Art Exhibition: Land & Body – CASA Festival

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Curated by: Cecilia Kuska and Cordelia Grierson

Directors: Amelia Ibañez, Marcos Sánchez, Cecilia Bengolea, Shanti Vera, Shalini Adnani, Damiana Poggi, Zahy Guajajara, Marina Villas Boas, G.R.A.pa

Opening this week, the month-long CASA Festival celebrates Latinx culture through a series of works showcasing artists and performers across the creative communities. Launching with a screening of documentary Stateless, the festival’s second major strand opens on 3 September with an exhibition of video installations created by artists from Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and an Indigenous Reserve in Marãnhao.

Running until 11 September, these works viewed in one continuous sitting at Monochrome Studios in Whitechapel take about 80-minutes to view in their entirety and, while the influences are broad, consistent themes emerge particularly in the visual language the seven films use to reflect on their subject. The varied landscape is a common tool for exploring man’s impact on the environment with several looking to forest, grasslands and desert for their inspiration and backdrop.

Zahy Guajajara and Mariana Villas-Bôas piece Aiku’e is arguably the most powerful, opening with the sounds of conflict and fear as a young indigenous woman emerges from a pile of leaves in a forest. She is here to claim her place in a country taken from her and across these 10-minutes she repeatedly scrubs her face and body, replacing her mud-caked skin first with a war-like tribal design in vivid red and later in standard make-up in a comment on ‘urban indigene’ trying to adapt to survive. A powerful work that explores identity and belonging, Aiku’e’s subject stakes a claim to ‘R-exist’.

G.R.A.pa’s La Copla in the Amphitheatre of Quebrada de las Conchas is equally interested in traditional cultures, celebrating the music of Diaguitas whose song is recorded in a deep canyon specifically to capture its haunting echo, while visually G.R.A.pa focuses on rock stratification, natural caverns and shadow, placing two complementary images side-by-side.

The dual visuals appear across this selection curated by Cecilia Kuska and Cordelia Grierson, from Damiana Poggi’s textual representation of prison life interspersed with contrasting films about control, to Shalini Adanani’s They Gave Me a Map (And I Drew Them a Line) that uses two satellite images of landscapes, buildings, space and fire to create visual patterns of repetition and difference, a metaphor for displacement and reflections on the nature of home.

With further work by Cecilia Bengolea looking at human connection to water, Amelia Ibañez and Marcos Sánchez’s 432 using the philosophical possibilities of the desert and Shanti Vera’s surreal piece that builds plenty of atmosphere in its consideration of how we view the world, Land & Body is an eclectic anthology of work.

Combining those new to video installation with more experienced exhibitors, this group of artists is drawn from across the cultural spectrum with backgrounds in writing, performing, film directing, choreography, sculpting, animation, teaching and dance, making Land & Body a bold and challenging addition to the CASA Festival.

Land & Body runs at Monochrome Studios until 11 September.

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The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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