River by Assault in the XII Shanghai Biennial


By Carlos Jiménez, Art Critic.

Artists fly higher and farther than our politicians and businessmen, who are given to well-trodden roads and tried-and-true formulas, tend to do. And this week has come to prove this correct with the opening of the XII edition of the international art biennial of Shanghai, a mega art exhibition that brings together works by a hundred artists from around the world, among which Clemencia Echeverri’s River by Assault stands out. A stunning floor-to-ceiling video installation from that comprises six screens, it responds to this great artist’s lasting concern for the fate of Colombia’s rivers. The rivers that she incorporates into her work evoke the horrors of the nameless war endured for so many years – one that still delivers mortal blows. Rivers are as dumps for the cadavers thrown into the waters by murderers in search of impunity. Rivers that have drowned out the cries of survivors with their roar. Rivers are as powerful as storms or earthquakes. Rivers like the Cauca River, which she evokes with force in this moving sequence of images. As is well known, ten years ago in Ituango the decision was taken to build a hydroelectric power plant, part of which would be the dam that would give rise to an artificial lake seven kilometers in length and containing millions of hectoliters of water beneath which villages, crops, and forests would be buried. Inhabitants of the area opposed, as did environmentalists, convinced that the problems caused by these megaprojects far outweigh the benefits expected of them. There are other alternatives, they claimed. Megalomania, however, has a high price to pay, and a few months ago part of the construction yielded to the pressure of the waters and collapsed. The predictions of a catastrophe were fulfilled. The project is currently in a state of uncertainty and from this impasse, Clemencia Echeverri has composed a work that comprises a syncopated chronicle of the Cauca River: of its meek emergence from the bowels of the Earth, of the increasingly impetuous growth of its flow, of its capture, of the fury with which it broke free from its prison, of the death and destruction that it brought in its path, and of its final burial in the sea. This chronicle is also a madrigal, a lied, a song, a hymn, a requiem, and an elegy and, of course, a sober lament for nature under attack and a shout of protest against those who so irresponsibly attack her.

River by Assault, Liminal retrospective/Clemencia Echeverri, 
Miguel Urrutia Art Museum (MAMU), Bogotá. 

María Belén Saez de Ibarra

River by Assault works on the idea that waters have a body, a soul, and a voice, Gaston Bachelard argues in Water and Dreams, “Possibly more than any other element, water is the complete poetic reality” through which we enjoy, among other things, “an intimate taste of our destiny”. The artist traveled through the territory to enter the life of the Cauca and Magdalena rivers, which, being especially powerful, are being assaulted by logging and magnificent engineering works for the very ambitious dams that are causing a great environmental crisis there. The river defends itself, attacks, express itself, hides overcomes itself. Can we kill him at last?

XII Shanghai Biennial
10 - 2018 / 03 - 2019

Chief Curator: 
Cuauhtémoc Medina
María Belen Sáenz de Ibarra
Yukie Kamiya
Wang Weiwei

The 12th Shanghai Biennial Opens

(9 November 2018, Shanghai, China) Power Station of Art (PSA) is proud to announce the grand opening of “Proregress: the 12th Shanghai Biennale” on November 9th, 2018. In the meantime, Shanghai Biennale’s signature City Projects will take place in featured public spaces around the city. The 12th edition of the Shanghai Biennale is organized by Chief Curator, Mexican historian and critic Cuauhtémoc Medina, collaborating with co-curators María Belén Sáez de Ibarra from Columbia, Yukie Kamiya from Japan, and Wang Weiwei from China.

The curatorial team believes, “This biennale is devoted to exploring the way contemporary artists discuss and evoke the ambivalent nature of our time. The projects and works this exhibition presents attest to the deep involvement of artists around the world in critically researching the present and the past, in terms of the production of forms of aesthetic knowledge and questioning of the role of culture.” The 12th Shanghai Biennale presents works by 67 artists and artist groups from 26 countries, including 20 from China, 31 from Asia, and this is also the first time works by Latin American artists will be shown on a large scale in the history of Shanghai Biennale.

Press release:  


—Liminal Retrospective, Miguel Urrutia Art Museum, Bogotá. 2019.

—XII Shanghai Biennial. Shanghai, China. November. Curators: Cuauhtémoc Medina and María Belén Sáez de Ibarra.

ANHIDRYTHE. Biennale of Media Art. Barbarossa Cave, Germany. 2019. 

Academic Article

Crew production

Location: Cauca river and Magdalena river, Colombia
Direction: Clemencia Echeverri
Camera: Camilo Echeverri
Edition: Bárbara Santos
Edition asistent: Juan Cuadros
Edition and sound design: Juan Forero. 

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