Feliza Bursztyn: Welding Madness
9 April 2022, 10:00 am (CET)
Feliza Bursztyn: Welding Madness is the first museum retrospective of Colombian artist Feliza Bursztyn (b. Bogotá, 1933 – d. Paris, 1982) to be presented outside of her home country. Bringing together approximately 50 sculptures, films and installations as well as archival material, most of which are shown for the first time in Europe, this ambitious, career-spanning survey positions Bursztyn as one of Latin America’s most important sculptors of the 20th century.
Feliza Bursztyn was a pioneering Colombian artist whose kinetic sculptures revolutionised the South American art alongside the work of her better-known contemporaries Gego and Mira Schendel. Bursztyn created her works using discarded fragments of machines, tires, cables and other metal bits adding – with time - hand-dyed fabrics, motors, light and sound to produce increasingly complex, room-sized installations. Eventually, she produced immersive, experiential spaces: her sculptures clung to walls, hung from ceilings or perched on stages and carried out choreographed dances set to music in dramatically lit and adorned rooms. Throughout her career, the artist combined and interrogated ideas about art, machines, craft, modernity and labour through the lens of hysteria – a term which since the 19th century has been used to describe female instability, abnormality and emotional excess. Bursztyn deployed the notion and tropes of madness to explore the irrationalities, fragilities and ambiguities of modern life.
The one-day symposium devoted to the work of Feliza Bursztyn, organised as part of the exhibition, and accompanying the launch of the first monographic book devoted to the artist and published with Skira Editore is an attempt to offer a much-needed history of this vibrant body of work.
The symposium was held in English.
No reservation is required. Admission free.
Grażyna Kulczyk, founder of Muzeum Susch, Chairwoman of the Board of Art Stations Foundation CH
Marta Dziewańska, Abigail Winograd
curators of ‘Feliza Bursztyn: Welding Madness’ exhibition
Part I: An Outsider: Feliza Bursztyn and Her Context
Lecture: Abigail Winograd, ‘Feliza Bursztyn: Life in Images’
Lecture uses images to illustrate the lesser known details of Feliza's Bursztyn life. It provides an overview of her short but dazzling career and the mythology that surrounded her.
Panel discussion: Camilo Leyva, Agnieszka Sosnowska, Sylvia Suárez, Abigail Winograd
15' coffee break
Screenings (are not part of the recording):
Hoy Feliza, (Today Feliza), 1968
by Luis Ernesto Arocha, 16 mm film, black and white, 6 min. Courtesy of the artist and Instituto de Vision, Bogotá
In 1968, Feliza Bursztyn unveiled a new body of work, made of stainless steel and with a kinetic aspect, which she titled Las histéricas (The Hysterical Ones). These motorized sculptures were occasionally presented in immersive environments that included not only a loud mechanical sound, but also a short film titled Hoy Feliza (Today Feliza, 1968), created by her friend, the experimental filmmaker Luis Ernesto Arocha. The work captures Las histéricas in action – vibrating and mad – intertwined with images of the artist herself, but also with dozens of still images of Hollywood divas and sex symbols, including Greta Garbo, Bette Davis and Marlon Brando. The 16 mm film debuted at an exhibition at the Salón Cultural held in the gallery of the Banco de la República, where it was projected on the facade of the building.
by Luis Ernesto Arocha, 16 mm film, black and white, 8 min. Courtesy of the artist and Instituto de Vision, Bogotá
In 1971, Bursztyn’s miniature sculptures Minimáquinas (Mini-machines) inspired the filmmaker Ernesto Arocha to make a short film, titled Azilef (‘Feliza’ spelled backward). Their machine-like and zoomorphic qualities make them appear as alien creatures, spaceships or satellites that move through empty space. The film’s soundtrack was composed and performed especially for the project by the Bogotá-based, Beatles-inspired rock band Los Teipus, and included a psychedelic folk-rock song, with lyrics in English about magic, dreams, love, the universe and possibilities. Arocha’s film locates Bursztyn’s work in relation to hippismo (‘hippyism’), with its rejection of convention, ideas of sexual freedom, renunciation of materialism, experimentation with drugs, embrace of new popular art forms and utopian belief in the possibility of a better future.
Part II: A Pioneer: Feliza Bursztyn and Decentralised Feminism
Lecture: Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, ‘The Gendered Political Embodiment of Feliza Bursztyn’s Work’
Countering the established notion that abstraction is an aesthetic language which does not dialogue with reality, this talk will explore how Feliza Bursztyn’s work, far from being abstracted and detached from life and the social and political realities of Colombia, embodies a profound criticality and relationality with her time which is both political and gendered. Her Leftist leanings and feminist stance permeate her work, particularly Las histéricas (The Histerical Ones), Las camas (The Beds) and La baila mecánica (The Mechanical Ballet), giving urgency to her invitation to interpret her art in social and political terms. This presentation will analyse how her unconventional motorised sculptures and performative installations provoked and activated the spectator, challenging society’s taboos and creating emancipatory situations.
Lecture: Gina McDaniel Tarver, ‘We Must Fight: Feliza Bursztyn and Colombian Women in the Arts’
When cultural changes swept across the globe in the 1960s and 1970s, the hippie movement, miniskirts, the contraceptive pill and sexual liberation arrived even to extremely conservative, Catholic Colombia. During the period, Feliza Bursztyn took a prominent role in opening new social, professional and creative possibilities for women. Her work was a powerful example of artistic innovation, and it boldly broke gender stereotypes. Bursztyn’s career intersected with those of other successful Colombian women in the arts, such as Marta Traba, Beatriz Daza and Jacqueline Nova, and these women complemented, supported and inspired one another as they proved that they could lead in a field previously ruled by men.
Panel discussion: Marta Dziewańska, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Pierre-Henri Foulon, Abigail Winograd, Gina McDaniel Tarver, Lynn Zelevansky
Screening (is not part of the recording):
Feliza Bursztyn: Welding Madness,
film about the exhibition and the artist, 22 min.
Partners of the symposium and the publication:
The Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA)