Chantal and Emilio were first brought together under the suspicion (from the curators) that their shared interest in the notions of border, displacement, and building affective systems across distances, would create a natural connection between the two artists and the practice of one another. These topics demand great intellectual intensity and personal investment, and as a consequence, the exchange began with quick, fervent interventions, followed by analogue responses to their sharing of personal and professional histories, bouncing from one side to the other with swiftness and fervor.
Chantal’s work thrives in presenting subtle observations of everyday life, which the artist reassembles as delicate pieces –notably in video/film– as a cohesive and powerful gaze. The point of view offered by the artist serves both as a compelling statement and a platform for histories and ideas that would not have a presence otherwise. Emilio’s work shares that sense of discovery of the mundane, but he chooses to repurpose and transform everyday objects into lush assemblages that scramble, juxtapose, and create dense accumulations of signifiers, which rely on our own cultural repertoire to become statements.
These dynamics explain Emilio’s idea for the creation of his intervention/installation for Were You Left Off: Philadelphia. His vivid memory of one of Chantal’s first reactions to his work, namely “you’re hiding behind [it]”, became a prompt to create The Art*ist Here, an experiment designed to tease the possibilities behind physically hiding inside the artwork. His experience was paradoxical: while it offered Emilio the opportunity of witnessing and recording interactions from the attendants to the show without the apparent disruption of an observer/listener, it also highlighted the dynamics of the art system, where the presence of so-called “diverse” subjectivities is a sort of war of positions. While their presence might be welcomed, their absence is invisible, what demands a constant effort for achieving and maintaining visibility.
The Art*ist Here
Iron, wood, sound system
The idea of diverse and multiple origins is a familiar narrative for Chantal, who has experimented with a multiplicity of approaches to the histories of migration, race, and borders. Like Emilio, she engages with structural issues that cross her directly, but in this case she does so by means of the deployment of archival material that addresses the complex intercultural theater for migration in the north of Mexico and the Southwest United States. The work acknowledges the ideological vectors that shaped politics and culture at both sides of the border, regarding the diaspora of populations from East Asia to North America in the early 20th century. Chantal’s video has an intense indexical power: by deploying a general context and a body of relationships, it also addresses the personal as the spectator folds the content onto the context of creation (the collaboration across borders) and onto its authorship (the artist). Hybridization, indetermination, rejection, displacement, concealment, not only are common threads in Chantal and Emilio’s work, but also to the cultural histories depicted in their bodies of work.
Single channel video
Visit Emilio Maldonado’s professional website here.
Visit Chantal Peñalosa’s profile at Proyectos Monclova Gallery website here.