T O T A L A R T W O R K
Not Visible at First Glance
The Way It Comes out as It Happens (*)
A dismissable map of myself
“My dear Mister Miyagui: I think It is time and It is convenient that you dedicate attention to develop your cultural, neighborhood, iconographic, political genesis, develop your needs and urgencies, your disappointments and fractures, come on, open yourself freely and prolifically up to one own gaze, remember it is the only way you will be able to induce other young people not to get lost along with the indifference aimed to solipsistic and onanistic way to think that there is no solution, that incomprehension is a natural state of being Peruvian, that apathy replaces emotion, that defeat uses various subterfuges in order to nest on the drink, in the joint, alibis for doing nothing, to cry over battles that were never fought, pointlessly fuck up one´s afternoon lying down watching the ceiling. If Michifuz (*In this case this word is used colloquially in order to make references to Miyagui´s ideas and artwork. Term used to refer affectionately to little cats, its variant “michi” is also used when referring to intensity) thinking generates empathy it is because of the brightness of the streets frozen on its canvases, in the imposed sweat as it gets started, matured, fixed, fucked up, to fail and get on your feet, to erase and start over again, so do not get daunted and break through your own shy shame, paintings are not painted by themselves as changes are not made without getting started. Hatari LLacta.(*”Get up working-class” in quechua) ” César Ramos 2005
To draw a map of life consists of placing in a drawing, things, ideas, people and important moments that, in a certain way, have shaped one into being what one is now. After several postponements I tried to draw my map of life to help myself bring some order to mixed experiences and introduce the spectator into a better approach to my work and its processes. I wish I had made a little drawing instead, but I chose to make a textual translation, to see how it turns out. As when you paint, the difficult part is to get started.
1.- Smells like Teen Spirit
When I as 12 or 13 years old I was fond of reading and also of drawing cartoon strips, I used to invent characters, comic strips, histories in chapters, etc. In order to improve my work, I asked my father to get registered for the Little Artists Workshop at the Lima Art Museum. I had two teachers of the National School of Fine Arts: Juan Valdivieso and Teodoro Ayala, whom I remember with special affection and appreciation. There I was introduced to oil painting. By that time I also checked a book about Van Gogh at home, which shocked me, above all to read what Vincent had written to his brother: “If you hear a voice within yourself say: you are not a painter, then by all means paint, boy, and that voice will be silenced”. I felt I was not much talented for drawing and painting, so that phrase turned out to be pertinent and motivating.
Faithful to the slogan and increasingly determined to become a painter and not a strip cartoonist, I was instructed by Juan Villacorta Paredes, author of many books of artistic education for high school students, whose workshop (studio) was a block away from my house in Callao. After school I spent every afternoon there, it was a beautiful and welcoming place.
I got trained for entering the National School of Fine Arts since all the teachers I had up then had studied there. I finished up entering the Arts Faculty at the PUCP (1995-2000) in spite of my prejudices because the exam was taken some weeks before the one at School of Fine Arts, I applied just to try, planning on doing so at the School, but I was accepted and finally remained there.
At the end, I do not think it is important where we study but things that make us feel moved, it was a good experience spending these years of fujimorist dictatorship at the university because the student movement was more active than in the School. In spite of the fact that the Arts Faculty was an isolated bubble at the university campus, I could join some organizing and activist spaces against the regime.
During those years I had a systemic notion that art and political action were different things unrelated to each other, which meant that on one hand, I was going to paint personal intimate issues of stylistic exploration, and on the other hand, I was going to get involved in militant and activist activities. However by experiencing things, those limits started to vanish. It was no longer possible to make a clear difference between those spheres of life, and the slogan of my first one-man show “Art=Life, Life=Politics, Politics=Ethics” made a first reference to that long process.
I remember that in the mid-nineties there was a great deal of talk about the so-called “Generation X” and “postmodernism” reinforcing the hegemony of the apolitical pragmatism, frivolous fun and personal success as horizons of senses. In this context (1998), while I was a fourth-year university student, and thanks to professor Maria Burela, I was lucky to join Aguaitones Collective, where I learned what it was to work collectively and intervene public spaces.
We painted the 50th Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration Mural at the Bajada Balta, the actions of protest against its censorship in 1999, the Democracy Bus ( and other actions carried out against the dictatorship. These kind of experiences and other activities with Amauta Collective at the Universidad Nacional Mayor of San Marcos, made me think that art should be a lot more than the world of galleries and appearances in social pages as political activity should be a lot more than elections.
During the last year of high school I had decided that I was going to study Painting, I also started to build a leftist subjectivity within myself. I do not know how It took place since no one in my family had a militancy history. I think that my catholic education had an influence (though I am no longer a believer), as well as some friends at the time, Ricardo Chirinos and Teo Wendel with whom we shared music, books, concerts, the first exploration of Quilca Avenue, the first street wall paintings, a trip to Cuba, etc….Also my beloved teacher Víctor Hugo Velásquez had to do with this, something I remember when I was a little kid: once I went with my father to one of those houses where he worked installing dance platforms for parties in exclusive districts of Lima, I was over impressed because I was never able to imagine that there could exist people in Lima living under those conditions of luxury. Outraged, I thought that the dog of that house had better food than my friend Chocotón, a friend with whom I played with my little toy cars moving them all along the wall of the esplanade of Marbella. Once I made a comment about his poverty and he told me that he was not poor, because he had two eyes, two hands, two legs, one heart and that was worth a lot.
3.- Against all
Another anecdote I remember when I was a kid is that I got lost exploring a mountain. In order to reach de road that I could see below I closed my eyes and I threw myself down the hill full of bush and stones. I reached the road, I had scratches and little wounds all over my arms and legs…..Now I think that I have repeated the same attitude many times in my life, for good or bad….but I continue with the map:
Graduating in the Arts Faculty was something like coming out of the shell without being prepared. I was not able to get a job and when I realized the logic of the work of the galleries, I lost interest in them. I started to work for an NGO as assistant of a Project with young gangs in Collique. I thought I was not going back to paint but in 2001 I had the opportunity to represent Peru in a workshop-exhibition of Iberoamerican Painting in Madrid. I came back to Lima eager to work, I got a job as an art teacher for children and I had my first one-man show in the summer of 2002 at the Cultural Center El Averno: Art=Life, Life=Politics, Politics=Ethics, Mr. Miyagui counter-attacks from El Averno ( This happened though it was not in my plans: I took charge of direction of the Art and Epoque section of Unay Runay magazine, for a number I interviewed Herbert Rodriguez, artist and director of the Cultural Center El Averno. Herbert invited me to have an exhibition down there. “If I am not going to paint anymore, at least I am going to exhibit all my paintings in a first and last one-man show” I guessed.
It was surprising that the exhibition drew attention of various sectors, of the media; little by little official as well as alternative spaces started to open for me, in order to exhibit my artwork. During that year I organized my second one-man show at the Pancho Fierro Municipal Gallery entitled: Counter-Power, spaces of resistance. It was a cool experience since I had a kiosk where I sold products from “Desahueving Art Productions” (colloquially it refers to a state of mind, it could be translated as “awakening”, “be alert”, using the figure of the testicles) and talked to people, that brought a lot of ideas, sensibilities and diverse opinions about what was being exhibited in the gallery.
Later cases of censorship came up. As a finalist of Telefonica Visual Arts Contest I had the right, according to the contest rules, to exhibit a series of works at the institutional headquarters of Telefonica. There had already been manifestation of workers massive layoffs, so I contacted the workers union and in a painting exposed documents with their claims and complaints, in another picture I painted the Cardinal of the Catholic Church Juan Luis Cipriani crossed out by a Picachu. I was dis-qualified and the news was covered by political TV programs at the moment, so I was accused of being “figuretti” (*someone that wants to call attention at the public sphere) on one hand, and extremist on the other hand. (
Similar reactions were repeated shortly after, when the Peruvian-Japanese Cultural Center banned the piece “Kimono, to not forget” to get exhibited in “Ways to dress up a Kimono”. Since most of the public attending that gallery was basically a collectivity of japanese-descendants in Peru, my Kimono revealed the silent complicity of the Nikkei institutionality with the crimes of the fujimorist dictatorship. The censorship from the direction of the Cultural Center took place in spite of the fact that the curator of the exhibition was willing to exhibit the piece. “Kimono, to not forget” was banned back again in an exhibition some years later in the Cultural Center Cafae-Se. (
As some spaces are closed since my artwork turns out to be uncomfortable to them, other spaces start to open. I was lucky to get invited to different activities and get to know a lot of worthy people during that journey, it is impossible to name each one of them. I started out to participate and exhibit in different alternative festivals, universities, high-schools, events of memory and human rights, etc. The First Festival Art Without Enchainings, the Forum of Culture of Solidarity, the muralist actions, activities of El Averno Cultural Center, the Itinerant Museum of Art for Memory, are some experiences that I think are important to mention.
4.- Motor and Motive (*cumbia popular song )
“Live life and do not let life live on you” Susy Díaz
Something beautiful that has been taking place during the last years is that I was able to travel both inside the country and abroad, participate and exhibit in different artistic and academic spaces, official and alternative. Really beautiful experiences with people in Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Tambogrande, Huaraz, Chiclayo, Arequipa, Cusco, Trujillo, taking part of the dynamics of the Social Forums (Social Forum of the Americas in Quito, World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, World Social Forum in Caracas), giving workshops at the Peace Boat ( being an invited professor of the program “Arts of Politics: the Cultural Politics of Contemporary Peru” of the University of Washington, and in many other experiences, always looking forward to building spaces collectively for reflection and critic dialog starting out by what we do.
For instance, with the Itinerant Art Museum for the Memory ( we have travelled along most places in Peru, showing different artistic proposals that deal with political violence and human rights related themes in our country. While staying in Huancavelica most women approached us and asked why among the photos of the deads and disappeared ones did not appear the ones of their sons or husbands….I had to explain to one of them that it was impossible to place a picture of each one of the victims murdered or disappeared during 20 years of armed conflict, but if she had made a criminal complaint, the name of her son was included in the registrations, to which she answered: “No young man, how can we make a complaint if we are poor”.
With the Muralist Brigade () we have painted nearly 70 murals in different parts of the country and with different collectivities, most of them groups of young people. The Forum of Culture of Solidarity of Villa El Salvador ( is a space of formation, a crossroads for dialog of the ones that make efforts in order to build a different culture based on solidarity, justice and equality. The Cultural Center El Averno after 13 years of existence is still an example of self-organized work, sustainable for the development of the community and promotion of cultural diversity.
Well, that is the point. There are always moments when we lose sense of things, but I often feel-think that there is not a more beautiful way of living than to live fighting for what you believe, together with the ones you love. It is all about betting on something and finding beauty in that betting. It has nothing to do with an epic nor heroic deed, but with vital processes full of contradictions: joy and sadness, hope and despair, victories and defeats, virtues and meanness, love and lack of affection. I hope that these paragraphs make it easy for the spectator approach my artwork and everything that is behind. I hope you like my paintings, they are made with affection . Byeeeeeee.
May of 2005- last review march 2012
(*) translated by javi Vargas
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