Beatriz Santiago Muñoz – in search of a new visual language

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, That which identifies them, like the eye of the cyclops (production still), 2016.| Photo ccourtesy of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

That which identifies them, like the eye of the cyclops, a three-channel video installation by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, will be on display at Western Front gallery from March 22 to May 4.

The Puerto Rican artist’s exhibition will have an opening on March 21, followed by a live performance by Muñoz with another Puerto Rican artist, Marién Velez, on March 23.

Experimental filmmaking

Loosely based on Monique Wittig’s 1969 novel Les Guérillères, where, in an imaginary future after a battle of the sexes, women have toppled the patriarchy. The title of the exhibition is a line of text from the novel.

“The novel is an experimental work in which Wittig creates a new language and a new grammar. Lesbian is gender-free and is neither woman or man. She was promising a provisional use of a shifting identity to imagine another language or another world. Even though there is a war between women and men, there is no description of battle scenes; there is no protagonist; and there is no linear progression,” Muñoz says.

Inspired by the novel, the artist says she wanted to challenge herself and use this project as the beginning of a search for a new visual language.

“There are two different components that are part of the same project. One is the three-channel installation and the other one is the live arrangement, which is called mouther,” Muñoz explains.

Mouther, a made-up word with multiple layers of meanings and a parallel to the play on words in the novel, will be a collaboration between Muñoz and Velez, a lighting designer.

“The first question we started asking: is a new language about communication or about taking pleasure? Maybe we need to start with just playing with the lights,” Muñoz says.

She sees this project as an opportunity of expanding experimental cinema and challenging the idea of what film is.

“I am interested in formal experimentation; I consider it starting at the level of production. For me, filmmaking is a way of [contrasting] language with what we have been trained to see. I have a way of making films and videos that gives a lot of attentions to the aesthetics play in that moment when I am filming. It is kind of a vibration that happens between camera and the subject,” Muñoz explains, regarding her working methods.

According to Pablo de Ocampo, exhibition curator at Western Front, Muñoz’s films frequently start out through research into specific socialstructures, individuals or events, which she then transforms into moving image, sometimes supported by objects and texts. He says Muñoz’s work resonates with him.

“She thinks about the cosmic through the very terrestrial and everyday things,” Ocampo says.

A generous Western Front

Beatriz Santiago Munoz wants to challenge the idea of what film is.| Photo ccourtesy of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz.

Western Front, which is financially sponsoring the two artists with this project, is always trying to find ways to help artists, through funding from the three levels of government as well as through their own fundraising events and donations, Ocampo says.

“[Velez] is based in New York City. One thing that is really important is that Western Front is allowing this to happen, just for us to have a week together to work out some of these ideas,” Muñoz says.

The non-profit organization has been a long-standing stature in Vancouver’s art community, founded 46 years ago by eight artists from a diverse backgrounds.

“It was founded under the idea of embracing innovation and experimentation, for artists to try new things and not to operate as a commercial gallery or to sell things,” Ocampo says.

Because he has transitioned from a practicing artist to a curator in his own career, Ocampo understands the challenges and needs of artists.

“Western Front has always been a nexus for artists internationally. It is always finding ways to develop dialogues with artists from other parts of the world,” he adds.


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