Showroom | Colombia
Recuerdos de Nápoles
Memories from Nápoles
Relations between today’s Colombia and the Dutch Caribbean are deeper than one might think. During the colony and until well into the 20th century, the trade of goods, from the Dividivi that left the continent to the contraband that entered it, formed exchange relationships. Pirates, buccaneers, corsairs, merchants, the deserted coasts of the guajira peninsula, and the Wayuu people contributed to configuring a mythical scenario. In Cien años de soledad, for example, the inventions and wonders of the modern world came through the gypsies who used Aruba and Curaçao as a springboard to connect Macondo to the outside world. At the end of the 20th century, the islands will become mainly a tourist destination of preference, paradise, scenes of pleasure, and hedonism. Tourism obviously intensified the relationships between the islands and also between them and the continent, diversifying the exchange of goods and the movement of people. The islands, mainly in the Caribbean, began to be sought after, not only as Edenic corners but also as tax havens.
In another place and time, in the interior of the continent, a rich smuggler and cocaine merchant tried to create his paradise on earth, the Naples hacienda, on the banks of the Magdalena River. There the main export product of Colombian-made entertainment, Pablo Escobar, ruled and lived outside the law for some years. He imported exotic animals from Asia and Africa, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, zebras, antelopes, ostriches, and hippopotamuses.
The hacienda, opened to the public in the glory years of the mafia, later abandoned, and ultimately converted in a tourist park, left a mark on the collective memory, and continues to produce effects, questionings and facts that seem to be products of the imagination. As something absolutely Macondian, the hippopotamus, abandoned after the defeat of the capo, began to populate the banks of the Magdalena River and today they coexist with the local fauna, reproducing in freedom. Less picturesque is the fact that without any problem, Colombia has accepted that Nápoles, the extinct kingdom of one of the worst murderers of its history, is today an amusement park, keeping clean the memory of the mafioso.
Nápoles as a whole, whose name pays homage to the Italian Camorra, represents the triumph of the mafia over the law, of luxury and bad taste, but it is also a place on which to examine the utopia, the unconscious dream of seeing in America the new world, the space where all continents, peoples, races, flora and fauna, including hippopotamuses, merge.
Memories of Nápoles gathers the work of artists who reflect on this enclave, but who also investigate the destruction of a true earthly paradise, the current Colombia, a place with the best climates, lands and diversity of the planet, destroyed by blood and fire in the name of an unjust and irrational war on drugs, a cynical excuse to impose the benefits of the structures and logics of capital, testifying to the tragedy of an Eden in decomposition.
Artists: Alberto Baraya, Edwin Sánchez, Camilo Restrepo, Jim Fannkugen, Leonardo Herrera, Oliver Ehmig, Sebastián Munera, Hernán Pruden, Nelson Guzman Avellaneda, Luisa Ungar, Tatyana Zambrano, Ryo Brachyura
Curator: Santiago Rueda – Harold Ortiz
Hipopótamos en Paris
We can observe phenomena caused, for example, by men who, in a tropical environment, are dedicated to raising original Indian cattle, (‘Bos indicus’), in the Magdalena plains. In the same scenario, the ‘Hipoppotamus amphibius’, an exogenous African species, has adapted and managed to survive in the tropical conditions of its riparian lagoons. The consequences are obvious: there will be a drastic ecological change in the region. Biologists point out that the presence of the hippopotamus will modify the conditions in which the manatee, the caiman or the chigüiro live
In these new environmental conditions there will be phenomena of uncontrolled exchanges and encounters between species. We will continue to see exchanges of minerals, of viruses, of germs, of fluids of wild, wild and domestic animals and plants. People of all races, beliefs, strata and powers. A scenario that follows its course, where the laws of men and nature are unleashed. Alligators, jinetas, hippopotamuses, bats, chickens, cattle, monkeys, squirrels, fleas, men, women and viruses will roam there at will.
Artist’s text published in El Tiempo.
Kill them all (60)
The dilemma of what to do with the hippos in Colombia is the consequence of a playful and familiar question – what to do in Nápoles?- asked by those who surrounded the man for whom, because of the illegality of drugs, everything was possible. The answer came in 1983 in a Hercules plane loaded with exotic animals.
Of the species that made up the narco-zoological, four hippopotamuses found on Pablo Escobar’s farm the right environment to reproduce far from the natural control of the droughts in the African savannah. The herd began to grow and will continue to do so exponentially: there were 60 specimens in 2019, there are 80 or more in 2020 and it is estimated that there will be 800 in 2040 and 8000 in 2060.
These mega invaders are a threat both to people (in Africa they are the main cause of death by wild animal attacks) and to the environment: they pollute the waters and displace or exterminate native species. The solution to this problem is still silver or lead. Since in Colombia there is not enough money to capture, sterilize, or relocate them, it is urgent to annihilate tens rather than hundreds or thousands of them. The calculation can be made in lives or in tons of dead meat.
The cool thing about the photos shown here is that they are innocent. Pablo Escobar’s strategy was very bizarre and very perverse; to surround himself with civilians to protect himself. So, on one hand, he gave away houses to protect his domains and his territory, and in the case of Nápoles, he let people in so that in case of a raid, for example, it would be complicated to enter. So even that double-edged weapon that drug traffickers know how to use. Illegal businesses always seek to armor themselves with innocent civilians, whether they are poor or marginal people who end up being a shield and those who pay with the dead.
Cocola is a broad investigation of musical themes that talk about cocaine. This record selection starts with Carlos Gardel and the Matamoros trio and ends with Systema Solar. Surprisingly, in these 90 years of history the tango, the French song, the Cuban music, the folk, the country, the jazz, the mambo, the Andean music, the reggae, the blues, the rap, the rock, the samba, the cumbia villera and Peruvian, the vallenato, the hip-hop, the salsa, and the reguetón will take this substance as a topic. Divided by decades, this archive contains more than 100 songs and is progressively enriched.
Fankugen performs the act of mambeo, i.e. chewing the coca leaf, a thousand-year-old custom of the Andean and Amazonian peoples. Later, with the liquid mixed by the sap and his saliva he draws the portraits of the American presidents that appear on the dollars but leaving the lower half of the face blank, making an analogy of the transformation between coca and cocaine, of the ancestral uses as opposed to the current uses of the same plant, from the leaf to the alkaloid, from the mouth to the nose.
Video. HD. 4′ 06”. 2014
(Elkin Calderón y Diego Piñeros)
Noble (del proyecto De la mula al avión)
De la mula al avión (From the mule to the plane) allows us to appreciate in a very precise way the research that La Decanatura has done on the process of modernization and modernity in Colombia, emblemized on this occasion by two figures: the twin-engine DC-3 aircraft and the mule, as metaphors of the transition from the rural to the urban, which characterizes the 20th century and mobility in a vast geosocial space: the Orinoco and the Amazon, 55% of the national territory, mobilized and connected even today in good part thanks to the DC-3s, almost museum pieces, built almost eighty years ago. The pack animal, even with golden wings in the moor in one of them, serves the artists to investigate also the current economic orientation of the country. In the words of one of them, “Suddenly the mule with wings is better than fracking”.
Video. HD. 3′ 56” . 2017
As a story, Santos Cabezas brings together all the mythology to seduce the young people of the Pacific coast (the geographical area where Leonardo Herrera has conducted his recent research) to take the path of organized crime. The fortunate character who finds his fortune in a magic lamp; the luckiest man in the world, a millionaire, immortal, all-powerful, father of all the children of the town, charismatic, immune to witchcraft, smiling, beautiful, a survivor… a Frankenstein monster made from the rotten pieces of the stories and the wishes of everyone.
This environment is neither intentional nor performative. It is something you find yourself in. It represents a state of mind.
Byung Chul- Han
A state of mind is condensed between some limit points within the exhibition (a line with objects): a first space, which is a dark opening, involves the open sea, the pillory, the wall, the skull, the autophagy, and the smile; all this no longer as specific pieces but as subliminal notions or things on the way to becoming symbols. Perhaps Santoscabezas is all of this, every story that has been told. Maybe at some point, it was a crab that devoured another crab; maybe it was dead and resurrected, captured and flew away, to then show us its smile as an opening (wound) in the face whose interior gradually becomes gold, just as the tar wall is, in turn, a face that smiles at us (wounded), whose interior gradually becomes light.
I’ve had four heart attacks and I won’t die from it, what a sadness a lifetime devoted to emotional suffering – in silence – because affection and emotion are not narratable.
Santos Cabezas. Animation. 2017
Cangrejos. Animation. 2017
Dominio y extinción (Mastery and extinction)
“Mammal skins among ocelots, zebra, anteaters, spectacled bears, monkeys and tapirs accumulated as a mute testimony of the extractive activities that plunder the territory. Out of interest of the law that expropriates them, of the futility of their cataloging and of the trade that makes those skins a fetish that allows us to glimpse the aesthetic constructions of class in the country. A pure dry carcass remains, in which the body of the animal is both absent and manifest, as a community of ghosts raising the flags of their own disappearance.”
“Empty of meaning: captured (and out of their bodies) the skins of these animals lost the sense; in legal limbo, they can no longer be sold. They are now useless things: objects without a system. They lack the necessary conditions to serve science; they cannot be cataloged anymore: without metadata, we do not know their original conditions. Useless also for the printing market exotic, old and illegal, can no longer be sold. They lie outside the cosmogonies of communities that lived with them in hunting and ritual and in food and language…”
Fragments of texts of the exhibition
Dominio de la Extinción
Lugar a Dudas
Nelson Guzman Avellaneda
Guzman visited Pablo Escobar’s Hacienda Nápoles, the business center and hideout of the capo, place of drug shipment and at the same time, an amusement park famous for its extravagant zoo which had a payroll of 843 employees. Touring and registering their facilities from the hacienda to the airstrip, passing by the house main plundered and destroyed by the enemies of the mafioso and the hidden treasure hunters. The photo series in color made in slides and later digitized summarizes the barbarism of the Medellin mafia and the Pantagruelic tastes of Escobar.
In “A Weekend with Pablo Escobar” (1984) the journalist Juan José Hoyos recounts his days in Nápoles: “We started to see the hippopotamuses, the elephants, the kangaroos and the horses that ran free in the field green. My son fed a giraffe through the car window, with the help of the bodyguard. As we went into the hacienda we would crossing gates guarded by guards. In each door, the bodyguard showed a card written from his handwriting by the pattern. With the card, the doors would open immediately as if obeying a magical oath. Next to one of the last ones, there was an old car mounted on a pedestal”.
Mar de coca
Ehmig accompanies as a documentary photographer special military operations in areas of conflict in Colombia; in this case in the Tumaco jungle. This is a region of Colombia where large areas of coca cultivation are found and with it a large part of the social problems that this entails. It is surprising that 20 years after the so-called Plan Colombia, today the country is at a record high level of coca planting and production, a result that demonstrates the failure of its goal in the fight against drugs, as recognized by the U.S. Commission on Western Hemisphere Drug Policy in its latest report. With his photograph Ehmig allows us to intimately review from the military shore, the landscapes of a country surrounded by two oceans and immersed in a sea of coca.
The Nápoles hacienda formed in 1978 by Pablo Escobar had an important collection of animals that included rhinoceroses, elephants, camels, hippopotamuses, tigers, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, mules, kangaroos, flamingos, ostriches, parakeets, and a couple of unique black parrots, among others. A collection that seems to conform to an outdoor zoo as never seen in America, but if something has given us time is to understand the universe of camouflage, disguise, and the gadget that feeds the Colombian drug trade where nothing is what it seems. In his selection we could think that he is approaching an altar dedicated to key animals in cosmogonies of the five continents and from the look of a multimillionaire who tried to change all the laws and rules of the legal, challenging with it the earthly, why not think about the metaphysical? Naples is more like an Eden in a promised land (compromised), the beginning of a new world at his whim, one that would allow him to designate his own destiny, rearrange the stars and link them together to create secret constellations. One that would allow him to trace new clandestine routes, speed up sowing times and even change the order of the seasons: one that would allow him to make snowfall in the middle of the world’s summers.
Delito y ornamento: falsa libertad, falsa captura. (Crime and ornament: false freedom, false capture. )
Between the Hacienda Nápoles Theme Park that functions as a safari and the “El pesebre” prison – with which it shares land in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia – there is false freedom and a false dam. From the figure of the zoo and the prison, the artist reflects on the look and the escape. Sometimes art is an excuse to inhabit space. The spatial and sculptural gestures of Sebastián Múnera become devices to spend time in space until a fiction emerges from it. Every institution captures and collects, every device captures and makes us believe we are the owners of what we capture. In a capture, something always escapes us.
“HONEYMOON” IS INSPIRED ON A HISTORY OF LOVE. My aunt’s. In 1982, she married the love of her life. When the two arrived at the hotel in Italy, where they had traveled to spend their honeymoon, they were captured for carrying coca. While he was sent to jail, she was taken to a convent, where she stayed for eight years cooking for nuns. She never knew Italy, she never experienced her honeymoon. Even though the love between her and her husband, despite many dramas and difficulties that came later, never faded. Until today they love each other. They live in a small apartment somewhere in Colombia, together with their two children. Her husband is a taxi driver. And she sews …