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Olivia Caro explores binaries in “rastros de dos cajas”

Keli Vitaioli

vitaioli@grinnell.edu

Olivia Caro’s Smith Gallery show “rastros de dos cajas (traces of two boxes)” applauds the basic human instinct that even the best mothers can’t condition away: to play with our food.

The exhibit is a visual installation, which opened last week, featuring four looped videos projected onto the walls of the gallery of hands squishing, and then recreating as it loops back, blackberries, an egg, an avocado and Jell-O. Underneath each of the videos is a representation of the floor the foods were squished over, all featuring remnants of the food itself.

Focusing on color and texture, Caro sees the exhibit as representing the binary structure, from squished to un-squished, at play in society.

“Our theme for our class last semester was invisibility … and so I was thinking about what I wanted the piece to be about and was thinking about personal experiences and how I could tie my work into personal experiences because I think that can make it more effective, instead of being like, ‘oh I’m going to talk about world hunger,’ that’s too large. Start smaller, start with yourself,” Caro said.

In putting the title of the exhibit in Spanish primarily, followed by English, Caro evokes another binary that may not be as obviously at play in society.

“In thinking about binary structures, I was thinking about gender binary, but I was also thinking a lot about, because this was a topic in a lot of my classes last semester, of racial binaries,” Caro said. “So I’m half Puerto Rican, and [racial binary] is just something I’ve definitely been thinking about as being someone that is half Puerto Rican, half white, and talking about where Latino people stand in a racial binary system that is definitely present in the US.”

Video installations aren’t Caro’s typical medium. The work for this exhibit is the third video project they have done at Grinnell. Last semester, Caro worked with their fellow Studio Art majors on a combination video and painting piece displaying the melting of menstrual blood popsicles.

The video installation emerged as an extension of Caro’s midterm project, which featured similar images of food being squished but as one long video with more items.

“So then for my Smith show … I was like, oh wouldn’t it be cool if I could display those big rather than just on the TV screen. I could project them onto the wall, and maybe have a couple of them. Then talking to my advisor [Professor] Lee Running, I came up with the idea of having the things on the ground,” Caro said.

“rastros de dos cajas” was also inspired in both color and texture by an exhibit of Alex Da Corte at MASS MoCa which featured videos of hands covered in flour, placing cherries on fingers and more.

The most exciting part for Caro was not knowing how the foods would squish on camera without any previous practice. Things did get a little messy, and not all the videos turned out quite as planned on the first try.

“The first time I filmed [the egg video], I had my friend Josh [Anthony ’17] doing the squishing, … and because of the pressure it takes to break the shell if it’s not on a hard edge, it made a huge mess,” Caro said. “The egg was ten feet up the wall of the studio, it was all over me, it was all over him, it was all over the studio, it was everywhere … the studio smelled like egg for a while.”

Photo by Kosuke Yo
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