Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla placed 12 five-foot columns of chalk in public squares in Lima, Paris, and New York, ephemeral public monuments that would crumble and dissolve over time into smaller pieces and pools of liquid. The artists then invited people to use the fallen pieces of chalk to write messages on the ground, doodle, or express themselves in any fashion they chose, thereby transforming the material decay into a fleeting opportunity for creative possibilities. In Lima, Allora and Caldazilla placed the chalk columns directly in front of government offices, which incited passersby to convert the nearby ground into a large blackboard overflowing with messages intended to critique the state. This activity evolved into an impromptu, peaceful protest as civil servants gathered in the square, waving banners and hoisting posters above their shoulders. Eventually, military officers, who were standing by in shields and helmets, confiscated the chalk, and washed away the incendiary political statements.
Puerto Rico-based Allora and Caldzadilla represented the United States in this year’s Venice Biennale–the first performance artists, and artists collaborative, to do so. Since the late 1990s, the artists have used sculpture, performance, and video to transform common objects into politicized tools. Their projects often explore the act of mark making–how temporary actions can yield permanent effects.