Archive for the ‘aesthetics’ Category

Reflections on “Arlington”

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Imagine a sterile white waiting room with a row of three plastic blue chairs to the far left and a tall narrow window to the far right. At the back, to the right is a wide fish-less aquarium, to the right of the aquarium on the wall a paper cup dispenser and nearly at the right corner the only door to enter or leave the waiting room. It is a narrow and tall door. On the drop ceiling are four surveillance cameras and mounted on to the wall behind the plastic chairs a microphone on a gooseneck. On the other side of that left wall, is a control room with a desk and many small monitors all about the room.

In Enda Walsh’s “Arlington” the waiting room is at once an isolation room and an observation room but more importantly a psychological prison. I went to the play (currently at St. Ann’s Warehouse) because I was interested in seeing how the piece melded multimedia with the actors on the stage as I had read it was quite successful; I was not disappointed.

The play that combines theater, dance, video, music and lighting effects to create a work of speculative fiction that delves in to existential reality based in contemporary, first-world society. Initially the play brought to mind Calderón de la Barca’s “La vida es sueño” (Life Is a Dream) (1635) – “Man dreams what he is until he awakens…” I read the play over 20 years ago and what I recall is that a prince, Segismundo is imprisoned in a windowless tower since his childhood. He is given a tutor to have a formal education. When he dreams he recalls his life before imprisonment – playing feely as a child. He confuses his dreams with his reality – to him his dreams that recall freedom are his reality and the time spent in the tower alone or with his tutor is sleep time. The play popularly considered a masterpiece of the Golden Age of Spanish Theater brings to the forefront questions of free will versus fate and whether life is a dream or a reality. Similarly, Isla, the main character in “Arlington” is imprisoned and has one individual to communicate with – the 32 year old technician that sits on the other side of the wall and observes her. As with Segismundo, it is unclear how long Isla has been in this waiting room and like Segismundo the waiting room is at the top of a tower.

At one point there are allusions to her having supernatural powers as she is the one constructing the towers that rise outside, beyond the window. As the piece progressed, it brought to mind Netflix’s “The OA” – an 8 episode series that also presents imprisonment, torture, the question of reality versus psychological construction. And as the combination of video projection and light effects were woven into the play, I couldn’t help but also think about Netflix’s “Black Mirror”.

There is a middle section in the play, following the freedom of Isla, when a new woman is inserted into the waiting room. This section is gripping due to her movement. The character has no words, but her dance choreographed by Oona Doherty speaks clearly of anger and resistance.

The final character to be inserted in to the waiting room is the 32-year old technician who apparently freed Isla from the room. As with Isla, he recalls elements of his childhood that appear to have left psychological scars.

There is one sequence of the play in which immense faces are projected onto the far wall, one after the next – a portrait of the audience and the accompanying narration is a philosophical reflection on the society that we have constructed. I need to find the entire play, in particular this narration.

I attended “Arlington” with my friend Erica and she shared her thoughts with me:

I walked into Saint Ann’s warehouse blind. I had no idea what kind of performance Ricardo had invited me to, but I was excited and my feeling was that it would be a simple yet creative production. Just moments after finding our seats, perfectly situated a few rows up towards the middle, the dimly illuminated theatre went black. The curtains opened up to the sides and the stage lights lit up revealing a very basic set depicting a waiting room. Nothing out of the ordinary. All the items were typical of what you would expect to find – a coat rack, three plastic chairs, a waiting ticket number dispenser, a fake plant and an aquarium. However, everyone’s attention was on her- a plainly dressed young woman who was waiting for her turn in what seemed to be a doctor’s office. Something felt odd though. She was staring out of the one window in the room. She seemed confused or lost in a thought. It didn’t take long to grasp that this was not your standard waiting room scenario. For one, there was a mike on the wall like the one used by the fast food drive thru operator. And second, there were four cameras in each corner of the room monitoring the girl. Third, and the weirdest, there was a nervous nerdy guy in a small room next door full of monitors watching and talking to her as if he were her watch guard.

She was obviously not mentally stable and in need of attention. He was definitely a geek who was lonely. Both establish an awkward relationship without ever seeing one another. There are many extensive monologues. It was difficult to ascertain whether the world she was describing is the real environment in which the story is set, or if she is nuts and has concocted a world where everyone is living in waiting rooms like hers and jumping out of windows when they can’t stand it any longer. Am I like her? If so, to what degree? I couldn’t help but think about my own sanity. Within 30 minutes or so, she has stolen his heart and he finally opens the door to let her out of the waiting room. She presumably is freed.

The next scene was the most difficult to sit through. I was literally so uncomfortable that at one point I had to look over at Ricardo and establish eye contact with him in order to feel that this was just a performance and I was not part of that world. Once he looked back at me, this was enough to confirm that we still belong to our crazy world that we’ve normalized and not the unfamiliar, insane world on the stage. The woman before our eyes was clearly in pain. For what seemed like forever, she was banging her chest, slapping her thighs, hitting the floor, throwing her shoes, running and twirling about the waiting room in such a chaos. There was a series of images and music throughout that at times made me feel disoriented. This woman didn’t say a word and she didn’t need to. The choreography was great. The emotions it stirred inside of me, disturbing. I felt she was going to be one of the falling leaves the previous girl had described in one of her monologues. At the end, sure enough, this leaf fell- right out of the window.

The last scene begins with the pathetic watch guard nerdy guy being thrown into the waiting room. He was bloody, and it’s unclear what the hell he’s done. From above, like an omnipresent god, a woman invoked his childhood traumas, and interrogated him not letting him sleep until he confessed what he saw. Apparently when he opened the door to let the woman out, he followed her into a forest where either he killed her or found her dead. How is this known? By a huge projection of her walking in a forest that was shown behind the wall of the waiting room. By the end of his psychological torture, the woman appears to him and reassures him that once “this is over” they will be reunited. They embrace briefly, he falls asleep, and she disappears.

Written by ricardo

May 18th, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Fabrica Habana

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Fabrica Habana

Fabrica Habana, contemporary art gallery of Concha Fontenla, Habana, Cuba

Currently on exhibition at the beautifully renovated colonial home turned contemporary art gallery by Concha Fontenla in Old Habana is a three story exhibition by Cuban artists Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin. Toirac and Marin draw from various artistic movements such as Conceptual Art and Arte Povera to create a study of the recent history and current reality of Cuba. The gallery consists of three floors and if one begins at the top and works their way down, there is a chronological thread throughout the exhibition. Beginning with allusions to Ancient Western Philosophy and Christianity. On the third floor one will find a broken bronze vase to commemorate Diogenes de Sinope (412-323 BCA), a Greek philosopher of the “escuela cinica” who gave up all material goods and lived as a vagabond on the streets of Athens searching for the honest man.

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Fabrica Habana
On the same floor, a metal press sits on a pedestal. On one side of the press, is the symbol of christ as stamped on to the eucharist and on the other plate is the portrait of Che Guevara with the phrase “Patria o Muerte 2017”. Above the press is a quote from Fidel, stating that every child should be modeled after Che, an honest and virtuous man. To the right of the press is a long table with two dozen tin cups filled with packaged eucharists stamped with the portrait of the Che. Above the table floats a holy chalice also with the portrait of El Che.

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin

On the second floor one will find many memorials to famous Cubans. Each memorial is a pedestal with the name of the historical figure, the dates of birth and death (if the person has died) and the work that each one is known for and on top of the pedestal are objects commemorating the individual. The memorials include intellectual figures such as Jose Marti as well as business men, a famous cook…

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica HabanaFinally, on the street level, the artists present a red carpet made of flattened tin cans of Cuban beer and soda. And on the three walls of the gallery hang a series of portraits of Cubans today from a street recycler to a flower vendor a famous chef. Each of these portraits are executed on the material or tools of their trade. At the rear of the gallery, are a couple dozen portraits shot on a steel cart with trash bags (that is installed against the rear wall). These portraits seem a bit trite as they try to emulate professional studio portrait images. However the larger portraits are beautifully executed.
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana
Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin at Fabrica Habana

The artists effectively portray Cuba as a deeply Catholic and literate society that is wrought with contradictions. The clearest contradiction is effectively presented by the eucharist embossed with the portrait of Che. The island at the foot of the United States, proudly embraces its Marxist identity as proclaimed by Fidel – the tiny nation that stands against the empire while stringently faithful to the greatest empire of Latin American culture, the Catholic church.
Much of the beauty of the exhibition lies in the simplicity of materials employed to realize the work which also effectively portrays the reality of Cuba. A country with few resources that is industrious, able to maintain 70 year old cars with rescued or constructed parts and that is slowly reconstructing its decaying architectural masterpieces. The culture – music, dance, visual arts resonate throughout the globe and Jose Toirac and Octavio Cesar Marin are able to capture a small piece of this reality.

Volta Art Fair 2017

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Last night, I strolled through the vast Volta13 Art Fair at Pier 90 in Manhattan. For the most part, the fair did not present anything particularly exciting, but below are a few of the works that I considered beautiful and interesting.

Max Razdow

from Max Razdow’s “Metropolis Drawings” that portray “a city in becoming”

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Faig Ahmed’s beautiful hand made carpet pieces

Faig Ahmed

from Federico Solmi’s awesome animations

Recetas y Gangas: Essex Street Market Installation

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Recetas y Gangas (Recipes and Deals) is an audio montage of Essex Street Market vendors and shoppers listing goods for sales or sharing personal recipes. The audio montage was recorded and composed to project the market on to the street through an amplified bullhorn. As pedestrians walk past the Essex Street Market, they hear the recorded voices of people working and shopping in the market. Recetas y Gangas was conceived and produced by Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga in 2016 for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful and presented at Cuchifritos Gallery, located within the Essex Street Market.

Commonly street markets around the world have both an outdoor and indoor space. The perimeters of the market may extend on to the street to invite pedestrians in to the market. Rather than walls, street markets may present large openings and awnings to create an arcade where people are at once outside and inside. The Essex Market in the Lower East Side of New York City does not have a side walk extension beyond sandwich boards and signage outside its brick wall. The Essex Street Market facade does not even present pedestrian level windows for those outside to peer in to the interior. The facade is rather an uninviting brick facade, perhaps a planned institutional barrier that Mayor La Guardia desired as he sought to take cart vendors off the sidewalk in an effort to clean up the streets from obstacles and noise. For the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” at Cuchifritos curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful, I have sought to extend the Essex Street Market on to the sidewalk through sound.

There is a long history of market vendors announcing, singing or chanting their goods to the public. On Essex Street before cart vendors were moved off the street and into the market, they would call out their goods, hoping to attract buyers. I imagine that when the market first opened this practice continued. Today, walk through a traditional Latin American market and you will hear various products sung in to the air. To develop my project, I solicited vendors to vocalize their products and the more performative, the better. Only two vendors played along, one eagerly – Rosella Albanese from Pain d’Avignon and another through a bit of coaxing – Yanivis Rodriguez of Luna Brothers. You may listen to each of their recordings here. When I was trying to talk Yanivis into the recording while she worked the register, a shopper began to tell me about her recipes for preparing yams. It was an older Dominican woman, perhaps in her 60s who after describing her recipe, told me about the many health benefits of yams.

As I was having a difficult time convincing vendors to sing or chant their goods, I decided to request a recipe from them. This turned out effective as I’ve collected several recipes from vendors and customers. The final piece is an audio montage that captures a portrait of the Essex Street Market through the voices of vendors and customers alike all recorded within the market. The audio montage is titled Recetas y Gangas (Recipes and Deals).

ANOHNI: MARROW

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Lorraine O’Grady performs a strikingly beautiful and powerful song for our times!

In the countryside, under the streams
Suck the marrow out of her bones
Inject me with chemotherapies
Suck the money out of her face

We are all Americans now

Africa, Iceland, Europe and Brazil
China, Thailand, India and Great Britain
Australia, Borneo and Nigeria

We are all Americans now

Suck the oil out of her face
Burn her hair, boil her skin

We are all Americans now

from ANOHNI: HOPELESSNESS

Written by ricardo

December 5th, 2016 at 1:52 pm

On View at Cuchifritos Gallery

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Artist Antonia Pérez creates sculptures by weaving discarded plastic bags. She worked at the gallery during the exhibition.

This is the final weekend for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Street Market as Collaborator” at Cuchifritos Gallery located in the Essex Street Market. The exhibition curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful has been in the works for the past two years. The premise of the exhibition is for “six socially conscious artists to engage vendors, customers and the Market itself in their artistic processes as a means of co-generating experiences centered on the life that unfolds outside Cuchifritos Gallery, the art space of the Artist Alliance Inc”.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Recetas y Gangas: The Essex Street Market Recordings” with mock up of originally proposed installation of bullhorn on the facade of the market

So in preparation for the exhibition, the artists came together with Jodi Waynberg the Executive Director of Artist Alliance as well as Nicolas to begin considering how the artists might work with the market. Jodi toured the artists through the market and introduced them to various vendors as well as the building manager and staff. Nearly all the artists attended a Vendors Association Meeting to present their projects and solicit collaboration.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Refuse Redo” a collaboration between Mary Ting and Lower East Side Girls Club/La Tiendita – sculptures made from market cardboard.

As one may imagine, the vendors are small business owners and workers. The market is the place that they go to for employment, not necessarily for cultural engagement. Many of the vendors are entirely preoccupied with maintaining their business and were no nonsense about artistic participation. If the artists did not approach with a brief and concrete plan for collaboration, there was little chance of any cooperation. A few vendors were excited at the prospect of creative engagement and happily collaborated. However in general, the ambitious projects envisioned by the artists needed to be simplified.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

Scent and air time capsule of the Essex Street Market by Beatrice Glow.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

Market collection and journal by Inspector Collector Harley Spiller.


Laia Solé and Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful employ the color green from the market to create a video montage that collapses the artists at work and the market at work.

For example, I wanted to create an audio montage of the vendors chanting or singing their goods and then to have that audio amplified onto the street via a bullhorn installed on the facade of the Essex Street Market. The concept was to have the interior of the market spill out onto the street as street markets commonly do in Latin America and Europe. Most of the vendors were not comfortable in singing their goods and the building management did not allow the installation of the bullhorn due to city ordinances regarding noise pollution (at least that was their excuse). When I was recording one of the vendors, a shopper approached me to tell me about recipes that she uses for a particular root. It then occurred to me that if vendors did not want to sing, perhaps they would share a recipe and the audio montage became primarily recordings of market recipes. As the piece would not be projected onto the street via a loudspeaker, I created a sandwich board with a speaker installed into it and wore the sandwich board on the street. In this way, the original concept of the piece was fully realized.

Each artist has her or his own story of how the work needed to be modified for the final exhibition. And in the end, this is the nature of collaboration.

Ricardo Miranda Zuniga

“Recetas y Gangas: The Essex Street Market Recordings” with mock up of originally proposed installation of bullhorn on the facade of the market

FAILE at the Brooklyn Museum

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FAILE

“FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds” at the Brooklyn Museum is the epitome of hipster art. It’s fun, participatory, ambitious, cool, but lacks substance. I enjoyed the work visually and appreciated the nod to rock posters and arcades, but as with the video games presented, the work is not layered or nuanced or provocative. (The video games are worth playing for only a minute as they are more so about hip graphics and chirps, than game play or social commentary as much of game art is.)

FAILE

FAILE

“Temple,” a sculptural structure reminiscent of a classical temple or mausoleum in ruin is the most striking work. The ceramic and iron work is highly detailed. At the rear center where one might find an alter is a male torso with a horse head wearing goggles and an oxygen tank. It is an end-of-times idol. An ironic creature more foreboding than an object of worship. The beautifully detailed work is unfortunately riddled with kitsch and self-labeling as the name “FAILE” is embedded in the work. I suppose that the kitsch as well as the identity stamped throughout the work is a critique of consumer culture. Unfortunately the identity FAILE is so prevalent in the work that the art itself becomes objects of consumer culture, hip, cool to look at, but one walks away with nothing. Perhaps that is the goal.

FAILE

FAILE

FAILE

Two recent sculptures “Wolf Within” and “Fantasy Island” are monuments to youth culture – white, hipster youth culture. Not surprisingly, FAILE – Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller are a couple white dudes based in Williamsburg.

FAILE

FAILE

There is so much craft and attention to detail that I want the work to tell complex tails, but it is also such a cacophony of stuff that the work lacks an anchor, a base to reflect upon and allow me as a viewer to traverse. As soon as I start enjoying one tableau, I’m jolted by some kitsch material lifted from a 50’s movie poster or pulp book cover.

FAILE

Who Needs Art in Iceland!

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It has been a couple weeks since returning to the United States from Iceland – we got back FridayJuly 3rd. However, since the second or third day of arriving in Iceland, I’d been thinking about this blog post title – “Who Needs Art in Iceland” since I was so overwhelmed by the landscape and natural beauty. In traveling around the Golden Cirle and to southern Iceland to see melting glaciers, I was not searching at all for a cultural fix as I found myself doing in Copenhagen and Stockholm. (Of course, on our last day in Iceland, walking around Reykjavik, I did go into an art gallery and found some very funny video art by Ragnar Kjartansson.) So here are a few images on why I did not search out for interesting art in Iceland and view more herePinterest Iceland

Iceland lanscape

Iceland landscape

Iceland landscape

Iceland Landscape

Written by ricardo

July 22nd, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Posted in aesthetics,Natural Disaster,travel

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Art in Copenhagen’s Meat Packing District

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Emil Toldbod

Sculptures by Emil Toldbod at Gether Contemporary

Emil Toldbod sculptureGether Contemporary’s “Beneath the Surface” features the work of five young artists from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts; Esben Gyldenløve, Oskar Jakobsen, Christine Overvad, Emil Toldbod and Nicky Sparre Ulrich. The only work that caught my imagination were the mixed-media sculptures by Emil Toldbod that comprise a series titled “Second Dive: Entering Another World”. Apparently the sculptures are employed in a film in which he wears and uses the sculptures to walk the surface of the sea digging through it’s ground. Below is what I imaging to be a test video in which he wears weighted boots to try and walk along the bottom of a swimming pool. The shoes in the video are pictured to the left.

At the bottom left of the image is a helmet that Emil wears in his film and to the right is a shovel that he pushes along the sea’s bottom. To the right of the helmet, are concrete rings that he wears on his thighs and in the back concrete weights that he drags along to help him remain below the water surface. The sculptures immediately brought to mind the literary genre Speculative Fiction as the artist crafted survival tools from found objects to allow him to trove the bottom of the sea after the waters have risen over much of the continents. These are make-shift tools assembled and crafted by impoverished survivors of a not so distant future that will help them continue living from the debris of past civilization. As I know nothing about the film or “Second Dive: Entering Another World” other than seeing a few sculptures on view at Gether Contemporary and a still on the Gether site, I’m just making all this up in contemplating Emil Toldbod’s work.

1. Første skridt i min søgen efter det omvendt drejede sneglehus. from Emil Toldbod on Vimeo.



Above Gether Contemporary in Copenhagen’s Meat Packing district is Galleri Bo Bjeggard where I enjoyed the whimsical exhibition “Flowers for Poul” (PDF catalog for “Flowers of Poul”). “Flowers for Poul” celebrates the 90th birthday of deceased artist Poul Gernes by presenting the work of John Armleder, Cosima von Bonin, Paul Fagerskiold, Callum Innes, SUPERFLEX, Janaina Tscape and Eriwn Wurm as well as work by Poul Gernes. Flowers for Poul The exhibition is beautifully installed and visually engaging as large colorful works keep the viewer engaged from room to room. The works that stood out to me are SUPERFLEX’s “Information Machine” and “Commons Machine”. Although these pieces are simple and don’t function very well, particularly the make shift tops of “Information Machine” the pieces allow for simple interactivity that inanely reflect on our networked society.

Flowers for Pou
SUPERFLEX’S “INFORMATION MACHINE” “models the struggle between the desire to share information and the desire to contain information. Player A (represents the desire to share information) plays against Player B (represented by the pole in the middle) to choose between sharing information or containing information. The player with the most rings on the pole wins. If there are no rings on the pole the people do not have to choose between sharing information or containing information. The game is endless.” As described by SUPERFLEX, the players are our desire to share as well as contain information and their goal is to have us engage.

Flowers for Pou
COMMONS MACHINE, I would enjoy a lot more if the tops actually worked. Built for 2-10 players acting as “software programmers are working together to develop an open-source system. The programmers are contributing by launching their SPINNING TOPs with open source codes (the spinning top). The source code must not end up in the proprietary domain area (the yellow area) but remain in the common area (the purple area). If any source code ends up in the proprietary area, the operating system is no longer free.” Unfortunately, the tops don’t really spin, it’s art.


From Bo Bjerggaard we walked over to V1 Contemporary Art Center which featured the art of two artists who began their careers as grafiti and tag artists in the Eighties – Barry McGee and Todd James. Their work is well documented and critiques, so I’m only including a few images more so for my own visual archive. I love Barry McGee’s patterns and the simplicity of Todd James’s fantasy drawings in his zine “Beyond the Gates” of viking-like warrior women.

Barry McGee

Barry McGee

Barry McGee

Todd James’s drawings are powerful in their printed comic format, I do not find the paintings at all interesting.

Todd James

Todd James

Todd James

Todd James

Boring…

Todd James

Written by ricardo

June 19th, 2015 at 1:37 am

“Drifting in Daylight” at Harlem Meer

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After getting lost in beautifully tucked away trails toward the north west corner of Central Park, the discovery of the S.S. Hangover made for successful end of art hunting in Central Park this past Saturday. The only one disappointed in our group of six art viewers was the 5 year old who had envisioned riding the boat along the lake as the music played. Fortunately the soft pleasant music performed from the boat by the brass sextet calmed our disillusioned interactive art connoisseur.

Upon studying the ship, my 6 year old immediately asked why there was a fat unicorn on the sail. A Creative Time attendant, corrected him that it was not a unicorn, but the winged horse, Pegasus from the myth of Hercules. To everyone’s disappointment, she went on to explain that the fat Pegasus represents the struggling artist who has gotten older and is unable to achieve artistic recognition and glory. I immediately wondered why the artist had to take a nice performative piece and stamp it with such a trite concept.

The boat appeared to circle around a small island as it performed a piece by Kjartan Sveinsson. We only remained for iterations that were relaxing and pleasant. As we continued to walk around the Harlem Meer, we encountered Karyn Olivier’s “Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock” – a lenticular signboard that shifts between photographs of the immediate environment behind the billboard, a glacier and pottery shard that resembled a Western classical pottery work.

Upon exiting Harlem Meer and Central Park on the east side, we encountered Spencer Finch’s “Sunset (Central Park)” – a soft-serve ice cream truck that employs solar panels to cool and power the soft-swerve. The line for the free ice-cream was far too long for us to experience the solar-cooled ice cream.

Overall the work that we encountered was poetic and relaxing at a time when so much of the immediate social issues carry friction, stress and the growing schism between the rich and poor on our earth.