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Kirk Varnedoe Memorial Lecture Series with Anna Indych-López
Cosmic Thing and CDMX: Modes of Making, Knowing, and Seeing from the Global South

Mexico City (CDMX), one of the cultural capitals of Latin America and the world, is a site of contested social relations and a dynamic agent of visual production. At the turn of this century, artists mobilized aspects of this conflicted megalopolis, such as the conditions of occupying space within it under an ongoing coloniality, racial capitalism, and neoliberalism, just as their work began to circulate internationally. This talk focuses on Damián Ortega’s Cosmic Thing (2002), a disassembled Volkswagen beetle—a vehicle indelibly associated with the urban fabric of Mexico City—that the artist methodically reconstructed piece by piece as a suspended sculpture. It considers the various ways that Ortega marshals a plethora of diagrammatic modes (including repair manuals) and forms of non-hegemonic knowledge rooted in the streets of Mexico City to submit modernist sculptural practices to the classed, racialized, and mutable geographies of the megalopolis. A visual pun on what I consider urban cosmogonies, the work crystallizes a DIY ethos redolent in contemporary artistic practices, which I argue is rooted in the lived realities of Mexico City and speaks to modes of making, knowing, and seeing in the Global South. As a work both of the city and sited in it, Cosmic Thing raises questions about the tensions embedded in precarity aesthetics and the reinscription of the extractive practices of colonialism.

Anna Indych-López is Professor of Art History at The Graduate Center and The City College at CUNY where she teaches courses on modern and contemporary art among Latin American, U.S., transatlantic, Afro-diasporic, and Latinx networks.

May 4, 2022 06:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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