“Hybrid Resonance” art exhibition at Ashawagh Hall, East Hampton, N.Y. April 5-7, 2019.
I was recently invited to be part of an art exhibition which explored some fundamental topics related to my area of artistic research and activist initiatives. The event, “Hybrid Resonance,” and the artist talk that followed two weeks later, revealed that Latin American art is not only a hybrid mix of cultural influences but also a mixed-breed of personal achievements and sacrifices in the pursuit of novelty, preservation, and adaptation.
In this article, my first exhibition review and account of the artist talk that followed, I hope to share a comprehensive reflection and critical analysis of contemporary Latin American art from Long Island, New York, and its global relevance as we continue to stand in solidarity towards Venezuela’s Liberation.
PART # 1 – HYBRID RESONANCE: AN ART EXHIBITION AND BENEFIT FOR VENEZUELA
Artwork on view, from left to right: Aner Candelario, Gustavo Bonevardi, Alex Vignoli, & Enrique Martinez, a.k.a. Mago.
Thirteen East End, Long Island artists and a selection of contemporary Venezuelan art were selected for “Hybrid Resonance,” an exhibition organized by art consultant and curator, Esperanza Leon, to raise awareness about Latin American art and Venezuela’s current humanitarian crisis.
Ms. Leon, also born in Venezuela, organized a powerfully relevant and emotional exhibition which displayed the hybrid nature of Latin-American art, re-defined by a global heritage of analog and digital hybridity.
The art, the awareness, the solidarity, this exhibition was beyond personal. Works like “Venezuela Divided,” by American artist, Gustavo Bonevardi, captures the fractured spirit of a displaced nation whose hope persists as the flag’s iconic rainbow stars remain centered, never out of sight. Maria Schon’s reductive and organic shapes transcend location, as tropical greens, blues, and yellows resonate with childhood memories and the primal subconscious.
With resounding rhythm and improvisation, “Hybrid Resonance”, also featured live Latin music by the jazzy Velvet Mood; Hispanic vibes by D.J. Carlos Lama; and a selection of Venezuela’s Ron Diplomatico and traditional “arepas” from Caracas Arepa Bar restaurant.
Latin American Art
Artwork by Venezuelan Reinaldo Crespo
What does it mean when Jerry Saltz, esteemed and renowned art critic, says: “Art contains a multitude”?
Artists embrace complexity and paradox. We often oscillate between different perspectives and painfully obsess over the spaces between objectivity and subjectivity. We want to strip it all off, or integrate it all – art, culture, spirituality, science, technology, the irrational – unveiling unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated disciplines. We often shift back and forth between fantasy and a rooted sense of reality, between playful extroversion and disciplined introspection, between a sense of abstraction and a concrete sense of self.
So what makes Latin American art more pluralistic in its inherent multitude?
When people think of Latin American art, it is often associated with murals depicting religious narratives, or political and social unrest; or one thinks of the optical and geometrical kinetic sculptures of the Venezuelan Avant-Gardes. While Latin American art shares the mestizo roots of our European, African, and Indigenous ancestry, this collective experience of conquest, slavery, and imperialism, has always provided a fertile ground for the cross-breed of new and exotic forms of artistic expression.
Today, Latin American art couldn’t be more relevant. As we become more active participants in global networks, not only we have our shared pre-Columbian and European influences to draw inspiration from, but we are also in a unique position to capture the multi-cultural conditions of the global citizen.
Artists present in “Hybrid Resonance” had roots in Venezuela (Maria Schon, Walt Lindveld, and myself), Puerto Rico (Aner Candelario and Darlene Charneco) Ecuador (E. Osbaldo Segura), Colombia (Mago), Brazil (Alex Vignoli and Dalton Portella), and Uruguay (Aurelio Torres), Gustavo Bonevardi (Argentina), Nadine Daskaloff (Mexico).
Additionally, the exhibition showcased a selection of basketry from the Yekuana and Yanomami Venezuelan tribes, and folk art and other hand-crafted works created by Venezuelan artisans, designers, and fine artists, many of whom still reside there. In this section of the exhibition gallery, there were also the works of Reinaldo Crespo, Astolfo Funes, Eduardo Barcenas, Humberto Salas, and Abdul Vas.
“The very rich culture of Venezuela is often overlooked due to the current crisis. In the past, the country was known for its petroleum, now, for its critical economic and humanitarian decline.” – Leon
In Venezuela, eight out of ten people currently live in poverty. There is extreme insecurity and shortages of food and medicine, with millions having access to barely one meal a day. Since 2015, the United Nations estimated that approximately three million people have left Venezuela, including many young males looking for opportunities and ways to help their families; leaving the children, women, and the elders behind.
“Hybrid Resonance” wasn’t only to raise awareness about Latin American art, but also to raise funds to help Venezuela. On the last day of the exhibition, Leon, Venezuelan artist Maria Schon, and I, also hosted a tour to discuss the art and the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
“Hybrid Resonance” was able to raise almost $3,000 which is given to selected charities providing aid in Venezuela. These organizations include Rescate Venezuela (rescatevenezuela.com), Alimenta la Solidaridad (alimentalasolidaridad.com), and International Rescue Committee (https://www.rescue.org/country/venezuela).
Awareness with Foresight
“Bob” by Dinorah Delfin. Image courtesy of Casey Dalene.
There were two instances during “Hybrid Resonance” that were of particular interest for me:
Self-learning algorithms: One person in the exhibition interested in learning about my art piece on display, “Bob” 2019, from my Hybrid series, expressed concern about self-learning algorithms and the possibility of a “Terminator-like” future. I sympathized. I happen to be part of a movement that raises awareness about issues related to advanced technologies. I explained that the most important thing one can do is to help raise awareness about these issues by also advocating against any form of prejudice and segregation.
The focus of my next body of works, a re-interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, touches upon issues related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Algorithmic bias is a rising global problem with unprecedented consequences – it is threatening to replace human thought and ability to form opinions with machine thinking. Some experts believe that as biased AI becomes more autonomous and ubiquitous, the greater the existential threat to humanity will be.
AI doesn’t evolve in a vacuum, however. Just like our beliefs write the fate of our future, our thinking machines echo human flaws and values. The field of AI and GAI (General Artificial Intelligence) ethics is a stark wake-up call and a powerful reminder that a lack of spiritual maturity, or emotional intelligence, is one of humanity’s greatest existential risks.
In our continuous liberation from injustice and prejudice, and as we push forth new ways to re-think what it means to be human, it is crucial to remember that every time an algorithm targets or discriminates against someone based on physical, or non-physical demographics, we are inadvertently training self-learning machines to discriminate against humanity as a whole.
Transhumanists are as concerned as you are: Another interesting moment during “Hybrid Resonance” was when someone recognized me from my participation in the Transhumanist Movement. Apparently, the person had “unfriended” me from Facebook because of my affiliation to the movement. I was not surprised; the movement itself is dealing with an identity crisis as it strives to remain a truly progressive and beneficial asset to society. What is most important to keep in mind, however, is that the less we understand how advanced technologies affect our every day lives, the less prepared we will be at setting up the necessary infrastructure to ensure that “transhumanist” technologies are used fairly and responsibly.
PART # 2 – ART + BIOCULTURALISM: AN ARTIST TALK
Art + Biculturalism: An Artist Talk hosted by Esperanza Leon and Casey Dalene at the Maidstone Hotel, East Hampton, N.Y.
If all art is autobiographical, what are oval-shaped nature escapes, recycled sculptural books, and sculptural pixelated faces telling us about our time; about an individual’s journey, cultures, and the global family as a whole?
Art + Biculturalism, an artist talk hosted by Esperanza Leon and Casey Dalene, as part of their Art Salon series, was organized two weeks following the exhibition “Hybrid Resonance,” to offer a more comprehensive understanding about the different influences shaping the individual expression of Latin American artists living in the East End, Long Island, New York.
The talk featured artists Maria Schon, Alex Vignoli, and myself. We all shared how the advantages and challenges that come from migrating one’s birthplace and adapting to new territories, is an invaluable process which has not only shaped our unique individual expressions but also constitutes a reflection of the collective global experience.
The Gaia Within
There are different theories about what the 20,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings signify. Whatever inspired these exquisite renditions of nature and the human condition, one thing is indisputable, these are the works by a unique breed of people who like to look at things, think about things, and record what they perceive, remember, and/or feel. These gentle cave-men and women were obsessed, expressive, sensible, naughty, and highly self-aware and skilled people who ventured into womb-like, almost inaccessible caves, to be able to create their harmony and pro-life-inspired wall carvings, stamps, and graffitis.
Exuding a voluptuous luminosity and a palpable feel of nature’s texture, curves, and edges, which only a trained eye can masterfully illustrate, Schon’s paintings transport us to a place not so different from that experienced by our pre-historic ancestors. Behind Schon’s reductionist abstraction of childhood memories, as she later explained in her talk, there is also something beautifully dense and complex appealing to the primal subconscious. By juxtaposing basic design elements such as form, color, texture, light, and composition, Schon’s paintings gently trigger a universal drive to co-exist symbiotically and in harmony with Nature — our progenitor and co-creator.
Up-cycling meaning, through found books, is how artist Alex Vignoli cleverly integrates his photographic skills with his personal values — to conjured up still life images of social relevance and timeless beauty.
Pictures of open books, with folded and rolled up pages; as relics of the past as we become increasingly more digitized; or as relics of the wise, as those who cherish harmony understand that a sustainable future is for those who can leverage both of our digital and biological potentials.
Vignoli’s sleek and minimal photographic images unfold into an equally relevant, and obscure, subject; the art market. Bringing awareness into paradoxical and controversial issues such as educational reformation and digital technologies, goes hand in hand with reformations needed in society’s moral value systems — humans make art to reflect back our humanness and flaws, we don’t want biased AI reflecting to, or for us.
Prejudice and discrimination are much more subtle and complex than it is normally spoken about, and it is no different in the art market, or the art community in the East End, Long Island — minorities have historically struggled for artistic recognition and financial success as academia tries to fit it all in one neat historical continuum.
We are more than multi-cultural beings
Anthropology professor, Setha Low, during Art + Biculturalism shared about her interest in the idea of humans as “translocals” — beings embodying the physical sensation of living in two or more places at the same time. Corresponding to this idea is also that of “transhumans” — beings embodying both the physical sensation of living in two or more places at the same time, and the physical sensation of everything that is living, while on a journey to define and/or preserve the integrity of one’s individual essence and expression.
In shifting to a conscious awareness of translocal spaces inhabited by humans transitioning into a posthuman era, we are experiencing a “re-inscription of old ideas and patterns but we are not holding on to it,” says Low. We are experiencing a political backlash and more segregation, she adds.
For “Hybrid Resonance,” I decided to showcase a piece of artwork which portrays the idea of a future hybrid being embodying both analog and digital qualities to bring awareness to this paradoxical issues. Evolution has taught us that life thrives on mutations and complexity; it isn’t up to humans to want to become ever more complex organisms. Transhumanism not only embraces this fundamental existential drive but also brings into light the dark side of the digital world and the dystopian futures we strive to prevent. We are all hybrids, and we are all accountable, after all.
“Hybrid Resonance” echoed the spirit of the international Latino artist as our stories revealed one of broadened perspectives, resilience, and adaptation. The show was a reminder that we are living at the edge of an era that calls for a pluralistic, integral, and holistic intervention as we transition into a more complex socio-technological world.
Belonging everywhere and nowhere, “Hybrid Resonance” was above all about the sincerity of process and subject matter.
Dinorah Delfin is the Director of Admissions and Public Relations for the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party.