1 May - 30 June 2004
May - August 2004
Perros Negros, Izazaga #8, col. Centro, Mexico D.F. - Mexico
A combination of rock 'n' roller, street vendor and researcher, the contemporary artist is a wayward cultural agent who lends services in line with the aesthetic activation of a context. His central virtue is the alacrity of his emotional response: in a question of days, he must elaborate a plan of collaboration and research in order to approach a supposedly unique terrain, although with regard to his practice, he reveals it analogous to any other.
The result, of course, is the interweaving of documentary and sketchbook, and a reflection on their nature. For example, in the month of May, Aleksandra Mir decided to take as many dance lessons as she could and then explore the dance halls and shows in downtown Mexico City, where boom-boom bass and swinging hips reign. This challenge was Mir's excuse to exercise a frail utopia: communication beyond linguistic barriers, mediated only by "body language."Beyond the humor of showing Mir stumble through a 'danzo'n, her video (intelligently titled Organized Movement) offers a self-portrait of a peculiar situation of a cultural production, in that Mir records the participants in the 'Localismsos' residency project interacting on the dance floor, even offering them to the unsuspecting viewer as if they were "Mexicans." We are witnesses to the show's curator singing in a dive and the conceptual artist momentarily taken for a local denizen, which in both cases offer a vignette of the 'fantasy of integration', something very distinct from the aesthetics of alienation that local artists proposed as a result of their incursions downtown in the 80's and 90's.
Organized by the 'Perros Negro's - Agustina Ferreira, Adriana Lara y Fernando Mesta - 'Localismos' works like a miniatura biennale, encouraging local events and channeling institutional and financial support for projects aimed at urban revitalization, the supposed "rescue" of downtown Mexico City. The effort is a noteworthy one: 'Perros Negros' invited twenty artist from around the world to reside in downtown Mexico City for a month where they were charged with creating works that are involved not only an assimilation of the social climate of the city, but also fabricated with the material, labor and other resources directly on hand.
As in all residence projects, the first goal is to create an ephemeral community that serves to dramatize the changing imbrications of local and global spheres. Another common element of these residence projects is the artists' fascination with a kind of "low budget" aesthetic that melds with the inclination to aestheticize "shabbiness." In this vein, Mir's installation evokes the sky with the covers of old books, while Phillipe Hernandez, the only true downtown resident, mixes popular graphics and photographs of himself in order to transfigure "quaint Tepito" into the same sort of seductive referent evoked by Hollywood.
What is essential in these and other works is the oscillation between documentation and participation: on one hand Carolina Caicedo compile a CD of street voices, including the sounds of street hawkers, beggars, protestors and politicians, while on the other, she produces temporary tattoos that people apply to their faces and arms, a literally cutaneous take on integration.
As part of their project titled Popular Geometry, Julieta Aranda and Antón Vidokle produced a newspaper kiosk, from which they distributed a satirical tabloid reporting on monumental geometric sculpture in the world today. Perhaps the best example of this hybrid of documentary and intervention is expressed by Pablo León de la Barra, Mexican architect and member of the London Collective 24/7, whose video has him carry on interviews in the friendly, vapid tone of day-time TV, while jogging through the city's lower depths. These works offers a revelation of the social landscape as well as a fictional spectacle unlikely in the mass media.
Because of their distinctive codes, two projects deserve special mention and are particularly satisfying. Erik Beltran's installation, titled 'Everyone knows the dice are loaded', approaches the way in which downtown Mexico City is also the capital of counterfeit and deception. His combination of print material, objects and texts on blackboards has a certain affinity with the diverse narrative layers in Kabakov's installations.
This is also a good time to recognize the social-architectural elegance of 'Tercerunquinto'. Tables set with photos, architecture models and texts, 'Tercerunquint'o presents a handful of urbane projects for the 'Vizcainas' Street, though small in scale still reek of utopist's susceptibility: 'Tercerunquinto' would join two gardens in order to close an avenue, convert a street into a parking lot for 'franaleros' and, ingeniously, restore a series of political murals in order to activate the neighborhood's sense of history. Genuine anti-administrative fantasies, that, perhaps, would surprise because of they are the only works in 'Localismos' that keep a political distance from the so called "downtown rescue project" that tends to think in terms of commerce and class substitution.