Ritus: Sabrina Montiel-Soto

Sabrina Montiel-Soto is an artist born in Venezuela and residing in Brussels. Her artistic trajectory has been multidisciplinary, venturing into different fields of creation ranging from the various audiovisual media to photography, sculpture and installation. In her work, she performs acute observations of human beings, their intimate and historical context, their daily life, and the re-signification of objects and the various connotations of objects and the world around us. Through a ludic collection of data, Sabrina produces pieces that –”like puzzles”– create stories permeated by her travel experiences, fiction, and a play with absurdity and reality.


Sabrina is beginning her preparation for 2017 and the projects she cooks from her home/studio in Brussels. It will take her several months to get ready to create and discover future exhibitions in Brussels and in Maracaibo –during this time, I intentionally crossed the path of her research process. We began an exchange in which I aimed to find some clues about how her process begins. Her work results from the intersection of an inquiry into intimate and familiar portraits, the archeology of memory, the purposeful collection of objects, and technical experiments with photography and video.


Sabrina’s works may be, at times, postcards with images of her own making –photographs? that blur the line between analog and the digital. At other times, her work is a photographic record of elements found and assembled by her, arranged in front of the camera with a minimalist and austere grace.


LAS TAZAS EN ORDEN DE PREFERENCIA | THE CUPS IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE | Fotografía. De arriba hacia abajo: hecho en Inglaterra, Holanda, Francia, Colombia, Países Bajos y China. 2014.
THE CUPS IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE | Fotografía. De arriba hacia abajo: hecho en Inglaterra, Holanda, Francia, Colombia, Países Bajos y China. 2014.


SOÑÉ QUE DORMÍA | I dreamed I was sleeping | Postal (Retrato masculino, Rome, Palazzo Capitolino) y objeto metálico. 2014
I dreamed I was sleeping |
Postal (Retrato masculino, Rome, Palazzo Capitolino) y objeto metálico. 2014


INTENTO DE VIDA | Semillas de mango, goma espuma y seda. 15x10x4cm. 2013
Semillas de mango, goma espuma y seda. 15x10x4cm. 2013


I was interested in speaking to Sabrina because of the very fine line that divides her intimate staging and the natural and domestic installation of the elements with which she works. Where is the boundary between the sketch of a work, the orchestration of the elements that integrate it, and the final record or image?
We went further back. Through Skype conversations, Sabrina showed me her universe of daily rituals. This set of intimate rituals are reflected directly both on her works in process and in the final form of her pieces. Some of those rituals include picking a random card from the Marseilles oracle, caring tenderly for the plants of her home, and collecting religious paraphernalia from different parts of the world.


The following images, taken by Sabrina for this publication, offer a window into the rites of an artist who has chosen research as a creation ritual.






















Other notes on Sabrina Montiel-Soto’s process

*The following notes were taken from transcripts of conversations with the artist.


At the time of our exchange, which started in 2016, Sabrina began an artistic/research residence at the Royal Museum of Central Africa Tervuren. She she went into the Museum twice a week to explore, with full access, the collections, archives, and digital data, as well as confidential documents in its library and historical archives. Much of this information is related to the process of colonization of Africa by Belgium.


Weekly, Sabrina leaves in the morning to the outskirts of Brussels in a tram that comes into the Museum. This grand museum has been kept closed since 2013 due to a major architectural renovation, and will open its doors in June 2018.


The project that Sabrina prepares focuses on the processes of colonization of Africa and her personal remembrance of Venezuela (her country of origin). Her own gaze will serve as a crosscut: the gaze of a Venezuelan, emigrant in different countries, artist, and researcher. In her own words, the residence that will give way to her exhibitions is “a project of cultural re-reading, and re-reading of logics and senses.”


Daily contact with the Museum’s scientists has made her a kind of reporter of small pieces and objects, dialogues, and stories. She looks at the work as a deep surface to explore –she is an explorer in the world that is a Museum. At this time, Sabrina is very interested in making analogies of how history is told from science, in comparison with historical accounts of art. In the same way, I have been a hunter of Sabrina’s process: she researching, and I trying to hunt for her silent signs (a term used by scientists to define the signs of tension not visible between the hunter and his prey).


Another tension is present in her current search: science, truth and speculation. Therefore, she is an artist who speculates on the formality of scientific investigation she is facing, and on history traversed by fiction and the subjectivity of the creation. A fictional interpretation.


Why show an African mask next to a phone? Sabrina wonders what the ethnographic object is, and what objects mean in dissimilar contexts. She has discovered ancient objects that she has failed to recognize or identify at first sight, surrendering to the ludic experience of the riddle during the research process. What is this? A spoon-shaped utensil is not a spoon everywhere. A chinchorro (hammock) inside a box is not the best-known resting mechanism –it could be something else for an eye not trained in our context. Sabrina, as a Venezuelan, studies the many readings of the other and their rituals (and the objects used for such rituals). It is not just an appreciation of form and utility, but also a question: Which is the social and political burden that accompanies the daily history of peoples and their objects, whether utilitarian or not? It aims to understand the background behind the shape, especially when faced with unknown objects, even visually.


Sabrina Montiel-Soto is currently in a “descending labyrinth” of documentation, research, and preparation for her next exhibition projects.


About the author:
Florencia Alvarado is an artist born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. She has been a lecturer for the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection Seminar (2014), as well as the IV Encontro Pensamento e Reflexão na Fotografia – Museum of Image and Sound of Sao Paulo. She also participated in Triple Canopy’s summer Publication Intensive (Brooklyn, NY). She was one of the 7 participating artists to make works for the digital chapter of the Segundo Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No Objetual y Arte Rural at the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín (MAMM). Time After Time (MACZUL, Maracaibo, 2016) was her third solo show, and a second iteration was exhibited in Hacienda La Trinidad, Caracas in March of 2017. She was Editor in Chief and Art Director of Backroom Caracas until January 2017.


About the artist:

Sabrina Montiel-Soto (Maracaibo, 1969) is a Venezuelan filmmaker based in Belgium. Her artistic trajectory is multidisciplinary, experimenting in different areas of audio-visual-spatial-temporal creation. In her work, the observation and study of the human dimension and its social and psychological aspects serve as a starting point for the conversion of absurdity and disjunction into banality and reality. Montiel-Soto plays with a “puzzle,” assembling thousands of pieces of possibilities, ranging from the filmic to the sculptural, from insignificance to greatness, from space to perception. Her work is accomplice in her travels and personal life.