Turned Into Sterile Land

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The artworks included in En tierra estéril convertida [Turned into Sterile Land] explore the connection between imperialist violence and gender violence through innovative proposals that build a metaphor of the body as an invaded territory and, at the same time, as a space violated by the patriarchy. The works were produced from the 1970s to the present by artists from the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico.

In the exhibition, the body becomes historical memory, nature, ancestral knowledge and community land, questioning the gender impositions brought by the West and the individualistic neoliberalism that destroys communities of care, knowledge and food.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Second gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The participants approach colonial and gender issues that have resulted in some of the most horrifying forms of violence in modern and contemporary history, such as mass femicides, sexual violence as a weapon of genocide and control of enslaved bodies, and forced sterilizations. Chronologically, these works range from a crude, bloody and literal statement to a manifestation of greater symbolic complexity as the 21st century progresses.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Second gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The exhibited works provoke dialogues about looting and settlement in Latin America, and how this has affected feminized bodies, even more so, when there is an intersection between race and gender. In addition, these works provoke conversations about the bodies expelled from society and whose problems are not detected by the institutional radar, because they exist in the limits of the constructions of gender propagated by coloniality.

Creole Portraits II A Collection of Singular & Scarce Creole Portrait Heads to Perpetuate the Memory of the WOMEN of EGYPT ESTATE in JAMAICAMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In the manner of a mausoleum, Joscelyn Gardner pays tribute to the enslaved women who produced the riches of the Caribbean, specifically of the Egypt State, a plantation in Jamaica. Its owner documented every detail of his life, including the thousands of acts of sexual violence that he committed against African and Afro-descendant women.

Creole Portraits II A Collection of Singular & Scarce Creole Portrait Heads to Perpetuate the Memory of the WOMEN of EGYPT ESTATE in JAMAICAMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The beautiful braided hair testifies to the history of the Caribbean plantation workers, while the irons and tools of torture are a document of the violence that racialized and feminized bodies specifically experienced in the construction of the Americas. As a white Creole woman, Gardner analyzes her own privilege in an act of historical analysis and solidarity with the Black Caribbean women who have experienced multiple types of violence of which the white population is the perpetrator, accomplice and beneficiary.

The technical mastery of the work has conceptual connotations reminiscent of the ideological control of the colonized population and the architecture of the plantation mansions that, like Gardner's work, contain in themselves an aesthetic contradiction that makes the public uncomfortable.

Illustrations of the Mechanical (2016/2019) by Las Nietas de Nono, Mulowayi Iyaye Nono, and Mapenzi Chibale NonoMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Obstetric violence is one of the attacks that feminized bodies suffer at the hands of the medical institutions in Puerto Rico. In Ilustraciones de la mecánica, Las Nietas de Nonó explore the control of racialized, feminized and colonized anatomies through medicine (forced sterilizations and the lack of inclusion of patients in the decision-making process about their own bodies, among others), education, prisons and police surveillance in poor communities in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View First gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In Lix Cua Rahro / Tus tortillas mi amor, the artist ritualistically grinds corn to make tortillas using her teeth. Shortly before making this video-performance, Monterroso was informed that her grandmother, who had passed away days ago, was Maya Qʼeqchiʼ. While she prepares the tortillas, she speaks in Qʼeqchiʼ, the language of her grandmother. The title of the work and the action of chewing corn and spitting it to create the tortillas provoke dialogues about private space, domestic work and violence against women.

(a)parecer (a)parecer (2014) by Teresa HernándezMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

This work invites us to question the concept of "privada" which can be translated as "private" and "deprived." The artist plays with the word as a notion with multiple meanings for a feminized and colonized person. Throughout the performance, Teresa Hernández's body shows a metamorphosis, while she reflects on the painful process led by an event that changed her life.

(a)parecer (a)parecer (2014) by Teresa HernándezMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The private place implies a structure invented by the colonizers, in order to achieve allies by putting women in the space of the dominated and the colonized men in that of the dominator.

(a)parecer (a)parecer (2014) by Teresa HernándezMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Hernández breaks with the polarization created as a result of the invasion of America, by presenting her private transformation to an audience that gathers in a public square, enunciating from a space in which the patriarchal-colonial guidelines should not allow. Finally, the artist "tries" to climb a statue of Christopher Columbus in a defiant act, not only for her safety as an individual, but also for the colonial-patriarchal status.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Second gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In this action, the artist enclosed herself with 25 thousand male flies within a space with transparent walls. The title of the work alludes to a succulent dish or body about to be devoured. The male flies that surround her, added to the fact that, as an audience, we observe the body of the protagonist from outside a transparent box, makes us think of the male gaze and the feminized bodies that are turned into an object.

Ambrosia (2000) by María Adela DíazMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Diaz's blindfold recovers the historic memory of the Mayan genocide organized by the Guatemalan army in the 1980s in which thousands of women were raped with the purpose of stopping the group's social and cultural reproduction.

Volare (2018) by Belkis RamírezMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

On a trip to Zurich, the artist struck up a conversation with 33 Dominican women who were on their way to the city and who had been deceived with the promise that they would find a better situation outside their country. On the contrary, the artist was told, those who were taking them to Zurich took their passports and planned to force them into sex work.

With this piece, Ramírez questions the consequences of migration caused by coloniality in the Caribbean countries and the way in which it specifically affects feminized bodies. She also reflects on how human trafficking for sex work has been used to establish surveillance policies on colonized people.

While We Slept (The Juárez Case) (2002) by Lorena WolfferMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In While we were sleeping (the Juárez case) a voice narrates the findings of 50 bodies from victims of femicide in the desert of Ciudad Juárez, near the border between Mexico and the United States. 
The epidemic of murders of trans and cisgender, mainly young, women on the border has not stopped since it began to be counted in January 1993, after the discovery of Alma Chavarria Farel, who was barely 13 years old.

To date, more than 3,000 women have been reported missing in Ciudad Juárez. Lorena Wolffer marks her skin according to the places where there was evidence of violence.

If She is Mexico, Who Beat Her Up? (1999) by Lorena WolfferMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In If She Is Mexico, Who Beat Her Up? the artist walks on a catwalk with the colors of the Mexican flag. Meanwhile, an audio with the statements of a US congressman about what the role of Mexico should be in the War on Drugs plays in the background. The scars on Lorena Wolffer's body make us think about the relationship between her body as an invaded and colonized Mexican territory, and the violence against feminized bodies.

Seen together, these works generate ideas about imperialist decisions of a few countries over others, the role of the War on Drugs in the masculinization and control of the border between the United States and Mexico and the bodies that inhabit it, the roots of femicide and the way we imagine the territory at the border between Mexico and the United States that is presented as a map on Lorena Wolffer’s skin.

(De) Colonial Reconquista (2014) by Marina Barsy JanerMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

(De) Colonial Reconquista is a performance that took place in various spaces in the city of San Juan, including the MAC. In that instance, the artist invited a specific group of women to participate as extractivists of a body-territory. Each one drew a letter of the word COLONIA [COLONY] on the artist's back and they proceeded to sign a contract that grants them the copyright on the part of her body that contains the letter, as buyers of land.

The word was then tattooed on her skin to make the possession permanent. Based on this work, we can build new discourses on the control of women's bodies in a colonized territory. The final action, in the exterior garden of the MAC, is both a recognition and an act of rebellion against coloniality and the control-possession of feminized bodies.

ANA MENDIETA
La Habana, Cuba 1948 - Nueva York, Estados Unidos 1985
Untitled (Rape Performance)
1973-1993
Suite of two color photographs made from original 35mm color slides
10” x 8”

Untitled (Rape Performance)
1973-1993
Suite of two color photographs made from original 35mm color slides
8” x 10”

[Archive] 1 photo from "Rape"
1973
Color photograph
8” x 10”
Courtesy of the Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Third gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

On March 13, 1973, on the University of Iowa Campus, a nursing student named Sarah Ann Ottens was found dead in her bedroom. Ana Mendieta, who studied on the same campus, was traumatized by the event. During that year, she carried out a series of works related to gender and sexual violence that helped her understand death and analyze her own situation, not only as a woman, but also as a racialized person in the Iowa of the 1970's.

In this selection of photographs, Mendieta places herself on the ground in a wooded area, creating the image of a raped body. The space in which we can see Mendieta is seen in the photos reminds us of her firsts works for the Siluetas series in which she reflected on the territory to which we belong and its relationship with colonialism.

Over the last decade, Teresa Margolles, a Mexican artist born in Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, has focused her artistic practice in Ciudad Juárez, one of the cities with the greatest economic flow and border between the US and Mexico. Juárez has been tragically known in the last twenty years for the thousands of disappearances and murders of women, and for the impunity of the murderers due to the inaction of the authorities.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Third gallery (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Since the 1990s, city governments have carried out a silenced social cleansing, displacing businesses and neighbors, with the aim of recovering the historic center, violating the most vulnerable sectors of society. Homes and businesses have been closed and demolished, including numerous nightclubs and discos, due to the war between drug cartels, government decisions and real estate speculation. This work (left projection) shows the indifference, social exclusion, and abandonment that vulnerable people who spend most of their time in the streets are subjected to.

Earth (2013) by Regina José GalindoMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

In the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt, who was President of the Republic of Guatemala and head of the Guatemalan army during the period of greatest violence against the Mayan people in contemporary history (1982-1983), former army mechanic Hugo Ramiro Leonardo Reyes declared that the military forces would arrive to Mayan towns with a mechanical digger and, after conducting a massacre, they would bury the bodies in mass graves.

This statement proved that the Mayan genocide of the 1980s, in which more than 200,000 people were murdered, and thousands of women were raped and sterilized by members of the military, was planned. In Tierra, the bulldozer that is introduced into the soil makes us think of the territory inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Guatemala as a violated space. The earth becomes a feminized body.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Diarias: Communities of Care Puerto Rico (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Diarias: Communities of Care Puerto Rico

a project by Mexican artist Lorena Wolffer commissioned by MAC en el Barrio as part of the exhibition Turned Into Sterile Land.

Groups of trans, non-binary, and cisgender women from Puerto Rico have been invited to record and make visible the reality of these communities of care during the pandemic through collectively made Diarias.

En Tierra Estéril Convertida Exhibition View Diarias: Communities of Care Puerto Rico (2021-08-07)Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

The project had its beginnings in Mexico in 2020 with the intention that the participants share a Diaria for 7 days to make a written, photographic and/or drawn record about what they did, thought and felt on a given day. The Diarias manifest their existence during a period marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and a resurgence of gender violence.

MUSEO DE ARTE CONTEMPORÁNEO DE PUERTO RICO
Rafael Flores Pérez, President
María Awilda Quintana-Román, Vice President
José Negrón, Treasurer
Antonio García, Secretary
Salvador Alemañy
Rubén Méndez Benabe
Rachid Molinary
Pedro Muñoz Marín
Ana L. Rivero Iturregui
Luis Fernando Rodríguez
María Elba Torres

MUSEUM STAFF
Marianne Ramírez Aponte, Executive Director and Chief Curator
Evita Busa, Deputy Director and Education Manager
Wanda Michelle Dilán, Administrator
Marina Reyes Franco, Curator
Mariela Collazo Heredia, Registrar
Pablo Serrano Otero, Preparator
Natalia M. Centeno López and Joudy Santaliz Cuevas, Education Coordinators
Karin Cardona, Head Archivist
Windy M. Cosme, Project Manager MAC en el Barrio
Sara Marina Dorna Pesquera and Donald C. Escudero Rivera, Coordinators MAC en el Barrio

Javier Colón Ríos, La 18, Unidad Audiovisual
Brenna Quigley, Development Coordinator
Dalila Rodríguez Saavedra, Communications Coordinator
Alexnel Suárez, Administrative Assistant
Jorge Pardo, MAC Shop

EXHIBITION CREDITS
Emilia Quiñones Otal, Guest Curator
Marina Reyes Franco, Exhibition Coordination
Mariela Collazo Heredia, Registrar
Marina Reyes Franco and Pablo Serrano Otero, Exhibition Design
Pablo Serrano Otero, Preparator
Sebastián Gutiérrez and José López Serra, Exhibition Installation Assistants
Carolina Cortés, Fundraising

Dalila Rodríguez Saavedra, Communications Coordinator
Evita Busa, Natalia M. Centeno López, Emilia Quiñones Otal, PhD, Joudy Santaliz Cuevas, Education Program

LENDERS TO THE EXHIBITION
Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC, and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

The Almonte-Ramírez Family
James Cohan, New York

PUBLICATION
Marina Reyes Franco, Editing and Translation
Ingrid Bonetti and Luis Vázquez Oneill, Editorial Design
Raquel Pérez Puig, Photography

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