Tercerunquinto, Public Sculpture Project in the Urban Periphery of Monterrey, 2003
Art Lies, Issue 56
Artistic collectives are rare in Mexico, especially ones that address the relationship between art and public space. Tercerunquinto is one such group that has successfully engaged collective practice as a means of critically dealing with the role of the built environment, utopianism and its limitations. The Monterrey-based group, comprised of Julio Castro Carreón, Gabriel Cázares Salas and Rolando Flores Tovar, has been working collaboratively since 1996. Tercerunquinto has exhibited widely in Mexico, the United States and Europe, including the Gallery at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) and most recently at the New Langton Arts residency program in San Francisco.
The collective is primarily interested in, among other things, the collapse between public and private space and the ways in which art can articulate a political and social discourse within these parameters. Beuysian notions of social sculpture provide fundamental underpinnings to the group’s working philosophy, just as performative and relational histories have affected contemporary artistic practice on a global scale. Architecture and its attendant theories and practices provide a strong framework for much of the group’s work, whether it resides within—or in spite of—the white cube. Public Sculpture Project in the Urban Periphery of Monterrey (2003), for example, consisted of the group pouring a forty-square-meter cement foundation for a community of illegal settlements on the outskirts of Monterrey, providing them with a foundational base for various neighborhood functions, including the distribution of food, blankets, medicine and various religious and political meetings.
In other projects, Tercerunquinto has manipulated or altered the walls, gates and staircases of existing structures as a means of both changing and heightening the use-values of such elements. In a project realized in a group exhibition at the Mexican Cultural Institute during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2002, for example, the group tore a hole in the wall that separated the exhibition space from the immigration office of the Consul General of Mexico, thereby collapsing and contaminating the sacrosanct nature of each respective space. In all of their projects, an awareness of social dynamics emerges as the real essence of the work. Moreover, the burden of the monument and its devalued currency in contemporary Mexican culture is an important cornerstone in the collective’s work. In the following series of questions, I wanted to address the social dynamics that led to the group’s formation and the implications of working collectively versus an individual voice.
GV: Why did you decide to work as a collective?
T1Q: For us, it was the manner in which we began to produce art. Almost as soon as we entered the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, we collaborated in an artist collective called “Caxa,” formed by some professors and students that focused on public space. Since then, we’ve had particular individual interests but no formalized production. Therefore, collective production was the manner in which we engaged in art. Politically, it wasn’t the result of a manifesto or some other type of foundational pamphlet.
When we first formed our own group as students, it was made up of a variable number of members depending on each particular project. We could be ten, nine, seven or five depending on the video, mural, installation or performance we made. It was a spontaneous way of working as a group. When there were just three of us left in 1998, although we were still students, we assumed a more formalized project because we realized that we had a lot in common.
GV: What are the implications in doing so—in working as a unit? Is it socially based or does it indicate the death of the author?
T1Q: For us, the discussion—the dialogue and the interchange of ideas—represents the primary material for the production of art. We cannot say that we have a political/socialist interest, nor can we say that our particular way of working postulates the “death of the author.” We are not necessarily in conflict with artistic tradition.
GV: Are there any historical precedents that inspired you to work as a group?
T1Q: Honestly, there is no historic movement that has inspired us as a group. At times context determined, in large part, the need to work as a group. Being that Monterrey is such a difficult context in which to work and at times hostile to certain forms of contemporary art, collective practice is, in some ways, a strategy for survival. The joining of forces guaranteed that we could exist as artists. It should be noted that Marcela Quiroga and Georgina Arizpe of the duo “Marcela and Gina” share a similar history.
Now we have more conscious ideas about collaboration through our knowledge of other collectives, historically speaking and in the contemporary arts. We are now capable of recognizing in others the similarities and differences in work dynamics and aesthetic interests.
GV: You have realized projects in public spaces that are very interesting within the context of contemporary art. What was the impetus to move outside the white cube?
T1Q: We are constantly moving inside and outside of the white cube.On the one hand, we have a series of projects that questions and works around the notion of public sculpture as a “coronation” of urban development: public sculpture with monumental characteristics that dignifies supreme values or heroic deeds. On the other hand, we produce work for institutional spaces as well. Also, we have become increasingly interested in the moment that documentation of the art we produce in public spaces becomes inserted into institutional spaces. We believe this is another state of the work that seeks correspondence, perhaps in order to explore the relationship between artwork, document and space and time.
GV: Do you ever present work as individuals or always as Tercerunquinto?
T1Q: We generally work in tandem. What little work we do produce as individuals functions as personal exercises, which are later returned to the collective.