States of the Arts


Reclining Woman

by Fernando Botero

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To make a bronze sculpture of a reclining woman is, it may be understood, to allude to historical nudes in the same medium. Yet Fernando Botero’s creation casts the genre anew. The work looms large, consciously distancing itself from precedents. Its figure is a hyperbolic mass of flesh, rippling and bulbous. The lower part of one leg juts out awkwardly, unable to rest upon the other. The soft, cushioned body represented is at odds with the cold, hard metal before us. Our gaze is dominated in defiance, narrow beauty standards proudly swept aside.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

The Strategy of the Snail

directed by Sergio Cabrera
Feature film

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A landlord reveals new property plans, leaving his tenants to face the threat of eviction. Incensed, they hire a trainee lawyer and, inspired by the shelled gastropod that gives the film its title, hatch a plan. The narrative may carry the weight of corruption and economic hardship, but these sobering themes sit within a light-hearted narrative. Biblical allegory is infused with comedy. An interview frames the action, conducted by a news reporter after the events have taken place. Tension escalates with each journalistic punctuation, as we become privy to the conspirators’ motives.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

I’m Afraid

by María Mercedes Carranza

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‘Look at me: fear inhabits me.’ Rejecting pretence, María Mercedes Carranza describes the oppressive power of her psychological captor. The emotion is familiar to all, but its subtle mechanics can evade us. Eyes may be serene, but a veneer of composure can cover darkness beneath. The poem’s narrator confronts the beast, ‘spears’ and ‘shields’ at the ready, only for terror to return with something as seemingly menial as ‘a stain on the tablecloth’. She considers fear an unbeatable foe before which all else vanishes, a black hole into which even the most determined may be drawn.

Words by Hugh Maloney

La Gota Fría

by Carlos Vives

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‘La Gota Fría’ belongs to the vallenato genre, a style of Colombian folk music distinguished by its four types of rhythmic patterns and its distinct instrumentation, in which the percussive caja vallenata and guacharaca are combined with the accordion. Penned by Emiliano Zuleta, the song is a popular standard, detailing a duel between two rival accordionists. Vives’ version features an ensemble of supporting singers, with whom he enters into a raging dialogue. In his pulsating take on the piece, bellows open and close swiftly, as lyrics and virtuosic melodies fly by.

Words by Hugh Maloney

More to discover

Reclining Woman: You can view images of Fernando Botero's artworks here and here. Helen Armitage has written about the artist for The Culture Trip, as have David Drake for The Huffington Post, and Lee Jian Xuan for The Straits Times.

The Strategy of the Snail: You can watch the film here. (Note: click 'CC' to see English subtitles.) Isidro Estrada has interviewed Sergio Cabrera, the film's director, for The Havana Times, as has Xu Wei for Shanghai International Studies University.

I'm Afraid: You can read the poem here, translated by Rebecca & Juan Carlos Galeano, and two further poems by María Mercedes Carranza on the BOMB Magazine website, translated by Jaime Manrique & David Cameron. Melibea Garavito has written a brief biography of the poet for Poetry International.

La Gota Fría: You can listen to the song here, read a history of the song on the Golden Colombia website, and visit Carlos Vives' official website here.

Question of the day

Which Colombian artworks would you recommend, and why?
Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Any of Doris Salcedo’s visual art. I admire its brutality, beauty, and simplicity. (→)

– Julianne Pachico, short story writer and author of The Lucky Ones (via The Brief →)

'The Wait' by Juan Carlos Galeano. A poem that riffs on anthropomorphising the sunrise, only to reach a more human conclusion. (→)

– Lewis Coenen-Rowe, Silent Frame Sub-Editor (via Patreon →)

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