If laughter is essentially human, then the question of whether
Jesus laughed assumes rather obvious theological pertinence to
the doctrine of incarnation.
In the threshold between script and Scripture, performance and
(dis)belief, Acts of God 1 explores the relationship—sometimes to comic
effect—between the unexpected and the prophetic. Based on various
episodes recounted by the
Gospels with their own distinct perspectives, two looped projections offer different montages of very similar footage: incomplete and inconclusive sequences, outtakes and shots where mishaps and diversions seem to be the norm. The discrepancies, off-key details, and diverging moments in Christ’s life generate a
non-linear narrative that raises a series of questions:
What if the man who was chosen to redeem humanity had set out to fulfill all the predictions the prophets made about his life without the certainty that he could—or should—accomplish them? How could we outline the future if the relation of cause and effect were to be deferred? And, if he had escaped the outcome dictated by the Old Testament, how would these episodes be reorganized, how would their sequences be arranged and what teachings could we derive from them?
Vargas Lugo has stated that “The point is not to make a biopic about Jesus, but to take certain key scenes and some of the figures that embody symbols and metaphors that we use in our private and public lives, and ask: What would happen if things were not in the right place? … This work is about the need to find another story that will fit the images that are created when the gospels go off script.” In other words, Acts of God 2
makes it possible to imagine the forms these parables could take if the characters involved had resisted or failed to reveal that which, according to the Bible, had been hidden since the creation of the world. And just as the actants and actors in this story have allowed their subjectivity to enter their different scenarios, the landscape has entered the exhibition space, where an ancient stone that discloses what appears to be a scientific formula, lies broken.
Filmed in the biological reserve of Cuatrociénegas, in the Chihuahuan Desert, Acts of God 3—as in the hazards that lay outside human control—juxtaposes geological time with biblical narration and makes nature a protagonist in the story. Stromatolites*, stratified sheets of microorganisms that still thrive in the wetlands of Cuatrociénegas, also find a place in the exhibition as a Microbial Mat that blends layers of pigmented sand into a dazzling and unstable pattern; and the stone blocks brought from the film’s location reveal a ciphered (biblical?) Equation 4,
one that amalgamates disbelief, laughter, fear, treachery, doubt, guilt, and remorse. All, human behaviors codified in religious narratives that still seep into the cultural precepts, social norms, and political and judicial systems that shape our contemporary world.
—Magalí Arriola, Curator
* Dating from over 3,000 million years ago, stromatolites are the most ancient forms of life on Earth. The stromatolites in Cuatrociénegas are hosts to a unique mix of microbial life that has provided evidence of a long history of metabolic processes which gave birth to life as we know it.