An exhibit in the Celda Contemporánea (Contemporary Cell) of the Sor Juana Cloister University features installations by two young artists that explore territory and representation.
The two installations, which opened on Wednesday, Aug. 17, were created specifically for the space of the Celda Contemporánea, and seek to open dialogues with the San Jerónimo Convent in Mexico City’s historic center, which was home to the iconic poet-nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz in the 17th century and has been home to the university that carries her name since 1979.
The installation “Moneda” (Coin) by Juan-Pablo Villegas explores the contingent nature of the image through chemical manipulations of video film and photo slides. Screens facing upward from under a glass floor play videos of the process through which Villegas extracted silver from the tape and slides, and used it to create a mirror. The mirror, whose creation is seen in the videos, rotates around the room on a mechanized chain conveyor system.
Villegas’ installation destabilizes the power of the image over the work of art. As we watch the photo slides dissolve, the contingency of images on the physical media that allows us to experience them becomes apparent, and the image is subordinated to the installation’s spaciality and territoriality. Ultimately, the image becomes a moving mirror reflecting our environment, reminding us that any act of seeing is a dynamic process that conditions and creates its object based on the seer’s experiences and surroundings.
“Paisaje Inconexo” (Disjointed Landscape) by Juan José Soto revives the weaponized cubism technique of razzle dazzle, which, used during World War I, consisted of painting cubist designs on warships to confuse enemy artillery. Covered with razzle dazzle designs, the territory of “Paisaje Inconexo” undermines the category of landscape — a way of seeing territory that presumes to be neutral and static — to reveal the socially-constructed, hierarchical fictions that underpin all geographical representations. The result is an open, comfortable space in the seemingly claustrophobic environment of the Celda Contemporánea.
In Soto’s hands, territory grows out of an object to be protected or represented to become a weapon. “Paisaje Inconexo” is a territory in resistance — a physical environment that, by way of its territoriality itself, resists attempts to order, constrain and define it.
“Territorios” will be on display until Oct. 15 in the Celda Contemporánea of the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana
The Celda Contemporánea is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday