Rebeca Méndez Explores Landscape, Boundaries and Culture
May 10, 2018
“The journey, in itself, is the medium... Extreme places awaken me to
a high level of perception.”
- Rebeca Méndez
Born in Mexico City, Rebeca Méndez is an artist, designer and professor who lives in Los Angeles and is a professor of design media arts at UCLA, where she directs CounterForce Lab, a research and fieldwork studio. She began her Polar Lab artist residency with us last week and will return this summer and over the next two or three years to capture stories around the Arctic tern and document the Arctic.
Méndez’s work explores landscape, boundaries, and culture. Her work includes architectural-scale single-channel video installations – works, she says, “that become a window through which you relate to the landscape’s rhythms and power. I am interested in gesture rather than description.”
|CircumSolar, Migration 3, 2013; single channel video projected at architectural scale, color, sound by Drew Schnurr; 11 × 22 feet, 17:46 minutes. Installation view at ‘REALSPACE,’ Williamson Gallery, Pasadena, California, 2014.|
She refers to her work as “artistic fieldwork” that combines the objectivity of science with the subjectivity of the creative process and the investigative process of a researcher and a scientist—with curiosity, resilience, and an empirical and determined mind.
“The Arctic tern lives the most daylight than any other creature in the world. I want to document the longest migration recorded. For me as an artist, the journey, in itself, is the medium. I gain knowledge and understanding from traveling to extreme landscapes, which awaken me to a high level of perception.”
|Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center (SASC) director Aron Cromwell and Rebeca review watercolor illustrations of Tlingit life at Yakutat Bay. The SASC's Gillam Archaeology Lab is a space for archaeologists, artists and Alaska Native communities to study artifacts to inspire and inform their work.
“As an immigrant, I am interested in the relationship with migratory animals and human population patterns,” she says, adding that it is through the Arctic tern that she is exploring the larger themes of migration, environment, and climate change.
“Through following the tern’s migratory journey and going to the spots it visits along its way, I’m interested in the idea of, in a way, becoming the animal; the intimate relationship with the bird. I am interested in telling the story of self in relation.”
ABOUT CIRCUMSOLAR, MIGRATION 1
|CircumSolar, Migration 1, 2013. Single-channel video installation. 26:20 minutes.
Dimensions: variable, architectural scale.
CircumSolar, Migration1 from Rebeca Méndez on Vimeo.
CircumSolar, Migration 1 video follows the migration of the arctic tern, a small sea bird that has the longest migration of all living beings on earth, flying from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again each year. As such, it experiences two polar summers of 24-hour daylight each year, which makes it the one creature in the world that lives the most daylight. According to Mendez, with the tern as its protagonist, CircumSolar, Migration 1 looks to explore larger themes critical to our time, such as the unstoppable force of migration; the ecological concern of climate change and other man-made detritus; the geopolitics of the changing landscapes of coastal lands and the Arctic and Antarctic regions; and the role of the archetypal explorer.