Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian Visual and Material Culture is showing at the Bard Graduate Centre Gallery, New York to 10 August 2014.
The works in the multidisciplinary exhibition explore the social, political and economic situations in Colombia via the conceptual link of the river, representing the intertwining of culture with nature. The country’s complex topography means that historically, waterways were the sole connective pathways and transportation routes between communities. They continue to be the veins that penetrate remote territories- dividing, uniting and facilitating the armed conflict, turbulence and black market trafficking activity that have been rife in the area for decades.
Visitors first encounter a shimmering waterfall of white plastic Luz blanca (White Light, 1969) and a thick strand of blue fibres, joined by a single knot Nudo azul XIII (Blue Knot XIII, 2012) by fibre art pioneer, Olga de Amaral who has long referenced pre-Hispanic weaving traditions.
The breadth of natural colours and fibres obtainable from Amazonian plants is celebrated in the installation of tinted papers and fibres, Color Amazonia (2006 -13). The work is the result of seven years ethno-botanical research by an interdisciplinary team led by artist Susana Mejía, into natural pigments in the Columbian jungle and their use by the communities who live along the banks of the Amazon River there.
Works on paper by graphic designer David Consuegra draw on his research into pre-Hispanic motifs conducted in the 1960s which led to the development of a new typographical vocabulary referencing water, weaving, flora and fauna. A video installation Weaving Time (2014) by Monika Bravo projects a digital weaving of a pattern traditional to the Arhuaco people native to the Caribbean coast. Using the parallels between computer programming and Jacquard loom punch cards to weave a digital fabric using pixels as ‘threads’.
Examples of recycled lightshades from the PET Lamp project also feature. The initiative of Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón has made use of the plastic bottles that pollute rivers worldwide, using traditional weaving techniques of the Guambiano and Eperara-Siapidara communities to create unique lamps.
The exhibition is curated by José Roca, Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate Modern and Artistic Director of FLORA ars+natura in Bogotá, with the assistance of independent writer and editor Alejandro Martín.
Running concurrently in the BGC Focus Gallery is another exhibition; Carrying Coca: 1,500 Years of Andean Chuspas, which documents the historic use of woven bags used in Andean communities to carry coca leaves.