Joiri Minaya—Redecode II: La Dorada
Joiri Minaya’s work focuses on the construction of the female subject in relation to nature and landscape in a “tropical” context, shaped by a foreign gaze that demands leisure and pleasure. Like nature, the feminine has been imagined throughout history as tamed, idealized, and exoticized. Minaya revises existing objects that engage in this form of representation, thus provoking questions.
The Dominican-American artist transforms the lobby of Miller Theatre with a new installation from her series, Tropical Surfaces, in which she specifically deconstructs and re-imagines tropical design, pointing to it as an invention of the Global North's imaginary.
For Miller Theatre’s Redecode II: La Dorada, Minaya departs from a monumental work held by the Cooper Hewitt, El Dorado, a twenty-four panel scenic wallpaper designed in 1848 for the oldest continuously-operating wallpaper company, Zuber et Cie (est. 1787, France). El Dorado depicts the idealized natural and manmade riches of the four continents from a European, and colonial perspective. The transformation of this vision into such an elaborate wallpaper was necessarily for the delectation of those who could afford it; its production required the hand-printing of 1,554 distinct woodblocks in 210 various colors over the entire 42-foot-long span.
Zuber’s original wallpaper positions Europe at the center of the design, representing it as the only continent with steps in the foreground, which seems to invite the viewer to a terrace overlooking the rest of the world. The other continents’ architecture is depicted far in the background, with wild, exquisitely detailed depictions of nature covering their foreground, suggesting an adventurous, exploratory invitation to enter the landscape. Minaya uses pixilation to sabotage these design choices, posing questions of visibility and refusal, while flattening and mixing the planes of foreground and background equally. In addition, Europe has been isolated in its own separate wall on one side of the lobby, while the other continents band together on the other side. Not only does Minaya select and reorganize the continents, but she embeds interactive QR codes in the design, camouflaged among the pixels. They contain links that can be scanned with smartphones, revealing found text, images, and videos from the internet, as well as content uploaded by the artist, carefully curated and specifically placed within the wallpaper as part of the piece's commentary.
Minaya’s work is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, on view at the Wallach Art Gallery and Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling through September 23, 2018.