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Multimedia Artist Dinorah de Jesús Rodriguez Explores the Poetics of Cafes with Ruins

Dinorah de Jesús Rodriguez is a multimedia artist working with expanded cinema, ​experimental film, video art, installation, and public intervention. Last year, she created a site-specific film installation projected onto foliage of Miami-Dade Parks in "Elusive Landscape." Recently, she completed a Kickstarter campaign to fund her new project, Ruins: Haunting Cafes Around the World.

In anticipation of the premiere of Ruins at the Miami Beach Cinematheque cafe during Art Basel week, Rodriguez spoke to us about her new work.

New Times: Your work is both film and art, frequently

without narrative. Why do you choose to work in this format and what is

your goal as an artist?

Dinorah de Jesús Rodriguez: My goal as an artist is to affect the

electromagnetic energy of my audience through subliminal manipulation

of the subconscious. I achieve this in large part by co-opting the same

strategies and cinematic devices used by mass media and advertising,

such as the formulaic use of light and sound cues, and the time-tested

technique of embedding hidden messages in single film frames. I believe

there is tremendous power in what is not consciously seen, and I harness

that power through the hidden mechanisms in moving images.

Tell us a little bit more about moving images.

When you look at a series of still images in a flip book, you see the illusion of movement. That's also the way movement works in film--and I make a very important distinction here between film and video. 

The human mind fills in the illusion of movement, even though it never actually sees movement. Film is all about the illusions that are created by mechanical acts, and the way in which these illusions manipulate human reactions.

For me, the moving image functions like moving visual art. The visual energy of the work is far more important to me than telling a story. In that sense, I am perhaps more of a visual artist than a filmmaker, particularly if one thinks of film in the conventional way. 

Many other artists who work in experimental film and/or expanded cinema refer to themselves more as filmmakers, but one has to make a distinction between a filmmaker and storyteller. You have to look at the whole history of experimental, non-narrative film art and see how this discipline fits into the larger artistic landscape.

How does this concept factor into Ruins? What does Ruins mean to you and what would you like your audience to take from it?

Ruins was conceived as I was experiencing a very difficult and trying personal transition, coming out of a long and established relationship, and moving from raising my children to being on my own again. It also addresses issues of aging and the difficulty that many people have with moving out of their comfort zones even when the emotional edifice of that zone has all but collapsed. Ruins represents the phantom that inhabits emotional situations in which nothing ever changes.

My goal with this project is to present Ruins in cafes around the world--for this reason the film is silent--so that language is never an issue with any audience. The idea of presenting it as a public intervention means that it is something that people will just stumble into in the space, just a part of the experience of having a coffee there.

I have a venue secured in Miami and am currently negotiating two venues in Bangladesh and India where I will be visiting and working during February and March of 2012. In the meantime, other venues are popping in U.S. cities: Oakland, New Haven, Columbus, and of course we will be going to London with it. I am also negotiating other venues in cities like Buenos Aires and Madrid, and very possibly the small town of Mojácar in Andalusia, where the piece was filmed.

Why did you choose to present Ruins in a series of cafes as opposed to an art venue?

Ruins explores the poetics of the cafe as a universal space that is at once public and intimate. Cafes exist in cities all over the world, they are a shared human experience. In a cafe, it's not really about the food but about the conversation that you're having there, it is a place where people are in the moment, where thoughts and communication take center stage. I want to harness that energy of being present, of being predisposed to some sort of intimate/public interaction and expand on it by creating a dialogue among strangers as they collectively experience the "haunting" of the cafe.

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