SIMULATION AND SYMPTOMS IN CONTEMPORARY ART: CAROLINA ESTRADA’S PROPOSAL
Peru today is a country determined to want to become a pure simulation of itself. What does that mean? It means that, today, Peru invests a lot of money in the production of images about its cultural diversity and very little in true social democratization policies. Subjected to market mandates, passively positioned before marketing or “social communication” companies, Peru today prides itself on constructing an optimistic discourse that celebrates productive growth, but not just redistribution; cultural heterogeneity, but never economic justice; the tourist postcard, but without doing or saying anything about the precariousness of work and the absence of cultural rights.
The works of Carolina Estrada (an artist about to graduate from the National School of Fine Arts) emerge as a remarkable response to all this. Her images imitate this new kind of Creole nationalism, but they manage to undermine it internally. They do it from the revelation of what today is called a “symptom”. What is a symptom? It is the hidden truth that inhabits the interior of ideological discourses; it is that which returns from the past to deconstruct a community that hides its unresolved antagonisms, its old wounds, its serious internal fissures.
In a beautiful series, and in an extremely elegant way, the artist locates what is hidden and tries to make it visible. What is this elegance about? In the confluence of times, in the juxtaposition of symbols, in the simultaneous density of the times of Peruvian history. In fact, these images dialogue with old Andean languages, with old colonial techniques, with new social imaginaries: they are quotes to the archangels’ dress, to the coins of the colonial goldsmith and to the current aesthetics of folklore that are present here to produce a language that is ironic and solemn at the same time; a language that can be cynical in many of its gestures, but also extremely painful.
Let’s say that Carolina Estrada’s art places us before the very dynamics of the current phantasmic field of Peru: that discourse of progress (understood only as capitalist progress) that strives to raise cultural diversity to the level of the sublime object. What is the sublime? It is a ghost that presents itself as transcendent. In this case, the artist has chosen to get close to the ghost, to go through it, to try to see what it brings with it and, what has been revealed, are, on the contrary, its waste, its antagonistic side, its true traumatic character
In fact, Carolina Estrada’s art reflects on the ghosts that today have taken over common sense about Peru and that try to constitute us through silences and lies. Under the guise of a new “inclusive” symbology, these images try to show how culture is being turned into a pure simulation functional to the interests of the market. If today a highly cultured story has been imposed on the reality of the country (How diverse we are! How important diversity is! Etc), these images are intended to show what this discourse hides: social inequality, the precariousness of the existing, the hard core of the exclusions that persist.
There is a discourse that would say that art is a “sublime” discourse that must be produced and placed beyond the debates with the “Peru Brand”, with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, with the Ministry of Industry and Tourism or with the ways , so silly, in which the first lady, Nadie Heredia and President Ollanta Humala disguise themselves as local people in each town they visit. Carolina Estrada’s works intervene in this scenario and propose new possibilities to produce another type of political art: not one based on immediate confrontation, but an art of agonizing parody, of strategic imitation: the torn testimony of a history of social exclusion that every day tries to assassinate under the feast of colors.