Jenny Marketou

GRE (1954). Lives and works in New York.


Flows, 2014
Produced for the biennial

Flows exhibits the artist’s fascination with cumbia’s traditional sounds and with how these are integrated into the cultural history and collective memory of the Colombian people. This musical genre was traditionally the slave’s courting ritual, a dance of seduction. The music’s rhythms and melodies are vehicles for nonverbal communication between men and women. Up until the mid-twentieth century, cumbia was marginalized as inappropriate, limited to the least favored social classes. Marketou seeks the echoes of cumbia in the city of Cartagena and its Rosario Islands, interviewing and recording retired singers and dancers that were popular in their glory days. They sing the songs before the camera, from memory, in an empty, stage-less setting, attempting a chronological order.

All this material is blended together in the video in order to investigate the history of cumbia through memories—including the physical memory stored in the performers’ bodies. As the songs and performances go by, the limitations of the body are highlighted as we see old age taking its toll on the artists. The work also presents the social and political messages that cumbia carries, reflecting Colombia’s past, present, and future.