Critics’ Picks

View of “José Carlos Martinat: How to Explain the Unexplainable?,” 2015–16.

View of “José Carlos Martinat: How to Explain the Unexplainable?,” 2015–16.

Mexico City

José Carlos Martinat

Sala de Arte Público | Proyecto Siqueiros (SAPS)
Calle Tres Picos #29 Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco
September 12, 2015–January 16, 2016

José Carlos Martinat’s current exhibition in Mexico City, “How to Explain the Unexplainable?,” takes its title from a federal governmental slogan that promotes national and international tourism in Mexico and is usually accompanied by images of beautiful beaches, blue waterfalls, and historical places. But these idyllic scenes are overshadowed by the inexcusable pandemonium of this country’s violent reality, as fed to international media around the world.

This absurdity is the chief departure point of Martinat’s show, featuring a large site-specific installation also titled after the slogan. Hanging from different points around the museum are thirty-five thermal printers connected to the Internet and to a program that uses keywords to address thirty-five questions regarding the precarious economical, social, and political reality of Mexico. Random answers are printed every ten minutes onto small pieces of paper—they fall again and again, covering the entire ground. One of them reads: “Leaks, betrayal and impunity in the Mexican prison system. In Mexico anyone can escape from prison as long as they have the resources for oiling the gates’ hinges.” Another declares: “Memory is our best weapon against enforced disappearances.”

Martinat’s installation confronts us, on the one hand, with the fact that relentless accumulation of data becomes a waste if it’s not processed or understood. On the other hand, it physically serves as a metaphor for the cumulative and monumental havoc reigning Mexico, a country in which even the worst tragedies are soon forgotten beneath bureaucratic piles of paper.