A young Medellin artist installed hundreds of large maroon posters with a terse message throughout the city center, provoking diverse reactions to the biggest piece of news in Latin America: “Chavez is dead.”
|The photos above were kindly contributed by Medellin photographer Juan Fernando Ospina.|
Though backed by no specific political agenda, Esteban Zapata’s work, which he calls a ‘social intervention,’ inspired polemical interpretations from city dwellers. One passerby perceived a far-right message in the work, as if the artist intended to celebrate Chavez’s death, and vowed to respond with a counter-attack campaign saying, “Chavez is alive!”
“Obviously it wasn’t meant to be news, because we installed the work three days after Chavez died,” Zapata told Colombia Reports on Tuesday. “The fact that it’s in English should challenge viewers [many of whom don’t speak more than a few English phrases] to pause and consider the message.”
“Displaying a message in spaces throughout the city can function as a call to reflect in an introspective manner,” Zapata said.
Zapata, 23, had been planning the work since Chavez left Venezuela for surgery in Cuba last December. The work marks his second project dealing with Hugo Chavez’s cultural significance. Previously Zapata made figurines of the deceased Venezuelan figurehead dressed as various international characters: Buddhist monk Chavez, Yankees Chavez, and construction worker Chavez, among others.
The men Zapata hired to install the posters received a great deal of attention as they brushed on the glue. At times a crowd of thirty surrounded workers to observe the process and ask who was responsible and what was he trying to say. Some perplexed onlookers demanded to know why anyone would take the effort to say something that everyone already knew. One older man griped that it should have been former president of Colombia Alvaro Uribe, not Chavez, who died of cancer.
Celebrated Colombian photographer Juan Fernando Ospina took the pictures.
- Interview with Esteban Zapata