The emotional catch of the protest song—the folkloric beat—is scrutinized in Isabella Solar Villaseca’s practice.
“Rhythm Is a Dancer”, the 90s dance hit stated. Rhythm is also the backbone of Isabella Solar Villaseca’s artistic practice. Whether in her films or sculptural pieces, the work is grounded in her Chilean descent and Swedish upbringing in diasporic communities on the outskirts of Stockholm, singing and dancing to evoke the Patria lost to fascism. And rhythm—and its metaphorical cousin, dance—is the recurring catalyst of Villaseca’s new series of artworks, composed for her exhibition at O—Overgaden.
For her exhibition Memory Marketplace, her first major institutional show, Villasecaʼs work comprises a new 26-minute-long film; a large gymnasium-like floor with outlines referring to folk dance steps; a series of statement T-shirts like those worn by music fans; and sculptural elements resembling emblematic architectural features, such as the stadium tribune and the presidential balcony. Together, the works scrutinize the luring, emotional catch of the Chilean protest song and folkloric beat; a type of popular music that tends to summon a certain kind of genuine bodily collectivity and kinship, but which also has a history of being used and manipulated in populist political campaigning and the media’s captivating marketing.
In Villaseca’s grand new film Beware of the Giant, pixelated and low-fi footage, spanning the 1973 Chilean military coup by General Augusto Pinochet to current civilian protests in Chile, radiates from a large commercial LED screen. It is accompanied by a soundtrack of Chilean folksongs and protest anthems from Violeta Parra and Victor Jara to Cueca-dancing and public chants of “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido” (The people, united, will never be defeated).
Colorful and seductive, the film and surrounding installations challenge the knife-edge balance between, on the one hand, spellbinding, propaganda-like “tools” rooted in rhythm—think of any advertisement, TikTok-meme, or dance hit—and the search for sincerity and solidarity in the South American musical landscape. Between these poles, Villaseca’s works unveil deep rifts of social conflict and structural, economic violence that have not ceased to exist despite Chile’s dictatorship being long gone.
Isabella Solar Villaseca (b. 1992, SE) lives and works in Copenhagen. She has a BFA from Bergen Academy of Art and Design (2017) and an MFA from the Royal Danish Art Academy (2021). In 2021 she was the recipient of the Poul Erik Bech Foundation’s art prize. Her exhibition Memory Marketplace is the culmination of Villaseca’s participation in O—Overgaden’s 1-year postgraduate program, INTRO.
The INTRO program is funded by Aage and Johanne Louis-Hansenʼs Foundation. The exhibition has received further support from the Danish Arts Foundation, The Nordic Culture Fund and Hielmstierne-Rosencroneske Foundation.