Monday, April 26, 2010

Location: Here and There, Us and Them, You and Me

EXHIBITION TITLE: Hollywoodpedia by Artemio Narro
LOCATION: Galería de la Raza 2857 24th St. San Francisco, CA 94110
DATES: February 6 - April 4, 2010
CURATOR: Rachel de Anda

“El sueno americano empieza y termina en HOLLYWOOD, en esa montana que contiene los sueños y las pesadillas de una sociedad que nunca descansa en su búsqueda de reinventarse a punta de ilusión, de la imagen en movimiento y la recreación de un mundo siempre nuevo, pletórico de esperanzas pero también de dolor y terror interior...exportando al universo su saga de sangre” Danielangulor

How is the location important to address such a fine social and cultural critique?

Artemio Narro Hollywoodpedia (photo courtesy of Frida Cano)

Galería de la Raza, located in the Mission District, is a non-profit community-based arts organization whose mission is to foster public awareness and appreciation of Chicano/Latino art. The gallery, divided into different sections, functions as a great laboratory for investigating and exhibiting contemporary issues in art, culture, and society, mainly showing Latino artists. This time, in collaboration with Queens Nails Projects and during the Mission Arts and Performance Project night opening, Mexican artist Artemio Narro presented his Hollywoodpedia art piece. Indicated by the title, Hollywoodpedia is an encyclopedia of the most recurrent topics that the Hollywood film industry exports to the world. Dichotomies such as Love/Hate, Life/Death, Peace/War, Good/Evil, Happiness/Sadness, Success/Failure, were the 12 themes that the artist addressed in video installations. Because of the amount of equipment he used, Artemio had to completely change the gallery space from its usual set up. The work is the result of editing more than 15 thousand dialogs from scenes of 1,500 films, which constitutes 3,000 hours of watching the most “successful” films in Hollywood’s history. The gallery presented in twelve monitors the themes mentioned above, and in the back room, three edited films that, through splicing together different dialogues and images, pointed out the satirical relationship between the two. For example, a Marlon Brando monologue was visually acted out by Winnie the Pooh, who was frightened during a lightning storm.

Artemio Narro Hollywoodpedia (photo courtesy of Frida Cano)

The most significant connection Artemio emphasizes with this particular project is his use of mixed imagery tapping into popular memory of the emotions the films should evoke. What is most interesting about his work is that it touches on a symptom of the Latino condition that I call ‘mainsdream’. The mainsdream is a misunderstanding of so-called mainstream culture, which is usually felt by people who don’t live in or have limited access to conventional culture. In this case, Artemio talks about the exported imagery from Hollywood mainstream films that are reinterpreted, learned, and generally loved by Latino spectators of a litany of blockbuster celluloid. As a response to the close historical relationship in terms of power and domination between Mexico and the United States, Hollywoodpedia contains those exact mainstream film moments that mainsdream-film-lovers keep in their memories and hearts. Artemio’s Hollywoodpedia is a very unique and pertinent comment that makes a social and cultural critique of today’s mainstream/mainsdream condition; this is the imposition to see and live the world in one exclusive way: Hollywood’s way.

Artemio Narro Hollywoodpedia (photo courtesy of Frida Cano)

The project has been presented previously in Mexico (2005), Peru (2008), and this time in the United States (2010). This fact, however, makes me wonder about the impact that Hollywoodpedia has in the different locations of its display. The effect that this project achieves has to do with the kind of public that it refers to. In other words, Hollywoodpedia is designed to create dialog with mainsdream spectators, the reception of the work changes when the location of display is moved. For example, how would the work be received if shown in a theater in Hollywood itself? What if the audience did not consist of the neighbors from the Mission District but film lovers from Hollywood? Would the location change the reception of the art project? What kind of impact would this cause in the art world? Would Artemio’s piece have an effect on the film industry? Or better yet, would it distort the way in which Hollywood imposes its insidious point of view, telling the world outside the United States how to see and live? It is only a matter of time before Artemio disrupts the Hollywood film industry by presenting his project in a solo show in Hollywood, breaking down the “great wisdom” that has been disseminated by Hollywood films and that effects today’s mainsdream reality.

-- FRIDA CANO DOMINGUEZ, Fundación/Colección Jumex scholar

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