Apparitions of Imperial Pestilence
Historically thought to herald death and destruction, eclipses have long been emblems of terror in our collective consciousness – as they gradually plunge the earth into darkness. One of the first written accounts of solar eclipses can be dated back to 3340 BC: glyphs etched into stone monoliths in Gaelic Ireland. In Ancient China, accounts declared ominously, that ‘the sun had been eaten’. In Ancient Babylon, eclipses were thought to bring bad omens to kings and rulers. To avoid a perilous outcome for the kingdom, the king would abdicate and a condemned criminal would take his place – within a hundred days of the eclipse, this false king would be assassinated, thus fulfilling the dark cosmic prophecy brought by the eclipse, at which point the original king would take his place once more. It is fitting then, that for his exhibition The Umbral Empire: Prologue artist Diego Ramirez uses the motif of an eclipse to question contemporary structures of power; plunging dominant Western modes of thinking and colonial master narratives into a shadowy and uncertain territory.
Descent into darkness.
Leaving the foot of the stairs, to enter the black box at MARS Gallery has always felt a little sinister, but this nagging feeling is amplified a thousandfold as Ramirez reimagines the gallery space as a portal into a gothic netherworld. Known for exposing problematic colonial attitudes and gross cultural inaccuracies, Ramirez co-opts the aesthetics of horror and the grotesque as a mechanism through which to unpack cultural stereotypes. The universe of The Umbral Empire: Prologue is further expanded with an offsite mural nearby that reads:Colonialism is a Prolonged Eclipse,a more direct articulation of his research into the ramifications of Western depictions of the Other that have dominated for centuries.
You can read the full essay here.