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Steffanie Ling
Fabiola Carranza at Malaspina Printmakers
October 05, 2016

When I was a preteen trying to grasp how romance worked, I used to watch ElimiDate, a dating/reality/game show where a group of young twenty-somethings go on group dates and eliminate members of the opposite sex until at the end of the show, the “judge” and the “winner” would go on a two-person date. In one episode, there was a particular contestant, a confident Asian woman, who referred to other women exclusively as “mosquitos.” Up until that point, I did not consider the gender of insects and assumed they were all male since young boys were so fascinated by them. I hadn’t really thought about it again until Aedes Hallucinates in the Jungle.

Fabiola Carranza, Aedes Hallucinates in the Jungle

At Malaspina Printmakers, Fabiola Carranza has produced an unexpected series of vernacular black and white civic signage that reproduces passages taken from a Mexican romance comic book titled Lágrimas, Risas y Amor. The signs in Spanish read !Dame cinco pesos o te doy untiro! (Give me five pesos or I shoot you!) and Tragando grueso, con suplicante mirada, rogó el auxilio femenino (Swallowing thickly, with a supplicant glare, pleading for feminine aid). Another sign is the title of the exhibition, which is taken from a French novel (Chris Marker’s Le Coeur net). The smell of citronella permeates the small gallery space. It is emitted from a mural made up of small round citronella patches with smiley faces printed on them. Each brightly coloured dot smiles back. A repellant that feigns friendliness? Or a cheerful talisman that protects its wearer? Either way, the smile feels a bit insincere.

The exhibition requires you to know a few things and, like a circuit of tripped dominos, an intricate system of meaning eventually reveals itself. Aedes is the genus of female mosquitos that transmits yellow fever, dengue, and Zika virus. There was an outbreak of the virus in South America. The Zika virus mostly affects pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. In many parts of South America, abortion is illegal. Citronella is a mosquito repellant but having too much on will increase your heart rate.

Carranza’s chosen passages are suggestive of duress: someone is held at gunpoint, in need of “feminine aid,” or in a state of delirium in a tropical forest. And though the facts are all there, the artist will still make you work for the meaning of all this – first by challenging legibility with the use of a foreign language, then by offering up seemingly banal signage, and then by reading esoteric references through the lens of current events, gender politics of ecology, and public health as metaphors for covert assaults on the feminine body.

Malaspina Printmakers:
Fabiola Carranza: Aedes Hallucinates in the Jungle continues until October 9.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.



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