"America is wild, beautiful, colourful, sexy, crazy and fascinating, and originally the continent of Indians," says Argentinean photo artist Marcos López, 45. He is describing America, meaning the entity formed by South, Central and North America.
The word American is a more complex concept than America, for who is American? "I am South American," López stresses, and adds:
"North Americans call themselves Americans. They have power and strong media, which has led to the world to see them as Americans."
America's borders are not between continents, as was taught in geography class. There is no South, Central or North America. Or one can make these distinctions, but these borders are not very meaningful. The real border between South and North America is the river Rio Bravo, which runs between Mexico and the United States. The river divides Americas militarily, economically, culturally, and linguistically to upper and lower parts. "Living in the north is completely different from living in the south. We connect the word north with power. North Americans wouldn't let a person with a South American passport closer than 100 meters. It's that simple," López says.
Before we Finns start patting ourselves in the back for how the Schengen Treaty has made Europe borderless, we should remember that a similar limit to Rio Bravo exists between Europe and Africa. Thank God for the Mediterranean, otherwise those negroes would start tumbling to Europe! Why would they come? Because they are uneducated and poor. They can blame themselves!
Could the division into the rich and the poor worlds be rooted in a development that began during imperialism, which has led to the centering of world trade, cartels, custom duties, and protection. Policies regarding developing countries have not been able to solve massive problems. The solution comes down to the classic question of whether we are in the same boat. But from here, we can return to societal art and Argentinean Marcos López's photographs.
Marcos López is a societal artist; however, not one-dimensionally. Today's Argentina is a democracy, but Lopez says that the history of his home country and Latin America hurts still. He builds his images using masks, bright colours, theatrical settings, situations and faces: he estranges the heaviness of his photos with humour. So one does not have to talk too seriously. "So I wouldn't have to feel such direct and painful contact from body to body or from heart to heart," he says.
In 1993, López gave up anthropological black-and-white documentarism that has become the trademark of Latin America, and started to take colour photographs. He came up with the term Pop Latino, and gave the name to his ten-year-old photo project. The influences, it has been said, which have contributed to Marcon Lopez's past and the birth of Pop Latino include art by David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Marcia Schvarts, as well as Creole circus and Correntine folklore, Glauber Rocha's films, singer Jeronima Sequeida's fragile voice and Chango Spasiuk's music.
Whatever Pop Latino means, one can be sure of one thing: it is far from 60s optimism and economic well-being. López's photo art refers more to the spiritual and economic degrading of local cultures today. In Argentina, which has been struggling in an economic crisis for the past few decades, and more widely in Latin America--the artist claims--everyday visual and emotional experiences lead back to the flood of American culture and excess of Taiwanese souvenirs than to the original tradition.
"I see the world as a ship, whose skippers are a bunch of crazy and pompous cynics. That's why it's important, my friend, that we seek to do real and honest things in our own lives. We'd be searching for the truth, be better and more generous people."
In his opinion, in the end, it is not important where we live, nor if we live in a rich or a poor country. "Everyone can find the meaning and values of their own life no matter if they live in New York, Moscow, or for example a small village in the plains of Bolivia."
That is why Marcos López wishes that his conviction can be seen in his works. "This is everything."
López says that his photographs are not surreal even though America is surreal. His aim is to make works that are true, honest, and genuine. That has nothing to do with the fact his images are constructed. Not only does he stage them but he says he uses a photo retouch program as well and, in the end, paints on the drafts with acrylic paint. But that is only technique, through which he sends a message to the audience.
"I had a dream, where singer Mercedes Sosa invited me with her beautiful singing to the top of Machu Picchu mountain. I saw her as if she was making a circle with a helicopter, and I was taking a photo of her. Like a mother, she waited for me with arms wide open, wearing a red poncho, and her silhouette could be seen in the clouds. I went to fetch her, shyly. My fair skin against her dark skin. There were no restraints. I was putting on sun lotion which had an SPF of 40. I was calm knowing that I, too, was allowed to own America, and that they'll open for me because I had discovered the password."
"Now I'll go to siesta with my bride Catalina," Marcos Lopez concludes, this time being in Mexico, on the south side of Rio Bravo.
Viimeisestä ehtoollisesta on kuvataiteen historiassa useita eri versioita, Marcos Lópezin Kreolilaiset pidot (Asado criollo) on argentiinalainen sellainen. Idea pidoista on varhaisista ajoista lähtien kertonut ystävyydestä ja vieraanvaraisuudesta tasavertaisten ihmisten kesken. Lópezin kuva jäljittelee tarkasti Leonardo da Vincin Viimeistä ehtoollista panoraamamuodossaan. Siinä on sama asettelu, keskeishenkilö, symmetrisyys ja kolmentoista hahmon sommittelu.
Kuvien sanomat ovat kuitenkin erit. Leonardo da Vincin teoksen yhteys kristillisyyteen luo hengellisen ilmapiirin. Kristuksen pöydässä kukaan ei laskeudu syömään. Leipä ja viini ovat mystisen yhteyden symboleja ja Jumalan sanan ruumiillistumia. Toogaan pukeutuneet opetuslapset ovat henkistyneitä hahmoja.
Lópezin kuvassa pöytä on täynnä argentiinalaisia herkkuja, viiniä ja lihaa, paljon lihaa. Ystävät ovat kokoontuneet pitoihin, ulkoilmaan ja antautuneet hetkestä nauttimiseen: ruokaa ja juomaa córdobalaisen Kristuksen - joka seisoo puukko kädessä kameraan katsoen - seurassa. Tämä hetki, Argentiinan julmaan historiaan viitaten, voi olla heidän viimeisensä. Teos ei pelkästään kuvaa naapurusten, Lópezin oikeiden maalari- ja kuvanveistäjäystävien, tapaamista. Kuvassa elämä, kuten se ilmenee, aukeaa kärsimykseen, vajavaisuuteen sekä kertoo ristiriitaisesta ja monitasoisesta ihmisen luonteesta.
Valeria Gonzalez, Buenos Airesin yliopisto / JV
Marcos Lópezin Pop Latino -näyttely VB-valokuvakeskuksessa, Kuopiossa 10.12.2003 - 25.1.2004.
Lähteet: Marcos Lópezin haastattelu ja Pop Latino -teos.