To be an unconstrained body - 2020
¿What does a woman expect from men? [...] She wants to see a mixture of strength and caring in men; she wants to be caressed by a hand that could destroy her. That is how she feels protected, that is how she feels needed, fragile, vulnerable, woman. [...] A woman loves the contrast between her own delicate skin and his rough and hairy one. She wants to be able to fear him. [...] A woman likes to feel that she has someone to obey, to hold on to; she likes the feeling of ” belonging”. A woman likes to feel that she has an owner 1.

To understand the essence of a Teresa Carvallo production is to understand taking a critical look at the rigid system of values built by the social order of middle and upper classes of Lima at the end of the sixties. A set of traditional social norms that established the family as the essential heart of society and women devoted to it in accordance with their “natural mission” as mothers and wives. This archetype of a decent “woman”, underpinned by a strict code of sexual behavior defined by her reproductive role and extolling chastity as an essential value was destabilized by an emerging change in the attitudes of young people in the seventies.

Teresa Carvallo belongs to this generation. Her work is structured around a critical concept that is one of the main pillars of feminism: the experience. To Be an Unconstrained Body 2 from an individual reflection and through the construction of a set of scenes of allegorical nature which emphasize that “the private” develops into that of the public, proposing a new reading of the logic, agenda and reasoning that make up the ideals of femininity. The work, strongly transgressive at times, reflects on other interpretations that move between vulnerability and empowerment — matters related to family, pleasure, motherhood, domestic chores or power dynamics to which women are exposed at a public level.

Carvallo appeals to humor and irony as critical instruments to take apart the normalizing speeches and traditional representations that link “feminine” to what is weak, virtuous or an asexual motherhood. Specifically, with those traditional archetypes that the artist resets through creative provocative rituals that break codes and desacralize and reveal the unclear limits of our own cultural construction.

Christian Bernuy

1 Excerpt of the leaflet Acción Católica Peruana taken from the book Cinturón de castidad of Maruja Barrig.
2 The title of the exhibition takes the concept developed by Dianna Niebylski as reference and refers to the incontinent feminine body “as a body that cannot be contained by the rules of etiquette or good manners”.
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