Part VI - Chilean Pavilion

"La Biennale di Venezia 57. Three Pavilions from the Arsenale:

Lost and Found”

Now through November 26th, 2017

Highlights from the 57th Venice Biennale

Part VI - Chilean Pavilion : “Werken” by Bernardo Oyarzún, curated by Ticio Escobar

Departing the Georgian Pavilion left me dwelling in the national halls of the Arsenale thinking about the dreamy possibilities of isolation, the lone wolf, an anti-urban outfitter. And then after perusing several countries under the same roof (underwhelming in comparison to the strength and profound immateriality vs. physicality of Living Dog Among Dead Lions, the raining house), it was a ritualistic circle of what appeared to be of tribal masks that reignited my tour in the Arsenale.

A red light flared from the room’s perimeter where unusual names drifted along the perimeter wall within an LED display that spanned over 50 meters. The masks shone like a dream of entities densely assembled as a single unit. It was the Chilean pavilion, rich in its historical reference and yet very much contemporary to the actual period. I immersed in the installation’s appeal. It was as if the creators were there sending out a message of solidarity and hope, accredited by the “dance” of names around the circle.

The project’s proposal began when the curator of the pavilion, Ticio Escobar approached Bernardo Oyarzún, a native Chiléan artist, to embark on a project with the Mapuche, an indigenous tribe in South Central Chile and South Western Argentina. The Mapuche have essential importance in the history of Chile. Often mistreated and a constantly subjected to conflictual situations, The Mapuche issue consistent with the evolution of Chilean society and politics and the attitude towards indigenous peoples. Oyarzún worked closely with specific individuals, established direct relationships with each of the 40 artisans creating the 1,000 Mapuche killing masks that made up the installation. 6,907 surnames of the Mapuche appeared on the LED turning around the sacred grouping. The installation, entitled Werken, intrigued me further with the notion of an existential gathering; the masks having varying expressions, dimensions and radiating human characteristics resting on top of tall pole like pedestals with the thin squarish base, often used for presenting art and artifacts in Natural History museums. This was insightfully effective as it was as if the “heads” were chopped off and put on display to scare away enemies. Though, Werken is the Mapudungun word meaning messenger. Is the action of this installation, via the Mapuche people, an informative device to the audience of the story, through a riveting display of human emotions from the faces of masks? Does it reveal the persecution and the mistreatment of yet more humans on earth? Will it make a difference? I just feel like responding with that 1963, most relevant Bob Dylan ballad, “The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

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