"Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values". (Reviews)

Article excerpt


With the art-world radar now trained on the slightest aesthetic stirrings in every corner of the globe, it's only a matter of time before a local scene is written up, curated, and dispensed to a wider audience. Given the buzz around Mexico as a hot cultural exporter, "Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values" might have been another attempt by American and European art institutions to capitalize on foreign trends. But the show's weighty conceptual title signaled that this grouping of some twenty like-minded artists was a serious endeavor. As presented by P.S. 1 curator Klaus Biesenbach, Mexico City's having its moment meant seeing good art, including some good political art. "Mexico City" was intended to be complicated, provocative, and troubling and for the most part kept its promise.

For reasons that weren't fully elaborated by the institution, the show featured about a third fewer artists than had originally been planned. Various absences, such as that of Damian Ortega, whose videos and sculptures made from ordinary materials like tortillas and golf balls are specifically about Mexico, were hard to ignore. Logistical challenges aside, Biesenbach's vision remained constant throughout. The city was portrayed as a place of extremes--polluted, corrupt, dangerous, and crowded. The sense of an unnavigable condition was perfectly captured in Melanie Smith's Spiral City, 2002, for which the artist photographed poor neighborhoods at dizzying angles from a helicopter that flew in and out of a haze of smog. This is the same city that's home to the women of "Ricas y Famosas" (Rich and famous), 1998-2002, Daniela Rossell's photographs of friends and relatives posing in humid overfurnished environments, surrounded by mountains of possessions and objets d'art. They seem to have it all, but just beyond the marble Jacuzzi lurks danger (chiefly in the form of kidnapping), which one imagines must prevent them from having any real freedom.

In general, the show demonstrated little resistance to the thrills of affliction and violence in pulp narratives. This overstimulating, hyperbolic metropolis was characterized by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in his film Amores perros, 2000, which tells interwoven stories of loss, tragedy, and betrayal among different social classes. Miguel Calderon and Yoshua Okon collaborated on another provocative work, A proposito... (Incidentally), 1996. A low stack of 120 car stereos created a gridlike sculpture behind which rolled choppy video footage projected Onto the gallery wall, portraying what viewers could only believe were the two artists breaking into cars and stealing radios (no actual crimes were committed for this piece). Ivan Edeza's ... de negocios y placer (of business and pleasure), 2000, unfortunately required no such suspension of disbelief. The video contains incredibly violent and very real scenes of hunters in helicopters brutally gunning down Indians in the Brazilian jungle below and collecting the corpses like trophies. Edeza acquired the tape at a flea market. …


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