top of page

TEMPLE OF INVERSION
68 PROJECTS, OCTOBER 2022

Ivana de Vivanco: Temple of Inversion

Man sollte es ernst nehmen, dass Ivana de Vivanco ihre Ausstellung als einen Tempel bezeichnet. Offenbar genügt es ihr nicht, dass Bilder einfach betrachtet, dass über sie gesprochen oder dass sie gekauft werden. Vielmehr stellt sie an ihre Werke den Anspruch, das zu leisten, was sonst von Kultobjekten und religiösen Praktiken erwartet wird. Was sie will, ist also durch große Worte wie ‚Heilung’ oder ‚Sinnstiftung’ zu umschreiben. Die nähere Bestimmung des Tempels als „Tempel der Umkehrung“ („Temple of Inversion“) fasst es etwas genauer und bleibt zugleich ganz allgemein: Es geht der chilenisch-peruanischen Künstlerin darum, Kräfte zu wecken, die Veränderung ermöglichen.

 

Wie aber soll das geschehen? Gewiss genügt es nicht, traditionelle Formen von religiöser Kunst einfach zu zitieren. Vielmehr müssen sie, sofern man sich auf sie bezieht, zurückgewonnen und neu gefüllt werden. Exemplarisch macht de Vivanco dies mit der christlichen Gattung des Triptychons. Diese spielte vor allem in der religiösen Kunst vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenreformation eine wichtige Rolle, und die Hierarchie zwischen der größeren Mitteltafel und den kleineren Seitentafeln wurde etwa genutzt, um himmlische und irdische Motiven voneinander zu unterscheiden oder um die zeitliche Dramaturgie der Heilsgeschichte zu veranschaulichen.

Bei ihrem Triptychon „Este oro comemos“ greift Ivana de Vivanco die hierarchische Struktur bereits dadurch auf, dass sie die beiden Außentafeln sehr schlicht hält: ohne Farben, wie eine bloße Vorzeichnung, die zudem korrigiert erscheint, was den Charakter des Unfertigen verstärkt. Die Mitteltafel leuchtet hingegen in intensiven Farben, hier ist jede Form klar definiert und kommt entsprechend nachdrücklich zur Geltung. Der ästhetischen Differenz der Tafeln korrespondiert aber eine kompositorisch-inhaltliche Verwandtschaft. So tauchen zwei Figuren, die sich auf der Mitteltafel einander zuwenden und, begleitet von markanten Gesten, einen Teller austauschen, auf den Seitentafeln ganz ähnlich wieder auf. Hat de Vivanco auf der Mitteltafel also eine Skizze weitergeführt, die auf den Seitentafeln, in zwei Hälften geschnitten, zu sehen ist?

Tatsächlich haben die Seitentafeln ein eindeutig identifizierbares Vorbild. Dieses findet sich in einer der wichtigsten Chroniken des frühen 17. Jahrhunderts, die von Huamán Poma de Ayala, einem hochrangigen Inka, stammt, der darin die Geschichte seines Volkes schildert, aber vor allem auch dessen Kolonisierung durch die Spanier und die damit verbundenen Ungerechtigkeiten und Missstände im Vizekönigreich Peru – also Ivana de Vivancos Heimat – dokumentiert. Neben dem Text enthält die Chronik fast 400 Zeichnungen, die das Geschriebene keineswegs nur illustrieren, sondern als umso schärfere und pointiertere Geste des Widerstands gegenüber der Conquista zu deuten sind. So ist auf der von de Vivanco ausgewählten Zeichnung die linke Figur als gegenüber der rechten höherrangig dargestellt: Sie sitzt auf einem Schemel, direkt vor dem Tor eines größeren Hauses, das damit als ihr Eigentum erscheint. Dagegen kniet die andere Person auf dem Boden, sie wirkt in der ungeliebten Position eines Bittstellers. Doch stellt gerade sie, wie die Bildlegende der Chronik ausweist, einen spanischen Eroberer dar, während die sitzende Figur einen Inka zeigt.

Die Zeichnung des 17. Jahrhunderts bietet damit ein ebenso frühes wie erstaunliches Beispiel für eine Ikonografie des Empowerment: Die unterjochten Inkas zeigen sich selbst nicht als Opfer, sondern stark und eigenständig. Die Zeichnung soll sie dazu motivieren, sich gegen erlittenes Unrecht zu wehren, soll ihren Stolz und ihr Selbstbewusstsein stimulieren. Damit soll nicht nur an bessere vergangene Zeiten erinnert, sondern vor allem eine bessere Zukunft beschworen werden. Und indem Ivana de Vivanco diese Zeichnung aufgreift und dank des großen Formats und der Farben, vor allem aber als bedeutsame Mitteltafel eines Triptychons aufwertet, steigert sie die empowernde Intention nochmals eigens. Die Umkehrung realer Machtverhältnisse wird dadurch – passend zum Titel der Ausstellung – umso mehr zum Programm.

Dabei geht es de Vivanco aber nicht mehr nur um den speziellen historischen Konflikt. Er fungiert für sie vielmehr als Blaupause für vergleichbare Konflikte. So ist die Kleidung der Figuren und ihr Ambiente auf ihrem Gemälde zeitgenössisch-zeitlos, und in etlichen Details spielt de Vivanco ihre Möglichkeiten als Malerin großartig aus, um die Bildaussage zu verstärken. Was für einen Gesichtsausdruck hat etwa die linke Figur! Man spürt einerseits noch Trauer und Hadern über erlittene Demütigungen, aber der Glanz in den Augen zeugt vor allem von Lebendigkeit, Willenskraft und enormen Energien. Und man wird angeblickt von diesen Augen, damit auch direkt aufgefordert, sich zu verbünden. Nichts anderes aber meint Empowerment: aus entmutigten Einzelnen wird eine Community, in der sich alle gegenseitig Mut zusprechen.

Dagegen ist der Blick der anderen Figur stumpf. Sie mag noch einen Hut tragen und besser gekleidet sein, verliert aber bereits ihre Macht, vereinsamt. Schließlich gibt de Vivanco sie sogar dem Spott preis: An den Oberarmen und Oberschenkeln ist jeweils eine Zone deutlich hellerer Haut zu sehen – dies ein Indiz dafür, dass die Figur normalerweise mehr Kleidung trägt. Hat sie also nicht schon ein Stück weit die Kontrolle über sich verloren, wenn sie so nachlässig auftritt? Sie mag Goldnuggets auf dem Teller überreichen und mit ihrem Reichtum protzen, mag sogar behaupten, ihresgleichen würde das Gold essen (das titelgebende „Este oro comemos“ – „Dieses Gold essen wir“ – hat de Vivanco ebenfalls von der originalen Zeichnung übernommen), aber wenn sie es wirklich täte, würde sie daran ersticken.

Nutzt Ivana de Vivanco die Gattung des Triptychons, ja den besonderen Geltungsanspruch der Mitteltafel hier also dazu, um Partei zu ergreifen und dem bereits wankenden Aggressor gleichsam noch den Todesstoß zu versetzen, so ist dieser auf anderen Bildern sogar direkt in Szene gesetzt. Auf dem Gemälde „Santiago-Rayo“ sieht man einen Reiter vom Pferd fallen – vom Blitz getroffen. Ist sein Sturz göttliche Fügung? Oder ein Zufall, der einer Frau zugutekommt, die sich ihm, also dem Heiligen Jacobus, in den Weg gestellt hatte, ihn somit ihrerseits stoppen wollte? Ihre feurig roten Strümpfe zeugen von ihrer Entschlossenheit – und stehen im Komplementärkontrast zu den grünen Beinkleidern des Gestürzten. Auffällig ist sein Gesichtsausdruck: Vielleicht schreit er, aber man kann den geöffneten Mund genauso als Lachen deuten. Sollte er gar froh, ja erleichtert darüber sein, seine Macht verloren zu haben? Eine schillernde Figur?

    

Der Heilige Jacobus war in Südamerika ehedem Symbolfigur der Spanischen Kolonialherren, die in seinem Namen Santiago de Chile gründeten. Damit stand er für eine Macht, die der indigenen Bevölkerung feindlich gegenüberstand. Entsprechend wollte diese das von ihm repräsentierte Herrschaftssystem stürzen und loswerden. Doch nach und nach änderte sich seine Rolle: Er wurde zum Schutzheiligen der Unterdrückten, ja wechselte, tatsächlich schillernd, gleichsam die Seiten. Vielleicht geschah das, weil die christianisierten Gläubigen sich mit St. Jacobus als Märtyrer identifizieren konnten, der er ja auch und sogar zuerst war, vielleicht hofften sie aber auch, seine Macht auf sich selbst übergehen lassen zu können, wenn sie ihn bei sich aufnahmen.

 

Malt Ivana de Vivanco einmal den Heiligen, der gerade seine Macht einbüßt, sich über seine neue Rolle aber schon zu freuen scheint, so zeigt ein anderes Gemälde („Warmi Pachakutik“) einen etwas späteren Moment. Die indigene Frau hat den einstigen Feind hier schon als Gast bei sich zuhause. Sie serviert ihm ein Getränk, doch sitzen die beiden nicht artig an einem Tisch, vielmehr verschlingen sich beider Körper auf einem Bett. Der Mann krümmt sich zusammen, ist nackt – was sowohl bedeutet, dass er jeglichen Machtstatus verloren hat, als auch, dass die Situation im nächsten Augenblick in ein Liebesspiel umschlagen könnte. Wird die von oben über ihn kommende Frau sich dann auch ausziehen? Oder wird sie den Mann doch lieber als Gefangenen betrachten und sich an ihm rächen? Angesichts dieser höchst raffinierten Ikonografie scheint beides gleichermaßen möglich, und gebannt sucht man nach Indizien dafür, wie sich die Szene wohl weiter entwickelt.

Ist man bei den beiden letztgenannten Bildern in einer Betrachterposition, geradezu Augenzeuge und Voyeur des aufregenden, geschichtsträchtigen Geschehens einer Umkehrung von Macht, so darf man bei „Ekeka“, einem weiteren Gemälde de Vivancos, darauf hoffen, selbst ein bisschen mächtiger aus dem „Tempel der Umkehrung“ herauszukommen. Das Bild ist hier eher schon ein Objekt, sind doch, im Unterschied zu den anderen Gemälden, auch die Außenränder der Leinwand bemalt. Vor allem aber reicht das Bild über seine rechteckige Fläche hinaus, da auf ihm gemalte Goldketten sich als reale Ketten fortsetzen, an die ein Paar ebenfalls goldene Füße angebunden sind, die auf dem Boden stehen. Dass hier etwas zuerst nur Gemaltes – etwas Fiktives – ganz wirklich wird, veranschaulicht aber den Anspruch dieses Artefakts: Mit ihm wird, wie der Titel signalisiert, auf einen Kult Bezug genommen, auf Ekeko, eine für Wohlstand und Glück zuständige Gottheit, die in diesem Fall jedoch in einer weiblich gewordenen Variante auftaucht. Ekeko-Figuren und -Bilder sind in Ländern wie Peru und Bolivien dafür zuständig, etwas, das zuerst nur als Wunschbild existiert, in Erfüllung gehen zu lassen.

Wurden einem Ekeko traditionell diverse Gegenstände umgehängt, die symbolisierten, was man zu haben wünschte, ja woran man das eigene Wohlergehen knüpfte, war die Figur also mit Geld, Schmuck, einem Haus oder Essen bestückt, so finden sich auf de Vivancos Bild noch einige andere Gegenstände, etwa ein Megaphon oder ein Regenbogenobjekt. Diese aber gehören zur Grundausstattung für aktivistische Bewegungen, für Demos auf der Straße, zeugen also ihrerseits vom Wunsch, bestehende Machtverhältnisse aufzubrechen und umzukehren. Und ist das nicht auch bereits in beachtlicher Weise gelungen? Immerhin ist der männliche Gott schon zur Göttin geworden, die die Wünsche von Frauen vielleicht auch eher erhören wird als die von Männern. Sie sucht – wie die Figur auf dem Triptychon – Blickkontakt zu denen, die vor ihr stehen und sich etwas wünschen. Und mit ihrem erhobenen Zeigefinger fordert sie sogar geradezu dazu auf, sich noch mehr zu wünschen, auf keinen Fall zu bescheiden zu sein. Oh ja, im „Tempel der Umkehrung“ scheinen das Patriarchat und der Kolonialismus schon fast am Ende...

 

Wolfgang Ullrich

--

Ivana de Vivanco: Temple of Inversion

We should take it seriously that Ivana de Vivanco describes her exhibition as a temple. Apparently it is not enough for her that paintings are simply looked at, talked about, or purchased. Rather, she expects her works to perform what is usually expected from cultic objects or religious practices. What she wants might be described with big words such as “healing” or “creating meaning.” The more precise description of the temple as “Temple of Inversion” is simultaneously more specifc and yet remains quite general: The Chilean-Peruvian artist wants to awaken powers that enable and facilitate change.

But how should this happen? It is certainly not enough to simply quote traditional forms of religious art. Rather, if they are referenced, they must be won back, and filled anew. De Vivanco does so in an exemplary way with the Christian genre of the triptych. This plays an important role above all in religious art from the late Middle Ages to the Counter-Reformation, and the hierarchy between the larger central panel and the smaller side panels was used to distinguish heavenly and earthly motifs, and to illustrate the temporal dramaturgy of the history of salvation.

In the triptych "Este oro comemos", Ivana de Vivanco takes up this hierarchical structure by keeping the two outer panels very simple: without colors, like a mere preparatory drawing, which appears to have been corrected, emphasizing the impression of being unfinished. The central panel, on the other hand, is executed in intensives colors, every shape is clearly defined here and comes into its own. The aesthetic difference of the panels, however, corresponds to a kinship in terms of composition and content. For example, two figures that are turned towards each other in the central panel and who, with pronounced gestures, exchange a plate, appear quite similar on the two outer panels. So did de Vivanco continue a sketch on the central panel that is visible on the side panels, but cut in two halves?

In fact, the side panels have a clearly identifiable model. This can be found in one of the most important chronicles of the early 17th century, by Huamán Poma de Ayala, a high-ranking Inca, who describes the history of his people, and especially its colonization by the Spanish, and documents the injustices and abuses in the viceroyalty of Peru, that is to say, Ivana de Vivanco’s home country. In addition to the text, the chronicle contains almost 400 drawings which do not merely illustrate the descriptions, but should be interpreted as a strong and pointed gesture of resistance against the conquistadors. For example, on the drawing chosen by de Vivanco, the figure on the left is portrayed as higher-ranking than the figure on the right: he sits on a stool, directly in front of the gate of a larger house which thus appears to be his property. The other person, on the other hand, kneels on the ground and appears in the position of a petitioner. But as the caption tells us, this one represents a Spanish conquistador, whereas the sitting figure depicts an Inca.

The drawing from the 17th century thus offers an early and quite surprising example of an iconography of empowerment: the subjugated Incas depict themselves not as victims, but as strong and independent. The drawing is intended to motivate them to fight against the injustice they suffered, and stimulate their pride and self-confidence. The intention is not just to remind viewers of better times in the past, but also to evoke a better future. And by taking this drawing up, and executing her painting in such a large format and strong colors, and enhancing it as the significant central panel of a triptych, Ivana de Vivanco increases the empowering intention significantly. In this way, the inversion of real power relations becomes even more programmatic, in tune with the exhibition’s title.

However, for de Vivanco the issue is no longer just the specific historical conflict. For her, it functions rather as a blueprint of comparable conflicts. Therefore the figures’ clothes and the environment are contemporary or timeless, and in numerous details de Vivanco uses her possibilities as a painter to enhance the meaning of the painting. What a facial expression, for example, the figure on the left has! One the one hand, we sense sadness and resentment over humiliations suffered, but the shining eyes speak above all of vivaciousness, will power, and enormous energy. And these eyes look directly at us, and thus we are directly called upon to become allies. Empowerment means just that: discouraged individuals become a community where everybody encourages each other.

The gaze of the other figure, in contrast, seems dull. He may still wear a hat and better clothes, but is already losing his power, growing lonely and isolated. In the end, de Vivanco ridicules him: on the upper arms and thighs, there are zones of much lighter skin—an indication that the figure usually wears more clothing. So has he not already lost control of himself to a certain degree if he appears so carelessly dressed? He may pass on golden nuggets on a plate and show of his wealth, may even claim his kind eats the gold (the title Este oro comemos— “this gold we eat”—de Vivanco took from the original drawing) but if he really did that he would suffocate.

While Ivana de Vivanco uses the genre of the triptych and the special validity claim of the central panel here in order to take sides and deal, as it were, a death blow to the already stumbling aggressor, this is directly staged in other paintings. In Santiago-Rayo, we see a horseman falling of, hit by lightning. Is his fall a divine intervention? Or an accident that benefits a woman who stood in his (St. James’) way, wanting to stop him? Her fiery red socks attest to her resolve, and are a complementary contrast to the green trousers of the fallen man. His facial expression is striking: perhaps he is screaming, but his open mouth might also be interpreted as laughter. Might he be glad, even relieved, to have lost his power? An enigmatic, oscillating figure?

St. James was a symbolic figure of the Spanish colonialists in South America, who established Santiago de Chile in his name. He stood for a power that was hostile to the indigenous population. Therefore, they wanted to topple the regime symbolized by him, and get rid of it. But step by step, his role changed: he became the patron saint of the suppressed, he, as it were, actually changed sides. Perhaps this happened because the Christianized faithful could identify with St. James as a martyr, which he also and indeed first and foremost was, perhaps they hoped to transfer his power to themselves if they accepted him and took him in.

After having painted the saint in the moment when he loses his power and seems to be glad of his new role, in another painting, Warmi Pachakutik, de Vivanco depicts a slightly later moment. The indigenous woman hosts the former enemy as her guest at home. She serves him a drink, but they are not sitting politely at a table, but rather their bodies are intertwined on a bed. The man is doubled over and is naked – which means simultaneously that he has lost all status of power, but also that the situation could change into an amorous game at any moment. Will the woman approaching him from above also undress? Or would she rather view the man as a prisoner, and take revenge? Given this incredibly sophisticated iconography, both seem equally possible, and we look for clues as to how the scene might play out.

With the two paintings discussed last, we are in a viewer position, downright witnesses and voyeurs of the exciting, historical event of an inversion or reversal of power, with the painting Ekeka we might hope to leave the Temple of Inversion a little more powerful ourselves. The painting is actually more of an object, and in contrast to the other works, here the outer edges of the canvas are also painted. More importantly, the painting reaches beyond its rectangular surface, because the gold chains painted on it continue as real chains that are attached to a pair of golden feet on the foor. That something that was initially only painted—something fictitious—here becomes quite real illustrates the claim this artefact makes: as the title suggests, it refers to a cult, Ekeko, a divinity responsible for wealth and happiness, which in this case, however, appears in a female variant. Ekeko figures and images in countries like Peru and Bolivia are responsible to turn something that initially only exists as an ideal or an image of an ideal into reality.

Traditionally, an Ekeko hat various objects attached to it that symbolized what one wanted to have, indeed to which one attached one’s wellbeing, so the figure was equipped with money, jewelry, a house, or food, on de Vivanco’s painting there are several other objects, too, like a megaphone and a rainbow object. These are part of the basic equipment for activist movements, for demonstrations on the streets, and therefore testify to the wish to break up or reverse existing power relations. And has that not already been achieved in an impressive way? After all, the male god has become a goddess that is perhaps more likely to grant the wishes of women more than the wishes of men. She seeks – like the figure on the triptych – to establish eye contact with those who are in front of her, wishing for something. And with her raised forefinger, she downright encourages us to wish for more, and not be too modest. Oh yes, in the Temple of Inversion, patriarchy and colonialism seem to be almost finished...

Wolfgang Ullrich

DISSONANCE - PLATFORM GERMANY 

A Changed Vision—New Painting from Germany

DCV Books & Künstlerhaus Bethanien

BERLIN, JULY 2022

Der Streit um Kunst und  Rassismus, um Hochkultur und Teilhabe der Gesellschaft wird immer heftiger. De Vivancos Bilder dagegen haben einen die Hartherzigkeit der Debatte ironisierenden und neu stiftenden, selbstbewussten Klang. Ihre Bilder sind ein dialektischer Vermittlungserfolg, der aus starker Weiblichkeit resultiert und aus malerischer Fügung.

 

Die Künstlerin lässt uns die Hemmschwellen der Debatten vergessen und ordnet die Dinge neu. Mit malerischer Verve. Sie lässt die Rollenumkehr triumphieren. Die ehemals Unterlegenen haben Oberwasser, ohne dass die Künstlerin Konsenskonformität zu ihrem Thema machen würde. Starke Frauen sind die Zentralgestirne einer farboffensiven Malerei, die, und das ist das Besondere, einen runden Drive hat, der alle Gegensätzlichkeiten schwungvoll überwindet. Die politischen Zuspitzungen ziehen sich zurück und jedes Bild wirkt ganz präzise durch seinen formalen Bedeutungsumfang. Lediglich die Bildtitel erweisen sich als treibende Kraft und stellen sich in den Strudel der Diskurse, freilich nicht ohne Rückversicherung durch Referenzpunkte in der Kunstgeschichte (die sich besonders gut für intellektuelle Brechungen eignen).

 Christoph Tannert

SPLITS AND SLIPS: THE DISOBEDIENT BANANA 
BREACH MIAMI, FEBRUARY 2022

Ivana de Vivanco Rhymes For Reason


Ivana de Vivanco recognizes that the simple banana has the capacity to wreak havoc. Ironically, within global trade systems, it already has. A commodity with more than 100 billion consumed annually across the globe1, this phallic fruit on the one hand offers affordable nutrition, and on the other has been at the heart of unjust labor practices and further disenfranchisement within “developing” countries. In her United States debut solo exhibition at Fabien Castenier’s BREACH gallery in Miami, de Vivanco affords the humble banana a Robin Hood persona, and activates the fruit as a tool for sweet revenge. Titled Splits and Slips, The Disobedient Banana, the exhibition alludes to America’s more superficial relationship with bananas; as a delectable and kinky dessert; as the protagonist causing a slip in Chaplin-esque slapstick comedy; and perhaps even as a duct-taped art edition—but it also suggests a possibility of a split world that is disrupted by slipping preconceived norms. A world where a disobedient banana is an activist.


Born in Portugal, de Vivanco grew up between Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and for the past decade has lived and worked in Germany. Congruently, her creative practice reflects this divergent background amalgamating culturally eclectic references and stylistic approaches, along with conflated logics of time and space. The result is paintings, drawings and sculptures that reflect historical and mythological research, an immersion into the history of painting inspired by her love for Flemish masters spanning the 15th to 17th centuries, as well as a romanticism evocative of Latin American Baroque. Adept at evoking drama, de Vivanco, in addition to these influences, adopts paradigms from literature and theater including children’s puppet shows to construct her visual stories. The picture plane of Everyday Bananas is connoted by a flat rectangle canvas reminiscent of a puppet show stage. The painting is divided between a pink world below encasing three bananas, and a puppet figure with detached head and arms shadowed on a blue backdrop above. As if in motion, the puppet enters the scene with red hands open in exclamation hovering over the bananas below. What would the figure be saying?


Anything can happen. The great banana peel of existence is always on the floor somewhere. - Robert Fulgham, Author


Recognizing that it is impossible to represent history accurately, the artist channels her early years of working in graphics and drawing as well as an unparalleled talent for composition, to re-stage history and myth into optimistic fantasy worlds. In Santiago’s Slip, the characteristic depiction of Santiago Matamoros later known as Santiago Mataindios or rather “St. James the Muslim and Indian killer” on his horse is overturned, literally. A woman sits below, and with a simple gesture of discarding a banana peel, effortlessly unseats this fragile ‘conquerer.’ The carnivalesque and colorful figures are fore-fronted as if made to act, by the artist, for onlookers. Reminiscent of the traditional British Punch and Judy puppet show where Mr Punch’s slapstick is instead turned on him, this mise-en-scene offers a vindication and a hopeful retelling of historical ‘truth’ that rights colonial wrongs.


However, despite this orchestrated thematic retelling, de Vivanco also creates a purposeful interpretive distance within her scenes by, in addition to conflating references, she confuses conventional narratives and reduces information to fundamental forms. In the portraits titled José Luis and Ana María, the male figure is inexplicably ‘camp’, and the female beams back with a farcical clown-like smile. Inspired by the aesthetics, costumes, dance and music of Andean carnivals where social norms are inverted within performance, de Vivanco creates characters that evoke the playfulness of the carnival while offering a social critique on gender. Her characters are titled after commonly used Spanish male and female names, and these ‘anyone’ personas are magnified on the canvas to the point of life-size abstraction, yet appear incongruous with our generalized understanding of masculinity and femininity, inviting ideological reinterpretation.


And, this is not the first time de Vivanco has used traditionally non-conforming characters to question gender representation in history. In her exhibition Two Pennies for Myself and Tea at the Spanish Contemporary Art Network in London in 2021, de Vivanco brushed up against entrenched modes of patriarchy by honoring women. Inspired by 17th century English activist “Captain” Ann Carter who led, and was executed for, her role in food protests, de Vivanco created a multimedia exhibition that depicted historical heroines, including a large portrait of Carter, in a language reserved for masculine glorifications. Continuing this dialogue in Miami, a painting of Petrona Yance shows her grasping a spanner with a bowl of bread on her head hiding more tools. Underrepresented for her role, along with 800 women, in smuggling tools to undo train tracks in an attempt to dismantle Colombian state control, de Vivanco shows Yance flanked by female accomplices and with an atypical sly grin that underpins true courage. Sadly, she was discovered and executed for this action in 1928.


De Vivanco’s commitment to (re)represent arduous past events while contradicting preconceived ideas is carried through three new sculptural works, which are composed of ceramic hands and feet detached and suspended from thin gold chains. These chained appendages inarguably reference human brutality and slavery, yet the ceramics is delicate and shiny while the chains are strangely ornamental, recalling the stringed puppet in Everyday Bananas or perhaps the earring worn by José Luis in his portrait. One could argue that de Vivanco has diffused the severity of oppression through playful representation, however her tactic is masterfully intentional. By using color, materiality as well as discursive layering, de Vivanco seduces, and dare we say even manipulates, her onlookers to lower their guard and entice them into a scene which is ultimately violent. However, rather than prescribing a set script, de Vivanco

offers enough information to set a scene in which to discover a wider range of narrative possibilities. The result is a juxtapositional push and pull that makes these sculptural installations and paintings deeply uncomfortable, and are perhaps de Vivanco’s most ardent psychological play.


The chain appears again in the diptych The Last Dance both as an enlarged abstracted form floating below and suggested as now broken, and as ornate jewelry on a naked and comically suntanned man. Recalling the monumentality of 18th century epic paintings by Jacques-Luis David depicting dramatic moments often fronted by a masculine hero figure, this large immersive painting is a stage where the central figure is absurd. An Andean woman smiles strangely as she hands him money, while a small masked man dressed in European garb sits on her back appearing helpless. Verging on parody, the conventional representation of these figures is comically, yet also subversively, reversed. Adding further discomfort, the works ‘style’ has a strange playful quaintness as a woman, knowingly smiling at onlookers, drapes a blue cloth behind the scene as if creating a stage curtain that signifies the scene is in fact a reenactment. This self-aware carnivalesque action is countered by an exactitude of colors, figure placement, posture and expression. In fact, the work is so precisely reasoned that de Vivanco simultaneously disrupts colonial storytelling conventions, and makes the futuristic stage play, gone right, believable.


Today, based in Leipzig, a town renowned for its origination of modern German painters, one cannot help draw parallels to the painterly exactitude and constructed narratives of one of the city’s celebrated artists, Neo Rauch. However, the similarity ends at aesthetics as de Vivanco’s playful humor and delicately interwoven thematics depart from Rauch’s looming satire. Instead her latently tense juxtapositions and subtle queering of representations are a subterfuge to themes in her work, which to date have included colonialism, human brutality, gender inequality, and more. De Vivanco’s paintings and sculptures in Splits and Slips disrupt colonial histories proffering hopeful fantasies that re-situate socio-political power systems. Definite in color and composition, the works invite attention while suggesting an alternative narrative that calls for a corrected and more ideal, even utopian space for living. Yet the artist refuses a neat resolve. Rather, de Vivanco provides a space to contemplate many positions and reasons for renewed contextual readings. If the banana is a tool for activism it has also been a witness of centuries of abuse—an abuse that continues today most connectedly to England’s football fields as fans stupidly toss bananas at black players. This only further illustrates that de Vivanco’s contemporary arguments against the inaccurate representation of and repeated violence within history are an ever important and reasoned warning to learn from past mistakes. 

Claire Breukel

TWO PENNIES FOR MYSELF AND TEA
THE SCAN PROJECT ROOM, LONDON, SEPTEMBER 2021

Chilean-Peruvian Artist Ivana de Vivanco Gives Voice To The Overlooked Stories Of Nonconforming Women 

 

Covering painting, sculpture and video, Chilean-Peruvian artist Ivana de Vivanco examines capitalistic development through a feminist viewpoint in her site-specific intervention Two Pennies for Myself and Tea (2021) at London’s SCAN – Spanish Contemporary Art Network, warping male-centred systems of dominance and exploitation.

Despite its misleading resonance of a nursery rhyme, the title extracts a segment of German philosopher Karl Marx’s book Das Kapital (1867), which outlines the shockingly abusive terms agreed by children for their work in the silk manufacturers of Bethnal Green, where the show is located. Once a land of commons that sustained forests and marshlands, the area soon transitioned into a crowded, urban and poor quarter. Spotlighting the disintegration of communal territories, de Vivanco paints the entire floor of the gallery in fluor green. Simulating an open expanse of luscious grass in all its glory, its glowy coating reflects the underlying hue back to those present, like an avalanche of contamination that melts into one’s face: aromas of algae, infection, poison, snot, slime, or vomit – this is a synthetic colour that contains such radiance that it can rip and link the space all at once.

The largest painting in the exhibition, Captain Ann Carter (2021), embodies an archetype against patriarchy. A vibrant enactment of the conflicting protests of English activist Ann Carter, the wife of a middle-class butcher. In the midst of the industrial depression of the 17th century, Carter led riots in Malden in defiance of the escalating price of grain, encountering the inevitable fate of execution for her significant role in the uprising, her presumption of leading men, and her self-entitlement of the male rank “Captain.”

Referring to herself as “a composition freak,” de Vivanco’s work renders a turmoil of intercrossing perspectives epitomised in each gesture and silhouette. Advancing past the open greenery, the picturesque setting is strained by diagonal tensions that expose the intricacies of power-relations. de Vivanco’s figures in flux are amassed in their disposition, yet detached in their gaze, as if caught mid-commute during rush hour. No longer consenting to starvation, a fierce female carries away half a bushel of rye in her apron. Her stuffed physique is painted – almost painfully – red, but she marches heroically at the prospect of feeding her family.

However she is not alone. As sunny as it might seem, a Native female companion wears a woven hat, protecting herself from the cold as she pours rye in a vessel. Her thick, braided hair parallels the interlaced chains depicted on the border, which are torn apart, implying a necessary step in the process of human liberation. Fuelled by the possibility of food, a sketched infant follows, whose sharply delineated hand is clasping the legs of Carter in a subtle indication of not wanting to be left behind. Engaged in the frontline are those often outdistanced from mainstream society: children, women, colonial subjects – the others – or as activist Silvia Federici signals in her book Caliban and the Witch (1998), those who are essential for keeping communities together and for defending noncommercial conceptions of security and wealth.

With a passive facial expression, an anonymous character crosses a fence in a state of complete coordination. His right palm is held upright towards the unlawful receivers in an attempt to stop them immediately from trespassing. Simultaneously amorphous and definite, his enigmatic profile is symbolic of “the establishment,” also referred to as the bosses, the influential politicians, the well-connected upper-class, those undetermined and yet so pronounced. In Headquarter (2021), the artist offers an intimate portrait of this invisible force. Modest in scale but monumental in authority, he devours grains with such intensity that they spill out of the canvas, pilling onto the floor.

Also reaching the bottom surface is a headless giant made of fabric and hair that hangs from the ceiling, whose disproportionate pendulous arms stretch too far away from its body. The fragmented sculpture Capital Distancing (2021) and its performed video evoke with humour the breach between labour and value, questioning philosopher René Descartes’ understanding of bodies as extended, transportation vehicles of our independent minds. Featuring a persona seated at a dinner table, her green-tinted bare head echoes the lost commons and makes an allusion to the witchcraft trials, where the women accused were shaved so men could search for “witchery marks.” Within the bourgeois tableware, the subject, who dresses in the same ridiculously long garment that is suspended in the room, is being fed wheat in an absurd, puppet-like process. The distance is further reinforced by de Vivanco, who states “the hands produce, but are so far from the body of the producer. Labour works, the golden hands take.” In this disembodied transaction, the artist finds common ground by transforming violent histories of controlled bodies into sites of resistance that refuse capture.

 

Vanessa Murrell for Something Curated 

--

SCAN Projects is delighted to present “Two pennies for myself and tea” a site-specific exhibition of new works in painting, video, and sculpture by artist Ivana de Vivanco. 


De Vivanco began this project by diving into the histories of the area of East London and Bethnal Green. The title of the exhibition derives from Das Kapital, which Marx wrote in London, in which he lays bare the processes of the exploitation of labour, and in which he writes specifically of Bethnal Green as an example of a ‘notorious district’. Beyond the analysis of Marx, de Vivanco found generations of struggle and spontaneous resistance that often formed around a dynamic lead character, frequently a local woman. Women, responsible for food and for feeding, were protesting and being tried as witches – by no coincidence in the same areas of England where commons were being enclosed (privatised). The worst period of the witch trials was between 1580 and 1630, which coincides with revolutions in food production and changes to the food markets that caused food to become both more scarce and extremely expensive. 


Captain Ann Carter was the leading figure in the Maldon Grain Riots (1629) and was finally hanged by the state for her leadership. A century and a half later, women again resisted the widespread hunger and deprivation brought about by privatisations of common lands and organised The Housewives Revolt (1795). The revolt was forcibly ended by a state fearfully aware of the path of the recent French Revolution. The central painting of the installation is Captain Ann Carter using a visual idiom derived from a Latin American realism, popular culture, and Baroque compositions. 


Bethnal Green was originally a small common that later developed into a hamlet, and eventually was absorbed into the fabric of London. The name of the area is said to derive from Bathon Hall (Bethnal) – the name and home of a prominent 18th century local family -  combined with Green, a word that recalls the origins of the central open shared space of the area.  A green is an area of common or shared land, physically or metaphorically at the centre of a community. 


Green is also a metonym, naming work to de-carbonise, clean-up, improve our natural environment, or for general ideas about nature. Metaphorically it may imply a naïve posture,  or the state of being young or new to something, like a green sapling or a ‘green horn’. Green is associated with money (the dollar is colloquially called ‘greenback’), and with the negative face of desire, envy, and is typically invoked by ‘green eyed’ glances. Celebrity guests on stage or television programs are said to wait in a green room, and technicians and talking heads work in front of a green screen. It can also mean ‘go’ and is used to encourage change, for instance we give initiatives a ‘green light’ to begin. Whatever we mean by it, being green isn’t easy (simple to decipher), to paraphrase a famous frog. 


De Vivanco’s site-specific installation invites us onto the green, physically as well as visually. We stand on green and green colours the room and our sight. It is as if entering the aesthetic and historic reference of her works, but also like stepping into a ‘green room’ or in front of the ‘green screen’ of video production. Are we waiting for our performance, or already participating in its production? A single large painting (Captain Ann Carter) commands the room, bold and hopeful, and a sculpture/costume with absurdly long sleeves and golden hands evokes with humour the ‘capital distancing’ or the separation of labour and immaterial value. The golden hands produce but are so far from the body of the producer. Labour works, the golden hands also take. A work in video enacts this distant, nearly disembodied transaction. The work is playful, colourful, hopeful, inviting, and yet also mythological, historical, mighty, and wryly names dark forces and repeated moments of crushed resistance. 


De Vivanco works in oil on canvas, video, and in sculpture, playfully and provocatively reimaging and undermining images of historical and contemporary colonialism. She invokes rebellious women, reimagining and undermining images of historical and contemporary colonialism and the roles women have played (and still do) fighting on the front line against the destruction of their communities. 


She grew up and studied in Chile, in Ecuador and in Peru, and her education, experiences and imagery are informed by the aesthetics of Latin American Baroque, Andean culture, and the colonial histories that continue to form Latin American culture and our world. De Vivanco’s palette is bright, rich, and heightened, but also can feel menacing, riotous, and evoke intense emotional states. Her work is skilful, complex, and decisive with dense historical and theatrical influences and references, and explores topics of sexuality, family, society, history and performance. 
 

Bruce Irwin

 

 

THE PARTIAL OBJECT HOUSE

THE RYDER PROJECTS, LONDON, JUNE 2021

It is romantic if you think it over, a house full of body parts aiming to become a creature: heads, eyes, breasts, arms. Segmented limbs collaborating with a house to craft a new organism, putting together each frustration, each loss, each memory. A communion of objects that despite all the ambitions they hold, despite all the desire they experienced, cannot help falling.


The Partial Object House is Ivana de Vivanco’s first solo exhibition in London. The Chilean-Peruvian artist conjures on this occasion a series of works focusing on the body as an accumulation of different parts infused by psychoanalytic theories. The artist invites the audience to inhabit a dissected anatomy, dedicating each floor of the building to a different fraction of the body.


Don’t you find this romantic? I cannot help thinking it is – maybe it is more of another kind of romanticism, the dark one typical from England, so cloudy, a bit deadly and sometimes uncanny. Like a modern Frankenstein laying on the couch in conversation with his therapist trying to understand all the memories from his recently discovered limbs. Nevertheless, the best way to figure it out is it to get into this body-building and explore it from within. It is indiscreet, but let’s take this chance.


We start from the head, we enter from there because the body is constantly falling and therefore, it is upside down. The head is the basis, it is holding this creature to the earth. The head is the meaning factory that will add content to the rest of the parts, the space for the trauma, the anxiety floor. All these emotions articulate in the room through de Vivanco’s imagery in works such as Von zu viel Sorge. This painting is inspired by the fifteen Century book The ship of fools by German theologist Sebastian Brand, which combines texts and engravings collecting different examples of human stupidity. Of the excessive concern – which inspired the artist to create this painting and gave it its title – it’s one of these examples and speaks about of our absurd obsession with carrying more than we can take. This feeling manifests in the painting through a central character who cries a pool of tears while another one caresses her head bewildered. This scene is a good example to understand how the head functions, trying to figure out an unreachable present that leads us to a constant distress.


While we ascend in the building we descend into this body and, after the convoluted head, we come into the guts, the stomach, the digestive tract. Here, in the belly of this creature, the body functions as a machine, processing food and taking what it’s needed to keep us alive. It is in here where emotions hurt. I am sure you have lost your appetite when something once touched you deeply, or made a choice following a gut feeling. De Vivanco creates this ready-to-assemble living machine to explore the connections between our guts and our social relationships, from belly butterflies to upset stomachs. The painting Odd Breakfast represents well these emotions in a theatrical scene where a few characters sit around a table. The breakfast has reunited them, but no one seems to be really there.


The top of this house is the bottom of this fictional figure, the legs, feet, toes. It is the floor of movement or its absence. Here the characters fool around, like Martha and Charles, two works by de Vivanco with interchangeable body parts. The legs of one character can be stolen by the other and they can dance and rename themselves inventing hybrid genders. On another wall a squared character looks at the scene. He/she has become one with the space after a long quarantine.
I think it’s romantic if you think it over. Ivana de Vivanco has created here a queer romanticism that is infused by her Latin American heritage; it is colourful and theatrical; it is ironic and sad. Deliberately uncanny, but bright and colourful like a carnival or a cathedral, this humanoid house is filled with stories narrated through scenes and sculptures that transcend the canvas. Altogether they draw a character that, as every human, is an accumulation of different parts, a compilation of many unique stories impregnated in each corner of our anatomy.

Rafael Barber Cortell

 

 

PINK MANEUVER

JOSEF FILIPP GALERIE, LEIPZIG, JANUARY 2021

The Golden Triangle rule is intact. A brawl scene depicting a feisty rabble of colorful scamps tug at the braids of the woman centers the painting, as bendy guns shoot in every direction and socks n sandals clog dance over books strewn about. Irresistible vibrant colors, silly characters and silky surfaces on a large oil on canvas work anchor Ivana de Vivanco's new solo show, conceived as a critique on colonialism that continues to shape the modern world today. 

"The pieces of my last years of work strive to give form to fragments of the stories of Andean history in South America," de Vivanco explains in the artist statement accompanying her debut solo presentation, Pink Maneuver, with Josef Filipp Galerie in Leipzig, Germany. "They are impregnated with the aesthetic of Latin American Baroque, which has been probably the most colorful and painful Baroque of all since the wound of colonization has remained inscribed in it." Born in Portugal, raised in Chile, and educated in Germany where she currently lives and works, the Chilean-Peruvian artist's life experience strongly informed her interest in the subjects that star in her surreal visuals, just as current surroundings have informed much of her approach. Based in the epicenter of what's recognized in the world as New Leipzig School, de Vivanco's figurations are built on traditional painterly techniques and are assembled from a diverse range of visuals, ranging from velvety surfaces to expressive marks and raw gestures. Often placed in spaces with an accented sense of perspective and regularly denouncing the rules of physics or logic, her images occasionally transcend into real life through  sculptural work which adds to the impact of such rousing images. 

Entitled Ronda (meaning "loud" or "grand" in Welsh and Hebrew origin), the centerpiece of the show is the culmination of paintings and sculptures that form the exhibition. "Ronda has been an attempt to capture in one image something of this episode of history," the artist explains about this compelling image, referencing "the enormous discrimination it contains, and the circular quality of violence, in which gunshots turn back and generate whirlwinds." Bright blue skies and vivid details such as red socks or yellow sandals capture attention as they tug at emotion in playful elements ultimately lead to a sobering narrative.    

"I thought of the total installation, with its sculptures, its paintings, and its pink walls, as an invitation to go through and question social conventions, anchored in gender roles or in the supposed supremacy of western European knowledge. I’m fascinated about how humor and also tragedy can live together in a work of art, with all the tensions that that generates," the artist shared with Juxtapoz, as she also explained how the smaller canvases and her sculptural works made from cement, synthetic resin, plaster, and hair, often provide closeups of the primary scenes. Whether with the balloon-like blue head character yanking one of the braids, or a closeup of knees under the skirt with a chain around it,  the artist creates emotional metaphors to interpret dark history. Through her poetic approach, de Vivanco repurposes the bright colors of Andean carnivals and the dynamic rhythms and movements of their parades to construct her own vocabulary. The traditional dances and celebrations that honor the sun and the rain are cleverly twisted and strangled to address the colonial cruelty and injustice that has shaped much of the world.

 

Sasha Bogojev for Juxtapoz Magazine 

--

Una cabeza en el espacio forcejea por separarse de su cuerpo, pues quiere observar el universo a través del ojo de Dios. A pesar de estar convencida de su divinidad y de ser más azul y más brillante que el cielo, no lo logra. Lo intenta mil veces, pero permanece siempre encadenada a sus venas, a sus uñas, a su pelo. Cuando consigue, sin embargo, elevarse algunos centímetros por sobre sus hombros, arrasa con pueblos enteros, quema códices, corta trenzas.

 

Se trata del Complejo Cartesiano, dualista –que pretende enemistar cuerpo y mente– y monológico: una cabeza con pretensiones universales que reflexiona desde un cómodo rincón del mundo. Sus dos perfiles prácticamente idénticos dudan y dudan, pero nunca se ponen realmente en crisis, porque sólo se escuchan a sí mismos. Quizás la duda cartesiana no sea tan profunda como parece. Al fin y al cabo, ésta no acepta a ningún interlocutor en su discurso. A nadie se le permite remecer al pensador desde afuera. No hay ningún otro (y ni hablar otra) que esté a su altura.

 

La exposición Pink Maneuver (Maniobra Rosa) es una crítica a las estructuras de colonialidad que impulsaron la creación de la modernidad y que siguen rigiendo en nuestra sociedad. He pensado la instalación total –con sus esculturas, sus pinturas y sus muros rosados– como una invitación a recorrer y cuestionar algunas convenciones sociales, ancladas por ejemplo en los roles de género o en la supuesta supremacía del pensamiento europeo.

 

Varias obras de esta exposición nacen de la revisión e interpretación de episodios de la historia andina en Sudamérica. Uno de ellos es el conflicto armado entre Sendero Luminoso y el Estado peruano durante los años 80 y 90, el cual, promovido por el colonialismo interno, acumuló la gran mayoría de las víctimas en las zonas rurales y más pobres del país. 75% de las víctimas fatales hablaban quechua u otras lenguas nativas como idioma materno, cuando en el Perú sólo 16% de la población pertenecía a dichos grupos étnicos y culturales. La pintura Ronda ha sido un intento de recoger en una imagen algo de este episodio de la historia, de la enorme discriminación que encierra y de la cualidad circular de la violencia, en la que los disparos se devuelven y generan torbellinos.

 

Las obras de mis últimos años de trabajo se esfuerzan por darle una forma a fragmentos de estas historias y en el intento se impregnan de la estética del barroco latinoamericano, que ha sido probablemente el barroco más colorido y más doloroso de todos, pues en él ha quedado inscrita la herida de la colonización. Las escenas de las pinturas están representadas con los colores de los carnavales andinos y con los ritmos de sus danzas. En los bailes los cuerpos zapatean, se entrecruzan y chocan, pero se reconcilian en el momento en el que vuelven a coordinar sus movimientos al compás de la música.

 

Ivana de Vivanco

14 de enero de 2021

--

A head in a space wrestles to separate itself from its body, for it wants to observe the universe through the eyes of God. Although it is convinced of its divinity and it is bluer and brighter than the sky, it doesn’t succeed. It tries a thousand times, but it always remains chained to its veins, to its nails, to its hair. When it finally manages to rise a few centimetres above its shoulders, it wipes out entire cities, burns codices, cuts braids.

 

This is the Cartesian Complex, dualistic –it seeks to set mind and body against each other– and monological: a head with universal ambitions that reflects from a comfortable corner of the world. Its two practically identical profiles permanently doubt, but they never really question themselves, because they only listen to each other. Perhaps the Cartesian doubt is not as deep as it seems to be. After all, it doesn’t accept any interlocutor in its discourse. No one is allowed to shake the thinker from the outside. There’s no possible he (and no way a she) that is at his level.  

 

The exhibition Pink Maneuver is a critique of the structures of coloniality that drove the creation of modernity and that continue ruling our society. I thought of the total installation –with its sculptures, its paintings and its pink walls– as an invitation to go through and question some social conventions, anchored for example in gender roles or in the supposed supremacy of western European knowledge.

 

Several works in this exhibition are born from the review and interpretation of episodes of Andean history in South America. One of them is the armed conflict between Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Peruvian State during the 80s and 90s, which, promoted by the internal colonialism, accumulated the vast majority of victims in the rural and poorest areas of the country. 75% of the victims spoke Quechua or other native languages as their mother tongue, whereas in Peru only 16% of the population belonged to these ethnic and cultural groups. The painting Ronda has been an attempt to capture in one image something of this episode of history, of the enormous discrimination it contains and of the circular quality of violence, in which gunshots turn back and generate whirlwinds.

 

The pieces of my last years of work strive to give form to fragments of these stories and in the attempt to do so they are impregnated with the aesthetic of Latin American Baroque, which has been probably the most colourful and painful Baroque of all, since the wound of colonisation has remained inscribed in it. The scenes in the paintings are represented with the colours of Andean carnivals and with the rhythms of their parades. In the dances the bodies stomp, intertwine and collide, but they reconcile themselves in the moment in which they coordinate their movements again to the rhythm of music.

 

Ivana de Vivanco

14th of January 2021