Paralelismo tropical de la ausencia [Tropical Parallelism of Absence]

 

 

Even if everyone in the whole village died, it would be up to you to carry on, to tend to the ancestor shrine.

Grandmother Kandamma in Two Evenings in Saramaka (1991), by Richard and Sally Price

 

The work of Marco Montiel-Soto (Maracaibo, Venezuela, 1976) is characterised by an ongoing anthropological and ethnographic reflection on the Tropics. Using various media, such as video, installation and sculpture, the artist has gone about creating an archive of travels, identities and customs, of conquest and colony, as he explores the history of Venezuela as a nation. Montiel-Soto combines personal experience as an immigrant and explorer, along with nostalgia and the myth of his place of origin, Maracaibo, with the experience of travelling artists of the 19th century like Ferdinand Konrad Bellerman and Anton Goering, as if dealing with a single history being repeated time and time again.

 

In 2017, Montiel-Soto (who is based in Berlin) travelled to the Canary Islands with the aim of seeking to define and comprehend the foundational features of the identity of his country of origin, gathering material relevant to the Venezuelan imagination throughout the entire island chain. Since then, Montiel-Soto has focused on weaving together these cultural exchanges, stories and legends, which include—amongst other aspects—the landscape, the geography, migratory movements and the extinct culture of aboriginal Canary Islanders. Humour and irony are strategies the artist frequently uses to take on the complexity of his identity as a contemporary artist, immigrant, traveller and explorer.

 

 

Montiel-Soto’s participation in the 11th edition of the Biennial of Lanzarote consists of an installation composed of two pieces, both of which have been created especially for the exhibition: 

 

Tratado de maracas negras [Black Maracas Treaty] (2022) is a video where two Colombian maracas appear to represent African migrants dancing in a ritual. These caricatured figures correspond to racist stereotypes, which Montiel-Soto shakes in front of a landscape of the town Teseguite. As the legend goes, Teseguite was founded at the end of the 16th century by slaves who were prohibited from settling in Teguise (the historical capital of Lanzarote). The video is part of a series made by the artist since 2013, consisting of quasi-anthropological studies of African and pre-Hispanic instruments like these, with the idea of exploring the specific character of their design and materials, along with their sounds and how they are used ceremonially in different places. The Tratados de Maracas [Maracas Treaty] was carried out in the Casiquiare River during an expedition that moved along the route of Alexander von Humboldt and Aimé Bonpland in the Amazon, the Valle Sagrado route in Peru, the courtyard of his home in Maracaibo and, more recently, the areas around Tenerife’s Teide volcano and the Timanfaya volcano in Lanzarote.

 

Paralelismo tropical de la ausencia [Tropical Parallelism of Absence] (2022) consists of a funerary monument, where the artist refers to the emptiness of death and the extinction of cultures, as is the case of the aboriginal people of the Canary Islands. Montiel-Soto employs a series of objects charged with history as they accompany the coffin, while interweaving legends and metaphors with references to the Pre-Columbian period, altars and contemporary history. Once again, the artist appropriates exhibition strategies of ethnographic museums to question the presumed authority of one culture over the other.

 

Montiel-Soto invites us to participate in his exploration of Lanzarote, as we discover stories and traditions of aboriginal Canary Islanders, as well as others from the Americas, Africa and Venezuela itself, rescuing and reinterpreting forgotten and unknown aspects of them. Tratado de maracas negras and Paralelismo tropical de la ausencia take us fully inside the ritual, in a tri-continental ceremony. 

Silvia Benedetti, 2022