Excavation 2: 'Malpaso'
The Center for Visual Culture presents an ongoing series of virtual screenings by contemporary artists engaged with topics in the traditions in art history and archaeology: excavation/collaboration.
In this second installment—Excavation 2—we feature an artist talk by Birgit Rasthmann and Rick Karr in which they introduce Malpaso, a collaborative project that they are developing with the artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda.
In Malpaso, Rathsmann, Karr, and Pereda interrogate the historical geographical and political legacies of a river valley in Chiapas, Mexico, that now lies submerged beneath the waters of the Malpaso Reservoir created by the damming up of the Grijalva River. Through an approach that deploys digital animation, sculpture, photography painting and the strategies of investigative journalism, Rathsmann, Pereda and Karr explore the historical violence that has scarred this landscape as a consequence of colonialism, imperialism, economic and cultural progress.
Rick Karr makes art using heuristics, methods, and aesthetics drawn from a long career in public-broadcast journalism. His research-based work embraces and plays with the blurry boundaries between actuality and fiction, truth and falsehood, trust and skepticism. Ultraviolet (2017), a multimedia performance created in collaboration with Birgit Rathsmann, explores the evolutionary forces driving cultural polarization by way of the 19th century British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace’s sojourn in Indonesia’s Spice Islands. The Bad Passage (2019), another multimedia performance collaboration with Rathsmann, examines the tangled historical narratives of the Middle Grijalva River basin in Chiapas resulting from successive waves of colonial incursion by the ancient Olmec, Spanish conquistadores, and 20th-century Mormon archaeologists. A Brief History of Bullshit (2020) explores truth, falsehood, and philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s defining work on “bullshit” by way of the work of Mexican conceptual artist Octavio Abundez. The ongoing project Fear is a Man’s Best Friend (also a collaboration with Rathsmann) uses the landscape of the suburban Midwest to map the deep fears at the heart of the current American condition.
Birgit Rathsmann grew up in Germany and Indonesia. They are a filmmaker, animator, and artist connecting with audiences in galleries and cinemas. Malpaso, their recent collaborative exhibition exhuming the history of a river valley beneath a reservoir in Chiapas, Mexico, was presented at The Clemente in New York City. Room for Storms turned satellite footage of hurricanes into a public cinematic event at the East River Band Shell in New York City and a gallery exhibition at Alterna/Corriente in Mexico City. October 18, 1977, an exhibition at Gasser/ Grunert gallery in New York, integrated 22 artists’ responses to the prison deaths of the Baader Meinhof Group. Their documentary film about women martial arts heroes in films from Hong Kong played at film festivals and independent cinemas. Animations which they created in collaboration with a number of comedians including Lorelei Ramirez, Mary Houlihan, Tim Platt, and Ikechukwu Ufomado have been screened on Comedy Central and at film festivals. They organize a series of public conversations at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, most recently “Four dialogues about Artists, Audience and Community.”
Alejandro Almanza Pereda has a master’s degree in arts from Hunter College, New York. He has had solo exhibitions at institutions including San Francisco Art Institute; Museo El Eco, Mexico City; Art in General, New York; Stanley Rubin Center, El Paso, Texas; and College of Wooster Art Museum, Ohio. His work has been featured at the Istanbul Biennial, ASU Museum; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City; Dublin Contemporary 2011; 6a Bienal de Curitiba, Brazil; El Museo del Barrio, New York; and the Queens Museum. Alejandro has attended the Skowhegan and Bemis Art Residencies program. He is also a grant recipient of CIFO Grant Program, the Harpo Foundation, Sistema Nacional de Creadores, México, Harker Award for Interdisciplinary Studies at SFAI, Theodore Randall International Chair in Art and Design at Alfred University, and the Black Cube Artist Fellowship. His work was featured in Art 21 close up series. He is currently a member of LA RUBIA TE BESA an Art band project. He lives in Guadalajara Mexico.