MIS.PLACED (November 2018)

by Janet Batet

The fallacy of misplaced concreteness proposed by Alfred North Whitehead describes the process through which concrete reality is supplanted by an abstraction. Most of the time, this act of reification implies misleading preconceptions around our existence. The recurrence to binary excluding dichotomies in global society has been a systemic attempt to distort and numb social sensitivity and deriving from this practice, we have been witnessing the careful replacement of terminologies in order to justify our detachment from others.

The systematic replacement of the term “refugee” by “immigrant” accompanied by adjectivizations such as “illegal” and “undocumented” in politic discourses and mass media has the intended aim of dissociating our civic and moral obligation toward this growing group of displaced individuals in global society. Under these circumstances, we are witnessing a new invisible mass of displaced people that become misplaced.

Don’t be wrong, the difference is substantial. Something misplaced is moved away, out of its natural emplacement or boundaries but not excluded or forgotten.

Misplaced gathers the proposals of six female contemporary artists who delve into the fallacy of displacement in contemporary society. Assuming their own bodies as the ultimate territory, each of them establishes a personal fable that procures the restoration of the dignity of the misplaced being.

Before entering the main gallery, Anja Marais’ “Up-Flight of the Wingless Bird” (2014 – 2018) receives us inside a vintage King Camper. The mesmerizing yet intimate video-installation effectively transports us into the tormented mood of the ever-transforming character which looping metamorphosis is captured in an exquisite pixilation animation (over 15,000 photographs integrate this video).

The capricious and yet meaningful allegory of the butterflies and the yellow-spotted river turtles in the western Amazon rainforest is the starting point for Carola Bravo’s “Yellow Resourcefulness” (2017). The interactive installation where yellow butterflies come to drink from our tears reminds us of the always present interconnection – at times indecipherable but essential – between all living beings.

Echoing “Yellow Resourcefulness”, “Immigrant Portrait Series” (Carola Bravo, 2015-2016) presents three videos (“Homesick Tears”, “Nostalgic Tears” and “Sad Tears”) in a loop. Based on three of the major Lichtenstein artworks, this ritournelle emphasizes the idea of the artist’s own sacrifice as a food source and resource for others’ life.

Also playing with the analogy of tears, sacrifice, tribute, and perseverance, Nina Surel’s “Vale of Tears” (2018) is an immersive and visceral installation. Mainly integrated by family garments and personal memorabilia feeding crystal teardrops that are suspended from the roof by engulfed women’s stockings about to burst, this installation is a poetic yet dramatic allegory about gender migration and memory.

Architecture of The Mind” (Marina Font, 2017) and “Quote-on-quote Influencer” (Johanna Boccardo, 2018), are both intervened photographs that focus on the psychological aspect of the misplacement. In both artists, the veiled surfaces are highly significant. In the case of Boccardo, the blocking technique so dear to her work implies a sort of palimpsest where the non-permanence resonates through the successive never-ending acts of writing and erasure. While in Boccardo’s work the relation of the subject with the context is essential, in Font’s “Architecture of Mind” we are witnessing an internal time, almost unconscious: the survival mapping of existence.

The dialogic relationship that derives from the counterpoint between “This Libation Song of Yearning” (Anja Marais, 2018) and “Tierra” (Regina Jose Galindo, 2013) becomes essential. In Marais’ work, a prepubescent girl holding an African mask moves forward while carrying several recycled receptacles loaded with ground corn. The totemic figure embodies the ontological scope of human displacement.

In Regina Jose Galindo’s “Tierra”, the stoic, nude female body anchored to its original space, resists the onslaught of the excavator shattering the earth around her. “Tierra” pays tribute to the victims of the genocide perpetrated by former President of Guatemala Jose Efrain Rios Mont. “Tierra” is also a heartbreaking testimony of the growing number of humans misplaced and even annihilated in their own homeland.

Misplaced is hosted by Collective 62, an independent art space devoted to creation outside of the traditional circuits of art. Located in Liberty City, Collective 62 also seeks to reverse the growing phenomenon of gentrification (another exponent of misplacement at the urban scale) through regeneration that derived from creation and community-based workshops.