CITIES OF GOLD

strip­ping away the myth

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - Casey Sanchez The New Mex­i­can

It’s no tourist at­trac­tion. The dead mule deer hang­ing above San Fran­cisco Street at­tracts stares, whis­pers, and cell­phone cam­eras but lit­tle in the way of ex­pla­na­tion. Strung by its hindquar­ters to a sim­ple tim­ber A-frame, the car­cass is highly vis­i­ble above the adobe court­yard walls of the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Na­tive Arts. The in­stal­la­tion

P’oe iwe naví ûnp’oe dîn­muu / My Blood Is in the Wa­ter is no less dis­turb­ing when viewed from in­side the mu­seum court­yard. From an in­ter­nally in­stalled blad­der, the deer drips blood out of its mouth onto a tribal drum. With the aid of an am­pli­fier, the sound of the tiny drip explodes into a drum blast. The bru­tal dis­play is part of a larger body of work now on ex­hibit at the mu­seum called It Wasn’t the Dream of Golden Cities.

The deer in­stal­la­tion, which is up for only a few days, is a vis­ceral — in the true sense of that much abused word — re­minder that the feted 400th an­niver­sary of Santa Fe is also a somber re­mem­brance of trauma and spilled blood for the Pue­blo In­di­ans who fought against Span­ish col­o­niza­tion and co­op­er­ated with it as well. The out­door work is one piece of a three-part in­stal­la­tion pick­ing at the scabs of his­tory by a troupe of multimedia artists called Post­com­mod­ity. Made up of Kade Twist (Chero­kee), Raven Cha­con (Navajo), Steven Yazzie (La­guna/Navajo), and Nathan Young (Delaware/Kiowa/Pawnee), the group ex­plores how the in­dige­nous art mar­ket makes a com­mod­ity out of tribal cul­tures.

In­side the mu­seum, the other two parts of the Post­com­mod­ity show ex­am­ine the Na­tive pres­ence in mod­ern-day Santa Fe as well as dur­ing the Pue­blo Re­volt of 1680. The four artists spent a cou­ple of days cov­er­ing one of the mu­seum’s rooms in acrylic gold paint, as a vis­ual nod to the “Cities of Gold myth” that drove so many Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors into the Pue­blo lands of the up­per Río Grande in search of riches. Named If His­tory Moves at the Speed of Its Weapons, Then

the Shape of the Ar­row Is Chang­ing, the sound in­stal­la­tion is pow­ered through eight gold-painted speak­ers, pushed flush against the gold walls. The ca­coph­ony that emerges from the speak­ers sounds like lasers or elec­tron pulses from the sound­track of a vi­o­lent sci-fi movie. What the lis­tener is ac­tu­ally hear­ing, how­ever, are the sounds of an am­bush, con­ducted by the Pue­blo weapons of the time — bow and ar­row, at­latl and dart, sling and rock, and war club.

The four men took the phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of the weapons’ tra­jec­to­ries and ren­dered them as math data that was then trans­lated into sound. Work­ing with com­puter sci­en­tists An­drew Cord and Cristóbal Martínez, the artists and sci­en­tists ran the tra­jec­to­ries through a 12-page math for­mula that took into ac­count the full 23 vari­ables that make up rocket sci­ence, like ve­loc­ity, hu­mid­ity, and grav­ity. “We made it as overly com­pli­cated as pos­si­ble,” Twist said in a phone in­ter­view. The idea was to cre­ate a bal­lis­tics study for the sling and rock that was as com­plex and nu­anced as that of a mis­sile head in or­der to cre­ate a ter­ri­fy­ing sound that would in­voke the ter­ror of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an ac­tual am­bush.

“So why doesn’t it sound lit­er­ally like an ar­row?” Twist said. “That would be too lit­eral. We wanted to treat it as a com­po­si­tion.” The name of the in­stal­la­tion comes from cul­tural the­o­rist Paul Vir­ilio, who ar­gued that mil­i­tary tech­nolo­gies drive so­ci­etal change or that “his­tory pro­gresses at the speed of its weapons sys­tems.”

Top, Post­com­mod­ity (with Cristóbal Martínez and An­drew McCord): If His­tory Moves at the Speed of Its Weapons, Then the Shape of the Ar­row Is Chang­ing, 2010, sound and mixed-me­dia in­stal­la­tion (eight stereo chan­nels, loud­speak­ers, and gold acrylic paint)

Post­com­mod­ity: P’oe iwe naví uˆnp’oe diˆn­muu (My Blood Is in the Wa­ter), 2010, mixed-me­dia in­stal­la­tion with sound (mule deer taxidermy, wood poles, wa­ter, am­pli­fier, and drum)

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