Nan González

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo

Nan González’s videos are programmatically introspective, with their images spatially organized in a wandering, nonlinear fashion, making the viewer intimately reflect with them, rather than searching for larger meaning derived from storytelling. As the narrative in her works is usually fragmented, transparent, and manipulated, we seldom experience a picture as a whole, but more often as an accumulation of details that, subsequently, culminate as pure chromatic and luminous sensations. Whether she uses slow, fast, or regular motion, the images—with or without explicit human presence—convey an emotional intensity and urgency that capture the imagination and emphasize the fleeting moment. She compartmentalizes and slices the space—a landscape or the human body—and makes images merge with one another. González, who is considered one of the pioneers of video art in Venezuela, presents herself as a sort of spiritual ecologist not unfamiliar with existentialist angst.

Spanning sixteen years of González’s career, this exhibition, presented as a retrospective, included Alma del glaciar I (Glacier’s Soul I), 2003, and Alma del glaciar II (Glacier’s Soul II), 2004–2005, both offspring of her dazzling Titanes de Hielo (Ice Titans), a multipart work that González produced between 2001 and 2005 in response to her trip to the San Rafael glacier in Chile. Contemplating its looming beauty, González felt a need to connect with its very essence, which she called its soul. “I reached an unknown point,” she recalled. “Suddenly I found myself focused on an enormous life that vibrated under the energy of something not known. The white energy that released a giant scream of beauty and hallucination, and at the same time a warning faced with the imminence of death.” This moment of communion with nature was captured in photographs and on video, and then Ice Titans was made using footage of another glacier obtained from the archives of a TV production company specializing in wildlife documentaries. Ending up an account of an imaginary journey to Antarctica, the video became a visionary meditation on the alarming environmental changes caused, in large part, by global warming—and as such, though only through its reflection in the two Glacier’s Soul videos, dominated with its message the other works in this show.

There is something remarkably sincere and urgent in the way González searches for the visualization of the soul, for a moment of transcendence, by trying to penetrate inside a glacier or the human eyes in Auto tránsito, 2003, unveiling the beauty of a peacock’s feathers in Ashvini (Dioses gemelos del amanecer) (Ashvini [Twin Gods of the Dawn]), 2006, admiring the delicacy of drops of water on a leaf in Espiritus de la Naturaleza (Nature’s Spirit), 2003, or capturing a beam of light escaping through a doorway in Adentro afuera (Inside Outside), 2002. The desire and pursuit of beauty in nature produces anxiety and a sense of helplessness—a sublime experience visualized in timeless luminosity. As reminders of the threat of self-extinction and meditations on life and death, González’s dreamy works amount to a contemporary allegory of blindness: We destroy our environment and ourselves at the same time, while yearning for illumination. In our present world, the artist seems to be saying, the soul may be as impossible to visualize as ever, but nevertheless it continues to hold the memory of what has occurred during moments of forgetfulness.

Marek Bartelik