Also at San José

In addition to Fragile Waters there’s a lot of other good stuff going on in San José. A few highlights which caught my interest.

Victor Cartagena

DSC_0006 DSC_0007
This was good. I love that it’s in collaboration with the farmworkers and really gets at the human costs of our food industry. The way that workers are sprayed with chemicals—fertilizers and pesticides—so that even when they weren’t working they couldn’t escape the job. The way laborers have to consume some of the product they’re picking in order to survive the day. The way the government treats them as disposable, unwanted cogs in the machine when they’re actually a lynchpin of the economy.

Yet even if we know of the human costs we don’t really know the humans involved. Cartagena shows us people—even names them—but proceeds to obscure them so that we have to look through the evidence of their labor in order to discern their features.

I did find it interesting that there was no mention of Kara Walker even though her Subtlety covered similar territory with regard to sugar three years ago. Cartagena’s work is different in that he’s used the actual likeness of one of the laborers, the resulting sugar masks also evoke the sugar skulls of Día de los Muertos, and they’re an explicit reference to Catholicism. 12 masks for 12 apostles. A table set for the last supper. The idea that this faith and culture is based on the miracle of transubstantiation and how life literally comes from the consumption of someone else’s body.

It just felt too similar not to mention that other artists are also working with the legacies of American sugar production. There’s probably an artist I don’t know of doing something very similar in Hawai‘i as well.

Darkened Mirror

Khvay Samnang Untitled, 2011 Digital still from video

Khvay Samnang
Untitled, 2011
Digital still from video

This was a nice supplement to the more-traditional old topographics of Fragile Waters. Where Fragile Waters is reminding us to get out and enjoy nature, Darkened Mirror is about pointing out how water usage alters the landscape and displaces people.

Your Mind, This Moment

A gallery of slow art. Most of these didn’t hold my attention. Mineko Grimmer however did. Her Mahagony Music Box taps into the kid of fascination I remember feeling about watching the Foucault pendulum at the Academy of Sciences when I was a kid. Something about watching the water drip and being surprised every time a stone falls. Plus it just sounds great. The sticks make a wonderful natural clack and the occasional string sounds at what feels like the perfect time.

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