Distanz ohne Guayabo

“Estás viendo que el chango está chiflado, y todavía le das maracas” (“You see that the monkey is crazy, yet still you give him the maracas”)
–Proverb

What happens when a poet lives away from his homeland and nostalgia becomes his reality? Words, objects, and sounds transform themselves into a manifesto, helping him to construct his environment (or his journey) under one permanent ritual of historical identification.

What Marco Montiel-Soto presents in his new exhibition at Kinderhook & Caracas, Berlin, is a dislocated ritual to the rhythm of two maracas. The artist puts the tourist metaphor (developed for his show at Galería D21) aside, to become an anthropologist of his own origins, unveiling secrets, contemporary perversions, distortions and, of course, nostalgias.

Vegetables: alive, dry, humid, dead, and reorganized pose a precarious invitation to the small space of the gallery, a space that calls for intimacy through objects, but also through a certain uncertainty to dialogue with polaroids and old postcards, we realize a foreign past in time and space. A perverse nostalgia, a contemporary plant sacrifice. The elevated “chinchorro” or hammock, stripped of its original purpose, is the first one to let us into a message of territorial dislocation present in the whole distribution. Just as this quote from one of the artist’s selected texts for the exhibition:

Ay Ay Ay que Guayabo

coco radicante/portable Caribbean/tropical longing

melancholic papelon/homesick palms/shredded coconut utopia

desert island/raindance/eternal summer/la corriente de Humboldt

Tenía el cuatro en el chinchorro/Rascao me le acosté arriba

The second releaving element is an open book sitting atop a music lectern. One of the pages shows a naked Waika child looking prudishly into the camera, covering his face. The Waika kid is not a kid anymore. Uriji jami!  (as the piece is titled) is dead. The West has injected shyness and shame into a natural being. And aggressively tries to mend it with elements fabricated for and by white males. A wink to Kader Attia’s Repair, extrapolated towards the Latin-American context.

The manifesto is validated once Montiel-Soto decides to quote Alexander von Humboldt, the character that best represents the historical context of Berlin, where this whole scene is being put into action. The relationship between Humboldt and the Guahibos manifests an anecdote of a parrot, which later becomes traditional:

“A tradition circulates amongst Guahibos, that the belligerent Atures, chased by Caribes, ran away to the rocks and rose in the middle of a waterfall and, there, this nation previously so numerous, gradually became extinct, as did its language. The last families of the Atures still existed in 1767, in times of Gili the missionary. In the time of our travel, an old parrot appeared in Maipures, and the fact is worth mentioning because “the inhabitants didn’t understand what the parrot said because it spoke the language of the Atures” [sic]

-extract from the Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent During the Years 1799-1804, Alexander von Humboldt [Volume 5, p. 620]

The third work that brings us into our times contains anecdotal elements, consequential to the artist’s external gaze into his own homeland, which stops at cultural and political counterpositions as a result of the development of Venezuela’s socialism and anti-imperialism. El Pato Donald en Caimare Chico is a video that the artist made in colaboration with friend Carlos Gómez, where the tropical rhythm of a character dressed as Donald Duck shines, cheering the families at Caimare Chico beach, a scene that becomes an auto-stop. Marco explains: “Caimare Chico is a popular beach near Maracaibo, people park their cars near the beach so they can listen to music while they bathe in the sea, and they compete to see which can play their music the loudest. At the end of the afternoon, the tide starts to come in, but everyone is so drunk that they can’t escape the beach, some cars are swallowed by the water, honks are horning, sirens wailing, and everyone goes crazy while the sun goes down. Donald Duck appears to cheer the circus on, while roaming around, drinking beer and taking polaroids with kids to sell to their parents”.

The video shows a small cubicle to which one only gains access through a steep and unsafe wooden ladder, directly provoking the spectator to test their physical ability at the mercy of pure curiosity. Once upstairs, El Pato Donald en Caimare Chico looks like material taken almost from a local TV show, with some digital effects typically used in TV. Purposefully there or not, the effects are not necessary. The tropical sunshine and the elements that present the camera’s path in constant movement to show the beachy circus are enough to overwhelm us, alienating us with absurd craziness precisely.

Michelle-Marie Letelier, 2013