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Interactive video installation by two Concordia artists shown at Optica

Camouflaged Screams interrogates cultural and gender identities through a combination of performance, video art and interactivity
June 4, 2021
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By Olivier Du Ruisseau

The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 4) Camouflaged Screams, 2020. Multimedia installation: video projections, set of motion sensors, branch, reflective plexiglass, neon light ; performance. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists. The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 4) Camouflaged Screams, 2020. Multimedia installation: video projections, set of motion sensors, branch, reflective plexiglass, neon light ; performance. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists.

Artists Laura Acosta (MFA'16 Fibers and Material Studies) and Santiago Tavera (MFA'16, Intermedia) are presenting their interactive video installation The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 4): Camouflaged Screams at the contemporary art centre Optica in Montreal until June 12.

Camouflaged Screams is the fourth episode of a collaborative project between the two artists, entitled The Novels of Elsgüer, that first started in 2015, when the two artists (who have known each other since elementary school), studied together at Concordia.

Each collaborative episode unfolds as a site-specific installation that interrogates notions of otherness and belonging through the creation of multidisciplinary technological environments. Their approach is colored, among other things, by their shared Colombian heritage and their interrogations on migration and queerness.

‘Building community is a really central part to what we do'

Elsgüer is a "spanglish" pronunciation of the word "elsewhere" according to the installation's website. It refers to the feeling of being present while feeling absent, a feeling that is reinforced by the technology and the mise en scene.

Acosta, who works as the Head of the Costume Shop at Concordia's theatre department, mainly develops the textile work and the performative aspect of their installations, while Tavera takes charge of implementing different technologies.

"The bigger scale our installations are getting, the more people we invite to collaborate. Building community is a really central part to what we do," says Acosta.

Another collaborator who contributed to Camouflaged Screams was Shauna Janssen, an assistant professor in Concordia's Department of Theatre. She wrote the text for the gallery presentation of the work, clarifying its links to queer theory and the relationship between camouflage and wildness.

‘The artists really knew how to optimize the space’

The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 4) Camouflaged Screams, 2020. Multimedia installation: video projections, set of motion sensors, branch, reflective plexiglass, neon light ; performance. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists. The Novels of Elsgüer (Episode 4) Camouflaged Screams, 2020. Multimedia installation: video projections, set of motion sensors, branch, reflective plexiglass, neon light ; performance. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists.

"The artists really knew how to optimize the gallery space and exploit technology in a way that revealed an aesthetic coherent with their approach," says Esther Bourdages, communications manager at Optica.

The public is therefore invited to enter a room at Optica where three videos are projected simultaneously on the entire surface of three of four walls. In the centre of the room a tree branch is installed on a black reflecting surface which recalls and mirrors the videos.

In each video, a non-gendered character moves through the centre of natural Canadian landscapes. The character is camouflaged with the setting through video effects and costumes in a way that blurs the limits between bodies and spaces, playing with abstraction and the aestheticization of reality.

Viewers are invited to stand facing each projection and their movement can change the sound and videos themselves, connecting them to the characters in the video.

Acosta, Tavera and Janssen recently joined Bourdages in a virtual discussion featured on Optica's Facebook page, where they discussed the genesis of their collaboration and detailed their creative process. This will be featured on the gallery's website in the coming weeks.

To learn more about the collaboration between the two artists, visit The Novels of Elsgüer project website.

To learn about Optica's programming, visit the gallery's website.

 



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