Hew Locke at the XIII Biennial of Cuenca, Ecuador


Anglo-Guyanese artist Hew Locke is taking part in the XIII Bienal de Cuenca in Ecuador, which recently opened and includes, exhibitions in different parts of the city, lectures, and talks. The biennial runs from November 25, 2016, through February 5, 2017, organized around the theme of “Impermanencia” [Impermanence]. An installation of Locke’s piece “The Canal Interocéanique de Panama,” was shown here for the first time. His bill-board-sized print was applied directly to the side of a building at the junction of Vargas Machucha and Calle Larga in Cuenca. In the artist’s own words, this work is part of his on-going series “Share,” which explores the cycles and histories of international finance and trade; here, Locke draws and paints directly onto actual antique share certificates.


Description (by Hew Locke): The Canal Interocéanique de Panama was a French company that tried, and failed, to build a Panama Canal. The successful, American-backed canal was built by many people – including a large contingent from all across the West Indies. I’ve depicted some of these “silver dollar workers.” They were paid on the Silver Roll, which describes how they were paid in silver dollars, like other black and local workers. White American workers were paid in gold dollars. The circular stamps are based on an old Panamanian silver dollar, which used to feature the head of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the Spanish Conquistador, explorer, and first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the New World.

Other nations and private consortiums continue to propose other canals – such as the 2013 announcement of a $40 billion plan by Chinese telecoms businessman Wang Jing that he intends to build a canal through Nicaragua, or El Salvador and Honduras’ plans for a “dry” canal connecting El Salvador’s recently constructed La Union port with Honduras’ Atlantic coast via a railroad and highway.

For more information, see http://www.bienaldecuenca.org/site/index

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