Red de Conceptualismos del Sur (Southern Conceptualisms Network) is a collective initiative bringing together a set of researchers and artists scattered around various parts of Latin America and Europe, and which proposes to establish itself as a platform for common thought and action dealing with contemporary relations between art and politics. It was founded in 2007 by a group of researchers concerned about the need to intervene politically in the neutralisation processes of critical potential of a set of ‘conceptual practices’ that took place in Latin America since the early sixties. Last years, the RCSur has been involved in a long term reflection on uses and politics of archives, working on the organisation and constitution of some of the most important artists archives in South America.
During times of conflict or under conditions of political repression (populist governments and dictatorial military regimes, both from the right and the left), these intersections between politics and aesthetics are an attempt to evade and denounce oppression, state coups, civil rights violations, prohibitions of political activity, and cultural and social censorship. RCSur was born with the intention of contributing to the reactivation of former artistic and political micro-histories and assisting in the generation of new conditions for the discussion and preservation of these materials in their own contexts envisioning them as living antagonistic forces, capable of intervening in their local memories, their academic apparatuses, and present public debates.
They use their name, Red Conceptualismos del Sur, in a tactical sense. In recent years, terms like ‘conceptualism’ or ‘conceptual practices’ have been escorted in the historiographic, theoretical, and political de-hierarchisation and decentralisation of the canonical narrative of art history, understanding ‘conceptualisms’ not as a limited artistic movement but as a different way of practicing art and of conceiving its social function. Likewise, rather than claiming a unique geographical cultural identity, the term ‘Southern’ calls for furthering knowledge processes from subordinated places, bodies, and aesthetics—historically in unequal standing vis-à-vis a Western-Imperial worldview. Without plural cognitive equality, global social justice is impossible. As cultural mediators, they face the challenge of imagining and proposing more equitable forms of producing and sharing knowledge on a transnational level. In asking themselves about the situation of historically marginal archives and subaltern artistic heritages, they are also trying to figure out how to dismantle the self-affirming universalist epistemologies, which had constructed unequal dynamics of production and distribution of knowledge in the first place, by introducing other points of origin capable of enabling more democratic futures.
Key to their endeavour is their decision to remain independent. Their Network is an autonomous entity consisting of about 55 researchers, artists, curators, psychoanalysts, art historians, sociologists, and activists from Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and Spain collaborating with institutions from different areas. Being independent, they can define their own agenda of political action, regardless of the current demands of the academy or the market. The downside is that they have to spend so much time searching for funding for their initiatives. However, they have been able since 2008 to organise many editorial projects like Desbordes, exhibitions, research groups and public events.