José García Oliva, “A Call (Un Toque)”

“A Call (Un Toque)”, sculpture, 2020.
“A Call (Un Toque)”, sculpture, 2020.
Detail of “A Call (Un Toque)”, sculpture, 2020.
Audio file for “A Call (Un Toque)”, sculpture, 2020.

Materials: aluminium, steel and copper.

Dimensions: 50cm x 15cm x 26cm

Learn more about José García Oliva at

Artist’s comment: I left Venezuela when I was 17 years old, and after seven years of missing a stripped country, there is still thousand of memories which will hook me up for the rest of my life. In this context, I will talk about the sound of bells swinging on Sunday afternoon in the streets of Caracas – when I was still a kid. I remember looking at my mom without saying anything because the sound was saying everything. This peculiar sound came from the bells welded to the handle of the ice-cream trolley (a fridge with wheels and washed-out colourful stickers everywhere). This ice-cream cart pushed up the hills by a man, who shakes those bells to get the attention of kids and families. It was a community call, a traditional gathering. Bells are charged with catholic symbology that cannot be forgotten. Historically, bells have been used in Europe for a thousand years back as a public means of communication of a variety of events — either religious or commemorative. These metallic percussion instruments arrived in America in colonial times. Nowadays we can see it attached (as a reminder) in these traditional ice-cream carts around the street of Nicaragua, México, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, etc. Having this as the commons, A Call (Un Toque) is an artwork in which the thinking-process is looking at making through memories. The work is replicating a specific part of a traditional object present in the culture of many countries in South America – which is currently disappearing as a side effect of the rise of multinational chains. By trying to replicate this sound, I am allowing the spectator to interact with the piece and ring for nostalgia as a tool for “social connectedness” (Zhou et al., 2008). This call is a call for unity. If you have emigrated, you perhaps know the feeling of roots up in the air. “The one who has been to the dentist know that roots up in the air hurts” the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano said it once. These questions of self-identity emerge even stronger when anxiety, uncertainty and loneliness appear. In this current scenario, we are all living in; nostalgia is on the table. Not as something negative, the opposite, as something that reassures your identity and helps us to cope with transitive times. As the psychologist, Dr Sedikides said, “nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots and continuity”. I can’t do any artwork that is not inspired by my memories in Venezuela as they are part of me. This artwork is one of the most personal projects I have done. It’s a portrait of my longing for a country I can no longer live in. These swinging bells produce a sound that makes me feel close again to where I grew up, and at the same time awakes my desire to call for unity that is the most fundamental component for change.