Tag Archives: Art Basel 2008 Miami

Teresa Margolles, Drug Related Violence in Mexico, and Art Basel 2008

20 Dec

teresa-margolles-8The work of Teresa Margolles called “21 – Rendición de Cuentas” or (21- Score-Settling Incidents), was presented by the Madrid based Salvador Diaz Gallery. Her work is dear to me because my research is also on the effects of the illicit drug business. Teresa Margolles is from Sinaloa, Mexico a northwestern state of that country, where currently the murder rate per day sometimes can be as high as about one person per hour. These murders are the product of drug related violence due to quarrels between state officials and drug trafficking organizations or among drug dealers. The confrontations can be triggered by disagreements on territory, drug routes, business disputes, women, and etc. Margolles’s work focuses on the killings done to settle disputes.

Her work was showcased in Basel’s Art Positions section on the beach. Upon entering the container exhibiting her work, you saw several glass jewelry displays. When you took a closer look at the encased jewelry, in the back panel of each glass display, you saw a description not of the piece of jewelry, but of a crime report describing how a violent act was perpetrated to settle a score between drug dealers. The description was un-emotional and detailed as to the number individuals involved, weapons used, and time and date of the event. The gold jewelry was of similar design, it was all done by Teresa Margolles, and was meant to be as ostentatious as the pieces generally worn by drug dealers. The jewelry’s centerpiece appears to be a semi-precious stone, but instead it is broken glass derived from cars at crime scenes investigating a score-settling incident.  The pieces of shattered glass are collected by the artist directly at crime scenes or the pieces are given to her by the police (sometimes the glass was extracted from a corpse).

The art collection is meant to be macabre because violence is macabre, and it shows the ultimate consequences of greed and power. Margolles turns greed and power on their head, by creating jewelry that shows narcos, how their lifestyle kills them. In an interview Margolles explains, “I wanted to take the value away from these jewels and replace it with their score-settling incidents, so that they can see their deaths” (EFE TV). This is a moralistic piece, no question. But the question is: who will buy this art? This is a similar question, which I had with last year’s pieces by Clinton Fein on the Abu Ghraib Prison Tortures. This is art that delves into deep social issues, but which is marketed in galleries and which ultimately becomes a status symbol of wealth and power, the same wealth and power that is being critiqued by the artists.

An interesting detail about the exhibit was people’s reaction to the jewelry, which admittedly touches an emotional chord for me. At the exhibit, most people did not speak Spanish, and the descriptions of the drug related assassinations behind the jewelry were in Spanish. People just saw the gold pieces. However, if casual observers did make a point of reading the English description of Margolles’s exhibit on the back wall of the container, they would later find out that the pieces were made out of gold and glass by a local jewelry-maker for narcos, and that the glass was collected from crime scenes. In other words, the description was very ambiguous. If you have no idea of where Sinaloa is, what the murder rate is, and that there is a “Drug War” taking place in Sinaloa, then the exhibit has no significance for you.  Many people will have no clue that a drug prohibition on illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin has people in developing states killing each other in their quest to make a living out of an artificially high priced commodity. In fact, when I was at the exhibit a lady asked “Sinaloa, that’s in Mexico, right?” This is sad a state of affairs, but frankly why should she know or care? She has a life of her own to take care of, and she like many others in industrialized states probably think that this is a normal state of affairs in countries south of the border– Sinaloa, Mexico can easily be replaced with Medellin, Colombia, right? Below you will see more of Margolles’ work, but you will also be able to connect the drug violence with her art, because I placed several violent score-settling incidents that took place in Sinaloa at the same time that Art Basel 2008 was taking place.


Video of Teresa Margolles’ interview on “21”

Video of Margolles’ Exhibit at Art Basel 2008

Random Youtube Videos of December 2008 Score Settling Incidents in Sinaloa, Mexico while Art Basel was taking place.


My Barbarian Experience at Art Basel’s 2008 Positions

20 Dec


img_mybarbarian_07My Barbarian is a theater/performance art troupe form Los Angeles. These performers were located in one of the containers within Basel’s Art Positions on the beach and were brought by Steve Turner Contemporary. For me, their performance was a mix between a rock opera (a la Jesus Christ Superstar) and the chorus from ancient Greek Tragedy (a la Oedipus Rex). The piece was part of My Barbarian’s Hystera-Theater and it is based on a feminist interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of “The Cave” by Luce Igaray, where the cave is perceived as a womb. Having said that, the opening of the container was covered with wine red cloth that you (the observer) had to go through, to enter the container, thus entering the womb. Once inside “the womb” a video was projected at the end of the container. The performers—who wore red-wine robes and masks—sat, reclined, or laid-down on the floor on red pillows, while they chanted “You were born poor and poor you will die” and played instruments that went along with the Hystera-Theater video.

My Barbarian’s L.A. performance of “You Were Born Poor and Poor You Will Die”

My Barbarians were absolutely refreshing, because they are taking on that ancient Greek Tragedy feel and make it powerful, especially when they add dark rock guitar rifts. The song they chanted was awesome especially, given the current economic climate coupled with the irony that many of the people walking through the art containers were wealthy art collectors. I also thought they were truly dedicated— I saw them on Sunday afternoon, considering they had been performing in a container since Wednesday evening, they were doing great—especially when the temperature in those containers can reach above 80F, and maybe crowds of four or five at a time would walk in to see them perform. The basic gut reaction that I got from their performance was that it was liberating. Their masks, the costumes, the chants, the music, the film, and the real time interaction with the audience, explored all senses and was intense.

Pictures of My Barbarian’s Miami Art Basel Performance by Liz Poin



Tim Tate’s Timeless Video Reliquaries @ Miami’s Art Basel 2008

20 Dec

Shown by the Maurine Littleton Gallery at the Bridge Art Fair, Tim Tate‘s timeless glass sculptures are romantic, beautiful, and sometimes controversial. He founded the Washington Glass School in D.C. and his work has evolved from strictly glass sculptures to becoming self-contained video installation pieces– an incorporation of sculpture, glass blowing, and videos shown through mini-video hd-screens.  I loved these pieces because the emotion captured in each of these reliquaries. Tate captures video of ephemeral moments or objects in life and makes them timeless by expressing a feeling about them. My favorites were “Dreams of Flying,” “Washed Out”– a virtual carnival of the Montgomery County Fair, “My love life thus far.”  

All of the videos portray things or events dear to people, but which are temporary– very much like life itself. Although Tate makes these moments timeless by freezing them in his sculptures, he is confronted by the temporary nature of our lives more so than most people, because he was diagnosed HIV positive in the 1980s. Tate is able to turn a terrible diagnosis into beauty by allowing us to enjoy his sculptures.

Here is video on Tim Tate’s work by Todd Wiggins


“Dreams of Flying” a little girl prances around endlessly.


In “Washed Out” Tate shows video of a county fair and people yelling as they enjoy a roller coaster ride. 


“My Love Life Thus Far,” shows a building being imploded and rebuild over and over, which I think is great because it is a hopeful of love even after heart-brake. 


In “Call to Redemption” Tate make us look at ourselves.


… And More Video of Tate’s work

Red Truck Gallery Representing Fine American Art @ Art Basel Miami 2008

20 Dec

The Red Truck Gallery from New Orleans showcased at the Bridge Art Fair located at the Catalina Hotel on Collins and 16th. As always the Catalina Hotel is a great venue because it is intimate, and as you walk from room to room, you are actually walking from gallery to gallery. The Red Truck Gallery stuck out as one of the best because of its color, music, and of course because of its art. As I walked in and saw the artwork, three people who were chatting casually greeted me, while they shot what sounded like a toy gun, drank beer, and listened to the blues. So right away, you were transported from the hotel/gallery world to “their world.” Most of the pieces had interesting wooden frames and bright warm colors. Although I thought I understood exactly what I was looking at, it wasn’t until one of the gallery guys mentioned that some of the pieces were quilts. This totally took me by surprise, since most of the pieces were encased in glass, and at first glance the artwork was ambiguous—they looked like comical paintings or prints. Once he said, “I just wanted to let you know what you were looking at…” I was hit by the intricacy of the pieces. According to the rep some of the works are a collaborative effort between quilters and painters. My favorite three pieces were: 1. “Awkard Social Encounters” by Chris Roberts-Antieau, which is hilarious (the improper back rubbing make me think of Pres. George W. Bush rubbing German Chancellor’s Angela Merkel’s back), 2. “Luchadores” by Bryan Cunningham, and 3.“Choctau” by Frank Relle.

“Awkard Social Encounters” by Chris Roberts-Antieau



Inappropriate Back-Rubbing a la Bush-Merkel



“Luchadores” by Bryan Cunningham



“Choctau” by Frank Relle – New Orleans Nightscapes this one is taken after Hurricane Katrina


In Fashion Photo- A New Addition to Miami Art Basel’s 2008 Events

20 Dec

In Fashion Photo was very popular this year as it was the first annual exhibition—the first ever of its kind—and because it opened with a Naomi Campbell Retrospective, it had a fashionable opening with celebs, VIPs and of course wannabes.  It was located under an overpass in a parking lot turned art exhibit so the venue was really cool. The photography was excellent, as it was to be expected since it showcased world-class fashion photographers such as: Michael Dweck and Alix Malka. 

Some of Dweck’s sensual underwater pictures @ In Fashion Photo 2008







Alix Malka’s work at In Fashion Photo 2008



Happy Surprises at Art Basel Miami 2008

20 Dec

Dweckimage22Art Basel 2008 Miami edition ran from the 3rd to the 7th of December, and brought happy surprises like: Yelle, Teresa Margolles, Red Truck Gallery, Tim Tate, My Barbarian, side exhibits like O.H.W.O.W. & Kill Your Idols, and music events such as Panda Bear, MSTRKRFT, and DJ A-Track.

This year a new addition to the art fair scene was Art Asia and the In Fashion Photo exposition. The festivities started as early as Saturday November 29, and the surrounding art fairs included usual suspects such as: Scope, Pulse, The Bridge Art Fair, Miami Art, NADA, Photo Miami, Red Dot, and the Aqua Fair.

For me the most intense pieces of art in this fair were, Tim Tate’s, My Barbarian’s and Teresa Margolles’. I will review their work along with a series of small blogs on Art Basel 2008’s events… 

Video of Art Basel’s Positions (Shipping Containers on the Beach)