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80Opresores oprimidos (Opressive, opressed)

Leidy Chavez & Fernando Pareja *1989, Popayán, Colombia. Lives and works in Popayán, Colombia. *1979, Popayán, Colombia. Lives and works in Popayán, Colombia.

The installations created by Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez are not merely astounding moving images, they are also images that are indeed moving.

Small wax figures on rotating disks, stroboscopic lighting, and a haunting soundtrack are the components of their animation machines, which serve to breathe life into the motionless figures, allowing them to tell their story in continuously repeating sequences. The animation machines are fascinating continuations of historical visual devices and optical toys, which enjoyed great popularity in the 19th century. Their artistic research led Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez to devices with puzzling names such as the zoetrope and the praxinoscope, pre-cinematic technologies that had already mesmerized the public in their day. Both were examples of simple yet ingenious machines based on physiological and psychological perceptual phenomena that evoke the illusion of movement.

By transposing historical mechanisms into the present, the two artists intend more than their simple revival: their works draw upon the potential of experiment and surprise. What is special about the historical excursion of Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez is that it also takes a contemporary view of history. Their artistic strategy is not guided by nostalgia, but rather by an interest in examining the current production of images and today’s perspective, in addition to making the image-producing process itself visible. Addressing what we wish to see or are capable of seeing, as the case may be, with the analysis of what the human eye is prepared to perceive, ultimately the question also arises as to its meaning in a world substantially determined by moving images. Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez understand how to develop the viewers’ fascination with their three-dimensional animation, even beyond the initial wonder, that is stirring at an emotional, reflective, and socio-political level.

Animated by means of the stroboscopic-light effect, the old women in Untitled (2012) hurry out of a circular arcade, hasten across a platform, only to plunge into empty space. Trapped within the system of an endless loop, this fatal drama is repeated again and again. The scene is a reaction to the thus-far hopeless situation of the civilian population in the native region of the two artists, the Columbian province of Cauca, caught in the crossfire of a never-ending armed conflict between the army, paramilitary groups, and guerillas.

The artwork of Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez vividly sheds light on socio-political realities. This places them in a long tradition of Columbian artists who critically and emphatically deal with their country’s turbulent past and present. The real strength of the works of Fernando Pareja and Leidy Chavez, with their interplay of illusion and reality, is that they pose at a universal level existential questions that affect all of us.

Katrin Steffen

Translated by William Keller

© Sofie Isaksson / OpenART