On ViewLocust Projects
September 1–November 5, 2022
New York-based artist Zac Hacmon presents Mia (“mine” in Spanish), an immersive, interactive installation consisting of sculpture, video, and sound at Locust Projects in Miami. Hacmon has transformed the Project Room into an enigmatic space that is as baffling as it is stunning by examining social justice issues and the importance of restoring the asylum seeker's security and self-sufficiency.
In Mia, Hacmon debuts a newly developed artistic language towards Constructivism and incorporates the principles of contemporary security culture. This exhibition is the result of two years of research and a one-year, socially engaged project in collaboration with Alexa, a transgender woman asylum seeker from Nicaragua who fled to the United States due to political reasons in 2018. Through an imposing and poetic sound installation, Hacmon narrates Alexa’s personal experience that makes visible Nicaragua’s current socio-political situation.
Within the installation, Hacmon built a massive sculpture by lowering the ceiling and covering the walls with four-by-four-foot panels of blue privacy screen fencing, which evokes a sense of entrapment in the exquisiteness of industrial materials and the darkness of the gallery room. Embraced by the deep blue space, we walk into an artwork that not only challenges our senses but offers protection as a metaphor for the asylum seeker's experience, one who is always alert to an environment teetering between fear and safety. The artist meticulously measured each corner of the gallery space during his three-month, summer 2022 residency at Bemis Center in Omaha to analyze its scale in relation to the viewer’s experience. His studio thus became the Locust's Project Room, where he experimented with the functionality of the simulated gallery to foresee the viewer's interaction with the works. Through just four interactive sculptures, Hacmon manages to dominate the space by manipulating the viewer's sound, light, and circulation while walking among the works.
The sculptures Mia (2022) and Chinandega (2022) narrate Alexa’s experience as an asylum seeker—her vulnerability, invisibility, strength, suffering, hope, and her longing for her homeland and family. Claribel Alegría’s poem “Autumn” (1981) and the sound of the sea vibrate simultaneously in Mia. Alegría was another revolutionary woman whose personal experience was impacted by political persecution. She was nine months old when her father was exiled for protesting against human rights violations during the United States occupation of Nicaragua; subsequently, she grew up in El Salvador. This sound sculpture allows us to reflect on the impossibility of Alexa seeing her daughters since 2018 and the nostalgic remembrances that motivate her current life battle.
When approaching Chinandega, we can hear Alexa melodiously reciting the poem “Nicaragua” (1888) by Rubén Darío, the father of the modernismo literary movement in Latin America. He introduced modernist principles such as the musicality and rhythm of his verses and a revolutionary social commitment. Darío’s poem makes reference to the motherland by stating, “Mother, you who could give from your tiny womb… So many blue lakes, so much of a golden rose.” This resourceful land described by the poet has been denied to Alexa, but she appropriates Darío’s poem and dedicates it to her deceased mother, providing nostalgia and beauty to what is no longer there. Written in the late nineteenth century, the poem is reinterpreted in today’s Nicaragua under its twenty-first-century dictatorship.
While the sculptures vibrate with the sound emanating from their air ducts, the only light source in the show is a sculptural object emerging from one of the walls. The light object becomes a connector of multiple sensations happening in the space: claustrophobia, peace, delight, and protection. The sculptures are built with materials that make reference to Hacmon's personal experience working as a security guard. Each sculpture is meant to be a one-person living unit. The “T” form of Unit 6 (2022) invites the viewer to enter and discover in its interior the resemblance to a security booth with a security camera on the upper corner. On the opposite side, a screen shows Alexa wearing a traditional white and blue dress––prohibited colors in Nicaragua. As a further protest against the Nicaraguan government, Alexa appears dancing to “La Cumbia Chinandegana” by Jorge Paladino, composed in 1975 to glorify Chinandega City's richness and beauty.
This exhibition is a reminder that the asylum seeker’s presence in a foreign country represents the hope to survive. Hacmon’s collaboration with Alexa is influenced by the artist’s family history as Libyan-Jewish refugees and his personal experience as an immigrant in the United States. The biculturality of both collaborators is reflected in the aesthetic of the show’s pulsating necessity to reaffirm their identity.
Mia provides a highly intimate experience. With poems and the rhythm of a cumbia Alexa makes a powerful statement of love and passion for life despite adversities, and Hacmon ensures we perceive it through a dynamic fictional ambiance at the Locust Projects space in Miami.