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For Ballroom Marfa’s 2021 exhibition, The Blessings of the Mystery, artists Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas are creating a new film and series of installations rooted in West Texas. The project crystallizes the artists’ extended research into the connections and tensions between the cultural, scientific, industrial, and socio-political forces of three key locations: the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, the Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande, and the Permian Basin oil fields.

The multidisciplinary exhibition will center around The Teaching of the Hands a  single-channel cinematic journey across the region’s complex histories of colonization, migration, and ecological precarity. The video-installation combines observational and experimental documentary with oral histories, reenactments, archival research, and found footage. The film’s storylines grow out of the land where both indigenous and settler knowledge have been historically produced. The narrative is structured around a series of dichotomies that stem from these locations: the relationship of light and darkness, the land’s surface and the underworld, and the contrasts of flow and containment. The film will weave together vignettes across time, from the present day to 4,000 years into the past, inhabiting the environmental memory and consciousness of these storied places while highlighting their contemporary issues and interconnectedness.

The film’s concepts, characters, locations, and objects will be re-encountered in the galleries, where immersive visual fields, objects, photos and paintings will expand on these layered ideas. Via the installations, viewers will be able to physically experience the stories in multiple dimensions. These elements will feature original sculptures, drawings and photos alongside loans from collections such as the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas and the McDonald Observatory.

The Blessings of the Mystery is an extension of Caycedo’s practice of creating art centered around dams, environmental issues, and indigenous rights and cosmologies. Her ongoing project, Be Dammed, investigates the effects that large dams have on natural and social landscapes in several American bio-regions. With their project at Ballroom, Caycedo and de Rozas investigate the damming of the Rio Grande with the Amistad Dam and the transformation of the Trans Pecos by way of industry, invention and private property.

The Blessings of the Mystery is organized by Ballroom Marfa’s curator at large, Laura Copelin with Gabriela Carballo curatorial assistant.

Image: Carolina Caycedo & David de Rozas. The Teaching of the Hands, 2020. Digital video still. Courtesy the artists and Ballroom Marfa. Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa.

Ballroom Marfa

108 E. San Antonio St.

Marfa, TX 79843, USA


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