Yoshua Okon, one of the founders of alternative space ’La Panaderia’ in Mexico City, could be considered the Axel Rose of contemporary American art. Loud and aggressive, Okon uses the violence of his immediate surroundings to conjure short narratives that offend any moralistic perspective. Okon probes moral and racial issues through provocative situations and tableaux. Often based in Mexico City, Okon’s performance-based video works confront the viewer with unsettling theatrical situations that are at once real and ironically constructed. In these spaces the viewer becomes both a voyeur and participant, simultaneously implicated and exonerated.

Okon looks at notions of ‘otherness’, through both an anthropological and geographical prism. For instance, in his highly characteristic work, ’Lago Bolsena’, he introduces the traditional Santa Julia neighbourhood in Mexico City. This neighbourhood, with its rich local culture, has come to be perceived by outsiders as dangerous, isolated, and impenetrable. Okon’s camera attempts to capture groups ‘untouched by civilization’. This feeling is heightened by the many ancient ‘vecindades’ – multiple family apartments surrounding a central courtyard – and by the local legend of the dangers of the ‘Tigre de Santa Julia’. Okon performs the part of the anthropological observer, and directs the inhabitants of Santa Julia to perform what they imagine to be bestial or savage behaviour. This massive collaboration deconstructs the traditional documentary by revealing the grey area between fact and fiction confronting viewers with what may be their own preconceptions of ‘chilanga’ identity, otherness, and difference.

La Panadería, as explained and described by Okon himself, appears as “part of a whole phenomenon which is going on in Mexico since the 90s, which is that independent places and groups are arising. The system here is a system, where everything is controlled in a way, or has this strong dependency. It’s a strong lack of freedom, not only in terms of art, but in terms of culture in general. These places emerge out of a basic need for communication, for exchange with the outside, as well as having a place to get together, a place to show the work you do, to create a dialogue”. Okon adds : “La Panaderia is not a gallery. We have never ever sold anything. We see ourselves not as curators, curating just happens when we are in a show here and want to make it a group show, then we get other people together. We’re basically supplying a space, a little bit of help. The main initiative has to come from the people showing or working here, like designing and distributing the invitations...”.

Born in Mexico City in 1970, Yoshua Okon currently lives and works between Mexico City and Los Angeles. His work has been shown at, amongst others, the MUCA (Mexico City), Galeria Espacio Mínimo (Madrid), The Project (New York), Museum of Fine Arts (Houston), MALBA (Buenos Aires), MOCA (Los Angeles) and MCA (Chicago).

This event is part of Algo Más Que Palabras / Something More Than Words

Yoshua Okon  
  • Wed 13.6.2007
    20:30 - 20:30
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