Installation view of Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa's "Lugar de Consuelo" (still). Photo by Sean Eaton.

It would be a marathon feat to view all of the videos in the 2022 Carnegie International in one visit, but three artworks given prominent placement show the breadth of that medium included in this 58th edition of the venerable show.

Soun-Gui Kim’s “Stock + Garden” is visually succinct but raises complex global issues. A dual projection of a traditional Asian food market is stagnant save for an oversized daikon or bok choy overlaid on top that periodically shift positions.

Kim, who was born in 1946 in Buyeo, South Korea, was educated in Korea and France and divides her time between the two countries. She combines her interests in art, philosophy and technology in this work which addresses issues of “global capitalism and neoliberal economic policy,” says the International exhibition guide. Among those are the exploitation of workers and resources by foreign corporations and their effect on local financial systems. The stock market information is projected on an adjacent wall and also onto viewers, suggesting their participation in and complicity with such systems even at thousand-mile distances.

Video artwork projected on the wall at the Carnegie International.
Installation view of Soun-Gui Kim’s “Stock + Garden” in the 58th Carnegie International. Photo by Sean Eaton.
Installation view of Soun-Gui Kim’s “Stock + Garden” in the 58th Carnegie International. Photo by Sean Eaton.

“Lugar de Consuelo” (“Place of Solace”) by Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa is a contemporary work (2021) derived from Guatemala’s theatrical history. But you need not know the details to appreciate the beautifully-shot 35-minute performance that combines political theater, dance, fantastical costuming and storytelling (with English subtitles).

Ramírez-Figueroa, who was born in 1978 in Guatemala City, where he lives, was inspired by a 1962 play by countryman Hugo Carrillo. In the midst of Guatemala’s 1960-96 civil war, an updated student version of the play was shut down by the authorities and the host theater was set on fire. The censored version did not survive and the artist, with collaborating writer and poet Wingston González, created a rendition based on what it might have been like.

The performance “ponders the absurdity of irredeemable human suffering and irrecoverable loss prompted by perpetual histories of violence,” the exhibition guide offers.

“Free Britney?,” the title of Tony Cokes’ 2022 video, will resonate with fans of pop music star Britney Spears whose conservatorship battle earned headlines and spawned the #FreeBritney movement in recent years.

Born in 1956 in Richmond, Virginia, Cokes is a professor in the department of modern culture and media at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The 41-minute long video is an example of what he’s dubbed “word portraits.” These comprise short quotes from a variety of sources related to one person that appear as text on multi-chromatic color blocks shown sequentially to build a narrative. The text is from an article in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino published on July 3, 2021. The accompanying soundtrack comprises songs by Spears or her collaborations with multiple artists.

Regardless of one’s interest in pop culture, the Spears case, and this video, are exemplary of how celebrity and media can be used to raise public consciousness of social justice issues. “Free Britney?” references, for example, conservatorship (referred to as guardianship in most states), mental health and women’s reproductive rights.

Cokes has also composed four digital billboards that are on display along Route 28.

Still from Tony Cokes’ “Free Britney?” video. Photo by Sean Eaton.
Still from Tony Cokes’ “Free Britney?” video. Photo by Sean Eaton.

Many additional videos are interspersed throughout the exhibition.

Among them are Diane Severin Nguyen’s “Tyrant Star” and Isabel De Obaldia’s “Por Panamá la vida” (“For Panama, a life”) and “DIARY 2020.”

Nguyen was born in 1990 in Carson, California, and lives in Los Angeles and New York. “Tyrant Star” (2019, 16 minutes) was purchased by the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2020 and was one of the videos from the collection screened on the web by the museum during pandemic closures.

De Obaldia was born in 1957 in Washington, D.C., and lives in Panama City. “DIARY 2020” is a response to the Covid pandemic told through filmed and animated segments. “Por Panamá” addresses the last years of dictator Manuel Noriega, culminating with his fall during the 1990 U.S. military invasion of Panama.

Also exhibited are pencil, watercolor and pastel drawings by De Obaldia from 1988, with titles like “Body Bags” and “Los gringos eufóricos” (“Euphoric gringos”).

The remainder of the videos are generally documentary and/or informational in form with content consistent with this International’s outreach. They give presence and voice to artists, artworks and subjects either under-represented in the past or presented with a singular viewpoint.

One of these, “Across the Walls,” is a 2022 collaboration between exhibitor Let’s Get Free: The Women and Trans Prisoner Defense Committee and Pittsburgh filmmaker Njaimeh Njie.

Founded in 2013, the group, which holds an annual art show, works to end life without parole sentencing. The video features two women, Avis Lee and Paulette Carrington, who were recently released from life sentences after serving more than 40 years.

Representatives from the group will speak from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 in the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater as a part of Refractions: 58th Carnegie International Conversation Series. They will be joined by James “Yaya” Hough, a Pittsburgh artist who was commissioned by the International to create a mural in the Hill District.

Refractions events are free and open to the public but reservations are recommended.

Read our ongoing coverage of the Carnegie International.

Mary Thomas

Mary Thomas was the longtime art critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.