Saturday, 18 February 2012

Protest Archive- Colectivo Campo del Cielo (2012)

The Protest Archive (2012) by the group Colectivo Campo del Cielo used the HGB Rundgang in Leipzig, Germany, as a platform in order to spread information to a wide public. It consisted of a research table with articles about the problematic accompanied by a monitor showing a series of videos.

The issue discussed in the archive illustrated the misinformation involved in the project artist-duo Faivovich and Goldberg had proposed for Documenta 13. The duo wanted to transport the second largest meteorite in the world "El Chaco" from Argentina to Germany in the name of art, without recognising that this meteorite is a large part of the culture and history of the Moqoit (Mocovi) people, an indigenous population based in the town of Chaco, Argentina. The Moqoit people were protesting against the transfer of the meteorite but were nevertheless not represented in any decision making processes. The project seriously violated the rights of the indigenous people, as it did the international conventions (ILO Art.169) and the Argentine Constitution (art.75 - Inc.17). It was a disgrace to Germany, Argentina and the Art World itself. But the scandal did not reach European news until it was released by Documenta 13 that they had finally reached the decision to suspend the transportation. Nothing was mentioned about the Moqoit's protest, not even in Documenta's press text on their website, entitled "El Chaco". In fact, the text has even to audacity to state that the Moqoit were in favour of the project, which aims to "denounce the theft of cultural and natural heritage by repeating and reversing the colonial trajectory of goods, materials and people". A rather perverse idea.

The Protest Archive (2012) intended to discuss the issue with the visitors of the Rundgang exhibition and express that the battle was not over, despite the success the protesters had in stopping the transportation. Most of the visitors could not believe that such a situation existed and had not been addressed in the media. They were glad to have received the news, and congratulated all of the protesters involved. There were however two visitors who did not perceive it as a problem to de-contextualise an important cultural object of the Moqoit to show it at the Documenta 13. 

Months later, close to the opening of the Documenta press conference on the 6th of June 2012, an article was published in Monopol and Art Magazin, explaining the reasons why Faivovich and Goldberg's project failed. The article "Die Himmelstürmer" written by Heinz Peter Schwerfel featured in the June edition of Art Magazin, was written in the form of a laid-back holiday reportage, describing a journey made to Argentina with the artists, which concluded in the following manner:

"Then came the Indian separatists, incited by an ethno-astronomer, who preached that during the 100 days of the Documenta exhibition, the lack of magnetic radiation in El Chaco would result in a major infringement in the balance of nature." 

"Doch dann schalteten sich indianische Separatisten ein, aufgewiegelt von einem Ethno-Astronomen, der predigte, die während der 100 Tage der documenta fehlende Magnetstrahlung des EI Chaco sei ein wesentlicher Eingriff in das Gleichgewicht der Natur."   

The comment sounded like a scene from a Western. Not only was this phrase clearly insulting towards the Moqoit indigenous people and the astronomer involved, it also banalised the entire protest movement.

When you take an object like El Chaco and decide to place it in another context. You cannot avoid it being a political action, and having political consequences. These cannot be ignored for the sake of simplicity because you do not intend to make a political art work. It is arrogant to assume that you can 'clean' a given object from its historical, political, cultural contexts, or pick which parts you prefer. And it is exactly the taking of this almighty standing point that has been criticised as colonialist in regards to El Chaco.

But the arrogance never ceased.

During the press conference on the 6th June, a corespondent part of Colectivo Campo del Cielo asked Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev whether Documenta had made any self criticism in regards to the development of the Chaco project. She replied in a patronising tone "Thank you for reading that question from your iPhone. I addressed this very carefully at the beginning so i urge you to get a copy of the lecture". On receiving an answer to her first reply, she commented, "I appreciate your second speech which was spontaneous".

Nor have the artists used the opportunity of the failed transportation as a possibility to examine the power structures they were involved in. Why did they not make another work for the exhibition based on self-critique and reflection? Why did they chose to suppress the problematic and lament the failure by displaying a cube in the position where the meteorite was supposed to be placed? Even the official Documenta 13 catalogue entry for Faivovich and Goldberg (printed 5. April 2012) describing the meteorite positioned on the field in front of the Fridericianum, was not updated, as if they had still hoped that the meteorite would indeed still find its way to Kassel. And yet the transportation had been abandoned in January 2012. Why this exactly happened is still unclear. Unfortunately, just as with the chief editor of Art Magazin, whom we contacted to get a rewrite of Schwerfel's article, the curatorial assistant of F&G has not replied to any correspondence. Our effort is great, our impact successful, but our voice remains unheard, as once again another scandal is wiped underneath the carpet.

More info in regards to the Chaco scandal in English, Spanish and German:„el-chaco“-aus-argentinien-abtransportieren/#comment-115