José Alejandro Restrepo (b. 1959), a contemporary Colombian artist, is well-known for his work in video, which he uses to express his various artistic interests. He relies mainly on the images he captures, with or without the accompanying sound, to submit his “imposed narratives,” giving them different meanings in a constant attempt to divulge what has not been told while presenting alternative points of view on a particular subject. Restrepo’s theatrical background and medical knowledge are the source of his use of bodies in his work. Bodies are a constant in his art, used as a space for expression (wounds, scars, the physical and visible traces of violence) which is also an expression in and of itself.
Restrepo’s essay Cuerpo gramatical: cuerpo, arte y violencia [Grammatical Body: Body, Art, and Violence], published in 2006, is a montage in which words have pride of place. The artist/writer divides his material into chapters whose titles refer to body parts and organs: The Head, The Breasts, The Eyes, The Tongue, The Ears, The Limbs, The Testicles, The Fat, The Flesh, The Abdomen, and The Skin. Restrepo uses a fragmented body as the basis for discussing cultural, political, and artistic practices whose raw material has been the significance of the body and the various ways in which it can be presented, re-presented, or distorted.
A great deal of research has gone into this document, which testifies to the discipline of an artist who has studied history and theory as the basis of his creative works. Restrepo takes a more complex view of the story of what is known as “the Colombian Violence.” He portrays human beings as a violent species and shows how their violent nature has led them to act in ways that convert the body into a tool (of force and power) as well as the site of their acts of violence. Restrepo shows how the warring and religious traditions of mankind have impacted the significance of the human body, and how it “is and has been an image” used in the narrative of western history.
More information on José Alejandro Restrepo’s ideas can be found in the following documents: “Las huellas de la guerra” [Traces of the War] [see doc. no 1092308] in which the Colombian historian Gonzalo Sánchez (b. 1945) provides a critical review of the relationship between war, memory, and history; and “Anexo 1–entrevista con José Alejandro Restrepo” [Appendix 1–Interview with José Alejandro Restrepo] , based on the artist’s conversations with the Colombian art critic Natalia Gutiérrez.