c/o la Ciudad

Mar-Apr 2000

exhibition guest-curated for SAW Gallery, travelling to Blackwood Gallery

[excerpt from exhibition folder]
c/o la Ciudad

Mexico’s Distrito Federal, Mexico City, spreads over the vast and shifting ground of a former lake, surrounded by volcanoes and subject to earthquakes. A centre of power since its founding in 1325 as the Aztec city Tenochtitlan, through Spanish colonization and the extended tremors of revolution to today’s forces of globalization, it now has some twenty million inhabitants, joined by another couple thousand each day, who contend with pollution and congestion, a certain lawlessness, startling violence, volatile politics, and deep socio-economic inequities.

It is a city of extremes of time, magnitude and society that can seem irreconcilable to an outsider. Still, a number of artists have consciously assumed the task – the same one borne by the population at large, really – of reckoning with the monumental presence of the city itself. These artists are not only locating their work within the D.F., but also working with a sense of concern, taking care but also caring for this seemingly immovable yet unstable entity. They operate with a feeling for the socially immense, imbued with a certain precariousness, and with a sense of the incongruity of the city’s long history and its difficult contemporary conditions.

This consideration for the city itself is particularly moving in certain strains of dematerialized and situationist artwork being produced in the D.F. As elsewhere and everywhere in today’s contemporary art, there is a current predominance of conceptual practices, realized in particular through everyday objects, photo, video, performance, and other elusive forms. These tendencies coincide with an interest in quotidian urban phenomena that is by now commonplace in the international art world. Still, it may be that Mexico City is a particularly telling place for the production of work about the abject, the fleeting, the decaying, and the disappearing. Certainly some work there seems inflected by a quiet sense of survivalism. The present exhibition focuses on pieces which convey a particular sense of pressure that might be specific to that city, but which also speak eloquently outside of it, in a wider context of re–imagining the possibilities for productive urban action.

It happens that all the artists in this show are from the D.F. by birth, but more critically, each has in turn adopted the city as a privileged subject, site, source, and object of his or her work, with all the senses of obligation and mutual care that this implies. Throughout, these individuals adhere to a dual principle of making do and of doing–it–yourself, employing strategies ranging from active defiance of authority to careful extraction of poetry from everyday things, and speaking in modes that are by turn blunt, theoretical and humorous.

Works in the exhibition: Galia Eibenschutz, Sedentario(a) (Sedentary); Daniel Guzmán, ¡Qué extraordinario que el mundo exista! (How extraordinary that the world exists!); Jonathan Hernández,SE BUSCA RECOMPENSA (Seeking Reward); Gabriel Kuri, untitled (doy fe / by my faith); Gabriel Kuri, untitled (a la brevedad posible / a.s.a.p.); Mejor Vida Corp. (Minerva Cuevas), Bar-code Stickers Service – Ottawa; Yoshua Okón, Poli I; Luis Felipe Ortega, De la serie “Los cuerpos dóciles” (From the series “Obedient Bodies”); Luis Felipe Ortega, La distancia necesaria (The necessary distance).

Texts by Koh: Germaine Koh, exhibition folder, 2000. PDF