Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Artists: Francis Alÿs, Andrew Birk, Ramiro Chaves, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Chelsea Culprit, ektor garcia, Yann Gerstberger, Jaki Irvine, Kate Newby, Isabel Nuño de Buen, Melanie Smith, Martin Soto Climent

Exhibition title: Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study

Curated by: Chris Sharp

Venue: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne, Australia

Date: April 21 – June 24, 2018

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and ACCA

ACCA presents Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study which considers the ways artists and cities mutually inform and transform one another.

A city, it could be argued, is the sum of its portrayals—the more it is depicted, the more it enters the symbolic and global imaginary. One of the great cross-roads of North America, Mexico City has taken prominence not only as one of America’s most populous urban centres, and as Latin America’s strongest economy, but also as a node of rich and potent cultural production. This is in part thanks to a generation of artists from the ‘90s, which includes Francis Alÿs, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Melanie Smith, as well as a complex, burgeoning and much-discussed contemporary scene in the early twenty-first century. Authored by the city as much as they are authors of it, the work of these contemporary artists is crucial in the development and cultivation of Mexico City as a place, myth, metropolis and site of cultural production in the global imaginary.

Developed by guest curator Chris Sharp, assisted by Fabiola Talavera, Dwelling Poetically proposes a portrait of the Mexican capital through a selection of artists that live, have lived in, or frequently pass through the city, all the while contributing to its composition. As a case study of one of the cultural capitals of the 21st century, the exhibition is intended as a portrait of the city itself—albeit partial and subjective—and a reflection upon the global megalopolis today. The exhibition does not seek to present an objective, historiographic representation of recent contemporary art from Mexico. Rather, Dwelling Poetically takes a literary and more cosmopolitan approach, focusing upon the objective conditions of the urban metropolis, and the subjective perspectives of its inhabitants, through the perception of artists whose works register and explore the material realities and psychogeographic intensities of the city itself.

Dwelling Poetically explores architectural forms emblematic of Mexican modernity and more improvised architectures and folk-art traditions which reflect the social spaces of the city and the detail and density of its cultural, commercial and libidinous economies. The exhibition reflects upon the work of artists whose practices move beyond the realm of the studio to engage directly with the fabric of the city and the contingencies of everyday life, and those whose works harness the materialities of the urban metropolis, drawing upon narrative, myth and readymade forms found in the urban environment, which are incorporated back into the studio and transformed through aesthetic and poetic means into new artistic compositions. The form of the exhibition expands and contracts, from macro to micro perspectives, and from the harsh light of day to the delirious glow of the nocturnal imagination, also reflecting cycles of collapse and renewal that characterize the ever-expanding and transforming metropolis.

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