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Sandra Gamarra Heshiki

Venue: Gropius Bau

Sandra Gamarra Heshiki

Born 1972 in Lima, PE – lives and works in Lima

Replicating the exhibition logic of a European anthropological museum, the works from the series The Museum of Ostracism (2018) display anthropomorphic ceramics of pre-Inca and Inca origin that seem to be hovering mysteriously in the air. Arranged behind glass in neat rows, these artifacts are taken from various museums in Spain—having arrived in these collections through both donation and plundering. Walking around the showcases, the objects reveal themselves to be two-dimensional trompe l’oeil paintings that have been inscribed on the back with words used to pejoratively designate the Indigenous peoples of South America—a genealogy of prejudices extending from the conquest to the present day.

Four dusky, atmospheric paintings are shown in dialogue with this installation. These new works (2020) from the ongoing series Cryptomnesia (or in some museums the sun never shines) (2015– ongoing) portray the “scientific” exhibition of non-Western objects at different European anthropological museums. Emphatically shadowy, Gamarra Heshiki’s works are hermetic in mood—rarified objects preserved but kept in the dark. In an antagonistic gesture, the artist frames the stillness of these museum views with the violence that surrounds us: at the corners of each painting are miniature scenes taken from press photographs of police arrests, detention centers, human trafficking, conflicts over natural resources, and other recent episodes in the relationship between the Global North and South. Highlighting the persistent European impulse to objectify and classify “others,” her composition adds a new dimension to “cryptomnesia,” the term for a memory dysfunction that leads a person to repeat an action while thinking that they are doing something new. In this constellation of works, Gamarra Heshiki reveals the geopolitics of a world still shaped by the colonial matrix.

Florencia Portocarrero

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