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Claudia Martínez Garay’s artwork investigates the histories of pre-Columbian artifacts, in particular the transmutation of their symbolic meanings in the process of constant appropriations and re-contextualizations. By examining the erosion of these artifacts’ identities in a capitalist world, her works suggest the inseparability of (post-)modernity and colonialism. A newly commissioned work for this biennial, Garay’s multi-media video installation Y no podrán matarlo… / And they could never kill him… (2019) features the indigenous Peruvian actor Reynaldo Arenas, a cultural icon known for his portrayals of Incan characters such as El Gran Inca and the last Inca. The video is simultaneously biographical and fictional, historical and futuristic, assembling media such as footage of him reenacting his role as Túpac Amaru II (a mythologized historical figure who led a large Andean uprising against Spanish colonists), found footage of his past performances, dialogues between Arenas and Martínez Garay about his career, as well as CGI scenes performed by a 3D model of Arenas.
The work not only explores the tensions between history and myth, the indigenous and the foreign, but also those between technological and cultural immortalities. This video installation underlines the nuanced relationship between technology and the cultural past: through modern recording technologies, CGI, and digital archiving indigenous culture is rendered immortal. Yet, technology could also function as an instrument of colonization, facilitating myth-making and perversion of truth with the result of commercializing a culture. While prolonging the life of a local cosmology, technology could ultimately deprive it of its genuineness, as epitomized by Arenas’s CGI avatar, ironically portraying an anti-colonist figure, who is immortal but incapable of showing any human emotion.