CURATORIAL STATEMENT (XPACE)
Memorial: Work by Artists of the Venezuelan Diaspora
The title “Memorial” is a reference to both mourning and memory, themes that are broadly touched upon through our work as a result of geographic displacement. The works of Alejandro Rizzo Nervo, Ana Luisa Bernardez Notz, Andrea Dudier, denirée isabel, Sebastián Rodríguez y Vasti, Cecilia Salcedo and myself deal with immigration through our own unique lenses, being affected in different ways by the current Venezuelan migration and humanitarian crisis. Our work manifests through issues around home, nostalgia, childhood, family longing, culture and collective grief –coming together to share our desires to utilize art-making as a channel for dissemination, conversation, healing, and community-building. Our work intends to be non-partisan, without siding with any specific political party in the context of Venezuelan politics, rather, we aim to talk from our own lived experience about issues affecting ourselves, our friends, our families, and other Venezuelans in- and outside of the country.
Family Histories and Memories
Since the start of the migration crisis, family histories and how we remember them have become increasingly important to Venezuelan immigrants. With family members often times scattered all over the world, how do we come to terms with notions of quality family time, and preserving family memories, when we are so far away from each other?
to the strangers i love deeply by denirée isabel is a textile installation in which the artist explores her relationship to family, community and love by framing textiles as “love gestures”. This particular gesture includes delicate woven textiles, along with digitally printed family photographs of her grandparents who still reside in Venezuela, and who are far away in memory and physical space. Looking at her work, I daydream of Saturday afternoons in a Caracas home, sitting 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 in order to prevent them from disappearing.
Una Cuerda de Nunca Reventar/Collectors by Cecilia Salcedo 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, the artist attempts to catalogue each individual story into a comprehensive family archive. These fragmented stories, disconnected in physical time and space, come together into 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 carry on and connect.
Estela/Wake by Sebastián Rodríguez y Vasti is a reading of a bilingual poem. The title, Wake is used as a metaphor for mourning, memorializing, and water –physical waterways, emotional drowning and tears. Sebastián reflects on growing up near the water, and on his recent separation from his family. With his immediate family scattered and dispersed throughout the world, the poem points to the uncertainty that this separation poses –when will they see each other again?
“The water that once was host
is a ghost. And the coast
that we sat in
is at most a border.”
@Reu / Keepsakes by Ana Luisa Bernardez Notz, who performs as Ana Luisaaaaaa, is an immersive DJ performance which includes samples of voice-notes, and a slideshow of old videos and photo projections from her closest friends. Reu refers to the word reunión or reunion, and is a common way of referring to house parties and gatherings. Since 2015, her friends have immigrated to many countries around the world, while some are still in Venezuela. This makes group chats on social media platforms, and photo-archive sharing important to remembrance, recounting and retelling. This performance, therefore, becomes a space of honoring joy and celebrating nostalgic memories through playing songs the artist and her friends grew up dancing to.
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 in Venezuela 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 sharing on Instagram and created as an act of catharsis. She uses the GIF as a method that is 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 in Venezuela, where basic necessities are not widely available. She touches specifically on the lack of electricity, water, medications, food and freedom through simple gestures of scouring through the trash, ice melting or pills being consumed.
Fabricated Realities by Alejandro Rizzo 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. One aims to directly reflect on the general perception the Venezuelan population holds in regards to the military’s authority. While the other aims to depict the hardships of daily life in Caracas, including people doing long line-ups to buy groceries, and pushing cars manually because of lack of gas. Using the language of documentary-style photography, he creates digital photo-collages that mix personal memory with larger issues. In addition, Here and There, Now and Then is a sculpture work made of bills and coins, illustrating the current disparity in economic value between Venezuela’s and Canada’s currency, because of Venezuela’s exorbitantly high inflation.
Alternate Reality (Santa Paula, El Cafetal, Caurimare, Caracas) by myself, Camila Salcedo, is a video collage in which I utilize created 3D drawings found Google satellite photos, Google user 360º images, and YouTube videos to attempt to recreate the neighbourhoods I grew up around in Caracas. It also examines the Venezuelan government banning Google Streetview, creating a gap in our digital-space – and challenging the one potential way I would have been able to “travel back”, as I have never returned. 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.
Memorial: Work by Artists of the Venezuelan Diaspora reflects the ways in which we remember our families, friends, and distant spaces, manifesting in our work as our own versions of reality. Through our diverse works we are archiving not only our somatic memories of physical space, but also spaces which exist in our minds and dreams. As immigrants, we naturally question ideas about home, where we once were, where we are now, and why we are here. Gathering under the pretenses of a shared homeland, we aim not to represent an Imagined Community because we will never be able to know every Venezuelan. We aim instead to come together in our shared artistic community so as to no longer heal or cope in isolation, but rather to gather, create, and share space collectively.
– Camila Salcedo