Anaïs Horn & Pedro Zylbersztajn at Galería RGR / Mexico City

Anaïs Horn & Pedro Zylbersztajn
The Afterwake
curated by Gabriela Rangel

July 27 - September 7, 2023

Galería RGR
Gral. Antonio León 48 
Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec 
Mexico City, Mexico

Press Release:

Galería RGR is pleased to present the exhibition The Afterwake, which brings
together the work of Anaïs Horn (Graz, Austria) and Pedro Zylbersztajn (São
Paulo, Brazil - 1993) under the curatorship of Gabriela Rangel (Caracas,
Venezuela, 1963).

Inspired by the homonymous poem by Adrienne Rich, The Afterwake invites
the viewer to enter an evocative experience on time as a transition and an
unfathomable interval through the analogy of the waves left by a ship in the

The multi-layered installation Longing Ghosts in Deep Blue Paranoia by Anaïs
Horn presents a fictional scene of Empress Charlotte of Belgium, who was
confined for almost 50 years in Belgium after the execution of her husband,
Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg in 1867. Recalling the daguerreotype
technique –whose peak coincides with the Habsburg dynasty decline—Horn
situated Charlotte’s delirium at their Italian home.

The tragic fate of the delusional empress is represented through a series of
blurry images printed on mirrors, a single-channel video projection of ghostly
images, and drawings. These elements are juxtaposed in a dense atmosphere
accompanied by a hypnotic fragrance created by Pauline Rochas, a sound
atmosphere by Eilert Asmervik, and texts composed by Estelle Hoy.

Pedro Zylbersztajn presents four conceptual works starting with Écfrase
de um filme (pausado), a complex exercise of narration in which a room is
described in detail as it appears in a film. The story is characterized by an
intricate and abstract structure that takes the shape of wall writing. A video
projection Three Digestions explores the notions of consumption and colonial
extraction as they relate to our practices – and infrastructures – of knowledge
and culture. Sentimental Journey presents an exploration of feedback
and delay through a synchronized action of four delegated performers. By
contrast, Servimos bien para servir siempre frames the social fabric of the
opening of the show as the performance itself.

As part of the exhibition, on Saturday, July 29 at 12:00, a conversation will be
held with the participation of the artists Anaïs Horn and Pedro Zylbersztajn,
as well as the curator Gabriela Rangel, to delve into the process that led to the
realization of this project.

Curatorial text:

The title of this exhibition, curated by Gabriela Rangel, presents a project by Anaïs Horn
(Graz, Austria; based in Paris, France) and recent works by Pedro Zylbersztajn (São Paulo,
Brazil - 1993); it alludes to the idea of time as a movement similar to the furrows that a boat
produces when navigating a river, leaving the trace of its movement imprinted on the water
with reverberating undulations until it dissolves. The title pays tribute to a feminist homonym
poem by Adrienne Rich, where she narrates the care a woman dedicates to a patient from
day to night, portraying her journey to assume the autonomy of her feminine identity as a
series of waits, sacrifices, and losses.

Horn and Zylbersztajn poetically elaborate a sort of necropsy of the visual apparatus of
modernity through the presence of phantasmatic figures, a Nietzschean Dracula, which
animates objects and impregnates spaces with items emptied of content and, therefore, of
meaning, listening to time in an endless wait. The registration of this elusive temporality
also manifests in the conceptual exercise of cinematic ekphrasis or the anonymous archive
of the cocktail party at the exhibition’s opening, captured on napkins. Although distinct,
the works of Horn and Zylbersztajn converge in showing the experience of photography or
cinema emptied of meaning and provided with other functions and uses in a time dominated
by affective entertainment techniques.

Longing Ghosts in Deep Blue Paranoia (2022) by Anaïs Horn is an installation composed of
mirrored images of the interior of the Miramare castle with rare period frames loaded with
the past, drawings, and a video projection of the palace on curtains that the wind from a fan
moves to abstractly recompose the scene of the delirium of Empress Charlotte of Belgium,
wife of Maximilian of Habsburg. After Maximilian’s execution in Mexico in 1867, Charlotte
moved around Europe until her confinement of almost 50 years in a castle in Belgium, where
she wrote several hundred letters to an officer and died in 1927, accompanied only by her
caregivers. Horn, however, has chosen to place the site of the widowed ex-empress’s
delirium in the Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy, where she and her husband began their
marital cohabitation before departing for Mexico. The photographic images, which show
views of Miramare’s objects and architectural elements printed on mirrors, take the form
of the daguerreotype, a photographic imaging technique at its height in the 19th century
when the declining hegemony of the Habsburgs sought to reach America. These blurred
images also seem to imply the disappearing photo-mechanical gaze, whose trace today is
materialized in the camera phone, producing a narcissistic chain of individual delusions of
grandeur: everyone wants to be a queen 1. Likewise, Horn has recorded small interventions in
hidden spots in Miramare using a system of surveillance cameras. To complement all these
elements, a penetrating and hypnotic fragrance developed by the specialist Pauline Rochas
in collaboration with the artist, spreads in the exhibition room together with a soundscape
by Eilert Asmervik featuring a text by Estelle Hoy.

It has been argued that Horn’s project underpins a contemporary version of kitsch as a
system of affective consumption constructed by the viewer’s devotion to this type of
sensibility born in the 19th century. The ghostly images, sounds, and scent created by
Horn depict the delirium of the dethroned empress and how many of the inventions of
industrial capitalism, particularly photography, and cinema, are in the process of change
or rapid extinction in the face of the emergence of a dematerialization logic. Moreover,
his approach to photography critically examines the notion of the medium as a historical
archive that is impossible to disassociate from the imperialist project.

Two recent works by Pedro Zylbersztajn chosen for this exhibition, the performance
Sentimental Journey (2019) and the wall-mounted text Écfrase de um filme (pausado)
(2020), elaborate different models of complex narratives constructed for a viewer who lacks
any attention or whose form of attention is short and fragmentary. The piece Sentimental
Journey consists of a performance executed by four “delegated performers” who place
themselves in geographical points near the RGR gallery to whistle passages of the same
melody synchronized and transmitted openly from their cell phones. The four performers
will gather at a point in the gallery so that the melody will be one, despite the different
intonations and temporalities. Écfrase de um filme (pausado), on the other hand, describes
in detail the architecture of a room as it appears in a film. The assembling of the story
transforms the writing into an abstract work as complex as telling a movie to someone who
has not seen it.

Two other works have been specially conceived and produced for the show: Three
Digestions (three-channel video), and We Serve Well to Serve Always (performance and
framed napkins); both invert the gallery administrators’ space and enhance the public’s
active role. The first, Three Digestions, consists of a three-channel video placed in the
upper window that links the architectural axes of the exhibition hall with the panoramic
window in the private office that functions as a panopticon by placing the projection at
the point of view from where one observes to become observed, inverting the passive
and inert gaze of the one who “consumes” to show the entrails of the latter’s activity
obliquely. The video proposes to divert the gaze from the bottom to the top with three
images edited in different loops of a walk of the Central Library of Zurich, an endoscopy,
and views of the storage of the ethnographic collection of the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.
This work, presented as distinct phases of the digestive process, inevitably refers to
the anti-colonial drive of the anthropophagic program of Brazilian modernism (to eat the
enemy productively). However, it also shows how the discursive economy and colonial
memory link like the vertebrae of a powerful column located inside a devouring machinery
that becomes sick.

We serve well to serve always is the motto used in Brazil in ready-to-eat food establishments.
Zylbersztajn ironically appropriates this slogan to show the socioeconomic architecture of
art as reflected in the stains on disposable napkins used at the exhibition’s opening cocktail
party. Some guest-used napkins will be kept and framed as art objects instead of being
thrown away. In a Duchampian gesture, the artist reinterprets the docile Brazilian motto to
bring it into the social sphere of contemporary art consumption.

Gabriela Rangel

Gabriela Rangel is an independent curator, writer based in Brooklyn, New York. From 2019 to 2021 she was artistic director of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). Prior to that she was visual arts director and chief curator at Americas Society from 2004 to 2019. She holds an MA in curatorial studies from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, an MA in media and communications studies from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Caracas, and film studies from the International Film School at San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. She has worked at the Fundación Cinemateca Nacional and the Museo Alejandro Otero in Caracas, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Rangel have curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions on modern and contemporary art as well as monographic shows of Elsa Gramcko, Erick Meyenberg, Sylvia Gruner, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Marta Minujín, Gordon Matta-Clark, Gego, Arturo Herrera, José Leonilson, and Xul Solar. She has written for Hyperallergic, Letras Libres, Revista Ñ, Art in America, Parkett, The Brooklyn Rail, and Art Nexus, edited numerous books, and contributed texts to such publications as Emily Mae Smith (Petzeld Gallery, New York); Pedro Reyes: Sociatry (Museum Marta Hertford, Hertford, Germany, 2022); Rosangela Renno (Pinacoteca de SP, 2021); Erick Meyenberg: D Major Isn’t Blue (Museo Amparo, 2020); Lydia Cabrera: Between the Sum and the Parts (Americas Society/Koenig Books, London, 2019); Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela 1955–1975 (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2018); Marta Minujín, Minocodes (Americas Society, 2016); and A Principality of Its Own (Americas Society/Harvard University Press, 2006). She is currently working on her book Strategies of Self Sabotage: Art and Politics in Venezuela 1959-1973.

With a literature and design education, Anaïs Horn graduated from Friedl Kubelka School for Fine Art Photography, Vienna, in 2015. Horn’s practice creates intimate, often site-specific settings in which highly personal narratives —may they be autobiographical, explore female coming-of-age and rites of passage or reflect on the biographies of historical (female) figures— evolve into general reflections on contemporary life and how memories and (her)story/stories reverberate in objects and spaces.

Her work intertwines photography, moving images and sound, text, drawing and painting with the aim of being poetic and precise at the same time. Her images take shape by exploring surfaces and objects, and they frequently unfold into spatial installations and artist‘s books. Next to personal narratives she is introducing elements of illusion and mystery, trying to situate her work in a space of the in-between.

Currently lives and works in Paris, France.

From the interactions between drawing, writing, editing, publishing, performing, collecting and sounding, the artistic practice of Pedro Zylbersztajn investigates the circular relationship between image, language, protocols of everydayness, technology, and authority. His research employs strategies of reading with the intention of defamiliarizing the way in which commonplace devices are used to build and enforce specific (and sometimes violent) relations between the different realities that surround us. With that, he seeks to create altered relational spaces, which are more reliant on ambiguity and negotiation.

More recently, his artistic practice seeks to expand toward collective environments in which the sense of shared responsibilities overrides authorial intentions. Currently, is co-editor -in collaboration with the Index Literacy Programme- of a publication titled Indexing Imaginaries (DATA Browser/Open Humanities Press, 2022), which explores the concept of indexing as a form of power. He is involved in the micro-histórias initiative at Casa do Povo (SP), which focuses on researching institutional history and he is the coordinator of a multidisciplinary research group called Disposições Infraestruturais, which delves into issues related to art, architecture, and planetarity.

Currently lives and works in São Paulo, Brazil.