Life in the folds

The composite work of Carlos Amorales mixes print, sculpture and cinema to give shape to an installation of great formal rigour, which comes to life thanks to music. #BiennaleArte2017

Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
Relationships with others, fear and the tendency to construct boundaries; language, conventions, their codification and, conversely, their possible shifts between fields; and then music and the role of art in society. These are the fundamental themes for Carlos Amorales, the artist representing Mexico at the Biennale Arte 2017 in Venice.
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project

The composite work presented in the “Life in the folds” pavilion combines print, sculpture and cinema to give shape to an installation of great formal rigour, which is brought to life thanks to music. The exhibition develops around a series of transpositions, starting from abstract forms that the artist has organised into an encrypted but functional alphabet, which is adopted to compose the phrases of brief poetic texts. These new type characters then undergo a further transition by transforming into phonetic symbols, which are used to develop texts presented as musical scores. Each character – type symbols and punctuation included – then assumes the form of a musical instrument: a ceramic ocarina, which, when played, emits a particular sound for each letter.

In the pavilion, nearly 1,000 ocarinas confront the 92 pages of musical-phonic score drawn with the new language invented by the artist, and photocopied before being hung on the walls.

Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
It’s no coincidence that the artist chose ocarinas as a musical instrument: “There is a correspondence in these ocarinas between symbols and figures. They’re popular, simple and common instruments, and they all have different shapes just like the characters of a language. They’re intimate. They’re played by breathing into them, as if they had a spirit or soul of their own,” says Amorales.
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
His code language can therefore be “read” as well as “played”. All these elements ideally flow into the film titled La aldea maldita (The Cursed Village) , which in Venice is projected on the back wall of the pavilion. With the language of animation, the film tells the story of a migrant family who are lynched when they arrive in a village. The symbols in the images are simplified. “The figures are modelled on the basis of street-sign designs. For example, I referenced those signs which indicate that a family can cross the road,” explains Amorales, who has always been attentive to contemporary graphic languages. A puppet master visible in the video controls the movements of all the characters and seals their fate. “He is the great manipulator. He could be politics or finance, with their protagonists, their logic and their interests.”
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Venice Documentation Project

The images of violence are not shown. At the moment of the lynching, the figure of the puppet master and the music prevail over the rest. During the projection in the pavilion, a live ensemble performs the soundtrack and interprets the events of the story by playing the ocarinas.

The musicians belong to the Ensemble Liminare, an independent group dedicated to contemporary and experimental music based in Mexico City. Meanwhile, two actors hand out the newspaper created by the artist and written with the encrypted alphabet, which features a critical essay on a number of Mexican political issues.

Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Lorenza Cini
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Lorenza Cini
With “Life in the folds”, the artist introduces viewers to a tragic event. But at the same time, thanks to the language of art, he ensures them a distance that allows a clearer vision. This distance also shapes a sensitivity to the many filters that always come between ourselves and our surrounding reality. That distance and those filters constitute one of the central themes in the practice of Amorales, who intentionally brings the device of masks into many of his works. Yet the same distance is contradicted by the sounds that, as they accompany the course of the video, raise their tone and tension to generate a situation of vivid involvement.
The story of “Life in the folds” refers to Mexico, a country of imbalances and extreme violence, with a widespread presence of weapons and frequent cases of lynching. But it can also be associated with a more general geopolitical situation, which on one hand leads to the need to migrate under the pressure of poverty and war, and on the other triggers reactions of refusal and closure towards migrants. “The images of migration and lynching are a metaphor for a generalised crisis that could affect any country and any person who is considered in any way as a foreigner or an intruder,” says Amorales. “I think we find ourselves in a moment when it is vitally important to talk about freedom of thought, if we want to live in a society in which different viewpoints can mix together and help to strengthen our notion of equality and justice. From an artistic perspective, I studied the way in which writing is encrypted, inventing a form of abstract typography. This approach preserves the contents of the texts, which would otherwise be suppressed if they were rendered illegible. For the Mexican Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017, I codified an alphabet according to the rules of formal languages, starting with abstraction until reaching a level of figuration in which communication can openly take place.”
Carlo Amorales, Padiglione Messico, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Lorenza Cini
Carlo Amorales, Mexico Pavilion, Biennale Arte 2017, Venezia. Photo © Lorenza Cini
His process of continually translating meaning from one language to another, and from one format to another – visual arts, animation, cinema, music, literature, poetry and performance – and even inventing new alphabets, is indicative of his attempt to bring down linguistic, disciplinary and by extension all other kinds of boundaries in the name of a message: individuals must be aware of the filters through which they see others. The conditions of this way of looking have to be reconsidered in order to stop the vicious circle of fear, conflict and violence that is gripping the world.
The installation is accompanied by a book that includes the preparatory drawings as a sort of storyboard, images from the video, musical scores and texts in different languages, including the one invented by Amorales.
© all rights reserved


until 26 November 2017
Carlos Amorales – Life in the Folds
Padiglione del Messico
57. Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte
Arsenale, Sala d’Armi, Tesa B
Curator
: Pablo León de la Barra
Commissioner
: Gabriela Gil Verenzuela

 

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