Sergio Zevallos

Sergio Zevallos, Cuaderno de matemática (Math notebook, 2014), graphite on carbon paper, four of ninety-one sheets, overall dimensions variable

In his Émile perverti (1974), the philosopher and Charles Fourier scholar René Schérer describes how the modern, colonial, capitalist process of extracting and seizing the subject’s libidinal power begins with the teaching of writing in schools. The transition from an oral culture to a written one requires that mouths be shut. Reading in silence, a physical expression of interiorization, is part of the process whereby the new individual, who learns to swallow his words and forget the things his people once remembered, is constructed. The school is also the place where the masturbatory hand is made to write. Subsequently, successive institutions teach this same hand to become a masculine hand, to work or to carry a weapon.

Sergio Zevallos learned to write in Spanish in the 1960s, in Lima, marked at the time by strong colonial, sexual, and class antagonisms and violent militarized conflicts. His entire practice could be described as a meticulous process of reconnection of the artist’s body with the masturbatory hand, of the voice with the acquired knowledge of a culture its mouth can no longer utter. Between 1982 and 1994, Zevallos was a member of Grupo Chaclacayo, along with the German artist Helmut Psotta and the Peruvian artist Raúl Avellaneda. The collective was known for photographs and public performances denouncing the sexual and racial violence of the armed conflicts in Peru. Their images jumbled and desacralized both religious icons and the heroic masculinity of the soldier.

Zevallos’s collaboration with Psotta enabled him to seek exile in Germany in 1989, where he embarked upon his trajectory as a solo artist. Throughout his work, which weaves photography, performance, installation, drawing, and writing into an intricate fabric, two moments reoccur. The first, the iconoclastic moment, presents a critique of the banks of knowledge, the practices and representations constructed by the subject of colonial modernity. The artist becomes a counter-scientific destroyer of taxonomies and ethnographic or psychopathological lexicons that establish accepted differences between what is considered normal and pathological, civilized and primitive. In the second moment, the artist, invoking non-Western technologies of consciousness, like animism or shamanism, reconstructs a different form of sovereignty, neither masculine nor heroic, for the body wounded by colonial, necropolitical capitalism.

—Paul B. Preciado

Posted in Public Exhibition
Excerpted from the documenta 14: Daybook
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