Tattoos of Memory
Sarah Burke from the East Bay Express reviews Victor Cartagena’s installations in this week’s East Bay Express.
Victor Cartagena likens the act of remembering to that of crossing a bridge. In his artist’s talk at the Richmond Art Center, he described how he was forced to leave his home country of El Salvador in 1985 due to civil war, and sought refuge in California. Since being displaced, he has relied on this imagined bridge as recourse to a sense of identity and belonging. But it has been decades since he left his home, and much of what he wishes to return to no longer exists. Such tensions around identity and politics are the subject of the Bay Area artist’s installation Sites/Sights of Intervention, which is now on view at the Richmond Art Center.
The installation consists of various pieces that are meant to be experienced as a visual and spatial dialogue within which the viewer is centered. The gallery is dimly lit, and entering it is like wandering into Cartagena’s memory — a negative space of placelessness. “I heard the other day that memory is such a place that those who have memory leave the present …. and that makes me feel that I am not alone because being part of this group of immigrants, who live all over the world, we don’t belong anywhere,” said Cartagena. “We have our own territory, our own country — the immigrant country.”