Taller E.P.S. Huayco - Subversive Practises

Taller E.P.S. Huayco

(Francisco Mariotti, Maria Luy, Rosario Noriega, Herbert Rodríguez, Juan Javier Salazar, Armando Williams, Mariela Zevallos), 1980–1982

 

Arte al paso (Art on the way), 1980
Documentation of painting on the surface of 10,000 empty cans of evaporated milk
Courtesy: Francisco Mariotti

 

Sarita Colonia, 1980
Documentation of Painting of the portrait of unofficial saint Sarita Colonia on the surface of 12,000 empty cans of evaporated milk
Courtesy: Francisco Mariotti

Sarita Colonia, 1980

 

In 1979 a group of young artists began to carry out a series of projects combining experimentation with ‘poor’ materials with a reworking of the imaginary of urban and popular icons, from the political left. This was the start of the E.P.S Huayco workshop, which would remain active for almost two years.
One of its most important projects was Art on the Way, presented at Galería Forum in Lima. The artists reproduced images of ‘salchipapas’, a kind of fast-food, by creating a carpet of painted tins that covered the floor, referring to the dots of color used in Pop art. They also circulated a manifesto with a text by left-wing critic Mirko Lauer that confronted the bourgeois taste of art.
Not long after this, the artists reproduced the image of a non-official saint, Sarita Colonia, who was worshipped by a broad community of migrants to Lima, and by marginalised social groups. The image, again placed on tins, was presented this time at the Panamericana Sur highway: the landscape of a migration route soon becoming a site of pilgrimage for many of the faithful.

 

Text about Art on the way by Mirko Lauer:

Art on the way. Take One

Art on the way: it doesn’t fill you up, you won’t need a siesta, in the midst of everyday activity – for an instant – it will help you satisfy an urgent hunger that goes beyond conventional media genres and boldly explores beyond strictly aesthetic realms. At a time when galleries flourish and each new exhibition is more conventional than the last, this combination of screen prints, industrial waste, theoretical formulas, photos and sellers of salchipapa [a kind of sausage and potato fast-food] screams out that the reality of art is more complex than the reality of the ‘Fine Arts' or the ‘Plastic Arts’. It also tells us that the visual forms of the new sensibility of the people are writ everywhere: in the unsubstantial films that advertising agencies design to stultify us, in the forms and metamorphosis of the already-consumed, in the beset shapes of objects handled by the oppressed. Today the most up-to-date visual forms are those of merchandise, which contains within its colours, its textures, the everyday history of exploitation.
Art on the way: a response, an effort to destroy what has grown old retaining its best aspects. Critical of galleries in an attempt to save them from their status as mere display windows for fleeting commercial transactions, the legendary fifteen days that lie between the artist’s workshop and the buyer's gallery: what matters most here cannot be sold. Critical of the famous religious-expressionist ‘methods’ that show young artists how to ‘feel’ rather than think: here lies the work of plastic artists who approach their own and society’s problems, and try to resolve them politically through the visual. Critical of the role of the plastic artist as a maker of a particular product, proposing instead a kind of work that begins with the visual and projects itself into all areas of culture: the creator is an agitator, unloved by the enemies of the people’s freedom. Critical also of the false modernity of the imported. Only the popular is truly modern in Peru today.
Art on the way: an environmental exercise revealing the umbilical cord that connects the waste of the city to the art of the city; in the midst of tins that are empty when they reach the shantytowns and then find their way to the gallery, painted, and will return to the shantytown tomorrow painted, so that for once they will be full when they reach the shantytown. An ecosystem exists among the waste, food and art, and it must be revealed with increasing clarity. Just as the double edge of advertising forms must be revealed: they are the very image of abundance for some, the very image of need for others. Here, art wants to see itself reflected in the double face of the visual, which is often its own double face also. In a medium that had lost the political drive in art since the 50s, Luy, Mariotti, Noriega, Salazar and Zevallos are among the truly new and valuable things in today’s plastic arts. And not because we are now dazzled by their forms – fresh and undoubtedly high quality – in a kind of parade of avant-garde novelties, but because they express themselves in relation with the fundamental reality of art in Latin America, poverty.
Art on the way: a collective work effort and a proposal for a new relationship among artists and between artists and their work. Not a group working under any old heading within the fiction of 'the collective', but a true division of labour and a process of debate that even ends up changing individual directions. Today, one of the outstanding characteristics that defines young plastic artists in Peru is their isolation, their neglect at the hands of theorists, their non-existent access to information, their weakness in the face of a plastic arts market that is starting to regain its power as the State begins to be run directly by entrepreneurs. Young plastic artists must come together, they must learn the disciplines of collective work, precisely in order to safeguard their individualities, which will otherwise be gradually flattened by the fashions that update markets or by the stagnation of those doomed to follow these fashions.
Art on the way: is not comfortable, is not likeable, does not dazzle; but for a few days it is the point of convergence for some of plastic arts’ biggest hopes in Peru: today it is the work of five people, but its spirit is the spirit of many artists who have talent but not ‘success’ – equally important – it is the spirit of a growing sense of being fed up with the 'dumb art' that generations of paintbrush specialists try to perpetuate. Art on the way: can be taken away, but there is only one way to do it: put it in your mouth through your eyes, and chew it up as you go.

(Translated by Nuria Rodríguez)