On ViewInstituto Cervantes
October 10–November 12, 2021
Eva Davidova’s Global Mode > Omnivores is an ambitious project that takes on a swath of topics—politics, history, climate change, the mythopoetic—in new media works by Davidova and her guest artists. The Instituto Cervantes New York is one of the Spanish government’s 75 locations across the world promoting the study of Spanish language and culture. The international perspective comes naturally to Davidova, who was born and raised in Bulgaria, moved to Spain, and is now New York-based. Her work stakes out a point of resistance against the shredding of community and empathy by communications technologies. She and her guest artists offer a utopian vision that stands the global capitalist propensity to atomize consumers into disconnected individuals or groups on its head. In Global Mode > Omnivores, Davidova, Ramos, et al. invite us not only to identify with the protagonists in their narratives, but to become actors instead of spectators to engage with people and situations very different from our own.
Janet Biggs’s gorgeous video, A Step on the Sun (2012) documents the lives of a sulfur miner working within the Ijen volcano in East Java, Indonesia. Biggs’s work gravitates to extreme environments, and A Step on the Sun is no exception. The worker struggles through a wasteland of barren rock as he brings his heavy basket of sulfur crystals to a distant weigh station. Located in the volcano’s crater, the sulfur lake, where the miner mines the crystals, looks, and no doubt smells, hellish. Her piece simultaneously repels us with its brutal setting and seduces us through its powerful images into wondering how we would fare if it were us in the miner’s place.
Mark Ramos’s invitational work, #local.host (2021) includes eight artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Spain. The installation includes four routers lined up on a wall. Each router takes you to a different web site, which you can access from your phone. Each web site pairs up two of the artists, presenting images and text about their lives and/or concerns. For example, one site has the two artists providing content about the African diaspora in the Caribbean. As we surf from one web site to the next, Ramos gives us something like a variety show of the many perspectives of the artists he has invited. Turning web sites into art highlights the potential of the internet as a democratizing communications tool, one that has stayed alive in the teeth of the social media behemoths at the top of the food chain.
Davidova’s works bring in chaos and delirium in an attempt to strike a blow against the divisions—as Ramos’s piece #local.host also does in its own way—that late capitalism has gone to such pains to build over the past decades. Low Witness Objects, (2017–21) combines Davidova’s hallucinatory imagery with a poem in Spanish written and performed by her mother, Zhivka Baltadzhieva, titled “Lazaro: Preguntas Cientificas.” Projected on the stairwell of the institute’s Borges Library, golden human heads painted with bright red glyphs float against a background that looks like a glimpse from the window of a plane high above the earth. Rounding out the experience, Baltadzhieva’s voice-over exhorts Lazarus, and perhaps us, to overcome the loss of consciousness at the time of death.
Truly Dionysian in its aim to break down the viewer’s limitations of time and space, Davidova’s interactive video Global Mode > (2020–21) presents a series of computer manipulated sequences in three channels projected onto three walls forming an enclosure. At all times the viewer can manipulate the images in the video with the movement of their arms and body, especially the motion of floating icons, including Davidova’s signature horsewoman, which appear throughout the different narratives. Global Mode > has four scenes. One scene takes place in what looks like a gigantic water cistern. Another, titled “Cassandra,” features a Black woman on a rooftop garden struggling to keep several helicopters at bay. “Prometheus,” includes a beautiful dancer performing in what looks like a bank lobby, marble slabs and all. The most recently produced scene shows ragged images of Davidova slipping in and out of a black void. Global Mode >, as its title suggests, is a sweeping statement, full of dizzying spatial inversions, that attempts to encompass the world in all its complexity with ancient themes and timely references. Does Davidova pull it all together into a coherent statement? Who cares? Let this work wash the “I” away and enjoy the ride.