Artist: Mary-Audrey Ramirez
Exhibition title: Into A Graveyard From Anywhere
Curated by: Linda Schröer
Venue: Dortmunder Kunstverein, Dortmund, Germany
Date: June 20 – August 23, 2020
Photography: Simon Vogel / Alwin Lay VG-Bild / Roland Baege / all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Dortmunder Kunstverein
Mary-Audrey Ramirez’s installations are squatted by tamed, feral, larger-than-life creatures, which alongside videos, objects, and fabric images, create a fantastic world, quoting from a broad range of contemporary popular culture. As part of our collective visual memory, films, series and video games such as Star Wars (since 1977), Stranger Things (since 2016), Tomb Raider (1996–2018) all influence—with varying degrees of subtlety—our view of the past, present, and future, as well as social structures and gender relations.
As an aggregate of the most varied sources of inspiration, INTO A GRAVEYARD FROM ANYWHERE arms us from the very beginning with an oversized labrys that imaginatively accompanies us through this terrestrial yet extraterrestrial experience: an assembly of creatures, grown out of the earth beneath them, stare at a screen as if hypnotized. A vertical, cell phone format screen pulls us through a computer-generated, infinitely whirling vortex into the depths of a digital world. A fleeing creature, which seems as if it had been dipped in black latex, stands in the space as if frozen. A submissive yet aggressive alien creature with a bowed head blocks the way. A black, slime-like trail leads from its tail to an organism caught in a net made of steel chains. Crash, landing, an archaeological dig? A gaggle of pink, cyclopean creatures, are perkily climbing this tentacle-like structure, inspecting the trail on the ground, and scattering excitedly. On a canvas pierced with colored threads, bold ant-like creatures offer bloody body parts to a female figure guarding a vortex-like portal.
Created especially for the Dortmunder Kunstverein, Mary-Audrey Ramirez’ installation is a snapshot of a surreal and mysterious scene that fascinates us despite, or perhaps because of, just how strange it is: these creatures are wild yet tamed, submissive yet dominant, sinister yet cute. The smooth, soft fabrics seem to melt like hard plastic or wax, and the reflective, holographic surfaces seem strangely digital—as if we were looking at a screen from an oblique angle and the image before our eyes is constantly changing. The boundaries between reality and fiction melt away. Do we still have power over our own thoughts? Everything seems to be in metamorphosis, in a transition from one state to the next, from one world to the other, from one interpretation to the following.
In a similar way, Ramirez’ textile images, one of which is displayed in the exhibition, are created following the method of écriture automatique (automatic writing) used by the Surrealists to express the unconscious, as well as Max Ernst’s decalcomania (blotting technique). While producing the textile drawings, the artist moves from an active creative role to a passive executive one, leaving the sewing—or rather the drawing—to the quilting machine. It sews a straight stitch in colored threads over a piece of fabric that is moved intuitively by the artist. The result is a sketch of gestural lines, a muddle out of which patterns, objects, and figures appear, creating dream-like images full of symbols and various narrative levels, which are then accentuated and expanded by Ramirez.
Mary-Audrey Ramirez shapes stories. Born in or inspired by digital space, her works explore how the virtual can be translated into the physical and reveal the failure in this attempt to transfer artistic mediums: the perfect and smooth forms brought to life on our screens sidle into our here and now as something unequivocally handmade. These increasingly interwoven spheres inspire each other, but also continually rein each other in. Ramirez’ installations and the creatures squatting them thus visualize the digital parallel worlds that are substitutes and surrogates of our longings, needs, and dreams, but also our fears and apprehensions. They can be read as Menetekel of the effects of the technical revolution on the human condition, but at the same time they unfailingly bear witness to the fascination, pleasure, and joy of escapism, an inspirational escapism that only art—regardless of the medium—is capable of creating.