CURATORIAL STATEMENT (KHYBER)
Memorial: Work by Venezuelan Diaspora Artists
by Camila Salcedo.
Memorial: Work by Venezuelan Diaspora Artists features work by young Venezuelan artists who have immigrated and are creating work within the context of Canada: Ana Luisa Bernardez Notz, denirée isabel, Sebastián Rodríguez y Vasti, Alejandro Rizzo, Cecilia Salcedo, myself, Camila Salcedo, and Andrea Dudier, who is currently living and making within the context of Argentina. The title “Memorial” is a reference to both mourning and memory, themes broadly touched upon through our work as a result of displacement. Each of us deals with immigration through our own unique lenses, being affected in different ways by the current Venezuelan migration and humanitarian crisis, and using the often immobilizing feelings of frustration as fuel for creation. Our work manifests through issues around home, nostalgia, childhood, family longing, culture and collective grief –coming together to share our collective desires to utilize art-making as a channel for dissemination, conversation, healing, and community-building. As artists, our work intends to be non-partisan, without siding with any specific political party or political affiliation in the context of current Venezuelan politics, rather, we aim to talk from our own lived experience about issues affecting ourselves, our friends, our families, other Venezuelan immigrants and fellow Venezuelans currently in the country.
Our grandparents hold a very large space in our familial memory, our intergenerational traumatic and somatic experiences, and have a natural wisdom often passed down to us as grandchildren. There is a power and a large weight to their words and presence, because of their gained experiences and familial wisdom they carry.
Un espacio suspendido / A suspended space by Ana Luisa Bernardez Notz, is an immersive virtual reality environment, relating to the artist’s overall interest in exploring the family archive, and the relationship between the grief processes of loss and longing. In this work, she recreates her grandmother’s room in Caracas. Her grandmother was displaced to a nursing home a few years after she moved to Canada, making this bedroom an inaccessible limbo space for both of them. Embedded with family photographs, childhood home-movies, and recreated furniture, she reframes her personal photographic archive. She deals not only with the memories of her grandmother’s room, but also the possibility of reliving the bodily somatic experience of inhabiting a geographical space, in this case, the Caribbean Sea – the site of her childhood. Through exploring this virtually-created landscape, and experiencing the objects in the room, may we be, in a sense, entering one of Ana’s memories through her created digital environment?
to the strangers i love deeply by denirée isabel is a textile installation in which she explores her relationship to family, community and love, framing textiles as “love gestures”. This particular love gesture weaves delicate textiles reminiscent of windows in a home, installed along revisioned family photographs of her grandparents who still reside in Venezuela, delicately draped as large scale textile portraits. This work fits within the frame of the larger themes in her work around connection through family, love and community. There is a deep sense of healing within her work– reflected in this large-scale love letter to her family that is so far away in memory and physical space. Looking at her work, almost like a daydream, I am transported to a Saturday afternoon in a Caracas home, sitting down on a couch, with a window cracked and a warm breeze penetrating through. There is a warmth and familiarity to this piece, almost as if she is attempting to enlarge these photographic moments or memories in order to prevent them from disappearing.
Family histories and how we remember them have increasingly gained importance to Venezuelan immigrants since the start of the migration crisis. With family members scattered often times all over the world, how do we come to terms with ideas around quality family time, and preserving family memories, when we are so far away from each other?
Una Cuerda de Nunca Reventar/Collectors by Cecilia Salcedo which is an interactive PDF, adapted into a large print and audio work for this exhibition, which reflects on the histories of immigration on her (also my) father’s side of the family. With family members scattered all over the Americas and Europe, she attempts to catalogue and data-collect the individual stories of each family member into a comprehensive family archive. These fragmented and disconnected stories, in physical time and space, come together into one scroll, like a continuous timeline. Our grandfather always referred to family mannerisms as “a string that never breaks” a direct reference in the title and an ode to our intergenerational lineages which continue and connect, as do our stories in this timeline. As a designer, Cecilia uses conceptual design thinking to understand her own identity, humanize immigrant stories and make design accessible to the public through the personal.
Estela/Wake by Sebastián Rodríguez y Vasti, is an installation of framed family portraits, including a framed video performance of the artist staring at another portrait. In this work, he explores portraiture and family photographs as memory-captures and objects of remembrance. In the performance he focuses on the action of staring into a portrait in the aims of having the viewer reflect on how they themselves interact with their family portraits. In his practice overall Sebastian is concerned with the processes of analysis and reflection, which are clear in this work which bears into question: How do we interact with framed portraits in our homes? What purpose do they serve in acts of remembrance? When looking at portraits, what role do they play in triggering past feelings or in accessing memories?
Reading the news, receiving scarce texts from our families during power outages, and hearing stories from our families and friends in these times of crisis becomes gruelling, draining, and depressing. Art is a clear form of catharsis and a necessary vehicle for dissemination especially when journalists back home are often and consistently silenced, and english-language news or reliable articles outside of the country are hard to come by.
Venezuela, país de ausencia (Venezuela, country of absences) by Andrea Dudier is a series of GIFs originally intended for the singular purpose of sharing on Instagram and created as an act of catharsis. She uses the GIF as a method analogous to poetry, and as a revolutionary visual tool for liberation through images of decomposition. These beautifully composed 6-8 second snippets of time, aim to portray some of the many absences or lacks in Venezuela, where basic necessities that should be widely available, are a privilege. She touches specifically on the absence of electricity, water, medications, food and freedom through simple gestures of scouring through the trash, ice melting, or pills being consumed. She aims to use easily consumable and understandable means of documentation to make the viewer uncomfortable, walking away thinking about their own privileges after viewing these devastatingly true realities.
Fabricated Realities by Alejandro Rizzo Nervo is a series of staged photographs about the current socio-political and economic issues within the context of Venezuela. In this particular exhibition, two photographs from the series are displayed. These directly aim to expose the problem around hyperinflation, and re-stage and envision moments at student-led protests. Using the language of documentary-style photography, he creates digital photo-collages that mix personal memory with larger issues. What does the act of machine-printing of new bills in Venezuelan currency look like? What do moments in student-led protests look like when isolated? How can these issues be transmitted through photo-collage as a means of dissemination within the context of Canada?
Alternate Reality (Santa Paula, El Cafetal, Caurimare, Caracas) by myself, Camila Salcedo, is a video collage in which I utilize found and created three-dimensional imagery and videos to attempt to recreate the neighbourhoods I grew up in and around in Caracas. My house, my grandmother’s apartment building, the grocery store, my school and drives to and from these spaces, are memories that have become increasingly distant through time-space due to the fact that I have never returned to Venezuela. This three-dimensional collage, uses three-dimensional drawings that were drafted in SketchUp, screen-shotted Google Maps satellite photos, found Google user 360º images, and found YouTube videos. It reflects on the fact that the Venezuelan government banned Google Streetview, creating a gap in our digital-space, one potential way I would have been able to “travel back”. What do these spaces look like in my current memory and how can I fill in the gaps with the use of found footage? The sound design is by Felipe Martin.