December 29, 2005 04:23 PM
Under the umbrella of a collective exposition called "Ventisca Cultural" that takes place every december in what it used to be the local jail in Punta Arenas, Cristian Valle Celedón and me presented the video installation entitled "Autoretrato" (Self-Portrait). On this collective exposition, a cell (or what used to be a cell) was granted to each artist or artist collective in order to display their work.
Cristian Valle Celedón told me about this collective exposition about a week before it started. Most of the artists had already submitted their proposals and even some of them already were working on them. We had about 7 days to complete our entry. We originally thought about exploring topics like confinement and seclusion, but since this was the 3rd time the exposition would take place, and assuming that most of those topics were already exhausted by the local artists, II refused to make direct reference to the fact of the exposition being held at what used to be a jail.
Leafing though some old notebooks I found an idea for an installation that I had in mind for quite some time. It was originally a video installation where the user was supposed to catch himself in the act of spying. It was nothing but a sketch, a rough idea lost in my notebooks. I shared it with Cristian and he liked not only in itself, but also about how it related to the setting. Still, I was somehow hesitant since I though it was too close to what I wanted to avoid, the installation being perceived as a message that only made sense according to the place where it was performed.
We decided to decontextualize the work. That was one of our key objectives. For that reason we refused to use the interior of the cell (as most artists did and used to do on previous instances of the exposition) and covered the front wall (including the entrance to the cell that was given to us) with white boards. A small black and white surveillance monitor was installed inside the cell, wired to a surveillance camera hung in one of the corners of the main corridor. Then we made a small hole, about 1cm in diameter at waist heigh, through which the users could "spy" inside the cell.
From the outside, the installation was almost invisible: secluded in one of the jail corners, a white wall where a cell was supposed to be with only a tiny hole. We made some adhesive plotting with our names and the work's title and pasted them next to the hole. It contrasted with what was being hung on the neighbour cells and we liked it. Most people never figured out that that white corridor held an installation, but the few of them who dared to spy, found themselves spying.
An interesting and unexpected thing happened to the work during the exposition: The board around the hole got stain by the bodily oils and dirty hands of the viewers. I consider that an integral, yet unexpected, part of the work.
(Self Portrait) - Installation 2005
Ventisca Cultural - Punta Arenas, Chile. Sidenote: Most of the documentation of the production and original sketches of this installation are lost. A dvd and some digital photographs are the only documents remaining from this intervention.