Boxes & Borders is a collaborative project focusing on the artistic exploration of identities within the context of cross-cultural relationships. The premise of the project is that the global economy, with its exchange of products-and consequently culture-has radically transformed local identities that once were disconnected. Globalisation is an economic concept that does not unite the world in a harmonic way, but instead affirms the right of corporations to sell the same products to everyone. As a reaction to these standardising tendencies, we witness various attempts at rediscovering national roots. This creates a paradoxical situation. On one hand, technology and the economy tend to de-differentiate communities and individuals into marketable standards. By contrast, the need to have some place where we really belong, with norms and rules that could only be our own, promotes a kind of nostalgic return to the past. The question is how we might build identities at the centre of this paradox without falling into the periphery or naively celebrating the new global structure. Mexico, to the eyes of its partners in the NAFTA agreement, is an industrially underdeveloped country, yet its market tradition goes back to pre-colonial times. Even today, it's difficult to escape the numerous improvised markets and vendors' stands found everywhere: at corners and traffic lights, in plazas and parks. These markets, once traditional, have adapted to globalisation. Today it is not uncommon to find watches and washing machines made in the USA or Canada along with traditional products. Mexican artists have found a unique way to deal with globalisation. They have adapted and/or transformed "products" out of Mexico's powerful folk traditions into things that might be consumed "globally". Recently, Mexican plastic knitted bags have become a coveted fashion article in Europe. Based on this success of a traditional Mexican product, Ilián Gonzáles and Maurycy Gomulicki have explored this cultural paradox even further. They create products and show them in the style of a typical North American department store window display, thereby inverting the process of economic influence by stressing the values of originality and exoticism. Minerva Cuevas is interested in the way that the global economy has affected Mexican idiosyncrasy through fashion. As part of her series Think Globally, Act Locally, Cuevas has photographed people on the streets of Mexico City wearing brand advertisements on T-shirts and caps. These photographs make evident the way in which globalisation is culturally assimilated even in poorer countries. The most significant way in which Mexico's economy has entered the North American market is probably through cheap labour. Coming from a family of workers and maids in the Argentinean South, María José Gorozo has consistently dealt with exploitation in her work. Her piece, focusing on the near-enslavement of Mexican female workers in the maquila industry along the US border, consists of a long piece of cloth that has been unnecessarily and obsessively sewn, a process that does not comply with North American values of production efficiency. Jerónimo Hagerman has taken a different approach by exploring the idea of other cultures as it is exploited in marketing campaigns. His work consists of 12 colour circles with names and places of origin acting as property titles, making evident a false and almost comic understanding of other cultures. Using colour names such as azul chapultepec, he incites the viewer to buy not just the colour but also the fantasy about a distant land behind it. Another relevant Mexican contribution to the North American economy is oil, and Anibal Delgado has created a set of barrels as a display case for ink drawings. His piece deals with the current oil, a major setback for economies around the world. It states the predominant role that Third World countries' raw materials still play in the "fueling" of industrialised superpowers. Finally, Canadian Terence Gower the ironic fact that inside this system, individuals (and artists in particular) must constantly move in order to access the market. In Display Travel, a series of cast suitcases, he makes this reality noticeable. Boxes & Borders proposes that one solution to the cultural problems of globalisation lies in our ability to understand the extent to which we do not really understand others which puts us in the position to understand ourselves. Antonio Outón Antonio Outón studied in Mexico and England. He is a former President of Gallery 101's Board of Directors. As curator, he has organized exhibitions in Ottawa, Montreal and Mexico City. Recently, his artwork has been shown Australia, Senegal, Chile and Mexico. He is currently a guest curator at Arte In Situ.
Thursday, October 26, 2000 to Saturday, December 2, 2000Opening
- Thursday, October 26, 2000