FOURTH TIME AROUND: 20 YEARS/20 SHOWS: SPRING 2016
MemWars, Terry Allen’s new piece at SITE Santa Fe, is a video and sound installation about memory and motion. “There are nine sections of stories, and each one has a song connected to it, and each story is grounded historically or metaphorically in some lore,” said Allen, the Santa Fe-based alt-country musician and artist who works with his wife, artist and actress Jo Harvey Allen. “There are stories that take place in the World War II and Vietnam eras and they all kind of lead to how a song comes about. In video projections, Jo Harvey’s going to be moving along one wall telling part of the story, and I’ll be moving on another wall telling another part, and when the story is completed, there will be stationary video of me playing the song along with images that relate to the story.
“With the two moving walls, it’s really kind of about how memory is always in motion and about the idea that when memory’s not in motion, it becomes a trance, almost.”
One of the stories, titled “Road Runner,” deals with a New Mexican friend who was killed in Vietnam in 1967. The last conversation Allen had with him was the night his friend called from Juárez to tell him he just had roadrunners tattooed on both of his calves. “About five years after his death, thinking about an old girlfriend of his, I wrote a song called ‘ Blue Asian Reds’ that dealt with my feelings about him being killed — and that was the first time it really dawned on me how awful the war was.”
The Allen installation is part of the spring 2016 iteration of SITE Santa Fe’s 20 Years/20 Shows program. Launched in March 2015 to celebrate the museum’s two-decade anniversary, 20/20 is a series of re-encounters with artists who have exhibited at SITE in years past. In 2010, Allen’s drawings and video sculptures inspired by poet/ dramatist Antonin Artaud were included in the show One on One. Works by Luis Camnitzer and Wangechi Mutu accompany Memwars at SITE. Camnitzer participated in the 2007 group exhibition The Disappeared/Los Desaparecidos. Now he presents two exhibits that examine issues of location, disorientation, and power: The Shift of the Center of the Earth (1975) and Cardinal Points (2015). In 2006, Mutu had a work in SITE Santa Fe’s sixth international biennial, Still Points of the Turning World. Now she collaborates with artist Edgar Arceneaux on a drawing installation on the gallery walls. Mutu also presents a 2013 animated short about modern-day consumption, The End of Eating Everything. A free public opening for this fourth and final installment of 20 Years/20 Shows is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 19. The exhibition at SITE (1606 Paseo de Peralta, 505-989-1199) continues through May 22. — Paul Weideman
Terry Allen: video stills from MemWars, 2016, courtesy the artist and David Aubrey/Lightningwood Pictures