Roof out of line up with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chickenwire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong.
The fences and houses
built of barrel-staves
and parts of boxes
William Carlos Williams
The main direction in my work is based on an attempt to forge a consciousness about the self-construction of identity. One of the main metaphors for this has been inspired by the process of construction of my parents’ house in Mexico City.
During the first half of my life I witnessed the slow construction of the house in which my family lives. The construction started in the mid-1960s, as part of a massive invasion of immigrants from the countryside, in a rough volcanic rock area in the south of Mexico City, not included in the original urban plans.
The materials and techniques used have been almost completely improvised and dependent on the surrounding circumstances of that unstable economic and social moment, as it happened in diverse places, not only there, but perhaps around the world. Then, solutions were based on specific needs and situations, such as a new room, the modification of a ceiling, or the improvement or cancellation of some spaces.
Being conceived and built without budget or architectural intervention, as it appears now, the house seems to be chaotic and almost useless, but every detail and every corner has a reason to exist. My parent’s home is an authentic labyrinth polished by the patina of simultaneous use, construction and destruction.
That autoconstrucción (self-construction), as this kind of edification is called, should be seen as a warm process in which solidarity between neighbours and family members is very important—not only in terms of collaboration itself, as a shared economic capital, but as an educative and enriching environment for any individual, as someone in the community, with the others.
The different series of works I’ve been making as a sculptor, regard that house as a whole, looking at some details and techniques improvised by or according to specific urgencies of family members. Instability, ‘roughness, volts, jerks, sulks, balks, out blurts and jump-overs’, in each piece are transformations of the house’s references in terms of a certain locality, as shifts of somatic awareness, as physiological presence in time and space: multiplied, simultaneous.
Many of my works are evidence of my will to confront at once, two or more radically different economic systems. There is no representation of the technical details of the construction, but a reproduction of the diverse dynamics involved, viewing the economic and social environment as a sort of scaffolding through/on which I make my moves.
Even when sometimes isolated pieces reference, in a figurative way, the basic structure of a ‘house’ more than just proposing models of poor architecture, my main goal is to produce knowledge about how activity becomes form, trying to renew for myself a meaningful vehicle for intuition and invention.
On the other hand, and as a silent soundtrack in time and context alongside the sculptures I make, there is an equally contradictory accumulation of information translated into drawings, pictures or moving images and sounds, appropriated from music, books, other images and experiences from my life.
Collections of film posters, cancelled images from newspapers and postcards, video clips, music tracks or kidnapped text fragments, compose some of the groupings I seek to share as the witnessing of my own cosmos. They are the carved pebbles forming the walls, floors and ceilings of my integrity.
It was also said by Buckminster Fuller that matter is organised in nature by sympathy. This applies to my collections and to my three-dimensional work: I’m interested in developing the ability to show up the coherence, or its absence, of several elements between them as nonlinear, nonlogical organisational systems. My sculptures are arbitrary and delirious groupings of fragments, arranged as subjective, emotional, affective, magic, sensual or sensorial clumps.
Referring to the specifics of material and meaning in the elements that compose each group or sculpture, I’m trying to generate a continuous tension on three different levels: the physical-material, the symbolic, and the interpretative. This tension attempts in turn, to generate a possible fracture or instability, to make readings of the work even more relative and complex.
The formal appearance of the works derives from the chaotic and improvised methods of autoconstrucción, a messy dynamic of construction, linked to warm processes of participation and solidarity in the context of a community lacking services, resources, planning, money, ideas, but very rich in its needs and enthusiasm.
Piling and stacking in an untidy, accumulative, stylistic promiscuity is justified in the urgency to generate spaces with anything available in the surrounding environment. Very often, this system generates cacophonies and paradoxes in the economical, social and functional structures. Sometimes, this manner of construction could be linked to vernacular architecture, in which the expressive gestures are the evidence of a communicative need, indispensable for those who have nothing to lose. So, in these cases, aesthetic taste is not an issue: there can be no visual abuse, misuse or mistake.
In this context then, my work has no subject matter; there is no representation, no technique. It doesn’t try to display any special skill or virtuoso ability. As wholes, the pieces are organic clusters of fragments; their precariousness, in meaning and physicality, attempts to be coherent with the hazardous and contradictory will to join things together, as evidence of an individual experience in a very specific place.
Autoconstrucción, my exhibition at CCA, includes sculptures made in nearby Cove Park during the summer. Improvising with materials from that context: wool, sheep shit, chicken wire, discarded furniture, cardboard, stones, grass or my own hair, I’ve constructed unplanned assemblages, testing new dialogues with odd and contradictory objects and prime matter. Inspired by my parents’ house as an improvised space, chaotic, ugly, made without a budget, ideas, or plans, and definitely unfinished, the room is a messy landscape overpopulated with objects; as the groups of objects and materials will be chaotic and unstable, its entirety will make people’s navigation of the room unstable as well. All the sculptures/objects hang from the ceiling or lie directly on the floor.
While in Cove Park, I wrote lyrics about my own house. They were written in a hybrid combination of sources that inspire me, such as romantic popular music, folk, boleros, dub, rock’n’roll, salsa, reggae, Brazilian music, corridos, punk, ska, cumbia, trova, funk, protest music, commercial pop, norteñas, hip-hop, etc. Then I asked bands from Glasgow to create music for the 18 lyrics and we recorded 18 songs, spanning an eclectic range of musical styles.
When the album was ready, I played the music in the streets and squares of Glasgow with a sound system constructed as a mobile sculpture. This street-cart was made in collaboration with John O’Hara, in a workshop in Bridgeton, which is part of a project called The Common Wheel, that presents itself as follows: ‘We exist to provide meaningful activity for people with mental illness by recycling and repairing old bicycles.’ The sound system was made with parts from used, discarded or old bikes and diverse furniture, pipes, sticks, carpets, recycled bits and pieces and refers directly to those riding the streets of Kingston in Jamaica during the 1970s and 80s, but also to the DJ and MC practices around the world, especially to the Sonidero tradition of Mexico City.
Very important to this project is the collaboration and creation in a ‘contaminated’ cultural environment, which means shifting something very personal, from my own experience, to a very local platform and circumstance. For example, the appropriation of the lyrics by the bands into their own subjectivity was central to the collaboration. Earlier, for other projects, I have cooperated with people from very diverse contexts and fields: craft makers, historians, professors, physicians, builders, students and artists.
In the largest gallery of CCA, the sound system plays music from the album. Visitors are welcome to ride it in the space. There is a video, showing documentation of the spaces where the music was played in the streets. This was made with a fixed camera on the vehicle, registering its transit in Glasgow, capturing people’s lives and activities, randomly. The video is projected directly onto the walls, from a projector attached to a pole on the mobile sculpture. I’ve also written the lyrics with a pencil on the walls, around the sound system.
In the smaller room next door photos, plans, maps of urban growth and social inequality in Mexico City, are accompanied by a collection of books, documents, drawings and sketches (on paper and on the wall), of my house, my neighbourhood, the city, the country, music and diverse information related to the project. And all the time, a screensaver video projection randomly describes my house, inch by inch.