ARCHIVE > ESPYLACOPA: a place | Johansson Projects

Johansson Projects, CA
Show Runs July 11 - August 22, 2015
Reception: Saturday, July 11, 1-4pm | artist talk, 1:30pm

ESPYLACOPA: a place is Michael Arcega's recent probe into the parallel lives of the Nacirema people of North America. The exhibition features numerous objects and artifacts from the Nacirema - a people that were the subject of Horace Miner's influential paper, The Body Ritual Among The Nacirema, published in 1956. Arcega's first exhibition at Johansson Projects is a continuum of his previous work on the Nacirema's material culture. It is widely agreed upon that this group has colonized a great swath of North America and continues to aggressively expand its influence across the globe. This exhibition is but a small fraction of their material life.

Espylacopa is a Nacireman creation. While little is still known about this place, we can attempt to reconstruct it through the objects on display. On exhibit is a map known as the Prih-Sohn stick chart. This map gives us a clear layout of the Nacirema's main thoroughfares. The bamboo chart is punctuated by quartz crystals signifying the location of isolation chambers. The diorama of the Prih-Sohn Dancer's Dream further illustrates the spaces within these isolation chambers. Our interpretation reveals the complex and often conflicting psychological conditions that the Prih-Sohn Dancer might endure.

Many of these objects describe a wide range of Nacireman ideologies. Because the facts are not well established, viewers may interpret them as poetic devices that get at the truth of a people. For instance, implements like the Beisbol Clubs have been used in a variety of social circumstances such as personal vendetta, civil unrest, and ceremonial competition. They reveal how the Nacirema settle disputes through physical means, sometimes in ceremonies and other times in riotous events. The rest of the objects can only hint at their purpose and suggest their cultural significance, yet they are emblematic of these peoples' truths.

Current studies reveal that the Nacirema are a significant contributor to the ongoing 6th extinction event. There is a darker undertone to the collection at Johansson Projects. Unlike the Hollywood depiction of extinction events, this exhibition suggests that their decline will be slow and boring.