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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Carne y Arena


Arsenal Contemporary Art / Montreal / Film & TV

“My tongue is divided into two / a border patrol runs through the middle.” So writes the El Salvadoran poet Quiqué Aviles, in a poem about immigrating to America. The physical dangers of crossing borders and the psychological fissioning required to do it are the subject of Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand), a powerful virtual-reality installation. The Academy Award-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has based this “semi-fictional ethnography” on interviews with Mexican and Central American refugees, and it requires viewers’ participation: you will feel sand beneath your feet, and squint in the glare of ICE agents’ flashlights. This is a journey, Iñárritu says, “alongside the immigrants (and into their minds),” all of whom are played by the men, women, and children whose stories helped build the show. Iñárritu’s famed collaborator, the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, stunningly renders the visuals of these experiences, while the installation itself expands upon film’s possibilities for transport, making Carne y Arena a truly immersive experience. —C.J.F.

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