States of the Arts II

2017 Roundup


States of the Arts articles feature four artworks that share an association with a single nation or territory. This roundup is a summary of the European, Oceanian, North American, and South American artworks featured in the States of the Arts column in 2017.

Europe (East & Southeast)

Vaçe Zela, widely considered to be one of Albania’s greatest singera, won top prize in the country’s Festival of Song with her accordion-driven track ‘The Boy and the Rain’, about a child’s journey to a day of factory work. In Joshua Marston’s film The Forgiveness of Blood, a young girl must earn money for her family after her father is accused of murder. In the meantime, her brother is confined to the house for fear of a retaliatory attack.

It seems that the protagonist of Cristi Puiu’s film Aurora, ‘quietly furious, equipped with a gun’, may also be looking for trouble, though his motive is ambiguous. The reason for the raging tone of Ana Blandiana’s poem ‘Everything’ is far clearer: the Ceausescu regime in Romania. The fantastical creature depicted in Maria Prymachenko’s painting May That Nuclear War Be Cursed! (Ukraine), with its missile-like eggs, is both the cause and the victim of suffering.

Europe (Central)

Though Jaroslav Hašek’s book The Good Soldier Švejk and Jiři Menzel’s film Closely Watched Trains – both set in the Czech Republic – take part during wartime, their protagonists are primarily concerned with avoiding duties or wooing women. The climactic pursuit of Kórnel Mundruczó’s film White God stands in contrast, with a pack of dogs snapping at the heels of a girl as she cycles through the streets of Budapest, Hungary.

Europe (South & the Mediterranean)

For Cyprus, Michael Cacoyannis’s film A Girl in Black tackles the issues of injustice and societal pressures in the seemingly idyllic setting of Hydra, a Greek island. Sevgül Uludağ’s work of non-fiction, Oysters with the Missing Pearls, draws from the oral histories of displaced Turkish and Greek Cypriots. Pedro Costa’s film Horse Money and Amália Rodrigues’s song ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’ both reflect on Portugal’s Carnation Revolution.


Our assorted selection of artworks from Australia includes Picnic at Hanging Rock, Peter Weir’s classic film about a group of schoolgirls who disappear in Victoria, and the music video for Sia’s early single ‘Buttons’, in which the singer is subjected to a series of facial contortions induced by clothes pegs and sticky tape. Across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand is Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures, about a pair of young women who bond over painting, writing, and matricide.

North America & Central America

In 2017, artist Tania Bruguera revealed her intention to run for President of Cuba, satirising the country’s one-party rule. Bruguera reached further back into Cuban history with The Burden of Guilt, which pays homage to those who resisted capture during the Spanish occupation by eating dirt until they died. Isabel de los Ángeles Ruano’s poem ‘The Closed Silence’ also laments a victim of political violence: murdered activist and former Miss Guatemala, Rogelia Cruz.

In her mixed media artwork Untitled (Souljah), Ebony G. Patterson (Jamaica) considers the act of skin decolouration, exploring its relationship with race and masculinity. A painting of a youth with a bleached white face is guarded by toy soldiers and surrounded by bright, floral wallpaper. In Daniela Rossell’s controversial photography series Ricas y Famosas, the women of Mexico’s wealthy elite are pictured against extravagant backdrops.

South America

In Sergio Cabrera’s film The Strategy of the Snail, a group of tenants in Colombia take drastic steps to avoid eviction. An interview frames the action, conducted by a news reporter played by national star Carlos Vives, whose song ‘La Gota Fría’ is also featured. The narrator of Alina Diaconú’s novel The Penultimate Journey, meanwhile, makes her own decision to leave home, travelling to the fictitious, ominously named town of San La Muerta in Argentina.

Among the works selected for Venezuela are Jesús Rafael Soto’s interactive installation Penetrable and Arca’s sputtering, synth-led track ‘Alive’. For Brazil, Lucia Koch’s sculpture Dupla deceives the viewer; Petra Costa’s film Elena trails the director as she searches for her long-lost sister; Paulo Lins’ novel City of God follows a series of characters from a favela in Rio de Janeiro; and Gilberto Gil’s song ‘Miserere Nobis’ laments the nation’s past ‘bread and circus’ politics.

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