[My] music is an
imaginary story that each object carries within itself.
One of the best parts of my job at UMFA is helping to identify which artists, lecturers, and art world figures we bring to Salt Lake City. Next month, through our new ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the
Environment series, we're hosting two exciting contemporary artists—
Guillermo Galindo and
Trevor Paglen—whose work embodies the ARTLandish mission to "investigate our complex relationship with the world around us."
I’m especially excited about bringing Galindo, a Mexican-born, Berkeley, California-based experimental composer to our community. Galindo’s Thursday, October 6, presentation at the UMFA, Sonic Border, is based on his collaboration and traveling exhibition with photographer Richard Misrach, Border Cantos, which involves fabricating musical
instruments and graphic musical scores from items recovered at the Mexico-U.S. border. Misrach has been photographing the border between the U.S. and Mexico since 2004, capturing the often-invisible landscapes and wall that separates the U.S. from our neighbors to the south. Misrach and Galindo have worked
together to create pieces that both document and transform the artifacts of migration: water bottles, clothing, spent shotgun shells, and even sections of the border wall itself, which Galindo then turns into instruments to be performed as unique sound-generating devices. In his Sonic Border presentation, Galindo will perform an original
composition on one of the instruments he's created and then discuss his work with the audience.
I experienced Border Cantos earlier this year at the San Jose Museum of Art in California. Walking through the exhibition, I encountered Galindo’s wonderfully imaginative and brilliantly constructed sculptural instruments. One such creation, Zapatello,
is based on Martello a Camme, Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanized hammering machine—which utilizes an old boot, glove, and border patrol drag tire, all found near the border wall. Shooting-target-shaped cranks, a donkey jaw, and a ram’s horn are used as stops. A rawhide is strung across the tire. The whole
piece is activated to create a drum.
Other works included Galindo’s musical scores printed on flags used by humanitarian groups as beacons for stranded migrants. One of the most moving pieces in the show was Fuente de lagrimas (Fountain of tears), in which Galindo transformed a water barrel once used as a migrant watering
station into a “fountain of tears.” This work is based on vandalized stations shot up with bullets—it drips water from small holes onto a metal plate, creating a sound that resembles light rain falling onto a metal roof.
An impressive multi-channel installation of sounds composed, performed, and recorded by Galindo filled one of the galleries. The installation was set up so that the sound of each instrument emanated from a concealed speaker. As I approached each instrument,
the pre-recorded sound from that particular instrument dominated.
At one point Galindo gave an impromptu performance on Efigie
(Effigy), a plucked string instrument based on mysterious scarecrow-like figures that Misrach discovered near the California-Mexico border.
Susan Krane, executive director at San Jose Museum of Art, eloquently points out the timeliness of this project in the Border Cantos exhibition brochure:
“Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo bring a
humanitarian perspective to the heated political debates that surround the subject
of immigration today. . . . This exhibition underscores the necessity—indeed
the human urgency—of civil dialogue about the tough issues that can divide us
most drastically as a community and as a nation, particularly this election
Galindo’s performance will begin at 7 pm in the UMFA's Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium, followed by a presentation and Q&A with the audience. The artist will be available to sign copies of Border
Cantos immediately following his presentation—copies of the book will be available for purchase. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear Guillermo Galindo perform and discuss his work!
The ARTLandish series is sponsored by the S. J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation. Community partners are the University of Utah J. Willard Marriot Library, the College of Fine Arts, and the Salt Lake City Public Library.
oversees education, community engagement, and adult programming for the UMFA.
Respected as a dynamic and innovative artist and community leader, Rojas joined
the UMFA in January 2015. Before that, he was site director for the Venture
Humanities Course at Westminster College, where he promoted continuing
education among immigrant, refugee, and under-represented populations.
Additionally, he taught art history to low-income minority students at East
High through the Clemente Humanities Course and was Teaching Artist-in-Residence
at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.