Artists practice otherworldly rituals

Tennille Wright
Staff Writer

When you walk into Nichols Gallery, your eyes are immediately drawn to a black and white virtual image projected carefully high on the wall with a waterfall streaming down from the eyes of the man in the photo.

The striking image on display is part of the current exhibition, “Synthetic Ritual,” at the Nichols Gallery in the Broad Center at Pitzer College.

“The Synthetic Ritual exhibition examines the rituals and superstitions in our daily lives,” said Ciara Ennis, director and curator of Pitzer Art Galleries at Pitzer College.

The untitled, weeping video presented, by Marcos Rios, an artist from New York, is created on a continuous video loop so it appears like the man is overwhelmed with tears as the water falls constantly from his eyes.

Ennis interprets the piece as an icon or religious statue, similar to the statues that express blood, sweat, tears and supernatural powers.

The exhibition presented Los Angeles contemporary artists, as well as international artists, hand-selected by both curators, Ennis and Gabbi Scardi.

Ennis and Scardi, an Italian curator, met in Italy while Ennis was residing in Milan. The two had similar tastes in art and decided to collaborate on the current exhibition.

The compelling and multilayered art they created balances serious issues with humor.

In Marcus Coates’ “Journey to the Lower World,” the artist dresses in deerskin and performs a spirited ritual while Mounira Al Solh’s “The Sea is a Stereo, Let’s Not Swim Then!” video shows men in Beirut who without fail take a swim in the sea every day.

“Synthetic Ritual’s” artists enact performances, create textiles, assume varying societal roles and adopt a particular state of mind to convey their individual style. Assorted rituals are mimicked through the artists’ synthetic representations.

“It’s the artists’ way of responding to superstitious behaviors of certain beliefs,” said Cheukwa Jones, interim curatorial assistant of Pitzer Art Galleries.

The art expresses various behaviors from different cultures and how they manifest in particular categories.

“The only acceptable categories of rituals and superstitions are in sports, religion and artist practice,” Ennis said.

The diversity of the art allows viewers to have different perceptions of different cultures and beliefs, having approached each piece with an open mind. Ennis believes it depicts what we believe and how we want to believe.

“It is really important that they have a very impactful visual experience,” Ennis said.

Tennille Wright can be reached at

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