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Open letter rejecting censorship of the Hysteriska / Historika exhibition (Nov. 29 - Dec.

13) by
Rossana Mercado Rojas on November 30.

This is a rejection letter of the censorship of the Hysteriska / Historika exhibition by the
Peruvian artist Rossana Mercado at the ABF-Stockholm, in the Swedish capital. We want to
express our solidarity with her and the curators of Galleri Majkens. On November 30, the artist
and curators were forced to dismantle the exhibition that included installations, video, textiles,
and paintings from the premises of the ABF.

In an exchange with the artist and curators, the administrators of ABF Stockholm denied that
their decision to take down the exhibition was related to its contents, arguing instead that the
reason was that the assembly conditions were not accomplished by the curators, as there were
many nails damaging the walls of the gallery. However, the actions taken upon the images of
the exhibition tells a different story. Both the artist and curators have noticed that drawings of
vulvas and ovaries included in the exhibition were censored by the administrators of the
premises, who crudely covered them with paper. This was not the first time that Galleri
Majkens -whose members include artists aligned politically with feminism- organized an
exhibition with ABF. For that reason, ABF is accustomed to hosting projects of this kind. As
usual, the Galleri Majkens curators were committed to the total restoration of the space, so
AFB’s reaction is unjustifiable.

In addition to being verbally aggressive during the conversation with the curators, and because
of the hurried nature in which the exhibition was taken down, this censorship is surprising given
that ABF is an Educational Association of Workers whose work focuses on adult workers, many
of whom are immigrants in Stockholm. How does then a progressive cooperative of this type
censure a Peruvian immigrant artist whose work demonstrates the violence of the sexist
system? Why was the punishment so exemplary if the venue in collaboration with Galleri
Majkens had already served as a space for other feminist exhibitions that had also used
women's bodies as vehicles for criticizing patriarchy?

From her activist and political feminism, starting from her Lima-based collective Hysterix,
Rossana Mercado’s work has made visible the historical and systematic violence against women
through the medical concept of hysteria and its proliferation in the Latin American, Peruvian
and global popular discourse. The work that Rossana gathered in the above-mentioned
exhibition included an artistic / conceptual fragment made out of her legal experience in
obtaining full custody of her son in Lima, and in continuing the process to bring him to Sweden.
In her piece entitled "Pater familias," the artist presented an intervention with different types
of documentation that involved legal representatives, and Peruvian and Swedish authorities,
and that linked to the case of the parental authority of her son and his immigration status. The
visual power of this archival work and the violence it represents, as well as other pieces in the
exhibition, are much more compelling than the censored materials.

It must be said that, as critics of Rossana's work, we believe that it was these and other factors
motivated the censorship of the exhibition. Although ABF insists on affirming its commitment to
the educational interests of working adults and immigrants, we believe that this discourse
found an insurmountable limit when ABF’s censorship of the work of a woman and artist,
mother and immigrant deeply critical of the values of the pater familias. For ABF, the exhibition
put in question the ideal model of the good immigrant worker, and that was ultimately the
reason why they decided to dismantle it.

It is important to mention that the exhibition was conceived as a collective production that not
only included other artists such as Paola Torres Núñez del Prado, Angélica Chávez Cáceres and
Ami Kohara, but also had the participation of the community on the day of the inauguration.
This exhibition was also marking an important moment for the feminist curators of Galleri
Majkens as they continue working for egalitarian values in the art world.

Claudia Arteaga Olórtegui / Scripps College


Olga Rodríguez-Ulloa / Lafayette College