On May 4, six Wesleyan students presented a pop-up exhibition titled “From Amate to Artists’ Books: Crafting Community through Media in Latin America” in Olin Library’s Special Collections & Archives. The student curators included Lauren Salazar ’17, Brooke Kushwaha ’20, Nate Barton ’18, Marcos Plaud Rivera ’18, Leah Cabrera ’17 and Caroline Diemer ’18. All of the objects in this exhibition shed light on how media artifacts have served as tools for forging and imagining communities in Latin America. The objects date from the Pre-Columbian era to the 21st century, and range in form from stone tools, to photography and artist books. Together, they shed light on how media have been used as components in the construction of empire, to resist political systems of power, and to negotiate individual and collective identity.
The exhibit, which was accompanied by two gallery talks, served as the final project for the HIST 321 course, Media and Power in Latin America: From Quipus to Twitter. In this interdisciplinary seminar, students explored how media technologies have shaped Latin American societies and politics from the colonial encounter to the dawn of the digital age. The class was taught by Corinna Zeltsman, visiting assistant professor of history, pictured.
The students showcased 12 examples of ways media can impact communities under the categories of Forging Empires, Communities of Resistance and Artists’ Visions of Identity. Marcos Plaud Rivera ’18 spoke about Communities of Resistance.
How to Read Donald Duck is a Chilean analysis of Disney comics’ cultural reach in Latin America and its portrayal of family structures, gender, and native populations around the world. The authors seek to unravel Walt Disney’s wholesome and apolitical reputation in the face of increasing censorship under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. The book’s anti-capitalist, pro-indigenous message caused it to be banned at the time of its release in 1971.
Caroline Diemer explained how the Aztec created amate paper from bark, water and a paper beater. She also showed an example of a choir book published in 1687. Texts like this one, known as a Gradual, were sung by the choir as one in a series of liturgical texts necessary for the celebration of Catholic Mass. Its size allowed for all members of the choir to gather around it and sing.
The artist’s book Las Calles Rotas De Mi Ciudad: Broken Streets of My City speaks to the “brokenness” of a nation and how this subjects the artist to a complicated identity with what she knows as Cuba and her Cubanidad. Her personal written poem describes longing for the country she once knew and can no longer be recovered.
Lauren Salazar, pictured here near the Artists’ Visions of Identity section of the exhibit, and her peers worked with Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives, the Davison Art Center, the History Department, the Archaeological Collections, the Digital Projects Librarian and manager of Academic Computing Services on the exhibit.
View the entire exhibit online.