Project pro­jec­tion

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - — Michael Abatemarco

Ruben Ol­guin His true na­ture Ethan Bach

The puki is a hum­ble ce­ramic bowl made by Pue­blo peo­ple as a base for mak­ing other pots. Some­times these func­tional bowls are a lit­tle mis­shapen and not pol­ished or re­fined, in­tri­cately painted, or in­cised. Albuquerque artist Ruben Ol­guin makes them fol­low­ing age-old tech­niques. He gath­ers the mi­ca­ceous clay by hand, uses a coil method to con­struct them, and paints the in­sides us­ing tra­di­tional white pig­ments and a yucca brush. The bowls are then pit-fired, leav­ing nat­u­ral burn marks on the sur­face. Then Ol­guin does some­thing atyp­i­cal of tra­di­tional pot­ters: Rather than paint­ing the bowls, he projects a video of the mo­tifs and de­signs onto the con­cave sur­faces. The pro­jec­tions, in­dis­tin­guish­able at first from ac­tual sur­face-painted de­signs, grow in com­plex­ity as you watch and then grad­u­ally fade away as if evap­o­rat­ing like wa­ter.

Ol­guin pro­duced a se­ries of such bowls for a project called Traces, on view in Cur­rents, af­ter con­duct­ing con­sid­er­able re­search into the his­toric pot­tery of the South­west. He named each bowl for the an­thro­pol­o­gists, such as Ken­neth Chap­man and John Wes­ley Pow­ell, who pub­lished texts and doc­u­ments per­tain­ing them. For Ol­guin, the re­search led to a dis­com­fit­ing dis­cov­ery. “It’s re­ally weird see­ing peo­ple that you’re re­lated to in an­thro­po­log­i­cal texts be­ing talked about in an­thro­po­log­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy,” he told Pasatiempo. “To us it’s like, ‘Oh. That’s my great-grand­mother. Why are they talk­ing about her in this way like she’s some kind of ob­ject?’ So I started think­ing about the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of Pue­blo pot­tery and the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Pue­blo pot­ters them­selves through­out all of this re­search.”

Traces is a mul­ti­lay­ered project that touches on is­sues of cul­tural ap­pro­pri­a­tion and own­er­ship as well as the chang­ing forms and pat­terns of Pue­blo pot­tery de­signs across time. Ol­guin, an artist of mixed Pue­blo and Span­ish de­scent whose work is cen­tered on elec­tronic me­dia, sound, and ce­ram­ics, sought per­mis­sion to re­pro­duce im­agery from pots in in­sti­tu­tional col­lec­tions, baf­fled by the irony of the copyright laws per­tain­ing to them. “There are these re­ally com­pli­cated copy­rights around this im­agery, which was ba­si­cally copied from pot­tery that they dug up from the ground,” he said. “So who re­ally owns the rights to this im­agery? That got me think­ing about own­er­ship and who has the rights to use and reuse im­agery. I pulled out all these his­tor­i­cal texts by an­thro­pol­o­gists who were the ones that re­ally founded his­tor­i­cal re­search there in Santa Fe and looked at this whole mass col­lect­ing of ar­ti­facts that they were do­ing. I lifted all of those im­ages out of the books, and tak­ing them out of that page, I used pretty high-end soft­ware tech­nol­ogy to remap the im­agery onto the bowl forms. That way, they look more ap­pro­pri­ately like what they’re sup­posed to look like rather than be­ing warped in that flat page style.”

Ol­guin, who fin­ished his MFA at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico last year, re­lied on a cus­tom-made soft­ware pack­age de­signed for use with the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can In­dian Art’s Dig­i­tal Dome to cre­ate the pro­jec­tions. “It’s re­ally metic­u­lous, stitch­ing all these im­ages to­gether and get­ting them to fit right on the bowl,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to show­ing Traces at Cur­rents, Ol­guin has sev­eral pots from the se­ries on ex­hibit in The

Eco­zoic Era: Plant/Seed/Soil in the State Capi­tol’s Ro­tunda Gallery, on view through Aug. 5.

Ruben Ol­guin’s pot­tery project Traces can be viewed at El Museo Cul­tural de Santa Fe from Fri­day, June 10, to June 26.

Ruben Ol­guin: Traces, 2015, for­aged mi­ca­ceous bowl with video pro­jec­tion; bot­tom, left to right, Ethan Bach: Power Rents, 1986; #Hel­loMyNameWas, 2015; op­po­site page, top, a mo­ment from a NoiseFold per­for­mance; cen­ter, NoiseFold cre­ators David Stout (left) and Cory Met­calf at work

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