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Rolando Vargas IMDA '11 at Documentary Festival
Kasseler Dokfest
Thursday, December 1st, 2011 //
Kasseler, Germany

source: Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival
Photographer: Sven Heine

Rolando Vargas, IMDA ('11), had a video installation in the recent Kasseler Dokfest DocumentaryFilmVideoArt festival in Kassel, Germany. His diptych, Eight-Times-Twenty-Five was on view during the festival, which ran November 8 - 13, 2011. His work was among 14 installations by artists from six countries, as part of the festival's Monitoring exhibition, featuring contemporary media art.

How is the normative memory of a nation as perceived by another nation shaped? Rolando Vargas deals with this question in his work Eight-Times-Twenty-Five from 2010. He chose Colombia and the USA to exemplify this question, based on their suspense-packed relationship. As a researcher of issues of the Colombian nationality, Vargas went to the national archives in Washington DC to sift through the collected materials about Colombia and at the same time deal with the institutional presentation of information. What at first may seem like some sort of navel-gazing (How do other countries look at my home country?) changes to a search of traces that tells a lot about the nation collecting the data: What material, from which source is supposed to tell the history of a nation? The archive material meanders facts and presumed fiction, though an archive's basic task as such is to display mere facts. The fictionalization begins where the material is meager, selected in a special way or sorted by researchers. The researcher knows of the incompleteness of the information, of the blanks in the collection and therefore deals with the available material with all his concentration. At the same time, history is constructed relying on the few fragments that are at hand. But whose history is it? What Vargas gives account of - albeit through the filter of the archive - are violent conflicts and their political consequences: On the one hand, Vargas shows the historical reenactment of the Colombian war of independence with Spain that almost develops into a kind of commercial for today's Colombian army. On the other hand, the siege of the palace of justice in Bogota 1985 undertaken by the rebel group M-19 is shown. Both films are edited and reduced by Vargas. Therefore also here, the recipient's view is not unguided, especially since these images have a high level of recognition in the Latin American context. But not only the footage was taken from the archive. The installation design uses the archive's classification scheme: the microphone, the light boxes and magnifiers. Vargas used LCD monitors as a reference to such media that stand in a long tradition in educational institutions (museums, schools, graphic training aids) and thanks to their luminosity shall also result in educational enlightenment. We see the monitors, but taken out of the established context of the Laptop or smart phone we have trouble recognizing them as such. The question rises how the images got between the lucid panes of glass that are hanging next to each other. Depending on the angle you look at the screens, the positioned spot of light is enough to uncover the image. If one changes the position, the images will be automatically displaced as well, will not only vary in brightness and accuracy, but will slide over each other and form a collage. The observer finds himself in an exposed position while confronted with Maria the second part of the work, as the image is either uncovered or blocked by the strong backlight. The diptych, tells the story of three ships under Colombian and US American flag. In an imposing way, their encounter shows the forces of state power: The meeting - the left screen shows the moving image, the right a text - that is documented by radio messages, ends with one of the boats under fire. Therefore, Vargas' installation, which was produced on the occasion of the celebration of independence of Latin America 2009 until 2011, casts a shadow on the term independence.
(Gila Kolb)