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30 December 2016
Transmitter and Receiver

Jorge De León

This investigation began with the aim to review colour in the media in Guatemala over the last 36 years, concentrating on the period from 1980 to 2016. During this time we managed to integrate the most violent years of the internal armed conflict, which lasted for 36 years, with the post-war years. The Peace Agreements were signed in 1996, fulfilling this December 20 years that we live in “times of peace”. However, in 2016 we continue to inhabit one of the countries with the highest indexes of violence, inequality, and poverty on a world level.

In the process of looking at how images and colour have changed in the written and audio-visual media, rather than the essence of the news and messages. Through observation and a timeline, we were able to evidence that the process is two fold, the most basic form of communication, that is to say, the transmitter and the receiver.

Each one of them wouldn’t exist without the other, one chooses which message is to be received and the other decides what to transmit and how. The receiver expects entertainment, awaits drama, drawn to tragedy and violence, not unlike a contemporary piece of Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, or Cervantes.

Each one of the protagonists becomes (for momentarily) a new Zipacna, Achilles, Batman or very brave Valkyrie. The news turns run of the mill citizens into heroes or villains that the public takes charge to condemn or exalt. The stories of vulgar delinquents, corrupt politicians, cheap show business scandals, footballers as new gladiators, in short, any banality can become a cult object and a major piece of news can become a footnote, simply because nobody is interested, because it is not consumed.

The latter leads us to the transmitter, who decides what messages are spread and how. Who dictates the thought of a group of people, such is the case of the Prensa Libre that in the eighties qualified the government massacres as something against the guerrillas who they labelled as terrorists (not unlike the Americans label anybody who is not in agreement with them). Now, they cover the notes of the poor victims of the internal armed conflict. Why are we interested in consuming these shot, mutilated or abused bodies? Why is it that the more tragic the story, the more likely it will appear on the front page? Is it a question of savagery? Why did the media decide to name “Black Thursday” the disturbances caused by Ríos Montt in 2003, when seeking his candidacy?

During the repression of the Armed Interior Conflict (1960-1996) red was considered a bad word, as it was connected, the world over, with left wing movements and communism. A story is even known of a raid when the army confiscated a book with the tale of Little Red Riding-Hood. In 1994 pink plastic bars appeared on trees and cars, due to the violent death of Karin Fleischman, in 1996 they were seen again in a show of solidarity due to the assassination of Beverly Sandoval. Later in 2010, they reappeared due to the disappearance of Cristina Siekavizza, whose body to this day has still not been found. In 2003 the same bars, this time in black, were shown in protest against the nomination to the presidency of the ex-military chief José Efraín Ríos Montt, put on trial for genocide in 2014. His nomination in 2003 caused a series of riots (where a journalist died and it was evident it wasn’t a social mobilization so much as police manipulation) which the media called “Black Thursday”. In 2015, they wanted to name the mass demonstrations the “Revolution of colours” alluding to a pacific, joyful, young, and diverse movement, nevertheless, there were no fundamental changes.

The new cave of Plato is not with fire and opaque figures on the back of the cave wall, now it is multimedia but the effect remains the same. We have noticed that colour has an inherent similarity with language but we have to propose our ideas through this space of Guatemala, of Central America, given that the only theories that have been applied to art and design tend to be Western.

We Latin American countries insert into the Western countries by way of a distant topography, the theories of colour and form are imported from the West. We have never been taken into account, for example in the pre-Hispanic cultures of Central America the word for the colour blue didn’t exist as it was considered a tone of green, which can be evidenced through the language. For them the sky was green, a continuation of the vegetation perhaps?

We believe that colour has not been explored in depth through this space and that the colours assigned were erroneous. The colours aren’t applicable to us. Perhaps in the use of colour lies the answer to why we are interested in consuming so many carved up bodies.

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Visual artist born 1976 in the city of Guatemala. He gravitates around local society, moving through distinct spheres to investigate subjects that interest him, and afterwards creates his work.


30 December 2016

Transmitter and Receiver

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"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)