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“THE NATURE OF THINGS”
HUMBOLDT AND CONTEMPORARY ART IN LATIN AMERICA

José Luis Bongore, Ailleurs: Soacha, 2014
Photo: Jana Burbach.

With his conviction that “everything is interconnected,” Alexander von Humboldt was ahead of his time. The exhibition “The nature of things: Humboldt, comings and goings” can be visited on 13-14 September at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin as part of the celebrations marking Alexander von Humboldt's birthday.

In Colombia, the main event in homage to Humboldt is the exhibition The nature of things: Humboldt, comings and goings, a coproduction of the Goethe-Institut and the National University of Colombia’s Department of Cultural Heritage. About a hundred works by more than forty contemporary and past artists are in dialogue with Humboldt’s visual tradition, which, although having been absent from art history, has left considerable traces on the art of our time, as Badawi points out.

HUMANITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Among the contemporary artists whose works were commissioned for the exhibit are Colombians José Alejandro Restrepo, Liliana Sánchez, Carlos Motta, Antonio Bermúdez and David Guarnizo, as well as Spanish artist José Luis Bongore. There are also works by other artists, including Alfredo Jaar and Gianfranco Foschino from Chile, Andrés Matías Pinilla and Camilo Echavarría from Colombia, Óscar Sanillán from Ecuador, Brazilian Nathália Favaro and Japanese-German Miki Yui’s collective, and Regina de Miguel, a Spanish artist residing in Germany. This careful and clever selection of artists allows the public to understand some of Humboldt’s main ideas around “the experience of nature, the relationship between humanity and the environment,” says the curator. It also allows them to observe how enlightened science and the idea of development are also present in neocolonial relationships and extractivist economies that threaten the life of human beings and nature to the same extent.
  • David Guarnizo, Expedition to the Toluca, Popocatepetl and Iztacihatl volcanoes Photo: Urniator Studio.
    David Guarnizo, Expedition to the Toluca, Popocatepetl and Iztacihatl volcanoes
  • Gianfranco Foschino, A New Landscape, 2016 Photo: Jana Burbach.
    Gianfranco Foschino, A New Landscape, 2016
  • Liliana Sánchez, Vorágine, 2008-2019 Photo: Jana Burbach.
    Liliana Sánchez, Vorágine, 2008-2019
  • Jean Carlos Lucumi, The Freight Carrier, Performance in front of José Luis Bongore’s video installation Photo: Urniator Studio.
    Jean Carlos Lucumi, The Freight Carrier, Performance in front of José Luis Bongore’s video installation
  • José Luis Bongore, Ailleurs: Soacha, 2014 Photo: Jana Burbach.
    José Luis Bongore, Ailleurs: Soacha, 2014
  • Camilo Echavarría, Cauca, 2013 | © Jana Burbach.
    Camilo Echavarría, Cauca, 2013
  • José Alejandro Restrepo, Humboldt’s Crocodile is not Hegel’s, 1994 (detailed view) Photo: Jana Burbach.
    José Alejandro Restrepo, Humboldt’s Crocodile is not Hegel’s, 1994 (detailed view)
  • José Alejandro Restrepo, Quindío Pass in the Andes Photo: Jana Burbach.
    José Alejandro Restrepo, Quindío Pass in the Andes

A DECOLONIAL PERSPECTIVE

Following this line of thinking and taking into account Humboldt’s transdisciplinaray work and his interest in creating networks, the international performing platform Experimenta/Sur (Experiment/South) was invited to take part in the exhibition with a project inspired by Humboldt. In its eighth edition, organized by the Goethe-Institut Colombia and Mapa Teatro, with support from the Siemens Stiftung Foundation and the Ministry of Culture of Colombia, Experimenta/Sur included more than thirty artists, thinkers and narrators who addressed Humboldt’s scientific, visual and literary legacy and took inspiration from the contributions of other artists present in the exhibition. They also reflected on what has not been said about Humboldt, about the silences of a man known for his written and historical eloquence, and reached, via bold critical transdisciplinary approaches, a comprehensive reinterpretation of the discourses on the connection between nature and beings.
 
This task given to the plastic, performing and visual arts, in dialogue with Humboldt’s legacy, urged the artists to rethink the relationship between art, science and nature from a decolonial perspective. Accordingly, the logic of capitalist, extractivist and heteropatriarchal domination was questioned.
 
After Bogotá, the exhibition “The nature of things: Humboldt, comings and goings” can be seen at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin 13-14 September 2019.
 

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