Óptica is the third and final component of a project based on Mexico City’s 1968 Salto del Agua metro station, whose status as a modernist logo of social reform was contradicted by contemporaneous civil unrest. Whereas Vidokle’s previous two works transform the building’s façade alternately into an evolving urban portrait and a ready-made billboard, Óptica turns the camera’s gaze inside out.
The first film in the project, Salto del Agua, is a close-up on windows that mirror the chaotic city below. Nuevo, the second work, documents Vidokle’s systematic transformation of the façade from drab grey to bright red, converting its surface into a constructivist composition.
In Óptica, named after the sunglass store across the street, Vidokle recreates the building’s modular surface with a massive grid of sixty television screens. Tightly nestled into scaffolding, each monitor broadcasts footage filmed from the specific window it represents; seven blank screens symbolize inaccessible offices. Fusing interior sounds and objects (typing, tables, blinds) with exterior ones (police sirens, taxis, passersby), Vidokle’s TV grid converts the viewer into voyeur and the street into a site of symphonic discord.
Recalling the narrative fragmentation of expanded cinema, each of Óptica’s videos presents a different portal onto the same block, dislocated from one another in time, if not in space. Refracted through an iconic building, this simulacrum of the city juxtaposes historical utopian intent with contemporary dystopia. Óptica evokes the information and surveillance overload characteristic of our age. It spotlights a place where nothing really happens, yet only architectural infrastructure remains unchanged.
Graduate Curatorial Intern