Energy siphoning bugs, ice records and money- honoring monkeys. These are just a few of the unconventional pieces presented in Holman Hall’s latest exhibit, in which six artists challenge the role of technology in capturing the societal and political climate of Mexico City.
“Distortions: Contemporary Media Art From Mexico” features media art that begins with the concept of distortion, which manifests in unexpected messages on the highly industrialized human condition.
The exhibit, which debuts tonight, Wednesday Oct. 28, is the product of a year-long effort by curators Karla Jasso, Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga, associate professor of art, and Sarah Cunningham, director of the art gallery, to bring the artists’ work to the College. Miranda was impressed by the media art in Mexico City at the “Transitio MX” festival in 2007, due to its strikingly different approach to technology than that of other countries.
“The work’s main point isn’t all about technological invention, but applying new technology to social and political themes or social political realities,” Miranda said.
Iván Abreu’s “m(r.p.m)” is particularly indicative of this technique. In a live performance, Abreu plays the Mexican national anthem on a record made of ice. As the record begins to melt, the song becomes distorted beyond recognition. Abreu said the message of the work in terms of the distortion theme lies in the fact that it consists of “a historical song, taken to a material that is very short lived.”
Ale de la Puente also addresses a major symbol of national identity in her video installation “Interrogation.” In coordination with slow motion footage of a damaged Mexican flag, six halogen lamps are positioned to face the video. The lamps are motion- censored and eventually overpower the image of the flag. Incorporating a similar irony to Abreu’s work, Puente seems to comment on the importance placed on objects as symbols of nationality. In a more generalized application, Puente said the “dancing of a fragmented symbol” represents instances when there are “so many lights on something, you are blinded in ways that you may not realize.”
“Resistance” is a physical and symbolic representation of the tension between Mexico and the U.S. in regards to immigration and militaristic borders. Using metal wire known as resistive that consumes great amounts of energy from an electrical grid, Marcela Armas creates the outline of the physical Mexico-U.S. border. The excessive amount of energy it uses and creates serves as a metaphor for the dynamics between the two countries.
“Statistical Galvanometers” or “GE” looks at the effect of three major elements — the peso-to-dollar exchange, the cost of oil, and the cost of tortillas — on every day life. By using what is intended to resemble a device used to measure electric currents, Iván Puig provides a literal demonstration of how complicated financial systems translate to every day situations and consequences.
Gilberto Esparza continues this commentary on daily life with his series “Urban Parasites.” Originally designed to exist on the street and steal energy from the city’s power grid following the fashion of Mexico City street vendors, the exhibit features the creatures “ppndr-s” and “moscas“ (flies), which are made of recycled materials. In stealing energy from its surroundings, the creatures serve as a “disturbance of space and order,” Esparza said.
“Water Zoo,” from Gerardo García de la Garza’s “Trilogy of Money” allows viewers to see the watermarks on bills via a magnifying device. In addition to focusing on an element of currency that is usually concealed, García de la Garza’s piece surprises viewers with watermarks of various animals, rather than the typical historical figures. In focusing on what is usually regarded simply in terms of its security value, García de la Garza challenges viewers to see another, aesthetic perspective.
“It is a tour through a safari of money, by extracting what’s invisible,” García de la Garza said.
“Distortions” is open tonight through Dec. 2.