Daniel R. Quiles

Marked Gaze: Edin Vélez, 1977-1984
Thursday, October 03, 4:15 p.m.5:30 p.m.
Sullivan Galleries, 7th floor
33 S. State St.
Chicago, IL
United States

Despite being “the first Puerto Rican video artist”—a label he disdained—Edin Vélez is relatively unknown today.
This lecture examines several of his early works in context, in particular Meta-Mayan II, 1981. Shot in the Guatemala
Highlands as the country’s civil war was escalating at the dawn of the Reagan era, Meta-Mayan II is a disturbing
artistic response to a mounting genocide and the indigenous communities in its crosshairs. Vélez eschews fellow
artists Juan Downey and Bill Viola’s idealization of indigenous people and traditions, instead filming his Mayan
subjects confrontationally, without permission—restaging the surveillance they were already under by the state.
Rather than a nationless artist nomad, Vélez marked himself a (colonized) citizen of the country funding and training
Guatemala’s death squads. His next project was Oblique Strategist Too, 1984, a profile of musician Brian Eno.
Landscape is central to both videos; in the former as the contested territory of colonialism past and present, in the
latter as a figure of the artist’s freedom (and privilege). Manifesting as an invasive, unavoidable gaze, Vélez was
himself negotiating these drastically different avenues of representation and critique.