by Lucia Anaya (MA 2014)
Juggernaut, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle’s (MFA 1989) 2008 video installation, opens with the camera panning a landscape of endless sky and snow. Moments later, the serenity of the shot is interrupted when massive truck wheels roll through the open space. Their abrupt appearance forces viewers to realize the snow is not actually snow, but salt mounds in the Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. The UNESCO site is known for being the mating ground of the endangered grey whale as well as home to Mitsubishi’s salt mining industry.
Manglano-Ovalle’s November 10 lecture at the SAIC Columbus Auditorium was part of the SAIC Visiting Artists Program’s Distinguished Alumni Series. He explained the meaning behind Juggernaut and his overall practice. "I wanted to point the camera away from nature, away from the preserve, back to culture, back to something man made,” he said.
The artist is known for his conceptual works. Operating across media, his activist-inspired public art and studio-based practice challenge notions of the political and the cultural and grapple with subjects like climate, military technology, immigration, and violence. "Iñigo’s work is formally stunning and deeply powerful in its content,” said Dean of Faculty Lisa Wainwright in her introduction. "His is a beautiful mind creating exquisite and evocative things.”
In 2007, another of Manglano-Ovalle’s installations, Phantom Truck, was featured in Documenta (12). The piece was inspired by former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech to the UN Security Council, where he used a PowerPoint presentation to rationalize a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. "Back when I was listening to the speech, I thought of two things,” Manglano-Ovalle explains. "One: Colin Powell’s speech was really a Trojan horse, and two: that I had to build that truck that didn’t exist.” Powell argued that the Iraqi government was using trucks as mobile laboratories to build weapons of mass destruction. Manglano-Ovalle’s installation brought viewers into a dark room. After their eyes adjusted, they would see the truck in the room. "The idea was to fabricate the fabrication,” he said. "To take Colin Powell’s image and fabricate it in real scale and then hide it in Documenta.”
Phantom Truck is one of many of Manglano-Ovalle’s achievements as an artist. He has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and a United States Artists Guthman Fellowship. His current work regards the inversion of utopia, the fabrication of war, and the hypersonic re-entry of modernism. "Lately, I have thought that my practice is a practice that is defined as art and that is discussed within the discourse of art, which is a discourse I love; but maybe I don’t care if it’s art anymore,” he said at the end of his lecture. "Maybe it’s a thing I want to do.”