Juan delGado's The Flickering Darkness is a video installation filmed at the Corabastos market in BogotÃ¡ (Columbia), the largest of its kind in Latin America. Produced during a three-month residency in the city in 2009 and re-edited for Unlimited, the project explores the journey produce sold at the market takes, from its arrival before dawn to its consumption.
Review by Gary Thomas
In a darkened room The Flickering Darkness (Revisited) shows on a loop across three screens. A cart is pulled from one screen to the next. I am left wondering if it’s the same cart? The cart on the third screen is empty. We’re in Bogotá market in the darkness of night, where the only light available is street lighting.
The carts are full of fruit and vegetables, but then a series of edits lead us in to bright light and we are indoors, where the fruit and vegetables are prepared and bagged, and then we find meat being hung and cut too.
The installation gives us a reflective look at the market; one in which we’re merely observers, but at the same time we’re immersed in it. The installation doesn’t appear to have an end point or a start point (which I liked) and there’s no voice-over (which I also liked).
There isn’t a need to explain where we are in the film or what’s going on. We make sense of it because we’re there, engaged in every aspect of it. The purpose of the work is to make you think (more than any food scare) about where food comes from and how its prepared; and what happens to it if we don’t use it.
As we observe the almost faceless workers, chopping carrots, bagging sweetcorn, peeling the corn, I immediately related it back to being in the supermarket at home, and picking it off the shelf – with previously no thought as to how it got there.
Juan uses the images and nothing more to tell us the story. The people in the film are ‘invisibles’ (as Juan explains in his talk). The market runs from 12 noon until 4am, and so these workers play a vital roll, working 16 hours a day, seven days a week in a market of 8,000 traders, but are remain unacknowledged. Society in Columbia is such that food plays a massive part in the countries’ economy. In a city with a population of millions, many go hungry.
And this work felt good to revisit, looking at all the footage. For example there were interviews taken, but it was felt that it made sense to not include them. There were lighting issues, but Juan decided to use only available light, making it easier to film but also to add to the realism of the place. Whatever the market workers had to work with, the artist worked with the same.
Interestingly, Juan said that he wanted to surprise people with this work. In a festival for disabled artists the work doesn’t always have to be about disability, and you can push those expectations out of the way.