• ArtistMelanie Smith
  • TitleXilitla
  • Year of Origin2010
  • GenreVideo
  • Technique and DurationOne-channel-video, 16:9-projection, sound, 24:40 min, loop
  • Erwerbungsjahr
  • Erwerbung der StiftungYes
  • In Zusammenarbeit mit Rafael Ortega

For almost 30 years, British-born Melanie Smith (*1965, lives in Mexico City) has been exploring the Latin American continent and the avant-garde currents of the 20th and 21st centuries in her cross-media art. Coming from painting, she explores the cultural, aesthetic and economic contradictions inherent in the metropolis of Mexico City in her formalist video works, photographs and installations.

In the film Xilitla (2010), made in collaboration with Rafael Ortega and shown for the first time in the Mexican pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2011, she traces the surrealist movement in Mexico in the 1940s. The scene of the portrait-format 35mm film is Las Pozas, a former plantation near the city of Xilitla, which Edward James (1907-1984), a wealthy Scottish collector and patron of the arts, transformed into a surrealist sculpture garden between 1964 and 1984. For James, this Garden of Eden in the middle of the jungle was a private, intimate place, fragile in its materiality and dysfunctional, referring at the same time to the love gardens of the 18th century.

Smith’s film from 2010 evokes this place in a poetic way. Large mirrors are carried through the jungle. The mirror images are partly sharp, partly blurred, they frame the “landscape” and create a double camera image. Smith’s deconstructive gaze transforms and divides the landscape into paintings. The images, which repeatedly focus on geometric shapes, are accompanied by the sounds of the jungle. Cross-fades, plays of light, a high proportion of blue, and background music in several places create an eerie atmosphere. With reference to artists like Dan Flavin, Robert Smithson or Gordon Matta-Clark, Xilitla takes the viewer into an exotic-surreal-constructed world, partly created by James, partly by nature.

(Ina Dinter)