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Perspectives from Latin America

Part of Unmasking Masks

© Bellamy

Perspectives from Latin America is the final panel discussion in Unmasking Masks, a one-day livestream event that explores the historic and artistic representations of masks. 

This panel will explore the uses of masks in contemporary Mexican art, and more specifically the ways in which they function as political plastic images that can help approach the heterogeneity of Mexican identities as well as articulate Mexico's colonial relations with Spain and the USA.


3:00 PM – 3:15 PM Introduction
Esther Gabara 

3:15 PM – 3:30 PM Cosmic Mask: Mestizaje, Naturalization, and Indigeneity 
Pedro Lasch

For the last twenty years, Mexican-American artist Pedro Lasch has experimented with the use of mirror masks in his ‘Naturalizations' series. Inspired in large part by Zapatista ski masks, these works have been presentedin museums, galleries, community workshops, protests, and everyday settings around the world. With a critical approach to the notion of mestizaje, the series' formulations of race and citizenship will be linked during this talk to another project entitled 'Indigenous Spectrum' (Black Mirror series). Originally commissioned by the MUAC and shown as part of their ‘Color Theory’ show on racism in contemporary art, it also served as the concluding artwork of the exhibition “Máscaras Mexicanas, simbolismos velados” shown at the Art Gallery of the National Palace in Mexico City. This traveling show, which had more than 250,000 visitors at this venue, included 450 masks from over 40 collections and from different epochs and regions of Mexico. 

3:30 PM – 3:45 PM The Mask or Dance of Metamorphosis
Caroline Perrée, with Interpreter Andrea Valencia (Spanish-English)

The dances which Mexican communities offer the Virgin of Guadalupe to thank her or request her intervention are used to stage a metamorphosis of identities through the mask. In the way, the mask allows us to think about the plasticity of the images, whose creation is the fruit of constant hybridizations, both ancient and contemporary. The result is an aesthetics of amalgam born of appropriation and reinterpretation by an entire people, which are integrated into a perpetual movement of re-creation. The imaginary at stake bears witness to a mobile, fluctuating and labile culture whose creativity is, at once, a weapon against fate, a resistance to the forces that govern us and proof of the triumph of life. 

3:45 PM – 4:00 PM Masked Mask, Asked the Ego
César Martinez Silva, with Interpreter Andrea Valencia (Spanish-English)

The Mexican artist César Martinez Silva has used the mask in various public and private forums in his performance artwork. The mask is not only an alteration of the ego, it is also another “new” constructed ego that allows César Martinez Silva to explore ways of seeing and doing to confront various situations, from the concept of generating a new identity to that of creating political awareness. Since the emergence of the Zapatista movement in Mexico, César Martinez Silva has considered himself an undisciplined ZapArtista (Zap-Artist) as he took their characteristic mask as a new identity and a way to reflect the indigenous movement. Using face masks or masks with nationalistic symbols allow César Martinez Silva to speak, to remain silent, or to represent a paradoxical nationality, as the mask is adapted to the context or subject to be discussed in front of the audience. In his performances, César Martinez Silva uses screens as masks to create an analogy between Mesoamerican deities like Tezcatlipoca, James Bond 007, and the Netflix series Black Mirror.

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM Discussion and Q&A
Moderator: Esther Gabara, with Interpreter Andrea Valencia (Spanish-English)

About the Speakers

Esther Gabara is Associate Professor of Romance Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. A specialist in modern and contemporary Latin America, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that bring together research, theory, and practice, and introduce students to scholarly and artistic genealogies in the Global South. Gabara was the faculty guest curator of the exhibition, Pop América, 1965-1975, which traveled from the McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, Texas, 2018), to the Nasher Museum of Art (Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 2019), and the Block Museum of Art (Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinous, 2019). Pop América was awarded the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize for curatorial innovation. Recent publications include essays for Un arte sin tutela: Salón Independiente en México, 1968-1971 (MUAC/UNAM, Mexico), La Raza (Autry Museum of the American West), and Revolution and Ritual: The Photographs of Sara Castrejón, Graciela Iturbide, and Tatiana Parcero (Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery/Getty Foundation). She has published a monograph, Errant Modernism: The Ethos of Photography in Mexico and Brazil (2008, Duke University Press), and recently completed a new manuscript, “Non-Literary Fiction: Art of the Americas Under Neoliberalism.

Pedro Lasch (Mexico/US) is a visual artist, Duke professor, and 16 Beaver organizer. He is also director of the FHI Social Practice Lab at Duke. Solo exhibitions and projects include Open Routines (QMA), Black Mirror (Nasher), Abstract Nationalism (Phillips Collection), Art of the MOOC (Creative Time), A Sculptural Proposal for the Zócalo (Casa Wabi) and Politics of Fiction (Espacio México, Montreal); group exhibitions include MoMA PS1, MASS MoCA (USA); RCA, Hayward Gallery, Baltic (UK); Centro Nacional de las Artes, MUAC, National Palace Gallery (Mexico); Prospect 4 Triennial New Orleans (2017), Gwangju Biennial (2006), Havana Biennial (2015), Documenta 13 (ANDANDAND, 2012), and 56th Venice Biennale (Creative Time Summit, 2015). Author of five books, his work has appeared in numerous catalogues, as well as journals like October Magazine, Saber Ver, Art Forum, ARTnews, Cultural Studies, The New York Times, and La Jornada. His online pedagogical artwork ART of the MOOC (English-Spanish) has had over 54,000 enrolled participants in 134 countries since it launched in 2015.

Caroline Perrée has a Ph.D in Art History from Paris I Sorbonne and is a researcher at the CEMCA (MEAE – CNRS) in Mexico City. Her research is within the field of anthropology of images and is carried out by studying the relationships between art and handicrafts, as well as analyzing religious practices and images and their interactions with contemporary artistic creations, especially in Mexico. Her research more generally encompasses issues of temporality in art by analyzing the continuity and subversions in the creation of images. She has co-authored several works, including: Matérialiser les désirs. Techniques votives (2018), Cuerpos Memorables (2018), Ex-votos do México: tradição e transgressão (2017). She has written artist catalogues and monographs. https://cemca.org.mx/es/caroline-perree

Photo courtesy of César Martinez Silva © Alfredo Durante

César Martínez Silva Ph.D. (México, D.F. 1962) is an "undisciplinary" artist. His work has moved through diverse conceptual contributions and technical media, including gunpowder and dynamite employed with an artistic intent, “deconstructing the destructive,” creating with elements that destroy, as well as the use of electronic and digital media in different supports, on the screen as well as in interactive performances. The creation of edible and digestible human sculptures has given him the chance to taste his own work with the public in many countries. This has also informed his meta-point of view on the Tratados de Libre Comerse (Free-Trade Agreement) such as the North America Cholesterol Free Trade Agreement or the North America FAT-Free Trade Agreement.

Andrea Valencia attended the Instituto Superior de Intérpretes y Traductores (ISIT) in Mexico City. She has a certificate in Legal Interpretation from SFSU and has also focused on community interpretation and localization, among other areas. She has worked as an interpreter, translator, journalist, editor, storytelling facilitator, and language expert. Andrea recently co-founded Linguaficient, a local language solutions agency based in San Francisco, California, where she currently resides. 

This event is presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Atlanta, Duke University, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt University
with support from the Institut Français, the Beaux-Arts Nantes Saint-Nazaire (France), Les Maîtres d'Art (France),​ Descripto-Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France, the Atlanta Global Studies Center – Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta), the High Museum of Arts – Atlanta, Centro de Estudios Mexicanos y Centroamericanos – CEMCA (Mexico).