Cecilia Fajardo-Hill Speaks About the 2nd Edition of Ch.ACO's FOCUS Section
British-Venezuelan, and a resident of Los Angeles, California, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill is a curator with a long and respected career in the field of Latin American art. She has a PhD in Art History from Essex University, England, and a Master’s Degree in XX Century Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England.
She is currently curating an exhibition entitled “Radical Women in Latin American Art, 1960-1985” together with Argentinean curator Andrea Giunta, and for the second year in a row, she is returning to Chile to curate the Ch.ACO FOCUS Section, a project that seeks to collaborate with a South-South dialogue, from Chile to Latin America. This section presents works by different artists in regards to one common theme. In 2016, eight galleries with two artists each were invited to join a dialogue on Latin American landscape. This year, Cecilia takes over the FOCUS section’s curatorship once more:
“Being a curated space, in which galleries and artists collaborate in order to encourage a dialogue surrounding one common theme, a section is created, one that possesses coherence and which highlights, from multiple perspectives, central ideas from which to think about and appreciate contemporary art in Latin America today.”
1. What does the FOCUS program consist of, and what will this year’s layout look like?
FOCUS is a space destined for contemporary art projects that are gathered under one curatorial theme, with the purpose of offering a window into central themes and problems in contemporary art, particularly that which is produced in Latin America. As a curator, I am very interested in Chile as a platform from which to launch a South-South dialogue because I find the Chilean contemporary art scene to be very interesting, with a lot of thoughtful, original, and critical artists that offer serious discussions to the rest of the continent. This year, there shall be ten galleries with two artists each. The idea of dialogues within each space of the section shall be maintained, but with the idea of incorporating a central space in which the divided format can be opened up as well.
2. Last year, FOCUS’s theme was political/poetic landscape. This year’s theme shall be object-subject. Why did you choose this subject matter?
Latin America has a tradition, which comes from Pre-Hispanic times, of maintaining a subjective relationship towards objectuality and of creating less categorical divisions between material culture, popular culture, and high culture. Daily life has fed many important ideas into art. Political, personal and conceptual spheres, amongst others, often manifest themselves as they intervene everyday objects, or as they reinvent them, as well as in investigations that involve the history of repressed or forgotten objects, which allow us to reflect on the present in a critical and poetic way.
3. In what ways do you consider that the program’s continuity benefits the Fair?
Ch.ACO is Chile’s only art fair, and as such, it is beneficial and important for it to incorporate different formats within its structure, and for it to offer collectors and visitors different visions of art today. This includes art that we understand as non-commercial, which in any case is an anachronistic idea, because traditional formats within the art market, such as painting and sculpture, aren’t the only ones being collected: experimental ones, such as conceptual photography, installation, video art and performance, are being collected as well. Sustaining a curated selection such as FOCUS over the years, a selection that presents key artists and ideas within current art, allows for the tendencies and changes in Latin American art to be registered.
4. What is your take on Chilean contemporary art? Do you think it has already positioned itself within the international market?
I think that Chilean contemporary art is extremely interesting. As a curator that works with artists from Latin America, I have found very original particularities in Chile. Local artists have an intense capability for reflection and a way of making acute historical and conceptual introspections that I have only found in this context. The history of the country itself and its geographical distance from the world’s epicenters makes these perspectives especially concentrated, possessing a particular temporality. I think that Chilean art needs to be promoted abroad, for there are several artists that should circulate internationally and in this way receive more recognition, participate in international platforms, and broaden their market.
5. Has something in Latin American art changed regarding pieces that have a direct relationship with objects, such as sculptures, ready-mades, or installations?
Latin American art has experimented with non-traditional forms since the beginning of the past century. Video art began here in the 60s, just like in the rest of the world, and installations also comes from Pre-Hispanic cultures and the resourcefulness of popular culture. What has changed is the market, which is finally acknowledging the value of experimental art from the 1950s and onwards. Today, we have everything: from subject matters such as landscape —which is thought of as traditional— as a space from which to discuss geopolitical problems, to artistic formats that range from painting to installations, to new technologies with which to think about issues for the future.
6. One of the program’s requisites is that one out of the two artists allotted for each gallery that participates in FOCUS must be a woman. Why have you made this determination?
This has been one of the requirements since the section was created last year. By carrying out this exercise, I have found that many of the galleries that I have great respect for have practically no female artists, something that I had not realized previously and which has reaffirmed my belief that, unless we do something, women shall always be a minority, both in the art market as well as it the art system in general. This is not a reflection of the female artists that exist, because there are plenty of them out there, but simply evidence that men still have more visibility, and that there is an almost automatic tendency towards giving them priority. I’m co-curating an exhibition entitled 'Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985’, a project that has taken us over seven years, which has proven the unjustified invisibility of hundreds of important female artists in Latin America. Since the end of the 80s, the situation has improved significantly, but it’s still not enough. It’s very important to me, as a female curator and art historian, to stop perpetuating certain sexist patterns.