Critics’ Picks

Tania Candiani, Órgano (Organ), 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Mexico City

Tania Candiani

Laboratorio Arte Alameda
Dr. Mora 7 Col. Centro
October 30, 2012–March 1, 2013

Tania Candiani’s first solo museum show coincides with the reopening of the Laboratorio Arte Alameda, an old San Diego convent that had been closed for in-depth restorations over the past two years. Her installations, conceived over that two-year period, address the very process (and limits) of restoration in the realm of language: in writing, listening, and translation exercises involving the sounds—both “readable” and “writable” in a Barthesian sense—that survive in the written word.

Two of these six interdisciplinary and multimedia works stand out due to their expressive and conceptual coherence. Hanging over the choir loft, Órgano (Organ), 2012, is a white cascade of horn-shaped pipes that, triggered by motion sensors, welcome visitors into the main hall of the exhibition space by playing prerecorded fragments of texts about futuristic topics by Isaac Asimov and others. Meanwhile, connected to the pipes are two sets of keys—those of a modern organ and those of an old typewriter—on which visitors are invited to either play or write something about themselves. The letters making up the viewers’ stories, or the melodies they create, are inputted into a complex program that translates, cipherlike, the linguistic alphabet into phonetic sounds and vice versa.

Bordadora (Embroiderer), 2012, also incites viewers to share, this time orally, a secret or source of guilt or sorrow, from inside the three white confessional booths located on the cloister’s upper parametric walkway. The booths silently take in the recordings of the confessions and then emit them, now encrypted, in forms of writing reminiscent of graffiti (a cultural practice that, like embroidered writing, Candiani has addressed in earlier works). A large sewing machine located in the middle of the cloister inscribes this coded text using black thread on a large white canvas, narrating what the anonymous visitors to the exhibition, now unburdened, have contributed to a shared interweaving of vulnerabilities.