Day laborers reenact the Guatemalan Civil War in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Los Angeles in artist Yoshua Okón's acclaimed 2011 video Octopus. The laborers are also ex-guerillas and veterans of that war. The 18-minute film is, as Los Angeles Times arts critic Leah Ollman noted when Octopus was showing at L.A.'s Hammer Museum, “a heavy conceptual load,” but Mexico-born Okón is almost an auteur of agitating reenactments. His sequel to Octopus revisits another politically charged event, and uses participants of that event as the reenactors.
His sequel to Octopus, on exhibition in the Top Gallery at ASU Art Museum [asuartmuseum.asu.edu] through August 22, is a multi-channel video installation titled Oracle,and it takes place in the titular town – an unincorporated place near the Mexico border, 30 miles north of Tuscon, that's home to roughly 3,600 people... and a complicated political climate, especially hot on the immigration issue. It was the site of a massive protest against the entrance into the U.S. of unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. Okón persuaded the organizers of the protest to create a reenactment of the gathering, based on their ideological perspectives, for his cameras. “Okón's Oracle project questions the relevance of nationalism in this transnational age,” exhibition curator Julio Cesar Morales says. “In light of the history of U.S. invasions in Central America, this piece explores root causes in order to give new readings on why thousands of children are risking their lives to come to the United States.”
Okón produced Oracle during his residency at the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program; the film is part of the museum's Contact Zones, a series of exhibitions that focuses on immigration and border culture.
A free closing reception for Oracle takes place from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, August 22 in the Top Gallery. ASU Art Museum will be showing Octopus starting August 24, and continuing through October 3, at the ASU Art Museum International Residency Program Project Space at Combine Studios [combinestudios.com] in Downtown Phoenix.
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