Installation works at Palm Springs Art Museum, June-December 2011


When the forward thrust of explorers from the Iberian peninsula came to the American continents, documents created by governments such as Spain designated and forced an agreement that was effectively a “ransom” and a “release” of responsibility in exchange for the riches that New World peoples could provide: minerals such as gold and silver, human slaves, territory, medicinal chemicals and food stuffs. Within one hundred years, the landscape and culture of the New World was largely overrun with European architecture, language and art. Indigenous art forms not made of precious materials were left alone or discarded.

This “Requerimiento” or “Requirement” was read at the behest of the King of Spain to indigenous peoples. Within was a declaration of the superiority of Spanish culture, religion and people as well as a directive that those who did not recognize such, were subject to torture, death or enslavement. This document was never read in an indigenous tongue.

This installation uses the pre-colonial Americas collection at the Palm Springs Museum Art Museum, video, sculpture and adjustments to the galleries to create a multi-nuanced environment that challenges dynamic relationships between ideas of victor and vanquished. It also engages the larger present desert community many of who genetically are a mix of European and New World roots; creating a scope of human activity that bridges over a thousand years of. 

This installation is about “making witness” to these seminal events. This work also engages the local community by making them participants within the installation.

There are two distinct areas for “Ransom.”  The first is the triangular video room, where community students read the “Requirimento” in Spanish and English on a large video monitor in front of seated American pre-colonial ceramic figures.  The sit on a dais of gold leaf and look in puzzlement at the reading.  The viewer is situated between the two elements.

The other area involves the mezzanine and floor space directly below it.  From the mezzanine one can catch sight of standing American pre-colonial ceramic figures; behind which on the wall are four monitors with images of children staring back at the viewer.  All this can be witnessed from the vantage point of the figures or across the mezzanine by way of brass telescopes.  Below is my 2006 sculpture, “CONQUEST,” a simulacrum of a 1965 DeSoto Conquest (a mythical, fictional auto model), which contained within it is the historical Hernando DeSoto aspects of subjugation and colonization.

Download Ransom BrochureRANSOM_files/deSoto.Ransom.PSAM.2011_1.pdf