Performance by Luisa Ungar and Milena Bonilla

13th October 2017, 2.30pm — 6pm
Rijksmuseum Ateliergebouw and Museumplein

For its third chapter Heterotropics presented a new lecture performance by Colombian artists Milena Bonilla and Luisa Ungar at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Conceived as a site-specific intervention, Pavilion tackles the legacy of The International Colonial and Export Exhibition (“Internationale Koloniale en Uitvoerhandel Tentoonstelling”) that took place on Amsterdam Museumplein and at the Rijksmuseum in 1883.

As the first world exposition with an official colonial theme, the fair is regarded as an “event without precedent or parallel” (Bloembergen, 2006). Besides showing artefacts from the colonies, export products, and new technologies, entire dwellings from overseas were erected and inhabited by indigenous peoples, treating visitors to an encounter with the exotic. Approximately 1.5 million people from all walks of life reached the Dutch capital dressed in their best clothes to learn the “modern lesson” (Bloembergen, 2006). It was allegedly this huge popular success that prompted the immediate development of that piece of wasteland at the edges of Amsterdam into Museumplein, suggesting a continuity between colonial exhibitions, the establishment of modern art museums and the rise of mass tourism.

Taking place on the same sites of the fair’s historical materialization, Pavilion follows the spectres of colonial spectacles in a short-circuit between past and present. Sharing with the audience different traces of the fair, the artists elaborate on the documents, objects and scenarios that observers encountered while visiting the show. As it is often the case with Bonilla’s and Ungar’s collaborative performances, the lecture apparatus is hacked to question paradigms of truth and the fabrication of historical objectivity. In their enunciation the artists move in and out of fiction and factuality, reality and fabulation, complicating their respective definitions within hegemonic epistemological systems. Through a sophisticated interplay of archival research, magical thinking and fictional interpolation, Pavilion unearths the hidden tectonic patterns that connect events, effects, after effects and collective imagination beyond conventional space-time categories.

Pavilion voices a history of forgetfulness, removal and denial, in which the vestiges of the fair are rediscovered as producers of spaces, behaviors, and imagined identities.

Artists’ bios

Luisa Ungar (b. Bogota, Colombia) studied visual arts in Bogotá, and has an MFA from Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam. She is currently a guest resident at AIR Antwerpen, Belgium. Her recent work deals with narratives involving animality and the non-human in colonial circuits. Looking at mechanisms that question ways in which history is constructed, she often seeks to connect archived or academic material with everyday popular use, unveling the role of the expert by making room for improvisation, association, gossip and chaos. Her varied projects range from zoo visit guides to educational projects, using performance, drawing and text. Her work has been shown and performed at different venues such as Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre; Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid; Marrakech Biennial Parallel project; Museo de arte Banco de República Bogotá; Rong Wrong, Amsterdam; Festival de Performance de Cali; Spring Workshop, Hong Kong; Bienal Sur, Rosario. She has been co-editor of publication projects such as DISDISDIS (On vampires and other forms of conviviality), and Proyecto Asterisco. She has been a resident at Gasworks, TRain Residency in London; RESò, Italy and Maebashi Arts Center, Japan. Since 2013 she has been making collaborative work with Milena Bonilla.

Milena Bonilla (b. Bogota, Colombia) graduated in visual arts at the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogota, Colombia, in 2000, and followed a post-academic course at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2009-2010. Her current practice involves explorations on knowledge interpreted as a work force, and Nature as an entity colonized by language, consumed in a massive scale through images. The artist uses a variety of media in her production including installations, video, drawing, text, public interventions and photography. She currently lives and works in Amsterdam and has been making collaborative work with Luisa Ungar since 2013. Her work has been shown and performed in different international venues, including The Mistake Room, Los Angeles Ca.; Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid; Rong Wrong, Amsterdam; The Photographer’s Gallery and the International Institute of Visual Arts in London; Witte de With in Rotterdam; Sørlandets Kunstmuseum in Kristiansand (Norway) and Kunsternes Hus in Oslo; Konstall C in Stockholm; Marrakech and Shangai Biennial’s parallel projects, and the 12th. Istanbul, 10th. Havana and 3rd. Bucharest Biennials.

Pavilion is a Heterotropics commission and forms a part of the artists’ ongoing joint investigation of the entangled genealogy of human zoos, colonial shows and museum displays.

Heterotropics is a curatorial and research platform initiated in Amsterdam by Sara Giannini and organized in collaboration with TAAK.

Realized with the kind support of Stadsdeel Zuid, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.