Liliana Avalos: Ceviche and the City

“Lima is a place embroidered by migration”.

I studied in the school of Bellas Artes in Lima, specialising in oil painting which I always loved. But, for me it was always more accessible to pursue print making, as one can really start from zero with basic materials and make a great piece of art.

With time other techniques took my interest, like working with the traditional art of my country. This really affected me a lot, this ability to draw upon the knowledge of traditional masters. It can result in such rich work because it makes me feel closer to my territory, and country and identity…it gives more power to the work.

The embroidery technique I use is from the Mantaro Valley in central Peru. I didn’t learn this at the school of Bellas Artes, instead I took a course in the National Museum of Peruvian Culture. This was a place that I had been fascinated in all my life, since childhood. When I was small, we used to wait at the bus stop right outside the museum and I always gave it so much attention, but I never had the chance to visit. When I was an adult, I finally went to do a course there with Moisés Balbín Ordaya, where I learned all about the ancestral techniques and embroidery from the Mantaro Valley. It was such a wonderful experience and was so different from learning in school; you could really see the warmth that was transmitted when they were teaching, and I think this is because it’s a technique that is passed down through generations. Maybe this was not possible before, but in the last ten years at the school of Bellas Artes there was an anthropologist César Ramos who invited some traditional masters to share their techniques with urban artists, to create a kind of horizontal experience and produce a beautiful project.

My focus on the daily lives of people in Urban Lima, and especially about food, started from an early discomfort that I had with the routine of life. One time, when I was still studying in the school of Bellas Artes, I was concentrating hard of my work when my father arrived from the market with food, telling me to leave everything to one side and go and cook. For me this was a big conflict for a long time, I felt so fed up, so I decided to include this in my work.

“To deal with this resentment about the interference of daily life I turned this into a possibility for creation, and that’s where my focus on daily realities began”.

So, then I took my camera and began to take note of all the basic things in my house and the kitchen- the chopping board, the food, the cooking…I registered all of this through my camera. This contact that I made with my own life allowed me to have greater contact with the lives of people on the street, with people in the marketplace. More and more I found a much richer perspective of life became illuminated. I love to speak with people on the street or the market, so much so that when I go shopping my husband accompanies me to just to stop me talking too long! I like to develop a warm relationship with people, and it is this approach that strengthens the perspectives that you see in the images I produce, like those of the cevichera.

It’s curious because the images in my work come naturally from the experiences I see, and by coincidence I have a lot of images of people eating ceviche because its ones of the most common things that people eat in the street. On any street corner you’ll find a cevichera, now in the pandemic its changed, but before it was a very typical image to see people eating in the street. I love these images because people go to eat in the street because they are working, and they don’t have any other option.

‘Vendedora de Ceviche III’

I took this particular image for the piece ‘Vendedora de Ceviche III’ (2020), with the woman and her cevichera trolley, in Lima Norte. This woman was just going about her day with her cevichera trolley, and I loved this image.

So, when I came to make my exhibition series ‘Escuderas: Identidad y nación’ (‘Coat of arms: identity and Nation’) I wanted to pay homage to this woman with her cevichera trolley and totally transform her, making her full of flowers in a portrait style and to give her a place of importance. Working in this traditional way completely transformed her.

I also have a piece called ‘Cevichito’, which shows some construction workers eating ceviche. I love this scene because I captured it in a large avenue when they were building a bypass and a mall at the same time, so two large constructions. In this space there was a lot of movement, and you couldn’t pass by easily. It was fascinating because in the middle of this busy, broken road there was this cevichera trolley with some construction men sat there eating…probably with dust in their ceviche!

All my photos are from lima, as it’s such a mix.; we have a rich variety from all the different places like the jungle, the mountains, the coast, and this makes new images and scenes. So, it is kind of inevitable that my artworks are inspired by these techniques from the Sierra.


Liliana Avalos is represented by BLOC ART
Instagram:  liliana.avalos.artista

A long durée history of the commodification of the South Eastern Pacific

This week, we have a guest post from Dr Natalia Gándara, a researcher at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile.

During 2020 and 2021, the international press has run several stories about the presence of a Chinese fishing fleet in the South Eastern Pacific region. Governments in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador have installed alert and defence systems to monitor the extractivist activities of this fleet in their exclusive economic zones.  Despite this, the NGO Oceana has reported that in the waters off the Galapagos Marine Reserve alone, the fleet pulled up thousands of tonnes of squid and fish.[1] This phenomenon is not of course new. For centuries imperial powers have plundered the waters of the South Eastern Pacific, altering the marine ecosystems. If in the past, fur seals and sperm whales became a commodity, now is the turn of squid and tuna, products highly appreciated in the international market of the twenty-first century. 

This history of extractivism and commodification of marine nature needs to be critically examined. Moreover, it acquires a sense of urgency as the region is increasingly facing the impact of climate change and the deterioration of marine ecosystems. In particular, we need new and disruptive ways of thinking about society’s relationship with nature to comprehend and tackle these social, economic, and environmental challenges. For historians, this means writing the history of the seas, oceans, and coastal communities in a way that focuses on representations of nature, power relations between locals and foreign powers, the changing needs of global markets, the knowledge systems and technologies used in fishing, as well as the localised human impact of these activities. 

My doctoral thesis, titled ‘Thalassologies of Empire and Republic: Competing for Knowledge of the South Eastern Pacific in the Age of Revolutions’, engages with recent scholarship in environmental humanities. It explores the construction of global geographic knowledge systems and the commodification of coastal waters of the South Eastern Pacific, specifically addressing the changing representations and knowledge constructions of this region in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This focus allows me to analyse the origins of enduring social representations of the seas as spaces of natural resources for human exploitation and profit. 

A critical understanding of society’s relationship with nature must also take into account the geopolitics of knowledge production and economic exploitation of these environments. In the case of Latin America in general and the South Eastern Pacific in particular, the commodification of the sea and its exploitation at an industrial scale in the late colonial and early national periods was entangled with imperialism, state formation, and the global expansion of capitalism. Crucially, my research also engages with how these power relations influenced and even shaped local representations and experiences with this marine region.

The commodification of the South Eastern Pacific propelled local initiatives to exploit what were considered local or national resources. In the late eighteenth century, colonial authorities in Chile and the viceroyalty of Peru fostered fishing projects, creating internal markets for these products, especially conger eels. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the South American republics had developed sizeable national fishing industries, particularly on whaling, catching animals from the Southern Ocean to the North Eastern Pacific.  

Latin American coastal communities have historically been marginalised from the studies of the cultural productions and economic exploitation of the Pacific. The acknowledgment of their engagement in the exploitation of the sea and the commodification of marine nature is relevant to tackle current Eurocentric and imperialistic narratives about the South Pacific history, and, very importantly, to illuminate how to engage with historical unsustainable practices of marine exploitation in Latin America.

My goal as a researcher is to rethink the history of global commodification of the world’s oceans, to question current inequalities in the production and exploitation of marine nature and their impact on environmental justice, and to re-imagine human history in the light of the climate crisis. Only by linking local with national and global dynamics, and giving agency to local actors as well as international and imperial powers, we will be able to truly examine global representations of the world’s seas, their historical economic exploitation and to develop new critical understandings of how coastal communities respond to social and environmental pressures, particularly relevant in the current political and environmental context. 


Brenda Ortiz Clarke, BLOC Art Peru

“We can start with something very small, like a grain of sand, but in the end, it could tell us a lot about the power of art if we work together in collaboration.”

This post is part of a series on Peruvian Artists working about, for, and with the Pacific Ocean

“BLOC Art is an art portfolio, named after my initials (Brenda Lucia Ortiz Clarke). In July we will turn six years old, and we represent 40 Latin American artists with about 85% of those artists coming from Peru.

I wanted to create this mix of Peruvian artists that came from different parts of the country, but most of them are from Lima. This is mostly because we don’t have decentralization, and art is not democratized yet, so you will often hear about the ‘artisans’ and then ‘artists’, you know…that’s what you would usually hear. And if you travel to Cuzco or if you travel to Puno, you will see a lot of ‘artisans’ but not ‘artists’, although there are also fine arts schools there so there must be a little bit more organization now, between the artists, but I think that’s probably only within the academic world in the arts outside of Lima.

A problem with this lack of representation is that the students outside of Lima are not given the right tools from college, you know, like a list of galleries to visit or information on how to prepare their art portfolio and present themselves professionally, like the images that you need to bring with you and how you build up your persona and all that. In the past, when I asked for portfolios for artists that are from other parts of the country, they are like “oh yeah, I’m working on it”, or “no I don’t have it”, so I literally cannot write down anything about their portfolio or create interest because that’s the first rule to have glimpse.

So, BLOC Art has been around in the art market for almost six years participating in art fairs internationally and locally. It has three different lines, the big one is on the commercial side where we represent the artists, we have their portfolios, we have exclusive, semi exclusive, and then some other collaborations as well.

Then there is a more artivist (activism through art) line which is literally seeking to democratize the arts seeking to recognize the power of the art and to move and communicate unifying the masses and the people. I believe that art is a fifth power in the country, considering the other four are corrupt! I come from a Latin American country and that’s something that I can see, from my point of view.

And so, I can recognize the power of art if we work together in collaboration towards something better, if we don’t think that something is correct or democratic, we can change it. A good example is the ‘Peruvian Artivist Archive’ as the first digital Peruvian archive where we gathered Peruvians artworks as protest from all over the globe. In November 2020 (after the coup d’état) people started sending their art pieces and now we’re presenting this to the Museum of Memory (LUM) in Lima. If it’s approved, we want to organise a performance in Madrid, where there was a feminist group who sent their videos, pictures and all documents that they wanted to be part of this archive.

So that’s the artivist line, and then we have the ‘disruption’ line, which works with different proposals and different types of projects that bring disruption into the art ecosystem. I consider that in Peru, our art ecosystem is like a foetus that people are trying to pull out but also, they’re trying to kill at the same time like make an abortion somehow! I’m using very strong words, because I can literally see that from institutions and from niche groups, but how about if we all work together it could turn out into a pretty good baby!

I can relate this to Peruvian art in its culture and heritage as well, as it’s super important to the world. I think that it’s very, very interesting but sad at the same time, how locals do not embrace it or recognize it. You can find examples in other categories, for example, our culinary arts and how Gastón Acurio had to bring a Spanish chef over to Peru to tell us all how good our food was and the potential it had before the people here recognized it!

I wonder why it is that we all need someone foreign to notice us before we start believing in ourselves? Maybe… and I’m just going to leave this as an open question…maybe we’re still colonized in our minds?

I’m a true believer and know as a matter of a fact that our cultural baggage and talented artists have the potential to be pretty competitive and take them to another level such as in London, Paris, New York and many other big cities. It will take a little bit more of hard work to visibilize and reach out to global markets.”




Creative Environments workshop: call for contributions

Creative Environments: a workshop on collaborative methods for researchers and artists

Friday 17 September 2021

Call for Contributions

The Brigstow Institute and the Centre for Environmental Humanities at the University of Bristol invite contributions for a workshop on the role of creativity in conducting and communicating environmental research. During this one-day event, participants will consider how creative research methods and collaborations between researchers and artists can enrich our understanding of contemporary ecological challenges. 

Amid growing scholarly interest in art-science collaborations and in transdisciplinary and co-produced research, what can be learned from existing best practice, and what innovations are needed in order to further cultivate ‘arts of attentiveness’ (van Dooren et al., 2016) to our environments? In seeking to answer these questions, the day’s activities will include presentations from academics, a showcase of work by local and international artists, and plenty of time for brainstorming and generating new ideas. 

The workshop forms part of the AHRC-funded research project Reimagining the Pacific (PI Dr Paul Merchant). The event will be held in person at the University of Bristol, subject to covid restrictions, but may switch to an online format if necessary. Virtual participation will be facilitated. The workshop may lead to a co-authored publication or other output (format to be discussed at the event). 

Contributions are invited in a variety of formats (the following list is not intended to be exclusive):

  • presentations showcasing examples of academic collaboration with artists and creative practitioners, or the use of creative research methodologies
  • readings or performances of material created as a result of such collaborations
  • (audio)visual materials to be displayed at the conference venue and online
  • theoretical reflections on the co-production of knowledge 

Submissions from early-career researchers are particularly welcome. Please send a 250-word abstract and a brief biography to by 15 July 2021