On and Off the Map
February 18 - March 10, 2016
Opening Reception, February 18, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
Gallery Hours, Tuesday - Thursday Noon - 4:00 pm
Visual Arts Gallery, Structural & Materials Engineering Building, UC San Diego
Work by Saúl Hernández-Vargas, Dominic P. Miller and Sindhu Thirumalaisamy
Curated by Noni Brynjolson and Paloma Checa-Gismero
The works in this exhibition explore place and locality in ways that differ from conventional mapping. Instead of detached observation, undifferentiated space and the abstraction of unique particularities, they represent place through memory, embodied experience and personal interactions.
Sindhu Thirumalaisamy’s video Different Colourful Designs focuses on a series of murals in Bangalore, which were commissioned by the city to prevent posters and advertisements from being pasted on the walls. As Thirumalaisamy notes, many residents of urban centers in India are concerned with dirtiness and pollution, and right-wing political campaigns have sought to purify and cleanse public spaces in an effort to boost civic pride. The images for the murals were selected and sanctioned by authorities and then copied onto walls by sign painters. Some of the images reflect traditional notions of local or national culture, while others are more idiosyncratic. Many Bangaloreans drive by the murals everyday, but don’t spend much time looking at them. Thirumalaisamy’s video slows down the viewing process and allows a closer and more critical look at a specific portrayal of civic and national identity.
In Saúl Hernández-Vargas’s Let Us Now Foliage Famous Men: Benito Juárez Eco-Monument there is a similar interest in symbols of nationalism--in this case, Benito Juárez, President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872. The replicated bust of the heroicized liberal reformer references both classical sculptures that populate plazas and public spaces in Mexico, as well as the transmission and circulation of Juárez’s likeness within popular culture. However, in Hernández-Vargas’s version of the sculpture, the heroic figure has been decapitated. Hernández-Vargas first exhibited the work in 2008, two years after the Mexican Government began the so-called War on Drugs, and since then, thousands of heads have rolled in Mexico. Juárez is decapitated here, and repurposed as a garden planter, becoming a strange hybrid of symbolic power, state violence and historic ruins that sprout new life.
Dominic P. Miller’s Diagrama de dependencia II consists of a perforated paper sculpture and documentation of the process by which it was made (through a video and a sample of his field notes). The work was made in Tijuana with support from the labor rights collective, Ollin Calli, and a group of participants in the Reforma community. In the video, we see hands working to pierce the paper, as the makers chat informally. When one looks closely at the paper sculpture, different styles and approaches to the piercing action become apparent--the motion of the hand becomes visible, suggesting the production of place through embodied processes of labor.
The title of the exhibition, ‘On and Off the Map,’ references one of the chapters in Lucy R. Lippard’s book Lure of the Local (1997). In it, she discusses the possibility of rethinking the control and ownership associated with official spaces through an increased focus on the role of lived experience, land use and memory. Together, the works in the show reconsider ‘the local,’ through each artist’s subjective, situated experiences of place. They deal with ways in which local culture may be translated into other contexts, and they offer versions of specific places--conceived not as bound entities, but as constantly shifting sites of relations and territorial negotiations.