Transculturation: Living Memory.

Carolina Schmidt

Licenciada en arte y pedagogía (Chile).

Born to a diplomat father and a mother who was an anthropologist, María Silvia has been constantly travelling around the world, which can be seen reflected in her work. The various cultures that she has taken part in serve as a basis of the works of the artist, who collects different objects, iconography and social contexts that she later incorporates in her own imagination.

María Silvia Corcuera is one of many artists that use their personal experiences and social life in their work. Her body of work is varied and made up of objects, paintings and collages, among others, giving a wandering and dynamic character to her pieces. All of the disciplines she explores are the result of a large experimentation of materials and techniques, generating surprising results.

Transculturation is the term that she uses to refer to the constant discovery of materials and concepts in cultures that go into her creative process. Transculturation is ultimately the memory, the history of a society that lingers in the collective unconscious of each of us. It implies a before, an after and a present existentialism that Corcuera tries to project in her creations.

How did being the daughter of a diplomat and constantly moving from place to place influence your work?

My father was a diplomat, dedicated to culture, and my mother was an anthropologist, dedicated to textile research. Together this makes for a life spent travelling. How can it not influence you? And it continues to do so. It gives you a certain perspective of each culture and at the same time, being uprooted makes your origin chosen but objective. It determines my work and how I see things. I am very thankful. It added a lot to my work and furthermore it incited something that I believe is fundamental in an artist: curiosity.

Is there any particular culture, among all of the ones you became familiar with that has especially impacted you and can be seen reflected in your work?

All cultures interest me, depending on what I am going through personally; what is going on around me, in my country, in America and in the West. I am very mindful of my belonging to the Western Judeo Christian culture, its legacy in Latin America. I chose to speak of what I know, love and is hurtful to me. I am interested in prioritizing what is popular, everything that has to do with transculturation that is living memory

What is an object to you? What qualities must the object have for you to consider it in your work?

Objects are fundamental in my work. You are asking what is an object to me? At times it is a mental trigger, and other times I search for them because they express what I want to say. But all of the ones I choose always have a story. There is a before and an after in them, but in some way they also represent what we are living and can be read in different ways. For a while now I have been working with a bell (brought from Medieval Spain to America, making it an object of transculturation) used in popular clothing as well as for other things. I bought my first bells in Bolivia, over twenty years ago, and I saved them. A couple of years ago I went to Europe and noticed that they were incorporated in the fashion, in decorations. At that time I was looking for an object that had a connotation contrary to the color black and its current western symbolism (though I use optical grays) and unite it with the word or set it against it. I have already started rereading poetry from Argentina (and that which relates to it) and on the other hand am watching W. Morris, his utopia of design for all and that marvelous cultural mix that England knows how to do so well. Everything came together and I did the series Los Dones (Talents). Wonderful, more than 500 years alive today! That is an interesting object to me. It has a before, an after and a today.

With the objects you found, your job is in a way the reflection of a society. Do you consider yourself a chronicler of your time that wants to in some way leave behind something for the future?

Totally. In a way I am a chronicler of my time and what surrounds me. That is why I observe, read and distance myself from it to be able to express it. The future? I haven’t thought about it. I am concerned with being understood today. Only time will tell the rest.

Do you consider geometry to be merely a synthetic element or does it have a greater underlying meaning in your work?

I utilize geometry, but sometimes I have set it aside to explore my own imagination. Classifications do not interest me as an artist. I seize everything, so that I am as expressive as possible. On the other hand, it is the same as when people ask me if I am a sculptor or a painter, it’s very limiting! And at this point almost inconceivable, one does not think like that. I don’t think like that and I don’t see other artists like that, because I don’t care to see them like that, they are interesting to me or they’re not. That thought corresponded to those who had to fight to introduce something new, but do you think that is how things are today? We are all part of a time of transition in art and these times are dispersed and individual. It makes it harder, without a doubt, but at the same time we have more freedom and that is fascinating.

In several pieces I noticed that you often fit in pieces of a given material.

I think the fitting in corresponds to the completely playful attitude that I have when I work. It is also true that I took the idea from Torres García and his construction, clearly making a tribute as I do with other artists that I take on in other series. Add to that the overall attitude, typically feminine. I think that is what causes it.

What is the reason for color being so scarce in your work and the reduced palette you use? In general you only use one or two colors.

A long time ago color was a conscious decision and completely deliberate in my work. When the first phase of globalization began, the predominance of the color red wasn’t risky. It was the way to introduce an Oriental aesthetic (especially China) to the West; I researched it and worked with it for a long time. Then blue came about, tied to technology and alchemy. Today I work in black because like I said, we are going through a new medievalism. Once I sense all of this, I look for sources that validate it. It is fascinating how it slowly changes according to sociology, politics and economics. Yet, what I am telling you is age-old in the history of mankind. Perhaps today it is more speculative, but just as profoundly interesting.

What is your next project?

Making a sketch that I have into a large structure. But I am not going to tell you anymore so the work may speak for itself- it is the protagonist.