Vampires of The Earth is an exhibition inspired by the social mediatisation of petrolium company Pemex’s fire in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021. “The day that underwater gas pipe burst, I received a hilariously performative message checking in on me,” says Ramírez, “a drop of oil came to mind, like a little tear...falling to hell.” The artist made most of the works by sampling phrases from social media, imitating how a vampire feeds and multiplies. He imposed this language on photographs and materials to create new meanings. Then he framed them using SFX materials, to create the illusion that he dipped generic thoughts and feelings in crude oil. Ramírez made every work in pairs, on the basis that this is a message between two entities, set against the backdrop of a media disaster. Other pieces include large scale black mirrors with neon, which mimic the vampire’s cycle of awakeness and slumber, by requiring electricity same as this creature necessitates blood. While also alluding to the vampire’s inability to gaze at its own reflection, suggesting that the exploitation of fossil fuels is mirror of our image.
Ramírez trades in an aesthetic of artificiality and generic emotionality, to comment on how artificial and draining these exchanges can become. This is largely a response to how ‘care’ and ‘community’ have emerged as key concepts in contemporary art, only to become another commodity. Set in a moment of crisis and using predictable gentrified language, the works compare the toxicity of crude oil with a drop of blood that allures the vampire and a tear that afflicts the entitled. While seeking to make invisible meanings visible, in the same way that fire makes gas in a broken pipe seeable. Indeed, from the voracity of extractive capitalism, to the performance of feelings on social media, Vampires of The Earth is about the dead, who carry on living.
Ramirez has deep interest in the ‘undead’ and it is a recurrent concept in his writing, such as Unnatural Hunger: the copy, the vampire and postcolonial anxieties (2019) and The Monstrous Kiss and Its Perversions (2020). The starting point for this body of work was the idea that Bela Lugosi’s character in the film of Dracula (1931) is a Gothic version of the Latin Lover—dominated in that era by the Mexican actor Ramon Novarro (Ramirez previously referenced this actor in his video Postcard eXotica, where he displaced him in a haunted set). This correlation is a natural effort to imbue Dracula with seductive qualities and is best appreciated in the act of kissing that became iconic for both Dracula and the Latin Lover. Both actors are also foreigners and while the otherness of Novarro envelops him in romance, it charges Dracula with darkness.
In large scale sculpture Eternal Arrival (2019), Ramirez approached the coffin—one of the most ubiquitous clichés associated with this creature—as a form of media that mediates the vampire’s aberrant existence. Neither dead or alive, the undead is an immigrant or settler who crosses the sacrosanct border of life (a threshold patrolled by the holiest powers of Heaven in Western thought) to claim the world of the living.
Once More, With Diversity Feeling is a (poorly performed) ‘audition’ for a Mexican vampire in the upcoming Buffy The Vampire Slayer reboot, which was mediatised as emphasising diversity. This collection of sinister melodies vampirises the Y2K-teenage-apocalypse style of the Buffyverse to conjure post-colonial dynamics, Gothic pathos and Catholic iconography.
This work parodies the craze for ‘inclusivity’ of 2018, when every form of media became about showing people from many different places. The TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer was casting for a reboot at the time, and a big part of their marketing ploy was their commitment to hiring a diverse cast. The artist made fun of this by setting up a fake audition, sitting on a coffin, where he sang a set of (out of key) songs with weirdly political, and overtly emotional lyrics. The intention is to present an incredibly uncomfortable performance to a conscientious audience, who wants to laugh at the artist but is not sure if that’s an appropriate reaction.