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Global Illumination 

Felipe Meres (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1988) has long been interested in the relationship between technologies and the objects they attempt to represent. His work has been widely recognized and stands out for his contribution to rethinking the separation between matter and meaning, as well as for how he addresses issues of difference and identity. In his film Global Illumination, the artist reflects on a selection of Pre-Columbian objects from the collection of the Pumapungo Museum in Cuenca, Ecuador, and questions the ethnographic status that anthropology museums have given to such objects. The film shows the objects after they have been 3D-scanned with a digital camera using photogrammetry, echoing the technology currently used by anthropology museums. In doing so, Meres’ work asks viewers to consider whether ethnographic representations are accurate or productive. What are the desires behind using this technology? What are museums’ expectations? In the artist’s own words, the film is “a meditation on the possibilities of representation of otherness.” In this sense, Global Illumination, which is named after a CGI algorithm that accurately simulates the behavior of light, seeks to challenge the scientific discourse that highlights these objects as simply flat, ethnographic elements of knowledge, rather than as cultural representations with subjects ranging from the supernatural realm to sexuality. 

Informed by his study of anthropology, Meres’ work also engages concepts such as culture, ethnicity, authorship, and attribution. The artist reminds us how problematic is to assume that these objects came from and were created by “peoples,” an assumption that is reinforced through ethnographic museum practices that often label these objects based on ethnicity alone. By using 3D scanning in order to penetrate the sole object, the film highlights these tensions and their relevance to artistic practice today. 

In addition to his solo exhibitions, Felipe Meres’ work has been shown in venues such as the Cuenca Biennial, Ecuador (2018); GAMeC, Italy (2018) and the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami (2016). He currently lives and works in New York, where he is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at The New School.

Macarena Deij Prado

October 2019

This exhibition is the first in the series “On View: Curatorial Studies,” which features art exhibitions curated by SA+AH graduate students.

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