El paisaje eres tú (You Are the Landscape)
Dimensions Variable (DV) presents a solo project titled El paisaje eres tú (You Are the Landscape) by London, UK and Quito, Ecuador based artist Manuela Ribadeneira. The exhibition opens on March 11 and runs through May 7, 2022 in the Main Gallery.
One of the characteristics of Manuela Ribadeneira’s work is the articulation of her reflections around the gradual and conflictive construction of the historical environment which we sometimes call “the present”. Some of the most notorious elements that we find in this construction in her work are the textual (as in the work El Rey Perro based on real and fictional stories); the circularity of history (events that are repeated in divergent contexts and times, as in a labyrinth of mirrors); and of course, the relationship of individuals with their territories, places, environments and landscapes, that determine how any historical moment is constructed.
The criteria for the selection of works that make up this exhibition, brought together under the title You Are the Landscape, focuses on this last aspect of Ribadeneira’s work. It is particularly through the landscape that the artist explores how we symbolically construct the spaces of relationships where we interact. The series of works that gives the exhibition its title are literally “mobile” places, motorized models of idyllic landscapes that are familiar but not recognizable to her. The declared intention of the artist is to think of the landscape as a space of identity that we all metaphorically carry on our backs, but also how the landscape is by definition “a place from which by looking you define a surrounding.”
This idea of how our desires and projections alter the meaning of the landscape and our relationship with it is also present in other works included in this exhibition. Harmonic Tremors is a paradoxically site-specific installation created for the supposedly neutral and universal “white cube,” – that no-man’s land that has become the quintessential modern space for appreciating art. It is a work that only exists when it is installed, composed by irregular vertical bands created by carefully removing the layers of paint from the wall – like the removal of geological layers. When seen as a whole, the piece looks like a graph that represents the sound waves produced by an erupting volcano.
Functioning as a counterpoint to Harmonic Tremors, there is a sequence made up of twenty-five drawings with representations of volcanoes. Grouped together under the literal title of Volcanes, this piece presents us with what I want to think of as an erotica of the landscape, as if the image of the volcano wasn’t already a common place of sexually loaded imagery derived from projections on natural landscape, a set of drawings of legs flying through the air are placed interspersed next to the volcanoes about to explode. A fourth piece in the exhibition, also composed of mutilated bodies, completes this polyptych of a stark landscape. With the idea of place turned into a fragmented body, and this in turn engulfed by the territory, this kind of savage landscaping made by Ribadeneira appears as more heartless I would say, in the piece entitled Las Encantadas. Referring to Melville’s book where the story is set in nature’s diversity sanctuary of the Galapagos Islands, it is an installation in which cardboard replicas of flipped turtle shells are scattered on the floor, captured at that moment in which they are condemned to paralysis and absolute vulnerability. It is a devastating landscape, or perhaps just a merely a mirror of a man-made landscape.
Could it be that at some point we will ask ourselves again the unfathomable questions about the existence and profound consequences of our actions? I cannot avoid feeling these questions floating around the urgencies with which the works of Manuela Ribadeneira continue to question.
Manuela Ribadeneira (Quito, 1966, lives in London) has a particular way of producing sophisticated objects that, through diverse metaphorical operations, skilfully synthesize a series of stories that allows the present to be critically engaged. Ribadeneira’s works are based on concerns related to specific situations at the time of creation, which she usually addresses from a scientific curiosity or historical anecdote, responding to them from personal experience or family memory. This quality of seeking in between the intimate and the political has allowed her works to transcend their original context of creation and become reflections that are projected over time. As such her works allows for a continuous update of different readings and interpretations.
Ribadeneira has exhibited in numerous international institutions, such as the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museo de Arte Moderno Medellín, Medellín; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; David Roberts Art Foundation, London; Teorética, San José; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Quito; Kunsthalle Stuttgart; Museo del Barrio, New York, Museo Amparo, Puebla; Cifo, Miami; Flora ars+natura, Bogotá; Pivô, São Paulo, among others. She also participated in the Latin American Pavilion of the 52nd Venice Biennale, the 8th Havana Biennale, 8th Mercosur Biennale, 12th and 14th Cuenca Biennales. Her work is part of important collections such as the Guggenheim’s Museum public collection, and the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection, New York, USA.
Ribadeneira together with Nelson García founded the art collective Artes No Decorativas S.A. (1998 -present). In 2011 with curator Vincent Honoré and the design collective äbake, Ribadeneira launched and edits a collection of books called Drawing Room Confessions. (2011-present). In collaboration with curators Manuela Moscoso and Pablo Lafuente Ribadeneira created Zarigüeya / Alabado Contemporáneo, a research project, production and exhibition program that explores relationships between contemporary art and the pre-Columbian collection of the Casa del Alabado Museum in Quito. ( 2015-present).