La Puerta is an architectural threshold centered around a highly decorated proscenium arch, a reference to the archways of Spanish colonial architecture that commonly appear in Latin American patios and buildings. A doorway always communicates two sides of a divided space, split by a wall. In Calero’s project, one side is black and white; on the other, across the threshold, patterns, surfaces and floral shapes burst into color. An exposed substratum of the wall reveals the layered complexity of the relationship between these two sides. Calero uses this binary structure in reference to the underlying duality inherent in processes of translation – from black-and-white to color, from a model to a reproduction, from the original to the copy, from the self to the other, and from empire to colony.
Translation occurs on a biological and environmental level, with the introduction of new diseases, animals and technologies, which change modes of production, agricultural systems, diets, and plants that alter the native landscape. Translation also happens by classifying and organizing a society’s hierarchies and power structures, while exporting its economies and altering racial and class definitions. Not only does the colony forcefully become a recreation of the culture that is imposed upon it, but its subjects and its elements need to be translated into understandable terms; made equivalent with a familiar language and the paradigm that it encapsulates. As a result, exoticism appears as the diluted form of translating Otherness, which survives and thrives in contemporary Western imagery of the non-Western world.
Looking at these processes of synthesizing cultures, painting and writing stand out as key elements to conversion in colonial strategies. With this project, Calero reflects on the way a new historical canon was created in the Americas, as religiously indoctrinated indigenous painters reimagined European paintings known only through black and white reproductions. The method of including native elements and changing the narratives created a careful balance that allowed for successful appropriation, revisiting and explaining an existing world from the colonial perspective. Calero turns her gaze back to the foundational moments that inform the diversity and mixture of influences that make up Latin American cultures and their self definition.
In Calero’s La Puerta, one single arch opens up a wall that stretches out with patterned and floral decorations, hand-painted and imitating precious materials like marble and gold, as they do in the Andean Baroque churches. La Puerta is not only a reference to perhaps the longest standing evidence of colonialism in the architectural landscape of the Americas, but also relates to the contemporary movement of passage: traveling in the form of expectation and projection, and encountering a constructed world prepared for the necessities of global citizens. Manifesting the gaze of those who hold the privilege of free mobility, for whom there’s always a dignified entryway, this everpolarizing balance appears as the foundation of planetary distribution today, but it is hidden under layers of appeasing perceptions of exotic places. In the game of appearances, tropicalia is now the disguise under which conversion can travel back to the world stage.