R/SF projects is pleased to present The Valley, a solo show of new work by Basque filmmaker Simón García-Miñaúr. Transforming the gallery into an immersive environment of suspended filmic works, García-Miñaúr’s melodramas explore the inordinately human via the excessively android to materialize understandings of our digitally inundated world.
On the gallery’s ground floor, visitors encounter the eponymously named The Valley (2017), whose protagonist recounts wistful memories that he nevertheless distrusts, seeking an eternal sunshine-esque catharsis of forgetting. The scene pans across futuristic mountainous ridges and a backdrop of alabaster luminescence before revealing the silver and gold biomorphic shapes which haunt our narrator. A character tormented by a purgatory of self-pity, he attempts to distract himself with Facebook. The work is accompanied by a soundtrack of atmospheric sound, not entirely unmistakable from the realms of sci-fi and video games. Upstairs, Stranded (2016) finds its lovelorn protagonist bobbing across various states of confusion, loneliness, and ambivalence. “I am not sure when I fucked up,” he monotonously divulges. In a soliloquy-cum-confessional aside, he attempts to deconstruct a past relationship gone wrong, admitting “but it sure feels good to pretend.” Frustrated by the surface level interactions encountered on instagram, he copes with a dissolution of intimacy, a closeness made uncannily palpable through the superimposition of figures. The work is grounded in current referents (California, Call of Duty, click farms) and underscores the exceptionally contemporary numbness that can only ensue from an endless stream of news feeds. In a world where even the terrain is transitory and fluid, our character eventually achieves what The Valley’s hero cannot, and successfully forgets the appearance of his former love - losing his own in the process. Finally, interspersed throughout the gallery are vertically oriented structural ‘studies’—abstract landscapes of morphing forms and textural vignettes which act as visual meditation upon the artist’s process, seemingly ripe for cell phone viewing.
While García-Miñaúr’s characters exhibit discernable freckles and stubble, their imperfectly dubbed and almost soporific voiceovers avoid human replication—they are eerily corporeal yet ultimately digital, this isn’t West World and our leading figures aren’t trying to fool us through CGI. Landscapes, too, hover between the recognizable and the surreal—they are fictional but decidedly not dreams, harnessing the true power of virtuality. While light appears to reflect in a mostly earthly manner and some semblance of gravity exists, certain objects bridge on optical illusion, surfaces elude identification, and the overarching color palette deviates to the other-worldly. Seemingly ‘shot’ from the hovering perspective of a drone, we spectators are implicated as surveillants, our viewership mediated by the simulation of technology. García-Miñaúr contrasts the emotive with the banal, for while evocative, the narration lacks idiosyncrasy, and a certain deadpan emptiness pervades each scene.
García-Miñaúr delves into notions of the icon, the memorial, collective trauma, and collective amnesia; the human predilection to preserve memory and yet the human capacity to forget. As an almost universal 21st century narrative spins alter egos we can all relate to, an inevitable empathy is invoked that capitalizes upon the conventions of cinema. Characters crippled by overactive inner monologue hinge on delusional or paranoic, an all too real state of being amongst echo chambers and festering feedback loops. Above all, perhaps what we witness is a caricature of capitalist schizophrenia itself, an avatar of our cyborgian ways of being.
García-Miñaúr lifts the veil to reveal a barometric sign of the times, where consciousness is predicated upon the intermingling of an I/We and identity formation is inextricably linked to a looking glass self. (After all, if a tweet falls in a forest, does it make a sound?) Gesturing toward the ways we perceive surroundings, process interactions, and outwardly communicate, we are ultimately prompted to question the relationships in our own lives, technological and otherwise.
Simón García-Miñaúr (b. Bilbao, Spain) is a Basque filmmaker currently based in San Francisco. His new media work has been screened internationally at film festivals including Seminci (Valladolid, Spain); Bideodromo (Bilbao, Spain); and the Headline International Film Festival (Vancouver, Canada). In the Bay Area García-Miñaúr has exhibited at Aggregate Space (Oakland, CA); Root Division, Noroof Gallery, and Embark Gallery (San Francisco, CA), as well as international venues such as Beers London (United Kingdom). García-Miñaúr received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, and his BFA from the Escola Superior de Cinema i Audiovisuals de Catalunya in Barcelona. The Valley is his premier solo exhibition with the gallery.