penumbra

by mariel miranda

Penumbra is an exercise/experiment in seeing, in reading from the background. These archival compositions are manually assembled using the original images that illustrate 20 volumes of the Latin American encyclopedia El Tesoro de la Juventud.

In the research process, looking at the thousands of encyclopedia images, I realized that the foreground, whose main element will almost always be centered, focused, and illuminated, has been a key representational strategy in the aesthetic canon. I thought then of exploring the power of the opposite: the out-of-focus, the margin, the element that appears out of necessity, the shadow, the surplus, “the error,” the frontier: the penumbra. As I attended to the background, I encountered these bodies inhabiting the everyday spaces of the urban imagery. Little by little, their peers began to appear, and with this multiplication of shared gestures, what also appeared was the possibility of imagining this assembled fiction as a sequence, a collectivity. I chose here to link the commonality of these figures despite the difference of time and space they inhabit. The method of looking at the penumbra aims to illuminate a way of thinking about bodies in space as a collectivity and a potential site for political action. The penumbra can be the site of creation, among many other things, for the heterogeneous, for difference.

Mariel Miranda is co-founder and director of the International Festival of Photography Tijuana (FiFT), a self-organized and feminist platform created for the undisciplined reflection on the image and its current modes of production. FiFT activities have been carried out in multiple spaces in México and the United States. Miranda’s practice as a visual artist is built at the intersection of research, theoretical writing, production, and the dismantling of images. Her work is primarily concerned with the visual and textual appropriation of archival materials to discuss issues related to the history of images: their epistemic inscription, their rhetorical narratives, and their role in complex social relations of power mediated by class, ethnicity, and gender. Recent honors include: the University of Arizona Fellows Award (offered to the University’s highest-ranked incoming graduate students) and scholarships for Mexican students studying abroad from the Jumex Contemporary Art Foundation and the National Institute of Fine Arts.