Artists Inspired by Mexico City

Artists Inspired by Mexico City

Volume 14 of SUITCASE Magazine: The Art Issue we travelled to Mexico
City, a metropolis that offers incredible depth and breadth across
every creative discipline. We discovered a burgeoning fashion
scene, a growing number of cutting-edge galleries and design
projects that have earned the megacity the accolade of World Design
Capital for 2018 – it’s no wonder so many artists are inspired by
the city’s patchwork streets. In the aftermath of Zona MACO, Mexico
City’s and arguably Latin America’s biggest art fair, we spoke to
four international creatives about their relationship with the
Mexican capital.

Mercedes Nasta

Mercedes Nasta is a musician and artist living in Mexico
City. She released her new album Basalto earlier this year,
launching at the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in the run-up to
MACO art fair.

Where in the city do you feel most creative?

In my studio where I spend long hours creating. I also enjoy
visiting the Bosque de Chapultepec, which is a few blocks from my
house. Both the park and the many museums within it – Museo de
Antropología, Museo de Arte Moderno or Museo Tamayo – are very

What inspires you about Mexico City in particular and Mexico in

I love the rainy season in Mexico City – it goes on for months.
I like its old houses and buildings, the trees and the flowers. I
appreciate its art, food, antiques and gatherings with friends. I
also find Mexico’s diversity and geography very inspiring – the
different music, the pre-Columbian settlements and the

Where do you go when you feel like you need to escape the

I enjoy going to the mountains, the countryside, the lake or the

What aspects of Mexican culture inform your work?

History informs my work – pre-Columbian cultures, art and
architecture from the 20th century, ecological reserves, volcanoes
and rocks.

Many of the songs on your album are stories about the past or
inspired by nature and art in Mexico, tell us about the song

To me songs are like shamanic rituals, and some stories have to
be turned into songs so that people make them their own and the
stories abandon the body. The song Barragán speaks of an old
obsessive love and about my ongoing love for the architect Luis
Barragán. He was a fascinating creature obsessed with detail,
colour, dimension, gardens and light. He was also very religious.
The song speaks of a devotional attitude to love, and also about
losing love and finding comfort in a garden, which in the song is a
metaphor for my mind.

If you could perform anywhere in Mexico where would it be and

There are many beautiful pyramids and temples in Mexico I find
inspiring. I would love to perform in Yaxchilan, a Mayan settlement
in the heart of the jungle in the state of Chiapas. You can only
arrive there by boat through the Usumacinta River, which divides
Mexico and Guatemala. The place is inhabited by a colony of howling
monkeys called the Saraguato.

One myth about Mexico City that you would like to dispel?

That it is’t a safe place.

Yoshua Okon

One of the most controversial pieces of art at this year’s
MACO art fair was The Toilet, a collaboration between artists
Yoshua Okon and Santiago Sierra. The work is a fully functioning
toilet made of aluminum, stainless steel and fibre glass and is a
critique of the controversial Soumaya Museum designed by Fernando
Romero .

Tell us about your work and what led you to make a fully
functioning toilet.

The piece is a critique of the Soumaya Museum as a symbol of
corporate power. Corporations operate with no regulations and are
responsible for most of the human exploitation and environmental
destruction on our planet. And no one is holding them to account –
most people are distracted by terrorists and narcos (druglords),
both of which are only symptoms of a wider problem. Corporate
culture is the root cause of many problems we face today, including
violence, massive immigration, global warming and poverty.

Who do you conceive of as your audience?

I normally think about the kind of people that go to museums,
who tend to be a fairly privileged demographic. They are the kind
of people who stand in a good position to generate changes.

How important is Mexico to your work?

Mexico City is a very complex city where you can find a lot of
sophistication, but there is also a darker underbelly to our
culture. In other words, the dark side of capitalism – which is
harder to spot in so-called ‘developed nations’ due to the powerful
role of mass media – is hard to ignore here. In that respect it is
a good place for artists, because it really keeps you grounded;
it’s much harder to be in denial here than it is in Europe or the
US. So that is one of the reasons I like living in Mexico City.
Plus the food is amazing.

Your work addresses the idea of activism in a striking and very
humane way. If you were to explore other cities, where would you
visit and why?

Well, broadly speaking, the focus of my work has to do with the
effects of global capitalism. That is, a very specific kind of
capitalism that was developed in the last 60 years or so and that
has unfortunately reached almost every corner of the planet. In
that sense, I tend to find plenty of content anywhere I go.

Your work uses humour to transmit serious messages. Is Mexico a
funny city?

Well, humour is a powerful mechanism that helps us cope with
everyday life, especially with the frustrating aspects. Like in the
UK, dark humor is very common in Mexico. Early in my career I
remember being annoyed by how solemn local artists tended to be and
I remember thinking that I was getting more insight into the city
from popular jokes than from art. I couldn’t understand why art was
so deeply associated with solemnity, as if that made it deeper or
more serious. Intelligent and sophisticated humour gives us a
critical distance from ourselves and our environments.

Yves Scherer

In collaboration with Attilia Franchini, josegarcia ,mx
gallery represented Swiss-born, New York-based artist Yves
Scherer’s show, which was part-housed part in Luis Barragan’s Casa
Pedrega and part in an abandoned house in the centre of Mexico
City. Both environments leant his installation, entitled Snow White
and the Huntsman, a fairytale feel.

Where does the inspiration for the titles of your shows come
from? They are all pretty romantic – are you a romantic?

The titles usually just come from literature, songs or things I
read in the process of making the exhibition. Snow White and the
Huntsman for example is from the movie, but as with all the titles
of works in the show, it’s mostly really just a description of the
work which goes beyond the medium and size. While this sounds quite
pragmatic, I’m definitely a romantic when it comes to other things
in my life!

What does love mean to you?

For where I’m headed right now, it’s mainly the stove in the

You engage with celebrities in your work – what role do they
play and why do you find them interesting?

I’m examining their importance in my life and the role they play
in society as a whole. It’s interesting to see how they function as
models of how to live our lives.

What was the Kristen Stewart work about?

A few different pieces in the show are all about Kristen Stewart
and they have different notions behind them. Generally I would say
that the work touches on the relationship of a stranger to the
celebrity – how one can personally relate to the moment she cheated
on Robert Pattinson for example, and how this became an emotional
issue for a larger audience which has never had a real-world
interaction with any of the three people involved in the problem.
On the other hand some of the pieces touch on a certain idea or
aspect of fan fiction, where time shared with the star is
formulated in a poetic way mostly.

Terence Gower

Terence Gower is a Canadian-born artist living and working
between New York City, Mexico and France. His show Free Association
was hosted at LABOR gallery during MACO, and focused around a text
the artist commissioned from Iranian psychoanalyst Gohar
Homayounpour that describes a link between the intuitive artistic
process and the Freudian analytical technique of free

How have you found living and working in Mexico city compare to
New York and France?

I started working in Mexico City 23 years ago – the artists and
the general working and production methods have had more influence
on my practice than any other place. If you spend time in the US
you quickly realise that Mexican immigrants are the hardest working
professionals – they keep the country functioning (contrary to what
Donald Trump would have us believe). So working in Mexico you have
access to a pool of very trustworthy, super-skilled artisans in all

What led you to commission Gohar Homayounpour to write the text
around which the show is structured?

Dr Homayounpour is very interested in artistic practice, but has
also published extensively on issues closer to home, such as
complications around the veil in the consulting room. She and her
husband, the art collector Mehdi Safavi, arranged the invitation to
show my project Tehran Suite-about Victor Gruen’s vast urbanism
scheme for Tehran-at a private gallery in their city. I invited
Gohar to test my hypothesis that the psychoanalytic technique of
free association could be compared to an artist’s intuitive process
and her brilliant text Free / Not Free Association was the

Do you think music and moving image can be as powerful as a
still image?

I think music and moving images are more powerful in a different
way, and this is why I resort to these media forms, especially in
their most accessible form – entertainment – in many of my works.
Can a sculpture or a painting make you cry the way a song or a film
can? Architecture comes close (try visiting the Imam Mosque in
Isfahan!) and I guess this was my goal in uniting architecture and
music in a pure emotional experiment in the piece I showed last
month at Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City. I worked with
the text of the Manifesto of Emotional Architecture, written by the
designer of El Eco Mathias Goeritz, and invited a composer of
gospel music to incorporate it into a song.

Tell us about the use of mobile in your work.

My first mobile Noguchi Galaxy was a public commission in New
York, and was also shown at Labor in 2012. It is a direct precursor
to the room-size mobile in this show, Free Association in that it
functions as a 3D model of the fragmentary state of the
unconscious. I use mobiles as a way to display this swirling
maelstrom of subconscious imagery, much like large-scale 3D
scientific models of cell structures or planetary systems.
Alexander Calder is always there in my work as an early influence,
along with other modern artists like Barbara Hepworth, Isamu
Noguchi and Henry Moore. The mobile in this show is more than an
illustration: it actually functions as a demonstration of the
psychoanalytic technique of free association.