Mexico City

Como fantasmas que vienen de las sombras… y en las sombras, se van at Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo

Like with mazes and haunted houses, there’s a magnetic appeal in unraveling the mysteries that fictitious places offer. We enjoy undefined atmospheres where a strange comfort assures the encounter with the unknown and is met with the thrill of discovery. Because our sense of control struggles with the powerful forces of uncertainty, we are challenged by our own idea of self-representation, despite being aware that the simulated experience will eventually end. That ambivalence is present at Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo (ESPAC) in its current exhibition Como fantasmas que vienen de las sombras… y en las sombras, se van [Like ghosts that come from the shadows… and in the shadows, they leave].

Jazael Olguín. Paisaje molar, 2015; black marker and three paintings. Courtesy of ESPAC.

Jazael Olguín. Paisaje molar, 2015; black marker and three paintings. Courtesy of ESPAC.

Curated by artists Juan Caloca and Andrés Villalobos, the exhibition features works by seventeen artists, situated within an immersive installation, Grutas [Grottos] (2015), built by Villalobos and Jonathan Miralda. Installed in a 600-square-meter room, the cave—made of cardboard boxes, wood, and brown tape—works as a physical and semantic frame for the other pieces, erasing their boundaries and enabling new meanings in this context.

Since there are no wall labels, visitors must suspend the rules of behavior in a white cube and transit at their own pace. The way they choose to walk around redefines the installation and creates multiple narratives. This scavenger hunt is both filled with moments of recognition and complete strangeness toward grasping the meaning of its discourse. In the darkness of Grutas [Grottos], perception, identities, and corporealities are put at stake alongside the relations we establish with technologies. Limits vanish, and visitors are dragged to question the dichotomies of presence–absence and visible–invisible, ultimately accepting a phantasmagoric status. Artificial light emerges from electronic devices, as if the cave was a self-sufficient being with the ability to produce its own living conditions.

Esteban Aldrete’s sound-art piece Nicolas – Prófugo en el inframundo [Nicolas – Fugitive in the Underworld] (2015) plays in loop and echoes through the grottos. Its strident melody interferes with the trail. Like a nomadic tribe, Ramiro Chaves’s sculptures Lxs Brutxs [The Stupids] (2015) are dispersed all over the cave. These small, X-shaped concrete bodies create uneasiness with their presence, as if they were silently watching every move.

Ramiro Chaves. Lxs Brutxs [The Stupids], 2015; concrete sculptures. Courtesy of ESPAC.

Ramiro Chaves. Lxs Brutxs [The Stupids], 2015; concrete sculptures. Courtesy of ESPAC.

Are You Nobody, Too?, a piece by Christian Camacho, underlines with a subtle yet poetic gesture the fragility of visible and invisible borders. A light is projected onto a plain cardboard surface, tracing a diagonal path. As the light hits a hole within the material, it disappears into blackness. And then, like a ghost, it immediately reappears. In Juventud en Rebeldía [Youth in Revolt], an installation by Emiliano Rocha, the perception of space is altered by two light bulbs spinning at different speeds. The projected shadows wrap the spectators in an act of contemplation.

Jazael Olguín’s Paisaje Molar [Molar Landscape] (2015) consists of three paintings and a mural filled with doodles that are drawn with a black marker. The drawings are reminiscent of Lascaux or Altamira caves, and yet are simultaneously understood as leftovers from an act of vandalism. An ouroboros in the cardboard floor traps the visitors in an endless time loop—the vestiges of our present pose questions of an uncertain future.

Carolina Esparragoza. Memorias [Memories], 2005; sculpture. Courtesy of ESPAC.    Photo: Tania Puente.

Carolina Esparragoza. Memorias [Memories], 2005; sculpture. Courtesy of ESPAC.
Photo: Tania Puente.

Ghosts also appear as pop-cultural characters. With an old TV set bulb, Carolina Esparragoza freezes an image from the anime Nobody’s Boy: Remi in her piece Memorias [Memories] (2015). The image emulates a daguerreotype, but with a renewed nostalgia from the old TV, which serves as a visual memento fundamental to our generation’s sentimental education. In Despertando Fantasmas [Awakening Ghosts] (2015), Cinthya Gutiérrez destabilizes the representation of the body. By hiding one hand inside a box, the spectator re-creates the feeling of a ghost limb through a mirror’s reflection of the other hand.

Rodrigo Hernández’s work Is That So? (2013) highlights a difference between exhibition spaces through the human proportion. In his painting, a person is standing in the middle of a white cube gallery, creating an irony with the grotto’s cardboard walls. The piece suggests an active reconsideration for museographical alternatives.

Rodrigo Hernández. Is that so?, 2013. Courtesy  of ESPAC. Photo: Tania Puente.

Rodrigo Hernández. Is That So?, 2013. Courtesy of ESPAC. Photo: Tania Puente.

Once participants manage to get out, they’ll find a map with the location of the artworks; with this information, they can go back, or decide to remain with their first experience unaltered. In this staged nature, it’s unavoidable to think of Baudrillard’s simulacrum, but inside this uncanny frame, visitors take control of their wanderings and readings on artistic narratives. They can choose to either take a good look at the ghosts that these artworks portray, or to embrace the gloom and surrender to its alternative exhibition display and museological practice. Whatever may be the case, the exhibition stands as a brief fracture of time and space: a reminder of the otherness living beside and inside us.

Como fantasmas que vienen de las sombras… y en las sombras, se van [Like ghosts that come from the shadows… and in the shadows, they leave] is on view at Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo (ESPAC) in Mexico City through February 14, 2016.

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