Ruth Estevéz: Miguel, Let’s start by talking a bit about something we both like very much and have repeatedly studied in different types of work. I am talking about reductio ad absurdum, an Aristotelian term that serves to present a hypothesis that is taken to an extreme and so eventually annuls itself. To apply such a theory consciously seems like a treacherous way to cancel out knowledge. I think you constantly apply this in your working methodology, even though I don’t think it is necessarily the cancellation of the proposal or the unveiling of truth that motivates you. Or am I wrong?
Miguel Monroy: Reductio ad absurdum is indeed a fundamental mechanism in my work, and it is probably a remnant of the “couple” of semestres that I was enrolled in mathematics at university. But I don’t think I am necessarily interested in total self-cancellation. It is rather a method that shows that something exists because it would seem absurd if it didn’t. The method shows that the meaning of the objects around us has to de with their function. in a world where everything has a purpose( as absurd as the use of some objects might be), I wonder what happens if one would propose other systems in which the same object tries to set itself free from a specifically assigned function.
But how do you go about detouring an archetype…
It is like that children´s game where you repeat a word that has a specific meaning- something simple, maybe like a “boat” or “horse”. You mention it so many times that, at the end of the exercise, the word that comes out sounds like a totally new, abstract and arbitrary one, separated from its meaning. I am not at all an expert in math ( I was only enrolled for two semestres!), but I know that in the history of the reductio ad absurdum, the universe in which you carry out the expert never fails, even if you take up the opposite of the hypothesis that you want to prove. That forces you to change your original perception.
Yes, when something that seems absurd has potencial.
Exactly, but it is no so much the opposite reading as it is about changing that starting point that makes us consider when we evaluate something as useful and when we discard it.
I imagine that, when you live in a city like Mexico City, many of your questions could be applied to a variety of situations- be these social, political, economic… It is a complex machinery that moves very quickly. When Francis Alÿs deals with this metropolis, he invokes the “paradox of practices”, which plays at annulling itself in spite if keeping the city afloat and which has also influenced a whole generation of Mexicans artist.
I think that there is a reality from which these situations do not look absurd, They are absurd if one tries to read them in terms of efficiency. But there is a logic that that operates precisely where thing happen ado one has to understand them. As a citizen I suppose that what you see in my work has to do with an interpretation as well as an acceptance of these mechanisms as starting points. I do try to apply them to odd artifacts that don’t normally appear in this context. What’s more, they are objects that have to do with notions of, for example, protection, automatization and organization or efficiency.
Within artistic practice, objets get a new meaning beyond the regular social convention or normative use associated with them. But I do think that the contamination is mutual. For instance, the idea of the anomalous object that points to a modus vivendi and that has become a hallmark of Mexican contemporary art speaks to this. Artist did not just photograph the “weirdness” of Mexico for its immediate export, but actually created new objects by de-codifying the objects daily use, tweaking its physical appearance- all of this, again, illustrates the paradoxes of praxis. Your projects, by contrast, relate directly to actions, more so than to objects in themselves. I think of works like Versus or Walking Machine.
In these works I suggest an action that destroys or opposes its beginning. They are a series of forces that, from the get- go allude to advancing, but they also pull un the other direction and so generate something unclear and confusing. In my work I want to bring these modes of operation to other objects that work in a context in which these mechanisms are not so palpable. I think that this is the only way available to escape this constricted space in which I live.
In a certain way I see you doing something similar in your projects. Obviously, your curatorial projects focus in histories that have to do with a crude Mexican reality. At the same time, though, these come together in micro-histories that serve to distract the viewers and bring them to new approaches to the topic under discussion.
Well, I do try to get away from unanimous declarations, but I always want to take a position. I think that, in Mexico, as in the rest of the world, we always present everything in binary oppositions- power versus resistance, or resistance versus power, for instance. Power believes itself to be resistance and resistance believes itself ti be powerful. The Zócalo (main plaza) in the center of the city epitomizes this mentality. Circumscribed by the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace, it has been for ages the platform that symbolized national dissatisfaction. Here, the is a daily ritual of allegiance to the flag while passersby carry along indifferently. This only calls the attention of tourists. It is an overt fallacy that resembles a horizontal yet contingent wall.
You did address this question of opposites in One Foot Apart, the exhibition that we did together in Brazil. In the UK House of Commons, one foot (thirty centimeters) plus the length of two swords, is the distance that separates the opposition party from the ruling party. As parliamentary structure, however, it is a space of dialogue, even if it is only on a symbolic level. It is not as much about opposites as it is about dialogue.
It is about introducing a way of thinking politics that is not founded in resistance of confrontation. I like to work whit discursive methodologies that, when put together, have a trickster effect. The figure of the trickster appears in the American-Indian myths of el coyote or la zarigüeya.
If I’m not mistaken, in Mexico it is the tlacuache.
Yes, it is a character that disrupts the structures of power with a trick. In this way, you mislead the audience. Working form a critical perspective and in tune with Mexican reality, I juxtapose works that don’t present a pamphlet like opposition to power. Instead, they present a message that seems to address something else, and so mislead the viewer to think and ponder the complex reality.
In your work the idea of opposition that leads nowhere also seems crucial, and your results are quite explicit. The form in which you reformulate objects through actions gives for a status quo situation that is generated after the refusal of a simple dialogue. Despite this refusal, it does flow….
Yes, I think that in this sense I have been pretty close to a group of artist that came from the Temístocles artist-run space.
well, more than being an influence in my work, they gave me a type of work ethics. I am talking about artist like Luis Felipe Ortega of Marco Arce, who taught me to really work.
An ethics, do you mean some sort of compromise?
I learned a different way of structuring work form each of them. With Luis Felipe Ortega, I have had in depth conversations about my projects. I learned how to develop the work in a conscious way, by revising every element and its relation to meaning. When I got to know thew or of Marco Arce, I found a good counterponit to this form of reading. The work can generate different connections within itself. I watches him work and I started to develop different themes in my own work such as the idea of noise that provokes silence or by bringing the sensation of mobility to a character that does not move.
I have also been following Edgar Orlaineta and Fernando Ortega. Even thought I don’t feel a direct connection, I do think that, from them, I have learned more about the development of ideas. I am interested in Edgar’s obsession for the history of industrial design, and I very much like his three- dimensional works and how he resolves them through this historical knowledge. In the case of Fernando, I am attracted to the opposition of scale that you see in some of his works. I am impressed by the hummingbird project, in which you new also involved. I enjoy seeing a constant in their work, but I also like the different directions in which they take these constants.
In these works, there is an element of disruption that intends to dislocate reality, even though it also gives us clues as to how to return to reality.
That reminds me of Slavoj Zizek´s comments on Alien, He suggest that the blood of the monster disrupts a particular reality. That simple viscous liquid has the capacity to dissolve the walls and floors of the spaceship, which is also the crew’s universe. I am also interested in pointing to the cracks in reality and even in making them more evident. But I like to do that in a more cold and calculated way, using the elements in themselves, almost without human presence. After all, the less visible the tlacuaches trail, the more effectively it intrudes into reality.