Not on display
The Andes (Los Andes) 2012 is a colour video work by Chilean artist duo León & Cociña which uses stop-motion animation to describe a story about a ‘restless primal spirit’ that takes possession of a domestic office space (the artists, http://leoncocina.com/los-andes/, accessed 25 October 2018). The video, which has sound and lasts just over three and a half minutes, has been produced in an edition of six with two artists’ proofs; this copy is number three in the main edition. It can be projected or shown on a monitor and has been displayed within an installation of the artists’ papier-mâché ephemeral sculptures, as was the case when it was included at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 as part of the Latin American – IILA Pavilion.
Set against the continual noise of a clock ticking, the video begins with a door opening onto a room featuring a home computer station while the spirit’s voice states, ‘You called me and I came to you’. The voice continues to describe the origins of the Americas as ‘the white land of the white gods’ with ‘golden-haired and transparent-skinned people’, while the room and the objects take on a number of transformations. The title of the work refers to the Andes mountain range that runs through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina where, the spirit suggests, the mythical ‘City of Caesars’ is hidden.
As the video progresses, plants overgrow the computer as the white walls are covered with black paint-marks to create a forest-like enclosure; a clock falls off the wall and then turns into a large hand that grabs a plant. At the point when the spirit states that ‘The time of Europe is over’, the hand morphs into a cone-shaped sculptural form that is then spread out onto the wall to create a white triangle painting featuring a single eye. Red lines then stretch out of the ocular object and across the walls to form additional white triangular forms, until the scene resembles a landscape of volcanos that proceed to erupt with a vertical stream of red colour. These images soon flake off the wall to create a rubbish heap that animatedly moves across the room to engulf the computer, which is transformed into a large, concerned-looking face. This hollow head turns a golden colour as it appears to drink a red liquid pouring from a clock on the wall, after which the walls of the space become illustrated with the architectural details of a cathedral that may represent the discovered ‘City of Caesars’. The voice continues to state that, with this discovery, ‘a new and old religion will begin’; this leads to the face transforming into a table, on which the outline of a door appears that soon opens to engulf the film frame in darkness while the spirit concludes that ‘All of us will be gods, creators of new flowers’.
Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña have been collaborating since 2007, created a highly distinctive language in film and narrative by experimenting with stop-motion techniques. The majority of their works explore religious and magic symbolism, often through an interpretation of obscure twentieth-century literature from Latin America. The Andes is typical of the way in which they incorporate different techniques into their films, including drawing as well as sets and puppets made with cheap materials and papier-mâché. In certain instances, as was the case with the Venice Biennale presentation of this film, these props have developed into architectural installations which have been presented in exhibitions. Jointly written, the artists’ non-linear introspective scripts are usually voiced-over by fictional characters evoking repressed desires and trauma, often through the perspective of childhood.
The voice-over text in The Andes is based upon the writing of Miguel Serrano Fernández (1917–2009), a Chilean diplomat and supporter of ‘esoteric Hitlerism’, the mystical interpretation of Nazism after World War II which echoed in South American societies as justification for rulership by lighter skin elites, industrialists and land owners. By exploring the racist ideology of this problematic public figure in Chilean political history through the animation of an everyday domestic setting, León & Cociña lend this work a surreal quality that draws attention to strains of naïve mysticism and violence inherent in national political systems in Latin America.
The Andes is a part of the artists’ Third World series of films that also includes Father. Mother 2011, The Temple 2011 and The Ark 2011. They have described the series as presenting ‘a savage procession, moving between sacred and intimate, beautiful and horrific, canonical and arbitrary, sublime and bestial. Every film is the beginning of a myth and also its immediate decadence.’ (Quoted on artists’ website, http://leoncocina.com/los-andes/, accessed September 2018.)
Artists’ website, http://leoncocina.com/, accessed September 2018.
Michael Wellen, Inti Guerrero, Fiontán Moran
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