Entrevista, El Espectador

Interview to Ana González by El Espectador newspaper after receiving the Best Pictorial Work prize and the mention “Artist Beyond Walls” in the Florence Biennial, 2007. - Jury: Gilbert & Goerge (UK), Gergorio Luke (USA), Matty Roca (Mexico), Elza Ajzenberg (Brazil)

Alicia, by Ana González, Biennial of Florence prize
El Espectador, Florence, Italy, 2007

You are interested in told stories that have been built by memory. Why are you interested in the intangible nature of narrated stories?
Because many times great part of our past is in the oral legacy. Most of the stories, anecdotes and details of what happened have not been written, they have been told, cried over and suffered. They have also healed and that is the most important part of my work.

In your work you deal with war, displacement and the transformations that people who have been affected by any kind of violence have to face. Why do you believe that going back to the childhood memories makes pain and death experiences more tolerable?
Because I have spoken to displacement or violence victims in Colombia and asked them about their pain. They find comfort in reviewing their life, in remembering their childhood as something that nobody can take away from them despite war’s absurdity. For somebody who has lost everything, home, family or a body part, memories are a way of dignifying their existence, because when they remember they do not die in forgetfulness.

But what happens when the violence victims are children?
My work encompasses memories but also childhood as the most vulnerable part of society. That is why in my work I emphasize those small moments or ordinary things that make us belong to a place. That is exactly what it is about, to return to what is really important, to those moments of a day where we are happiest almost without noticing it. And even though childhood is very fragile, it has many of those moments.

Let’s talk about the Alicia series where you reinvent the chronicles of children who have been victims of displacement and violence.
Alicia is a girl who has been displaced from Juradó and with whom I worked some years ago making handicrafts. I found eloquence and sincerity in her. Alicia stems from Alicia, who goes out of her house, is separated from her family and the only thing she takes into exile with her is her Sunday dress. I painted this dress, I perfected it in porcelain and I embroidered it to revive it with luxurious and elaborated materials worthy of its presence. Thus I transform a girl’s popular Sunday dress into something more, to look at it with other eyes, a new way of approaching her story.

What is the purpose of Alice in Wonderland’s story? Why did you use Lewis Caroll’s book as reference?
Because as I see it, Lewis Caroll’s Alicia undergoes a transformation process. And not only do the displaced girls with whom I work change, but also women. They endure a strong transformation process when they arrive to the cities and face situations that force them to evolve. It is a more hopeful way of seeing things. In spite of suffering, we are live and evolving creatures who constantly change… Alicia does not die, she transforms herself, she evolves and adapts. This work is about 12 Alicia canvases, where she appears. And this is complemented with 12 very fragile porcelain pieces of her dress. Alicia was displaced 12 months in 2007.

Why are you interested in alluding to a fairy tale? Why is it important?
The work is based on the tragedy that we live every day in Colombia. It is born there and it transforms into something different. I don’t want to be a witness of what happens, I want to transform it into something that is more inspiring. Horror is already present. What I want is to try to heal every day by doing small things that heal the wounds. Condemning is not enough. The act of repairing from suffering is closer to a fairy tale.

What trace do they leave in us?
The feeling that there is something more to it. That despite violence, what is sublime is untouchable. The fairy tales, the stories and the narrations of those who have been displaced or who have lived through violence in this conflict have something that is untouchable. Something that does not belong here, that helps the healing process, to look in another direction.

Is childhood evil?
No. Childhood is sacred. What is evil is what surrounds us.