*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Devils’ heads with daring and disturbing eyes, twisted horns, abundant grey hair and hooked noses hang on the blue walls of Antonio Viscarra’s house. Long benches covered with old, multi-colored cushions in Bolivian motifs surround the concrete floor of the small room. Several dozen of these hanging faces, which seem to watch in silence from the darkness, are ready to be used in festivals and traditional dances.
The maskmaker or “maestro” as he is called, lives [deceased now] in the area of Avenida Buenos Aires, far from the political and administrative center of the city of La Paz, but rather at the very center of the other La Paz (Chuquiago in the Aymara language) where many peasant immigrants have settled, and which for that reason, is the center of the city’s popular culture.
Viscarra is the oldest creator of masks in La Paz, and his work has helped to conserve, and at the same time to rejuvenate, the tradition of using masks in Bolivian dances. If economic progress and alienation have contributed to the excessive adornment of new masks with glass and other foreign materials, Viscarra, in an attempt to recover the distinctive, original forms, has gone back to the 100-year-old molds used by his grandfather. His work has been exhibited in Europe, in the United States and in South America, Most important, however, is that Viscarra is transmitting his knowledge to his children, ensuring that this form of authentic Bolivian culture will never die.
…Viscarra inherited the old mask molds from his grandfather and was told to take good care of them because some day he might need them. After keeping them carefully put away for 50 years, the maestro used them again for an exhibition of masks prepared in 1984, slowly recreating the original masks, beautiful in their simplicity, in their delicate craftsmanship and in their cultural value. In this way, the masks which emerged from the old molds are regaining their past prestige and importance.
Antonio Viscarra, The mask Maker by Wendy McFarren in Masks of the Bolivian Andes, Editorial Quipus and Banco Mercantil
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Before we can even think of ecological rescue, global disarmament, or economic reform, we must find a way back to what science fiction writers call our homeworld. The term encompasses more than the biosphere; it also includes our homes, our places of work, our communities, families, friends, and lovers. It includes our technologies and tools, the physical body, the sensible soul, and the unconscious psyche. We need a faith to restore our capacity to feel, to affect and be affected with the same passionate intensity as our forebears, whose powers of feeling astound us so in the records and art of the past. The death of affect, to borrow a phrase from JG Ballard, is the true catastrophe of our spectral age, our spiritual Hiroshima. It makes questions such as whether life’s riddles are answered at the Vatican, in Tibet, or by the Large Hadron Collider utterly meaningless, since it removes the ground we need to pose such questions in the first place. Neither religion nor science can give us back the ground. Only the imagination can. Only art can mend the rupture of the soul and the world, the body and the earth.
J.F. Martel in Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice: A Treatise, Critique, and Call to Action
Comments are welcome!