Throughout his career, Iván Argote (Bogotá, 1983) has created a group of works in different formats—videos, photographs, sculptures, drawings and public installations—that present an unblinkered reflection on the relations between history, politics, memory, and subjectivity. In this vein, Ternura radical [Radical Tenderness]urges us to rethink the uses of public space, the connection between citizens and everyday language and national symbols, and the possibility of understanding as an alternative to the increasing social polarization.
The show works as an interrelated whole through a cyclical narrative articulated around the film La plaza del chafleo [Chafleo Square]. The verb chaflearis a nonce word Argote has coined to refer to actions that can be performed in a public square, such as gathering, sharing things, talking, kissing, protesting, or simply being oneself.
Historically, squares have been meeting places, alternative spaces for participating, for learning how to play, for socializing and for voicing, political views; their origins can be traced back to the Greek agora, an environment for citizens to congregate in, to discuss the laws, and to listen to the town's best orators. Argote, however, takes no particular delight in the references to authority or to the standardized speeches that prevail in public debate; rather, he attempts to provide a place for new voices: those of children, of migrants, and of people on the margins of their society. His work is directly linked with the political history of his native Colombia, but also with that of the rest of the countries of Latin America and the other regions of the world in which he has worked. Be it in Bogotá, Palembang, Paris or Duala, his career grapples with subverting established power structures through the disruption—often comical—of their symbols and monuments. The various operations he carries out in his exhibitions and interventions put patterns of authority into crisis; we might describe them, borrowing the words of the narrator of one of his videos, as the search for a “decolonization of the mind” through tenderness.