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One channel video.
The title Maria Elena refers to a mining town in the northern part of the Atacama Desert in Chile which was settled in the 1920s due to its high nitrate deposits for the production of saltpetre. In her video, Melanie Smith creates a very intimate portrait of this region in a series of sometimes very concrete and then poetically abstracted images. It is also a reference to the strong influence that the colonial past has had on certain Latin American regions: colonialism as the father of the modern industrial age which in turn paved the way for the increasing damage to the environment in the era of globalisation.
Smith’s work embraces a range of media but informs them in unique ways with a persistent reference to painting; nevertheless, she does not describe herself as a painter. In her work there is a continuous play between farce (implying absurdity, mockery or travesty) and artifice (meaning both artificiality and deception, and, ultimately, the ‘artifice of reason’), and she applies these concepts to contemporary society and what has been termed ‘baroque modernity’. She has described her body of work as a ‘giant palimpsest’ that presents itself on a variety of media that range from video and photography to painting and installation.