Review by 701 Center for Contemporary Art 701 Whaley St., Columbia – South Carolina
The Dream Life of Broken Toys began with a single persistent memory. Farfán recalls the story of a young boy who showed her an old toy plane he had repaired and referred to as “a powerful sky-flier.” “That day I realized that a broken toy is not necessarily an obstacle to play,” Farfán says. “Rather, it is a possibility for creativity, for imagining new ways of playing. The years have passed swiftly, but still this single memory persists for me. If only it was possible to turn back time and rebuild toys, not only theirs but also my own, then the lives and dreams of many, many toys might be renewed.”
The encounter with this young boy set into motion the re-examination of the dysfunctional toy. Through a series of vignettes, Farfán creates play moments in which childlike figures are shown with various toys ranging from a jack-in-the box to a sand box. Farfán re-imagines, through this dreamscape, a magical and fantastical world that is as much about the animated and mechanical toys as it is about their human playmates. In Farfán’s dreamscape, broken toys are resurrected as functional toys and appear to enjoy a blissful life.
But what of the child? Childlike figures are shown seated on swings suspended from the ceiling, on a hobbyhorse, in a sandbox, in a rocking chair and on a stool. Each is presented in total isolation from others, which often is a child’s reality. Farfán attempts to delve into the psyche of each child by showing each child’s emotional response to his/her once broken toy. The Song of a Broken Music Box shows a serene child transported to another place by a song. A child in conversation with a clown in A Clown’s Show may indicate loneliness while Embracing Hope reveals a tender moment with a beloved doll.
On the surface, the display of amusing moments may seem like normal play situations, but socialogical assumptions are that toys serve a specific function in the development of a child because it trains them for their social role. In fact, toys are regarded as tools for channeling frustrations and emotions and bear hints and traces of the personalities and behaviors of their owners. When viewed in this context, Farfán’s surreal playground becomes a training ground for these future adults in the real world.
Farfán infuses her installation with sound and theatrical lighting to illustrate some of her work’s meaning. Two Colombian songs, sung in Spanish by a four – year – old girl, are about kids imagining themselves in a better country and kids playing with their own shadows. Farfán views these innocent childlike figures in much the same way as the broken toys but uses the toys as instruments of hope for these seemingly underprivileged children. As with the toys, Farfán’s hope is that they, too, can be repaired.