Whats possible now?
Between the summer of 2020 and the fall of 2021, El Museo del Barrio is presenting ESTAMOS BIEN – LA TRIENAL 20/21, a large-scale nationwide survey exhibition of Latinx contemporary artists, both online and in its galleries. The physical show opened in March 2021 and, with the intention to expand its resonance and extend its scope, we invited art workers, cultural leaders, and creatives to participate in the Critics Page of the Brooklyn Rail’s June issue.
Through its selection of artists and artworks, ESTAMOS BIEN responds to a number of issues particular to the historical moment we are living in, specifically in light of the pandemic that not only imposed a global health emergency, but also made more explicit existing social inequities. In the same context, events such as the murder of George Floyd and the storming of the US Capitol once again exposed systemic racism and underlying white supremacy. This moment also brought winds of change, including growing discussions about the responsibilities of cultural institutions to represent our diverse society, as well as to advocate for social justice. With these ideas in mind, we invited contributors to respond to an open-ended, survey-like prompt responding to our present moment: What is possible now that wasn’t possible before?
Received submissions range from drawings to photographs, from poetry to short essays and slogans, that cover a vast array of issues—from public monuments to tokenization, models of cultural hybridity, digital access in the Zoom age, and nationwide conversations in the Latinx artistic field—as well as concrete transformations from police demilitarization and defunding to changes in women’s rights legislation.
Though keyed to our current moment, many of these conversations are not new, and in fact were critical issues at stake that influenced the conception and early years of El Museo del Barrio. Indeed, as indicated among some of the contributions, a keen and critical eye on our collective histories—both successes and failures—must necessarily inform aspirations for our shared futures. Time, as we learn in one of the following texts, is something different than a straight line.
As a group of voices, the contributions in the following pages suggest possibilities for progress in society—and the need to keep calling for it.
Susanna V. Temkin