Aleksandra Mir

Galerie Laurent Godin | Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare

For her first solo exhibition in Paris, Aleksandra Mir—Polish-born, a Swedish citizen, and a New York City resident since 1989—festooned Galerie Laurent Godin with every variety of Mexican kitsch: paper flowers, salad bowls of plastic fruit, bread, and alphabet letters; a skeleton in a suit seated in front of a laptop; cacti painted on the wall; hanging bird cages with little bird skeletons; about a dozen pasted images of the defunct Concorde supersonic jet over headshots of Che Guevara; floral designs in kindergarten colors; found posters; collages of magazine pictures; notebook pages outlining a video; various versions of the phrase YO NO HABLO ESPAÑOL (I don’t speak Spanish); and a circular sign painting, “Club Nocturn, Live Music,” writ large, in Spanish, in front of a paint-dabbed black felt curtain. Inside was projected a fifty-five-minute documentary-style video Organized Movement, which Mir had made during a monthlong artist residence in Mexico City in May 2004. She was among twenty international artists invited by Perros Negros (Black Dogs), organizers of the exhibition “Localismos,” which offered an outsider’s look at the effects of globalization on the historic center of Mexico City. Mir showed the results of that project in Paris.

The fake folklore was installed in a way reminiscent of the scatter art of Karen Kilimnik or of Claude Lévêque’s wilder, atmospheric installations. By including images of Che and of the Concorde, Mir conveyed Mexico’s unresolved struggles with complicated Central American politics and the pressures of capitalism. But her moderately interesting amateur video, ostensibly about her attempts to reach out to Mexican locals, focused on her inability to speak Spanish and on her decision to take various dance classes in order to use dance’s “organized movement” to communicate. With a running voice-over, she cut back and forth between color and black-and-white, interior, exterior, and day and night shots, showing encounters with people on the street, disappointing performances as a nonetheless contented dancer, and talks with fellow artists. Among them was a Mexican rock group Lasser Moderna, who performed their electronic cumbia-style music at Mir’s Paris opening, almost two years later. But in trying to communicate, the video served as her interior monologue, and instead of revealing the individuality of locals, what stood out were the effects of globalization: how people are similar, not how they differ, which was neither her intention nor that of Perros Negros. A similar documentary could be made in Beijing or Timbuktu, to similar effect.

The most lasting impression was that today’s globe-trotting artists (and musicians) have turned the last forty years of Conceptual art, performance art, installation art, and ubiquitous white cubes into a global Esperanto—an audiovisual lingua franca in which art is an arm of mass communications. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the four finalists of the 2004 Turner Prize (awarded to Jeremy Deller), the year Mir made her video, were all documentary-style works. Artists today, and groups like Perros Negros, are responding to globalization, just as predecessors like Hans Haacke responded to art’s dependence on rich patrons, or Nancy Spero and Judy Chicago to the antiwar and feminist movements. Even seemingly abstract artists like Sol LeWitt turned away from finished objects toward the anthropology of “noticing” and the implied double meanings of metarepresentation. Today’s generation, including cultural hybrids like Mir, contends with the complexities of mass-representation technologies, which belong to everyone, and from which they struggle to forge new forms of artistic metarepresentation, of which this show was a Tower of Babel, the inchoate ziggurat of Mir’s imagination.

Jeff Rian