Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘critical_perspectives’ Category

Dictator Cycle

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The series of work titled Dictator Cycle has a specific moment of inception – January 29th, 2014 when I heard that the Nicaraguan National Assembly had elected to do away with presidential term limits, effectively allowing, the current president Daniel Ortega to remain president throughout the remainder of his life.

With each manipulation of the Nicaraguan constitution by Ortega and the Sandinista party, I feel a deep sadness for the impoverished country, the birthplace of my parents and where I spent the best days of my childhood. I am also dumbfounded at the short-sightedness of the ruling party and the ignorant avarice of Daniel Ortega who will not hand over the political reigns of the country to a new generation.

Prosperity has been illusive to this small country that has suffered a long-lasting dictatorship, natural disasters, a popular revolution and seemingly inherent political corruption. If only true leaders would emerge who seeks an end to corruption and the engineering of a society striving for the well-being of all its people. Unfortunately, since the Nicaraguan National Assembly elected to eliminate presidential term limits, an end to poverty and corruption appears as distant as the worst period of the Somoza dynasty. Ortega has effectively become Somoza.

Nearly a year later, I illustrated Stalin/Putin out of anger of the increasingly draconian laws in Russia such as the “bloggers law” and “anti-gay law”. Following Stalin/Putin, I started work on the “Dictator Cycle” as an illustrative series depicting once young and noble leaders who had become corrupt autocrats unwilling to surrender power. Each “Dictator Cycle” pairing is alive today or their reign continues to have very real consequences upon the country. For example, although Gaddafi has been killed, Libya continues in disarray. Although Kim Il-sung died in 1994, his grandson Kim Jong-un is North Korea’s current supreme leader and is shown to perhaps be the most ruthless of the family dictatorship.

A Case for Latinx

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Coined in the early aughts, the term Latinx has slowly gained traction in academe and social media. Spanish is a gendered language, nouns are either female or male – they are binary and immediately evoke a binary gendered meaning and identity and value – female or male. To those who identify outside of the female and male binary, a transformation of language must occur.

Language is a living thing. Languages change over time; new words are established, pronunciations change, languages die and new languages are established; language evolves. In Judeo-Christian religions as well as other religions, language is the root of knowledge and language is power. In our culture, those who dominate a language may more easily cross class and racial boundaries. Language continues to present power.

As language is knowledge and power and language is a living thing, it can be transformed. Language is a culturally transformative vehicle. Language has the power to alter understanding and may present a means to inclusiveness. Perhaps next year the Latinx Grammys will embrace this transformation.

Written by ricardo

November 16th, 2018 at 2:29 pm

Amazon Is Funded, CUNY Is Not – Shame de Blasio

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The hypocrisy of the NYC Mayor: today on WNYC’s “Ask the Mayor” de Blasio states that CUNY 2-year grads will be able to get $50K jobs with Amazon (which he declares is a living wage in NYC, I’d like to see de Blasio get by on $50k). Meanwhile CUNY is severely underfunded and falling apart. CUNY state support has declined for decades. In 2017, City Comptroller Scott Stringer testified that “since 2010, CUNY’s cumulative shortfall in State funding is now over $700 million.” The 2018 $200 million “boost” for CUNY AND SUNY (again – a lousy $200 million for both SUNY and CUNY) for a “quality education”, trickles down to nearly nothing in correlation to the decades of underfunding. The fact that Amazon, an over $130 BILLION corporation, is awarded $3 billion in tax credits, abatements and capital grants from the city and state while CUNY is severely underfunded year after year is SHAMEFUL!

As the mayor stated, a rational for this is the job creation that the Queens’ based Amazon headquarters will present to the city population. However, if CUNY continues to be underfunded, if the vast majority of our faculty are underpaid, if classes are over-stuffed with students and education must be watered-down, these jobs will not be filled by CUNY grads. Amazon jobs will be filled by private university grads and grads from across the country that receive a better education than what CUNY can possibly offer on a short budget. And the disparity between privilege and poor will continue to grow – as sponsored by Cuomo and de Blasio.

It is shameful that adjunct faculty must fight and protest for a lousy $7K salary when Amazon is awarded billions of dollars. We all know that Cuomo does not value public higher education, his record clearly shows this, but it’s shameful that the so-called progressive de Blasio does not do more to fight for CUNY.

Written by ricardo

November 16th, 2018 at 8:59 am

Pope.L Bougie Irreverence

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William Pope.L

It is difficult to call any art placed in a blue chip Chelsea gallery irreverent, but Pope.L tries his best. Currently (9/13 – 10/27 2018) at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Pope.L “One Thing After Another (Part Two)” stocks the gallery with collaged digital prints, framed found trash, assemblage, photo-collage, and a video of an erect penis attempting to balance a white whip cream pie. (As you might guess, the cream pie tips off the big, hard, black dick; only Brett Kavanaugh’s small white penis would hold that pie up.) The video is hilarious and I wish I had recorded a bit of it to include it here. It is a sharp and whimsical comment on desire, sex, race and privilege or rather lack of. The white pie and black dick are accompanied by a smoking digital black sock puppet that rises and forms like a snake from a corner of the video image.

William Pope.L

The digitally printed collages tear apart political and celebrity figures, mockingly reframing them in unexpected contexts and pairings. Across the gallery, William Pope.L has inserted himself into historical photographs. Again, the visuals are at once comical and critical recontexualizing a problematic racial history of the United States.

Pope.L effectively reminds us to always look at the images we are fed with a critical eye. Question the images – where are they coming from, why are they being presented and what is it that they represent? What is our place in this culture? But in the end, lets not take ourselves too seriously, be creative, have fun, but always be smart.

William Pope.L

William Pope.L

NEGOCIO at Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

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VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant's Tale

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante is an ambitious attempt to present an archive of the creation of games as art largely over the last twenty years, though one work – “White Chess” by Yoko Ono dates back to 1966. The majority of works have been created in the 21st century. The exhibition presents a mix of digital and analog games and the vast majority of the exhibition is interactive – allowing visitors to play the games on exhibit as intended by the artists.

I’ve been honored with the inclusion of VAGAMUNDO: A Migrant’s Tale (2002) included the exhibition (pictured above). This is a sculpture and video game originally presented on the street that unfortunately is as timely today as 16 years ago due to the Trump administration’s stance regarding immigration.

The curators – David Machado Gutierrez, Alba Garcia Martinez, Beatriz Martinez-Villagrasa and Miguel Soria Andurell state:

The origin of the game, is lost in the memory of time; the game is perhaps as old as the very existence of the human being on earth. But what does the game transmit to us today apart from its playful appearance? Can art use it as a tool that reflects on challenges and social reality? Does it also work as an act of criticism? This exhibition does not pretend not to answer these questions, since it would be too ambitious, but it is formulated so that the spectator participates and, using the works of art as a guide. The exhibition investigates in the multiple planes what may unfolds in games as art.

Below are a selection of photographs documenting the exhibition.

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

NEGOCIO at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Two game sculptures by Cuban artist Abel Barroso
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Carlos No’s Intifada – a “ping-pong table which, in place of a net, has been divided into two halves by a very high brick wall, topped by barbed wire that heightens a feeling of insurmountabilty. There arises in the spectator the curiosity of seeing the other side, the place which one is forbidden to see and be in, as if one had discovered Lewis Carrol’s charade in the passage to the other side of the looking-glass. In this wonderland that comprises this side and the other side, both the space and the visitor’s steps are divided into two.”
Abel Barroso at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Velvet-Strike is a mod of the first-person shooter video game Counter-Strike. The mod, developed by Anne-Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre, and Brody Condon, adds “protest sprays” to the game’s existing graffiti function.”
Velvet Strike at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ladrillazo is a historical game that takes you to the real estate bubble of the first decade of the 21st century. There were days of wine and roses, an interpretation center in each town, an airport in each city, mortgages at 40 years, masons with minister salaries, Olympic dreams, AVEs and golf resorts.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Pac-Art is a version of the immensely popular Arcade video game Pac-Man. In this case, Pac-Art has transformed Pac-Man into an artist who has to devour famous works of art and flee from ghost-artists who threaten him.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Ravalpoly by Alba Refulgente – a game of real estate speculation in Barcelona that re-contextualizes the game Monopoly.
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Visitors will have the opportunity to play Yoko Ono’s “White Chess.”
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Many other artists and game makers are included in this exhibition, including Brenda Romero, Connor Monahan, Molleindustria, Richard Hofmeier, Jason Rohrer, Joan Priego amongst others. And one more image of VAGAMUNDO:
Ladrillazo at el Centro Cultural Las Cigarreras de Alicante

Northeast Exhibitions Editor for caa.reviews

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Over the past year, I have been working as the Northeast Exhibitions Editor for caa.reviews and thus far it’s been a great experience! Fortunately, my job is relatively easy or perhaps better stated fun. I search out exhibitions that deserve to be reviewed throughout the Northeast (but not including NYC). As I find, important exhibitions, I then need to identify potential reviewers. I had heard that commissioning non-paid reviews from people was difficult, but thus far, I’ve been able to quickly find writers or have people even volunteer reviews for exhibitions that they felt passionate about.

Once the writer and I agree on a deadline, we bounce the review back to one another to arrive at the final product. It has been a great learning experience to envision exhibitions that I have not visited myself through the writing of the reviewer. And as editor to work with the reviewer to create a clear sense of the exhibition and its power for readers who may as well not have the opportunity to see the exhibition first hand.

Thus far, I have had the pleasure to work with the following writers:

Valeria Federici on “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” at the ICA Boston.

Christopher Kasprzak who reviewed “Calder: Hypermobility,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Ellen Handy who wrote an excellent review on “Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895–1925” at Princeton University Art Museum.

John Muse on “Yoonmi Nam: Still” at Philadelphia’s Print Center.

There is more coming soon!

Zach Blas Contra-Internet at Art in General

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Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033 trailer from Zach Blas on Vimeo.

I had been looking forward to seeing Zach Blas’s Contra-Internet exhibition at Art in General, unfortunately it was not as engaging as I had hoped. The exhibition presents one single channel video installation that features the nearly 30 minute film “Jubilee 2033” and three other single-channel video works on monitors. The three video works on monitors present ideas and research regarding the internet – the hegemonic network of today and for the foreseeable future – through computer screen recordings by Blas. (I really hope that artists stop using screen-recordings of themselves clicking through files as a medium; it’s seldom interesting.)

Although I was disappointed by the exhibition, the gravity dance performance by Cassils as Nootropix, “a contra-sexual, contra internet prophet” is captivating an entirely worth the trip. The premise of the film is funny as it opens with Ayn Rand discussing the future of her ideas with two of her followers – Alan Greenspan and a fictional character Joan Mitchell. A young Greenspan proposes that the group take an acid trip. I was turned off by the highly accented performance of Rand and her cult, so I was glad to see them drop liquid acid.

As the trip begins, an internet connected artificial intelligence in the form of a manga character appears and takes them in to the future. The future is of course dystopian as the present reality burns and it’s certainly fun seeing the Google headquarters burning along with other tech companies in the not so distant future of 2033.

Nootropix triumphant performance

Along their travels, we encounter tech workers being taken hostage by “The Art Professor” wearing gray, paint-splattered coveralls and wielding a machine gun. Later in a classroom, the Art Professor introduces Nootropix (Cassils) who in their monologue states that they will perform the creation of gravity. The performance artist is powerful and their dance upon a purple matrix while dawning a large, erect, glowing CGI penis that is constantly spewing black liquid is awesome. The dance is mesmerizing and triumphant.

Nootropix triumphant performance

In Nootropix, Blas presents one of his contra-internet exotic creatures “to discover or create a world of network difference.” I could have entirely skipped the storyline, and merely be fantastically transported by Cassils’s character and performance as I think that it would have left me asking more questions and appreciating the mystery. We know that a network of difference is not plausible, so why not create the fantastic and shed the tedious philosophizing.

Nootropix triumphant performance

Trump Administration Is The Hangman

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Watching this 1964 animation by Les Goldman and Paul Julian of the 1951 poem “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden, I couldn’t help to think about the current sweep of undocumented immigrants by federal agents. Most recently 98 7-Elevens stores across the country were raided by ICE leading to 21 arrests. With 21 arrests, I have to wonder if such an effort is worth time and cost. It actually seems a bit silly, but now I’m getting off point. These are 21 individuals working, residing and paying taxes in the United States who now face deportation. I understand that the goal is to instill fear in businesses that hire undocumented immigrants, but at this time the economy is such that these workers are actually needed regardless of their citizen/resident status. More importantly undocumented immigrants are not criminal in the sense of presenting any danger. In a country built by immigrants, they are asset.

As citizens of the United States, it is our responsibility to stand up against human harassment and bullying, against the destruction of others’ lives by the authorities. Otherwise, this administration and government will turn against its own citizenry, actually, I already feel that it has through the passing of the new tax reform.

We can all act on a personal level as there are many resources to help immigrants. If you know an undocumented immigrant pass along this information – Know Your Rights In Case of Immigration/Police Raid. The source is The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Written by ricardo

January 11th, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Defend Net Neutrality

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Net Neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE FCC.

Trump appointed US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has spearheaded an FCC vote to end net neutrality rules. It was just in 2015 that the FCC with support of the Obama administration introduced new net neutrality regulations that put internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T in the same category as other telecommunication companies. ISPs currently are not allowed to favor the speed of some sites over others, all data on the internet moves at the same speed.

The FCC was first created to protect radio from commercialization and to ensure that it remain a public service. Given that on FM non-commercial stations have been shoved to one side in favor of powerful commercial media corporations, it seems merely a matter of time that the same occurs to the internet. However, perhaps at least for now, due to the nature of the internet as a social medium, net neutrality may be temporarily protected. Since the Clinton administration, the FCC has favored deregulation and corporate monopolization of the media, can this course of increasing corporate control of our media content and in general our culture be slowed down? SUBMIT A LETTER TO THE FCC.

Written by ricardo

July 12th, 2017 at 7:14 am

“Hansel & Gretel” at Park Avenue Armory – Save Your Money

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Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

The “Hansel & Gretel” curatorial statement describes the installation as a space that brings together Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron and Ai Weiwei combined interests in

the psychological impact of architecture and the politics of public space; creating a playful, strange, and eventually eerie environment with different layers of reality revealed to the visitor… Hansel & Gretel is a dystopian forest of projected light where the floor rises up, as if lifted by an invisible force, and visitors are tracked by infrared cameras and surveyed by overhead drones as they systematically capture the parkgoers’ data and movements…

Unfortunately, the only portion of this description that resonates is the playfulness. Indeed Herzog, de Meuron and Weiwei have created a dark environment in which visitors may skip around and play with light traces of their image. However, the installation lacks strangeness, eeriness, politics or any psychological reverberation.

Other than the initial moment of discovery that one’s image is being projected on to the ground after it is periodically taken due to on one’s movement in the space, the installation presents very little that is interesting. The drones may have been a neat prop had they not been tethered.

The second part of the installation is a didactic revelation of what the installation is trying to allude to – that we are objects of surveillance. As far as a critical art installation regarding surveillance, there was much more interesting work done 15+ years ago. Perhaps the theme of surveillance has been so overly investigated and picked apart by art previously and by entertainment today (“Black Mirror” for example) that such an installation seems trite and naive. There is so much of our data being captured today, that building an installation that merely plays upon facial recognition and motion sensors is just kind of dumb, but it is playful. So if $16 is worth the cost of running around a huge dark open space and playing with light projection, check it out.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory

A second perspective: Playtime at the Armory
Once again discovering what this city has to offer, there I was with Ricardo walking into a venue called the Armory near Hunter College, a place I had never been before to see a new art installation called “Hansel & Gretel”. He had been keen to check this out for a few weeks, and like the curious creature I am, I followed along.

We received a quick intro and were instructed to read a phase on the wall before entering -which i forgot- and then allowed to enter. We walked into black nothingness. My immediate reaction was to scramble for Ricardo’s hand. I didn’t realize the massiveness of this place until my eyes adjusted from the summer sunlight to the darkness inside of the Armory. It was only eerie the first few minutes because I had no idea where the hell I was walking. There were a few cameras far above us hanging from the ceiling and lights that would follow us. As we continued to walk, our movement was detected, grid lines would appear and cameras would be activated to capture our moves. Suddenly, it was playtime! It was fun to pose in different positions to watch the resulting snap shot of yourself illuminated on the black floor. At one point my sweater and shoes came off and I really got into it.

Ricardo noticed two drones hovering on one side of the space living poor unfulfilled lives- tied onto leashes without free movement. It would have been more interesting if they were chasing people around. After exhausting our ideas for poses, the novelty wore off and we were ready to enter part deux of the installation. For that, we had to exit this part of the Armory and enter from another entrance on the other side of the street.

After pausing in front of a camera you were allowed inside. There were many ipads on long tables with apps. You could elect to have your face identified and then search the cameras for your photo which was taken in the first part of the installation. That was cool. You could read about the history of surveillance, or access cameras to spy on others walking into the exhibits. The Armory itself was impressive, the installation not as much. It was a new, interesting experience- a fun activity for kids, I would say. I didn’t leave with the feeling that I had witnessed an impressive statement against today’s constant scrutiny and monitoring that we are all under. I didn’t feel intruded upon. There wasn’t anything menacing or fantastical as is described in the program leaflet. It was just pretty cool and fun.

Perhaps the work behind the installation was complicated, but with my lack of technical know-how, I failed to appreciate the amount of effort involved. To have truly made an impact, more could have been done to confuse or play with the audience with the intention of throwing them off or perhaps even scaring them. Coupling that with the sound of Russian men having conversations in the background (that felt clandestine in nature), and I would have possibly left quite feeling differently.

Hansel & Gretel at Park Avenue Armory