Chile Will Focus on Indigenous Community at 2017 Venice Biennale

Bernardo Oyarzún will create a work on the Mapuche people.

Bernardo Oyarzún, Eco Sistema, (2005). Photo Fernando Balmaceda.

Artist Bernardo Oyarzún and curator Ticio Escobar have been selected to represent Chile at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, the National Council of Culture and Arts Chile announced today.

Oyarzún was chosen from over 20 submissions for a project that focuses on the current representation of the Mapuche community, a group of indigenous inhabitants of southcentral Chile and southwestern Argentina. The artist, who lives in Santiago, uses anthropological and historical research in his work to probe the contemporary mainstream Chilean narrative.

The pavilion of Chile will feature an installation titled Werken, featuring hundreds of traditional ceremonial Mapuche masks, occupying the floor space. The walls, meanwhile, will light up with some 6,907 Mapuche surnames.

According to Oyarzún, the mask “is a game of representation and every gesture is significant. These are like the masks of Greek theater: some have strong expressions and others, softer. […] Viewers will feel the weight of the phantasmagoric imaginary.”

Curator Ticio Escobar is the founder of two museums in Chile, both launched in 1979: the Museo del Barro (Museum of Pottery) in Asunción with the objective of preserving Paraguayan culture, and the Museo de Arte Indígena, Centro de Artes Visuales (Museum for Indigenous Art, Centre of Visual Art), of which he was director until 2008.

Ernesto Ottone, Minister of Culture of Chile, said in a statement: “Oyarzún explores the relationship between contemporary art and indigenous peoples, and I think this project will offer an important insight into the subject.”

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