The Emma Molina gallery sits in the middle of a somewhat bizarre live-work complex in Santa Catarina, slightly west of San Pedro Garza García, Mexico’s wealthiest city, which itself borders the city of Monterrey, one of the ten cities that make up Greater Monterrey. The complex features the sort of bland architecture one might find in an outdoor mall anywhere in the world: buildings painted in neutral tones, mostly rectangular, enough architectural flourishes to mark itself as “luxury” or “modern,” but not enough to establish any kind of threateningly unique identity. I went there for the first time in early February to see work by
The second time I went to Emma Molina Gallery was at night, a couple of weeks ago, to see a performance, Concerto for Tam-Tam (2019), by Lee. From the gallery, where Lee’s work—floating better in purely artificial light, unmarred by the surrounding architecture—we followed a man with a goofily oversized megaphone across the street and into an as-yet-unused space in-between a Starbucks and a Cinemex Platino, the VIP version of the Mexican cinema chain Cinemex. There, Lee sat in a circle with six men. In front of her was a pedalboard. Next to each man was a cymbal stand, the kind usually used to hang tam-tams. Three candles burned on top of each stand. Instead of the brass gong hung one of Lee’s sculptures, a tear-shaped brass form like those on display in the gallery. Lee began the performance with a tentative vocal cadence, looping and slowly layering it with her pedalboard. The percussion ensemble began slowly, softly striking the brass sculptures with mallets. My mind immediately went to gamelan, community-specific sets of mostly-brass instruments forged by shamans and integral to ritual life in Indonesia. These ensembles often accompany dance or shadow-puppetry, a feeling that the flickering candlelight reinforced.
The performance lasted over forty minutes, in a space with no chairs and little circulation. For most of these forty minutes, Lee’s layered vocal intervention was buried by a sort of 80s Steve Reich-y percussion that made little sense in the booming, empty space in which it was situated, except to perhaps bring out