Looks Familiar (2011)


Two hands placed across two projector eyes. With ceremony, the fingers slide aside, their shadows drawn away to reveal the images on the wall.  Marco behind the projector sways in time to the movement of his hands, in time to the click of each progressing slide. It is a performance composed for a blinding light. A dance of a man, two projectors, and a revelation of successive images. Being revealed are things left behind: a plastic spoon on a beach, a toy, clothing, an instrument, treasure, trash…. The piece is an exposition of those objects we once found meaningful, now unwanted; once owned, now lost; once known, now anonymous. 

What happens to the familiar, when removed and re-placed? Without context there is no meaning. Without a supporting web of other things that can be known, there is no sense.

Marco has found some thing to photograph: an object (perhaps half buried flotsam) on the sand. He adopts the lost and unconnected, as image, into his family. Re-presented they are transformed: members, collaborators, dancers of light and structure on a wall.


Marco Montiel-Soto: a name like a colorful brushstroke against the list, Xeroxed black on white, in which we are asked to prove our presence in class by recording our given identity, encoded as signature on the assigned space. Marco pens his in green ink, as if to prove its significance.

If signing-in constitutes a weekly ritual for our names, names themselves signify a ritual of naming that, in its turn, exposes a tradition of assigning identity.  We are given multiple signifiers: at least one for us, and at least one for a family. 

Our names pull in both directions. As well as rooting us in a family (a graphic umbilical) names encode a demand for distance. As a codification of bloodline it denotes the responsibility to create the next generation and the next. If the name is to survive, its bearer will need to bear. Our forbearers remain recorded in the letters of last names, their shame or honor written in what belongs to both group and individual. We signify our blood in black ink marks. Except for Marco, who signs in green.


The living room is brimming with multiples. Hats, stringed instruments, drums, calculators, slide viewers, spectacles, whatever it might be is instead a whole family of them. In this veritable shrine to repetition, Marco is showing off his newest old record player. From her spinning alter Marilyn Monroe’s voice sings airily at first, then deepens, deepen and slowwws, and deeeepppppeeennnss as Marco presses his fingers against the black vinyl. On the second player Beethoven is offered up, on a third is sacrificed Russian opera. Marco brings one of his tape players to seal the ceremony and soon all the duplicates and triplets are bathed in sound like a congregation of families awaiting ablution. It is an ecstatic cacophony, a mantra to chaos among ritualistic clutter.   

Marco’s shrine is reminiscent of this room in miniature. Here is a statuette, there a figurine; everything set in place and yet hopelessly toppled. Perhaps it serves as reminder that even the lowly may be as gods, every object a potential deity, while even the most honored can be rendered a holy absurdity by the idolatry of zealots like us.

In putting together the objects he does, Marco aligns money and matchsticks, a pipe and pietà. Why do we choose the gods we do and who can say which will save us in the end? The cheap plastic replicas of religious figures are a reminder of the commonality of worship (every person can own their piece of heaven) as well as its commodification. They are not a step away from consumerist kitsch but indivisible with it. If belief in a Greater is as widely shared as it is bought into, the coins towering in stacks become ambivalent members of this holy family. It is not clear if they are placed as an offering to some saint, or if they are the higher power to whom all those enshrined Divinities will bow. Despite such contrapositions the lasting impression is not one of blasphemy, but rather a pious adherence to a dogma of the insignificant sublime.

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