Seminarios "El Dorado. Un territorio"

UNED - PROA | El Dorado: metáforas, mitos, territorios


El Dorado: metáforas, mitos, territorios


Within the framework of the El Dorado exhibition organized together with the Americas Society of Visual Arts (NY, USA) and the Amparo Museum (Puebla, Mexico), Fundación Proa presents a new distance course in agreement with the National University of Distance Education (UNED, Spain).

How is the idea of “El Dorado” built in the history of the link between America and Europe? What role does the legend play in the colonization process? What resonances does this concept have today? What new senses can postcolonial theories and recent struggles about the relevance and persistence of El Dorado contribute? What role do art, literature, and other cultural manifestations play in this whole process of reflection and construction of meaning?

The myth of El Dorado was encouraged by the Spaniards from a distorted reading of the ceremonies of the Muisca people in America, but its influence spans the history of humanity to the present day. Its rereading is essential, not only because of its historical sense in the framework of the colonization process of America -especially South America and Mesoamerica-, but also as a tool to redefine the current situation of the American territory. El Dorado: metaphors, myths, territories is the title of the new distance course organized by Fundación Proa within the framework of the El Dorado exhibition, an invitation to reflect on its contemporary implications. Led by renowned academics from America and Europe, and structured in six classes, the course proposes to question the history, connotations and meanings that the concept of El Dorado had and has, in the light of thought, theories, debates and current artistic and cultural practices.


Directors: Rosario García Martínez – Miguel Ángel García Hernández

The road to el dorado, by Sergio Baur

With their arrival in America, the Spanish developed a spirit of greed in the search for American gold. The natives of the Antillean islands, transmitted to European travelers the existence of nearby places, where there were large deposits and towns that possessed the rich metal that aroused great fantasies and desire to conquer, not only the territory, but also its riches.

As part of the Western tradition, from the myths created by the Greek culture, all historical periods created their own golden legends. In the case of America, the origin of El Dorado goes back to the beginning of the 16th century, although it was Christopher Columbus who, through his first letters, already mentioned the fabulous treasures existing in the Indies. The historical narrations, written by the adelantados and chroniclers, give an account of this, through texts that still preserve the echoes of medieval literature, and that not only have historical and anthropological interest, but are part of the literature that contributed to the formation of this American myth.

In this presentation we will analyze some of those works written by the Chroniclers of the Indies, as unavoidable sources to describe the story behind the legend.
Sergio Baur is a Professor of History and a career diplomat. Member of the National Academy of Fine Arts. He was an adjunct professor at the Chair of Latin American History I at the University of Belgrano and cultural management abroad at the National Foreign Service Institute. He has taught courses and seminars at academic institutions in Argentina, Spain, the US and Egypt. In the field of diplomacy, he focused on promoting Argentine culture abroad. He was Curator of the Argentine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2019 and Director of Cultural Affairs of the Argentine Foreign Ministry (2018 - 2020). His research and curatorships focus on the relationship between art and literature in the Argentine avant-garde (1920-1940). He is the curator of the exhibitions: Avant-garde Argentine Literature at the Casa de América in Madrid (2001), at the Pablo Picasso Foundation in Malaga (2002); and at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2010); Martín Fierro in the arts and letters (2010), Clarity the vanguard in struggle (2012) at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires (MNBA); Jorge Luis Borges and photography at the Kirchner Cultural Center (2016) and Norah Borges a woman in the vanguard (2019) at the MNBA among other exhibitions. He has contributed texts and articles for catalogs and publications at the National Museum of Fine Arts, Americas Society of NY (2012), Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid (2002-2004), Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau in Munich (2021), among other institutions. . He was Cultural Attaché at the Argentine Embassy in Spain, Ambassador of the Republic in Tunisia and Egypt. Since 2021 he has been the Ambassador of the Republic in Finland.

The Atlantic Silk Road: the gold of ideas, by Fernando Castro Borrego

Alexander von Humboldt said that the Canary Islands were like a karavasser on the Atlantic silk route, which is not exclusively reduced to the value of the exchanges derived from an extractive activity, but it is legitimate to think that there was also a fruitful exchange of ideas. The gold of ideas is more important than the economic value of this material. The German scientist coined that metaphor to explain the value that the Canary Islands held as a necessary station in his Four Trips to America. In Tenerife he was able to advance his thesis on vegetation floors, a theory that he would later conform to in America. The Canary Islands were an obligatory stop for Columbus, stopping at his ports to carry out provisioning work on his four voyages. Humboldt justified this assertion based on the scientific fact that the Gulf Stream propels ships towards the American continent, without the need to row. The Canaries had, and still have, a privileged geostrategic situation that makes them the first port of call for trips to America, being, paradoxically, closer to this continent than to Africa... For European travelers it was easier to go than to return. I am going to talk about the back and forth relationships in the field of arts and culture. I support the thesis that the purpose of these transoceanic relations was not only the extraction of precious materials, but also the exchange of ideas. I will start by talking about Mexican silver. It is true that there was an economic dimension to this trade; but in the Canary Islands, as in Lower Andalusia, this precious material enriched the temples, creating works of art. This explains the rise of the silverware workshops in La Laguna, which held considerable importance until the end of the 18th century. Precisely, the urban layout of the city of La Laguna constitutes an experiment that would later be developed in the new cities that were founded in America. There are also technological contributions to this interrelation, such as the presence on the islands of corn paste crucifixes made by the Tarascan Indians in Michoacán. The conference concludes with an interpretation of Humboldt's symbolism in the Orinoco, a portfolio of graphic works by Manolo Millares, a Canarian artist based in Madrid.

Fernando Castro Borrego is Professor of Art History at the University of La Laguna. He is a historian, theoretician and critic specialized in historical avant-garde, surrealism and 20th century Canarian art. He is the author of the first monograph on the painter Óscar Domínguez, which contains the only raisonné catalog of his work. Author of a hundred articles and more than a dozen books, curator of Canarian art exhibitions in Vienna, New York, Washington, Caracas, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Prague and Bratislava. The first one on young art from the Canary Islands and organized by the Cabildo de Tenerife, was held in Vienna in 1985, in addition to curating two exhibitions on the graphic work of Picasso (Vollard Suite), one in Bratislava (2012) and another in Prague ( 2018). Creator of the Library of Canarian Artists (BAC) and its director from 1991 to 2016, co-director of the Cultural History of Art in the Canary Islands, in 10 volumes, being the author of volume VIII in which he addresses the period of the avant-garde insular. Member of the Board of Trustees of the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, from 2007 to 2012. Member of the Advisory Council of the César Manrique Foundation from 1992 to 2017. Member of the editorial board of the magazine Descubrir el arte (Madrid). Member of the Royal Canarian Academy of Fine Arts and of the Royal Canarian Academy of History.

Ambiguous Flashes: The Metaphors of Gold in South American Colonial Art, by Gabriela Siracusano

Gold has always functioned in the textual and visual discourses of Christianity as a metaphor that pivoted between sacredness and the danger of idolatry. Regarding the latter, it is the Old Testament text that explains this relationship between the production of figures, particularly made of gold, and idolatrous sin, obviously the golden calf being an example of this. This and other metals such as silver and copper, served different purposes linked to evangelization in America, without forgetting that all of them played a fundamental role in the political and economic processes developed in the territory. A look anchored in the materiality of the visual objects produced in the Viceroyalty of Peru will allow us to understand how the different traditions were intertwined -both local and foreign- linked to their manipulation and uses.

Gabriela Siracusano has a PhD in Philosophy and Letters, art history orientation from the University of Buenos Aires, specializing in South American colonial art. As a CONICET Principal Researcher, she carries out and directs numerous interdisciplinary research projects on the material dimension of artistic productions. Since 2014 she has been the director of the Center for Research in Art, Matter and Culture (MATERIA) of the National University of Tres de Febrero. She is a Regular Professor at the University of Buenos Aires and UNTREF postgraduate holder. She is a 2003-2004 Getty Postdoctoral Fellow, a 2006-2007 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2016 Getty Scholar. She has been a visiting professor and researcher at numerous universities (University of Texas at Austin Tinker Visiting Professor, University of Cambridge, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, etc). Author and editor of various books and articles, including El Poder de los colores (Buenos Aires, FCE, 2005; ALAA and AACA Awards), Pigments and power in the Andes (London, Archetype, 2011), Las tretas de the visible (Buenos Aires, CAIA, 2007), La Paleta del espanto (Buenos Aires, Unsamedita, 2010) and in co-edition with Agustina Rodriguez Romero, American Matter. The Body of Hispanic American Images (Saenz Peña, Eduntref, 2020; Honorable Mention of the ALAA-Arvey Foundation Book Award and the Eleanor Tuft Award).

It shines more than the Sun, by Cristina Lucas

Gold, whose main quality is to attract the attention of all "Sapiens", is completely indifferent to the rest of living beings. This chemical element has such an attractive, solar, brilliant quality that makes it the perfect companion for immortality. It does not rust, it does not change and it can always be converted according to the needs of whoever owns it. It denotes social and religious status, but it also began to be used in economic transactions until it came to structure the economies of the world, constituting an exact reflection of the wealth of countries.

Today nothing remains of that, since 1971 the disconnection between gold and macroeconomics is a fact that has brought us to a moment of total abstraction. My intervention proposes to review the change in concepts that appear in this new twist and how certain artists have approached it.
Cristina Lucas is an artist. Her work aims to reveal the way in which power systems operate and how they influence us. She works to analyze the main political and economic structures, and discover their contradictions. In recent years, Cristina - who studied chemistry and history for several years - has embarked on the analysis of the accumulation of wealth under all its categories and metaphors, such as gold precisely, and hence her projects on gold of the Bank of Spain. At the same time, this analysis of the accumulation of wealth is complemented by that of the environmental and ecological poverty that these produce. The association of both gave rise to thinking about the metaphor of El Dorado in modernity: "black gold", oil. America continues to be the place of El Dorado because the wealth that is sought there now is that "capital" of Tertiary deposits of forests and animals, the deepest layers of the earth's biological history that are being consumed by forced marches, and as valuable or more than the gold sought by the Spanish conquistadors. In this way, she analyzes the persistence of the myth of El Dorado in the current economy, also activating in her work the possibility of new forms of socialization of wealth. This crossing of discourses (biology, art, economics, ecology) is key to the course.

After the Landscape: Art, Extractivism, Nature, by Jens Andermann

From the origins of the conquest of the Americas, the landscape was not only a form of representation of the "New World": it also established -and constituted itself as- a framework for the capture and inscription of the ultramarine lands and their material, human contents. and more than human in relation to European thought and thus, as a way of assigning value and making them available to the colonizing company. This class offers a critical overview of the relationships between aesthetics and environment, from critical theorizing of landscape form to current Anthropocene/Capitalocene/Plantationocene debates. What is the role of the imagination – we will ask ourselves – when it comes to forging “worlds in common” on the ruins of extractivism? After outlining a brief genealogy of the idea of landscape in the arts and social sciences, in its double iteration as an idealized/normative “image” of nature and as a localization of the natural order in material forms and institutions (such as the park or garden ) we will stop at some instances of challenge and overflow of his extractivist legacy by radical aesthetic modalities. In these, as well as in alternative ontological constellations, new possibilities are glimpsed to overcome the culture/nature dichotomy and to reconsider the role that the arts and aesthetics can play in this effort.

Jens Andermann is a professor at New York University. He writes about modern Latin American art, film, literature, architecture, and material culture, as well as their intersections with extractivism and the legacy of colonialism. He is editor of the Journal of Latin American cultural studies and author of Tierras en trance: art and nature after the landscape (Santiago de Chile, 2018); New Argentine cinema (London 2011, Buenos Aires 2015); The optician of the state. Visuality and power in Argentina and Brazil (Pittsburgh 2007, Rio de Janeiro 2014), and Maps of power. A literary archeology of the Argentine space (Rosario, 2000). He is also editor of collections on environmental aesthetics today, memory and the museum in the Latin American post-dictatorships, Latin American cinema, exhibitions and museums, and material and visual cultures in Latin America. He has designed and curated online exhibitions at the Iberoamerican Museum of Visual Culture on the Web, including Relics and selves: iconographies of the national in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Before entering New York University, he was a professor and visiting professor at the universities of Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, London, Zurich, Basel, Duke, Princeton, Columbia, and Berlin. His work appears in numerous collections and journals, including Memory Studies, Artologie, Revista Iberoamericana, Journal of Material Culture, among other outlets.

Persistences of El Dorado: fantasies of extractive wealth in the sovereign imaginary, by Juan Cristóbal Castro

The ghosts of underground wealth haunt us, even those who try to flee from them. How to explain that, in contexts where republican and nationalist discourses have been stronger, their fascination has not stopped growing, even collectively? The answer may lie in another, more unconscious dimension. In this class I propose to dwell on some cultural artifacts (literature, cinema, art) in the conformation of the imaginaries of Latin America, highlighting later some moments of Venezuelan oil history, which have served to think about the recurrence of certain motifs, images, figures and scenes. It seems to me that they reveal the way in which the social and national fantasy of a rentier nature has been taking shape in a mono-producer State capitalism, as was the case in Venezuela, but which may be paradigmatic for thinking about other countries on the continent. For this I propose to review some theories on the image, fantasy, ghost, fetish and dream in Lacan, Taussig, Coronil.
Juan Cristóbal Castro is a writer, critic, and professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso, Chile. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of California, and his master's degree in comparative literature at the Central University of Venezuela; also in the undergraduate of the same University he did the double degree (journalism and letters). He has been a professor at the Simón Bolívar University (Caracas) and the Pontificia Javeriana University (Bogotá). He published the book Alphabet of chaos: criticism and fiction in Paul Valéry and Jorge Luis Borges in 2009; Spectral Languages: Imaginary Languages in Latin American Literature (2016) and The Sacrifice of the Page: José Antonio Ramos Sucre and the Republican Arkhé (2020). In 2021 his novel-essay Sleepwalking Archeology came out and in 2022 he won the Essay and Poetry Contest (The Diaspora: Those Who Leave, Those Who Stay) of the Department of Culture of the Universidad de los Andes (Venezuela) with the book Tierras de aguas: itinerant essays.