Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dolls, Sex, and Other Toys: Works by Camilla Newhagen

Olga & Lorraine by Camilla Newhagen
Camilla Newhagen creates playful, sculptural forms incarnating the female body. Sitting on chairs or laying unobtrusively around the artist’s studio, the dolls display a body language that evoke a sense of abandonment arousing in the viewer a fascinating feeling. The erotic nature of Newhagen figures not only demonstrate an incisive understanding of woman as a sexual being, but it also expresses that these artworks do not conform to a canon of desire.

Breasts, buttocks, and limbs give shape to a distorted female anatomy. By using lingerie, Newhagen creates carefully hand sewn pieces. Brassieres, bustiers, corsets, and girdles match the most artificial flesh color slips. According to the artist,.” Lingerie is like gift wrapping. Such garments cover a woman’s body to present herself as an object of desire --like a gift. By stuffing the slips, she adds volume to the dolls creating suppleness and translucency. Thighs and legs achieve the effect of fatty tissue and spongy cellulite. Striking, red stitches on white fabric refer to blood and scars.

Materials inform Newhagen’s process. Satin, silk, and antique lingerie appeals to the material’s tactile quality. She thinks as a sculptor incorporating forms as she handles the material. One can follow the way the artist works by observing her embroidered name claiming ownership, --or in her use of tags to create the work’s name. By sewing, Newhagen feels that she understand the female body because she has done the ground work --the domestic work. This points home, a domestic setting conceived as an intimate enclosure where women work.

In La Belle, a headless doll with a beige corset, Newhagen placed black fur coming out of a hairy crotch. This decorative, faux fur alludes to society’s preoccupation and phobia with hair. She portrays the doll in such naturalistic way making it appear mysterious. Appendages like a stump become a headless torso. An elongated limb ending in a red hoof imbues the piece with a sense of vulnerability. The hoof stands for a deformed foot pointing to anthropomorphic characteristics, but is also alludes to a dehumanizing feeling. The arms clasped behind her back indicate a position of submission. These convoluted shapes are reminiscent of La Poupee a work by Hans Bellmer.

Also headless, Feline exhibits a crotch that is a continuation of its torso. It is as if the crotch represents the woman’s absent head. The doll symmetrical proportions, a narrow waist and generous bosom, conform to anatomical measurements of what is perceived sexually attractive. The left breast exhibits a rosy nipple which is at once a prescription for desire and procreation. According to Newhagen,“Feline represents a prostitute,” and she adds,”Her fragmented body alludes to rape, and abortions.” It is as if Feline stands as a repository of lust, violence and death. This point to an ambivalence between desire and contempt a prostitute might awaken in her john.

Wearing beige slips, Olga & Lorraine’s are two dolls joint at the abdomen. Headless, and limb-less, the fat one with a pointy neck shaped like an elephant’s tusk supports the slim one. Appearing to float in space, the slim doll wears red lace running along her sole underarm. Olga & Lorraine allude to the yo-yo effect of weight change some women experience to reach an idealize figure. Both figures are one and the same, yet separate entities. This points to an internal conflict women endure in the realm of perception regarding their own bodies.

Unlike Bellmer’s work, Newhagen’s pieces are not objects of desire. They are not instances to please the male gaze. If Bellmer built dismembered pieces like La Poupee as an object of desire, Newhagen constructs her works to challenge, and question the rapes, abortions, and violence perpetrated against our own humanity. Newhagen also works on memory as a way of remembering things that have been forgotten. In this manner, she forms a link between past and present. For the artist, time is of essence as she travels back and forth between her manipulation of the material and her interpretation of the body. Newhagen’s work is beyond desire, and sexuality, and it demonstrates how pleasure is not divorced from pain and sex cannot be separated from death.

Aesthetics of Real Nature

Paz de la Calzada's Fake
Taking the site of Blacklock Nature Conservancy as a backdrop, Cristina Ferrández creates El Viaje Infinito (The Endless Voyage). By presenting a photographic series, Ferrández, develops an exercise of vanishing images of the body immersed in nature. In these images, she alludes to the transformation of corporeality. Through the process of dematerialization, she explores different psychic levels of human nature.

Created at an artist in residence program in Millay Colony, Fake is Paz de la Calzada's most recent production. Inspired by nature, de la Calzada shaped objects based on natural elements like leaves and plants. Made of fabric, Fake is an investigation between nature and artifact. In Fake, de la Calzada examines the dialect between real and false. In a search of what is perceived as real, de la Calzada question what is genuine. Here, the artist inquires which object is more real the artwork itself or the object in which the piece was inspired from.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Photo: Guillermo A López

Olivia Song Park’s White Lies

Upon entering, white strings falling from the ceiling divide the gallery space. Like cords of a musical instrument, these resonate with the in vogue expression, no strings attached -- defining fleeting liaisons in today’s society. The exhibition White Lies by Olivia Song Park closed last night at Mina Dresden gallery.

Park Song makes tiny circles of perforated punch holders, Q-tip swabs, and strings, the works in White Lies create a subdued atmosphere that is a play of white on white. The white cube with a floor covered with butcher paper, and the small white pieces required an effort from the viewer to be appreciated. White is the color par excellence used in today’s contemporary art. The color white not only refers to purity, but it also alludes to issues of race.

Illuminated from behind, Hole is a round object formed by dozens of swabs sticks, creates a honeycomb-like structure. Song Park utilizes swabs not only to retouch her make up, but she also uses them as material for her art practice. The swabs allude to repetitive motions and every day actions. These activities become a ritual, and they also refer to domesticity, the body, and beauty.

A cutout paper of rectangular shape recreates concentric irregular forms at the center. Superimpossed sheets of paper create a ladder effect. The jagged lines, and pointy corners become an exercise of geometrical proportions. Recalling landscapes of earth’s crust formations, this work imitates shapes found in nature.

White Lies is an exercise on language. According to the artist, the exhibition's name is a play on words. Initially, this project stemmed from the artist trying to explore the meaning of the phrase “white lies” and its seemingly harmless meaning. In contrast, according to Song Park, a red lie in Korea means a blatant lie -impossible to mistake for a truth.

Song Park’s preoccupation leads her to the making of her craft in an attempt to arrest the inexorable passing of time. Song Park’s quality of work lies between the obsessive and the painstainking. Honeycomb shapes, landscape forms are figures inspired in geometry and nature.

By far, this is the most succesful show at Mina Dresden not only because of the sensitive quality of the pieces, but also by the care given to the presentation of the works.

Cecilia Nuín

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cell Stemming by Blanka Amezkua

Organic patterns, and repetitive forms are evident in Blanca Amezcua’s mixed media work. Amezcua’s obsessiveness is apparent in objects like Fluffy Anemone an oval shape with hairy like shapes. These hairy elements recall filaments of botanical parts. The surface is filled with multicolor flowers, and stuffed toys of multiple shapes. Vibrant colors range from reds, and blues, to multiple shades of pink.

Another work, Kinetico is an embroidery made on fabric with a crochet, yellow frame refers to kinesthetic practice. Circles of various sizes sewn in blues, oranges, and reds form groupings of cells. Mirroring organic forms from the natural world, they recall cell stemming of espora like molecules with white spaces in between mitochondria fluids.

Iko, a cell division, is a breakdown of forms. An embroidery and crochet with a brown frame and spherical, red, pink, orange shapes depict viscera like figures recalling internal organs. An up side down torso of a female image, these abstract, womb like vesicles allude to vestigial forms.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

La Lluvia by Josefina Jacquin

A commemorative piece, La Lluvia (Rain), 1992 created by Colombian artist Josefina Jacquin Bates addresses issues of resistance of Native American cultures in Latin America. This work is framed by the phrase 500 years of resistance, (500 anos de resistencia) around the edges with five small skulls interspersed in between. In the foreground are three female figures. Two of the figures with headdresses and green and purple necklaces are wearing strings around their hips. The middle figure has her eyes covered by hair on her face. The faces have an impassive expression and their eyes project a vacuous look. Elements like the necklaces, and strings along with their nudity connote that these are women belong to an Amazonian tribe. Their black, longhaired figures with brown colored skin contrast against the yellowish background. A sense of three dimensionally is achieved by the jagged lines contouring the surface of their bodies.. The hands are clasped across the abdomen and chest. The yellow background is covered with little skulls and tiny bones. These floating shapes enhance the idea of falling rain giving texture to the background. The title La Lluvia (The Rain) is a pun on the innumerable deaths of indigenist people in the last five hundred years. The sad look of these women’s faces with the rain of skulls falling on them comments on the decimated indigenist population. A vast majority of the native people during the Conquest died of contagious diseases. The natives had no resistance to diseases brought by the Spaniards. Women are the keepers of culture in indigenist societies. They are the story tellers in oral tradition and the ones that pass along knowledge.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The EnvironMENTAL Paradigm

María Adela Díaz
Video Performance
Still, photo: Miguel Morales

Talking green is in. The matter at hand is discerning whether we are talking about the environment or the color of money. Words such as sustainability have become cliché. Corporate media has seized an ecological issue and commercialized it for a profit. The EnvironMENTAL Paradigm exhibition explores models of expression in contemporary environmental art. The works in this exhibit include installation, photography, sculpture, and video performance.

Environmental art takes us back to Land Art’s movement of the late 1960's. From using a bulldozer to build the Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson, to embalming a shark in a fish tank by Damien Hirst in the1990’s, both artists utilized environmental elements as a medium for art’s sake.*

The question still remains as to what constitutes environmental art in the twenty first-century. How do artists tackle ecological art when we seem oblivious to the urgency of ecological implosion. Flora and fauna species are at the brink of extinction. Natural resources have become so tainted that these are endangering our own existence.

What kind of an environmental model is there to follow? The direction environmental art has taken is one of concern for ecological issues. Unlike the above artists, in this show, the artists’ approach is one of responsibility for the kind of materials that they use. This distinction allows artists to create inspiring works; not only because the materials serve as a medium, but they are also the end in itself.

Kin Li: Light sinks into the earth and is veiled nonetheless it shines forth. I Ching, 36 by Ana Labastida presents a light box with an image of a green, maple leaf in front a car in a Mexico’s City freeway. By juxtaposing the hovering leaf against the car, she calls attention to the contradiction between the use energy and the production of smog. Also, the leaf serves a symbol of hope to a city where one breathes an asphyxiating vapor. To name her piece, Labastida inspired herself in the I-Ching, or Books of Changes to reminds us that change is inevitable.

Blossom is a video performance created by Maria Adela Díaz. Dressed in yellow, she springs herself up from a trampoline in the middle of a flowering, wild radish field. Yellow, wild radish is an invasive species growing along Californian roads. This playful exercise is no child’s play. Díaz immerses herself into a serious act drawing attention to humans to be proactive towards the environment.

Artist Julie Poitras Santos in collaboration with marine scientist Jessica Muhlin, and photographer Pauline Angione created in suspension / a poetry of chance. To gather data on marine flora, numbered oranges are dispersed to study currents’ movement in the coast of Maine. Fluctuating between art and science, this interdisciplinary approach helps us appreciate nature in a deeper manner.

Jessica Resmond’s Grass Billboards show digital images of green lawns from Dolores Park on billboards in San Francisco. By displaying grass on advertisement boards, Resmond conflates ideas about green and urban context while subverting the use of corporate space. In a symbolic way, she cultivates land in urbanized sites.

In Fabricated, a work of spotty antlers, Paz de la Calzada made an artwork that can be interpreted as tree branches. In this manner, the artist contrasts aspects of nature and culture. By placing this work at a juncture between animal and botanical realm, de la Calzada alludes to the interdependence between fauna and flora.

Spilt Milk by Patricia Tinajero is a sculpture made of recycled milk cartons, and bamboo sticks. Using a quilt, and collage technique, she layers material to create a sculpture resembling a camera over a tripod. Like Labastida, Tinajero refers to transformation by painting a butterfly on its surface. By reusing materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill, she also comments on environmental activism.

In Greener Pastures, Hrafnhildur Sigurðardóttir depicts a cluster of islands forming an archipelago. Like Tinajero, Sigurðardóttir utilizes fabric as a recycled material. By stacking up pieces of clothing to shape forms, the artist juxtaposes images of idyllic islands against green algae. Sigurðardóttir refers to an environmental problem that arises from polluted waters surrounding these islands. This is a result from the impact of mass tourism.

Crónica del Naufragio (Chronicle of a Shipwreck), a film by Cristina Ferrández, presents a group of eight women building a boat’s frame on the foggy beach of Quebrantos, in Asturias, Spain. With the ocean as a backdrop, the film is a metaphor to the demise of our own existence. By using the allegory of a sinking ship, Ferrández alludes to our diluvial fate. This meditative piece is also a reference to global warming.

The works presented in The EnvironMENTAL Paradigm exhibit bring a sense of hope with the artists’ approach to art making. As innovators artists take the lead on creating art concerned with ideas pertaining to their milieu. Artists make a contribution playing a role as ecological activists. Concerned with ecological issues, they appeal to us to take a stance as active participants in conservation. They urge us to avoid actions that are in detriment of a nature we depend upon -- in an effort to save ourselves from annihilation. Artists, scientists, and the public just need to put their mind to it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kun Li by Ana Labastida

Ana Labastida
Kun LI:: Light sinks into the earth and is veiled, nonetheless it shines forth. I Ching 36
Photography, Light box

Kun Li by Ana Labastida is a highlight from The Environmental Paradigm exhibition. Read essay above.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Adopt a Tropical Tree

"Joyous is the slightly sensitive tree..." (Rubén Darío, Nicaraguan poet).

Last Friday, June 27th the students at Gabriela Mistral School in Nicaragua celebrated the Day of Tree with the initiative Adopt a Tropical Tree Project. In homage to Prof. Hulda Zelaya, this reforestation project is planted by the students of the school Centro Educativo Público Gabriela Mistral with the help of Prof. Ana Teresa Urbina.

Tropical hardwood trees transform water into vapor helping to create clouds which reflect solar light and in turn diminish global warming.This process happens at a greater level in the tropics more than any other latitude.

Photo: Ana Teresa Urbina

Friday, April 11, 2008

In conversation with Virginia Pérez-Ratton and Tamara Díaz Bringas

Virginia Pérez-Ratton and Tamara Díaz Bringas are the co-curators of Doubtful Strait, an international art event, in San José, Costa Rica in 2007.

Cecilia Nuín: Would you please explain the exhibition’s title Doubtful Strait?

Tamara Díaz Bringas: The title came from the misunderstanding of the Spaniards looking for the route to the Indies, and it also refers to Central America as a doubtful strait which they never found. Then, the inter-oceanic channel issue has been weighting in our history. An episode has to do with the exhibition Noticias del Filibustero (News of the Filibuster), and currently with the issue of the widening of the channel. Also, we were interested in the title’s metaphorical sense as a point of connection to art from different generations and sensibilities, and to artists, architects, and anthropologists from all over the world. We linked the idea of Central America connecting as an isthmus. We wanted to pose a doubt of a more conected contemporary world, but at the same time exist more borders, more surveillance --more control.

CN: The inter-oceanic channel is an interesting perspective.

Virginia Pérez-Ratton: The channel fulfilled the Conquistadors’ expectations. Finally, it became man-made.

CN: I would like you to talk about how this group of exhibitions was curated.

VPR: Tamara and I worked together the whole exhibition. We had historic references framing the exhibit. On the one hand, we have two monographic exhibits. We decided to have Juan Downey’s retrospective, a Chilean artist who was unknown in Costa Rica, in spite of being internationally renown, and Margarita Azurdia, a Guatemalan. She worked in a way that anticipated history. Four exhibitions were articulated with the idea of Limites (Limits) as an axis across the whole exhibit. Even-though, we deal with filibusterism, the urban, and exchange. Everything is marked by a type of limit or no limit.

TDB: This is a space for the artists from Central America to be in dialogue with the local audience. We also thought of the idea of limit in art as a way of thinking, limits like insanity, fear, political, and institutional. This would resonate with a very flexible format in shows like Tráficos (Traffic) which deals limits negotiated in public space. It is about interventions in public spaces, and working with specific communities. Then, Rutas Intangibles (Intangible Routes) enters in dialogue, through drawings, with spatial limit.

CN: By the way of Limits, how can one connect the works Corresponding Lines by Liliana Porter, and Esrnesto Salmeron’s Ellos no son pobres?1

VPR: Something which characterizes Liliana Porter’s work is a constant questioning of the different levels of reality. The material level, the representation of a thing in a photograph, a print, or a drawing, through the object, and her imagination. This is to summarize her practice which is very complex. She also works on the idea of returning. In this case is the return home and to safety which many times is impossible or virtual. In Ernesto’s case, his work also deals with different levels of reality, because we see a video with children happily bathing in a river. Their reality is shouting, and pure joy in a pond in a tropical river. However, that is why is called They are not poor, wealth is in another place. A level that is not material wealth which to many people means that they are poor because they do not have a swim suit, and they are bathing there, and not in a pool. These are different levels of reality depending one’s point of view. Obviously, we make these connections based on the work presented. We did not know when we invited Liliana and Ernesto which works they were going to propose, but we had the intuition that they could work together. Similarly, the work Untitled by Shilpa Gupta speaks of the impossibility of dividing the sky --poetic, and nostalgic at once. Maybe, the only total thing in the world is the sky, which is impossible to divide in two, as is impossible to divide the joy of those children in two things. Part of the intention we had, especially, with Rutas and Limites was to work against the grain. Certain tendencies exist today to work with extremely mediated images which reflect media esthetics-- something that is visually aggressive. We wanted to work in a subtle way where the viewer has to concentrate in the pieces to be able to apprehend them deeply --this demands thought and reflection.

CN: What were you looking for when curating an event such as is Doubtful Strait?

TDB: It has to do with the city of San José becoming the art capital in Iberoamérica, and the initial support that Hivos2 gave to the project. These events have a responsibility with their places, and look for visibility. More than fifty artists came from everywhere, even-though, many did not need to be here to mount their pieces, it was important that they exchanged with each other to create a meeting space --a node.

VPR: I think, we wanted to transcend our own limits. Sometimes, Tamara and I have made exhibitions abroad like the Cuenca Biennial in Ecuador. This exhibition searched to strengthen our infrastructure. What is known at the international level about Costa Rica is TEOR/éTica, and El Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, and I think that for the participating museums, it was a test to their capacities and spaces which are uneven, but things worked out fine. When one compares it with similar events in other places whether in Shanghai, the United States, or even Brazil, one sees errors and positive outcomes. So, I feel that we are nor better, nor worse than any event of this magnitude anywhere in the world.

CN: What does William Walker’s image means in the exhibit News of the Filibuster?

VPR: In 1855, in the struggle between liberals and conservatives in Nicaragua, the liberals brought William Walker as a mercenary to help them with the conflict. Walker was a Southern general, and a lawyer who spoke several languages. He had the Manifest Destiny as his mission. In reality, Walker’s intention was not to help Nicaraguans, but he was interested in bringing the slavery system to Central America. The Manifest Destiny is a thing the United States have internalized that they are the guides of the world. They are the ones who bring the plans of peace and democracy. Still, today this is absolutely evident with George Bush’s declarations who pretends to be the spiritual guide and an example of democracy. In the Manifest Destiny, it is considered that some people have no capacity to govern themselves. Walker believed that he had to come here to fix things. Then, a military campaign left from Costa Rica ending with Walker’s defeat, his exile, and finally he was executed by a firing squad in Honduras in 1957. The campaign in 1856 was important because it happened in a tumultuous time in history during a cholera epidemic, without a very structured army, and in the background were Cornelius Vanderbilt’s interests, and the route of the Transito3. We wanted with News of the Filibuster to call attention to the complexity of this historic enterprise, and bring it to the present for people to talk about filibusterism, and to reflect on the ways of domination, and intervention that exists today.

CN: With Pan-American ideals as a backdrop how did you extend ties to Latin America?

TDB: In News from the Filibuster for example, Carlos Motta’s work, SOA: Histories in Black and White was a newspaper with the history of US interventions in Latin America.

VPR: The ties are made with the Latin American artists present in all the exhibits. For example, a Central American, and a Chilean head the monographic exhibits. Except, in News from the Filibuster which focuses in Central America, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The backyard that has suffered the most primal filibusterism. An event that includes a great number of artists, and spaces, and that is not a center of power like Sao Paulo, nor is Havana which has been changing the configuration of the biennial. Definitively, it has marked a new space. Central America has been a sort of no place. A thing kind of disappeared, and little by little, it has taken more space.

CN: It seems that Central America has been put in the map with Doubtful Strait.

VPR: Doubtful Strait has been the culmination of a previous work in an area where circuits have been permeated, and at the same time it has created something original in relation to other regions. For example, MERCOSUR has its biennial, but it does not have the unity that Central America has because the latter is in constant dialogue. Perhaps, it is because MERCOSUR is overpowered by Brazil’s strong presence. This would happen to us if it was Mexico; because it would take a bigger space. Central America has more or less equal countries. It has a colonial past, and it was one whole religious, military, political, and economic region. This gives it a different identity than the Antilles which being islands and having five languages do not have a strong communication. Since the 90’s, Central America is becoming unified.

CN: Could we talk some more about TEOR/éTica?

VPR: TEOR/éTica was founded in 1999 after I left my five year post as director of the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, I focused in the area of though production, and in exhibitions of small format. It has grown slowly, and I have been lucky in having a professional team committed with the identity of the project. So, I think that the most important thing that TEOR/éTica has it is the team’s strength. People call us “Los Teoréticos” because, really, whomever becomes a Teorético is a certain kind of person. Some of our objectives have been to investigate, promote, and disseminate the work of Central America and The Caribbean. To begin with we wanted to generate critical thought. Basically, we continue in the same path, on the one hand, we have the exhibitions, publications, seminars, workshops, events, and support to the artists. On the other, the library is open everyday and it has free access, and the center of documentation serves as a resource to many curators who research our archives.

CN: You mentioned a group of Nicaraguans that worked in this project.

TDB: The project is called Canal Central developed by Catalonian artist Antoni Abad. He worked with a group of 22 Nicaraguan immigrants. Each received a cellular phone with an integrated camera. They created their own stories which they posted in the Web. As second phase they promoted the channel in the web site Here you find various themes: housing, documents, tradition, and mixed families. They created a character called tico-nica which represents the off-springs already born here. So, they have a mean of unmediated communication without being seen as criminals, or the poor immigrant who is filing for social security. And the beauty is, that the project activated a sense of community. Probably, after four months that the project lasts, supported by Doubtful Strait, they will keep working because they have the web site, the program, the contacts, and they are super stimulated. It had a real effect.

About the curators
Virginia Pérez-Ratton is an artist, curator, and cultural worker. She was the first director of the Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo in Costa Rica. She is the founder and director of TEOR/éTica since 1999, an institution for the study and dissemination of Central American art. She curated several international biennials, and was a member of the jury for the Venice Biennial in 2001. She received the Principe Claus Award in 2002. In 1998, she published Centroamerica y el Caribe: a History in Black and White along with her curatorship for the Sao Paulo biennial.

Tamara Díaz Bringas is an art historian. She graduated from Havana University, and she has an MA in Arts from the University of Costa Rica. She is adjunct curator of TEOR/éTica since 1999, and is coodinator and editor for the Doubtful Strait project. She is an art critic for La Nación newspaper in San José, and she wrote a book about Costa Rican art called En el Trazo de las Constelaciones. She has made multiple curatorships in TEOR/éTica and other venues. She is co-curator with Virginia Pérez-Ratton of Iconofagia, a regional project for the Cuenca Biennial, Ecuador in 2004.

1 trans. They are not poor

2 Hivos, a Dutch organization, is the Humanist Institute for Cooperation with developing countries.

3 At the time, the major route between New York City and San Francisco ran through southern Nicaragua. The Accessory Transit Company [was] controlled by Wall Street tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt. (Wikipedia),

This interview was published by Futuro magazin in March 2008

Virginia Pérez-Ratton y Tamara Díaz Bringas hablan sobre Estrecho Dudoso

En conversación con Cecilia Nuín.

Virginia Pérez-Ratton y Tamara Díaz Bringas son las co-curadoras de Estrecho Dudoso, un evento de arte internacional que se dio en San José, Costa Rica en el 2007.

Cecilia Nuín: Ahondando en Estrecho Dudoso ¿De cuál estrecho se habla?

Tamara Díaz Bringas: El título salió del mal entendido de los españoles buscando la ruta hacia las Indias y estudios que hicieron sobre Centroamérica como un estrecho dudoso y que nunca lo encontraron. Luego está lo del canal inter-oceánico que ha estado pesando en la historia de Centroamérica. Uno de los episodios tenía que ver con la exposición Noticias del filibustero, y en la actualidad el tema de la ampliación del canal. Nos interesaba la idea del título en un sentido metafórico, de ser un punto de conexión del arte, de sensibilidades y generaciones distintas, e incluir artistas, arquitectos y también antropólogos de todas partes del mundo. De una Centroamérica que se conecta como istmo, y por otra parte replantear una duda desde la región, dudar de que el mundo contemporáneo está tan conectado, pero a la vez hay fronteras con más dispositivos de seguridad, más vigilancia, y más control.

CN: Eso del canal inter-oceánico tiene una perspectiva interesante.

Virginia Pérez-Ratton: El canal vino a llenar las expectativas de los conquistadores. Finalmente, el estrecho de agua fue hecho por el hombre.

CN: Me gustaría que hablaran de como está formada esta gran muestra.

VPR: Tamara y yo trabajamos en conjunto toda la muestra. Por un lado, hay dos exposiciones monográficas. Estábamos de acuerdo en tener dos referencias históricas que enmarcaran la exposición. Entonces decidimos hacer una retróspectiva de Juan Downey, un artista chileno que en Costa Rica era absolutamente desconocido, a pesar de que internacionalmente tiene un gran renombre, y Margarita Azurdia que es guatemalteca. Ella ha trabajado de una manera que anticipa la historia. Y luego cuatro exposiciones de grupo articuladas con significado. La idea de Límites se armó como el eje principal que atraviesa la exposición, a pesar que se habla de filibusterismo, de lo urbano y de trueque, y siempre marcado por un tipo de límite o de no límite.

TDB: Pensábamos también que fuera un espacio para que la gente de Centroamérica estuviese en diálogo con interlocutores locales. La idea del límite en el arte como un modo de pensar, tanto como la cordura, la locura, el miedo, o los límites institucionales y políticos. Esto podía dialogar con un formato flexible con otras muestras como Tráficos que trata de como se negocian esos límites en el espacio público. Sobre todo se trata de intervenciones en espacios, talleres, o con comunidades especificas y luego esta Rutas Intangibles que a través del dibujo estaba dialogando desde otro sentido del límite.

CN: A propósito de Límites ¿Cómo se vinculan las obras Corresponding Lines de Liliana Porter y Ellos no son pobres de Ernesto Salmerón?

VPR: Hay algo en Liliana Porter que caracteriza su obra, y es un constante cuestionamiento de los diferentes niveles de la realidad. El nivel material, la representación de esa cosa en una foto, un grabado, o un dibujo, mediante el objeto, y la imaginación. Eso para resumir una obra que es muy compleja. Y también ella trabaja sobre la idea de volver a algún lugar. En este caso es el regreso al hogar, y a la seguridad que muchas veces es imposible o virtual. Y en el caso de Ernesto también habla de diferentes niveles de realidad, porque lo que estamos viendo es un video de unos niños que se están bañando felizmente. Su realidad es la gritadera y el disfrute de una poza en un río tropical. Por eso se llama Ellos nos son pobres, hay otro nivel que no es la riqueza material que para muchísima gente la pobreza es por que los niños no tienen vestido de baño y se están bañando allí y no en una piscina. Son diferentes niveles de realidad que se perciben según el punto de vista. Obviamente, son conexiones que uno hace a partir de la aparición de la obra. No sabíamos cuando invitamos a Liliana, y a Ernesto, que obras nos iban a proponer, pero había la intuición de que eran dos artistas que podían funcionar juntos. Es lo mismo que por ejemplo, la obra Sin Titulo de Shilpa Gupta que habla de la imposibilidad de dividir el cielo, muy poética, y a la vez nostálgica, talvez lo único total que hay en el mundo es el cielo, que es imposible dividirlo en dos, como es imposible dividir el disfrute de esos niños en dos cosas. Parte de la intención que tenía sobre todo Rutas y Límites era de trabajar a contracorriente. Hay ciertas tendencias actuales de trabajar con obras que son extremadamente mediáticas que entran dentro de la estética de los medios de comunicación, y de lo muy agresivo visualmente. Y queríamos trabajar cosas sutiles donde el espectador tiene que insertarse en las obras para poderlas captar profundamente. Eso exige pensamiento y reflexión.

CN:¿Qué se pretende al montar un evento como es Estrecho Dudoso?

TDB: Tiene que ver con San José como capital iberoamericana de la cultura y al impulso inicial que Hivos estimuló con su aporte. Estas operaciones buscan visibilidad o un intercambio efectivo. Por eso vinieron más de cincuenta artistas, y aunque muchos de ellos no hubieran necesitado venir a montar su obra, era importante que intercambiaran y crear un espacio de encuentro --un nodo.

VPR: Creo que era trascender nuestros propios límites. De vez en cuando Tamara y yo hemos hecho exposiciones como la Bienal de Cuenca en Ecuador. Esta exposición buscaba potenciar la infraestructura que tenemos, porque internacionalmente lo que se conoce de Costa Rica es TEOR/éTica y el Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo. Funcionó relativamente bien, sobretodo cuando uno lo compara con eventos en lugares como Shangai, o en Africa, no solo a nivel de vías de desarrollo, pero también a nivel del mundo desarrollado. Muchas veces uno va a una bienal en Europa, Estados Unidos, e incluso Brasil y ve una serie de fallas, así como una serie de aciertos. Entonces, no estamos ni mejor, ni peor, que ningún evento de esta magnitud en otro lugar.

CN: ¿Qué significa la imagen de William Walker en Noticias del filibustero?

VPR: En 1855, en las luchas entre liberales y conservadores en Nicaragua, los liberales traen a William Walker como mercenario. Walker era un general surista, abogado que hablaba varias lenguas. El tenía el Destino Manifiesto como su misión. En realidad la intención de Walker era ampliar el sistema esclavista hacia Centroamérica. El Destino Manifiesto es algo que los Estados Unidos han tenido metido que ellos son los guías del mundo. Ellos son los que llevan los destinos de paz y de democracia. Todavía hoy es evidente con las declaraciones de George Bush, que el pretende ser el guía espiritual, y el ejemplo de la democracia. En el Destino Manifiesto se considera que hay gente que no tiene la capacidad para auto manejarse. Y eso era lo que creía Walker, y tuvo que venir a arreglar las cosas. Entonces, hubo una campaña militar que salió de Costa Rica que culminó con la derrota de Walker, el posterior exilio, y finalmente fué fusilado en Honduras en 1957. La campaña de 1856 se llevó a cabo en un momento duro en la historia centroamericana, durante una epidemia del cólera, con ejércitos poco estructurados y matizada por una serie de intereses de Cornelius Vanderbilt, y la ruta del Tránsito. Lo que queríamos con Noticias del filibustero era llamar la atención sobre la complejidad de esa gesta histórica, y traerlo al presente para que la gente hablara sobre el filibusterismo actual y que reflexionara las formas que existen de dominación e intervención.

CN:¿Cómo se atan con el panamericanismo esos vínculos hacia Latinoamérica?

TDB: En Noticias del filibustero, SOA: Historias en Blanco y Negro de Carlos Motta es un periódico con las intervenciones norteamericanas en Latinoamérica.

VPR. Tenemos una centroamericana y un chileno en las exposiciones monográficas. En cada exposición, excepto en Noticias del filibustero que esta más concentrado en la región formada por Centroamérica, Colombia, Cuba, México, Puerto Rico, y Venezuela. El backyard que ha sido presa del filibusterismo más primario. De pronto hay un evento que incluye una cantidad de artistas, y sedes y que no es en un centro de poder como Sao Paulo, ni es tampoco La Habana que ha sido el epicentro de Latinoamérica. Centroamérica ha sido una especie de no lugar. Una cosa como desaparecida y poco a poco ha ido tomado más espacio.

CN: Parece que Centroamérica se ha puesto en el mapa con Estrecho Dudoso.

VPR: Estrecho Dudoso es la culminación de un trabajo previo de la región, y al mismo tiempo se ha creado algo original. Por ejemplo, el MERCOSUR tiene su bienal, pero no tiene la cohesión que tiene Centroamérica ya que hay un constante diálogo. Talvez porque MERCOSUR esta teñido con la presencia de Brasil que es una potencia. Es lo que nos pasaría a nosotros si fuera México ya que tomaría un espacio muy grande. Centroamérica son países más o menos equivalentes. Hay un pasado colonial, y fue una sola región política, militar, económica y religiosa. Y hace que tenga una identidad diferente, que Las Antillas que por ser islas y tener cinco idiomas no hay una comunicación fuerte. Centroamérica desde mediados de los años 90 viene confibrandose.

CN: ¿Podríamos ampliar un poco sobre TEOR/éTica?

VPR: TEOR/éTica surgió en 1999 después que yo estuve como directora del Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo por cinco años. Me planteé concentrarme en la generación de pensamiento, y también en exposiciones de pequeño formato. Se ha ido construyendo poco a poco y he tenido la suerte de contar con un equipo profesional, comprometido con la vocación y la identidad del proyecto. Entonces, creo que lo más importante que tiene TEOR/éTica es la solidez de equipo. La gente nos llaman “Los Teoréticos” porque el que se convierte en Teorético es un tipo de persona. Ciertos objetivos eran investigar, promover y difundir la obra de Centroamérica y del Caribe. Eso como un principio, pero también generar un pensamiento critico. Básicamente, hemos continuado en la misma articulación, por un lado las exposiciones, las publicaciones, apoyo a los artistas, seminarios, talleres, y eventos. La biblioteca esta abierta todos los días y es de acceso libre, y el centro de documentación que le ha servido a muchos curadores para consultar nuestros archivos.

CN: Tú has mencionado un grupo nicaragüense que ha trabajo en este proyecto.

TDB: El proyecto se llama Canal Central que desarrolló el artista catalán, Antoni Abad. La decisión fué que trabajara con inmigrantes nicaragüenses. A cada uno se le proporcionó un teléfono celular con cámara integrada. Ellos construyen sus propias historias que cuentan en la Red. Una segunda fase fué promocionar este canal en la página y allí tú encuentras temas de viviendas, papeles, tradiciones, y familias mixtas, y crearon un carácter tico-nica, que son los hijos que ya son nacidos aquí. Ellos tienen un medio de comunicación, sin mediación, sin que se les vea como el delincuente, o el inmigrante pobre que llena la caja de seguro social. Y lo lindo ha sido que esto activó una comunidad. Probablemente, después de Estrecho Dudoso, ellos seguirán funcionando ya que tienen la página, la programación, el contacto y están súper estimulados. Tuvo un efecto real.

Sobre las curadoras de Estrecho Dudoso

Virginia Pérez-Ratton es artista, curadora y gestora cultural. Primera directora del Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo de Costa Rica, fundadora de TEOR/éTica, que dirige desde 1999 para el estudio y difusión del arte regional centroamericano. Ha sido curadora para varias bienales internacionales, miembro de Jurado de la Bienal de Venecia y Premio del Príncipe Claus para la cultura y el desarrollo en el 2002. En 1998 publicó un volumen llamado “Centroamérica y el Caribe, una historia en blanco y negro”, con motivo de su curaduría regional para la bienal de Sao Paulo.

Tamara Díaz Bringas es historiadora de arte, graduada de la universidad de la Habana, y tiene una maestría en artes de la Universidad de Costa Rica. Curadora adjunta de TEOR/éTica desde 1999, es la coordinadora editorial del proyecto. Ha sido critica de arte del diario La Nación en San José y ha escrito un libro sobre arte costarricense llamado “ En el trazo de las constelaciones”. Ha realizado múltiples curadurías tanto en TEOR/éTica como en el Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo y otras sedes. Co-curadora con Virginia Pérez-Ratton de Iconofagia, un proyecto regional para la bienal de Cuenca, Ecuador, 2004

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Timeless Miami Beach

The ocean surf
turquoise water
a rainbow shining
in the horizon

Spray falling
on the sable beach
cool water

Palm trees
swaying at the
of the wind

The warm sun
of shadows

The waves
again and again
rough pebbles

White bird
the crisp air

El oleaje
en el litoral

Sunday, March 23, 2008

In conversation with Marya Kazoun

● How was it for you growing up in Beirut?

It was great except for the war part- maybe not after all. It helped me become what I am now. Experiencing raw fear, giving value to things you would normally take for granted, like the feeling of security, going to school safely, having drinking water and electricity.

● How did you become an artist?

I think there was this need to say something. Words are too direct sometimes… I was more interested in the emotion that an object, a thing, or a person’s behavior could convey…

● How different is for a Lebanese-Canadian woman to become an artist?

When I was young, I have to say I had a relatively open and very modern upbringing. My mom is a chemist, but she doesn’t work, she stopped when the war started in 1975 then she had to look after us, and my dad is a pharmacist and owns a pharmacy. I was expected to become a pharmacist like him- I went to French Protestant school there where I studied French, Arabic, and English and Bible every Thursday although my family is muslim. My parents wanted me to study and know about and of everything-
We had to flee the war several times. Our first move was to Switzerland and the second was to Canada where my family decided to emigrate and stay they there. I think that seeing and experiencing lots of different things made me want to say and do a lot of things and being what I am with a rich baggage made it easier for me, I have a big baggage. I have a lot to say. I believe my background helped a lot in the shape, expression and form of my artwork.

● What made you become a performance artist?

You’re asking me about performance?
I consider myself a novice in the field.
I reflected a lot on that topic. It made a lot of things clearer…
I had organized a photo shoot for an installation I had just ‘finished’. I had made an outfit but wasn’t quite sure why I had done it, what was it purpose? I was wearing it and got in one of the pictures of the installation to show the scale of my work. When I got my slides back and looked carefully at them, it suddenly hit me, it all made sense to see myself in the works…

● In the 51st Biennale di Venezia’s catalogue you talk about the need to inhabit your work. Why is that?

I felt that the work needed me to support it, to help it sustain itself. I first started with embodying the works, becoming part of them, having a similar external shell, in a way to be like them, to be ‘their equal’. I had something more, I was alive and moving I sometimes became the protagonist of the situation to balance their weaknesses. Sometimes there is no story. Sometimes the story/ script comes after the object is made. Sometimes the script comes first and than it gets elaborated and becomes clearer while working on the piece. There’s a lot of theater influence in my performances.

● What is your process when using materials?

I try to let them guide me and tell me what they could become. I ask them, they show me.

● How does identity plays a role in works like Self-portrait for example?

In this work there was a big reflection on self-image, the mirror and questioning my identity. The perception I had of myself.
Who was I? I’m not sure I am a human being. I had no say in the form or presence of myself on this earth. This work is what I am, really.

● Luggage is a fascinating work of yours. What do carry in it?

Different things in the different pouches, I carry my background, my past, memories, we are all travelers and we carry a lot around….

● Many of your works are direct references to body parts like fat, hair, organs and skin. What is this compulsion in deconstructing the body?

It is more a kind of fascination examining things closely- Body parts and organs are very fragile, if you think of it. If any thing gets damaged, it’s handicapping. I perform operations on them to heal them. Sometimes dark little secrets hide in them so stitching them up is a kind of way to protect, hide and burry them.

●Have you set limits when using your body in the performative act?

Not really I just listen to what the piece needs.

● Scatological concerns surface in your series of photographs called Daily Shit. What prompted you into creating such body of work and why?

I first started by taking images of my stool when I started seeing it. I had never really looked at it. When I moved to NYC the toilets were all shallow. I started experimenting with the kind of food I was eating and what kind of shape and color my body was able to make… It’s a kind of guilty pleasure taking all these photographs. Sometimes mixed with some guilt and shame. I slowly started comfortable showing it. I was almost proud of it. I was able to give it an interesting shape and colour… I all the shit of life, I indulged in retaining that I was showing the world.

● As an artist who has participated in the 51st Biennale di Venezia, what is your advise to an emerging artist?

Be as authentic and real as possible in art making and work hard, I guess…

Please, talk about the art scene situation back home in Lebanon.
I think the art scene in the Middle East is developing very fast, very conceptual, but I feel that it is still more directed towards a more documentary type of work. There’s a lot of direct video and photography works.

This conversation was first published in Futuro Magazine in March 2007

Rachel Hoffman's Vagina Dentata Performance

Rachel Hoffman's Vagina Dentata Performance takes place in a sandy area of Dolores Park in San Francisco. As part of the show Intimate Bodies Public Spaces, Hoffman enacts interventions outside the gallery space. By literally placing her body in public sight, she contrives issues of presence and perception. Clad in a pink and golden custome, with a stuffed oval shape representing the vagina dentata, Hoffman challenges sexual cliches and some our innermost fears- our own sexuality.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Au Naturel

A: I am in a hurry, and I need your help, right now!

B: Yes, how can I help you, ma’am?

A: Well, I have not worn hosiery in a long time, and I need them for work. I will use them for a business trip.

B: What kind would you like? Sheer toe, or reinforced toe, control top or sheer to waist.

A: Yes, control top, I need a lot of control, but I want it with a very sheer hose.

B: Aha, we have the Au Naturel style by Doña Quetall.

A: Let’s see, if I like that style.

B: What color would you like? A, B, H, W, or G?

A: I don’t know! What do you think?

B: I think , W fits your skin tone.

A: Would that be too pale? Would that make my legs look too fat?

B: I think that is the right tone for you, but let’s try the swatches.

A: Let me see. Oh yes, I really like this one. It is very sheer and translucent.

B: Now, what size would you like? small, medium or tall?

A: I am not sure, perhaps a medium.

B: Yes ma’am, How tall are you?

A: I am 5’ 7.

B: And what about your weight?

A: Well, let me see the chart. Well, I can’t see that! Can you help me read these small numbers. Well, I weight about 145 or 155.

B: Uhm, It seems that you are borderline. It would be best to go one size up. Why don’t you try tall?

A: OK, give me twelve pairs, please.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Let her Sing! Shirin Neshat's Turbulent

Turbulent (1998)
Shirin Neshat
10 min. 35 mm

Turbulent is the first film of a trilogy made by Iranian American artist Shirin Neshat. The other two videos are Rapture (1999) and Fervor made in 2000. A dual projection set in opposites sides places the viewer at the center. Shot in black and white, the presentation of separate screens enhances the duality inherent in the work. On the one hand, the films presents us with a dark haired man with a goatee wearing a white shirt who sings on a theater stage. In the background a male audience listens to the man singing. With hands raised at the chest level, and in front of a metal microphone, he sings enraptured by the experience. The love song is from the thirteen century which lyrics were created by the poet Rumi. Both the man and the audience face the viewer.

On the opposite screen, the viewer is presented with the image of a woman. She is a singer facing an empty auditorium. She gives her back to the viewer who is unable to see her face. Veiled in black, she stands immutable between the stark and empty white seats of the theater. The placing of the woman at the center dressed in a black chador gives a gestalt quality to the image. While facing the audience, she sings in a deep male-like voice. She sings to no one, alone in an illuminated theater giving an eerie feeling to the scene. The continuos rows of empty chairs in the theater intensifies the sense of isolation.
Both images are accentuated by the theatrical illumination of space. The use of black and white accentuate the scene. At the center, the image of the man creates a triangular composition giving a sense of depth while, the image of the woman recedes in space. The juxtaposition of her black image against the white space heightens a sense of two dimensionality. Her image looks like a cutout shape creating a sense of flatness. This flatness serves as a metaphor to her absence in society.

The set of images of male and female are evocative of other set of oppositions such as the one and the many, the visible and the invisible, absence and presence. In contrast, the image of the male singer, is full and visible. He can sing and be seen, his side is full and the audience can identify with him. The woman, on the other side, is absent, nobody can see her, nor hear her. This works serves as a commentary on the distinction between man and women in Islamic society.

In an interview with London based writer Susan Horsburgh of Time Magazine, Neshat states that her work is a coming to terms to the ideology of the Islamic regime and the Revolution in Iran. According to Neshat, her images raise questions more than answers. Referring to Turbulent, she said that her work was a response to the prohibition of women to perform or record music. She questions the privilege that men have as a way of finding a mystical and spiritual experience through music while women have no access to such experience.

Neshat also states that her works are imbued of a certain naiveté, but her work is well thought out. Although, she incorporates Islamic iconography as visual elements in her works, her native culture is Persian, while her mother tongue is Farsi. In her practice, Neshat appropriates Arabic elements, to make her own critique of Islamic law as she experiences it from a distant exile. Through her practice, Neshat overcomes her own sense of dislocation.

O Zhang interviewed in New York City

January 13, 2005

• What influences in your childhood made you become an artist?

‣ Since seven, I went to the Children’s Palace which it is a place for children to study art. I learned drawing, painting, and printmaking. After, I went to high school at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. So, I did calligraphy and Chinese and mural painting, but mainly I trained in watercolor and oil painting. After, I went to the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. It is difficult to apply, and I was the first person from the South to get into the Academy in ten years. It was very competitive. Also, the Academy’s style in the north is slightly different from the South. Maybe this is why it was so difficult to get in for people from the South. I was very isolated by my classmates and my environment. People were not friendly to me, and Beijing was a harsh environment. I like Beijing, but I did not like my experience in the Central Academy because from 1996 to 2000 the Academy changed location.

From the center in Wang Fujin, they moved faraway to the Northeast side of Beijing. It was a very tough environment. Eight people shared the same room, and forty people shared three bathrooms. Apart from that the art education was traditional. We studied European technique, traditional Chinese and mural painting. Also, the name was prestigious, and we traveled around the country because we had to experience life as a group. We were nine in my class. So, we went to the East by the beach, and we painted local people. We also went to the North to Dung Huang to live in the mountains and study the cave murals. I was trained to be professional, and after I did not want to stay in Beijing. So, I went to Byam Shaw School of Art in London for an MA in Fine Arts. It was a very small school, but I was very comfortable. I mean, It was a cultural shock. I was a one of the few Chinese artists to study abroad because it is hard to afford school fees. Fortunately, I got a scholarship, so I was able to survive. I did not need to work the first year, but the MA was hard and my English was really bad. So, I had to start all over again and nobody taught me anything because nobody teaches you how to learn to live in London. Nobody teaches you that because in my surroundings there were only Westerners. So, I had to find my own way.

• Do you think that isolated experience in Beijing and London shaped your art practice?

‣ Yes, very much. I felt very isolated. In a way that shaped my character and I became stronger. I do not care if other people put me down. I just stop them. I am quite stubborn. I know that it might be difficult, but I still want to try it. So, I wrote my dissertation, and I could barely survive. Fortunately, I got a degree, but I was so hard. I could not do anything else apart from studying. Then, the second year, they gave me for a scholarship at the same school, and I did research in whatever I wanted. This gave me time to understand the city a little bit more. So, that year I did the kind of work I am satisfied with, like the Black Hair series which was the foundation to apply for Royal College.

• What prompted to you to do the kind of work for the Hair Series. Why hair?

‣ First of all, I did the Chinese erotic painting series.

• Let’s talk about the erotic paintings.

‣ When I went to the Louvre in Paris, my first year in Europe, a boy showed me a catalog of Chinese erotic paintings called Rain and Clouds. I was dumbfounded by those images, because as a Chinese living in China we could never see pictures like those. People can search for erotic paintings, but it is very rare to see beautifully made images of people having intercourse. I have never seen anything like that before. I don’t know if you know my process. I took slides out of the erotic paintings catalog. Then, I projected the slides on the model’s body. So, she was asked to pose in the bathtub. I photographed the erotic painting with the body, with bubbles, and water. So, it was quite mysterious.

• Why erotic images, because you found them?

‣ Yes, because I found them. The meaning is water and moon, as they both represent the female. Also, poets wrote many Asian fairy tales about moon, and water. So, in the image the body is firm like a mountain, because it is a very close up. I cropped the slide as round image. So, it is like the moon projected on a mountain. Basically, it is about the romantic, and water is a thing that relates to those stories. I always imagine what happened in the past about females, about sex, about love, and I think it is very mysterious. So, I moved on to the Black Hair. One day, I was running the slide projector and I clicked. Suddenly there was no slide, so it was very bright. That was a powerful light source. So, I took a photograph of that, and that was the beginning of the Black Hair series. In Black Hair 1 you can see the neck and the hair. The light is very strong. So, that leaves the female body very fragile and vulnerable. This was the beginning of my second project, I began to photograph the female body, hair, and water.

• I would like to have more feedback on the erotic work.

‣ Well, in my early work most of the colors are dark. The color used is black because it is mysterious, and I want to translate old masterpieces into a contemporary version. I used a flash light for very little light. So, the bubbles, the water, and the body made a scene that is mysterious. A feeling that I wanted to express is going back to the mother’s womb. So, you only see parts of a wet body floating on the water, and then you see these erotic paintings. Vaguely you see a male and a female having intercourse. So, it is also about a very vivid spirit, it is about human beings. It is about life, regeneration, and birth.

• You mentioned mysteriousness. Why mysteriousness?

‣ I want to try to understand my past because the images are from China. So, I want to understand how Asians understood women, because birth it is also a woman’s function. It is also about sex, and intercourse. So, I use water as a link because for thousands of years water has always been the same thing. I literally put the painting inside the water to find out those mysterious stories. So, the water is a link, and I can go to back in time when people made those paintings. It is composed of this curiosity about the meaning of femaleness, love, and sex. By putting those images in water, with the body, I try to figure out what is the link between now and then. It is time and it is in the dark.

•What is the meaning of hair for you?

‣ Hair is female beauty, and it can also give an ominous feeling -- especially black hair. I do black hair because Asian women have black hair. It is not like blonde hair : that means excellent beauty. Black can be very mysterious. It is good and bad at the same time. I link black hair to sex. Sex is mysterious, beautiful and exciting, but it can be ominous too. Wet hair on the body is suggesting of something beautiful, but many people might think of it as ugly and disgusting. Also, wet hair on the naked skin relates to sex. In the second stage of the work I use wigs, so the hair is detached from the body.

• What about Hair City for example, is that a wig?

‣ Hair City was done around 9.11. I did not do it on purpose, but when I saw my photograph it is actually two towers with a detached wig flying above the city sky. So, it gives an ominous feeling about uncertainty of life. In my first two series it was always about death and sex. In the erotic paintings is about death too. For example, the womb feeling : it is also about birth, death, and intercourse. It is like a “little death” -- that is French though.

• What is the significance on the characters being an Asian girl and a Western male?

‣ That is a rebellion of Asian girls because they are described as soft and obedient, while the white male is seen as member of the most powerful group in the world. So, this girl is getting her ride and she is hitting the man. She is liberating herself from authority. It is about how weak people get their own position. Of course, I do it in a very playful way, so it is not a very critical statement, although I do make reference to the Cultural Revolution. Rebellion is the rule. So, all my work is under that concept. I always use young female, Chinese or Japanese girls as the weak group that challenges authority.

• You grew up during post-revolutionary China and the opening to the West, can you talk how the politics and the social changes has influenced your work?

‣ As a young girl growing up in this society there was no voice for young people. That is why you see in my work that I always want to rebel. After so many wars and the cultural revolution, the society was oppressed, and it is still oppressed. In my work I want to make my own rule from the young generation. I have that from the Cultural Revolution, to make my own revolution and use my art as a tool.

• How was it for you being a Chinese woman artist in China?

‣ I was depressed, and oppressed as well. That is why I went abroad because Beijing, I don’t know who is going to read your article, was a bad place for young female artists four years ago. There were almost no young female artists, most of the artists were middle age males. The few female artists were above thirty five. I was in my early twenties, so no young voices could be heard. There were no opportunities at all, but now suddenly there are more opportunities in the past four years. Now, China starts to develop quickly.

• What do you think now that you have left that moment, time and place, and you are a diaspora Chinese woman artist, who lived in London, and lives in New York city?

‣ No identity, I think it is a contemporary trend. In the future nobody will settle in one country. You will always travel and be international with no identity. In the beginning, I thought maybe I should say I am Chinese, then I said, maybe I belong to England, maybe here. I don’t really care anymore. I think wherever you are you need to keep your mind fresh to make art and be able to rebel to whatever you feel like. I can rebel here, it does not have to be China.

• So, rebelling against the art establishment, the political, and economical establishment?

‣ Actually, the political and economical because while living in the West I am making work like the China girls series. I set little girls against Western old men. That is a challenge to Western authority both economical and politically, because China is booming economically. It is growing fast, so the China girls represent China. They are fresh, young and have so much energy. It is like the impression China gives to Westerners. They say “Chinese are everywhere” or “China is so fast”. The girls are cute, a little naive, but their gaze is very powerful, penetrating if you look at them carefully. Some critics and curators in England wrote about my Chinese girls work, and they said that they their gaze is monstrous and they are like little ghosts. So, they awaken fear in Westerners. I placed together Chinese girls with Western men. So, he is naked and lying down. If you put these images together you can understand why this girl is powerful and this man is passive. He is like a dead god like the West and capitalism. A curator from the Tate Modern said “I don’t feel comfortable when I see those works”.

A version of this interview was published in Futuro Magazine in 2006.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Market Street

Market Street

Live your life
American Eagle
Sixty percent off
Smell of pot

The F train
A homeless man
Rides for free
The stench

A crowd disperses
Now- Chipotle
US Bank
Women in Black


See the Beauty
Touch the magic
Two for one

2 for 25
Live sex show
5:30, 10:30, 2:00
Swingers Saturdays

Half off admission
Non stop lives
Nude dancing


To the right
To the left
Use the front door
Exit only

You want to stop
Pull the cord
Stand by
One pull will do

I will pull all
The way into the island
Stand by
Mucho dinero

Try again

Trench coat
Long, curly hair
Bearded face
Velvet black collar

Sticks in hand
In trash can
Nothing to find
Keeps on walking


A look
A turn
A look again
A turn of the head

Looking back
A time
A moment


Asian girl
Long hair
Cell phone

Hey Patrick!
How are you?
I am at Market
And New Montgomery

Should I
Just meet you there?
I will be
Probably late

El Entretejer del Tiempo

“La poesia vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.”
Jorge Luis Borges

El Entretejer del Tiempo es una exposición que explora la idea de la Fenomenologia, la repetición y la imagen corporal. Esta muestra esta creada por el colectivo llamado Distill formado por siete artistas radicados en diferentes ciudades del globo terráqueo. Ellos presentan trabajos de dos dimensiones, escultura e instalaciones.

La idea de la repetición hace echo con un verso del poema Arte Poética de Jorge Luís Borges. Según el verso, “La poesía vuelve como la aurora y el ocaso.” En este verso, el poeta enfatiza que la poesía es un interminable proceso retroactivo. Así, la idea del habito de Maurice Merleau-Ponty puede ser comparada a la idea de la repetición. Merleau-Ponty habla del habito como sinónimo de habilidad. Merleau-Ponty en La Fenomenologia de la Percepción promueve la conexión entre la mente y el cuerpo. Pare el, la mente depende del cuerpo. Un ejemplo de esto ocurre al aprender a bailar: la repetición de los pasos eventualmente se vuelve automática. El cuerpo repite los pasos con la posibilidad de una improvisación. Como en la poesía, los artistas de Distill recrean el esfuerzo creativo repitiendo imágenes y emociones similares. Como un ciclo de la repetición, el tiempo de la creación surge en el momento de la revelación cuando los artistas improvisan.

En Sin Titulo, Amy Barillaro Visockis creo unos cuadros concéntricos de colores naranja y rosa formados por pequeñas pajillas. La construcción de la pirámide hace recordar el laberinto Borgesiano – una trayectoria que puede llevar a cualquier fin. En Cuadros Verdes y Rosas, los conjuntos de pajillas creados en múltiplos de nueve están hechos como arreglos florales. En Tela a Rayas, un estrato de pajillas verdes y color turquesa enfatiza la forma serpentina. La artista expande la repetición a través de la multiplicidad de formas laberíntica, infinitamente repetitiva.

En El Blanco II, Ann Chuchvara creo unas pequeñas formas redondas que se pueden asociar con orificios y senos. El plástico con reflexiones color rosa parece flotar como la espuma del mar. Según la artista, “Es a través del uso de los materiales que soy capaz de conjurar las sensaciones corporales.” Hecho de mylar y ojales, La Caída es un follaje floreciente. Las tres lianas que penden del cielo raso proyectan sombras en la pared adyacente. Como ardua tarea, los cortes sirven como testigos del divagar del tiempo.

Tsehai Johnson en Ejemplo # 5, los soportes de porcelana contrastan con la bola de pelusa naranja. Como flores de mimosas parecen a las trompas de Falopio. Un enrejado en Ejemplo # 6 se parece a las extremidades de una muñeca. En el Campo # 4, las formas intestinales abrazan sus tentáculos a las paredes contiguas. Las lianas parecen grandes estamenes. Johnson combina lo visceral con las formas antropomórficas de la flora.

Como parte de la serie Memoria de la Cuerda, Julie Poitras Santos crea en Bordón una cuerda en papel y hule. La cuerda colgante provoca un sentimiento extraño – una meditación sobre la muerte. Las formas negras, superimpuestas. están enredadas. La acción repetitiva de poner capas enfatiza un método sistemático ad infinitum. En Retorno, ella hace una red de goma que da vueltas como las autopistas de Los Angeles.

Con la acumulación diaria de papel periódico cortado en tiras en Tiempo y Espacio, Hrafnhildur Sugyrdardottir trata el continuum del espacio y el tiempo. En Teta de Bruja, una pieza tejida en forma de circulo con un pezón caído, se refiere al prototipico seno. Margaritas blancas, asemejando senos, pululan en la alfombra verde. Juntando los temas del cuerpo y la flora, ellas evocan a los senos. En esta obra, Sugyrdardottir se refiere a la canción de Pete Seeger llamada A donde se han ido todas las flores? Este es un homenaje a todos los muertos de la actual guerra en Iraq.

En Súbete a la Onda, Patricia Tinajero-Baker tejió círculos giratorios con el material interior de los cassettes de VHS uniéndolos por hilos blancos. Según Tinajero-Baker, esta obra esta inspirada en la sempiterna onda acuática, y sirve como metáfora a la interconexión humana. De la serie Cosas que Caen entre el Cielo y el Suelo, la Carrera de las Estacas es una instalación hecha de estacas de madera con banderines coloridos tejidos al crochet. Adheridos a la parte superior, tazas y sombreritos pululan la pared. Como una cerca definiendo linderos, este es un comentario a la usurpación de la tierra en el Viejo Oeste.

La obra Sin Titulo, Jacha Yoo utiliza representaciones de peluches como Winnie the Poo y el Gato Félix. Estos despiertan un sentimiento extraño. La caja rectilínea contrasta con el vacío de los peluches, pero lo que acrecienta un raro sentimiento son las orejas cortadas pegadas al fondo de la caja. Las orejas cortadas aluden a un sentimiento de alineación. La obra de Yoo indica como los recuerdos de los sueños de la niñez resurgen.

El Entretejer del Tiempo nos demuestra un comentario sofisticado de la repetición y el tiempo. Aunque, los artistas están trabajando como un colectivo en lo concerniente a lo fenomenológico el resultado es ecléctico, e inspirador. Una colaboración de esta clase solo podría ser posible hoy gracias a los avances en comunicación en esta era global. Esta exposición refleja un tratamiento Borgesiano en el cual las diferentes avenidas tomadas han hecho posible otra realidad artística.

On Renewal: Yagul by Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta
Imagen de Yagul (Image from Yagul), 1973
Lifetime color photograph
20 x 13 1/4” (50.8 x 33.7 cm)
Collection Hans Breder
Original documentation: 35 mm color slide

Cuban American artists Ana Mendieta (1948 - 1985) created the photograph Imagen de Yagul (Image from Yagul) in 1973. She lies naked at the bottom of a shallow, rocky grave. Her face and torso are covered by stalks of delicate, white flowers that seem as if they are stemming out her body. she is placed perpendicularly with her arms set along her body while her hands slightly touch her thighs. She has her legs extended and close to each other. The skin’s fleshy tones contrast with the rough surface of the ground and freshness of the flowers. Colors are used sparingly. Whites, grays and blacks in the work are subdued, except for the vivid green vegetation. On the dirt floor, small weeds, twigs and pebbles surround her body. Angular and irregular stones built the tomb. The surface is rough, dark gray like volcanic material and whitish like calcareous limestone. The tomb is in the ancient site of Yagul from the Zapotec culture. Yagul is one of the smaller archeological sites in the Oaxaca area.

Imagen de Yagul is the first of Mendieta’s Siluetas photograph series. Using her body to create this work, she increasively began to trace it as the series built up. Allusions to life, death and regeneration are conveyed through the composed visual elements. The artist’s body represents life, and the promise of regeneration is signified by the blossoming plant. By choosing this tomb as the site of her work , Mendieta made a direct allusion to death. Nearby Yagul is Mitla, the City of the Dead, where the cult to death springs from. Life and death are aspects of the same process. The belief that death is a regenerative process was pervasive in ancient Mesoamerican tradition and is still part of the Mexican cultural legacy. In reference to this philosophical view understood as a concept of Duality, Mexican writer Octavio Paz expresses, “The opposition between life and death was not so absolute to the ancient Mexicans as it is to us. Life extended into death, and vice versa. Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of the infinite cycle.
Life, death and resurrection were stages of a cosmic process which repeated itself continuously.” Mendieta would have been also inspired by the work Roots of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo where themes of life, death and renewal are addressed as the subject matter. In Roots, Kahlo’s body in depicted as a transformed tree with roots deep into the earth. According to Olga Viso in Ana Mendieta; Earth Body, referring to Mendieta’s works” The Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life) became a theme she would explored throughout her career as she adopted the theme of rebirth to her own interpretive ends (51).” By working in Mexico, Mendieta was searching to come to terms with her own Cuban cultural heritage.
Lucy Lippard in “Quite Contrary: Body, Nature, Ritual in Women’s Art” says that Mendieta’s body tracings are driven by a desire to reconnect with her ancestral origins through direct contact with the earth,” By choosing Yagul as a working site, Mendieta made a direct connection to the past of the ancient people of Mesoamerica. For Mendieta, Mexico became her surrogate country. By staying in Mexico, she felt closer to her own land, Cuba, and by working in ancient Mesoamerican archeological sites it was her way of connecting and paying homage the Tainos, the ancestral people of the Caribbean. Lippard also refers to Santeria , the Catholic and Yoruba syncretic religious practice that “holds the belief that the earth is a living thing from which one gains power.”Mendieta understood this belief as a source of empowerment, and she consciously tried to convey it through her works.

In the book Ana Mendieta: a book of works, a posthumous compilation of Mendieta’s notes and works created in Cuba, she talks about her vision in relation to her own art practice by saying, “Art must have begun as nature itself, in a dialectical relationship between humans and the natural world from which we cannot be separated.” For Mendieta, the creation of her works was an intellectual pursuit, and yet it was at once a synthesis produced by her cultural heritage. She created works of deep sensibility to materiality and to what its intangible. In this manner, Mendieta synthesized nature, culture, belief and art. Coming from Cuba, she was informed by her own cultural background; however, she was influenced not only by Kahlo’s artistic production, but also she was imbued by Mesoamerican cultural beliefs of life and death and renewal.

Conozca Mexico by Jonathan Hernandez

Jonathan Hernandez
based in Mexico City.

Jonathan Hernandez’s art practice has been an ongoing exploration of the urban space in the streets of Mexico City. From postcards to photography, installation to video-performance, Hernandez investigates the impact and repercussions of living in contemporary society. He makes a direct critique by presenting the viewer with images in which the artist himself serves as a witness to a quasi touristic experience. Through his works, he represents the social, economic and political factors that put in motion the machinery one of the biggest cities in a globalized society.

In Conozca Mexico Hernandez confronts the viewer with four vistas of Mexico City which the artist presents as a series of postcards and four C- prints. These views that he portrays are not the characteristic touristic sites which an ordinary visitor can visit. With the project Conozca Mexico, Hernandez instigates visitors to learn aspects of the city that would not be included in their leisurely activity. In fact, these postcards point to dysfunctional details of Mexico City. Like blind spots these sites mark interstitial spaces that indicate the failure of economic progress. It is also a comment on the clash between developed nations and so called developing countries. These images are indicative of the historical layered construction of Mexico City from which outbursts of the absurd act as disruptive devices of a hybrid culture.

Hernandez has presented his work in solo exhibitions, Bon Voyage at Centro de Arte Contemporaneo de Malaga, Spain; 2002. Traveling Without Moving at Galeria del Aeropuerto de la Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico in 2002, and The World Is Yours at Galerie im Parkhaus in Berlin, 2001. He has participated in numerous group shows in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, like Universal Experience: Art, Life; The Tourist’s Eye in 2005

What does a Woman Want?

Highlights of the exhibition

”The great question that has never been answered and which I have not been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul is “What does a woman want?”
Sigmund Freud

This exhibit explores issues of desire a postmodern woman encounters in this global era. Through the artworks presented, this show also attempts to find out what is it a woman really wants. Taking Sigmund Freud’s question What does a Woman Wants? as a point of departure, this exhibit attempts to define desire from a woman’s perspective. Merriam-Webster defines desire as “a strong sexual feeling or appetite.” Further, to want means “wanting something or wishing something to happen,” intrinsic to it is the idea of something missing. This points to a woman’s lack to which Freud gave his phallic interpretation.

In Para besarte mejor (The Better to Kiss You With), a video-performance, Jessica Lagunas puts lipstick on her lips for an hour. The work’s title is inspired in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The artist deals with issues of desire, and seduction. Lagunas’ exercise becomes futile turning masquerade and seduction into a parody.

Lina Puerta’s Frustraciones y deseos (Desires and Frustrations) is an installation of stoneware clay, ink, and found objects. Placed in a bucket, vulva shapes filled with small dolls and cowry shells allude to the concepts of fertility and women as the bearers of children.

My Gestalt by Maria Díaz is a scan rendition of her own vagina. A lithography printed on wall paper, and red ink is flipped 180 degrees. Once digitalized, this organic image turns into geometric forms. Based on Gestalt psychology, it reveals female genitalia images for public display.

Patricia Tinajero in This is What I Really Want! shows a scale covered with spotted skin of a feline animal. The image depicts part of a woman’s feet standing on the scale. In this artwork, Tinajero deals with issues of body image and today’s obsession with body weight.

Camilla Newhagen’s Flowers of Iraq is an installation of white daisies spread on the wall like a patch of flowers. As a homage, Newhagen dedicates each petal to a child killed in the Iraqi war. Made of Venetian lace, this work alludes to war, death, and destruction, but it also refers to nature, renewal and hope.

In Fabricated Dreams, Paz de la Calzada presents a digital print of a woman’s arm holding a hair dryer. Made of fabric, the hair dryer is symbolic of the phallus. The artist with wry humor appropriates a beauty object which stands for male power to call attention to gender issues.

Hrafnhildur Sigurðardóttir in Time Out displays three sleeveless shirts hanging on a string. Made of Japanese, rice paper, these intricate, diaphanous cutout shapes refer to absent female bodies. This point to art historical underpinnings where the absent women are reminiscent of the Three Graces in classical art. They are taking a break as if they just want to be left alone.

The objects presented in What does a Woman Wants? offer complex responses to the issue of desire. The artists above in sophisticated ways not only address desire, but they also convey their preoccupations with social, and political aspects. Revealing a feminist sensibility, these contemporary artworks appeal to a global audience demonstrating that they lack nothing at all.

Cecilia Nuín --curator

Participating Artists: Blanka Amezkua Susu Attar Paz del la Calzada Maria Díaz Gina Jacupke Jessica Lagunas Camilla Newhagen Lina Puerta Hrafnhildur Sigurðardóttir Anna Simson Patricia Tinajero Cristina Velázquez