Ruminations on Smoke, Nearby

Last Wednesday I went to the MCA and saw an Exhibit by Tiana Còrdava from Mexico (1979). I took a guided tour for some portion of the exhibit which gave me extra insight into the intentions of the artist.

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

The exhibit is influenced by a film set and all of the pieces are technically enterable. They are presented so that there is no boundary between the viewer and the pieces. The docent explained that this is because the artist wants the viewers to, in my own words, “live a life” among the artwork, create their own context and narrative. At the same time the docent stressed that many of the pieces are non-traditional portraits.

Detour, A picture of smoke with the source obscured. The picture is in black and white. The smoke is to make the viewer ponder the source of the fire.

From “Us” to “Us”, this is a piece using a piece of glass that is dual layered with some type of dirt or soot in it. The two pieces are warped apart at one end. The artist purports in the description that the piece of glass fell from the ceiling of the MCA. I believe that this is a representation of a relationship, two partners who have literally fallen from a place of harmony and lost their unity. The glass which represents the relationship is not shattered but soiled and warped. I think that this represents a “normal” relationship that has lost the luster of a dramatic or romantic beginning.

Portrait of an Unknown Man, This piece features art that depicts just a cut out of a man and a woman clothing. The man I believe is from the stomach area of what seems to be a somewhat rounded belly. Evidence of this is the wrinkle at the bottom of the paining. This could also be representative of a flaw in the mans “fabric” or character, composure. The woman on the other hand seems to be pristine. There are no wrinkles in the clothing of the woman. For some reason that I am not sure of I perceive the woman to be younger than the man depicted on the other side. An interesting thing about this piece which is framed on plywood that is connected by a few beams (does this also have a meaning?) is that both painting are not merely hung on the walls they garnish but riding on tracks that are adhered to the wall. The man’s track is in the center of the wall. I interpret this as the man has no room for growth, his potential is finite. However, the woman’s paining in on a track that runs to the border of her wall. I believe that this means that the woman has potential for growth, potential to leave.

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They Say It’s Like a rock | PHOTO BY joségarcía

We focus on a woman facing sideways, This is a piece made of bronze. It is on a corner piece of wall. The bronze is supposed to representing a necklace or something I believe. I the middle of the pice there is a small crystal dangling. The center of the triangle is open. On the right side of the piece the bronze extends out beyond the triangle that composes the main part of the piece. I believe that this piece is about oppression. I think the artist is trying to show the constriction of what is women by the definitions which are represented in object form by jewelry.

Head West, Turn Right , Turn Right, Turn Left, Turn Right Continue, Turn Left, Continue, Turn Right, Turn Left, This is a piece that is made out of bronze and sand. The artist poured molten liquid bronze onto sand in two separate place and then waited till they cooled and hardened. What I find fascinating about this piece is that the artist uses something that people perceive as “free” – liquid. But in this case it is solidified. Its potential is finite as it interacts with something that most people associate with unlimited possibilities – grains of sand. I think that this is a very interesting interaction and could potentially represent what happens in a relationship. People’s finite energy collides with limitless possibility and is solidified, deinifed and becomes history. The docent talked about capturing memory in physical form, I think this is about more than just one memory but a series of memories that have now ended in some way. I think that the tracks of the woman that go to the edge of the wall in “Portrait of an unknown man” represent a possibility that was never taken advantage of, in the end the tracks do not go off the wall.

Various titled works, The technique is called slumping. It morphs glass using objects. However I believe that in this case the artist did not actually used the object to manipulate the glass but wants to give the viewer that affect. Various objects are affecting the glass. Including a blue broken necklace and a purple plastic bag, They say its common nd They say it makes miracles, respectively. I think that these two in particular are very important, outside of the other ten objects because you can gender them. I believe that once again the glass is representations of a person and the objects the circumstances that have affected them. In the context of a relationship, I believe that these objects are gifts that were given to the female (or feminine) partner in the relationship. The have been changed by the heteronormative stereotypes associated with the objects.

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Head West, Turn Right , Turn Right, Turn Left, Turn Right Continue, Turn Left, Continue, Turn Right, Turn Left | PHOTO by joségarcía

Third-Person Narrator and First-Person Narrator, the pieces feature shallow marble counters that have recession in them that house one set of contacts and then a set that are differing and probably not part of a set. One of the contacts is to meant to make the wearers eyes appear green. The docent mentioned that because the artist is mexican she would not have green eyes they would most likely be brown. I thought this was very interesting and is probably another way that the partner in the relationship was trying to manipulate the other.

So, “What is the fire?”, I am not sure. I think that the fire, which is the first piece of the exhibition, is maybe the fire of passion that is so prominent at the beginning of a relationship. However, examining some of the pieces I believe that the fire could also be “something” that has driven the two lovers apart. There are other works that take the narrative in different directions but I believe that this is the core of the group of pieces.

This is a video of the artist talking about her pieces. It features the pieces I talk about here as well as some I didn’t write about.

Smoke, Nearby is an exhibition by Tania Pérez Códova at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago that runs until Aug 20th.


Project Suspend aims to challenge artists to suspend their social filters, and then from a position of disorientation, to create. In other words, the project seeks and will try to encourage artists to create works in areas they are uninformed and unfamiliar with (ex. a straight person writing a poem about being gay, a person in a position of power depicting oppressed, a man singing about what it means to be woman).

We are not interested in works that are researched and informed by consulting others. Instead, we would like new imaginings of the subjects, focus of the works. Unlike many other spaces, this is a non-PC space, but we do ask that all works accompany an explanation. Deep self-reflection and analysis of one’s own work are required. If that condition doesn’t seem to be met, we will not accept a piece that could be considered to be offensive.