Viviana Balcárcel and her sculpture "18 holes". Photo: El Comercio
Viviana Balcárcel and her sculpture 18 holes. Photo: El Comercio

'18 holes,' the controversial work of a Peruvian artist that sparked heated discussions

When the photograph of the winning work of a sculpture contest was shared, some critics wanted to see a reflection on precariousness. Others, the…


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It is difficult to question when a work of art is "good" or "bad." In fact, it's as much to ask whether art should always fulfill a function, treasure a message, or have a sole objective, "to be art." 

What is not debatable is that any work of art that is worthy of the name must provoke some kind of emotion in the observer; if it does not grab us by the throat, something is not right. 

And in the case of 18 Holes, the work of Peruvian Viviana Balcázar, awarded in the XXI IPAE sculpture contest, it grabbed a lot more than the throat.

A photograph of the winning sculpture went viral after it was shared on social media, and generated all kinds of reactions from users, who questioned its "artistic aspect."

In them he recreated two bricks with a protrusion at the top and 18 holes, hence the title. 

Although the artist explained that she took the image in the middle of the night and in a hurry, according to the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio, some critics described it as a work that transmitted "a reflection on the precariousness of our way of building a country."

Viviana Balcázar is a young Lima-based visual and plastic artist whose work revolves around knowledge of the city through architecture and its collective memory. She also explores the urban environment and looks for new ways to preserve and criticize it.

Without a doubt, 18 Holes is an avant-garde and courageous work. And like "good" art, it has managed to do what seems unthinkable in times of a pandemic and cultural abhorrence — a handful of Internet users are challenging critics to reflect on art and its many drifts.

Whether we like it or not, there are more open mouths than holes in the brick that caused so much controversy. That's even though it was born from arduous reflection.

Because the idea and the process are everything, and magically, nothing less than brick produces the astonishment or indignation with which artists from the revolutionary Duchamp to the surprising Manzoni have coexisted.

The ban is open: what is art and what is not?


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