Telenovela exhibitions examine race, immigration
Spanish language soap operas — known as telenovelas — are an entertainment staple in most Hispanic households. They are notorious for their hyper-dramatic acting and plotlines that have endless twists and turns. At the Blaffer Art Museum, two artists have put these under the microscope and given them a new life.
Titled “Tears and Politics,” the exhibit features the work of Phil Collins and Christian Jankowski. Both artists use the telenovela to examine complex issues like the meaning of community, race, class and immigration.
Collins’ work “Soy mi madre” (“I am my mother”) zooms in on the life of immigrant domestic workers from northern Mexico in Colorado. The 28-minute short film transports viewers to a world of intense passion, despair and injustice. Viewers will also be able to grasp the tremendous emotional and physical gap that exists between the “haves” and “have nots.” Another topic that Collins touches on is denial. It shows how denial can destroy from the inside out.
The film features some of Mexico’s most popular television actors, like Patricia Reyes Spindola, Zaide Silvia Guitérrez and Salvador Parra. Their authentic portrayal of their convoluted characters shows their expertise.
Jankowski’s work, “In Crying for the March of Humanity,” puts a twist on an episode of the telenovela “La Que no pudo amar” (“The one who could not love”). Actors were instructed to perform without speaking. Emotions are transmitted through their physical performances. Although dialogue is absent, viewers will still be able to have a grasp of what is going on regardless of what language they are fluent in. This shows how easily a work can be transformed into something totally different but also remain the same.
The cast of the film is the same as that of the novela. This is reflected in their performance and confidence. Televisa — one of the biggest soap opera production companies in Latin America — produced “La Que no pudo amar” and also helped produce Jankowskis 26 minute short film.
“Tears and Politics” will be at Blaffer until March 15. All exhibits and events are free. For more information visit blafferartmuseum.org.