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1984: Space Time-Capsule by Beatriz Cortez

Before I discuss the Space-Time Capsule, I’ll provide the necessary context to understand the Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum, which features artwork from the 1980s activist campaign for artists to protest US intervention in Central America.

In the 1980s, President Regan’s interventions in Central America operated under the guise of a policy to “combat the global spread of communism” in Central America. While left-wing Communist leaders gained the support of Central Americans, the US backed anti- Communist insurgencies and right-wing leaders who induced violence and ruled by oppression. Artists Call encompassed artworks and events such as exhibitions, poetry readings, film screenings, and concerts as a political statement against US intervention to support self-determination and culture within Central America.

The Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum shows photographs, sculptures, collages, short films, and paintings. These works are difficult to view as there are images of armed soldiers, dead bodies, and mutilated women to evokes pain and sorrow and a sense of urgency. However, one piece within this exhibit serves as a refuge from the violent narratives: Beatriz Cortez’s 1984: Space-Time Capsule.

Beatriz Cortez was a thirteen-year-old El Salvadorean “artist in the making” during Artists Call in 1984, and her Space-Time Capsule was later commissioned for the DePaul exhibit. The Space-Time Capsule is a steel igloo shaped dome with mostly black and occasional eye-catching yellow feathers on its exterior. The capsule feels like a protective cocoon, a symbol of protection for the Central Americans caught in the violence of the 1980s, and the feathers are symbols of protection provided by the natural world. On the inside hanging from string and safety pins are archival documents, newspapers, and photographs to preserve and continue the histories of the Central Americans immigrants as their personal archives were not well maintained. Almost looking out-of-this-world or from a different futuristic time, the Space-Time Capsule’s enveloping structure acts like a shelter for untold histories.


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