An exhibition by
Hildegarde Duane & David Lamelas
The exhibition “The Dictator” is the first presentation of Hildegarde Duane and David Lamelas in Guatemala, and includes two seminal works by the artists: The Dictator (1978) and Smart People (1991).
In The Dictator, David Lamelas adopts the persona of Colonel Ricardo García Perez, Latin American “dictator, poet, revolutionary” and deposed president of the imaginary island of Santa Ana. The video presents a fictional television news program titled Newsmakers, in which reporter Barbara Lopez (Hildegarde Duane), directs a series of hard-hitting questions at the Dictator himself about his attacks on the press and universities, his authoritarian policies, mistreatment of subversives, future plans, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the deaths of his five wives. Yet, despite the incisive nature of the reporter’s interviewing style, the Dictator manages to spin them, and ultimately use the platform to reaffirm his ego and personality above everything else.
Both set and produced 13 years later, Smart People sees Lamelas and Duane as two homeless people of Latin American origin in Los Angeles... maybe the exiled and deposed president of Santa Ana and his sixth wife? In it, they push a shopping cart and scavenge discarded rubbish through a derelict part of downtown LA, conversing about their unusual lives; focusing on their days in power and their hard fall to poverty.
Despite their humorous and baffling tone, both The Dictator and Smart People critically examine serious concerns regarding Latin America’s history of military dictatorships and the US complicity in maintaining it as well as normalizing it through their media outlets.
After many dictatorships, coups, and depositions in the twentieth century, Guatemala continues to struggle against the long-term effects of these actions. Although officially considered a democracy, the country operates under a fraught political system in which nepotism, corruption, privilege and criminal impunity have become commonplace. In it, politics has been widely understood as a vehicle for personal enrichment as means to achieve insurmountable quotas of power.
Although the last 3 years has seen some unprecedented victories in the fight against corruption and impunity, led by the Ministry of Public and CICIG (International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala), justice is still a major uphill battle. During the last year, the country has been witness to a new power play, in which the dark forces of the country are now attempting to shift and re-accommodate themselves to create nefarious alliances, amongst which #PactoDeCorruptos stands out. Corruption has taken hold of the Republic’s Presidency, the Congress (and it’s recently dissolved Board of Directors), the country’s different Ministries, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Port Authorities, SAT (the Tax Agency), and recently the National Police... all with the complicity of the nation’s economic elite.
In the face of Guatemala’s current political climate, these works are presented under a newfound light, reminding us that our “democracy” is as fragile as ever. And that, although dictatorships in our country seem a thing of the past, that we are in fact, not too far from it as we would like to believe.
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NuMu would like to thank the Berezdivin Collection for the generous loan of The Dictator.
During the sixties, in Southern California, Hildegarde Duane and David Lamelas began a fruitful collaboration that continues to date. Since then, they have produced a series of videos that tread the fine line between reality and the absurd, and which focus on the questioning of mass media through an acute criticism of Latin American and global politics.
Hildegarde Duane (Los Angeles, 1950) is a conceptual artist who has worked across mediums since the mid-seventies, courting the peripheries of mass media entertainment and its archetypal figures in videos and photos stories. In her practice, Duane explores language and the subversion and reappropriation of the image through humor, irony and ambiguity in equal measure.
Duane's work has been exhibited internationally since the mid-seventies and is held in collections including Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid and Guggenheim Museum, New York. She is a recipient of the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, among others.
David Lamelas (Buenos Aires, 1946) lives and works between Los Angeles, Paris, and Buenos Aires. A pioneer of Conceptual art, structuralist film and multimedia installation, Lamelas is well known for his interrogations of the relationship between art and the physical exhibition space. In the late 1960s, his practice shifted away from Pop art-inflected sculpture as he began using video to parody mainstream formats such as television news. Since then, his work has acquired strong conceptual focus centered on mass media and the analysis of film as a medium, language and device.
Lamelas has participated in acclaimed exhibitions including the IX Bienal de Sao Paulo (1967), where he received the Sculpture Prize, the Venice Biennial (1968) and Documenta (1972 and 2017). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a British Arts Council Fellowship and a two-time awardee of the Premio Georges Braque (1966 and 1967).
The Dictator (1978)
Co-directed by Hildegarde Duane
15 mins Color Sound Video
Cast/Script: Hildegarde Duane, David Lamelas
Camera: Nickolas Blake, William Leavitt
Produced by Long Beach Museum of Art. Long Beach.
Subtitles: Alejandro Somoza
Courtesy of the artists and the Berezdivin Collection, Puerto Rico.
Smart People (1991)
Hildegarde Duane, David Lamelas
Script: Hildegarde Duane, David Lamelas
Produced and directed by Hildegarde Duane
Camera: Chris Taylor
Courtesy of the artists.