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Arte ≠ Vida

El Museo del Barrio, New York

Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000

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Landmark Exhibition at El Museo del Barrio Highlights Performative Actions by Over 100 Latino / Latin American Artists

El Museo del Barrio, New York’s premier Latino and Latin American cultural institution, is pleased to announce its groundbreaking exhibition Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960 – 2000, which will be on view from January 30 through June 8, 2008. “Arte no es vida” surveys, for the first time ever, the vast array of performative actions created over the last half century by Latino artists in the United States and by artists working in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, Central and South America. Curated by Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs at El Museo del Barrio, Arte ≠ Vida is the recipient of a prestigious 2006 Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award.

Through a rich and lively presentation of photographs, video, texts, ephemera, props, and artworks that reference canonical works, the exhibition represents a landmark within the documentation of action art. Arte ≠ Vida expands standard descriptions of “performance art,” revealing how work created by Caribbean, Latino and Latin American artists is often not only dramatized but politicized. An accompanying exhibition catalogue will serve as the first comprehensive resource publication to address this segment of the field of performative art. “El Museo del Barrio has a great history of conceiving and presenting exhibitions that advance deeper understanding of Caribbean and Latin American art and culture,” says Julián Zugazagoitia, Director of El Museo del Barrio. “This project furthers our mission by bringing the Latin American contributions within performative art to a larger audience, and within a historical context, it is particularly resonant for us as it includes the work of El Museo’s founding director, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, a leading action artist well before the museum’s founding in 1969.”

Many of the works included in Arte ≠ Vida have subtle or overt political contexts and content: military dictatorships, civil wars, disappearances, invasions, brutality, censorship, civil rights struggles, immigration issues, discrimination, and economic woes have troubled the artists’ homelands continuously over the past four decades and therefore have infiltrated their consciousness. According to curator Deborah Cullen, “the exhibition title challenges the commonplace idea that art is equivalent to life, and life is art. What is proposed through these many works is that while art affirms and celebrates life with a regenerative force, and sharpens and provokes our critical senses, artistic actions which address inequalities and conflict are not equivalent to real life endured under actual repression.”

Over 75 artists and collectives are represented in Arte ≠ Vida, including ASCO, Tania Bruguera, CADA, Lygia Clark, Papo Colo, Juan Downey, Rafael Ferrer, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Alberto Greco, Alfredo Jaar, Tony Labat, Ana Mendieta, Marta Minujin, Raphael Montañez-Ortiz, Hélio Oiticica, Tunga and contemporary practitioners including Francis Alÿs, Coco Fusco, Regina José
Galindo, Teresa Margolles and Santiago Sierra. The exhibition is arranged in four major sections, in which each decade is represented by several specific themes that often cross national boundaries. 1960-1970 looks at select precursors, signaling, destructivism and neoconcretismo; 1970-1980 considers political protest, class struggle, happenings, land/body relationships and border crossing; 1980-1990 focuses upon anti-dictatorship protest and dreamscapes; and 1990-2000 references the Quincentenary, multiculturalism, postmodernism and endurance. An additional section highlights interventions that artists have carried out on television over the past 20 years. In these chronological, thematic groupings, viewers will be able
to explore the interconnections among various artists’ actions as well as the surges of activities triggered by specific events in certain countries.

A forthcoming bilingual English-Spanish resource publication will supplement Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960 – 2000. It will provide a chronological overview, and will allow both established and emerging voices to address each of the ten regions represented in the exhibition in depth. Published by El Museo del Barrio and distributed by D.A.P., the volume will
also include a detailed chronology, brief artist’s biographies and a bibliography, and will be available in May 2008.

A full range of free public programming will be offered along with the exhibition at El Museo del Barrio. Visual arts events will include a performance by Nao Bustamante in March, a panel on actions by Chilean artists with Eugene Dittborn, Alfredo Jaar and Lotty Rosenfeld, among others on April 9, and a symposium with Coco Fusco, Roselee Goldberg and Diana Taylor. Featured among other spring programs at El Museo will be free Saturday gallery tours offered in English and Spanish, family art workshops, a film series highlighting recent films from Latin America, spoken word events and readings by authors including Mario Vargas Llosa.

Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960 – 2000 is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award and by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust. Exhibition programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. Media sponsorship has been provided by Univision 41 / Telefutura 68. In-kind support for the opening reception is provided by Rums of Puerto Rico and ACE Party Rental.

Public programs offered in conjunction with the exhibition include:

An Evening of Spoken Word Roulette and Critical Theory with Guillermo Gómez-Peña
Tuesday, April 22, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
New York University. Jurow Hall, Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East

Guillermo Gómez-Peña will present a lecture at New York University in which he will examine the role of artists working against the backdrop of war, censorship, cultural paranoia and spiritual despair. In his lecture, Gómez-Peña will ask: What are the new roles that artists undertake? Where are the new borders between the accepted and the forbidden? Is art still a pertinent form of inquiry and contestation? This lecture will be the inaugural public event of the Institute’s EMERGENYC and Hemispheric New York programs. Presented in collaboration with El Museo del Barrio. Admission: Free. For more information, e-mail

El Mexorcist 3: America’s Most Wanted Inner Demon
Wednesday, April 23, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Teatro Heckscher at El Museo del Barrio. 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street

An artist included in Arte ≠ Vida, Gómez-Peña presents this performance in which he assaults the demonized construction of the US/Mexican border – a literal and symbolic zone lined with Minute Men, rising nativism, three-ply fences, globalization and transnational indentities. To this effect, the “border artist extraordinaire” uses acid Chicano humor, hybrid literary genres, multilingualism, and activist theory as subversive strategies. In this journey to the geographical and psychological outposts of Chicanismo, Gómez-Peña also reflects on identity, race, sexuality, pop culture, politics and the impact of new technologies in the post-9/11 era. Presented in collaboration with the Hemispheric Institute’s EMERGENYC program. Admission: Free. For advance registration e-mail

Arte ≠ Vida: Book Presentation
Wednesday, May 8, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm
El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street

El Museo is publishing a lavishly illustrated, bilingual resource book to accompany the exhibition. The publication provides a chronological overview, and a selection of essays by experts on the field addressing the ten regions represented in the exhibition in depth. Gabriela Rangel, Director of Visual Arts, The Americas Society; Robert Neustadt, Professor, Northen Arizona University; Claudia Calirman, Professor, Parsons School of Design and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Elvis Fuentes, Curator, El Museo del Barrio; and other invited scholars join Deborah Cullen on a panel that will explore the many themes of the exhibition as presented in the catalogue. To purchase the book, available in May, please contact El Museo’s Shop at 212 831 7272 x130. Admission: Free. For advance registration e-mail

Arte ≠ Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960 – 2000 is made possible by an Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award and by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust. Exhibition programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts. Media sponsorship has been provided by Univision 41 / Telefutura 68.

Press Contact: Lauren Van Natten
T. 212 6607102

Press Preview: Thursday, January 31, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Avenue between 104th and 105th Streets
New York, NY 10029
Museum Hours:
Wednesday - Sunday, 11AM to 5PM. Closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Admission is by suggested donation.
Adults: $6.00
Students & Seniors: $4.00
Members & Children Under 12: FREE
Thursday: Seniors FREE all day
By subway: #6 to 103rd Street Station, #2, #3 to Central Park North/110th Street station
By bus: M1, M3, M4 on Madison and Fifth Avenues to 104th Street; local crosstown service between Yorkville or East Harlem and the Upper West Side in Manhattan M96 and M106 or M2.

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