Erika & Javier: El Peso de la Memoria (The Weight of Memory)
Fri, 18.11.2011
El peso de la Memoria (The Weight of Memory) is a giant print by Paraguay-based artists Erika & Javier. The photograph displays a semi-naked Native American woman from the Guaraní tribe wearing what, at first glance, seems to be a traditional ornamental necklace. Yet, instead of charms, the Maka ethnic collar is decorated with six USB flash drives storing twelve GB of information about international programs against poverty in Latin America. By featuring a technological device, the artists introduce a strong element of agitation into the institutional system of representation of the Latin American indigenous population. The artwork questions the legacy of clichés about supposed ethnical authenticities, thereby opening up a more complex horizon including issues of cultural encounter and appropriation.

The Guaraní people are one of the more widespread indigenous groups in South America, with settlements in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and southern Brazil. Reduced to slavery during the Spanish colonial period, they have been long targets of persecution, especially in Paraguay. If a society’s collective memory is part of what shapes its present identity, Erika & Javier remind us of the obsolete nature of “the Other” as an anthropological category. Culture is certainly not a realm of essential and permanent properties, but rather a battlefield where values, identities, and heritage are endlessly being argued and negotiated. (SG)

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