María Teresa Hincapié was born in Armenia, Colombia, and died at the age of 54 following a long illness. A performative artist, she was a key figure in the development of performance art during the 1980s and 1990s. Initially trained in theatre as a member of the group Acto Latino and influenced by the ideas of Jerzy Grotowski (1933–1999) and the experimental horizon that this Polish theatre director had opened around the concept of ‘poor theatre’, Hincapié was interested in a clean, simple and austere dramaturgy. At the end of the eighties, her practice definitively turned towards extended performances, exploring actions that, due to their experimental approach, marked a seminal moment in the genesis of contemporary artistic practices in Colombia, where she was a contemporary of such artists as Doris Salcedo, José Alejandro Restrepo, Álvaro Restrepo and Mapa Teatro, among many others.

The initial exploration of everyday life and the transformation of routine actions into symbolic acts created a methodology for her performances allowing the art world to permeate all aspects of her existence, while serving as a focal point for her creativity, her ethics and her politics. In 1990, Hincapié won first prize at the XXXIII National Salon of Colombian Artists with her long-running performance Una cosa es una cosa (A Thing Is a Thing), the first time the prize had been awarded to an ephemeral and non-objectual work. In 1996, she received this distinction again for Divina Proporción (Divine Proportion), in which she spent several days living in the exhibition space while planting and growing grass in cracks in the concrete floor. From the beginning, her practice included long-running performances in which the importance of the ephemeral and the changing character of the object were decisive.

In 1995, she performed her ambitious project Hacia lo sagrado (Towards the Sacred), walking from Bogotá to San Agustín on a journey lasting twenty-one days, in the course of which she combined acts of survival with the symbolic and ritual nature of mystical thought. Thereafter, this became the fundamental nucleus of her poetics, all her subsequent work being dedicated to the search for ‘the sacred’ through pared-down, essential actions. According to the artist, this allowed her to establish a more intimate relationship with life itself: eating, fasting, observing, planting and – perhaps more importantly – walking.

She participated in international exhibitions such as The Body of Art, the 1st Valencia Biennial (2001); Always a Little Further, 51st Venice Biennale (2005); and the 27th São Paulo Biennial (2006), among others.

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