One of us recently came across the word "Interplay" in a book in Spanish. It kept appearing in the English language and in italics. There is really no Spanish equivalent for this word and because it is such a good word, one could understand a writer would be tempted to use it instead of searching for a lacking translation. We decided then to stop and perform an experiment. We both asked the first few people we ran into that day, what was the first thing they thought of when they heard the word "interplay": Appropriately enough, among the first people asked (two friends) automatically answered "intercourse" and "foreplay," respectively. Later, a few artists and one curator we asked gave more lofty, intellectualized answers: interpersonal relationships, children's educational games, communication and yet another person said "psychological dynamics and each person's distinct reactions." So, upon comparing notes, right then and there, we knew we had our title.
How does one present works and artists under a title with such vast possibilities of intepretation? The internet lists hundreds of different items, among them:
Theory and Algebraic Gemoetry: An Interplay
Interplay of Magnetism and High Tc Superconductivity
Interplay, US Junior Chess Champions
Interplay, International Festival of Young Playwrights
Interplay Ballet, by Morton Gould
Interplay – Visual and Performing Arts Festival, Canada
Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Interplay Arts Leadership
Interplay, a Japanese music game
Interplay Collective, Jazz Musicians and Composers
Interplay Computer Gaming
Interplay – The Global Leader in Lottery News Distribution
Furthermore, it is not surprisng that the word "play" is used in such diverse colloquia in English: "play it by ear," "play up to," "play with fire," "to play one's cards," "play down," etc. None of these expressions actually refer to "play" defined as "to amuse oneself." This nimble word carries the weight of many signifiers. The compound word interplay, then, multiplies this effect by adding the potential of hybrid possibilities and this exhibition, among other things, explores some of these possibilities.
Neither reason nor nature is made up of closed, rigid units. Every unit is located within a broader unit and next to other apparently unrelated units, and these inevitably function by means of specific interplays. Units communicate within fragile borders and interplay between them oftentimes implies contradictory exchange among the elements that constitute these units. Such a system allows an element, no matter its origin, to interrelate with others located inside or outside of its universe. The same thing occurs in art. Elements in different disciplinary nuclei constantly weave with information from others. This process of assimilation yields new amalgamations, unexpected combinations and hybridities. It generates something entirely new: a new product that results from the clash with "the other." Furthermore, besides creating syntheses that negotiate differences, this process may result in conglomerations of differences coexisting in tension. This is the tone in INTERPLAY, an exhibition presenting work by artists from the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, that somehow explore "interplay" (reciprocal action and reaction) in the personal, cultural, social, psychological, spacio-temporal, and/or the multi-media realm.
In INTERPLAY, the concept of the exotic refers to difference not necessarily what distinguishes the "Other," but how the "Other" can be useful. Otherness, then, does not necessarily refer to the Other's identity, but to the potential exchange it establishes with onself. Thus, this exhibition springs from a shifting platform. It develops from a crisis that makes the system dynamic by contaminating it and by asking it to be regulated by external elements. The works by the artists, more than offer answers about multiculturalism, underscore the contradictions within the languages of globalization. In this respect, some artists explore cultural issues in a straightforward manner, such as Daniela Rossell with her unapologetic portraits of upper class persons amidst lavish, baroque settings; and Luis Gispert's hip-hop cheerleaders and symbols used by the artist to play on stereotypes with sense of humor and wit. Gavin Perry's paintings, although reflective of low-rider car culture, allude to identity in a more subtle fashion through his sleek surfaces and line designs. In their work, all four artists attempt to deconsruct complex group identities and decode constantly evolving taste cultures.
The relativity of spacio-temporality and its many variables and permutations are present in Simon Starling's photograph sequences of an evolving Fiat automobile, as is the main thrust in Allora & Calzadilla's ambiguous, politically charged seascapes. Both works are representative of the performative nature of these artists' bodies of work, and how time and place are intrinsic to the open-ended possiblities their projects offer as they unfold. Olav Westphalen and Hassan Khan, on the other hand, express spacio-temporality in controlled narratives by means of the superposition of images and time that describe their respective worlds. By referencing two different existential moments and two distinct experiences, Khan emphasizes the multidimensionality of identity present in memory and the passing of time. Westphalen's drawings cleverly juxtapose improbable equivalencies, that although possible to some degree, are certainly absurd.
INTERPLAY explores various dynamics of human interrelation. Sexuality is the springboard for a few artists in this exhibition, albeit through aggression as in William Cordova's bootlegged rock concert videos, or the more elusive porno abstraction paintings by Fernando Palomar. Even Jason Hedges' performative chocolate-tasting work is a sensual experience replete, among other interpretations, with sexual overtones and references to aphrodisiacs. Other relationships are examined, either by placing the viewer in a position of voyeur as in the case with Nina Lola Bachhuber and her depiction of family life; or by directly eliciting active communication as in Pedro Reyes' participatory sculpture which viewers can actually climb into and sit in. Bachhuber and Reyes explore human relationships trhough entirely different degrees of viewer participation, but both artists' works identify the poignant dualities of collaboration: sharing and tension.
Very simply, the word "interplay" recalls games. Such artists as Paul Pfeiffer and Carlos Amorales both resort to sports and entertainment in their work as a subtle, but convincing means to expose far more probing social issues. Anthony Goicolea's pre-pubescent boys engage in what appear to be youthful games, which can also be interpreted as rather ambiguous behavior. John Espinosa and C.I.G. Lang's animal sculptures are static, humanized entities, superposed with multiple layers of, double-entendre in the latter, and mysticism in the former. Francis Alÿs and Fernando Ortega's works playfully depict the paradozes of action. Both works on video exhibit arbitrary actions performed in the midst of productivity, ultimately representing the absurdity of human effort. In a similar spirit, Dara Friedman underlines the randomness of the comings and goings of stray dogs amidst the sounds and textures of the streets of Miami. Ultimately, the setting in this video becomes as important a character as the diverse canines.
A consciousness of space pervades in some of the works in the exhibition to varying degrees. In three entirely different media, Javier Cambre, Jose Dávila, and Sofía Táboas create aesthetic experiences that examine how a person's behavior may be modified by space or the awareness of space, specifically architecture. Inversely, all three artists share what Quisqueya Henríquez chooses to explore in her works: to create consciousness of how a person in turn, can modify space. Henriquez claims space in this series of photographs by literally resorting to the most basic, instinctive method in nature to achieve this, she urinates space; then she documents this action in her photographs.
Artists from around the globe appropriate elements from seemingly disparate, sometimes random, but for the most part, familiar sources in a complex interplay that yields rich works of art. Because of their multiple references, these works do not necessarily reflect specific loci or attitudes, but rather negotiations that absorb and assimilate "in-between places," the burrows that exist outside secure or institutionalized domains, and invented by the artists. For these reasons, this exhibition is not a result of imposition by the curators; moreover, it has been an attempt to guide a process. The process has been driven to a certain extent, by unpredictability, by incommensurability and by the indefinable. The curators' role in this exhibition has been in coalescing production so that this project may develop with energy; so that something would have evolved randomly is catalyzed by but a few curatorial guidelines.