Mexico City

Gilberto Esparza and Marcela Armas

Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo | Plaza Río de Janeiro

Gilberto Esparza and Marcela Armas are Mexican artists who operate both collaboratively and individually. They use sound as a basis for site-specific projects, urban interventions, videos, and documents. In doing so, they deal directly with technological issues specific to the present, including experimental technologies such as robotics. Their artistic practice considers high- and low-tech materials left over from an ever-expanding capitalist system that depends on the brief use and constant disposal of objects in order to subsist. Cables, radios, engines, lightbulbs, oil, steel, rubber tires, car horns, electric sanders, sensors: hundreds of parts that make up the systems that help define our experience of contemporary life. Each of the sensitive objects they employ contains information that allows these two urban adventurers to point out the banality of power through technology and the possibility of dissecting entire systems of thought and action, which are charged with specific capitalist (consumer or fetishistic) intentions. The works these artists produce involve a deep rationalization of emotional and intellectual processes in order for mechanistic, automatic notions to be redefined and activate aesthetic and social dimensions within a gallery or museum space.

A live sound work such as Girotronic, 2008, is a good example of how adept Esparza and Armas can be at infusing imagination into a terrain that has become too literal. They have created a series of unique electronic discs made from copper and acrylic whose interpretation rests on the principle of free improvisation within a temporal structure of 33 rpm. Drawings, maps, and texts inscribed on the surface of each disc act as voltage transmitters and define the nature of its sound. As the sounds build one upon the other, sonorous strata that contain emotional information impact the body. This performative
work thus unfolds through space and time; it is both horizontal and vertical; it occupies the gallery and emphasizes the collective body gathered around it. Here, viewers surrounded four turntables—modified by light switches, light sensors, audio oscillators, contact microphones, variations in voltage, and manipulated radios—in search of a singular event, one that subtracts itself from daily life in the city. An active, organic process, Girotronic reminds us we are beings in time, enmeshed in a series of complicated synergies. The transient quality of the piece serves to highlight its presence as a beautifully materialized visual and acoustic concept. This is a sound experience that corresponds to an immediate physical action: an electric current manipulated with light, vibrations, and interruptions—a series of endless poetics that appeals to each individual’s experience.

Jessica Berlanga Taylor