Octopus, a videoinstallation. Preoccupied with documentary as a means of exploring the unstable relationship between fact and fiction, Okon's work addresses questions of conflict and violence which are central to his practice.
Cornerhouse is delighted to announce a new exhibition of work by Mexican
video installation and performance artist Yoshua Okón who, for the first time
in the UK, will present his critically acclaimed video installation Octopus (2011,
Preoccupied with documentary as a means of exploring the unstable relationship between fact and fiction, Okón’s work addresses questions of conflict and violence which are central to his practice.
Originally produced during a residency with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Octopus re-enacts the Guatemalan civil war with a twist. Rather than taking place in the actual area of combat, the battlefield is relocated onto U.S. soil at a home depot parking lot in Los Angeles, performed by members of the LA Mayan community – all recent, undocumented immigrants – who fought in the war during the 1990s and gather to look for work as day labourers at the same parking lot where the shoot takes place. Octopus explores the relationships between Guatemalan immigrants and the U.S.
The controversial work makes reference to the nickname used in Guatemala for UFCO (The United Fruit Company, today Chiquita Banana); a US company based in Guatemala. UFCO was Guatemala’s largest landowner with unique tax exempt export privileges since 1901, when the government hired the company to manage the country’s postal service, and control of 10% of Guatemala’s economy through a monopoly of its ports and exclusive rights on the nation’s railroad and telegraph systems.
By 1930, UFCO had absorbed more than 20 rival firms, acquiring capital of millions of dollars and becoming the largest employer in Central America. When President Arbenz pinpointed UFCO as the reason why Guatemala continued to be underdeveloped and made plans to stop the stranglehold the company had over the country, UFCO, with strong links in Washington, collaborated with the CIA to overthrow Arbenz – an event strongly linked to the ensuing civil war.
The exhibition will also include video work US (2005), initially created for Monuments For The USA at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, where artists were asked for monument proposals by curator Ralph Rugoff. Featuring the giant, gold-cast sculptural letters ‘U’ and ‘S’, the work references the American nation but also ‘us’. In an era of heightened individualism, US simulates collectivity of a solipsistic nature – me + myself + I = US.
Okón is best-known for his video works that document invented scenarios set up in collaboration with invited participants. For New Décor (2001), Okón asked permission to use a furniture store in LA as the stage for an improvisational soap- opera. ‘Actors’ were recruited from customers visiting the store, and asked to improvise ‘the love scene’, ‘the jealous girlfriend scene’ and so on. For Orillese a la Orilla (1999 – 2000), the artist asked policemen from Mexico City to act out the threatening techniques they employ in everyday life.
Octopus forms part of ¡Viva! – 19th Spanish & Latin American Film Festival, 8 – 24 March, Cornerhouse, Manchester.
Yoshua Okón was born in Mexico City in 1970 where he currently lives. His work blends staged situations, documentation and improvisation and questions habitual perceptions of reality and truth, selfhood and morality. In 2002 he received an MFA from UCLA with a Fulbright scholarship. In 1994, he founded La Panadería, an artist-run space in Mexico City.
Solo shows exhibitions include: Octopus, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA, HH, Baró Sao Paulo Brazil, Yoshua Okón: 2007- 2010, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Ventanilla Única, Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City, Canned Laughter, Viafarini, Milan, SUBTITLED, Städtische Kunsthalle, Munich, Bocanegra, The Project, NY, Gaza Stripper, Herzeliya Museum, Israel, Cockfight, Galleria Francesca Kaufmann, Milan, Oríllese a la Orilla, Art & Public, Geneva, Lo Mejor de lo Mejor, La Panadería, Mexico City. Group exhibitions include: Incongruous, Musèe Cantonal des Beux-Arts, Lausanne, Proyecto Juárez, Carrillo Gil Museum, Mexico City, The Mole ́s Horizon, Palais des Beaux Arts. Brussels, Amateurs, CCA Wattis, San Francisco, Laughing in a Foreign Language, Hayward Gallery, London, The Age of Discrepancy, MUCA, Mexico City, Adaptive Behavior, New Museum, NY, Terror Chic, Spruth/Magers, Munich, The Virgin Show, Wrong Gallery, NY, Mexico City: an exhibition about the exchange rates between bodies and values, PS1, MoMA, NY, and Kunstwerke, Berlin. He has also participated in: Cuenca Biennial, Quito, Mercosur Bienial, Porto Alegre, Brazil, Istanbul Bienial, Istanbul, ICP Trienial, NY, California Bienial, OCMA, New Port Beach and Torino Triennale, Turin.
Cornerhouse is Greater Manchester’s centre for international contemporary visual art and film. A place where all can engage with contemporary ideas through a unique, risk taking, cross art-form and culturally diverse high quality programme of art and film.
Opening: 9 March 2013
70 Oxford Street, Manchester
Gallery opening times: Mon: Closed, Tue – Sat: 12.00 – 20.00, Sun: 12.00 – 18.00
Matinees (before 17:00)
Full £5.50 / Concs £4
Cornerhouse Members £4.50 / £3
LiveWire Young People's Members (14 - 17 year olds) £3
Evenings (after 17:00)
Full £7.50 / Concs £5.50
Cornerhouse Members £6.50 / £4.50
LiveWire Young People's Members (14 - 17 year olds) £3