Jennifer Allora ( American, 1974 )
Guillermo Calzadilla ( Cuban, 1972 )
In Under Discussion, a fisherman steers a motorboat fashioned from an upturned table. He navigates a landscape featuring brilliant blue waters and a wildlife refuge, but also warning signs and abandoned military equipment. The location is Vieques, Puerto Rico, which the United States Navy used as a bomb-testing site from 1941 until 2003. After a local resistance movement succeeded in demilitarizing it, negotiations about the island's future, controlled by the U.S. government, appeared deadlocked, which inspired the artists to make this video.
The two perspectives captured by the camera juxtapose an official aerial overview with on-the-ground savvy. While policy decisions are typically made behind closed doors, here Allora and Calzadilla literally flip the discussion table on its head. In doing so, they put those most affected by the outcome in the driver's seat in order to keep the negotiations open. While this solution may seem absurd, the video prompts questions about information and access. Who is brought to the table and how might we envision more effective and democratic ways to enact change? Under Discussion is one powerful example of how moving images have been used to reimagine geopolitical events.
Anna Katherine Brodbeck, ed., TWO X TWO X TWENTY: Two Decades Supporting Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art), 2018, 98.
- PBS Art 21
Watch a video where artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla discuss their 2005 video installation Under Discussion.