South, south, south, south...

29/Jan/09 — 31/Jan/09, Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Director: Cuauhtémoc Medina

From the space of symbolic ambiguity by working from and in a country like Mexico, which represents one of the modalities of the “northern south” – this symposium poses a “return to the South” that can not be activated from the assurances of a “aesthetics of the resistance”. It is no longer possible to see the South as a region of refuge, where intellectuals and artists seeking fully heterogeneous societies and forces. We can, however, activate it as a territory of tasks and questions that should arise once the battles for inclusion and reformulation of schemes center and periphery, indispensable as they were, are no longer radical imperatives but reforms more or less fulfilled in the cultural system.


1. South, South, South, South...

Cuauhtémoc Medina

South, South, South, South...

Routes. Routes. Routes.

Routes. Routes. Routes. Routes (…)

Only what isn’t mine interests me.

Oswald de Andrade,

Anthropophagous Manifesto (1928)1

I dream of the South

Immense moon, reversed sky.

I search for the South,

the open time, and its thereafter.

Fernando E. Solanas and Astor

Piazzolla, Vuelvo al Sur (1988)2

One goes to Patagonia but

one can also escape to Patagonia.

Roberto Bolaño, “El último lugar

del mapa” (2001)3

Globalization is not simply the annexation to northern culture of all that is heterogeneous. To say the least, this is an unsettled matter, defined by multiple fractures and battles. Without denying the enormous inequalities of power that define the operation of cultural production in the beginning of this century, it is true that the South has acquired a new critical and productive importance in the fabric of global imagination. This is shown not only in the wider geography of cultural activity, but also in the superpositions, tensions and currents of thought, ghosts and shadows that inhabit the South. The ‘hegemony of the Eurocronology’ – as Arjun Appadurai would say – has been seriously disturbed by a ‘complex transnational construction of imaginary landscapes’4. Or, as Gerardo Mosquera may suggest: ‘ Western meta-culture (…) has become a paradoxical way of affirming difference (…)’ 5.

Without totally losing its magnetism, the North has started to lose its bearings. This doesn’t necessarily mean the realization of Joaquín Torres García’s utopia of inverting the map (1943), even if recently the map with the South upwards has become compulsory in schools in Chile6. No: it would be arbitrary to state ‘our north is the south’. Nonetheless, we all return to and dream of the South. The compass has changed, because for contemporary culture a single map is not enough. Some navigation charts (those marked by ‘desire’s obstinacy’7) point in every direction to the Antarctica.

A new South is germinating, promoted by an intensified range of interactions between cities, regions and genealogies that in the past revolved between the ghost of dependence and the delusion of radical difference. A chain of energy concentrations in places like Cali, Lima or Sydney is being produced and by constructing complex networks, they create institutions, markets and intellectual circles whose aim is to differentiate themselves from Euro-American operations. Never have the artists of South America, Africa and Oceania had a similar opportunity of deployment. The South is not a region: it is a slogan of invention, deviation and resistance. It is not only a synonym of the misery, brutality and perpetual crises of the subequatorial hemisphere, where the intellectual still has the ‘function of mediating between the peasants and the administration’8, the main space of exclusion of neocapitalism that is continuously overtaken by the rebellions that remind that ‘the South also exists’9. It is also the de-territorialized geography of a continuous surfacing of differences and desires that can’t be subsumed. The ‘multiple people’ of mutants and potentialities incarnated in ‘social facts, literary facts, musical facts’ that Félix Guattari and Suely Rolnik called a ‘molecular revolution’ takes place in the south at the same time as misery’s landscape10.

The South as a sign of ‘the little crack, the imperceptible ruptures which come from the South’ that for Gilles Deleuze are, always, ‘line of slope or flight’ that, unlike “big ruptures”, are non-negotiable. 11

Precisely, the “morally [and] spiritually indefeasible” Europe12 of colonialism denounced by Aimé Cesaire is no longer the referent for the notion of culture, even and in spite of the fact that the north is still the main supervisor and administrator of academic and aesthetic discourses. Metropolitan institutions of art (museums, publishing houses, biennales, the Documenta, collections and universities) that still control the main discourse of occidental art now need to introduce in some way or another southern periods, authors, works and even subversive moments to reconstruct their hegemony. The audiences that encounter contemporary art through the networks of globalized culture can no longer avoid the perturbation of their discourses by narratives and concepts that were once marginalized by the arrogance of the modernism of the North Atlantic. But at the same time postcolonial identities are more and more, as Jean Fisher has noticed, against the production of ethnic identities and in favor of the syncretism, transaction and contamination as excessive means in the production of difference.13

These changes, even if they may appear small, coy and superficial, are not the product of a generous concession. They are the results of a cultural counter-offensive that, especially in the instable field of contemporary art, since the end of the 1980 has been questioning the geographical division of the prestige and circulation of cultural references. The time has come to assess that collective enterprise. After two decades of the irruption of peripheral art and after the geographical and historical re-composition of the discourse of modern and contemporary art history, what new centrifugal forces emerge in culture under the Equator line? What promises are given by the task of re-stating the cultural genealogies of the south: the memory of dictatorship as well as the possible tropicalization of conceptualism? What new fissures are opened in the illusion of absolute proximity from the point of view of what is still at distance? Can the global or local artistic practice still bear a relation with the decolonization project?

Of course, these are not only questions: they are routes into a map revealed by the imperative of affection. From the space of symbolic ambiguity that is Mexico, a sort of ‘south in the north’, this colloquium thinks about a ‘return to the South’ that can be no longer performed from the security of a binary ‘aesthetic of resistance’. It is no longer possible to see the south as a region where intellectuals and artists can find societies and forces really heterogeneous. On the contrary, it can be activated as the territory projected by the tasks and questions that should arise once the battles for inclusion and reformulation of the schemes of center and periphery – even if they were indispensable – become no longer radical imperatives but reforms more or less accomplished in the cultural system.

Maybe ‘to return to the south’ is to see the necessity of a new cartography and agenda, about which we don’t know much, other than the guidance provided by course derived from the winds of our affects. With a certain harshness, we should accept the line of the film ‘Sur’ (1988) of Fernando E. Solanas: ‘if you don’t know what the South is, it is because you come from the North’13. There is no way to define what the South is or what will it become. What we can do is stop looking for the North.


1 Oswald de Andrade, “The Anthropophagous Manifesto” in , Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 466-467.

2 Lyrics:

3 Roberto Bolaño, Entre paréntesis. Ensayos, artículos y discursos (1998-2003), Barcelona, Editorial Anagrama, 2004, p. 255.

4 Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1996, p. 30-31.

5 Gerardo Mosquera, “Robando el pastel global. Globalización, diferencia y apropiación cultural”. In: José Jiménez y Fernando Castro (eds) Horizontes del Arte Latinoamericano. Madrid: Tecnos, 1999, p. 58.

6 Cfr. “MAPAS: Chile patas p’arriba”, Educar Chile: El portal de la educación, 4 junio 2007. aspx?ID=133790

7 Fernando E. Solanas, Sur (1988) Coproducción Argentina-Francia. Color/118 mins. SUR (1988).

8 Antonio Gramsci, “Algunos temas sobre la cuestión meridional” (1926). Online in: (English edition: Antonio Gramsci. The Southern Question. Translation and Introduction by Pasquale Verdicchio. West Lafayette, IN.: Bordighera, 1995.)

9 Title of the famous song writen by Mario Benedetti for Joan Manuel Serrat, included in Preguntas al azar (1986).

10 Félix Guattari y Suely Rolnik, Micropolítica: Cartografías del deseo. Madrid, Traficantes de sueños, 2006, p. 361. (There is a recent English Edition: Suely Rolnik and Felix Guattari, Molecular Revolution in Brazil. Translated by Brian Holmes, Los Angeles, SEMIOTEXTE, 2007.)

11 Gilles Deleuze, Claire Parnet, et al., Dialogues II. London, Continuum, 2006, p. 99.

12 Aimé Cesaire, “Discourse on Colonialism”, in: African Philosophy: An Anthology. Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze ed., Londres, Blackwell Publishing, 1998, p. p. 222.

13 Jean Fisher, “Some Thoughts on Contaminations”, in: Vampire in the Text. Narratives of Contemporary Art, Londres, Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA), 2003, p. 257.

13 Op. Cit. .

2. El otro hoy: a dos décadas de la emergencia postcolonial

3. Experiencias desde la periferia

4. La genealogía del sur: historias e historia del arte contemporáneo

5. Desde el sur, para el sur: el despliegue de otra geografía

6. Manifestaciones

  • Red Conceptualismos Del Sur (South Conceptualisms Network) Institutional Declaration PDF
  • des-bordes: Sleepless Revolution PDF
  • Lunes Negro, Remesa (Black Monday, Remittance) PDF

7. Terapia intensiva




Programa de acompañamiento

17/Jan/09 - 31/Jan/09
Director: Roberto Jacoby

Clínica 1: Zonas de disturbio, cartografías de la fractura - Mariana Botey
Clínica 2: Supercarreteras - Jorge Munguía
Clínica 3: Sur: Desigualdad, crisis, guerra - Daniel Garza Usabiaga