mario garcia torres - a brief history of jimmie johnson's legacy
22 Jun - 5 Aug 2007
The Stedelijk Museum building on the Museumplein is currently completely stripped. This has prompted the young Mexican artist Mario Garcia Torres (b. 1975, Monclova) to select it as a place in which to reflect on the role and significance of museums generally.
He does so in his most recent video-work A Brief History of Jimmie Johnson’s Legacy (2007), to be presented in Docking Station, the project space devoted to current international art at the Stedelijk Museum CS. In what he himself describes as a ‘video-essay’, the artist looks at codes of conduct and conventions of behaviour in the museum environment.
The figure of Jimmie Johnson in Mario Garcia Torres’ video derives from French film director Jean Luc Godard’s film Bande à Part (a.k.a. Band of Outsiders) (1964), in which Jimmie Johnson is cited as having set the world speed record for visiting the Louvre in a time of just nine minutes and 45 seconds. In 2003 the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci referred to this in his film The Dreamers and had his protagonists beat Johnson’s record. For A Brief History…, Garcia Torres collected examples of such museum-related action by artists and film-makers and asked a group of young museum visitors in Mexico to respond to them. They did so by establishing a new speed record for museum visiting.
In addition to A Brief History…, Garcia Torres’ forthcoming show in Docking Station will include a new slide-based work showing a series of actions performed by him in May, together with a group of extras, in the stripped interior of the Stedelijk on the Museumplein. They are blueprints for works in which the building is to be used in strange and unexpected ways. For example, we see visitors running and cycling through the galleries, gathering together in odd places, measuring a room with someone’s body or walking straight into the wall in an attempt to ‘flip over the white cube’. Docking Station show focuses mainly on the part of Garcia Torres’ oeuvre in which he addresses the position and function of museums.
Garcia Torres is a member of a younger generation of artists who see their work against the backdrop of the history of conceptual art and use that history in an extremely unfettered way as their starting-point. They are not interested in the art-immanent discourse of the past but tend to use the conceptual approach as a way of addressing, for example, social and political issues. Garcia Torres uses historical examples as a ‘rehearsal’ – a basis on which to present a wide range of topics concerning the way art functions. Such topics include the way we visit museums, the role of the artist in society, and even the way art history is construed.
Garcia Torres enjoys an international reputation as a rising star of the art world: his work is to feature in this summer’s central exhibition at the 52nd Venice Biennale and he was recently proclaimed the winner of the prestigious Cartier Award at the Frieze Art Fair 2007.
The Bulletin of the Stedelijk Museum contains an interview with the artist by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, Stedelijk Museum curator and organiser of the forthcoming exhibition.