Memory Insertion Capsule
In Plain Sight
Curated by Shamim Momin
Henry Art Gallery
November 23, 2019 – April 26, 2020
Memory Insertion Capsule, 2017
Steel, and archival materials on video loop
The Memory Insertion Capsule brings together references to space travel, local construction techniques, and Indigenous Maya architecture. The architectural structure evokes Indigenous forms of construction but also the river rocks commonly used in the construction of contemporary homes throughout Southern California. A mesh metal dome sits atop the structure, evoking the camping tents used by refugees and extending the conversation about immigration to the current housing crisis. Furnished like a home—with fireplace, desk, and bookshelves—the interior contrasts comfort with uncomfortable realities. By peering into a visor evoking at once the Mayan glyph for Zero and a machinic eye, the viewer takes in archival material that illustrates the fraught history between the United States and the artist’s native Central America. The relationship between these two regions is just one thread that encompasses the sequence of seemingly disparate, though complexly interconnected, historical events that have collectively contributed toward white supremacy in this country.
By watching the video, viewers are implanted with “memories” related to immigration, racism, and science through the history of the United Fruit Company, a company notorious for its corporate colonization of Central America. Two brothers hailing from Pasadena are at the center of this story. Wilson Popenoe (1892-1975) served as the chief agronomist for the company beginning in 1925, while his brother Paul Popenoe (1888-1979) was secretary of the Human Betterment Foundation, an American eugenics organization promoting forced sterilization programs, and the founder of The American Institute for Family Relations, a family therapy organization that he used as a platform to further his white supremacist agenda. Later in life, Paul became a marriage counselor, running advice columns and radio programs, and hosting a reality television show. Challenging the conventional conception of time travel as utopian fantasy, Cortez instead asks us to reconsider the difficult reality of these histories, collapsing the past into the present so that we may look to the future.
Photo by Nikolay Maslov, installation view as part of Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas at UCR ARTSblock. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.
Ingesta / Ingestion
Opens September 24, 2019
Curated by Adán Vallecillo
After the destruction of the planet and of the environment, when other eras arrive, in other worlds where life can reproduce itself, in this one or in another galaxy, Generosity I will preserve for the future the life that was possible and that was sustained on Earth, in times of colonialism, exploitation, environmental destruction, global warming and persecution, thanks to the technological advances, knowledge, spirituality, and courage of the ancient peoples of the Americas.
Photo: Beatriz Cortez. Generosity I, 2019 interacting with the Los Angeles River. Steel, acrylic, and corn, quinoa, amaranth, bean, and sorghum seeds. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.
Donde hubo fuego: Arte contemporáneo de El Salvador
Museo de Arte de El Salvador, MARTE
San Salvador, El Salvador
Dates: January 19, 2018 – January 18, 2023
Armor for Rufina Amaya was made to honor Rufina Amaya, survivor of the Massacre of El Mozote in December 1981 in Morazán, El Salvador. This massacre, perpetrated by the US funded and trained elite Atlacatl Battalion of the Salvadoran Army, is known as the worst massacre in the Americas. The majority of the dead were children under the age of 12. The armor seeks to cross through time and space to offer solace to Rufina Amaya’s body and to the memory of horror that she shared with the world for the 25 years that she survived after the massacre.
This exhibition was curated by Simón Vega and Rafael Alas Vazquez. Photograph: Walterio Iraheta.