Volver! Volver! (2017), video documentation of performance and spliced image, Guadalupe Maravilla
Time x Place (2017), video and spliced images, Sandy Williams IV
Trump’s campaign rallying cry “Make America Great Again” has set up a false dichotomy, dividing Americans into those who want to return to an idealized past and those who want to push towards a new future. But once something undergoes transformation, can it ever return to an earlier state? And, conversely, can something ever fully divorce itself from where it came?
For Tête-à-tête’s October exhibition, Guadalupe Maravilla presents video documentation of his 2017 Bronx Museum performance of undocumented mariachi singers singing “Volver! Volver!,” a traditional latin love song that pleads for one’s lover to “Return! Return!” Here, the artist reinterprets the song as an ode to a missing loved one on the other side of the border. As a child, Maravilla immigrated to the United States from his native El Salvador with an “el coyote” leading the way. Now acting as a sort of a conductor himself, Maravilla uses his harmonica to lead undocumented immigrants who are masked—a nod to Mayan transformation rituals, where participants would decorate their bodies and hide their faces as they continue on to the other world.
For this project, Maravilla has chosen to pair this performance and border landscape with artist Sandy Williams IV’s scene of Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of the recent white supremacist rally protesting the city’s plan to remove a statue of confederate general Robert E. Lee. Williams’ piece Unattended Baggage (2017) sits in front of the now tarp covered statue, both virtually and IRL—during the month of October it is on view at The Garage, a gallery that directly faces the monument. A timer on the suitcase counts up from the last time it was picked up, so that the longer the suitcase remains in place, the more it signals that it needs to move. The suitcase claims space; much like the monument, it signifies the last time that the space could have been occupied by anything else. In this way, both create a legacy of control, the bounds of which are much more insidious and far reaching in the case of confederate monuments.
The sky uniting Maravilla’s and Williams’ conjoined scenes is a time-lapse video, taken by Williams, of the most recent eclipse. Occurring the weekend following the Charlottesville rally, the celestial event offered a momentary respite from the news’ unrelenting coverage of politics. It moved thoughts towards the dimension of time and cycles, and how just because something is covered, it does not mean it can’t return.