Beatriz Santiago Muñoz by Jeanine Oleson


Jeanine Oleson reviews Beatriz Santiago Muñoz for Bomb—Artists in Conversation, saying that the Puerto Rican artist’s works “defy categorization or any simple read” [. . .] “they are rich entanglements of place, history, and time.” Here are excerpts of the review:

Paramount for Santiago Muñoz is an ethical worldview. She cares for the people she works with, who include healers, activists, tweens, former political prisoners, and butchers. She considers them the main agents of the transformative potential of the camera and the primary audience of the work. In this regard, she does not stop at observing and recording the colonial and ethnographic divides that interested Rouch and his generation. In La Cueva Negra (The Black Cave) (2013), for example, she follows two boys playing under an overpass in a rural area outside San Juan, where pre-Taíno ceremonial remains have been found. The piece begins with a faux mythic voiceover—”The first one to leave a cave turned into a rock / the next one turned into a motorcycle”—set over a montage of trees swaying in the wind, abandoned cars, drops of water, a horse, and coquis. Muñoz’s camera records a tender series of seemingly mundane interactions between the two boys, which evolves into a quiet fable of resilience and the realities of life in a postcolonial territory. We discover what remains of the past and how it continues to live on.

Her camera is self-consciously involved in the act of looking—as if it were possible for the viewer to understand the implications of viewing and interacting with images. In Marché Salomon (2015), for instance, collaborators in a Haitian market physically enact looking through objects in search of something else. In Otros Usos (2014), the broken frame of a former US military submarine dock in Vieques is shot through a kaleidoscope-like series of mirrors. Santiago Muñoz often uses mirrored objects. In doing so, she evokes Rouch’s ideas about the infinite fragilities of interrelated representations. [. . .]

[Still above: Marché Solomon, 2015, digital color video with sound, 15 minutes.]

For full review, see

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