In memoriam: Rafael Hastings (1945–2020)

By José-Carlos Mariátegui

On March 30, 2020, Rafael Hastings passed away in Lima. His work was an expression of his vast multidisciplinary interests: painting, drawing, film, video, performance, happenings, choreography, poetry and literature. Hastings was a pioneer in experimenting with the moving image in Peru, engaging  with projects and experiments between Latin America and Europe.

In 1967, when he was only 22 years old, he had his first exhibition at the Galerie Racines in Brussels, presented by the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and the choreographer Maurice Béjart. Hastings began to experiment with videotape in 1968, focusing on achieving new abstractions and interpretations. Upon his return to Latin America in the early 1970s, Hastings developed several audiovisual projects, such as You are what you know about fashion? (1973), produced by the Centro de Arte y Comunicación de Buenos Aires (CAyC) in Buenos Aires, where he also exhibited Pompeya - New York – a series of 120 photocopies – and the video Anthologies (1974), which had a widespread international circulation as part of "International Open Encounters on Video," organized by CAYC in different parts of the world. Hastings also participated in the exhibition Art Systems in Latin America, organized by CAYC between 1974 and 1976, which sought to create an alternative and efficient international mode of circulation and reflected an intent to redefine the notions that were assumed at that time about Latin American art.

Many of Hastings's video works were gestures and provocations towards the art establishment, but they also denoted personal, daily and spontaneous situations that are recomposed through the use of film and video techniques, such as Hola Soledad (1973), We are not a family (1974) and Peruvian Born (1972-1978).

Hastings actively collaborated with the musician and percussionist Manongo Mujica on several projects, such as Peruvian (1978), Das Lied von Der Erde (The Earth’s Song) (1978), Echoes (1978) and Ceremony (1978). In addition to his video work, Hastings made four 35 mm films between 1974 and 1976, which dealt with the concept of death and the fact of disappearing, articulated through explorations with pre-Columbian cultures, the Peruvian desert intersected with scientific, magical and religious concepts. From 1980 Hastings was involved in choreography and performance projects, many in collaboration with his partner, the dancer and choreographer Yvonne von Mollendorff. His creative artistic endeavors were supported by plurisemiotic components that evade established artistic nomenclatures and challenge conventional historiographies.