until 29.10. | #3587ARTatBerlin | 68 projects presents from 10. September 2022 the exhibition “Tempel der Umkehrung” (Temple of the Reversal) by the artist Ivana de Vivanco.
the exhibition “Temple of Inversion” is the first solo exhibition of the Chilean-Peruvian artist Ivana de Vivanco at 68projects Berlin.
“In the exhibition, I will transform the gallery into a “temple of inversion” in which the controversial authority structures of our society fall down and the hitherto oppressed rise up,” Ivana de Vivanco describes her motivation for the exhibition: “The exhibition space will be changed in such a way that the visitors forget that they are in a gallery.
In her works, the artist questions preconceived notions of gender, Western history and colonialism, as well as questions of power and powerlessness. Her works are scenic displays in small, concentrated spaces, visually appealing but uncomfortable curiosities that evoke an eerie atmosphere full of metaphors and socio-political references. The extension of the images with sculptural and installation elements adds an extra dimension to the works and invites the audience to become part of their bizarre pantomimes.
Ivana de Vivanco studied art with Gonzalo Díaz Cuevas at the Universidad de Chile and at the HGB in Leipzig with Oliver Kossack. In 2016, she completed her Meisterschülerin studies with Annette Schröter at the HGB. Since 2020, she has been teaching painting in her second year at the HGB.
Works by Ivana de Vivanco have recently been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Kunsthalle Darmstadt, 68projects Berlin, The RYDER Projects in Madrid, SCAN Projects in London, Galerie Anita Beckers in Frankfurt and the exhibition “Dissonance. Platform Germany” at Künstlerhaus Bethanien. In 2021, the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) acquired one of her works for its collection. Ivana de Vivanco’s work has been published in “Dissonance – Platform Germany” (DCV) and “100 Painters of Tomorrow” (Thames & Hudson), among others, and featured in Elephant Magazine, Something Curated, Juxtapoz Magazine, Schirn Mag, Artishock or Le Quotidien de L’Art.
Ivana de Vivanco: Tempel der Umkehrung (Temple of the Reversal)
One should take it seriously that Ivana de Vivanco calls her exhibition a temple.
It is not enough for her that pictures are simply looked at, talked about, or bought. Rather, she demands of her works that they lend what is otherwise expected of cult objects and religious practices. What it wants, then, is to be circumscribed by big words like ‘healing’ or ‘meaning-making’. The closer definition of the temple as “Temple of Inversion” is more precise and at the same time remains quite general: the Chilean-Peruvian artist is concerned with awakening forces that make change possible.
But how is this to happen? Certainly it is not enough to simply quote traditional forms of religious art. Rather, if one refers to them, they must be reclaimed and filled anew. De Vivanco exemplifies this with the Christian genre of the triptych.
This played an important role in religious art from the late Middle Ages to the Counter-Reformation, and the hierarchy between the larger central panel and the smaller side panels was used, for example, to distinguish between heavenly and earthly motifs or to illustrate the temporal dramaturgy of salvation history. In her triptych “Este oro comemos” Ivana de Vivanco already takes up the hierarchical structure by keeping the two outer panels very simple: without colors, like a mere preparatory drawing that also appears corrected, which reinforces the character of the unfinished. The central panel, on the other hand, shines in intense colors; here every form is clearly defined and comes into its own accordingly. The aesthetic difference between the panels, however, corresponds to a compositional relationship. Thus, two figures who turn to each other on the central panel and, accompanied by striking gestures, exchange a plate, reappear in a very similar way on the side panels. Did de Vivanco thus continue a sketch on the central panel that can be seen on the set panels, cut in half?
In fact, the side panels have a clearly identifiable model. This is found in one of the most important chronicles of the early 17th century, written by Huamán Poma de Ayala, a high-ranking Inca, who describes the history of his people, but above all documents their colonization by the Spanish and the associated injustices and grievances in the Viceroyalty of Peru – Ivana de Vivanco’s homeland. In addition to the text, the chronicle contains almost 400 drawings that by no means merely illustrate what has been written, but are to be interpreted as an even sharper and more pointed gesture of resistance to the Conquista. Thus, in the drawing selected by de Vivanco, the figure on the left is depicted as superior to the one on the right: She is seated on a stool, directly in front of the gate of a larger house, which thus appears to be her property. In contrast, the other person kneels on the ground, appearing in the unloved position of a supplicant. Yet, as the caption of the chronicle indicates, she represents a Spanish conqueror, while the seated figure shows an Inca.
The 17th century drawing thus offers an early as well as astonishing example of an iconography of empowerment: the subjugated Incas show themselves not as victims, but strong and independent. The drawing is meant to motivate them to defend themselves against injustice suffered, to stimulate their pride and self-confidence. It is not only to remind us of better times past, but above all to evoke a better future. And by taking up this drawing and enhancing it thanks to its large format and colors, but above all as a significant central panel of a triptych, Ivana de Vivanco increases the empowering intention even more specifically. The reversal of real power relations thus becomes – in keeping with the title of the exhibition – all the more the program.
However, de Vivanco is no longer only concerned with the specific historical conflict; rather, it functions for her as a blueprint for comparable conflicts. The clothing of the figures and their ambience in her painting is contemporary and timeless, and in many details de Vivanco makes great use of her possibilities as a painter in order to strengthen the message of the picture. What a facial expression the figure on the left has, for example! On the one hand, one still senses sorrow and grievance over humiliations suffered, but the gleam in the eyes testifies above all to liveliness, willpower and enormous energies. And one is looked at by these eyes, thus also directly invited to join forces. But empowerment means nothing else: discouraged individuals become a community in which everyone encourages each other.
In contrast, the gaze of the other figure is blunt. She may still wear a hat and be best dressed, but she is already losing her power, isolated. Finally, de Vivanco even exposes her to ridicule: there is a zone of distinctly lighter skin on each of her upper arms and thighs – an indication that the figure normally wears more clothes. So hasn’t she already lost a bit of control over herself by appearing so careless? She may hand over gold nuggets on a plate and flaunt her wealth, may even claim that her peers eat the gold (the titular “Este oro comemos” – “This gold we eat” – de Vivanco has also taken from the original drawing), but if she really did, she would choke on it.
If Ivana de Vivanco uses the genre of the triptych, indeed the special claim to validity of the central panel, to take sides and to deal a death blow, as it were, to the already wavering aggressor, in other paintings the aggressor is even staged directly. In the painting “Santiago-Rayo”, a rider is seen falling from his horse – struck by lightning. Is his fall divine providence? Or a coincidence that benefits a woman who had stood in his way, i.e. that of St. James, and thus wanted to stop him in her turn? Her fiery red stockings testify to her determination – and stand in complementary contrast to the green leggings of the fallen man. His facial expression is striking: perhaps he is screaming, but the open mouth can just as easily be interpreted as laughter. Should he be happy, even relieved, to have lost his power? A dazzling figure?
In South America, Saint James was once the symbol of the Spanish colonial rulers who founded Santiago de Chile in his name. He thus stood for a power that was hostile to the indigenous population. Accordingly, they wanted to overthrow and get rid of the system of rule he represented. But gradually his role changed: he became the patron saint of the oppressed, even changing sides, as it were, in a truly dazzling way. Perhaps this happened because the Christianised faithful could identify with St. Jacob as a martyr, which he was also and even at first, but perhaps they also hoped that they could transfer his power to themselves if they took him in.
If Ivana de Vivanco once paints the saint who is just losing his power but already seems to rejoice in his new role, another painting (“Warmi Pachakutik”) shows a somewhat later moment. Here, the indigenous woman already has the former enemy as a guest in her home. She serves him a drink, but the two of them are not sitting nicely at a table, rather both bodies are intertwined on a bed. The man curls up, naked – which means both that he has lost all power status and that the situation could turn into a love game in the next moment. Will the woman coming over him from above then also undress? Or will she after all prefer to regard the man as a prisoner and take her revenge on him? In the face of this highly ravished iconography, both seem equally possible, and one searches spellbound for clues as to how the scene will develop.
If in the last two paintings one is in a position of observer, virtually an eyewitness and voyeur of the exciting, historical event of a reversal of power, in “Ekeka”, another of de Vivanco’s paintings, one may hope to emerge a little more powerful oneself from the “Temple of Reversal”. The painting is more of an object here, since, unlike the other paintings, the outer edges of the canvas are also painted. Above all, however, the painting extends beyond its rectangular surface, as painted gold chains continue on it as real chains to which a pair of feet, also golden, are tied, standing on the floor. The fact that something that was initially only painted – something fictitious – becomes quite real here, however, illustrates the claim of this artefact: with it, as the title signals, a. cult is referred to.
It refers, as the title indicates, to a cult, to Ekeko, a deity responsible for prosperity and luck, which in this case, however, appears in a variant that has become female. In countries like Peru and Bolivia, Ekeko figures and images are responsible for making something that initially exists only as a wish come true.
Whereas traditionally various objects were hung around an ekeko to symbolise what one wished to have and to which one attached one’s own well-being, i.e. the figure was equipped with money, jewellery, a house or food, de Vivanco’s picture also contains a few other objects, such as a megaphone or a rainbow object. But these are part of the basic equipment for activist movements, for demos on the street, and thus in turn testify to the desire to break up and reverse existing power relations. And hasn’t this already been achieved in a remarkable way? After all, the male god has already become a goddess who is perhaps also more likely to listen to the wishes of women than those of men. Like the figure on the triptych, she seeks eye contact with those who stand before her and wish for something. And with her upraised index finger, she even virtually invites them to wish for even more, to by no means be too modest. Oh yes, in the “Temple of Reversal” patriarchy and colonialism seem to be almost at an end…
Vernissage: Saturday, 10. September 2022, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Exhibition dates: Saturday, 10. September until Saturday, 29. October 2022To the Gallery
Bildunterschrift: courtesy of 68 projects, Santiago-Rayo, 2022
Exhibition Ivana de Vivanco – 68 projects | Zeitgenössische Kunst Berlin Galerien | Contemporary Art | Exhibitions Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin