Untitled (Slot machine)
Enclosed space, door with slot, pedestal with slot, and automatic door opening and closing systemt
This piece is a reflection on the power exercised by institutions, artists and the art market, not only within the processes of legitimization and assigning value to works of art, but particularly that which is imposed directly on the viewer. The piece’s access structure invites visitors to insert a coin before they can go on to the next room, much like a “pay-per-view” event. Once inside, the viewer now operating as a key element of the piece must pay in order to get out.
The transaction refers to the mechanisms of the art system through which specific a priori values are imposed onto the public, which critically or not, and almost always lacking alternatives ends up consuming the work, either intellectually or as part of a mercantile process: the result of an ultimately symbolic network.
Fritzia Irizar’s work directly addresses the concrete, smallscale movement of capital: capital (labor, money, exchange) in her individual environment. I must stress that, in a sense, she takes up the very means of producing a work of art and locates them in ideological territory.
Debates arise about the circulation and consumption of works of art, but when we have to discuss systems of artistic production, we grow flummoxed: we’re not conscious of them. We take for granted that, starting with their subjective arbitrariness, works of art must be consistent only with their meaning, with their content.
What does it mean to demolish a couple buildings that represent the mo- nopoly of global economic power?
It depends on whether they’ve been made to go overland via missile, or with a simple utility knife...
In Germany, Fritzia showed a textual piece that involved text written directly on the floor, scattering credit cards—like rows of dominos falling one by one in a momentary display of energy, in what has been called, with apologies for the redundancy, the “domino effect.” The work says “sos.” The value of the plastic itself is negligible, really, but as the famous ad goes, it may well be “the key to the world.” In an absurd accumulation of cards that could be stolen, cancelled, found, or invented (without any detriment to the piece, as it is understood that all of the cards lack funds), we also find scores of unfamiliar names, people, stories, recessions, prosperity, crisis, debt, illusion, depression, and clumsiness. From its near-flat horizontality, the gray sculpture silently shouts in a universal code.
In a space in Mexico City, Fritzia built a simple, ironic mechanism: to access the hall where the piece was exhibited, the public had to deposit a cash fee into the slot machine installed at the entrance. Once inside, the visitor would realize that what was on exhibition was the very fact of making the piece function. I remembered how, in Spain, these machines are called tragaperras (literally, female dog-swallowers); I don’t know why. Naturally, in order to recover the investment made in installing the piece, it would have to be exhibited for a considerable period of time, and somehow visitors would have to promise not to disclose the subject in question: a kind of corruption shot through with cynicism and fragile low-budget cheekiness. In a way, the installation revealed certain skeptical attitudes toward contemporary art, toward its supposed “high level of simulation,” its trickery, its crisis. The audience pays to become complicit in a shameless mechanism. It seems like the aesthetic fact rests not on a hoax or a wink, but rather on the ability to turn the gaze toward the moment when the viewer constructs the piece, when she interprets it, deciphers it, turns it into a living act. And at a low cost.
A dream in the interlude: a column of coins all the way to the ceiling... of which denomination? In which museum? In which gallery? How much does it cost? How much is it worth? I thought of a TV character, El Chavo del Ocho, played by Roberto Gómez Bolaños (Chespirito), who calculated everything in ham sandwiches, the monetary value that corresponded to his poverty. With the construction of a column of coins, I also remembered Brancusi and public sculpture—in his absurd, chauvinist, monstrous megalomania—with respect to cultural administration budgets, always miserly and far-removed from art’s real dimensions, from its importance, as essential as science. The artistic manifesto or statement put forth by creators and their products, their works, in all their diversity, reveals their sources, their involvements, their destination.
In his work, the extraordinary cartoonist Abel Quezada included a character whose ostentation contrasted him with all the others. While a “bum” sold fly-covered tacos, another was held together with a pin as if he were made of cardboard, and another was a corrupt policeman, this character had a diamond ring in his nose; his name was Gastón Billetes (a play on words: in Spanish, gastar is “to spend,” and billetes are bills).
A column of gastonesbilletes would be interesting, a column of ham sandwiches, a column of Sebastiáns (works by Sebastián, the famous Mexican sculptor), a column of blank checks, a column of hunger. The alchemical transformation of shit into gold makes a curious kind of sense in one of Fritzia’s pieces, which “devalues” something already devalued in order to make it “valuable.” A kilo of tortillas, the foodstuff par excellence (if not, almost, par excrescence) of Mexico’s most marginalized social sectors, is reduced to its most minimal expression when cut to the size of a coin. A tortilla, made of corn, is simultaneously a disc, a circle, and a cylinder that serves as a container (in its noble format as a taco); even as the most paltry delicacy, it has been exposed in this caricature as something inaccessible, suspended in helium balloons, when the price rises. Brutal economic inequality in Mexico has created an imbalance between Mexicans’ cost of living and their per capita income, especially for those who live in rural areas, where corn is grown. Such are the conditions of our poverty: we can’t even produce seeds for personal consumption. Now we import corn. Thus, Fritzia’s coinsized tortilla isn’t a metaphor, nor is it a funny sculpture; in any case, it is a raw material. To make a taco, per- haps, that you would need a magnifying glass to eat.