El Convulsionado Presente | Johans Peñaloza: Curatorial Text | Carolina Hermosilla

16 March - 13 April 2022

There is an instability I perceive when I see how in society there is space and domination of disposable objects, of debris and cracks, of objects used to exert force or power, and of force exercised body to body.

Johans Peñaloza

The Convulsed Present



move change 

"the change, or transfer, of one element, or form of energy, into another".


In late 2019, a reorganisation of collectivities began to take shape as an uprising against the disproportionate exploitation of natural resources and the abuses exercised by governments in Chile and Latin America. After the repressive violence against citizens in the 18 October revolt, the image-denunciation became an alternative against the manipulation of information by the mass media, resulting in a role reversal that poses surveillance of the vigilant and oppressive police (Fontcuberta, 2016) as a resistance to the regimes of truth. 


Today, in the face of an impending global crisis, it would seem that the constant idealisation in which we place all trust in images as a testimony of truth and promise of eternity - conditions once whimsically granted - collapses and that the only eternal and truthful thing must be nothing more than the constant oscillations that sustain what we usually call "reality", an individual reality subjected to the variations of one's perception and unconsciousness. There is no certainty of what is real, yet we have been comforted by the resistance of the present - at least until now. There is no escape from the ineffable instability of images that, like Warburg's phalenas (Didi-Huberman, 2006), present themselves to us in such a way that their very being, namely that of being in 'movement', keeps them in the unknown. 


El Convulsionado Presente stands with complete lucidity in the face of this condition. Considering images as something voluble, and therefore modes of representation as transmutants, allows us to get a little closer to the "original essence" in them; in this case, the experience of the artist and his position regarding events, not as a mere matter of representation, but rather, of their operativity as a transference of energy, the transmutation of the event, the object and its matter. 


Not only does the object mutate, but also the idea it refers to, the symbol. Johans Peñaloza's paintings, made from photographs taken by the artist and others found on the web, testify to this transmutation inherited from violence, both as a tool of control and its counterpart, a weapon of subversion. In the legitimate act of protest, city furniture and debris are seized to assemble a barricade, wounded asphalt is taken away as ammunition for defence. Painting, as the chosen medium, transmutes the energy of the events Johans has witnessed, of which he portrays its incendiary and smouldering trace, revealing that lapse, that transitory and liminal moment of instability that must be crucial, since it is the instant in which the "one" becomes the "other", and the symbol emerges. Unaware but not indifferent, between the pixel's distance, the hyper-production of images and their bombardment by the media, the artist chooses those photographs that exhibit the severity of the technological machinery. The thick volume of the war tank is framed to the point where the opacity of the stain miniaturises its perception. 


The materiality of the objects is expropriated by the symbol. The beauty of the baroque ornamentation adorning the narco weaponry distracts us from its ferocity and demonstrates the covert way in which power operates justified by religiousness. Shouldn't the narco weapons, decorated with virgins and saints, be homologous to the blessed swords of the crusades? Religion has always been twinned to violence because violence is the foundation of power. 


The image of Santa Claus being dragged away by the police, or that of a ruined graveyard of computers, vestiges of a past future, is iconic. Everything is connected in a frenzied thread that is nothing but a trace, an image of humanity today: technology - violence - chaos - power. These images present themselves much like a texture of repetitive patterns in a painting and demonstrate the relentless maelstrom of capitalism even before it was coined as a concept (Donna Haraway in Meiresonne & Terranova, 2016). Despite all its gifts, technology is used as an instrument of power: to sustain it, incessant surveillance and control must be exercised. It is therefore necessary to update, one by one, the methods of applying violence, whether physical or immaterial, such as the digital, but no less concrete.


Decimated in their context, the artworks that comprise the exhibition, with all the ferocity and rawness of their production, should be a reflection on how to initiate strategies for emancipation from their numbness and control, evasive of any norm and administration of objectivity. Each one of them, an awakening in the face of the blinding luminosity of the screens, of those images servile to the market, inherent to this "convulsed present".


Carolina Hermosilla, artist.

March 2022.


Didi-Huberman, G. (2006). La Imagen Arde. Editions Cécile Defaut: Nantes.

Fontcuberta, J. (2016). La Furia de las Imágenes. Notas sobre la Postfotografía. Galaxia Gutenberg: Barcelona.

Meiresonne, E. (Producer), & Terranova, F. (Director). (2016). Donna Haraway: Story Telling for Earthly Survival [Documentary]. Belgium: Studio Graphoui.