The Film & Video programming at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is permanently committed to artistic practices associated with the moving image in the context of contemporary visual arts.
Cecilia Bengolea (b. 1979, Buenos Aires) is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice merges video, choreography, and sculpture. In her research, Bengolea explores forms of popular dance combining contemporary and archaic elements, giving way to constant redefinitions of the concept of figuration. This exhibition gathers three recent pieces that are representative of the artist’s unique approach to video sculpture—an understanding of moving images as corporeal agencies freely operating in the exhibition space. The ambiguous concept of animation included in the title of the exhibition relates both to the life-like motion of cinematic figures and the more ancient idea of breathing life into the artificial, and vigor into the inert.
In Bengolea’s work, the anima—as soul, breath, or vital energy of a body—is deeply connected to the electrical conductivity of living organisms, while music appears as the contagious force of animation. In their inexhaustible potential to transform, mutate, and mimic others, animated beings identify with the element of water and its endless plasticity.
The recent production Lightning Dance (2018) is, as many of Bengolea’s projects, based on a profound collaboration between the artist and the featured performers, and particularly dancehall artists Craig Black Eagle and Oshane Overload Shankaz. Shot in the Jamaican town of Bog Walk and produced in London, the piece has quickly acquired an iconic value and is part of such collections as TBA21 in Vienna and Tank in Shanghai. Using a single-channel video projection in black and white, Bengolea investigates the influence of atmospheric electricity on behavior and the imagination. It belongs to an ongoing series of works developed by Bengolea around dancehall culture on the island of Jamaica—now a global phenomenon inspiring many subgenres and styles in pop music and dance. The impactful display of this work is joined by two digital animations, Bestiaire (2019) and Favorite Positions (2018). Using hologram-like imagery, the artist visualizes the fantastical transformations of a body in a state of perpetual change. Drawing inspiration from descriptions found in Jorge Luis Borges’s Book of Imaginary Beings (1957), in Bestiaire the artist scanned her body while morphing into a panoply of fantastic creatures. Meanwhile, Favorite Positions summons the octopus’s spirit to suggest a body without boundaries—a fully liquid and immensely sensitive creature whose intelligence is decentralized and multiple, and whose movements freely swap inside and outside, environment and self.
Curator: Manuel Cirauqui
Lightning Dance, 2018
Video projection, black and white, sound, 6 min., 3 sec.
Courtesy the artist and Galería Àngels Barcelona
© Cecilia Bengolea