Karine Giboulo's "Village Democratie," on display in Buffalo Arts Studio, is a nuanced diorama based on a Haitian town of that name. In the looming shadow of mirrorlike skyscrapers and their luxury rooftop resorts, the miniaturized village sits upon several stilt-legged islands, saturated with detail and irony.
First, there is the town's name. As a flood of subsidized U.S. rice imports continues to devastate agricultural opportunity in Haiti, many Haitians have fled to towns like Democracy Village. Hunger and unemployment plague its swelling slums. Punctuated only by the tin and tarp shanties its villagers call home, Giboulo's landscape is one of dust and trash heaps, of rickety shops selling "coffins or furniture."
If this is democracy, Giboulo seems to say, we have a long way to go.
And then there's the ever-present footprint of American consumerism. Discarded Big Gulps, tossed from the top of a guarded rooftop resort, litter the town below. Nearby, an old woman smiles in a soiled "I Love NY" shirt, an unlikely advertisement for New York's billion-dollar tourism industry.
In the neon glow of the tower's NASDAQ ticker, village youth crowd an old television set on a tree stump, absorbing the money-obsessed culture of "Sex and the City." Hand raised in glowing salute, Carrie Bradshaw beams out into the village. "Oh, aren't they lovely!" you imagine her saying. "How lucky, to never worry over the newest pair of Louboutins!"
Giboulo's astounding attention to detail succeeds, calling us closer as she makes her plea for shared responsibility in a globalized world. From its 1804 refusal to recognize Haiti's newfound independence to its Cold War backing of ruthless dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier, the artist argues that America has played its role well in enabling Haiti's current position.
Yes, the mirrored skyscraper props up its own shiny social inequality, seemingly quite removed from a country a thousand miles away. But there's also a reflection, an image that seems to make up its every shining square, and it's you.
WHAT: Karine Giboulo's "Village Democratie"
WHEN: Through Aug. 24
WHERE: Buffalo Arts Studio, 2495 Main St.
INFO: 833-4450 or www.buffaloartsstudio.org