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Mapa Teatro: Variation over Innocent Saints

Rolf Abderhalden about the video installation by Mapa Teatro, and the paradoxical relationship with pain during the traditional Afro-Colombian festivity.
Feb 2016

Video of the work, interview ►

Founded in 1984 in Paris by Colombian artists and theatre directors Heidi, Elizabeth and Rolf Abderhalden and based in Bogotá, Mapa Teatro is an artists’ lab devoted to stage and transdisciplinary creation.

Ever since its inception, Mapa Teatro has been drawing its own cartography in the field of "live arts", a favorable space for the transgression of borders −geographical, linguistic, artistic− to confront local and global issues and assemble means and devices in the context of an "expanded" theater. Mapa Teatro has generated a space of migrations where there is constant movement between myth, history and the present; the different languages (theater, opera, radio plays, installations, video, sound, urban interventions and plastic actions); authors and times; geography and languages; words, images and movement; art, memory and city; voice, music and sound processes; simulation and reality; poetics and politics.

Hence their interest in the translation of contemporary drama and stage writing, the transposition of classic texts to singular textures, as well as the translation of social and political issues to artistic devices.

In the past few years, Mapa Teatro has put an emphasis on the production of poetic-politic events. Through the construction of ethno-fictions and the ephemeral creation of experimental communities, Mapa Teatro generates artistic experimentation processes that are developed in different spheres and stages of Colombian reality: the labs of social imagination. [1]

At the Medellin International Encounter 2015 that opened on November 6, 2015 at the Museum of Antioquia and several other venues throughout the city under the theme "Local Stories/Global Practices" and will remain until March 27, 2016, Mapa Teatro presents the installation Variación sobre Los Santos Inocentes. The work is like a fragment of a mechanic opera. At regular intervals, an automated torture machine raises a whip with a screeching noise and strikes it brutally against a dark wall located diagonally in the middle of the hall. With each booming blow, a ghostly image appears projected for a split second on the opposite side of the wall.

Interviewed while assembling the installation at the Museum of Antioquia, Rolf Abderhalden explained:

"The origins of this work of Mapa Teatro date back to a project we initiated in 2009 about a particular Colombian festivity, where the line separating festivities and violence is extremely tenuous and fragile. From this popular celebration of a community of African descent in Colombia’s Pacific coast, we developed a project called Santos Inocentes, and this is one of the variations we made for the Medellin Encounter 2015, where we took a small fragment and developed and amplified it through a video installation of a mechanical figure and a video projection on a graphite wall."

"What is special about this traditional festivity is the paradoxical relationship with pain, recalled through the whip that the townsmen, dressed as women and transgressing the role of the colonial master, lash onto the unmasked population."

"The pain inflicted on the bodies by the whip is a way of remembering the pain caused to the people of African descent during colonial times and all the later violence suffered in the region. But at the same time it is a paradox, it is a moment of liberation, an act of civil resistance. The festivity acts as a liberating force in order to cathartically exorcize the very conflict this community suffers, always subject to the forces of the state, the paramilitary forces or the forces of the armed conflict of Colombian guerrillas. Thus, in this celebration we experiment a paradox, and we found particularly interesting transposing it to this device."

Video of the work, interview ►


  1. Mapa Teatro presentation. See also the documentation of works: mapateatro.org
(Text: Mapa Teatro, Universes in Universe, Rolf Abderhalden. Translation from Spanish: Marina Torres, Universes in Universe)

Mapa Teatro:
Variación sobre Los Santos Inocentes

Installation, 2015: Wood and graphite wall, video projection, mechanical figure with lash

Part of the
Medellin International Art Encounter - MDE15
6 Nov. 2015 - 27 March 2016

Museo de Antioquia

Carrera 52 No. 52-43

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