The poetic and slightly disturbing visions in Transmission Gallery's Post-Military Cinema by Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, staged as part of Glasgow International 2014, remain within me now two weeks on. Santiago Muñoz's three screen projection permeates through the upper gallery space presenting a cross-referencing abstracted narrative of the ruins of Roosevelt Roads, a US Naval Base no longer operational on the coastal Puerto Rican town Ceiba. Santiago Muñoz presents carefully crafted shots of lizards scuttling across empty concrete spaces, shots of trees over-running what once would have been a controlled area, and we follow Pedro Ortiz Pedraza who we're told is a teacher and theatre actor, as well as a member of one of the families that was evicted from the land decades ago by the navy, through the forest as he makes a plea to the orishas 'give my enemies eyes with which to see so that they might not take mine out'.
On the surface these films tell the story of an abandoned space, but Santiago Muñoz highlights the events that remain. Santiago Munoz records the light that shines into the old cinema space for up to an hour each day projects its own moving images of the growing trees moving outside. Downstairs, light and destruction again stamp their creative voice, this time through a 35mm film found in Ceiba's cinema and now projected as slides in Gallery 2; the original images faded and re-made by rain, heat and light. A vinyl record produced with recordings from both Peurto Rico and Scotland accompanies the exhibition, you can hear it downstairs interacting with the whir of the carousel slide projector, the sounds of still operating military base Faslane accompany recordings from Ceiba, and the newly opened airport at the site.
Post Military Cinema deconstructs a situation using methodologies intrinsic to cinema/film/sight. The works collectively present a new space for reflection on what this site meant and what it could become now, perceived individually they would inform and reshape our understanding of cinematography. Perhaps in part because of Santiago Muñoz’s six-week residency at Transmission in 2013 the works make sense of the gallery spaces. The exhibition is curated so that the relationship between works and the delicate frustration you feel while intently watching one screen yet entirely missing the projection directly behind you and still only stealing glances of the refracted sun rays and seascapes in the next closest projection, becomes analogous to an exploration of the site itself. Perhaps this also suggests the frustration implicit in this type of film making, for attempting to record these fleeting moments before the next 'event' occurs and changes them entirely must be an on-going process of consideration, judgement and patience.
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz - Post Military Cinema at Transmission Gallery continues until 22 May 2014. More information: http://www.transmissiongallery.org