Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values

June 30–September 2, 2002

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values, a thematic exhibition of international contemporary art emerging from Mexico City. Living in a cramped space where Beverly Hills and Calcutta meet everyday, the artists in this exhibition explore the tension between wealth and poverty, between progress, stagnation, and improvisation, and between the violence and civility that animates this vibrant city. Compounding the complexity of urban living, high rates of kidnapping, murder, and pollution become a daily threat. For the rich, the body becomes an object to be cared for, protected, even exchanged for ransom, while, for an underclass of day laborers, homeless people, and prostitutes, survival depends on participation in physically exploitative situations that place an exact commercial value on the body.

Curated by Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator and founding director of Kunst-Werke (KW) Berlin, this exhibition presents an international group of artists including Eduardo Abaroa, Francis Alÿs, Carlos Amorales, Gustavo Artigas, Miguel Calderón, Minerva Cuevas, Jose Dávila, Ivan Edeza, Jonathan Hernández, Gabriel Kuri, Teresa Margolles, Yoshua Okón, Rubén Ortiz Torres, Pedro Reyes, Daniela Rossell, Santiago Sierra, and Melanie Smith. In conjunction with this exhibition, P.S.1 presents photographs by Enrique Metinides, a former press photographer, as well works by Marcos Kurtycz, a Polish-born artist who lived and worked in Mexico City and whose "anti-art" performances, from the late 1970s to mid-1990s, influenced many artists from this new generation. Mexico City: An Exhibition about the Exchange Rates of Bodies and Values will be installed throughout P.S.1's first floor galleries and café.

Yoshua Okón's video Chocorrol (1997) records two dogs, a male Xoloitzcuintli and a female French poodle, mating as a symbol of the mixing of two cultures, as one breed violates the purity of the other. Gustavo Artigas' The Rules of the Game (2000) presents a video of a sporting event, staged by the artist, in which two Mexican soccer teams and two American basketball teams play simultaneously on the same court. Prepared for the risk of injuries to the players, the artists was surprised when both matches went without any major disruptions, which suggested the viability of a healthy co-existence of Mexicans and Americans along their shared border. For No one over 21 (2000), Jonathan Hernández collaborated with the popular Tijuana-based musicians and the design group Torolab to create a music video depicting San Diego teenagers crossing the Tijuana border for a night of drinking and carousing. Based on his experiences abroad, Carlos Amorales examines identity, role-play, and spectacle through an extended investigation into the realm of popular Mexican wrestling.

Daniela Rossell's series of photographs, Ricas y Famosas (1994-2002), captures the endangered species of the rich and famous in their ornate and overprotective environments, where the sexuality of these stereotypically spoiled blondes is reduced to nothing but an expensive commodity, or worse, to a cheap decoration. In Francis Alÿs' series of photographs, Ambulantes (Pushing and Pulling) (1998-2002), the artist captures people pushing and pulling their wares to and from the marketplace, leveraging their body weight against the commercial value they are physically dragging along.

Works by Ivan Edeza, Teresa Margolles, and Santiago Sierra explore how ritualized discrimination and exploitation has rendered invisible the physical and psychological acts of violence against the lives and deaths of the underclass. In Vaporization (2002), Margolles fills the gallery with a foggy mist created from the disinfected water used to wash corpses in the city morgue. Her performance visualizes the physical memory of a last washing, while also suggesting angelic disappearance or bodies fading away. Sierra's new work at P.S.1 concentrates on the current power structures of the evolving global economy and focuses on the plight of the exploited laborers by demonstrating the oppressive monotony of their daily routines. In De Negocios y Placer (2000), Edeza presents found footage from a "violence compilation tape" purchased on the black market depicting men hunting and shooting Brazilian tribe members.

Referencing Barnett Newman's monumental sculpture, Eduardo Abaroa's Portable Broken Obelisk (for Outdoor Markets) (1991–1993) reworks the Western concept of the monument as a temporary sculpture made of the same lightweight canvas and aluminum used in makeshift stalls of local marketplaces. Furthermore, his collaboration with Ruben Ortiz, Torres, Elotes / Maíz Transgénico (2002), consists of 50 replicas of chewed "corn on sticks" forcing the audience to respond to what appears to be garbage in an otherwise pristine gallery environment. Combing architecture and fantasy, Pedro Reyes' dome-like sculpture is made of plastic material used by prisoners to produce shopping bags. Minerva Cueva's non-profit organization Mejor Vida Corporation fuses art and social activism. In her Barcode Replacement series, the artist copied and altered barcodes on grocery store items, enabling shoppers to purchase typically over-priced product at significantly reduced prices. Gabriel Kuri's Tree with Chewing Gum (Arbol con Chicles) (1999), a close-up view of a tree trunk spotted with wads of brightly-colored chewed gum, investigates the poetic and communicative potential in mundane objects, and records human imprints that trace the passage of time.

Cristina Faesler and Jerónimo Hagerman present abcdf, a book and CD-ROM that offers a vivid and multi-layered impression of the metropolis through two thousand color images and forty-five texts.

A catalogue published by P.S.1 will accompany Mexico City, containing essays by Biesenbach, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Guillermo Santamarina, and Patricia Martín, and color images of works. The exhibition will tour to Kunst-Werke Berlin and the Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico.


  • Eduardo Abaroa

    Portable Broken Obelisk (For Outdoor Markets) (1991-93)

    Drawing, photographic prints, metal, and plastic canvas
    Variable dimensions
    Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City
    Collection of Gilberto Charpenel

  • Yoshua Okón

    from Chocorrol (1997)

    3 C-Prints
    Courtesy of the artist and Galería Enrique Guerrero, Mexico City

 

This exhibition is made possible by the National Council of Arts and Culture; the Mexico Institute of Cultural Cooperation; Rosa and Gilberto Sandretto; the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York; La Colección Jumex, Mexico; Grupo Modelo, Mexico; Museo Carillo Gil, Mexico; Habita Hotel, Mexico. Special thanks to Galería Enrique Guerrero, Mexico; Galería OMR, Mexico; Greene Naftali, New York; Kurimanzutto Gallery, Mexico; Galeria Nina Menocal, Mexico; and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.