Carlos Amorales [Mexico]

Dark Mirror

location: 49 a hall, Gdansk Shipyard

Outside a singular message, medium, or even author, Mexican artist Carlos Amorales sees his artistic role as that of being a director – “like in cinema or theatre” – serving as the interface between actors, forms and their exchange. Inspired by the mercurial nature of his native Mexican tongue, where “a message always [leaves] space for an open interpretation,” he actively congregates a Warhol-like community of collaborators, designs and images. They gather and blend in his aptly designated “Liquid Archive”: a vast database of digital characters that the artist (and his co-artists) recombine into an endless number of variations. Begun in 1999, the subjects of this Archive come from drawings, photos, memories, advertisements and appropriated images which Amorales shapes into a signature, if malleable visual language. Stripped of their original specificity and context, this free floating lexicon of silhouetted figures, animals, vehicles and vegetation coalesces into a 21st century mythology spoken in red, black and white. Across video animations, prints, objects and installations, this hallucinatory image bank becomes, in the words of curator Carlos Basualdo, “a visual vocabulary intended for collaborative use and reinterpretation, with the artist positioned as a critical filter.” The stories that follow move between good and evil; calm and calamity; beauty and the macabre, as the Liquid Archive spills into the darkest corners of our subconscious. Bringing dark to light, and the tales of one into the myths of many, Amorales’ cast reflects (and refracts) his vision into shared experiences of fear and fantasy.

This reflection takes the form of a dual-sided projection in Dark Mirror. In this collaborative project the screen that so often divides, here becomes an intersection point between two individual – but interconnected – applications of the Liquid Archive. In his directorial role, Amorales commissioned German graphic designer André Pahl to create an animation from the Archive, and Mexican composer (and silent film musician) José María Serralde to write a score based upon its characters. Without knowing what the other “interpreter” would do, Pahl’s silent animation meets the score, and grand piano performance of Serralde on either side of this symbiotic screen. As the two readings merge, Amorales’ paired collaborators evoke early days of cinema where live, “behind the screen” musical accompaniment would propel the moving image into multi-sensory terrain. This work’s theatrical allure is pushed further by a searchlight cutting through the shadows – revealing a haunting series of vignettes where traditional symbols of the sinister (skulls, wolves, spiders) meet contemporary vehicles of terror (airplanes; megalomaniac). Under jagged streaks of red and cascades of viscous black – where beast becomes man and man becomes beast – the two eras of terror bleed into an arena of metamorphosis. With each crossbred creature embodying supernatural flight and the rhetoric of fear, airplanes begin to multiply and converge – carrying with them stories of both heroism and tragedy from every corner of the globe. In Dark Mirror they fall like snowflakes, swarm like bees, swim like fish, dance with birds, and pierce man like the arrows of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom.

From tragic crashes and terrorist activities to economic engines and the wings of globalism, these anthropomorphic planes remind us that – just as in the Gdansk Shipyard – what industry giveth, it can also take away. Yet it is in this empty, hangar-like building, where ghosts of boats (and boatmakers) linger as “the wild” reclaims its domain, that new mutations take shape. The ship is the eternal voyager, never standing still or remaining static, sending out a new beacon through the shadows to continue the mutation. In the process, from the Shipyard’s own liquid archive of characters and icons, new stories – both dark and light – will take shape in the dark mirror of a future unknown.