13th Gwangju Biennale — Minds Rising Spirits Tuning

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Patricia Domínguez

As fires raged in Bolivia’s Chiquitania region and in the Amazon rainforests in summer 2019, Patricia Domínguez was volunteering at an improvised animal sanctuary to tend to animals injured by the flames. Her caring for a half-blind toucan is at the center of her installation Madre Drone (2020), which contextualizes the wildfires with considerations of indigenous land rights and the whirring of police drones surveilling protesters in Santiago de Chile.

The anchoring motives of vision, healing, and a deep reading of convergences among indigenous rituals, settler-colonial customs, and contemporary corporate wellness schemes inform Domínguez’s multipart installations in the basement spaces of Yangnim Mountain. Like vigilant watchmen replicating the artist’s eyes, a pair of animated green eyeballs in the work Green Irises (2019) hint at European ancestry by their irises’ “color of plants.” The work traverses the liminal zones of transcultural references: a holographic fan depicting the jarro pato, a duck-shaped ceramic vase emblematic for its tears that mourn indigenous worlds; the presence of roses alluding to mestizo healing practices; emojis and fast-fashion boxer shorts and suits roping in contemporary reality. Each reference is captured through the artist’s own heritage and projected against her own body and everyday surroundings: “The same tears running down the cheeks of indigenous peoples run also through the cheeks of settler colonists, eventually falling down from the eyes of our contemporaries, glued to the screens of their mobile phones. Little by little, all these tears have reshaped my face.”

At the heart of Domínguez’s approach is bringing together activism, experimental research on ethnobotany, and ancestral and modern healing practices. Her artworks resemble shamanic shrines, cybernetic altars and new age healing facilities. In a counterintuitive strategy, she uses technology to connect with nature: “I turn on my made-in-China LED therapy mask and set it to a green light frequency. I was told that I should irradiate myself in green if I want to see what a plant sees.” This playfulness allows the artist to commingle the mythologies of the indigenous and the colonial and their contemporary entanglements, offering a present-day record of our “temples of extractivism.”

Krisztina Hunya