With an American father of Eastern European Jewish origins and an Ecuadorian mother of Afro-Ecuadorian descent, Karina (1969, Providence RI, EEUU) was born in the United States. Today, she lives and works in New York City and Ecuador. Her practice is influenced by the research she has done on her identity intersecting with race, culture and gender. These subjects connect to migration/immigration, colonialism and the legacy this history has had on current society.
In her first solo exhibition in Europe, the artist shows her most recent project, “Sacred Geometry” (2019) which explores Ingapirca, an archeological site in Ecuador, as a starting point to absorb the debates around the engineering feats of Inca architecture and insert the body into an archeological site. This project begins with an inquiry into the construction of Ingapirca (Inca Wall). Built in Pre-Colombian times by Incas and, subsequently, altered by Cañaris, it is the largest-known ruin in Ecuador, subject of speculation among scientists and the general public. The site has been photographed ad nauseum; its artifacts, dispersed internationally, and the mysteries of its construction are the subject of scientific advancement, tourism and “parafictions”, a term used to describe artworks that play with fact and fiction.
For this exhibition the artist has appropriated photographs from tourist blogs, google maps, archeological documents and researched the archeological and “YouTube” record. She has also photographed the site creating an archive of images that does not privilege one type of document over another. Instead, the enlarged, collaged, folded and found photographs become a mash-up of vernacular, formalist and evidence-based images deconstructing Incan stone geometry and materializing the site.
Living in the US it is impossible for Karina to ignore the current political climate and the malicious rhetoric coming out of the US government. The US president has shown incredible contempt for Latin Americans and the plight of immigrants. The artist writes, “If the president of the US is going to entertain proposals for a border wall why not use Inca technology to build one?” My project highlights the archeological feats of the Incas in building their structures but it also recognizes that walls lose their meaning over time becoming artifacts on the landscape rather than acknowledged politically charged boundaries.”
One of the narrative directions the artist takes up is the role of women in the building of Ingapirca. In one photograph we see the artist carrying a rock on her back. Others recontextualize the Inca cut stones as part of her body alluding to the idea of the stone and her body as objects. Unlike walls used as borders, Karina builds her own structures using her body to form a new logic in which she wraps her heritage and positions the main themes in her work.
Related to this work, the artist has decided to show for the first time in Spain her 2012 project “Blogs de la ruta del sol”. In this project, and thinking about how travel blogs have become the paradigmatic online representation of the “exotic” landscapes. She began to investigate several blogs about Ecuador, and more specifically about the “sun route”, the coastal road along the Pacific Ocean which is the gateway to the southern part of the country and which attracts tourists from all over the world. The artist’s project uses the same format as blogs and their content as material to explore the landscape. Using blog frames that are generated by software programs, she empties the content leaving a stencil. This new frame is the basis for creating a blueprint, a 19th century photographic technique that used the sun’s UV rays. As a counterpoint to these blue works on watercolor paper, there is a series of videos in which the artist comes out as the protagonist, performing the narratives found on the blogs and playing the role of Ecuadorian and foreigner tourist at the same time, embodying the local and the foreign in the descriptions narrated.
Conceptually, the project explores the formal and conceptual paradoxes of the naïve tourism gaze and its relationship to the global tourism economy, while at the same time reflecting how the sun’s route is affected by the global warming crisis. The artist’s strategy is to eliminate digital information from blogs: anecdotal stories and generic images to expose their ideological and structural framework, converting them into 19th century analog copies that use the radiance of the equatorial sun. Instead of functioning as a tourist attraction, “Blogs of the Sun Route” illustrates the construction of tourism as a direct consequence of colonialism and how the ease of digital information perpetuates the narratives about the lands of “sun and fun”.