Looks familiar

Two hands placed across two projector eyes. With ceremony, the fingers slide aside, their shadows pulled away to reveal the images on the wall.  Marco behind the projector sways in time to the movement of his hands, in time to the click of each progressing slide. It is a performance composed of a blinding light; A dance of a man, two projectors, and a revelation of successive images.  Being revealed are things left behind: a plastic spoon on a beach, a toy, clothing, an instrument, treasure, trash… The piece is an exposition of those objects we once found meaningful, now unwanted; once owned, now lost; once known, now anonymous.

What happens to the familiar, when removed and replaced? Without context, there is no meaning. Without a supporting web of other things that can be known, there is no sense. Marco has found something to photograph: an object, perhaps half buried flotsam on the sand. He adopts the lost, the unconnected, an image into his family. Re-presented they have transformed: members, collaborators. Dancers of light and structure on the wall.

Marco Montiel-Soto, a name like a colorful brushstroke against the list, black on white, in which we are meant to prove our presence in a class by recording our given identity–encoded as a signature–on the assigned space. Marco pens him in green ink as if to prove its point. If signing-in represents a weekly ritual for our names, names themselves signify a ritual of naming that in turn exposes a tradition of assigning identity.  We are given multiple signs: at least one for us and at least one for our family.

Our names pull in both directions. As well as tying us to a family (our encoded umbilical) names hold in them the demand for distance. If a name is to survive, its bearers will need to bear. As a codification of bloodline, it denotes the responsibility to create the next generation and the next. Our forebears remain recorded in the letters of last names, their shame or honor written into what belongs to both. We signify our blood in black ink marks. Except for Marco, who signs in green.

The living room is brimming with multiples. Hats, stringed instruments, drums, calculators, slide viewers, spectacles, whatever it might be is instead a whole family of them. In this veritable shrine to repetition, Marco is showing off his newest old record player.  From her spinning alter Marilyn Monroe’s voice sings airily at first, then deepens, deepen and slowwws, and deeeepppppeeennnss as Marco presses his fingers against the black vinyl. On the second player is offered Beethoven, on a third is sacrificed Russian opera. Marco brings one of his tape players to seal the ceremony and soon all the duplicates and triplets are bathed in sound: a congregation of families awaiting ablution. It is an ecstatic cacophony, a mantra to chaos among the ritualistic clutter.

Marco’s shrine is reminiscent of this room in miniature. Here is a statuette, there a figurine; everything set in place and yet hopelessly toppled. Perhaps it serves as a reminder that even the lowly may be as gods, every object a potential deity, while even the most honored can be rendered a holy absurdity by the idolatry of us zealots.

In putting together the objects he does, Marco aligns money and matchsticks, a pipe and pietas. Why do we choose the gods we do, and who can say which will save us in the end?  The cheap plastic replicas of religious figures are a reminder of the commonality of worship (every person can own their piece of heaven) as well as its commodification.  They are not a step away from consumerist kitsch, they are indivisible with it. Belief in a Greater is as widely shared as it is bought into. Thus the coins towering in stacks are ambivalent members of this holy family. It is not clear if they are placed as an offering to some saint or if they are the higher power to whom all those itemized gods sharing the wooden shrine will bow. Despite such contrapositions, the lasting impression is not one of blasphemy but rather pious adherence to a dogma of the insignificant sublime.

Elen Flügge, 2011