The Artist Erick Meyenberg Explores the Immigrant Experience

The Artist Erick Meyenberg Explores the Immigrant Experience

There is a fascinating little rhyme tucked into the title of the artist Erick Meyenberg’s piece for this yr’s Venice Biennale — “Nos marchábamos, regresábamos siempre” — however the cadence doesn’t convert neatly into English.

“It is gorgeous in Spanish, and it really works in a really poetic means,” stated Meyenberg, who will signify his nation with a solo exhibition within the Mexican Pavilion. “But it has a really advanced grammatical construction that has been an issue to translate into different languages.”

The artist affords his personal interpretation of the title, one meant to get on the essence of the multimedia set up he’ll debut in Venice, although it does double its size to eight, clumsy phrases: “We marched away, we have been at all times coming again.”

The work, constructed round a video of a household dinner, is about, he stated, the problem of leaving the previous behind, notably within the case of immigrants who transfer from one nation to a different and will be torn between the identification of outdated and new cultures. Meyenberg’s piece appears to be like at how that feeling can lengthen to their kids and grandchildren, who proceed to lose connections to their ancestral homeland, however lengthy for significant hyperlinks to their previous.

Developed with the curator Tania Ragasol, the piece is a response to the Biennale’s official theme of “Foreigners Everywhere,” although it’s meant to maneuver past the urgency that the title may counsel and into extra existential terrain.

“How lengthy does a household or an individual that arrives to a different nation maintain being a foreigner?” Ragasol requested, explaining the questions that she and Meyenberg mentioned as they ready the work. “How lengthy does this factor of being a stranger maintain happening? How many generations?”

For Meyenberg, the solutions are elusive, and private. He is someplace between second- and third-generation Mexican, as he defined throughout an interview in his studio within the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City. His mom’s dad and mom moved to Mexico from Lebanon. His great-grandparents, on his father’s aspect, got here from Germany. His story, he stated, is just like many individuals who dwell on this hemisphere and whose households migrated within the first half of the twentieth century when Mexico, just like the United States, was seen as a welcoming place for immigrants.

Like a lot of these new arrivals throughout North America, the artist’s household embraced its new nationality, gaining citizenship and adopting new customs. They didn’t converse a lot about their former properties, and so they not often spoke the language or taught it to their offspring, he stated.

When the artist tried to tug household tales out of relations, they resisted. “It was like speaking to ghosts,” he stated.

Meyenberg identifies as Mexican, however, he stated, he at all times longed to attach along with his origins. Growing up in Mexico City, he was totally different from different folks round him there — his final title alone units him aside in a rustic the place Spanish names are most typical. He puzzled how household life might need been totally different if his dad and mom and grandparents had embraced their previous.

“I felt like I misplaced one thing that by no means really belonged to me,” he stated.

Then, sooner or later, he discovered that “one thing” — solely it was not his. He was visiting mates in Italy, a household that had migrated there years in the past from Albania. They have been Italians now, however they celebrated holidays from each international locations, sang folks songs and recited poetry in Albanian. They have been a mannequin for the clan he at all times dreamed of getting.

He satisfied them to stage a dinner, with all the meals and music, utilizing the treasured cups, plates and textiles that they had introduced with them from their homeland. They put a protracted desk in a area and, as was their custom, included empty place settings for relations previous and future. He filmed the occasion, and it turned the core of his multimedia piece.

The video unfolds in a dreamy, four-channel montage of scenes. We see the household embracing, sharing delicacies, laughing and finally all dancing off alone into the gap by themselves.

At the Mexican Pavilion, the video might be projected on the partitions. In the center of the room might be an precise eating desk, practically 20-feet lengthy, and upon it will likely be set 82 ceramic items that the artist made in the identical form because the household heirlooms and conventional meals that may be seen concurrently in his video. Only, his three-dimensional objects are ethereal. They are all white and seem in numerous states of decay, wanting nearly just like the relics of an outdated shipwreck, and symbolizing the fraying of each objects and reminiscences over time.

Meyenberg left them white as a result of he sees them, in a means, as clean video screens. He needs exhibition guests to mentally venture their very own snippets of household reminiscences onto them.

In that means, as Ragasol defined, the Albanian household generally is a stand-in for any second- or third-generation immigrant who had related unanswerable questions, easing “the disillusion or disappointment whenever you attempt to return to that place that now not exists.”

For Meyenberg, the Biennale venture is a departure. He is well-known in Mexico, gaining recognition greater than a decade in the past for quite a few initiatives wherein he choreographed unusual folks — in a single case youngsters from a army faculty in Mexico City, in one other gardeners who labored on the Casa Wabi Foundation artwork heart in Oaxaca — into tight routines that he filmed utilizing drones.

The items have been deeply researched and meant to empower each individuals and viewers.

Another work is “Aspirantes.” Meyenberg assembled in formation 200 younger Mexican males, aged 18-25, on the website of the Pyramid of the Moon in Teotihuacán, the place archaeologists had found mass graves of Mesoamerican warriors. Like the soldiers who have been sacrificed in non secular rituals, the video individuals have been shirtless, although within the artist’s revisionist take, highly effective and defiant in the best way they stood at consideration and of their solemn expressions.

In the Biennale work, the actors transfer on their very own, letting their instinct dictate how they comport themselves. There is a few dancing, however it’s quirky and improvised with no path from the filmmaker.

Meyenberg stated the pure motion in “We marched away, we have been at all times coming again” mirrored a rising self-awareness of his personal bodily being. He is presently in remission after a yearslong battle with most cancers that was handled with chemotherapy, and the method of being severely sick after which recovering taught him to belief the physique and the way it strikes by itself phrases.

“Gradually this has been shifting, and I’ve been controlling much less and fewer of what occurs, listening extra to my feelings and my emotions,” he stated.

In a way, he stated, his physique marched off on its means, and when it got here again he gained a brand new language for telling tales, one that’s extra pure, depends on artwork to show its common themes and transcends any difficulties of translating phrases from one idiom to a different.



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