Espacio Minimo

Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker

24 May - 25 Jul 2014

Toca Jugar
24 May - 25 July /2014

Gotta play is the title of the first exhibition by the artistic duo Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker in the Espacio Mínimo Gallery. It brings together four of their most recent videos: Capapults, Drinking Song, Domino Effect and Tropical Zincphony, which employ irony and playfulness to generate incisive and poetic social criticism.

In Capapults (2012), Conlon and Harker comment on mass consumerism, pollution, and the disconnect between our actions and their consequences. Using disposable spoons as catapults, they shoot thousands of plastic bottle caps at a hole in a concrete platform. The platform was once part of a U.S. military installation during its occupation of the Panama Canal Zone, and is now an observation deck in a natural park. As the video comes to an end, the viewer discovers that the bottle caps that fall through the hole accumulate on the forest floor, forming a giant mountain.

In Drinking Song (2011) Conlon and Harker use Panamanian beer bottles and cans to play the United States national anthem, which originally borrowed its tune from a British drinking song (the anthem of a London gentlemen’s club). Curiously, the names of the beers reflect the imagery of Panama and address the conflicts faced in the development of its identity. This ironic and humorous piece evokes the complex history and relationship between Panama and the United States and indicates the arbitrariness and delusion behind the construction of national symbols.

Historical architecture in Panama City is not appreciated, and is usually replaced with shopping malls and high-rise condominiums. Development for development’s sake seems to be a process that, once set into motion, cannot be stopped, like a chain reaction of dominoes toppling. One exception to this phenomenon has been the Casco Antiguo, the old quarter district located on a small peninsula in the Bay of Panama that has been protected by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.

Its World Heritage Site status is now in jeopardy because of the construction of a government sanctioned multi-million dollar marine viaduct around the peninsula. In its frenzy to tear down and re-build everything for a quick buck, the government even tore up the old cobblestone streets only to re-pave them with new, inferior bricks. In Domino Effect (2013) Conlon and Harker create a domino-like chain reaction through the neighborhood’s streets. The dominoes themselves are the discarded antique colonial era bricks that were ironically used as landfill material in other parts of the city.

Finally, in Tropical Zincphony (2013), the artists play with a typical scenario in Panama: a mango falling on a corrugated zinc roof. The mango in the video goes on a fanciful sensorial journey, rolling haphazardly through an abstract zinc landscape. At one point during its travels, the lone mango is overrun by a stampeding pack of wild mangoes, conjuring up notions of collectivity, individuality and solitude. Color, texture, sound and rhythm are used whimsically to explore the roles of unpredictability and improvisation in life in the tropics.

Tags: Donna Conlon, Jonathan Harker, Donna Conlon & Jonathan Harker