28 03/11

101 Vampires of Poverty

Tags: | Categories: art, Colombia, video studies

After a long time considering different topics to celebrate my 101 post, I decided to write something about art and poverty. Coming from a country with a myriad of social problems, questions about the role of art in such a society strike me very often. Social problems as poverty, inequality, and injustice are often taken as topic by many artists. Many art works exploit the pauper conditions in which many lived as means to touch the sensible fibres of sponsors, critics, spectators, and the media. Such art doesn’t seek for getting better conditions for those depicted in the art work. It rather exposes poverty to excite us, but not to reflect nor to take any action. The excitement is enough to make us regard the artist as engaged in social changes.

This particular kind of exposure of poverty usually combines famished, dirty, and slavish aesthetics. This cunning combination produces in the spectator a saturation similar to the experience of watching a pornographic film. S/he is delighted to be confronted with the uncivilized poor for s/he gets the impression of a critical and denouncing insight. Nothing farther from reality because the artist has used the poor merely as a commodity. The image of poverty in such expert hands produces a piece to be consumed, enjoyed, and disposed as soon as possible, not to be understood.

The voracious artist has hunted the poor, captured his image, ripped out his dignity, and served it us in a neat frame. The naked prey stands in front of us to be scrutinized, commented, and dismissed. The purpose of the spectacle is to spot the compromise of either artist and spectator with social issues. The poor clean us out.

The Vampires of Poverty (Agarrando Pueblo), shot in 1978, in Cali and Bogotá, by Luis Ospina and Carlos Mayolo, is a false documentary that satirises this artistic practice.