Apparent Positions Cyprien Gaillard: Cities of Gold and Mirrors


Cities of Gold and Mirrors, shot in Quintana Roo, Mexico, is a film consisting of five scenes which occur principally in and around the city of Cancún. The synthetic, unreal spaces of this new city – somehow a copy of itself, complicating and undermining the Mayan sites it exists alongside – are activated via similarly disassociated, symbolic events.

This is a place that doesn’t know itself, that is at odds with itself, and the group of spring-breakers downing tequila in front of a Mayan-themed hotel with dolphins in its pool heightens this sense of rupture. Elsewhere, the demolition of a mirrored building and the interior of the night club Cocobongo play further on the idea of simulated space; and as though (re)claiming it, a member of the Los Angeles gang The Bloods dances atop El Rey, a Mayan archaeological site.

The film is set to a particular looped recording, Le feu de St. Elme by Haïm Saban and Shuki Levy, part of the soundtrack to a French animated children’s series about Spanish conquistadors, Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982). The theme, which has remained fixed in the artist’s memory, in some ways stands as a symbol for the cultural appropriation or disjuncture that Quintana Roo itself embodies.

Cyprien Gaillard: Cities of Gold and Mirrors, 2009
16 mm film, colour, with sound / 8 minutes, 52 seconds
Copyright Cyprien Gaillard
Courtesy Sprüth Magers Berlin London / Laura Bartlett Gallery, London


About the artist

Cyprien Gaillard was born in 1980 in Paris. He studied under John Armleder and Francis Baudevin at the École Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne, Switzerland. His work has received solo shows at MoMA PS1, New York; Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Wexner Center for the Arts, USA and Hayward Gallery, London, among many others; and as part of group exhibitions in numerous other galleries internationally. Gaillard lives and works in Paris. He is represented by Sprüth Magers Berlin.