Much like (if not exactly like) Ross McElwee in his 1986 docu-classic Sherman’s March: A Mediation to the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South During An Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation, armed with his pre-DV video camera and traipsing through his native South to investigate the still-visible destruction that William T. Sherman left as he waged his ruthless brand of “total war” against a mostly civilian population to bring the Confederate Army to its knees, I, too, slung my digital camera over my shoulder and cut a more severe southern path to Mexico, D.F. to witness the extent to which the Global Art Market’s brand of prosperity and cultural exchange was inflicted upon mostly civilian art-goers (I arrived at the art fair, Zona Maco, on the last day after all, long after the Collector Elite had picked through the fair). And just as quickly as one realizes McElwee’s film becoming much more about his luckless mishaps with the Southern women he encounters, so too will one quickly realize this review befalling the same libidinal trappings. For if there´s anything at Zona Maco beyond Art Fair Art, it´s equally aspirationally brimming with the wealthy/beautiful-type people who pin their social aspirations on art and are basically artfairing it to be well-documented by photographers being seen seeing it.
Similar to any art market gathering, the entrance to Maco is besieged by booths catering to the ever-artful consumer, selling Baldessari totes and Nara ashtrays and subscriptions to Aperture. The quintessential exercise in art world commercialism, the brands and sponsors are there in full force, from car dealers to MTV to the industrial design pop-up stores taking orders on midcentury chairs and cantilevered lamps to complement the high-design décor in your Condesa apartment (though worldwide shipping is available, natch).
Venturing on past the retail, one of the more experiential installations to draw a crowd was at the talCual booth where the young Mexican artist Fritzia Irizar had a piece called (Totem II) consisting of a salt bar, water basin, and weighing station.
With the entire booth awash in a clinical white light, a slab of salt sat on an examination table and invited viewers to chip away part of the artwork with a pick, weigh it, and according to a posted pricing table, you could then purchase the salt and take it home in your very own to-go bag packaged by the artist herself. The press release mentions something about a collateral-type relationship, that if viewers wanted to disfigure the totem of salt (with all its spiritual-religious significations, etc.), they must be prepared to pay the price for the act of defacement (100 pesos per 100 gr. of salt, apparently). To me, the installation represented less a critique of consumer culture and had more in common with the value-exchange relationship taking place at the retail portion of the fair, especially since a 100 gr. of salt will rarely, if ever, sell for 100 pesos even at the most bourgeois of Mexican marketplaces.
But being confined in the talCual booth as fair-goers came and went, I couldn´t help but keep noticing how absurdly attractive and fashionable they all were, the girls as much as the guys who frequently tugged at their hands to keep circling the galleries Maco had to offer. And so I followed, allowing myself to be engulfed in the sea of pretty.
As in Sherman´s March, just as Ross´ sister encourages him in the rowboat that afternoon on the lake in Charlotte to begin viewing his video camera as a conversation piece to make him interesting to the gorgeous and ravenously single Southern women around him, I too heard her words of encouragement reverberating across the AV channels giving me the same dose of confidence. Go ahead, she seemed to say, and treat my 7D as a conversation piece, try to be more outgoing with my camera, make everyone feel like a celebrity (her advice here a little less relevant nowadays) and perhaps seize this as an opportunity to make some beautiful new friends (which just happen to all be female).
About this time, I see a girl looking at a Marcel Dzama piece at the David Zwirner booth. She´s taking photos of the artwork (documenting a fairly interesting, if fairly unsurprising Dzama 3D diorama with cut-outs of his ghastly-faced soldiers dancing with Kalashnikov rifles along with a cast of his other psychosexual characters, all viewable within a stained wooden box mounted on the wall) and she reminds me of this artsy girl I used to crush on in high school, so un-self-aware as to be halfway dense when it came to the knowledge of her own attractiveness. All that mattered to her, on the contrary, was Wittgenstein, mixed media, and the “Infinite and the Sublime,” or so she´d say, leaning over the art table at a sharp angle as she labored on yet another collage piece, unwittingly lending me a generous view of her floral bra down the stretched-out neckline of her Smiths t-shirt as I nodded and tried to appear thoughtful and like I´d read so much as a sentence from a single volume of Philosophical Investigations.
Channeling Ross´ sister from 1986, I muster the courage to approach this stunning Dzama fan at Maco and make conversation. Her name is Augustina, I learn if nothing else, and the exchange went something like this:
“Bien, bien. Tu?”
“Muy bien, gracias.”
“Como te llamas?”
“Gracias. Y tu?”
Awkward pause, as I´ve just hit my bilingual limit. She gives it another go, the sweetheart.
“Asi que, que piensas de esta pieza?”
“Uh, actually, I don’t know what you just said.”
“Yeah um, no comprende.”
“Bueno, un placer conocerte.”
I smile and nod as she goes, recognizing for the first time how differently that scene played out IRL than how flawlessly it did in my head. Como se dice, “cognitive dissonance?”