ORIGINAL POST: Friday, September 03, 2004

BY: Eduardo Navas

Report on Periferico, Mexico City: third installment in a series of five.

Periferico happened at Laboratorio Arte Alameda on August 20, 2004. This was the second event in a series of three, organized around the Centro + Media Exhibition, which ran from August 19-22 at Centro De Diseno Cine y Televisión, Mexico City. For an account of the opening event, please read the article written on Monday, August 30 of 2004. The third event called CentroAmedia happened at the Rufino Tamayo Museum on Saturday, August 21 of 2004. The three events featured local and international Latin American artists active in the new-media field.

Laboratorio Arte Alameda is a cultural center dedicated to the arts in new media and its crossover to more established practices. The building used to be a church and its acoustics and large walls make it a great space to enjoy new-media performances. The set-up adopted for the performance was refreshing; it presented the artists in front of a large projection on the wall. People sat on two large sofas and on the floor, right behind the performers; this way, they were able to see everything the artists did on their computers. There was also freedom to walk around, so audience members could sit very close to the artists to better understand what they were doing.

Periferico was an improvisational session bringing together artists who mixed music and visuals. Some of the performers had never played together. Some were locals while others flew from different parts of Latin America. The performers included Mauricio Montero(no website), Gillermo Amato(no website), Mario de Vega (no website), Antonio Mendoza, Jorge Castro, Ricardo Rendon, Israel M, Ivan Abreau, Brian Mackern, Diang, Laura Carmona, Santiago Ortiz and Christian Oyarzun and Arcangel Constantini.

The evening started with Mauricio Montero and Guillermo Amato. The sound was loud, and the melody was a bit on the mellow side, strategically using noise in part to create a slow pattern. The images were mainly abstract with a repetitive juxtaposition of a close-up of a child’s face and the silhouette of a man against a white background, which were also complemented with abstractions deriving from the grid.

Then Antonio Mendoza and Jorge Castro improvised visuals to the sound of Mario de Vega. Antonio recycled images from movies and news footage, which were filtered with rich reds, greens, and blues. His images included planes, a hand pouring beer into a thin glass, multicolored dinosaurs fighting, an atomic bomb and other explosions, and the flag of the United States. Mario created sound patterns by moving the knobs on his mixer back and forth resembling the sound of surfing for a radio station in an analog radio. The sound was jarring and felt destructive to the ear. It consisted of tones without a specific beat.

Jorge Castro mixed a set of abstractions. But his most interesting material came when he performed alone. At one point he presented a video of a dancer whose moves turned into geometrical patterns, which shifted in support of the smallest changes in the sound. At times the dancer became a complete abstraction--and then she would once again appear moving in sync with the music. The same woman also appeared under water in another video, which was really slow in its development; here, she occasionally came up for air.

Ricardo Rendon and Mario De Vega performed together. Rendon presented abstract visuals consisting of white and gray squares against a black background, while Mario played an instrumental composition completely devoid of an obvious rhythm. This was one of the longest performances of the night, as it lasted over forty minutes. It was quite demanding of the audience as, both, the rhythm and image changed very slowly, and one could daze out and daydream losing track of the audio-visual development, especially because there was no obvious progression and loops were brought back by both performers. Then Ricardo also performed a sound piece on his own.

Ivan Abreu (center of picture) played a sound piece resembling his previous improvisation at Centro + Media, which consisted of a beat somewhat allegorical of electronic dub. Abreu abstracted the traditional guaguanco pattern, an Afro-Cuban rhythm. Rendon complemented his performance with more abstract graphics which were, again, deriving from grid patterns.

Brian Mackern performed two sets. He manipulated sound and image simultaneously. Mackern used an interface that made his graphics sensitive to his manipulation of sound. Here, again, his material aesthetically resembled his previous performance--that is, slow melodies that, at the push of a button, swiftly switched graphics and composition. At times the graphics were as simple as a horizontal line in the middle of a black screen, and at others it was a collage of loops covering the entire wall.

Diang and Laura Carmona performed together. They appeared to know each other’s material well before coming into the performance. There were formal similarities, for instance Laura’s graphics had a steady pace much like walking. Her images, which consisted mainly of patterns with the occasional human figure and landscape, always filled the page with pastel colors. The overall look was grainy. Diang’s sound was very steady, with no obvious beat, but the sound and image allowed the audience to find a rhythm that crossed over from the aural to the spatial. Much like Laura’s visuals, Diang’s sound was always full, and kept a consistent tone that shifted slowly, carefully matching Laura’s graphics.

Arcangel Constantini (on the right) performed by himself. He mixed figurative and abstract images to a mid/slow-tempo sound composition. Here again the sound’s formal qualities matched the aesthetic of the visuals, as the aural patterns corresponded with the visual fade-ins and outs. The graphics shifted from abstractions, obviously derived from the grid, to porn images, which had been adjusted by color filters to match the overall palette.

Santiago Ortiz, Christian Oyarzun, and Israel M (from left to right) were the last to perform. Ortiz and Israel M collaborated on the sound, while Oyarzun mixed graphics. Ortiz also showed his visual interface used to create the sound. Oyarzun presented graphic variations of a circle not too dissimilar from his installation at Centro + Media. Many of the previous performances stayed away from a concrete rhythm (except for Mackern), but this last performance actually presented very specific patterns that at the same time problematized their own system; and there was still not a specific “beat” heard. There was a “back and forth” resembling Mario De Vega’s previous performance, but here there was no "real life" knob, just a virtual one that was created in a Flash interface.

The overall aesthetic was very consistent, regardless of the fact that some of these artists had never played together; yet the artists created abstract sounds and images that were slow to change while constantly relying on short visual and aural loops. The result was material open-ended for interpretation, overtly denying a specific meaning other than experiencing the process of creating the composition through improvisational collaborations. The performers then could claim autonomy--a momentary space outside "politics," as their interests lied in the creation of images and sounds that challenged the immediate perception of the viewer. It appears that phenomenology is comfortably finding its way back into the arts through the emerging fields of the “ruidistas” (noise-makers). Politics, obviously, do not disappear in these images, even when the propositions by the performances may implicitly claim to do so. But this is a subject for my last segment in this series of texts.

The evening ended over drinks at the top of Hotel Habita, where all of the artists from abroad stayed. Here, some of the performers relaxed over drinks while watching a large projection on the wall of an adjacent building of Ana Guevara, the track & field Mexican star, qualifying for the Olympic semi-finals.

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