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Cardiff & Miller

The room is dimly lit. The only light comes from a small van right in the middle of the gallery. I can hear music from two megaphones on top of the vehicle. There is a guitar, a drum, and a soft voice. Inside the van, there are hundreds of marionettes that dance and write. Everyone seems to have stepped into an in-between state of fiction and reality. There is also a body. A replica of Janet Cardiff seems to be in a heavy slumber while the music becomes louder. It is through pieces like this one, huge installations with exceptional sound design, that Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller show their deeply rooted interest in storytelling.

The Marionette Maker (2014) was the welcoming installation at Janet Cardiff’s and George Bures Miller’s first exhibition in Mexico. Simply titled, Cardiff & Miller, it took place at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MARCO) in the northern city of Monterrey.  They are both Canadian artists whose work is known for being closely related to film, literature, and theater. They create installations that incorporate sound, video, lights, sculpture. The technological aspect of their art is essential. Through automation, each piece is defined by a temporal frame that creates experiences with a start and end. 

Cardiff and Miller collaborate since they were students. Throughout their career, they have experimented with using sound to create environments that are anchored in memory. Each piece exists within its own universe. The Killing Machine (2007) inspired by Kafka’s In the Penal Colony and the American system of capital punishment, tells a story of society’s indifference towards killing. We see a chair draped with a pink tapestry and the robotic arms that attack the invisible person sitting there as the story is amplified and made immersive by an off-tune violin, eerie metallic sounds, and white noise.

The Murder of Crows (2008) is a 98-speaker installation that explores the narrative aspect of their art. Janet’s voice comes from a speaker in the middle of the room while the audience sits down. Janet narrates a series of disturbing dreams, each accompanied by sound effects, effectively inviting the audience to feel part of it. There is a severed leg beneath sheets and an army along the sound of marching. One of their newest pieces is Sync No Sync (2017). Made up of a video and three audio recordings, the installation shows the artists discussing their ideas for a new piece. As the video is projected, three tracks of audio come in and out of the speakers showing an insight into their collaborative process.

Their use of binaural sound adds a layer that acts as a catalyst for an experience that is immersive and multidimensional. Cardiff and Miller are storytellers in the way that each piece included in the exhibition evokes a feeling of being in a specific moment of a story in a world that isn’t completely similar to ours. Their art allows spectators to just “get it” even if they don’t know the whole story. The fragment presented completely allows the viewer to fill in the gaps with their own memories.

Interested in more art reviews? Tomás Saraceno: architecture, insects, and the universe

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Art

Tomás Saraceno: architecture, insects, and the universe

A connection between science, architecture, and the universe isn’t something that is easily found in contemporary art. The capacity to create art out of something that people may view as a scientific project is a part of what makes the work of Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno so valuable and impressive. 

Tomás Saraceno (Argentina, 1973) is an architect that graduated from the National University of Buenos Aires and later decided to approach art with his unique point of view. His projects are characterized by their focus on themes related to nature, the cosmos and our role as humans living on earth. 

Among his most impressive projects, we can find In Orbit. This installation took place in Kunstsammlung museum in Germany and it consists of various webs that imitate those of a spider. From a height of 20 meters, the spectators walk through the webs that at the same time simulate models of the universe and the interconnection between planets, black holes and an infinity of molecules. 

On Space Time Foam is another one of his projects, this time presented in Milán. It consisted of giant plastic sheets that were suspended in the air and where, once again, visitors could climb up and walk through the artwork. From below, it looked as if they were walking in the clouds. Saraceno’s art is focused on creating experiences for the public that encourage reflexion and that allow for a fusion between architecture, science, and art. 

Saraceno worked with MIT as a guest artist with the goal of expanding his investigations regarding meteorology and the possibility to create solar globes for transportation. He also developed his investigation in different types of spiders and how they can transport through the air with their own webs. He was responsible for a new method of scanning spider webs in 3D in order to study them with more detail. Once he saw the architectural brilliance of these as well as its resemblance to structures in space, Saraceno was inspired to create new pieces. 

In his most recent installation “Ciento sesenta y tres mil años luz” (163,000 light years) found in the Museum of Contemporary Art of Monterrey (MARCO), Saraceno shares his fascination not only for spiders and their webs but also its resemblance to the cosmos. Within the exposition, we find a movie that lasts exactly 163,000 years, which is the time that it takes light to get to earth from the Great Cloud of Magallanes. Saraceno explains that as we see the movie, we are actually seeing the past. 

Tomás Saraceno is an artist that explores our doubts of existing in the cosmos. Through his art, he wants the public to understand the connection that exists between nature and men. Saraceno’s work goes beyond the gallery of a museum, he wants to show us that everything is connected. 

You can explore more of his work on his website: 

http://tomassaraceno.com/

And on his Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/studiotomassaraceno/

Interested in more art reviews? Cardiff & Miller

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Art

Childhood and art

The following text (originally written in Spanish) was awarded the first place in MARCO’s (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey) short story contest in 2016. The prompt was to write about how museums can be places of inspiration. I don’t know how, but this piece was written in about an hour. This type of quick inspiration has not repeated itself ever since.  

My reflection moved in the water’s surface as it filled the central space in MARCO. I was kneeling on the floor, trying to get my nose to touch the water while my mom pulled at my blouse, trying to stop me from falling head first into my fragmented image over the marble floors. 

It was one of many Sundays that my parents had accepted to buy a ticket to the museum in order to please their annoying daughter that wanted to see again the same paintings. At that time, they were nothing but colors to me. 

It could have been 2001, 2002 or 2003. I could have been 4, 5 or 6, yet in the end, the days and the years are the same for children. I don’t know how many, but there were multiple years of my life in which most Sundays were reserved to grab lunch with my aunt and uncle at MARCO’s restaurant. Sundays in which the paintings and the ramp near the entrance where my main entertainment. 

I walked through art exhibitions that I had already seen a thousand times. The paintings changed even though they were the same. Sometimes it was the colors that caught my attention, sometimes I just walked straight into the next gallery. I wasn’t tall enough to see the paintings face to face. I saw them the way you look at an adult, the way you look at a giant. A girl with her nose turned upwards trying to understand why adults were in trance with those framed figures. 

To start from the end, to walk sideways, to walk backward. I got lost as a child between the paintings of the Great Mexican Masters, the sculptures of Robert Therrien, and then in Frida and Julio Galán. 

I think the silence was what bothered me the most, just like it would bother any small child. I saw people walking alone. I saw them look at the paintings and then leave quietly. I had the need to talk, to create the stories behind every panting while I ran from one gallery to the other. 

16 years have gone by and the silence doesn’t bother me anymore. It now accompanies me as a guide that lets me understand each piece. Pieces, that although I can now look in the eyes, remain as giants. 

The water in the center of the museum continues to show my reflection. A reflection that moves and is constantly transformed but that brings me back to the same feelings I had when I was younger. 

The dove that has received me at the entrance for so many years watches me from a distance. 

The curiosity that awoke ever since I ran through Sunday’s buffet and down the ramp near the main entrance, that admired the high ceilings and the bright pink and yellow walls, has followed me now to the exit. It will be waiting for me again next Sunday.