Life today could bear a resemblance with what it would have been to exist in Macondo: Living in a place of uncertainty, where anything is possible, almost beyond reality. Who would have imagined this?
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez’s 1967 masterpiece created an image of his continent and country, giving it a name: Macondo. A place synonymous with the Caribbean, yellow butterflies, plantations, plagues and deluges, all embedded within magical realism. It is a land built on dreams, anecdotes and efforts linked to the need to resist the vicissitudes of the spirit. Marquez fathomed an image of this land that was so coherent, so poetic and persuasive, and above all so successful, that it became part of a collective identity. It is an image of Latin America in which the inhabitants of this vast and diverse continent recognize themselves, where almost all of them became part of the Buendía lineage— children of Macondo.
According to Gerald Martin, the author’s biographer, Macondo is the literary realization of the idea of the Global Village, popularized by Marshall McLuhan, which explains that due to the growth and use in technology, cultures around the world are decreasing as well as expanding, as the ability to share and connect with one another is constantly progressing, making it almost like a part of us that we cannot live without. (McLuhan, Fiore & Agel 1968).
Recent political and economic developments in Latin America, and in Colombia in particular, have fostered the rise of a new generation of Macondians: creators, curators, and collectors with a sophisticated and ongoing legacy of artistic experimentation and political imagination. These men and women are transforming the ways in which art and design are produced, as well as how it is perceived, evolving from a domestic practice to become part of the global discourse.
At the same time, a wide range of emerging artists is embracing new ways of expression, going beyond the modernist focus on conceptualism and political commentary. These are artists and designers who are repurposing traditional craft and design techniques by reinterpreting the work of native communities through a contemporary lens. Whereby ceramics, jewelry, wood, natural fibers, and metal merge together to create a particular aesthetic that reflects the reality of a population larger than a continent, which is ever expanding and connecting with the global society.
Faced with the impossibility of framing all genres in artistic creation today, we refer to magical realism, a literary style that has the ability of creating the un-conceivable within the realm of existence, amalgamating the dimensions of shared wonder, the uncanny, the alien, and the mad.
While the ‘realist’ aspect of magical realism signals its relationship to past or present realities, the ‘magical’ component is not quite so obvious, although it can become evident through the visual arts, which provide a window to what is ‘magical’, namely particular experiences of envisioned realities, which are also indebted to Latin America’s colonial history.
In this sense, Macondo is a response to these foundations. It can be seen as an attempt at describing the contours of a reality that diverge from the ones that have been preconceived by ulterior sources of knowledge. By moving away from strict historical narrative, without detaching from this world of literary fantasy, the show remains in tune with the impact of a cultural narrative that resonates with today's realities.
Macondo today, at the beginning of 2022, sees Gabo as a guide to current realities, discussing the work of a few representative Colombian artists whose heritage opened for us a creative world, which results from layers of questions, emerging from their historical memory, loaded with an aesthetic and subjective substance to be discovered. Based on the historic and legendary past, these creations are a synthesis of fact and fiction, a transformation from the concrete to the fantastic, wrought at least in part by the impact of time on Colombian memory.
Some of these artists recapture the past indirectly, through poetic visions or their imaginaries. For others, the excursions into History have required actual physical pilgrimages. Still, others have found that their perspective of the past ought to be translated into direct, political terms that reflect the current zeitgeist. This sense of History is inextricably bound up with their identity as Latin Americans; it elucidates their present and projects their future in an unbroken continuum.
Latin American art is now part of this cultural progression, and as such, Macondo aims to transmit a vision of Colombia that captures the essence of the country’s art scene. It provides a mirror in which London can identify with the overseas Macondian realities featured within this exhibition. Thus inviting the audience to reflect upon five key concepts that capture essential themes not only related to Macondo’s ethos, but to European actuality: the imaginary, landscape, life, memory and society.
This Macondo emerges as a place where art unites beyond geographical borders, where instead of perceiving the concrete and tangible world, what we see is Gabo’s realm, a place of myths and realities.
“Macondo is not a place but a state of mind that allows one to see what one wants to see and how one wants to see it.” – Gabriel García Márquez.