our republican life in an exhibition with photos from eight PUCP archives

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our republican life in an exhibition with photos from eight PUCP archives

The exhibit “Disagreements: Peruvian bicentennial from the photographic archives of the PUCP” it has various visual topics that portray our history as a republic. This photographic gallery has 147 postcards selected from hundreds of photographs from the PUCP Library System, the Riva-Agüero Institute, the University Archive, the PUCP Architecture Archive, the Ethnomusicology Institute, the Tafos archive, as well as the by Jaime Rázuri and Daniel Pajuelo. In this way, this work highlights the various archives that our University has.

“’Disencounters’ is the impossibility of constituting ourselves as a social fabric, as a network, as a whole. The idea of ​​the republic aims at this: to be a single nation. And the archive shows the reality of the constant confrontation. We focus on that tension that we always live, even now with the political crisis that we are going through and that does not allow us to be a single idea, “explained a professor from the Department of Communications, Mag. Miguel Sánchez.

The idea of ​​curating this exhibition was born from a conversation with the dean of the Faculty of Sciences and Communication Arts, Dr. Celia Rubina, who wanted the faculty to participate in the activities of the bicentennial in the framework of the difficulties and restrictions that meant the pandemic. Rubina and the audiovisual artists agreed that there was no better proposal than that of photographic language, since it is perfectly suited to digital communication.

“When looking at the photographic archives of our faculty, especially the inexhaustible source of Tafos, we realized that it was necessary to make them converse with other photographic repositories that would allow us to cover the dawn of republican life. The best thing is that we did not have to go far, but look at the files of other units of the PUCP. It was wonderful to find such receptivity from the directors of the other archives. With them, a dialogue began that is already bearing fruit, transforming itself into joint actions that go beyond the exhibition. The objective is that the images that are almost asleep are put in value in exhibitions like this, make them dialogue and contrast them with others. For this reason, the exhibition is questioning, reflective, irreverent and shocking in its proposal ”, stated Dr. Celia Rubina.

Unraveling files

The curators of this exhibition are teachers Mag. Ángel Colunge and Mag. Miguel Sánchez Flores, who had the support of Dean Celia Rubina and other members of Comunicaciones PUCP. They told us about the challenges they had to face. After pre-selecting more than 1,000 photos, they did an edit, because they knew that, unlike a face-to-face exhibition, online they could only show a maximum of 200 images.

“Among the 147 images, we have photographs dating from the year 1860. The oldest belongs to the Elejalde collection. The most recent ones are from the Daniel Pajuelo Fund of the Faculty of Communication Arts and Sciences ”, stated Ángel Colunge.

Both chose to choose only the photographs that challenge the viewer, organize them by topics that guide visual reading. Likewise, they wanted to break the logic or organization of a classic exhibition, they did not want to propose a unitary route, but by grids, since they saw that the photos dialogued with each other, thus becoming more powerful, which allows the viewer to give it their own reading.

“The editing was done remotely. Through a program that allowed us to display all the photos as if they were a table, we identified those that served as hinges or connectors, they were very important visually and conceptually. From that point on, we were deciding where and how they would be located in the sample. Some became tense and we began to make grids that, at the same time, allowed us to discard images that were redundant or that could damage the dignity of the person portrayed. It was quite a challenge because inequality cannot be hidden either, ”Colunge commented.

This exhibition also allows us to have exclusive access to many photos housed in the archives of the University, which are not yet attended in person due to the pandemic, and which are new to the digital world. “For this exhibition, 35% of the images have had to be digitized, the other collections have already undertaken digitization processes as there are thousands of files,” said the curators.

200 years trying to be one nation

Postcards of the War of the Pacific, portraits of citizens and children from different regions, traditions such as processions, the greatest genocidal in our history (the terrorist Abimael Guzmán), landscapes, our wonder of the world, cemeteries, boats, public transport, houses made of mats, presidents of our country, heroes like Miguel Grau, traditional festivals, sports and protests are some of the themes on display.

One next to another, the photographs tell us about the recurrent attempts to form a republic with the feeling of a single nation, but that leaves us with many questions and a distaste. Which is why the researchers decided to break with the traditional historicist gaze.

“I would like you to ask questions, but also a wink of joy and hope. And that is not a condescending display, in which the eye is won over by the passage of time and the old photo. I want there to be moments of inflection, that is a questioning of our participation throughout our history. We are part of and responsible for the good or bad, for the encounters and disagreements, “commented Ángel Colunge.

While it commemorates our freedom from Spanish submission, its purpose is to conduct a self-critical review of the present. And it is that the celebration of the bicentennial coincided with the pandemic that took the lives of 200 thousand compatriots and highlighted the deficiencies that many Peruvians had. The arrival of the coronavirus once again showed us the unequal country we inhabit.

The message

“This year should have been a festive year, but the context of COVID-19 completely transformed it. The exhibition is interesting because it confronts you with history with memory, but with the glasses of the present, which often brings us despair. They are practically 200 truncated years, in which the photographs show us a country that has not finished being built. Others present us with interesting things, such as the people, the push, the protest, the customs, the party. The exhibition conveys a mixture of failure and the promise of a change, of a revolution, of building a new country ”, reflected Miguel Sánchez, curator of the work.

And he adds: “The chosen topics have accompanied Peru in these 200 years, for example, the territory, the idea of ​​the community. It is the disagreement that ends up articulating the exhibition. Topics become like doors. You open one and find the Peruvian subjects, you touch another and you see the violence, you open another and you find the revolution, with the power challenged or inequalities ”.

For curators, the aesthetic experience of viewing an archive photograph is sustained over time and the meaning with which this image comes into our hands. This leads us to ask ourselves what has changed since that second of our history was immortalized until today? For both of them, it is a healthy exercise, as it lands on what should have been a date of celebration.

If you want to take this trip back in time, the platform offers you 3 options to navigate through this galaxy of photographs: from the curatorial proposal, through galleries and randomly.

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