Tour 2004 (in english)

(Texto escrito sobre el trabajo de Ana María Millán)

In the absence of an identifiable institutional and bureaucratic cultural apparatus (like that which exists in Bogotá), recent art production in Cali has developed under precarious conditions resulting in certain practices that seek to foreground a position of marginality and a low-fi aesthetic producing conceptual elegance out of very limited material resources. Elsewhere Cali has been described as ‘the periphery of the periphery,’ where geographical isolation, economic disparity and cultural malaise exist alongside a relaxed, semi-tropical cultural milieu in which nothing ever really seems to happen.

Ana María Millán is a founding member of Helena Producciones, a non-profit artist collective that organizes the Biennial Performance Festival in Cali. Along with fellow member Wilson Diaz, Millán is also responsible for “Loop” a semi-weekly television program that utilizes the format of the variety show to disseminate the activities of local artists and musicians. Both projects are engaged with the idea of counterculture and the invisibility of practices deemed irrelevant by mainstream institutions but which drastically outnumber the handful of names that come to mind when thinking about contemporary Colombian culture.

The current exhibition stems from a residency pursued by the artist in London in 2004 and is based on a cultural imaginary that holds London to be the origin of punk and counterculture. Prompted by requests from friends back home for cultural artifacts related to this image, Millán conducted interviews with two figures seminal to the history of punk as it developed in Cali: Jamie Reid, the artist responsible for designing the anti-corporate image of the Sex Pistols represented in flyers, posters, and album covers; and Paco, a member of the Spanish 80s punk band Paco Eskorbuto. The resulting videos are exhibited here along with a series of twelve paintings that include copies of 80s concert posters as well as posters that utilize a B-movie science fiction aesthetic—another cultural reference foregrounded by Millán in much of her past work.

The decade of the 80s is a loaded reference and brings to mind so many unfortunate cultural phenomena that influenced those of us who came of age during those years: the political conservatism defined by the Reagan-Thatcher alliance, the rise of corporate culture, and, locally, the consolidation of the Colombian drug cartels. And yet most of us look back toward the 80s with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia as a decade that although marred by bad taste and trash culture along with a general feeling of economic, political, and cultural decadence, seemed to hold the last vestiges of any sort of real counterculture before the more humane and politically correct cultural industry of the 90s moved in to change all of that.

These trashy, badly painted posters that look so naive to us today also allude to the sort of cultural lags that make any sort of marginal cultural practice seem like a bad copy. In Ana María Millán’s work, and indeed in the work of so many young Colombian artists, an entire visual repertoire appropriating elements from ‘low culture’ seeks to redeem the impoverished aesthetic of precariousness against the Colombian ruling class’s pseudo-intellectual, eurocentric ideal of Culture with a capital C.

Michèle Faguet

© Michèle Faguet