Monday, 6 August 2012

No Lone Zone at the Tate Modern

Sadly, by the time you read this it will be too late to visit No Lone Zone. The exhibition provided powerful glimpses of the work of three individual artists and one art collective, all from Latin America. I was lucky enough to catch it on its last day at London’s Tate Modern, though it was then on display at the Sala de Arte P├║blica Siqueiros in Mexico City until 15th July. 

A ‘no lone zone’ is an area too sensitive or unstable for any one person to be present there. It’s a military term that may also be applied to laboratories, banks, casinos, or any highly vulnerable or risky environment. Stepping into this particular sensitive environment – “accompanied” by the gallery attendant in the next room – I was immediately captivated by David Zink Yi’s video installation, Huayno and fugue behind. I found myself looking out onto the bustle of a market place: a fast food stall, market-goers making their way through the crowd, traders touting their wares. But this view was particular in two ways. Firstly, my window onto the market was crossed by vertical, multicoloured ‘bars’ – the strings of a harp-like instrument, whose player’s hands moved constantly in the foreground, plucking the strings until the last few seconds of the clip. Secondly, as the harpist played, he, his instrument and the camera slowly turned, allowing a gradual 360° view of the surrounding scene. Presumably by chance, the CCTV camera looking down on me from above the projected video added an extra dimension: I was being filmed as I watched the faces of those filmed as they watched the harpist in Huayno. 

The harpist’s music was as enthralling as the market bustle surrounding him: a cheerful, delicate tune. It was hard not to hum along, though I stopped short as I read that the stately flag hanging just beside me had been stained that distinctive reddish colour with ‘blood and other fluids’ from execution sites in Mexico. This piece is the work of Teresa Margolles, who continued the juxtaposition of the alluring and the horrifying later in the exhibition. Her Score Settling series consists of items of expensive jewellery in brightly-lit display cases. They turn out to have had their jewels removed and replaced with fragments of glass from the windscreens of those killed in drug-related shootings. 

In the room between Margolles’ bloodied flag and broken glass jewels, a giant squid sprawled, collapsed on the gallery floor in a pool of blue-black ink. 

The focus of the exhibition was on violence and politics in Latin America, but I found myself wondering how the ideas it touched on might relate to experiences closer to home. Could it be that each of us has our own potential ‘no lone zones’ – experiences or memories too powerful and intense for us to bear on our own? That if we find ourselves with no way of articulating these experiences to others we may, in distress and confusion, end up expressing ourselves in ways that are labelled psychotic or neurotic or abnormal or crazy? And if this were the case, for recovery to be possible might it be necessary for others to be open to listening to what we have to say, for us to discover new ways of speaking and being with ourselves and with each other? In other words, could some distress be the result of our having had to venture alone into dangerous ‘no lone zones’? 
Reviewed by Meg Kelly

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