Chilean artist Patricia Domínguez explores rituals and healing practices emerging in the contact zones between multiple cultures, worldviews and livelihoods. Informed by the study of ethnobotany in South America, her first UK solo exhibition invites the viewer to envision possible futures for humans, plants and animals thriving in the cracks of modernity.
The exhibition features newly-commissioned work including a video installation presented alongside a series of cybernetic altars and totem figures. These derive from Domínguez’s residency at Gasworks in 2017, when she infiltrated prayer and wellness facilities in the privately-owned estate of Canary Wharf, one of London’s financial hubs. Building on this experience, the exhibition confronts the effects of neoliberal productivity on the body, signalled by the presence of healing plants such as the Rose of Jericho, which is said to absorb radiations from electronic devices; and Aloe Vera, used to treat computer vision syndrome.
Sculptures dotted around the show combine talismanic objects with men’s corporate shirts, consumer electronics and brightly painted LED boards as a way of appropriating and repurposing the imagery of global finance and its mythologies. This recycling of materials and symbols is testament to her encounter with an enigmatic bird-like totem made up of dried flowers, feathers and chicken feet in the museum collections of the Salesian missionaries in Punta Arenas, Chile. Envisioned by native children under colonial rule, this artefact – referenced in the exhibition – epitomises cultural bricolage as a means to resist the erasure of indigenous worlds.
Assemblages of found-objects, ceramic pieces and watercolours are gathered around a multi-screen video installation entitled Eyes of Plants (2019). At its core is a 25-minute-long video exploring healing rituals with roses. Introduced by European settlers, these flowers acquire a magical power in the colonial imaginary through the legend of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who chose the rose as a symbol to manifest herself to Juan Diego, the first indigenous saint from the Americas. Healing with roses is one of many mestizo rituals emerging in the contact zones between radically different cosmologies.
The video also features a 3D render of a pre-Columbian vase in the shape of a crying duck. Weeping inconsolably, this computer-generated model serves as an avatar to mourn the many worlds suppressed by colonial power. In the footage, the artist imagines a cosmic alignment between the abstract patterns in ancestral ceramics and the stripes in business shirts. Incorporating digital animation, optical illusions, homemade props and close relatives as actors, Domínguez’s video results in a hallucinatory experience that falls between psychedelia and ethnographic surrealism.
Displayed on neighbouring flat screens, two oversized scans of the artist’s irises complete the video installation. As they stare back at the audience, Domínguez’s green eyes invite the viewer to consider one’s own physical traits as a record of the encounter between the coloniser and the colonised.
Green Irises is accompanied by an artist’s publication entitled Technologies of Enchantment: When a Ceramic Vase and a Drone Cry Together (2019). In the text, which takes the form of science fiction, Domínguez embraces a range of hybrid histories, from the syncretic worship of Our Lady of Cerro Rico, an infamous silver mine in Bolivia where eight million natives died, to the archaeological museum inside Scotiabank’s head office in Cusco, built on top of the ruins of an Incan palace.
Patricia Domínguez’s exhibition is commissioned and produced by Gasworks, with generous support from Lazo Cordillera, Fundación Engel and Fundación AMA.
This exhibition is supported by Catherine Petitgas and Gasworks Exhibitions Supporters.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)