Trabajo de Sombra:
A collaboration between Kara Rooney and Néstor Quiñones
To quote media theorist Franco Berardi, “Having been thrown into an environment of purely functional impulses, the agent of language has undergone a sensorial deprivation, a psychical impoverishment of affective reactivity. Grown in a digital environment, accustomed to react to discreet changes of states of a numerical nature, the individual tends to lose sensitivity to existential nuances and to the ambiguity of conjunctive communication. So the experience of the erotic body turns precarious and often painful.”1 Trabajo de Sombra takes this idea as its starting point.
Through the process of collaboration and dialogue, along with the creation of an interactive environment that includes video, site-specific installation and sculptural assemblage, Trabajo de Sombra highlights the slippage between our sense of cultural memory, social connection(s) and linguistic and bodily understanding. The product of four years of collaboration, the project is an exercise in complementary forces that asks, "what culturally, politically, personally, has brought us here?" “How does one situate themselves in the world and how does language--in relation to gender, race, class, the body--determine the ways in which others place us in that world?” “What are the possibilities within the space of art for alchemical transformation and do they, in fact, exist?”
The material quality of Trabajo de Sombra’s resulting objects and sculptural installations is of vital importance in regards to this concept of alchemical transformation. First is the utilization of chapopote (industrial tar), one of the most commonly produced building materials in Mexico today, which due to its resemblance to obsidian, a mineral long employed for its healing properties and divine associations in pre-Columbian ritual, plays upon the dichotomous complexity of contemporary Mexican/American culture and its relations. Second is quiote, the petrified root of the Maguey flower, whose use also dates to the pre-Columbian era where it was employed for the creation of devotional symbols and icons. Through the use of these materials, in addition to photographic collage, site-specific installation, and a bilingual two-channel video, we, as collaborators, are investigating the meeting point between ideas of the ancient and the contemporary, where these practices coalesce and diverge, but more importantly, where we can facilitate a cross pollination of beliefs, languages and meaning.
As an exercise in social sculpture, it is through the interactive encounters between Quinones, Rooney, and each artist’s surrounding community, one located in Mexico City, the other in New York, that we are able to explore the conditions of awareness necessary for change, of the myriad ways our personal stories, cultural reference points and the ideological construction of world-views result in (and celebrate) internalizations of difference. We believe that these methods of tangible practice are critical if we are to decenter the current systems of oppression and control, systems that affect each and every one of us but that are particularly problematic in inherited colonialist divisions between "occidental" and "indigenous," “north” and “south,” "self" and "other." It is therefore within a framework of dynamic duality that the project is envisioned: as a space of aesthetic encounters but also as a space of healing, intended to engage the intellect while simultaneously tapping into the body’s capacity for understanding and relation.
1 Franco Berardi in conversation with Anton Vidokle, “Chaos and Cosmos,” in Art Without Death: Conversations on Russian Cosmism, (eflux Journal: Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2017).