New generation of Bolivian artists displays bravado

May 2009 -

Young video and performance artists from Bolivia are benefiting from 'La Paz Ibero-American Cultural Capital 2009': their contemporary work is finally getting attention from the local public. And money from the government.

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Alfr├ędo Roman at work

"The Bolivian government normally supports the traditional arts like ballet and folklore events, not the contemporary video and performance arts. Thanks to the cultural year 'La Paz 2009', however, some € 30,000 has been made available for organizing eight monthly activities. Young artists in these disciplines are therefore provided with a stage and increased exposure. In our own country, at least. Many of these artists are already enjoying international success." María Schneider (25) is a DJ from Santa Cruz who composes the video and performance programme for La Paz Cultural Capital 2009. "Audience participation is a fixed element in every activity. Tickets are therefore extremely inexpensive or free, and we strive to utilize public space."

In April 2009 the city's inhabitants were surprised by Arteria: an event in which six artists gave a series of performances and video projections in the street. The six were José Ballivián (29); Galo Coca (31) and Eduardo Ribera S. (34) from La Paz; Alfredo Román (28) and Roberto Unterladstaetter (28) from Santa Cruz; Alejandra Dorado (40) from Cochabamba. "We hoped for unexpected reactions from the public, and we got what we wanted", says initiator and curator Rodrigo Rada (34). He selected the artists and suggested the politically-sensitive location: Plaza Murillo, a square that has witnessed much bloodshed in the past and that is still regularly used for demonstrations.

"During my performance, in which a group of people burlesquely applauded the daily changing of the guard at the adjacent presidential palace, President Evo Morales himself opened a window to reprimand us. That was better than anything I could have expected," remembers Román. In recent years he has won a variety of prestigious art prizes in Santa Cruz. His media-genic performance has also made his name familiar to newspaper readers in La Paz. And so a new generation of visual artists has once again established itself more strongly.