ESSAYS Mousse 9
Mario Garcia Torres
by Roberta Tenconi
It might be the fascination of vintage. It might be the necessity to rediscover our roots in our way of creating art, maybe even questioning it. It might be that the principles of remaking are the true masters of contemporary creations. Whatever the reason, many of the more recent generations of artists are systematically pillaging the repertoire of the early Conceptual Art of the sixties with a blast of reenactments, covers, and appropriations. This phenomenon is so extensive that it has given life to critical interpretations and exhibitions, such as Neocon, curated by Cristiana Perrella at the British School in Rome at the end of last year. Alongside affirmed artists such as Jonathan Monk and Francesco Vezzoli, you will also find the young Mexican Mario Garcia Torres, born in 1975.
In 1969, Sol LeWitt published the “Sentences on Conceptual Art,” a manifesto in which he sanctioned the supremacy of the idea in the conception of a work of art. In 1972, John Baldessari intervened on the work of LeWitt and brought his assertions to life in a musical performance entitled Singing Lines from Sol LeWitt. In 2004, Mario Garcia Torres (Monclova, Mexico, 1975) also developed the process of appropriation and made his own karaoke version Sing Like Baldessari.
This passage is an example of the ironic and elegant approach of this young Mexican artist—alongside an entire generation of artists from Francys Alÿs to Jonathan Monk—inspired by the conceptual art of the 1970s.
By re-examining even the more apparently insignificant moments, which have actually become historical, Mario Garcia Torres debates on the notions of originality and paternity, concentrating primarily on the cliché of the fruition of a work of art. In his work, the repetition and the shifting of space and time become a potential instrument of artistic creation and conscience. A secret or invisible work of art—such as A Never-to-Be-Seen-by-the-Patron Artwork (2004)—explores the infinite possibilities of the immaterial and the non-objectivity of a work of art, totally overturning the classic conception of how it is perceived, its properties, and the market laws to which it is subjected.
In the same manner, What Happens in Halifax Stays in Halifax (In 36 Slides) (2004-2006) documents the final phase of Mario Garcia Torres’ lengthy research regarding a secret work by the conceptual artist Robert Barry, renowned for having taken the immaterial and invisibility to the extreme. In 1969, Barry sent a series of instructions via fax to the students of David Askenvold’s Project Class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design of Halifax, Canada, in which he asked the students to meet up and to agree on an idea that would become the subject of his work of art on the condition that the secret would not be revealed outside the group—even to the artist in person. In 2005, Mario Garcia Torres involved a number of the students who participated in the creation of the piece and organized a class reunion in Halifax to reconstruct the events of thirty years before and to investigate if the piece actually still exist or not. At this point, the secret itself would seem to be the most insignificant part of the story, and the work of Mario Garcia Torres appears to be questioning the dynamics of a group, collective memory, loyalty, the power of words, and communication.
Through the repetition and reproduction of works by other artists, Mario Garcia Torres also investigates themes that are more closely related to critical attitudes and denouncement. The series entitled Paradoxically, It Doesn’t Seem That Far From Here (2006) is inspired by the works of Alighiero Boetti and his One Hotel in Kabul and sheds light on the current social and political situation in Afghanistan. The project also consists of a number of imaginary faxes sent to Boetti by the Mexican artist in a desperate attempt to find the One Hotel (already destroyed) in the desolation of Kabul.
The wall drawing entitled Today (Latest News From Kabul) (2006) is a new version of a performance made in 1970 where Alighiero Boetti wrote mirror writing in pencil on a wall, using both his left and right hands at the same time, the date in which the action was made. In the same manner, Mario Garcia Torres performs the gestures of Boetti but he substitutes the transcription of the date with the text of the latest news from Kabul, continually updating the content and therefore the work itself at each new presentation. The Kabul Golf Club: Open in 1967, Relocated in 1973, Closed in 1978, Reopen circa. 1993, Closed Again in 1996, and Reopen in 2004 (2006) traces the lines of Calder’s airy and mobile structure, and it also becomes an evident comment on the Western world’s influence in Afghanistan.
The importance of inheritance, even immaterial, and the active intervention on existing structures returns in the Museo de Arte Sacramento, a long-term project, which is still ongoing. The Museum, founded by the artist in 2004 in a remote region of Mexico (300 hectares of open space that is intentionally difficult to access), is structured according to the rules of a real institution (with a director, a curatorial and an administration board), but it defines itself as a “discussion forum” and a “living archive” for artistic practice. In fact, the Museum does not possess any collection and only exhibits works that have been lent for a period of fifty years by a selection of artists invited to send works exclusively in the form of instructions and sketches, so that they may be produced at any time by “local personnel, visitors or—even—other artists”.
Originally published on Mousse 9 (Summer 2007)