Art On The Back Of A Turtle

Beatriz Santiago Muñoz

CHAMPIONING causes makes for a good course of corporate action.

Support a worthwhile endeavour and you’ll get the due acknowledgement and recognition, and your brand will rise along with the goodwill generated.

Having carved for itself a strong and successful niche in the motoring industry and the luxury sector, Rolls-Royce, the brand with the winged lady on the bonnet, has been spreading its ecstatic wings into the area of the arts.

Considering its clientele and how art seems to appeal to a broad cross-section of cultures and people, there are too many similarities to be ignored.

Like art, a Rolls-Royce is unique and could appreciate in value if the right owner (e.g. John Lennon) has his way with it. It’s a grand canvas for expression, which is what many of the owners are doing with their double Rs.

The Dream Commission Shortlist is the flagship of the Rolls-Royce art programme, Muse, which celebrates moving image works by emerging and mid-career artists. It’s not your typical art on a canvas on a wall, but is reflective of a real world in how the medium captures the essence of a moment or a movement.

In this year’s shortlist is Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, a Puerto Rican artist and film maker who works with natural actors and explores her native environment.

Grew Into Art

Born to a couple of lawyers who loathed their work, Beatriz was blessed to be given a free hand to discover her strengths and make decisions regarding her preferred direction in life.

“I wasn’t named till I was 3 years old, and I chose my own religion when I was 7,” she recalls.

With working parents, she was often looked after by grandmothers who had little time to indulge the little girl’s whims and fancies. So, she spent a lot of time as an “art kid, always drawing”.

So, unfettered by society’s expectations, it was off to art school, in the US. Beatriz eventually found her way home with her Master of Fine Arts in Film and Video from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Once back, she set about to “uncover ways of thinking, histories that have been erased, anti-colonialism in the Caribbean, and how politics manifests itself in the senses through objects and places”.

Her real-life images and works have been showcased at home and abroad — the Guggenheim Museum, NYC, Glasgow, Miami.

Turning To Turtles

Her proposal for the Shortlist is to present images of the world on a turtle’s back, in keeping with the myth that the world was being carried on the back of such a reptile.

“My world is about encountering the world; it is not about self-expression but rather about making things with other people,” Beatriz explains.

“There’s nothing inside of me to express. I’m just paying attention to the world.”

The dispassionate artist/observer is thus able to convey the subject’s message without filters. But it might have greater appeal to those with a vested interest in the topic.

While a Rolls-Royce can be found all over the world as an object of desire, Beatriz’s art doesn’t travel as well.

“Sometimes, when art travels well, it refers to universal cultural codes that are often not universal at all.

“The references for my work come out of the Caribbean and the communities I’m part of. That takes some work to understand.”

But in that process of being surprised and discovering more about another place and culture, Beatriz hopes the audience develops a sense of realisation and greater awareness about issues related to the subject matter.

“It results in an encounter that will take a bit more work to find a common language with the source of histories and thinking I’m interested in,” she reckons.

“But I think it’s worth it.”

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