by Alvaro Garcia Ordonez
Immediate Delivery - Sofortige Lieferung Lieferung. Neckar River, Heidelberg, Germany 1996
I was born and raised between the Village of Coyabo and the municipal seat of La Peña, Cundinamarca, in the Gualivá Region of Colombia. I’m the son of a carpenter, inventor and builder, and a long-lived, respected teacher. I graduated from the "Republic of South Korea" Departmental College in La Peña, Cundinamarca, a name given because two young people from the municipality died in the Korean War, including my own cousin.
I studied Fine Arts with a Specialty in Sculpture at the National University of Colombia, Bogotá campus. At the end of my studies I obtained a scholarship with my work "Sobre Vacíos" This work consisted of fique (sisal fiber) plant ribs, hardened with cassava starch, and was presented at the Museum of the Peoples of Stockholm, Sweden; Bachsall Galerie in Aschaffenburg, Germany; the House of Peoples' Culture in Luzern, Switzerland; as well as France, Spain and other European countries. I lived in Germany for several years and developed my work further, including a collaboration with Professor Hans Haufe of the Institute of Art History at the University of Heidelberg on Latin American art.
I then returned to my hometown in Colombia and during this stay made the “Mural to Panela” I then went on to the United States of America, where I have been granted the status “Alien of Extraordinary Ability,” (Foreigner with Extraordinary Abilities), a recognition of my career achievements.
After receiving US citizenship, I traveled to Mexico and Germany at the invitation of the Bad Boll Academy in Stuttgart and conducted floating sculpture workshops with African immigrant women at Eine Welt Zentrum, Stuttgart and with leaders of world organizations at Bad Boll Akademie.
At the end of 2014 I participated, as head of Image, Assembly and coordinator of AP-ARTE Foundation projects and artistic residencies.
I returned to the United States, where I now exhibit in the Hardcore Art Contemporary Space in the Art District of Miami, among other spaces. I reside in New York, work for the Public Schools and carry out artistic endeavors like the floating sculpture set next to the Hudson River Museum.
Right beside the museum is one of the most heavily-hit COVID-19 death zones in the state, right behind Manhattan and Queens. This 2020 lockdown gave me the opportunity to generate a new work entitled “VISIT TO ISLA HART,” suggesting that the viewer look back at the recent deaths.
When the system decided to close the schools, my mind and body began to assimilate the impact, and the fear jumped to the canvas. The first cry arose; this one is borrowed from Edward Munch.
Following the line of fear, a new reaction was generated in which I was prompted to recycle objects one would otherwise discard. This reaction was brought about by the long food lines seen in the news and press around the world, as well as at the Church of St. Peter right behind my house; the waving of the red S.O.S. rags that began in the poor neighborhoods of Bogotá and spread around the country and the white rags that fly in Central America to warn that hunger has entered their homes. I am reflecting reality by creating works regarding the current problems and pains of my country, and by extension, the world.
Our Project: Visita a Isla Hart
Video 4. VAIH-20. Sinking - Hundimiento. Picture of video 4. Variable measures. Wood, oil paint, wire. New York, spring 2020
“VISITA A ISLA HART” - VAIH-20
Pain is a recurring theme in En Agua. In different ways, pain is represented by objects floating in rivers which carry away, and also free us from, the pain.
The relationship with the environment, especially with water, began with my study of the sacred practices of the Muiscas, who threw gold pieces into the Guatavita Lagoon. I was also influenced by my maternal grandfather and my parents, whose lives were lived protecting and respecting water: My grandfather taught people to respect the boundaries of our Coyabo village, and my parents made large reservoirs to collect rainwater and stream water for drinking water in La Peña, Gualivá, Colombia.
The work raises social, religious, and political debate by daring to leave the boundaries of the exhibition hall and enter public spaces, as Rosalind Krauss did in her the Espacio Expandido. The influence of German philosopher Walter Benjamin is also here: Despised and force to wander until he died in a forgotten corner of Spain, he proposed, through reflections on language, to construct an alternative to all forms of violence. I also pay homage to Joseph Beuys, a German post-war artist. When his plane crashed, a tribe of Tatar nomads saved him from death by covering his wounds with animal fat and protecting him from the cold with felt; these very same materials that saved his life he later used in all his work. He tried to create a more humane society. In his later works he drew on the ancient ancestral philosophy of shamans, or Taitas, invoking their sacred plants, songs. and practice of living in harmony with the universe.
I made my first artistic “intervention” on the Neckar River, in Heidelberg, Germany with the performance “ENTREGA INMEDIATA” (Immediate Delivery) an exhibition of sacks used to pack panela (brown sugarcane cakes), La Peña’s main product. In this exhibit the sacks were empty: they did not carry anything. They represented hopelessness and depopulation of the countryside. These empty sacks floated in Germans waters just as the dead bodies floated down the waters of the Río Negro, (where I learned to swim), Colombia’s great Magdalena River, and the Cauca, among others. Inert bodies from other places, cast into the water to strip them of their identities and stories. The hunger, the kidnapping, the girls and boys of the war, the anti-personnel mines: the bags were weapons of panela meant to sweeten and heal an unfinished, unfulfilled peace; still painful. Grenades made of plastic resin changed their focus from killing to become lamps that provide light; they are part of this work.
EN AGUA invites us to heal the wounds of hatred and intolerance produced by Colombia’s long war: of disagreements, mistakes and political-economic interests, coordinated by a nefarious traditional ruling class: a country where the strongest believers become the most dangerous adversaries.
Today we are called to war against a tiny natural force that has shaken the foundations of the strongest, the most powerful and arrogant. This tiny force has shaken the world, has sequestered it and made it hide away, frightened; it has shaken every social strata without regard for creed or cultures or commerce or borders and even death itself (not even Mexico’s playful bones of Día de los Muertos).
I live in New York, watching the giant Hudson River roll by--itself an unbelievable event--which suspends a life full of fantasies, beliefs, and debts. Here, the work “VISITA A ISLA HART” (Visit to Hart Island, VAIH-20), is a step that one does not want to take, representing the hurried, rushed beginning of a last trip.
The scream (I am borrowing from Eduard Munch) is what first arises in New York. That which does not shine in the fantasy of life takes on value: pieces of wood, discarded objects, old paintings that are reborn and rebuilt from fear, materials stored for an invisible ceiling, the canned spray that a piece of furniture was waiting for, and that wire we desperately search for that would wrap around a non-existent beam, the empty tins of canned food that fill the cupboard, colors, and materials that mix in the midst of chaos and despair with new ones of intertwined lies. Those who should heal us also succumb.
Daily calls reach out, asking “are you still here?” Animals rule the streets of the cities; nature, with its strength and power, calls to us again. I am alone with these triangular images shaped by anti-personnel mines. Crutches turned into inert bodies are scattered throughout the work; standing at the window; no more words upon which to float.