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A Conversation with Carmela


e-mail conversation

Dear Alicia, thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions! Here they are:


* About your work,

I would like you to talk about the idea of the artist-shaman that you developed in Diario-Objeto (Object- Diary).

(I refer to a quote: “For me art should be immersed in life and, as in life, its transformative quality should flourish through the artist-shaman. This is an idea from Claes Oldenburg’s "The Store", a work I read about while doing Diario Objeto 1 (Diary Object 1) and with which I immediately identified, because when I collected those objects I felt them calling to me as if they were magical.” Errata#, January 2014. Pg. 236.)


Is the notion of the body present in some way in Diario-Objeto? Does Diario-Objeto have a per formative element?


Why do you choose, in Diario-Objeto, a style of work that is in some way autobiographical? Why were you so interested in the idea of subjectivity?

(Does the attached work belong to Diario-Objeto 1 or 2?)


*The exhibition brought together artists that produced radical work compared to the standards of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. I want to ask you three questions about topics that were important at the time. More than trying to rigidly categorize, I want to see how artists related to topics very much alive today, like feminism or politics.


Did your work allude to gender? Was there any connection with or interest in feminism? What did you think about feminism at the time? Has your view changed?


Has the fact that you are a woman impacted your work?

Were you ever interested in political militancy?


Thank you so much for your generosity.


Yours truly,





Good afternoon, Carmen María. My responses are below.


First off, we should clarify something about shamanism. Even though it is true that thought and action are customarily associated in occidental thought, it hasn’t always or isn’t the case. Your first question mentions the idea of shamanism. It’s important to clarify that the idea of ideas does not fully apply here, because shamanism is above all a way of doing. It is intensely a way of doing. About its “ideas”: clearly they exist, but they are not its essence, it is about pragmatism.


Subject: Answer 2


In an attempt that was wonderful as an experience, I acted as a shaman in collecting the objects. I didn’t pick up everything I saw, I was living in a different state of consciousness, not that of normal everyday life. However, I should clarify that I was not acting under the effects of any drug; I was just living intensely. This has happened several times in my work. Later, when I was editing my thesis, I found information about Claes Oldenburg’s The Shop. It was wonderful because this was my lived experience translated into words. But for me the fact of living came first, and that has always been the case.


The need for art to not only have a theoretical meaning, but above all to be something lived, is for me the base of its capacity of transformation, that is, its capacity to meaningfully touch the world.


Subject: Body 3


It’s true, every time that I bent down to pick up an object, I did it with enormous reverence. It was an entire ritual. For me it was a sacred act, equal to the way the pre-Columbian peoples venerated their sustenance and their whole environment.


Yes, my body is almost always in my work, maybe you don’t recognize it, but my face, my hands, my feet, and my nose explicitly appear.


My face in a white box. My hands, in La Rama Dorada (The Golden Bough); my feet in "Sin Título" (Untitled); my nose, in Nahual Infante (Nahual as Child).


The Diario Objeto 1 series was elaborated as an Incan calendar. They used horizontal strings to which they tied knots of other colored strings. Remember that they were great weavers, as one can see in the Amano Museum, financed by the Japanese, which says a lot about both their cultures. I used a special wire, generally used for soldering. I perforated some objects and strung them on the wire. Others, I stuck on with double-sided tape, as in the flower petals, for example. The works were very fragile, that is why they don’t exist anymore: they were eaten by rats and cockroaches in a storage area in a tropical zone of the Cauca Valley.


In the Diario Objeto 2 series, the objects are kept in clear plastic bags. Sometimes they have a glass support, sometimes acrylic. El Día en la Montaña (A Day at the Mountain) which you asked about, belongs to the second series.


Subject: Subjectivity


It is there, and it always should be. A work cannot be honest if it doesn’t come from a subjective impulse. Another thing, which comes later, is when you decide to involve the vision of others. Adapting the Bible, we would say: in the beginning there was subjectivity...


Diario Objeto is autobiographical. It could not be anything else, because of the living intensity with which it was made.


Subject: Feminism and Politics.


The word consciousness at its deepest meaning is very important for me. From a very early age I have been aware that I am a woman, an artist, and a political being.


I have never felt that there was a choice for me to be a woman or not, to be an artist or not, to be a political being or not.


I remember being conscious since I was very young, and I have actively worked on the development of my consciousness; I’ve never been interested in proselytism because I consider it shows a lack of respect for the “other” and their individual development according to their own circumstances. Consequently, I can only express who I am. To impose an idea on others, even if it is a good idea, is an imposition, non the less.


I express myself through my work, which is there to be questioned, rejected, ignored, or embraced without any coercion on my part.


These days, like in my student years, I have actively sought out the information I can about political, environmental, feminine, and of course feminist themes. I see that in the West, life for women has changed, but not enough. It’s very sad to see that in the rest of the world women’s situations are overwhelmingly subhuman. Not to mention child slavery. I have dealt with these themes, as well as that of violence, in pieces like El Ecológico (The Ecological) and Las Flores del Mal (The Flowers of Evil), Hongos (Mushrooms), Voladores (Flyers), and in two of the works in Diario Objeto 1.


Well, Carmen María, I hope that I’ve thoroughly answered your questions here.




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