Camilo Restrepo

In the South American Art Hall


On the custom of being dead in Medellín

Laura Camila Arévalo Domínguez / @lauracamilaad

The exhibition “Alias”, which can be visited until January 15, is the result of the experiences that Camilo Restrepo had with the violence unleashed by the war between the State and drug trafficking in Medellín.

Pieces of the “Bowling for Medellín” series, inspired by the memories of the artist Camilo Restrepo, who suffered the most violent times of drug trafficking in the city. / Photos: courtesy Camilo Restrepo and Steve Turnes, Los Angeles

Pieces of the “Bowling for Medellín” series, inspired by the memories of the artist Camilo Restrepo, who suffered the most violent times of drug trafficking in the city. Courtesy Camilo Restrepo and Steve Turner, Los Angeles

“When I was twelve, I had to see, for the first time, how they killed a person. He went to the front of my house. Two guys mounted on an orange Monza fired at a gangster, who was called Beto Cano. After the crossing of shots the guy was lying on the ground and that, from one moment to another, began to fill up with gangsters who left very fast, because there was a rumor that they would arrive for them. When the police approached my parents and us to testify about what we had seen, my parents told them that we had not seen anything. There I learned that, in the face of such events, one had to remain silent, ”recalled Camilo Restrepo, who could be Andrés Arango or Juliana Saldarriaga. It could be the memory of any resident of Medellin at the time he was leaving,

Camilo Restrepo was born in Medellín in 1973. Alias , his exhibition, is open to the public in the art room of Suramericana, also in Medellín. There we met on Thursday, October 17, for which I thought it was going to be an interview of about an hour or a little more. It was agreed that we would meet there to talk about his work, that after half an hour of talk, I understood that he not only condensed his experience with the Medellin decades mired in violence, but also with mine and with each one of those who remember a scene, comment, news or outburst that makes them return to the “blood streams” that spilled in the city.

AliasIt is a hybrid of works that dialogue. They were not made at the same time or with the same objective, but the motivations are similar: to materialize the mental scratches that make noise, that do not stop thinking, that press. The first piece we talked about was Bowling for Medellín: “It relates to the most violent years of drug trafficking by exploring the psychological implications of growing up in the midst of chaos. His images include personal experiences and national historical events, and the handwritten texts that are on their surface are descriptions of tragic events witnessed or lived closely, ”he says in the description. I asked him what were those events he witnessed. He, who was explaining to me some parts of all that disorder of drawn tragedies, stopped talking, kept thinking, looked at me and said:

He postponed the answer to my question because he didn’t want to leave half of what he was already saying, and that gesture was much more telling than his explanation: that picture is the chaos of the Medellin of those times and what was his head. That piece, full of memories that he represented with images that he was looking for on the internet, and that he also related to American icons, was a complete endless number of characters, events, blood, news and broken glass. He didn’t want to interrupt the explanation he had in his head because, surely, when he turned it and talked to me about what I asked him, he could no longer return to the exact part he had focused on.

For example, when he was twelve they killed the gangster Beto , then he drew the scene with the same orange Monza who came with two hitmen to kill Beto, the character of Sesame Street . Everything happens around a blond Pablo Escobar wearing a white t-shirt full of logos: Netflix, Caracol, ESPN, HBO, History Channel, RCN, Editorial Planeta and Penguin Random House. All the programmers, producers and publishers who have contributed to the construction of Escobar’s identity stand out in that shirt, which also differs from the rest of the piece because it does not have all the spaces occupied: Escobar’s identity will continue to be rebuilt and this work is one of those contributions to what it was and what it represents.

Bowling for Medellín was designed from the drawings that Restrepo began to make on a sheet, which he then continued with another one that stuck with tape and then stuck to another until it became a 335 x 178 cm frame. At the end, 500 meters of tape were necessary to repair the drawing that was left with the traces of the place where he grew up and had to witness those deaths that he could not comment for a long time. The damages in the piece were calculated: “The drawing, when it is damaged, is left with a different texture,” says Restrepo, who baptized this work thinking of Aquariums, the bowling alley in Medellín, at the end of the 80s, is They began mixing hitmen and gangsters with the youth of the city.

The drawings are connected with veins that go to the back. They all end up in a “doll” or a human figure that could be anyone. As if all that stands out on the surface was the result of the chaos inside that someone who understands and interprets differently from others.

The space in this form would not be enough for everything that could be said about Restrepo’s work. We could occupy each of the pages of this newspaper to talk only about Bowling for Medellín , which, by the way, recalls the old slogan of the Mayor’s Office of the time: “I want to Medellin”, and that, in addition, is written on a urinated grave for a dog In Alias there are more works that focus on the dire consequences of the fight against drugs in the country. One of the predictable conclusions is that: Restrepo wanted to criticize the inefficient strategies that the State has used, with the help of the United States, to overcome drug trafficking. To also end what, according to him, will never cease to exist: drugs and their addiction to them.