Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Juan delGado presenting The Flickering Darkness at Fundacion Laxeiro, Vigo

The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) premieres in Spain

Last October, Juan delGado travelled to Spain to present his project The Flickering Darkness (revisited) at the Fundación Laxeiro. His artistic director introduced delGado's work to an enthusiastic audience willing to learn more about this project produced in Colombia as a result of an artist in residence in collaboration with British Council and the Colombian Ministry of Culture.

In his presentation, Juan described the methodology he followed to research ideas about the politics of food, urban territory and displacement.  His arrival in Bogotá brought him to meet a Colombian artist Lorena Luengas, who welcomed him to the Tortuga House where Juan would spend the following three months. Lorena introduced Juan to her art project called Miedo a Que? (Afraid of What..?) in which she had been working since 2006. In this project, she explored the level of fear that many people experience depending the neighbourhood they find themselves - as she was describing her work, Juan started to realise that it was a very similar project he had come to Colombia to do. This strange coincidence prompted him to leave his 'original' idea aside and... walk.

And he walked, during the following week, he walked down Bogotá's neighbourhoods of La Candelaria, Egipto, El Carmen, San Cristobal, Ciudad Kennedy... what he saw in these random hikes through mostly colonial buildings began to permeate in his perception of people and the narrative of the city he started to appreciate.

Food, a lots of food; food he has not seen before. Everywhere. 

One morning he decided to pay a short visit to Fundación Fernando Botero, where he had the opportunity to see the work of the International acclaimed Colombian artist. Botero's work is well-known for depicting people and figures in large, exaggerated volume, which can represent political criticism or humour. In his stroll around the Museum, delGado encountered several works where violence is graphically represented. It was in a room where something caught his attention: a series of small drawings where he had used food as a way to represent violence; in these sketches the characters throwing pieces of melon or any other sort of tropical fruits at each other. He was surprised that the idea had now been developed further as these narratives were nowhere to be seen in his paintings.

One of Botero's paintings about violence in Colombia

Walking through the galleries, another small drawing caught his attention. This time, a man carrying what seemed to be his possessions on a massive bag in which also death was part of the luggage; that small work encapsulated the terrible reality of thousands of people who had been exposed to the violence, kidnaps and murders that devastated many communities across the country and forced them out to seek refugee in the main cities.

Juan explained how the subject of violence and displacement was explored using food as a metaphor to investigate the social stratification and how many of the thousands of people are forced to leave their home towns. He wanted to create this three-channel installation to show the "invisibility" of this tragedy to the general population; a population which is fed by those who are not seen nor acknowledged as victims of the terrible conflict Colombia is under.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

"The World has become chaos, but the book continues to be an image of the world" stated Deleuze and Guattari. In its apparent chaotic narrative, The Flickering Darkness (revisited) introduces us to the hidden world of nocturnal labourers who every night feed the city which ignore them...

delGado received an Unlimited Award in 2014 to produce this three-channel installation currently touring across the UK and beyond.

Review by
Andrea MacDonald

Juan delGado embarked on a three-month residency to Colombia in 2009, having recently watched Agnes Varda's documentary film, 'The Gleaners & I'. Inspired by Jean-Franscois Millet's painting ‘The Gleaners (Les Gleaneuses)’, 1857, Varda's film explores the history of gleaning (meaning to gather after the harvest) and its contemporary incarnations. In part it reveals the stark reality of food production, distribution and waste.

Filmmaker Agnes Varda posing as a gleaner of wheat

Food is the central metaphor to The Flickering Darkness (Revisited). Hosted by the British Council and the Ministry of Culture in Colombia, delGado’s original plan was to produce a new work mapping the level of anxiety within the context of a country so deeply-rooted in political turmoil and conflict. His preconceptions of Latin American culture were quickly dismantled and that in turn gave him a renewed freedom to undertake his residential research.

It was a chance encounter that led delGado to the Corabastos market, in the south east area of the Colombia's capital city, Bogota. Seemingly chaotic, vast and impenetrable, the market place imports thousands of tonnes of food from around the continent. A tremendous feet of collective physical labour takes place as daily tasks are carried out with painstaking repetition and unrelenting urgency from the hours of 9pm to 7am across 362 days a year. The overwhelming mass of produce presented a conflicting impression against the abject poverty evident in the city. With the support of filmmaker Jhon Arias, who grew up in the Carobastos, delGado began to decode and read the activity of the market place using two cameras filming simultaneously over four nights to the document the arrival, collection, assignment, sale and preparation of food, orchestrated on a colossal scale by an invisible workforce.

The artist reflects upon the Corabastos as a contained ‘universe’ within its own right. It represents a workplace where men and women and their children often work in separate areas and communities have created their own institutions including churches and schools. At large, delGado's beautifully crafted observations bears witness to a community of displaced people (add stats here). The artist heard and recorded personal stories that collectively defined trauma and alienation. These stories are not laid to bear in this work but they are implicit in the subject matter itself. The workers faces are not revealed, nor can individual voices or conversations be heard. The nature of what remains undisclosed and fragmented is a mechanism that the artist employs to motivate the viewer to register the reality seen.

There is beauty within The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) and the contemplative style of the work allows the opportunity to bring highly politicised issues of food and the nature of interdependent structures between its production and social inequalities to the fore. The artist sets up a poignant analogy within the title of the work in his desire for such ideas to manifest. Where there is darkness, there is also the flickering light. Where there is light, there is also hope.

Northern Stars

During the exhibition at the Tyneside Cinema, Juan delGado explains his project The Flickering Darkness (revisited) in an interview with Northern Stars, Newcastle. 

Invited by the British Council Colombia and the Ministry of Culture, delGado spent three months exploring the city and its territory. 

Based on the texts of Deleuze and Guattari, The Colombian curator Paula Silva describes how delGado embarks on a journey of understanding the city as a living organism that, like all living things, eats, sleeps and has physical needs. The journey begins in Corabastos, in the gut of the monstrous city, in the core that sets free all other living functions such circulation or social interaction.

The Flickering Darkness (revisited), 2014

The Flickering Darkness (revisited) registers the process of distribution of fresh produce from Corabastos to other markets, supermarkets, community dining and up-market restaurants. The work presents in three fragmented but ever dialoguing screens the hands at work, the hoards of trucks that fill up and then empty the gut, the flaying knifes and the feeding mouths in an array of colour texture, speed, silence and sound.

There is no individual in the work: the people working in the markets are shown as shadows and shapes. The people eating at the community restaurants are shown as anonymous, and the people dining at the higher strata restaurant don't even have a face but only feeding hands that tear up the food and empty the frame of all the colour and texture once presented by the specially prepared meals. The result is that there is no authorial -authorised- version of the work's meaning. It is then up to the viewer to read what moves and flickers in front of his/her eyes in an entirely individual manner. There is therefore no subject, no attribution. The number of viewers will determine the number of possible readings, rendering the work inextricably multiple.

The Flickering Darkness (revisited), 2014

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Flickering Darkness travels to the North
 16 July – 6 September 2015

A new exhibition of The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) at Tyneside Gallery & Cinema, Newcastle. 

The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) is a video installation exploring the journey that food produce takes from its arrival before dawn at the Corabastos market in Bogotà, Colombia (the largest of its kind in Latin America), to its consumption across the social spectrum. In this work, a commission resulting from a 3 month residency in the South American city, delGado creates sense out of the market’s chaos and order, while inviting wider reflections on society’s strata and how they interact.

Details of the market are revealed in close up and wide shots.  Most of the images are identifiable but the editing and juxtaposition of the work often bring out abstract characteristics.  This is combined with a haunting soundtrack that combines industrial noise, a multitude of vehicles and human voices.
Whilst centring on the topical issue of current world food politics, this installation uses a highly personal visual language that documents and yet beautifully abstracts a very factual reality.

The work follows hundreds of people at work transporting food from one corner of the market to the other before vendors set up their stalls and the market becomes a hive of trading activity. It then turns to the preparation and presentation of produce as edible dishes, with delGado contrasting the humble consumption of simple foods at workers’ restaurants with the elaborate choreography of fine dining experiences.

The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) is supported by Unlimited; celebrating the work of disabled artists, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Spirit of 2012

Thursday, January 15, 2015

 BBC See Hear

In this interview to BBC See Hear, Juan delGado talks with Heidi Koivisto-Robertson about his project The Flickering Darkness (revisited) awarded an Unlimited Commission exhibited at the Southbank Center, London.

BBC See Hear, January 2015

delGado also introduces to us his recent project The Ringing Forest, shortlisted for the Open Forest Commission and exhibited at the Jerwood Space, London in January 2014. 

The Ringing Forest, Jerwood Space, London

This project is exhibited at the 4th Edition of the +End of the World Biennal in Mar de Plata, Argentina.

 The Ringing Forest, Espacio Asilo Unzue, Mar de Plata (Argentina)

In most western traditions, the forest has a unique character, its sense of place is a function of its history that combines with the natural physical environment to form its cultural landscape. The character of the forest, like all other ‘natural’ spaces, is in fact a product of human imagination, rooted in culture and understood in opposition to the idea of the civilized universe.

 curator: Fortunata Calabro

Rhizome, digital archival print, 2014

In the project The Ringing Forest I aim to explore the forest environment through the lens of my personal auditory experience, investigate the phenomenological perception of sound and movement and develop an integrated piece that challenges viewers to shift their perspective. Effectively disabling the audience in a subversive act of artistic sabotage, the work questions the notion of the natural world.

The Fallen Tree, Digital Archive Print, 2014

The concept of Green Noise, researched and developed throughout the project, represents the juncture between the external sound of the forest and the internal bodily sounds. It refers to the sound generated by the movement of tree trunks, leaves, wind and other natural phenomena in the forest as well as the intensely personal sound of tinnitus a physical condition resulting in permanent internal ‘noise’ (and therefore, a hearing impairment) created inside the artist head and audible only to him. This internal sound, described as the continuous crushing of glass, at times masks all external sounds, creating a barrier between the artist and the assumed world outside and rendering the sense of hearing irrelevant for an attempted objective reading of what we perceive as reality.