The need to analyse aspects of the past and the present from memory, to reclaim the local and interest in otherness and postmodern anthropology leads us to an ethnographic turn. This brings us into the presence of a new paradigm of artist: “the artist as ethnographer” (a concept coined by the theorist Hal Foster in the mid-nineties), an artistic practice interested not only in economic or social issues, but also in identity and cultural matters. We could say that Marcos Ávila Forero moves in this terrain — whose current tendency incorporates complicity as a modus operandi — appealing to an auto-ethnography that seeks to reclaim the history of his home country, Colombia, and that of other contexts with which he works, moving beyond physical and territorial borders, analyzing forced displacement and the phenomenon of migration. His work is constructed out of the question: How do humans, objects and ideas travel and how are they transformed? A constant displacement that shows us what lies beyond the borders we know, an approach to the reality of the Other.
The projects included in Unruly Landscapes seem to evoke an "off-screen”: a story, a journey, a trip, or an encounter between the artist and the families, artisans, communities, towns, villages; in short, the human being is the centre of his work, becoming the main character and carrying an embodied story, the story of an escape, an armed conflict, a search for a new path. We could talk about "micro-stories" that seek not so much to proof anything as to explore human migration through violence, dehumanization and personal stories, based on local issues but ultimately seeking the global dimension.
Marcos Avila Forero is involved in his work at both a personal and an artistic level, taking an active role and analysing both physical and psychological reality as a "dystopian place" of memory. Thus his politically engaged work bears witness to complex and sometimes violent realities. Realities such as that of the families in the shanty towns of Colombia’s Santander region, who are displaced from their land as a result of the armed conflict in the countryside, a story that is woven into the traditional sandals of Zuratoque (2013); or realities such as that of the descendants of groups of runaway slaves who settled in rebel territories in South America as they fled from French colonialism in the eighteenth century, a story told through the skins of drums created according to the traditional techniques of Palenqueros (2013).
Another element common to all the works in the Unruly Landscapes’ exhibition is that dimension of landscape which permeates them, giving unity to the project. The viewer is absorbed into the political landscape of Colina 266 (2010), a heartbreaking and gloomy landscape that bears witness to the scars of the Korean War, in which a battalion of 1,080 Colombian soldiers were sent by the Colombian state to support UN troops during the conflict. Or the sound landscape of Atrato (2014), soundtract that tell us of a group of local Afro-Colombian residents experiencing the "ordinary violence" of armed conflict.
The Atrato river crosses the Chocó forest, in Colombia, and within this context is one of the main arteries of this country’s conflict. The artist, along with a group of researchers and musicians, asked riverside residents to revive an old tradition which comprises hitting the river’s surface with their hands and arms. With this action they reproduced a sound inspired by local rhythms, creating percussive music through which the sounds of explosions and impacts of bullets are reproduced, sounds sadly familiar to local inhabitants.
From Atrato’s sound landscape, we move to the photographic landscape of Estenopeica de Paisajes Revoltosos (2014), a Colombian region that has become one of the stages for civil and social unrest linked to the need for agricultural reform in the country. In this work, the landscape becomes the photographic eye — to be specific, the peasants’ homes are turned into pinhole cameras in order to capture a single photosensitive image. Through this process, hidden and disappearing scenarios are revealed, the rural families’ houses, spaces of protest that are engraved on each house and its history.
Finally, the video La Sucursal del Paraíso (2010) is marked by the absence of characters, placing the viewer in a suspended space between the image of an empty truck´s cargo box and the storytelling of the people who fled forced by the armed conflict; it is left to us to imagine that landscape narrated by the voiceover.
In all his works, Marcos Avila Forero shows difficult and harsh realities in a human, sensitive and poetic way, becoming a witness and an accomplice to these stories, confronting the geographical and ideological borders that exist today. Imperceptible boundaries that separate the city from the mountain, the native from the foreigner, the clandestine from the legal, poverty from wealth, tradition from modernity. The works exhibited at ADN Galería stand out for representing everyday life experiences conceived as performance, which the artist understands as alternative forms of history and memory that convey local knowledge of reality beyond borders, times and places.
Marcos Ávila Forero
Lives and works between Paris and Bogotá.
Marcos Ávila Forero was born in 1983 in Paris, France,he lives and works in Paris and Bogotá, Colombia. In 2010 Marcos completed his studies at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts of Paris with a DNAP and DNSAP with « Jury’s congratulation». In 2012, after being granted the Prix Découverte des Amis du Palais de Tokyo (Discovery Prize), he was introduced by Giuseppe Penone to be part of an artist’s residence with the Fondation d’Entreprise Hermès. He has been awarded with LOOP Award (2014,Spain) with his artwork “À Tarapoto, un Manati”, the Residency Prize Hermès (2013,France) and the Prize Multimedia Des Fondations de Beaux Arts (2011, France). His work has particularly been shown at the Palais de Tokyo and Dohyang Lee Gallery in Paris and at the Art Center Casa Redada in Bogota, Colombia.
Each work by Marcos Avila Forero is based on an encounter with a unique story, an individual, or an event, expressed as a performance, video or installation using often humble, everyday materials. Forero’s politically-engaged works explore violence, destitution and personal stories crossed with fate or the destiny of his home country, Colombia