19 November 2023
Richie Moreno experiments with magick
and distortion in the landscape
by Kate Mothes
Since time immemorial, humans have been aware of electricity through natural phenomenon like lightning or sparks, but it wasn’t until the 17th century that scientific studies and experiments began to light up the public imagination. Electrical currents were demonstrated for entertainment in parlors and exhibits, and by the 19th-century, technology had advanced considerably to bring electricity to commercial and domestic experience, completely transforming how and when people worked and lived. It also resonated with religious groups like the Spiritualists, who believed in the ability to communicate with the spirits of the dead, adopting the “spiritual telegraph” as a tool and a metaphor for their practice (there was even a periodical of the same name).
South Florida-based artist Richie Moreno is interested in the quality and accuracy of the connection, specifically through sound. “Distortion is characterized by the altering of something out of its true or natural state,” he says. “I am interested in its transition to its modern form, appearing in the mid-19th century to describe fidelity in newly invented electrical equipment.”
In his large-scale, mixed-media installations, Moreno constructs interactive, altar-like structures reminiscent of gothic monuments, cathedral windows and apses, reliquaries, and tombstones. When activated, they glow with colored light or emanate smoke. Many of the pieces incorporate amps and speakers that the artist can hook up to keyboards or electric guitars, experimenting with sound distortion through multiple performances and numerous compositions. “For years, I have dedicated myself to crafting functional amplifier sculptures, firmly believing in the magickal power of sound and music to connect us,” he says, continuing:
My work encompasses chambers housing specially fitted speakers that immerse various objects in sound. These objects hold sentimental value, generously given by close family or friends, resonating in unique ways. From cherished trinkets and family heirlooms to plants gathered from special places and remnants from past performances, they all find their place in my art.
Many of Moreno’s performances take place in the Everglades, where he documents the work at night. “I am deeply invested in South Florida, where I was born and still reside,” he adds. Materials for the pieces are sourced locally, whether gifted from close friends or foraged in the surrounding landscape, like flowers, bones, or moss scraped from tombstones in the historic Cabellero Rivero cemetery in Miami. Moreno’s ritualistic works perform a reverence for the region, relationships, and through merging languages of ecclesiastical architecture, occultism, and heavy metal, he focuses on “encapsulating the magick that exists in the landscape.”
Header image: Activation of From the Depths I Have Cried to Thee, 2023
All images © Richie Moreno