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Intersections (after Lautréamont)

Laura Randall

Javier Castro, Coliseo (Coliseum), 2015. Acrylic, aluminum, and color video, with sound, 20 min., dimensions variable. Photo: Oriol Tarridas. Courtesy CIFO


Intersections (after Lautréamont) is the thirteenth edition of CIFO’s Grants and Commissions Program. Each year, the foundation selects ten emerging and mid-career Latin American artists to produce newly commissioned works; this year, the selection is Iván Argote, Adrián Balseca, Domingo Castillo, Javier Castro, Nascimento/Lovera, Alice Miceli, Naufus Ramírez, Silvia Gruner, Pablo Vargas Lugo, and Leandro Katz.

Although his writing garnered little recognition in his lifetime, Comte de Lautréamont (Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, 1846–1870) was later revered by the Surrealists. French writer Philippe Soupault discov- ered a copy of one of this works in a Paris bookshop in 1917 and introduced it to the Surrealists, who went on to draw inspiration from Lautréamont’s poetry for its prophetic ability to challenge perceptions through its dark imagery.

The first work seen on entering the space is Miami artist Castillo’s visually enticing, trancelike installation Posthumous. The installation is highly attuned to Design District–style aesthetics, including low, sleek pastel benches, tables, books, and two moni- tors playing two very different digital videos. One video is a virtual reality tour through a 3D model of a Miami high-rise building and the other is a string of videos depicting flow- ing orange juice and facts about the fruit’s consumption globally. The second video compares the unique way Americans have become so removed from the original fruit—the peeling process, juicing, and its mass production for consumption—compared to other countries where the fruit is cultivated and consumed. The fast-paced rhythm of the video is intense and the loud; the atonal music that accompanies it commands the entire gallery. The linear history of the fruit and story of its commodification can be applied similarly to other elements in the room—to how we relax, decorate, and process our notions of lifestyle through imagery.

The cultural imagination that pervades Miami vis-à-vis Castillo’s installation stretches beyond the contemporary in an untitled installation by the collective Nascimento/Lovera (Daniela Lovera and Juan Nascimento). The installation is filled with architectural images set in vitrines along the wall, in a formula that borrows from museum methods of display, setting up an archival system that separates narra- tives of style along a linear continuum. The work includes imagery from Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion World, the Epcot globe, structures related to city planning, Mayan temples, and Panopticon prisons.

In Castro’s Coliseo (Coliseum), a cluster of monitors on the floor and wall depict a recording of a street fight that is an everyday scene in the artist’s native Cuba. The men in the videos place bets and fight for money, and, as uncomfortable as the scene may inherently be, the confrontational, up-close angles of Castro’s camera (so close that it seems like you can almost feel the fighters’ breath) only exacerbate it.

There is a significant difference in the way these ten artists respond to Lautréamont compared to how the Surrealists once did. The sounds may be loud, but the tone of these artworks feels muted. Rather than acting as agents of revolt, the artworks at CIFO respond with the environment rather than against it. With the number of multimedia-based works that capture sound and video on view, alongside photographs that document place, the artists need not conjure up something eerie, they simply push play.