Contiguous Spaces

July 22, 2014

MEXICO CITY — In Mexico City, there are a surprising number of institutions dedicated to contemporary art. There are several national museums with more or less international programming and reviews, as well as a network of museums and art spaces related to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico which, to varying extent and purpose, produce, exhibit and disseminate diverse works and discourses under the umbrella notion of contemporary art. Additionally, the recent creation of the Museo Jumex cements the importance of the eponymous Foundation/Collection within the landscape of Mexican contemporary art. A large quantity of commercial galleries—some with remarkable programming—and two art fairs: the established Zona MACO and the more recently organized Material Art Fair, must likewise be mentioned. However, the existence of this enormous infrastructure, which also has extensive programs for assisting artists and professionals (both young and well-known), doesn’t eliminate the need to extend and exceed institutional limits of generating and experimenting with work processes whether to invent or to transform them. The presence of independent initiatives, spearheaded by artists and curators, is evidence that in the ecology of art the “small fish” do not necessarily compete with or confront “big fish;” in fact, they are a vital and indispensable part of the panorama, with plenty of energy, critical spirit and formal elasticity.

La Galería del Comercio was founded in 2010 by a group of artists, and its members have changed in the past years.

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TLQNSDEP, an event by the visual artist Wendy León with texts by Alex Rodríguez and read by Martina Núñez. Courtesy of La Galería del Comercio

Their events occur sporadically on a corner of the Escandón neighborhood (at the meeting of Martí and Comercio streets).

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Macetas Genaro, an event by Genaro López. Courtesy of La Galería del Comercio
Without limiting form or content, the scheduled activities challenge and redefine the notion of public art, offering interventions in which social or community service is replaced by the appropriation of public spaces for contemporary art, rejecting any preconceived notion of what this constitutes or serves.

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Tentinté, an event by Martina and Mateo Núñez. Courtesy of La Galería del Comercio

Cráter Invertido is a cooperative of several artists who work collectively in the production of fanzines and other editorial output, blurring individual authorship in favor of collaborative work.

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The space for Cráter Invertido. Courtesy of Cráter Invertido

With a fixed space (which recently moved to the San Rafael neighborhood), Cráter Invertido has gathered an open and reproducible archive, organizes public events (concerts, talks and other presentations), seminars and some exhibitions of independent publications. The experiences at Cráter Invertido and other initiatives generate an important reflection on financing and sustainability.

In this case, the cooperative’s members created a box containing editions (in two and three dimensions) made by each member, one of their strategies for self-financing.
Chris Sharp, an American curator who has resided in Mexico for some time, and Martín Soto-Climent, a Mexican artist, established Lulu, an exhibition space of 9 square meters inside their house in the Roma Sur neighborhood.

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Exhibition view of Cherry Blossoms by Jochen Lempert at Lulu. Courtesy of Lulu. Photo by Guillermo Soto
Lulu has an international exhibition schedule, which to date has included projects by artists such as John Smith, Nina Canell and Willem de Rooij. Lulu’s purpose, in contrast to other projects like de_sitio, is to present exhibitions, proving that spatial and financial limitations can be opportunities for experimenting.

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Exhibition view of Perra Perdida at Lulu. Courtesy of Lulu. Photo by Martín Soto
Since 2011, de_sitio (co-founded by Amanda Echeverría, Daniela Pérez and me) is a platform that seeks to critically reflect on each project: how it’s financed, and in what place and which format it unfolds.

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The performance Seriously now…laugh! By Francesco Pedraglio. Courtesy of de_sitio

To date, de_sitio hasn’t organized any exhibitions, but it has developed projects in different locations such as the Casa Luis Barragán and the Torre Latinoamericana.

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Barragán Sound System, a performance by Open Music Archive. Courtesy of de_sitio

Some residencies with foreign artists have resulted in printed projects and various presentations, as well as in the production of works that will find long lives outside of Mexico City. Currently, de_sitio is preparing an editorial endeavor that will allow us to delve into this field.

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Choreographer Andrea Chirinos and eight characters in the production Estructuras al límite by David Bestué. Courtesy of de_sitio