Edison Peñafiel creates experiences about those on the underside of the world’s major conflicts: the migrant, the laborer, the surveilled. Clashing ideologies and the repetitive cycles of history produce the human catastrophes that his multimedia installations speak to. He draws the eye to odd angles that our world often intersects at — using sculpture, animation, video, and space to create disturbing reflections of the realities we participate in and witness every day. These unnerving views break us out of the desensitized lull that ongoing crisis creates.
Interweaving projection with physical space mirrors the way concepts interact with the real world. Video projection introduces movement, rhythm, and montage to stationary, three dimensional objects. At the same time, these objects provide weight and fixed form. This presentation invites the viewer to merge the tactile with the ephemeral, each informing and complicating the other in dialogue.
Through visual references to German expressionism and the surveillance state, Peñafiel keeps the work inside a long term discussion about the turning gears of modernity and the alienation it continues to produce. This visual approach brims with an anxiety illustrated in crooked lines, all informed by the dismal cruelties of bureaucracy, the policing of human movement, and empty rituals of labor. The hidden peril of these destructive cycles lends urgency to exploring the history of how we got here, how we perceive what’s going on, and the hard truths of those who must face the darkest parts of the present.
That urgency and import is always matched by emotional impact. For Peñafiel, the outcome of his work must bring a visceral change in the viewer, equal parts intriguing and unsettling. These confrontations with injustice through surreal imagery are conjured to produce what we need in the world today: empathy for the oppressed.