Photo: MACBA

'If This Were A Beginning of Infinity'

The Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) dedicates an exhibition to Colombian performance artist María Teresa Hincapié


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"I'm not interested in dead art.
I believe that life is art and my body is my living art.
My body is the one that
that has to move, that is looking,
that is tired, that is exhausted.
This is my proposal."

With these words by María Teresa Hincapié begins the exhibition If This Were a Beginning of Infinity in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, MACBA. It is the first show dedicated to the practice of this Colombian artist, considered a key figure in the development of performance art during the 1980s and 1990s.

As can be read in the exhibition's brochure: "Hincapié's trajectory clearly reflects the concerns of a woman who, at the end of the 20th century, with a self-taught education and a great sense of intuition and commitment, reformulated the course of Colombian art history.

Despite being situated at the juncture of several disciplines, Hincapié is an essential figure and pioneer in the development of long-term performance, until then non-existent in Colombia, which would change the parameters of what was considered art in the local environment and open the doors to practices that are now essential in the local and universal panorama. 

In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the First Prize at the XXXIII Salón Nacional de Artistas Plásticos de Colombia. Hincapié transformed routine actions into symbolic and mystical acts as in her long lasting performance Una cosa es una cosa and in Divina Proporción.

Understood as the beginning of a continuum of imagination and making, the exhibition, open until Feb. 26, 2023, takes shape through records of what was the practice of an artist who believed in the transmission of knowledge as a gear for living together. These records consist not only of material from the archive (photographic material, videos, original texts, postcards, letters and clippings), but also of future materials that are constructed in the exhibition itself thanks to commissions.

On the other hand, the exhibition reveals the importance of Hincapié's understanding of artistic creation where ephemerality and mutability are necessary for a "search for the sacred." Using the potential of affection as a mechanism of interaction with the deceased artist, the exhibition vindicates collective interaction as a producer of knowledge and an imperative vehicle of transmission. 

She died at the age of 54 after a long illness, but Hincapié became a key figure in the development of performance during the 1980s and 1990s and was a thoughtful voice exploring bodily practices.

Initially trained in theater as a member of the group Acto Latino and influenced by the ideas of Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999) and the experimental horizon that the Polish theater director opened around the concept of "poor theater," and the explorations of Eugenio Barba, Hincapié became interested in a clean and simple dramaturgy. In the mid-1980s, her practice veered towards a greater exploration of the performative, marking a seminal moment in the genesis of contemporary artistic practices in Colombia. 

The exploration of everyday life and the transformation of routine actions into symbolic acts created a methodology for her practice. Art became the guide of her existence, not only providing a framework for his creativity but also influencing her ethics and understanding of politics. In 1995, she began his ambitious project Towards the Sacred with a walk from Bogotá to San Agustín, in a journey that lasted 21 days, during which she combined the experience of knowledge about the country, its survival and ritual actions with a mystical thought that, from that moment on, became the fundamental core of her poetics.


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