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Gunnel & Anita

Gunnel & Anita Valeria Montti Colque & Rossana Mercado-Rojas Bas konsthall, September 17 - November 12 Curator: Ashik Zaman


Installation view, Gunnel & Anita, Bas konsthall, Barkaby, 2022. Photo: José Figueroa


An exhibition like this which brings forth thoughts about identity and the right of the individual to make a home for herself couldn’t possibly be isolated in vacuum, and not be seen in light of this year’s recent election movement. A word which normally could be expected to appear in the continuation of this text; “immigrant” but have come to be so washed out and overexploited will instead be edited out. To think along the lines of a clean slate would be to think of new "residents" and an individual moving to what is a new home.


Installation view, Gunnel & Anita, Bas konsthall, Barkaby, 2022. Photo: José Figueroa


An early point of departure in the work behind Gunnel & Anita has been to emphasize that Bas Konsthall is a brand-new art venue in the Stockholm vicinity. Given that a “konsthall” already from the outset, symbolically, makes for an artist’s home and that Valeria Montti Colque both was raised in the Järfälla municipality and now is residing in Barkaby as an adult, the idea came about of treating the exhibition as a homecoming celebration per way of a house(warming) party. Home is where the heart is, as the common saying goes. The heart is constantly present and on display for both Valeria Montti Colque and Rossana Mercado-Rojas in their work through family and their personal narratives and memories. In Sweden, entry to a private home is safeguarded and the threshold to be invited inside is high. Language in this regard is telling enough. It used to be called having “främmande” (strangers) over, in terms of guests outside immediate family visiting. In contrast, this exhibition presents as a statement about generously opening your own sphere up to let people inside personal rooms which excude an air of celebration and joie de vivre.


The experiences of both artists in life are partially similar on the account of a shared cultural heritage but also in some regards distinctively different as individuals marked by an upbringing in a specific geographic site in the world. Both artists are mothers but their conditions to be working artist mothers have proved different here based on national identity and related policies. As such it’s been important for the artists to in the scope of this joint venture get to relate to each other and the space equally.


Installation view, Gunnel & Anita, Bas konsthall, Barkaby, 2022. Photo: José Figueroa


While the exhibition speaks about the geographic movements of people it also addresses how art moves through space and room over time. A play with the inside and outside at hand begins already with the exhibition poster on which the Peruvian street art style Chicha makes its entrance. Chicha is an artistic style that previously was ridden by biases against it as being of poor artistic taste, but which later have seen a shift, with Chicha moving into the high-brow realm of art in Peru. For the poster the work of the Chicha pioneer Pedro Tolomeo Rojas Meza "Monky" was enlisted. In essence the spirit and aesthetic of Chicha has since influenced great parts of the exhibitions and is now omnipresent inside the exhibition venue. The public realm continues to take room inside through what is an epicenter in the shape of a sculptural water fountain. What could better characterize the inauguration of a new public site in the city than a fountain that is meant to gather people around it, while bearing the essence of life?


Installation view, Gunnel & Anita, Bas konsthall, Barkaby, 2022. Photo: José Figueroa


The exhibition title was chosen humorously but also makes for a poignant title that lets prejudices about identity come to a head. It turns out that Valeria’s first name is Gunnel (after a family friend at the time of her parents moving to Sweden) and that Rossana’s parents gave her the nickname Anita already as a child. The humour lies in these two names being outdated ones that you’d associate with older generations. Growing up in Sweden you could expect a primary school teacher or someone’s grandmother to be called Gunnel or Anita. The idea of the exhibition title also was impacted by discussions about the agency a name will afford you in today’s society which as we know is increasingly getting xenophobic.


In terms of mere visual form, the exhibition alludes to the hope of a new day, a new dawn, lying ahead, around the corner from here and now.


Ashik Zaman


Installation view, Gunnel & Anita, Bas konsthall, Barkaby, 2022. Photo: José Figueroa