“Christopher Cozier: Enredos [Entanglements]”—A Review by Luis Fernando Quirós

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Luis Fernando Quirós writes about “Christopher Cozier: Enredos [Entanglements],” the Trinidadian artist’s exhibition at TEORéTica Arte + Pensamiento in Costa Rica, curated by Miguel A. López. The exhibition opened on July 15 and will be on view through September 26, 2015. Quirós writes that, “in the universe of contemporary art, we find approaches to a wide variety of discourses that anchor us and activate attempts to (dis)entangle meanings; this is the case of Cozier’s work.” TEORéTica is located at 7th Street, between 9th and 11th Avenues, in San Jose, Costa Rica. [“Christopher Cozier: Entanglements,” a selection of videos curated by Yesomi Umolu, is also on view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University until October 18, 2015. See link below.]

Here are excerpts from Quirós’s review in Experimenta Magazine.

A specific comparison: The understanding the issue of hegemonic struggles in markets, and especially of hydrocarbons, leads me to recall our own national history, particularly a speech by the three-term President of the Republic of Costa Rica, José Figueres Ferrer, who in one of his televised speeches explained to people the source of the phenomenon affecting local economy and politics, so battered in the early seventies and eighties of the last century. He criticized the U.S., which—at the end of World War II and in the midst of development of the East-West conflict remembered as the Cold War—changed the production of military hardware to produce cars for civilian use. But the huge automotive industry needed to sell its products, so strategists showed us how to experience a lifestyle like theirs, where we could all own a car, go places with our family, and stop riding buses. They sold them to us cheaply; in those years, the price of a barrel of oil was low, so fuel was too. It took some time for the export of the American automobile industry to be successful and to enmesh the new political actors on the global chessboard, who bared their fangs of power, enthroned at our expense: the oil prices—and, therefore, fuel and gas prices—went up, and literally, we were all left dangling like puppets under the influence of hegemonic tactics.

Mechanisms of domination: Cozier’s work plays with the devices of the distribution and sale of hydrocarbons. With his characters in [the videos] “Gas Men” and “Globe”—like “cowboys” in a “male choreography,” as the curator has referred to them, evoking those stars who made it big in U.S. cinema—he uses the icon of the fuel pump nozzles as if they were weapons to entangle us in the mechanism of wielding power, along with hoses used as lassos to catch us, while we are dominated by the games of mercantilism’s lexicon. He configures veritable monsters with bodies and limbs drawn with handwritten fragments, by way of visual poetry, whose endpoints are objects of that jargon of mercantilism that keeps us trapped within its networks, like the Internet and other jumbled schemes from the World Trade District of New York, with its flow of numbers marking the rhythm with which, each day, we win or we sink.

Critical scenarios: Christopher Cozier’s work in Teorética includes video, photography, and a series of drawings where monsters crawl and assimilate the “entanglement” of everyday experiences in our countries, another discourse of power that implies social criticism on these local realities (such as migratory movements on the continent to reach the North or, like “the beast” crossing the Mexican territory full of Central American men, women, and children, riling up their dreams of reaching the model of life of that country.) Some drawings suggest moorings in port environments, ropes on which those little men in black with hydrocarbon machine guns fray and jump, challenging one another. With the strong and forceful gestures of a good graphic artist, Cozier draws these darkened scenarios to resemble soot produced by benzene, a culprit that increases the greenhouse effect. Then, the show’s impact weighs heavily on the viewer’s consciousness when it detonates another type of discourse, not only economic and political, but rather environmental, vis-à-vis a planet Earth that is dying, where we will have no other choice than to behave like moles or neo-Kafkian bugs, burrowing into the big hole or fracture caused by petroleum engineering, with its twisted nests of ducts and entrails, which were previously full of the coveted black gold.

GAS MEN STILL web

In sum, the exhibition by this Caribbean artist from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, is intense. It enables us to explore rich and varied readings of his riddles and questions so relevant to the art of today and see them as turning points that connect to other interpretations, because the issue of fossil fuels and the usual strategies of domination are responsible for the quality of urban life in the modern city—crowded, polluted, deteriorated—where cars do not move because they no longer fit into its web and so much tension hampers the behaviors and emotionality of the inhabitants. Left hopeless, we can only be tossed around under Cozier’s “cowboys,” who suddenly cock their guns and pour the fluid of discord.

For original review (in Spanish), see http://www.experimenta.es/blog/christopher-cozier-enredos-5195

For more on “Christopher Cozier: Entanglements” and a description of the exhibition (in English), see http://broadmuseum.msu.edu/exhibitions/christopher-cozier-entanglements

Also see http://www.teoretica.org/

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