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Rodrigo Valenzuela’s ‘Future Ruins:’ Disorienting in a Good Way

Gayle Tice

Freelance Writer,

Gayle Tice

On Sunday April 26th Rodrigo Valenzuela (Artist Trust 2014 Arts Innovator Award Winner) gave a lecture at the Frye Art Museum titled Discourse in New Media.  This lecture was a showcase of videos by artists that inspire Rodrigo, whose own videos (focused on domestic laborers) and still photographs of constructed “ruins” have completed their three month run at the Frye.

It was the last day of Rodrigo’s show at the Frye, Future Ruins. Taking up an entire room were large-format black and white photographs of Styrofoam and plaster debris mounted on scaffolding and set in front of an immense black and white field of markings.  The piece didn’t feel like art on a wall – it was a constructed/deconstructed landscape. 

I wanted to crawl around in it.  It is a guilty pleasure to enjoy a ruin.

The notes I took on the videos in Rodrigo’s lecture include the phrases: shifting focus, moving camera, debris, disorienting in a good way, social media/internet overload, infantile-curling-on-the-floor, repeated mangled phrase, and warped backgrounds. The videos were short in length and almost hallucinatory, evoking the feeling of an academic staying up all night with the internet and TV both on.

There were social and political themes to the work, with scraps of media drawn from disparate sources- advertising and philosophical literature featuring prominently among them. One video featured one woman per scene being used as one of the following domestic items: a frying pan, a doorstop, a perfume dispenser, a bell, a bar of soap, or a spoon.  Another video featured a man in various forms of dress and undress, repeating phrases from internet pop-ups and other media. 

The featured video artists included Gary Hill, Enrique Ramirez, Anthea Behm, Danielle Dean, and Mores Mcwreath.

After the lecture I asked Rodrigo what he thought the role of disorientation was in the work he showed.

To paraphrase what he said:

There is no logical sequence to everyday life.  Movies tell us that there is.  But, look, I am having all of these conversations.  We look at all these different windows at work.  We have email open, and Hulu open, and some of it is actually work.  It isn’t that we are born, get married, and die.  This is how our brains really work.

I can only imagine that my own brain, spelled out in a short video, would be terribly disorienting to watch.  Disorienting in a good way. What would yours look like?