Main Gallery

Daniel Almeida,
Adrian Rivera:
The Elephant Never Forgets

Opening Reception

Locust Projects presents The Elephant Never Forgets, a major multimedia installation in the form of an uncanny TV studio. Daniel Arturo Almeida (b. 1992, Caracas, Venezuela) and Adrian Edgard Rivera (b. 1991, Austin, Texas) trace Latin American media history, to lay bare the socio-political intricacies of nostalgia through themes of transnational telecommunications, piracy as access/agency, constructed memories, soft power, and manufactured desire.

The installation branches out from 'la vecindad,' the iconic setting of the 1970s sitcom 'El Chavo del Ocho,’ as an encompassing backstage and studio lot, housing the historical and contemporary lineages of Mexican and Venezuelan mass media diet. Backdrops, costumes, props, performance and set dressings evoke indelible memories in the region’s collective unconscious. The exhibition articulates fragmented footage; tensions in the debate of piracy and access; a film undressing the theatrics of televised state ceremonies of power; an industrial puppet theater adorned with counterfeit national decorations; a massive overhanging installation of suspended bootleg marionettes with iconic faces; and oversized heads of El Chavo’s characters alluding to a contentious dispute over copyright and ownership.

In the 1970s, over 60% of all television programming in Latin America was imported from the United States. Through the late 80s, 90s and 00s, public access TV channels were heavily populated by more foreign media from the US, Japan, and Europe, supported by a robust and long-standing dubbing industry. Dubbing became a form of syncretism; a double assimilation. The local adaptation of transnational media of foreign stories and characters, like Señorita Cometa (1967) Los Simpsons (1989), Dragon Ball Z (1989), El Principe del Rap (1990), and Sailor Moon (1992) among others, led to a collective familiarity for Latin American audiences, despite the far-removed reality of their original settings; Homero Simpson and Son Gokú speak like chilangos.

Deep economic inequalities have historically limited access to official media, leading to piracy as a way to bypass exclusionary paywalls. In Venezuela, like in many countries in the region, a volatile economy made a single DVD or video game worth more than a week's salary. Piracy provided agency and became a transformative force to remix and escape the oversaturation of foreign media. Fansubs and other grassroots efforts contributed to this cultural exchange. While the issue of piracy raises questions of ownership and authenticity, in the face of cultural flattening enacted by globalized economies, the counterfeit often becomes more authentic than the original.

"The Elephant Never Forgets," is the third song on side B of the 1970 album Moog Indigo by Jean-Jacques Perrey; a playful electronic adaptation of Beethoven's "Turkish March." The unauthorized appropriation of this composition as the opening theme for ‘El Chavo del Ocho’ turned it into an iconic auditory symbol in Latin America.

In this exhibition, Almeida and Rivera reminisce upon a biographical journey linked by fragmented memories and layered experiences of a bygone era in Latin American media consumption, as witnessed by the artists growing up between Venezuela and Mexico. This personal and historical exploration captures the essence of a shared cultural experience, weaving together the threads of nostalgia, identity, and the pervasive influence of media across borders. 

The artists extend their gratitude to Itzel Basualdo for her critical role and contributions in the early conceptual development of The Elephant Never Forgets.

The Elephant Never Forgets is supported in part by Funding Arts Network.

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