Latin American Women Writers and Artists Look to Multimedia Practices to Imagine a Better (De-hierarchized) Future 

Guest post written by Sarah Bowskill and Jane Elizabeth Lavery, editors of the book The Multimedia Works of Contemporary Latin American Women Writers and Artists.

Women authors and artists around the world have long struggled to get past gatekeepers in the worlds of publishing and galleries with the result that their work has been kept out of the public eye. Fortunately, some of the traditional barriers are being removed. Since the 1980s a growing number of Latin American women authors have enjoyed commercial and critical success. Latin American women artists have also had work recognised in landmark exhibitions such as ‘Arte ≠ Vida acciones por artistas de las Américas, 1960-2000’, held at the Museo de Arte Miguel Urrutia, Bogotá in 2010-2011, and, more recently, ‘Radical Women; Latin American Art, 1960-1985’ at the Brooklyn Museum in 2018.

In our research, we were also able to identify a significant and growing number of contemporary Latin American women writers and artists who, in addition to entering established institutions, publishing their works with established publishers and garnering critical accolade, are finding ways to bypass traditional gatekeepers and to experiment with working across different media.

Through further research and speaking to our colleagues, many examples quickly emerged of what we term ‘multimedia’ artists and writers whose work across different media invites us to look at, and engage with, environmental, feminist, racial, political and other pressing issues, affecting local and global communities in new ways.

This new crosscurrent of authors and artists combine or place literary texts in dialogue with other media as part of a wider strategy that draws attention to the constructed nature of all boundaries, borders, and hierarchies in an increasingly globalised and digitalised world. Multimedia thus emerges as a particularly effective tool for works which seek to dismantle other supposedly rigid categories and hierarchies.

The Multimedia Works of Contemporary Latin American Women Writers and Artists celebrates the works of such women writers and artists and includes original reflective pieces by them alongside academic criticism.

Sarah first encountered Pilar Acevedo’s paintings and assemblages at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago but her understanding and appreciation of the work she saw was greatly enhanced by the artists’ website which included a blog and poetry to accompany the artworks. Jane first read Ana Clavel’s novels before becoming aware of projects such as the displaying of an 8 x 12 meter canvas of a female nude that originally appeared on the book cover of Cuerpo náufrago (2005) on the side of a building in Mexico City.

Rocío Cerón’s project Imperio that includes poems, ink drawings, a soundtrack and videopoem, destabilises meaning as a means of resistance to the fixedness of empires. Gabriela Golder and Mariela Yeregui invited participants in their Escrituras project to engage in new ways with the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The result was a set of neon signposts which were placed in the cityscape creating a “collective poetic story”. The meanings of home are also explored by Jacalyn Lopez Garcia in her work Glass Houses in which she combines her skills in photography, digital media and storytelling to reflect on her experiences as a Mexican-American.

Lucia Grossberger Morales used her creativity and expertise in computer programming to produce an installation and performance, Love Notes to the Planet, to raise awareness of caring for the environment. Eli Neira similarly sought to use art activism to engage with environmental issues and the legacies of dictatorship in Chile in her performance Tu patria está llena de basura (Your Homeland is Full of Rubbish) (2017). Legacies of dictatorship and their impact on indigenous communities in Guatemala are also the focus of some of Regina José Galindo’s performance and the accompanying text, Tierra (2013).

The body and its relationship to technology inspired the work of Mónica Nepote and Eugenia Prado Bassi. Nepote explores the relationship between writing and the body in Mi voz es mi pastor (My Voice is my Shepherd) as she began by moving her body and then writing. The result is a collection of poems and recordings of her moving to audio recordings made in collaboration with visual and sound artists. Eugenia Prado Bassi’s transmedia installation Hembros: Asedios a lo posthumano (Fe/males: Sieges of the Post Human) was also a collaborative endeavor connected to her novel both of which interrogate the relationship between human beings and technology.

Multimedia practices continue to evolve to keep pace with technological and social change. Already the women named here are emerging as pioneers. Even before the digital shift created by the pandemic, they employed multimedia practices as a powerful means of fostering dialogue and as a tool of mobilization and activism. They, and others like them, are making history by negotiating new ways of being authors and artists not necessarily beholden to established institutions. In working with and across different media, these Latin American multimedia women authors and artists have found new ways of communicating what they have to say about the future in which they wish to live.

SARAH BOWSKILL is a Professor of Latin American Studies at Queen’s University Belfast. In addition to the edited volume on The Multimedia Works of Contemporary Latin American Women Writers and Artists, published with Tamesis, she is the author of The Politics of Literary Prestige: Prizes and Spanish American Literature (2022) and Gender, Nation and the Formation of the Twentieth Century Mexican Literary Canon (2011).

DR JANE LAVERY is an Associate Professor in Latin American Studies in the Section of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the Languages, Cultures and Linguistics Department at the University of Southampton. She has published extensively in the form of two single-authored monographs, two co-edited volume and peer-reviewed articles in the areas of contemporary Mexican, Latin American and Latina literary and (visual) cultural studies with a focus on gender, multimedia, visual art studies and digital humanities. She is currently also finalizing a co-written book with Prof. Nuala Finnegan examining the impact of Covid-19 on the Mexican Day of the Dead rituals both in Mexico and the Irish and Mexican diasporas. This book is accompanied by a short film co-produced by Lavery, Finnegan and film producers. As part of the next REF impact case study, she is working on a large scale Mexican arts-based engagement project working with Mexican and British artists in the educational, civic community and health care sector.  

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