C.7 In Favour of Human Rights in America: Between Artistic Interpretation and Documentary Compilation

Thu Oct 21 / 9:00 – 10:30 PDT
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  • Diego Renart González, Yildiz Technical University

Since Pablo Picasso painted Guernica in 1937, art historians usually wrote he was based on documentary photographs of the bombing from the newspaper L’Humanité, even from comments by his Spanish republican friends in Paris. Today this work is considered one of the most remarkable paintings of the past century, despite being a fiction production, a symbol of terrible sufferings that war inflicts on human beings. It means that the defence of human rights may be more effective if both documentary compilation and artistic interpretation are joined, but the question about the usefulness of art, in a political sense, is still standing. Perhaps a good exercise is to compare our emotions or the strength of our principles when, for instance, it is seen Kim Phuc and other children running on the road after that air attack in Vietnam, photo by Nick Ut, or when it is observed the universal painting by the artist from Málaga. Thus, this session aims to reflect on how documentary works can influence and enrich art and to what extent documentary works are not, in their choice, artistic and poetic in a certain way.

Diego Renart González holds a PhD in Art History from the University of the Basque Country, Spain, and a Master of Arts in Museography and Exhibitions from the Complutense University of Madrid. He has been a speaker at the University of London, among others, and a grant holder of cultural management at the Spanish Ministry of Culture, at the Cultural Centre of Spain in Santo Domingo, and at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in the Curatorial Department. He has also curated an exhibition on his doctoral thesis at the same cultural centre in the Dominican Republic. Currently, thanks to a postdoctoral research fellowship Türkiye Scholarships (Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities) at the Faculty of Art and Design of the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul, he delves into the anti-Trujillist intellectual resistance and the cultural relations among the Dominican diaspora and the international avant-garde abroad.

C.7.1 From Activism to Artistic Practice: (Re)imagining Indigenous Women’s Labour Activism in Contemporary Art

Erika Kindsfather, McGill University

In 1971, three white Americans opened the Muckamuck Restaurant in Vancouver, advertising Northwest Coast First Nations cuisine. The owners hired predominately Indigenous women staff. In 1978 after a number of mistreatments at the hands of their employers, many staff members decided to join the Service, Office and Retail Worker’s Union of Canada (SORWUC), a feminist labour union that allied women workers in industries neglected by the major trade unions. After failed attempts to negotiate a contract with management, the Muckamuck workers voted to strike. The strike lasted over three years, making it the longest-running strike in the province’s history. Through the leadership of Indigenous women emphasizing gender justice and Indigenous sovereignty in the realm of labour activism, the strike brought together the concerns of feminist, labour, and Indigenous justice movements. Despite its significance in the histories of labour organizing, feminism, and Indigenous activism, the Muckamuck Strike has been excluded from dominating narratives of British Columbia labour history. Responding to this erasure of Indigenous women’s leadership in histories of labour and gender justice activism, Hunkpapa Lakota artist Dana Claxton, Vuntut Gwitchin artist Jeneen Frei Njootli, and Indigenous women’s activist organization the ReMatriate Collective take the historic strike as an entry-point into a series of artworks that explore the possibilities and tensions that surface at the intersections of Indigenous sovereignty, labour and gender justice activism. This paper examines the material practices and visual strategies these artists employ in their works, engaging with the archival traces of the Muckamuck Strike, displayed in the 2018 exhibition Beginning with the Seventies: Collective Acts held at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver. Using the framework of the archival imaginary proposed by Michelle Caswell, I explore the artists’ mobilization of the Muckamuck Strike archives as a means to intervene in the dominant narrative of labour justice organizing and envision connections among Indigenous women’s social justice organizing throughout history. I ask, how do the artists reimagine the Muckamuck Strike in their material engagements with the archives to subvert the erasure of Indigenous women’s labour activism? How do the artists work between archival and artistic practice to envision collectivity and solidarity beyond the confines of normative conceptions of time and space?

Erika Kindsfather is a first-year PhD student at McGill University. She completed her MA in Art History at the University of British Columbia, where she wrote her thesis on Vancouver-based women artists working with textile media during the 1970s. Her research interests include textile histories, movement studies, queer and feminist theory, archival methods, and the intersections of craft practice and activism. Prior to her MA studies, Erika worked as a researcher in the Dress, Fashion and Textile Department at the McCord Museum, where she researched underrepresented designers and manufacturers active in Montreal between 1920 and 1980. Her current research focuses on the histories of textile production in Inuit Nunangat since 1960.

C.7.2 The Coup, the Homeland, and the Person in Patricio Guzmán's Second Trilogy

Daniel Velasco Leão, Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina

This communication discusses the last three documentaries made by Patricio Guzmán: Nostalgia for the Light (2010), The Pearl Button (2015), and The Cordillera of Dreams (2019). In these films, Guzmán addresses the current consequences of what was one of the most terrible and emblematic episodes of the colonial massacre that took place in Latin America during the Cold War: the 1973 Chilean coup d’état that overthrew the Government of Salvador Allende. The first aspect I address is precisely what are the consequences that Guzmán's trilogy — no less vivid than his first trilogy The Battle of Chile — points out as still active in Chile's social and political life in the second decade of the 21st century. Another aspect addressed is the way these documentaries articulate their narratives. I am interested here in the combination of two sets of heterogeneous and singular elements: on the one hand, these films, which can be considered examples of Essay Film, are narrated in the first person and often show the body of Guzmán. On the other hand, they are constituted by testimonies from participants and witnesses and through other works of art made by artists, photographers, and documentary filmmakers. These incorporations of voices, narratives, and discourses can be perceived as an act of sharing the essential aesthetic attributes of his films with a group and, therefore, reveals a fundamental distance and opposition to the neoliberal self and is, in itself, a form of resistance. Lastly, I argue that something similar happens with the treatment of the body of the motherland. Successively, the Atacama desert, the ocean waters, and the Andes are treated as elements at the same time allegorical that symbolize the treated themes and concrete that situate these stories and narratives in fundamental materiality of Chile’s geography: so unique, collective, and inescapable as its history.

Daniel Velasco Leão (Rio de Janeiro, 1984) is a teacher, visual artist, documentary filmmaker, and researcher. Graduated in Social Communication–Film (2009) and Master in Communication (2013) from Universidade Federal Fluminense (Niterói–Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and PhD in Visual Arts (2020) from Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina (Florianópolis, Brazil) with sandwich period at New York University. Between 2016 and 2018, he served as professor of the Film Course a the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. His artistic and theoretical research covers the role of homemade archival images as spaces of collective and community memory, the specificity of the encounter at the documentary, and the relationships between documentary and the visual arts. Currently, he directs (with visual artist Djuly Gava) and produces the documentary film Panorama made with archival images of the residents of the Panorama Housing Complex.