On November 5th, 2018, I visited the Texas State Galleries located in the Joann Cole Mitte Building and was immediately immersed in a world of nature and interpretive dance. The galleries’ latest installation, Espacios Lantentes/Latent Spaces, is a collection of site-specific screendance works by Ana Baer Carrillo. The collection consists of fifteen various videos of different sizes that make up a total of five creative works, which were all being projected in a low-lit room. The works are titled Wild-er-ness, 2017, WECreateICE, 2016, Parakata, 2018, shift, 2018 and homemaker, 2017. The videos on display range from a mother dancing with her adult son, to a sea of monarch butterflies fluttering in the forest. These images simultaneously seem random and precise in their placement and execution. Although I felt at peace standing amongst the sheer beauty of it all, I struggled to find the overall meaning to the project. What was Carrillo trying to say with these series of vignettes? One thing or several things? There was certainly a lot to unpack, so I found myself sitting in the gallery for about two hours as I digested what I was seeing, and I think I finally understood. Its about the mother, not one, but all. Whether it be Mother Nature, mother and child or the homemaker, the concept and love of the mother is the point.
First, let’s unpack the mother and child aspect of the exhibit. The first of the two room exhibit I entered featured the work shift, 2018, which was two large videos projected against the entirety of a gallery wall. The videos were of a mother and her adult son, dressed in modern clothes, dancing in a house that appeared to be destroyed by some natural disaster. As they danced across the broken floor boards, their bodies vibrated with an emotional frequency that could be felt through the entire exhibit. When they were done with their dances for a moment, the mother sat on a vintage loveseat and the adult son laid on her lap to rest, and that image was then superimposed on an image of the mother laid on her son’s lap. This imagery immediately reminded me of Michelangelo Buonarroti ’s iconic 15th century sculpture, Pietà. A mother taking care of her dying son, while simultaneously depicting the more common parts of life, a son taking care of his ailing mother. Although these videos were not the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the exhibit, they spoke volumes to me. I’m not sure if it was because I recognized the imagery or because I related to the concept in some way, but I found this section of the exhibit quite intoxicating. The vintage love seats featured in the video were also featured in this section of the exhibit. They were lined against a wall plagued with bricks and broken mirrors, perhaps to represent a destructive homelife and childhood.
The first room also played more of a feminist role in its dissecting of the concept of housewives with the work homemaker, 2017. The work featured 6 small video screens that showcased a woman dressed in a cheaply made blonde wig and a Victorian-style dress that appeared to come from a Halloween store. The camera followed this woman, dressed in this ridiculous garb, as she danced with power tools through the frames of a mid-construction mini-mansion. The camera lens was intrusive and made a habit of focusing on the dancer’s more intimate areas. I believe this was to represent misogyny in addition to contrasting gender roles when it comes to the house. Women are known for the décor of a home, while men are known for the construction. However, when a woman does exhibit skills of a masculine nature, society tries to focus more on her body than her work. This piece is a scathing indictment of societal views, their functions and what happens when you disrupt the status quo.
The second room was much more ethereal than the first and featured nothing, but large videos projected against the entirety of the gallery walls. They felt like something that would be in a French arthouse film because they were so airy and light, which is why I believe this section was meant to represent Mother Nature. From dancing in the woods, to laying in the plains and sitting in the desert sands, all three-remaining works in this room featured dancers in some sort of natural location. While the dancers played prominent roles in all three works, the location never took a backseat to human presence. Instead, the dancers worked more as an accent to represent how small we all are in the grand scheme of things. Carrillo displayed this with her decision to project monarch butterflies as ten times the size of the dancers featured in the rest of the works. The garments worn in these three remaining pieces were all designed to flow in the wind, and the colors contrasted greatly with the natural locations in which they were set. White dress for the plains, orange jumpsuit for the forests and red dresses for the woods. I’m not sure how the color played a role in my overall understanding of the works, but they were aesthetically pleasing.
Apparently, this is Carrillo’s first solo exhibition, but you would not suspect that due to the dutiful craftsmanship of the overall project. Once you walk through the doors of that low-lit gallery, you just can’t help but feel a sense of elegance when standing amongst the projectors. Like film, this exhibit resonated with me long after I stepped out of the exhibit. Afterwards, I found it imperative that I take a walk through a park, so I could further dissect what Carrillo had just presented me with, which was both a further appreciation for nature and women in general. I reccommend this one of a kind site-specific screendance exhibit because even if you don’t “get it,” its worth seeing.