Suspended Disbelief

Main3 Two weeks ago in Mexico City, the very talented and insightful Pamela Echeverría showed us Etienne Chambaud's On Hospitality, which was at the time being exhibited in her gallery. It's now gone, but it was stunning. For anyone on their way to Distrito Federal, I highly recommend stopping in at the Labor Galeria de Arte in Roma. Gideon Lichfield in More Intelligent Life:

A side-street in Mexico City, in a residential neighbourhood sprinkled with small workshops and cafés, doesn’t feel like the place to encounter an architectural paradox. Yet there it is: a four-tonne mobile, like something out of a child’s hypertrophied imagination, made of massive steel tubes with chunks of volcanic rock hanging from the ends. The contraption intersects and passes through both storeys of an art gallery: if you stand on the upper level you can see only the tubes, and in the dim-lit basement, only the rocks, suspended by steel cables that pass through holes drilled in the gallery floor. The paradox? The whole thing hangs from a single cable passing through the building’s roof, held by a crane standing in a neighbouring parking lot. The mobile is contained within the gallery without actually being supported by the building itself.

The mobile is part of a three-part exhibit entitled On Hospitality, by Etienne Chambaud. For most of July and August it hung at (if “at” is the right preposition for the object’s curious physical relationship to its exhibition space) Labor, a gallery in the up-and-coming Colonia Roma neighbourhood. Pamela Echeverría, a veteran curator who has worked at the state-run Carrillo Gil museum and a leading Mexican contemporary-art gallery called OMR, founded the space earlier this year.

Like so many such installations, the exhibit’s stated message is obscure and bland. It is about “negativity, misunderstandings and separations”. Of the mobile, subtitled ie, Exclusion, the blurb reads, it “is a mobile that doesn't fit within its own exhibition space… its totality can never be experienced… its objecthood is always challenged by the mental image it must necessarily conjure in order to exist as a whole.” That might be strictly true, but is frankly boring.

Fortunately, a more interesting interpretation than the one the artist offers would seem to be suggested by the title, On Hospitality, and also by a second part of the exhibit, down in the basement. (The third part, consisting of jewellery pieces meant to be worn by the gallery staff, was so unobtrusive as to have no impact.) This section, subtitled The Cave of Polyphemus or The Invention of Misunderstandings, consists of a still photograph and a short film projected on to screens, dimly illuminating the hanging rocks. They depict a cave in the hills of Sicily where Mr Chambaud and his crew spent several days filming the haunting interiors.