Rebeca Méndez


The code of Migration

Bird of the Sun
CircumSolar, Migration 3 by Rebeca Méndez is a contemplation on migratory sea birds filmed during their breeding season at Látrabjarg, the western most point of Iceland, which is the largest bird cliff in all Europe—14 km long and up to 440 m high—hosting up to 40% of the world population of some species. At any moment, be it day or night, there are great bird migrations taking flight. Ornithologists estimate that more than 5 billion birds annually journey across the hemisphere. Even greater than the complex weather systems, bird migration is the one unifying natural phenomenon in the world.

As an immigrant herself, Méndez is interested in issues of migration, of both animals and humans, and just like birds scientists, farm workers, presidents, and artists journey back and forth dozens of times in the course of their lives, establishing migratory patterns. Current immigration crises around the world question the current geopolitics concerning territorial boundaries.

Formally, the video image is experienced vertically, defamiliarizing the seascape, so that the boundary dividing sea and sky becomes unstable and blurred. The spatial shift, together with a low video frame rate furthers this abstraction so we may understand the migratory impetus as code; a genetic code for evolutionary preservation. With this work, Méndez reflects on how we as human species no longer have an understanding of our place within the greater scheme of life. 

Rebeca Méndez was born in Mexico City and is currently a professor in the department of Design | Media Arts at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is the recipient of the 2012 National Design Award, bestowed by the White House and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Méndez’s art practice is in various media—photography, 16mm film, video, and installation—with which she explores the nature of perception and media representation, specifically how cultures express themselves through the style of nature that they produce at a given time and the medium through which they construct this nature. She moves through different scales with ease—from photographic prints, to immersive sound and video installations, to murals of more than 25,000 square feet, to installations involving sixty-foot boulders and tons of lava rock. She considers the journey as a medium in itself and has produced a significant body of work based on travels to unfamiliar and extreme places such as Iceland, Patagonia, Svalbard archipelago in the high arctic, and the Sahara, where she is awakened to a heightened level of perception. Méndez’s work is driven by the concept of élan vital, developed by the French philosopher Henri Bergson, who described it as “the explosive internal force that life carries within itself,” which he claimed animates all being.