El Cenote / Pacaya y Tikal
2021, Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Minneapolis MN
The two works El Cenote and Pacaya y Tikal convene Mayan myth and actuality, in and outside of time, with the circular limestone sinkholes (cenotes) of the earth’s long making. Orbiting bodies and revived archival materials activate and imagine ancient, contemporary and future spaces. The embodied nature of the large-scale video and resonant soundscape, and the physical presence of sand, stone and mulberry paper (similar to ancient amate bark paper) act as both immersive experience and shrine to hail ancestral resilience.
El Cenote, 2021
2-channel video, color, sound, 8:30 min. loop
approx. dimensions: 13' x 9' (L) and 19' x 9' (R)
Pacaya y Tikal, 2021
Screen prints and digital prints on mulberry paper, sand, silica, pebbles, brick.
“...The artist maneuvers loops, orbits, and revolutions, beginning this journey in a black void, punctuated by a transiting moon and volcanic spittle. From this cosmic opening, familiar and distant temporalities collapse into the same frame. R. Yun constructs and dissolves measurable units of time by, for example, placing images of Maya artifacts alongside photographs of her own ancestors, and archival documentation from the civil war.
The 36 year conflict looms large in this piece, especially as a brutality that inflects the artist’s own life. From 1960 to 1996, leftist forces fought for Indigenous rights and economic freedom in opposition to the conservative, genocidal rule of the Guatemalan government. The violence, overwhelmingly precipitated by the Guatemalan military, left an estimated 200,000 people dead and another 45,000 disappeared. Speaking of relatives who have not yet been found, human rights activist Rosalina Tuyuc observes, “It’s as if the earth swallowed them.”
It’s as if the earth swallowed them. Tuyuc’s phrase echos with elegiac resonance in the context of El Cenote. Between historical and personal records of the war, R. Yun incorporates footage of individuals from various professions as they are swallowed by the ground. Humans descend into recently discovered mass graves, newly uncovered Maya ruins, and freshly dug holes, shoveled only in service of capital. Bodies rappel into certain and uncertain depths, evidencing human life, its origins, traces and endings...”
– Alexandra Nicome (excerpted from Nicome’s full-length essay to be published by Mid America Print Council Journal in the May 2022 edition)