(photo credit featured image: Zen Cohen)
Beacon Gallery’s exhibition Sonic Biogenesis: Genomics and Mutant Jungles is a solo exhibition by California artist Guillermo Galindo. It’s the perfect time to get to know this multi-talented artist and musician better!
Galindo is originally from Mexico City, where music was his birthright. His mother played piano, and her father sold pianos and organs; Galindo’s grandfather even used to give him parts from the instruments to play with when he was a small child.
Galindo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design from Universidad el Nuevo Mundo in Mexico City, while concurrently studying at Escuela Nacional de Música. He later transferred to Berklee College of Music, graduating with a Bachelor’s in film scoring and composition. He later received a Master’s in 1991 from Mills College, where he studied music composition and electronic music. He now teaches at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. While Galindo could have had a full-time career composing concert music for symphonies and chamber groups, he remains unable to look away from what is happening in the world. He makes his works more personal and treats his artistic practice as a response to what he sees.
Approaching this socially-minded artistic practice with an intensely multi-disciplinary mindset, Guillermo Galindo’s works bring seemingly disparate elements together. Some of his early work, including Border Cantos, a collaborative project with Richard Misrach, included the development and working of found objects from along the Mexican-American border, the most militarized region in North America. Begun with the collection of discarded objects, Galindo’s project included developing these found objects – a weathered comb, used water bottles, metal roofing – into sonic devices. For Galindo, the sounds emerging from these devices reflect something of the object’s histories, as well as its potential futures. Featured in documenta14 in Kassel, Germany and Athens Greece, Galindo’s sonic objects originally belonged to European immigrants and two wrecked boats from the island of Lesvos, Greece. The sonic devices then functioned as relics that speak both to the object’s past as well as to the imagined lives of the people who owned them.
When creating his current series, Sonic Biogenesis, Galindo uses composed and performed music scores, and assembled instruments to explore and investigate the politics of the human condition. Following in the tradition of composers like Sylvano Bussotti, Earl Brown, Cornelius Cardew, and John Cage, Galindo’s scores blur the lines between music and visual art. When speaking of his work, Galindo discusses how a musical score is “a set of symbols written on a piece of paper or any other readable surface, to be translated into sound events reproduced in real-time.” Building on Galindo’s interest in the presentation of data, Galindo’s works in Sonic Biogenesis illustrate the intersection of visual data with symbolic language, codification, and the interpretation of data into alternative media, a space Galindo has referred to as the “time canvas.”
In this way, Galindo’s “genome scores” in Sonic Biogenesis integrate the texture of plants, viruses, and bacteria to explore the ways symbolic language and visual data have historically sustained systems of power. Galindo’s work is then created in response to the violent European conquest of the Americas, where the destroyed and invented worlds of the colonial age produced a new hybrid, even mutated, species of natural life.
Galindo’s scores then work to link this history to contemporary debates around immigration, social justice, spirituality, and sustained racism. Writer Nick Stone describes Galindo’s series as an evocation of “mutant jungles,” which comment on the colonization of the microscopic world by corporations. Just as the Spanish colonized the New World, assigning names to the “new” species they encountered, so, too, do today’s corporate powers use patents to assert their dominance over a world that is hidden from the naked eye. Galindo’s ethno-futurist take on colonization reminds the viewer of historical power structures, a concept as invisible as the microscopic world Galindo works within.