Y.ES Contemporary presents Entangled/Entretejidos, a series of seven videos that addresses the different ways in which artists link to their identity as Salvadorans. The notions that exist around this identity are complex, as they are derived from various sources, including the heritage of indigenous peoples, a colonial past, a civil war, and mass migration.
Everyone’s own history constitutes a node that exists in this complex network. Identity is then the fabric that has been created by the union of unique threads, that is, of all heterogeneous experiences that can be understood as Salvadoran.
Entangled/Entretejidos reflects on the concepts of identity related to the idea of the motherland and relation to migration. At the same time, the project acknowledges plurality to consider identity as something malleable and fluid, not limited to a specific region. Through the experiences of Salvadorans, we seek to address issues relevant at an international level.
Featured artists: Victor Artiga, Kevin Baltazar, Natalia Dominguez, Melissa Guevara, Muriel Hasbun, Gabriela Novoa, and Lucy Tomasino.
Muriel Hasbun’s work is a fitting introduction to the discussion of identities. Her piece Scheherazade or (Per)forming the Archive is an autobiographical meditation that, through the artist’s family archive, addresses and resists transgenerational trauma, silence, and oblivion. Her family is of Salvadoran/Palestinian Christian and Polish/French Jewish descent; therefore, her story allows us to recognize the complexity and nuances to consider when talking about Salvadoran identity.
The works of Melissa Guevara and Víctor Artiga have in common the reflection they generate about their beings and their identities using materials considered traditional of El Salvador, which are usually considered exotic. Guevara utilizes soil and Artiga corn dough. Through their bodies, they interact with these materials, and by extension with their stories. In this way, they link the past of the region with their present and their own experiences.
In Lucy Tomasino's work, Skin and Scar, the artist reflects on the marks, both on the earth and on the skin of people, creating links between personal stories and the history of a nation. The tension between the bodies alludes conflict, and water as a purifying element establishes a relationship with healing: we recognize in the scars marks of the past.
Gabriela Novoa's work addresses gender and sexuality from the Salvadoran context, where many people, especially women, commonly suffer from gender violence. Novoa presents a hybrid documentary whose script was generated from testimonies of six women who talk about experiences of abuse, repression, guilt, and shame. Novoa presents a look at the experience of these women, while generating dialogues about female pleasure and sexuality, topics that are generally taboo in conservative societies such as in El Salvador.
Like Novoa, artist Kevin Baltazar addresses situations of social injustice to talk about identity. Baltazar presents a video performance in which, making use of his head covered with a rag moistened in chlorine, he performs the vain action of trying to clean the debris of an abandoned building. This gesture of trying to clean up something abandoned alludes discrimination due to socioeconomic status of people, who are regarded as unwanted. Novoa and Baltazar take political stances to protest about harmful aspects of the Salvadoran reality that permeate the identity.
The exhibition concludes with the work of Natalia Domínguez. While in the previous works different perspectives on Salvadoran identity are enunciated, in Natalia's piece predominates the non-definition of an identity: an individual is presented giving their back to the viewer, thus hiding their identity, in a way that could be anyone, anywhere. The piece focuses on this unstable path backwards, on the action of returning, a return to and from nowhere.
In this way, the exhibition brings together voices and experiences from different artists, establishing relevant points to shape the fabric of Salvadoran identity. In a context dominated by the global north, it is important to generate discussions about identity from our own voices, create our own narratives and define ourselves from our plural experiences, to escape the exoticization, appropriation and imposition of identities.
The Manchester Contemporary: 17-18-19 November 2023 at Manchester Central.
About Y.ES Contemporary
Y.ES Contemporary creates opportunities for outstanding contemporary Salvadoran artists to enhance their artistic practice and interact with other artists, curators, collectors, gallery owners and the media inside and outside of El Salvador. Y.ES Contemporary is an initiative of the Robert S. Wennett and Mario Cader-Frech Foundation.