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July 17, 2006

Film & Digital media prof has two major Bay Area exhibits this summer

By Scott Rappaport

Assistant film and digital media professor Gustavo Vazquez will have his work featured in two major Bay Area venues this summer.

Photo of show
Assistant film and digital media professor Gustavo Vazquez (left), and composer Guillermo Galindo will collaborate to produce a collage of sound and images at a global electronic arts festival in San Jose this August.
Photo courtesy of Gustavo Vazquez

He will have a video installation shown at San Francisco’s de Young Museum from July 22 to October 22 as part of Chicano Now: American Expressions-Chicano Encounters, a traveling multimedia exhibition inspired by actor Cheech Marin.

The show is half of an unprecedented dual art exhibition that also includes the companion exhibit Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, and it has been seen by more than one million people across the United States since it opened in 2001.

Vazquez’s installation is one of a number of original video performances, murals, musical performances, and interactive experiences by such leading Chicano artists as the comedy troupe Culture Clash, filmmakers Lourdes Portillo and Robert Rodriguez, performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and comedian Paul Rodriguez.

In Vazquez’s video, men and women of different ages talk about how they identify themselves as Mexican, American, Latino, Hispanic, or Chicano, and give their reasons why. The interviews take place on five video screens, with the middle one featuring someone being pulled from opposite sides by two wrestlers with Mexican and American flags on their heads in front of a large map.

“The wrestlers represent the pull from different countries; it shows them stuck in the middle and beat up by both sides, rejected by both cultures,” explains Vazquez. “I chose to focus on the identity issue because I think it’s internal—it’s more challenging as a filmmaker to create images that go with inner thoughts and ideals. I thought that complicated philosophical questions of ‘who am I’ were worth talking about.”

Vazquez said he first met Cheech Marin after the actor/comedian inquired in the Bay Area’s Latino community about finding a local who was willing to help him promote an exhibit of Chicano arts. “We talked about our notions of Chicano art and we clicked,” recalled Vazquez. “I did a short film of an interview with him about his collection of fine art Chicano painters, and he took it to museums to see if there was any interest. Once the whole project got developed, he asked me to do an installation.”

Vazquez will also have a performance installation at ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge & the Thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art, also known as ISEA2006. The festival takes place in San Jose from August 7 to 13. “It’s a huge event and artists from all over the world come to do installations,” said Vazquez. “It’s like the Olympics of electronic arts—on the edge, where people are pushing the boundaries of using technology in artistic ways.”

Vazquez’s San Jose installation features computer-activated sensors and mechanical devices that produce a variety of sounds and images he gathered with composer Guillermo Galindo. The two artists collaborate to produce an improvised collage of sound and film images that are presented in a 24-by-24-foot space covered in Astroturf. Titled “Glance Utopia Garden,” the installation draws on interviews with more than 100 people from the Santa Clara area, reflecting the ethnically and culturally diverse communities of the South Bay. Each person articulates a personal vision of the future.

“The interviews are with people who are not usually asked to participate in discussions of the future,” Vazquez explained. “Politicians, engineers, and academics all want to define a future for everyone. But there are extraordinary thinkers out there in the community, and I wanted to include those voices that have been excluded.”

The installation also includes science fiction footage Vazquez has collected from archives around the world. “I combine seriousness with humor,” he added. “I always say it’s serious business not to take ourselves too seriously…I’m joking because I’m serious.”

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