Sights and Sounds: Mexico

February 27 - March 26, 2015

Sights and Sounds: Mexico features new work by Tania Candiani, Jorge Scobell, Edgardo Aragón, and Jorge de la Garza, selected by María Inés Rodríguez.

Installation view of Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video in the Goodkind Media Center. Photo by David Heald.

The artist is a witness of his or her time — bystander and critic, and above all analyst. The artist questions the cultural construction of history through art. Over the past few decades, shifts in the political, social, economic, and cultural landscape have shaken the American continent and the world. These changes — and their impact in the public sphere — provide recurrent themes in contemporary art.

These video works by Mexican artists reflect on communities in constant flux, facing critical situations and forced to find strategies of survival. As the Martinican novelist, poet, and critic Édouard Glissant once wrote, “The role of the artist is to do certain things in the spirit of imagination, and to change something on the visible level.”

María Inés Rodríguez
Curator

María Inés Rodríguez (b. Zipaquira, Colombia, 1968) is Director of the CAPC, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux. She was formerly Chief Curator of the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo–UNAM, Mexico City(2011–13) and Chief Curator of MUSAC, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Spain (2009–11). In 2008–9, she was Curator of the Satellite Program at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, as well as editor of the French art publication Point d’Ironie.

Video

Tania Candiani, La Magdalena, 2013, video, sound, 1 min., 41 sec. Artwork © Tania Candiani. The Colombian port of Honda, on the banks of the Magdalena River, fl ourished in the nineteenth century, but its importance has been reduced since the construction of roads and highways. Pollution and deforestation along the river banks threaten the city, which now precariously survives on fi shing and tourism. The video refers to an iconic scene in Werner Herzog’s 1982 movie Fitzcarraldo, in which the titular character plays classical music as he sails his steamship up an Amazonian river. In Candiani’s minimalist version, a canoe plies the river while a gramophone plays the Blue Danube waltz. The boat, the record player, and the river itself each stand as anachronistic symbols of thwarted progress.

Jorge Scobell, RH Reporte (HR Report), 2014, HD video, sound, 10 min., 34 sec. Artwork © Jorge Scobell, provided by the artist and Programa BBVA Bancomer – MACG Arte Actual. In certain manufacturing facilities in Queretaro and Chihuahua, the presence and performance of employees are assessed with the aid of body scans. In RH Reporte a cold, neutral voice describes this transnational human-resources strategy, noting the workers’ resistance to the process. A dystopian atmosphere pervades the work: the factories are filmed devoid of people, even as the narrator claims that their current productivity is higher than ever.

Edgardo Aragón, Exterminio (Annihilation), 2014, video, sound, 13 min., 17 sec. Artwork © Edgardo Aragón, provided by the artist and Laurel Gitlen, New York. Edgardo Aragón’s work uses a poetic tone to revisit violent episodes in Mexico’s past. Exterminio addresses the vuelos de la muerte (death flights) that occurred in the state of Guerrero in the 1970s. Military personnel routinely rounded up political opponents and suspected guerrillas; the victims, many of them peasants, were drugged, carried onto airplanes, and thrown into the Pacifi c Ocean. Aragón recreates these criminal acts by throwing bule (gourds traditionally used as drinking cups) from a plane into the water near Oaxaca. This ephemeral action creates little disturbance in the now peaceful tourist city.

Jorge de la Garza, Untitled (Ghost in the Machine), 2011, video, sound, 7 min., 46 sec. Artwork © Jorge de la Garza. This video refers to Arthur Koesler’s 1967 book-length essay The Ghost in the Machine, which attempts to explain humanity’s historic tendency toward political self-destruction. Fragments of films from the 1940s and 1950s are collaged together to form a narrative in which three protagonists of different ages function in a network of unknown machinery, fueled by contemporary, post-industrial capitalism. A melancholy yearning for the past is evoked.

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