The Umbral Empire: Prologue



The goal of this exhibition was to find an idiosyncratic method to look at images and remake them. It considers the idea of an eclipse, to think about the layers of meaning (beliefs, interpretations, worldviews) sitting on top of images. Since the artist is Mexican and often thinks about colonialism, he was mostly interested in how ‘race’ interferes with our encounter with pictures. This is like the moon eclipsing the sun, blocking light and creating darkness. To explore this thought, the artist collects stereotypes from popular culture, such as Ricky Martin (Latinx) and Zac Effron (white), and edits them using photoshop. He makes them look like monsters reasoning that something that’s been in the dark for so long, inevitably becomes distorted. Then he uses mediums that emit light but are blocked by a layer on top, to showcase these experiments with pictures. This imitates the logic of an eclipse, where an object sits on top of another. The light box is a great example of this, for a sheet of perspex sits on top of neon tubes emitting light, to show an image.

From the artist statement:

“The Umbral Empire: Prologue is a project comprised of pictures mounted on light boxes, a moving image stereoscope, and an off-site mural. Its aim is to articulate colonialism as a prolonged eclipse. The logic of this scenario entails irreversible anomalies: bodies that were deprived of light in a cosmic event that stretched out for centuries. This work is concerned with conceptualising the return of these shadowy aberrations. To this effect, the artist appropriates images deemed to contain racial connotations and digitally reconstitutes them. A process that began by sourcing pictures of media personalities from different post-colonial countries and bluntly extracting parts closely associated with their identity – such as eyes and several limbs. The remaining fragments were then reimagined as ghostly creatures and arranged in an eclipse formation where they are always obscuring a source of light (that also causes them to glow). The main aim of this exercise is to defile the original form of the image and bring forth something horrible. The artist describes this method as monstrification, and is careful to explain that it is modelled after the corrupting effects of colonialism and the legacies of its violent acts of domination. The result is a spectral system of racial signs that return from the deep shadow to terrorise the here and now. “

Ramirez acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Land where he lives and works, the Wurundjeri people. He pays his respects to Elders past, present and emerging of the Kulin Nation.