Critics’ Picks

View of “La Trampa” (The Trap), 2012.

View of “La Trampa” (The Trap), 2012.

Los Angeles

Edgardo Aragón

The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State L.A.
5151 State University Drive California State University
April 14–June 2, 2012

Despite art criticism’s rampant overuse of words such as traffic (or interrogate or investigate) to describe the seemingly nefarious “activities” of works, there is no better term to describe Edgardo Aragón’s recent videos that deal in the practices and fallout of narcotrafficking throughout his native Mexico. The trilogy of video installations in his first solo exhibition in the US, however, presents an oblique form of trafficking animated by the harsh realities of the region’s narcoterrorism and drug-related violence: the drug cartels’ makeshift techniques of torture and interrogation as forms of playful, childlike recreation. This is most evident in Efectos de familia (Family Effects), 2008–10, a series of video vignettes that restage these scenarios with the artist’s friends and relatives cast as both perpetrators and victims.

Bearing some resemblance to the durational performances initiated by Santiago Sierra (without the physical harm), or the rehearsal performances of Francis Alÿs (without the resources), Aragón’s videos offer seemingly banal rituals of everyday experience that are only later revealed to bear some social relationship to the reign of terror that has taken hold of the country in the form of an ongoing “war on drugs.” In Efectos de familia, children aimlessly hold bricks above their shoulders, or push a truck down a dirt road; and one stands in the path of an oncoming SUV with his feet buried in the sand. As opposed to the reality of life on the ground in Mexico, Aragón’s actors are able to walk away from each scene relatively unscathed, which seems to emphasize the fact that the works traffic in meaning rather than giving it to us outright.