Saturday 18 September 2021

Life-Size, Fully Functional Guillotine Did Not Raise Eyebrows in Costa Rica

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The life-size and fully functionally guillotine stood for five hours in  front of Canal 7 in La Sabana. Hardly anyone noticed it.
The life-size and fully functionally guillotine stood for five hours in front of Canal 7 in La Sabana. Hardly anyone noticed it.

QCOSTARICA – For fives hours, a life-size and fully working guillotine decorated the cityscape, the work of Guatemalan artist Jorge de León .

The purpose of the jarring element, although it went largely unnoticed during the five hours it remained standing across from the National Stadium, in La Sabana, was intended to question the observer on the exercise of power.

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De León said he decided to place his work of art in a public place near a “power zone”, in this case the leading television station in the country, Canal 7.

His aspiration, he said, is to document the reaction of people against a “destabilizing” object.

The guillotine, at over 3 metres (10 feet) tall and weighing 150 kgs (330 lbs), and fully functional with a 45 degree angled steel blade, capable of cutting just about anything (due to weight and gravity) was first exhibited in last year in Guatemala City’s central park.

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Artist says he had expected more reaction from passersby and police. Such was not the case.

The artist stayed close by to ensure that no one would actually use it.

The artist said passersby did not show any real curiosity, their reaction was quite mild; although some took photos, no one got really close. In contrast, in Guatemala, – “perhaps due to the social tension and corruption” – they had to chain the guillotine, because there were people who wanted to use it.

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De León added that he thought the reaction would have been much stronger, no only of passersby, but, of the authorities.  But, such was not the case.

The artist did not rule out the possibility of installing the guillotine at some other point in San Jose. “It’s a work that could appear at any time,” he said.

“I guess Ticos are very happy, not a lot to fight about,” said De León.

De León will be participating in a live discussion about his guillotine and his work, as an invited guest the “Fuego” project, on Thursday at 4:00pm in Room 2 of the Carlos Monge Alfaro library, of the University of Costa Rica (UCR).

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