Tag Archives: Featured Posts

El Pulpo by Yoshua Okon

Source: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2011/11/artist-mexico-yoshua-okon-video-guatemala-civil-war-laborers.html

Also see: http://www.yoshuaokon.com/media/textos/catalogosylibros/individuales/pulpo/pulpo_octopus.pdf

 And an interview with him in Spanish: http://www.revistacodigo.com/entrevista-a-yoshua-okon/

 

A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY — A day laborer outside a Home Depot hardware store in northeast Los Angeles is riding in a bright orange shopping cart in the store’s parking lot, peering through imaginary binoculars, as if he were on patrol in a dangerous jungle.

Others are crawling under parked vehicles as if squeezing below barbed wire, or diving and body-rolling as if evading gunfire. Before a sale display for storage sheds, two men lie still on the asphalt, their legs spread, as if dead.

The laborers are undocumented immigrants from Guatemala, and in an unsettling video installation by Mexican artist Yoshua Okon on view at a university gallery in Mexico City, they are war survivors playing themselves.

Before Okon’s cameras, the migrants are reenacting their days fighting in Guatemala’s long and catastrophic civil war.

The four-channel video piece, called “Octopus,” is Okon’s latest and possibly most provocative video in a career in which he frequently pushes against viewers’ comfort zones with the use of improvising non-actors.

A native of Mexico City, Okon has also lived part-time in Los Angeles. He bought a house in L.A. and came to participate in a rite of passage for many new U.S. homeowners in the last decade — hiring day workers.

The men he found at the Home Depot store in the Cypress Park district, it turned out, were indigenous Maya from Guatemala. They spoke a Mayan dialect and very little Spanish or English. They had escaped Guatemala’s war in search of work in the United States.

Some fought for the U.S.-backed military government and others for the leftist guerrillas. Some, he said, showed him scars of bullet wounds. Now, as laborers at the bottom of the U.S. social ladder, they fight for scraps of work in the slumping construction market.

“They’re more afraid of immigration than about talking about the war,” Okon said during a visit this week to the exhibition space in Mexico City’s Roma district. “To me, that’s what the piece is about. It’s the United States. The war is not over. The war is over there.”

Okon, 41, has made films with wanna-be Nazis in Mexico City, an isolated family in California’s high desert getting drunk on “White Russians,” and Mexican police officers who agree to make bawdy sexual gestures they probably shouldn’t in uniform.

While these works usually elicit in viewers a mix of chuckles and creeps, “Octopus” is different.

The new video is guided by a polemical stance, not self-parody. Home Depot customers amble past the bizarre scenes playing out with hardly a blink, showing that workers who build homes in the United States have “always been invisible,” Okon said.

The artist also had to work guerrilla-style in some form himself. He filmed on the store’s parking lot without proper permission. “I had to constantly negotiate with the security guards, until they finally kicked me out,” he said.

Over two days of filming in March, Okon said the men from Guatemala gradually stopped giggling through takes and began to seriously inhabit — or re-inhabit — their roles. “It felt like a job,” one of the workers later told the LA Weekly. And indeed it was; Okon said he paid the men a double day-rate for their time.

“Octopus,” commissioned by the Hammer Museum at UCLA, will show at the Casa Jose Galvan exhibition space in Mexico City through January. Next year, Okon plans to take the piece toProyectos Ultravioleta, an arts space in Guatemala City.

A single-screen version of the 18-minute piece is viewable here. In one shot, as seen above, a motorist drives past Okon’s cameras with a bumper sticker that reads, “Voter for a new foreign policy.”

The shot was not staged.

Event: How to Curate Art in the Public, Sept 8th, 2014

PROTEST, PICNIC, POIESIS: How to Curate Art in the Public with KAREN VAN DEN BERG

Monday, September 8, 2014, 8:00 pm

The Bark Room (Orientation Room), Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

2 West 13th Street, Room M101, New York, NY 10011

PROTEST, PICNIC, POIESIS: How to Curate Art in the Public with KAREN VAN DEN BERG

The current debate about public art is dominated by terms and concepts such as the right to the city, local knowledge and social engagement.  Consequently, collaborative or collective modes of production have become more important and the articulations of protest culture, collaborative art projects and Street Art have taken on a new significance. 

In the context of this changing background, Karen van den Berg, professor and chair of Art Theory and Curating, Zeppelin University, Germany will share some thoughts about how to shape policy and curate art in the public sphere today.

Co-sponsored by the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center and the Fine Arts Program, School of Art Media and Technology.

Pablo Jose Ramirez at Independent Curators International

Pablo José Ramírez: To Think the Impossible
(Radical indigenous contemporary art)
Thursday, September 4, 2014
6:30–8pm
ICI Curatorial Hub

401 Broadway, Suite 1620
FREE and open to the public

Pablo José Ramírez, curator, political theorist and writer based in Guatemala, presents a talk titled “To Think the Impossible (Radical indigenous contemporary art).”

What happens when those deemed unauthorized produce contemporary art? Several artists operate from uncomfortable places of enunciation: they challenge the controlled discourse which attempts to dominate and sanitize certain art productions that speak from twisted places or cultural forms that do not fit in with the idea of the white mestizaje or neoliberal multiculturalism. Artists like Reyes Josué Morales, Benvenuto Chavajay, Javier Calvo, Sandra Monterroso, and Terike Haapoja operate within the limits of modernity; these particular experiences are intersected by community, the political state of art, indigenous cultures, the problem of language, the ritual, and border epistemologies.

In this discussion he will address these approaches by exploring the experiences of projects such as:Estados de Excepción, produced by Ciudad de la Imaginación, the XIX Bienal de Arte Paiz in Guatemala, andThe Party of Others by Terike Haapoja. These curatorial projects attempt to think of models for exhibiting that operate at the crossroads of the object of art, the writing of seminal histories, and the material culture of the artist.

This event is free and open to the public. To attend, please RSVP to rsvp@curatorsintl.org with PABLO in the subject line.

Visit ICI’s event page for more information.