Purple Magazine
— The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

art as a script mario garcía torres


interview by aleph molinari
portrait by max farago


ALEPH MOLINARI — You’re from Monclova in the north of Mexico. How would you describe your hometown?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Monclova is in the state of Coahuila. It’s a midsize city with little to no charm, or its only charm is that it’s an industrial city in the middle of the desert. It’s a very provincial place in terms of culture, and sometimes I think that I chose art because that was the only way I could leave.


ALEPH MOLINARI — Interestingly, Monclova has produced a number of artists, gallerists, and creatives, despite its small size.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Well, there’s a few of us. There’s an actress and a few famous wrestlers. I guess that’s what happens in a poor city: you set up a wrestling ring. Maybe people think the same thing — that if they make it in the wrestling world, then maybe they can leave this town.


ALEPH MOLINARI — So, for you, the way of getting out was through art. Do you feel that this remote desert geography influenced your sense of place and how it relates to art?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Absolutely. Many aspects of my work relate to the fact that I’ve always felt far away. You always think that things are happening somewhere else. Being far away in a desert creates the perception that you’re in the background, and it’s something you’re always negotiating. Do I approach the scene, or do I let it come to me?


ALEPH MOLINARI — Does this sense of isolation inform the way you integrate distant narratives into your work?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Absolutely. I don’t know if I would call it shyness or timidity. When I’m working, it’s important to determine how present I am or not. When you look at my work, it’s really modest — it’s always from afar. In a way, the rhetoric is always from the margins, talking from the position of not being in the mainstream.


ALEPH MOLINARI — What is specifically Mexican in your art practice?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Well, there are some works that are related to Mexico and its art history, to the urgency and my own personal context.

I grew up in a generation that was not happy being in Mexico.

We were always trying to escape that context, which is also related to

the sense of place. To us, it seems that the only way that we could

do something professionally was to transcend our country.

I always thought of my work as something that had to be precisely not Mexican. I was always trying to assume the postcolonial position and speak the language of the other. I don’t know if it was the right decision or not, but it was clear for me and others in my generation to not participate in the exoticism of Mexico. For many years, my career and my work happened elsewhere. Now I live in Mexico and embrace the materials and conditions that Mexico can provide.


ALEPH MOLINARI — Yes. You also work with the design collective MASA. You’ve curated an exhibition or two with them and participated in their shows in New York and Mexico. What do you like about this project, and why do you collaborate with them?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — MASA invited me to create an object that could also be functional. MASA — and the design scene as a whole — has been a great discovery for me. I’ve been making art professionally for more than 15 years and have come to realize that the art world has a very coded system of behavior. MASA is an entirely unique experience and attitude, and it questions those coded rules of the art world. MASA breaks the usual categories so that there is no more classification of things, and objects take on a life of their own, regardless of their function or how practical they are. And that really excited me because the conversations in a design experience are so different from the art world.


ALEPH MOLINARI — And what’s interesting about MASA is how they play with the line between art and design, between art and craft, and how it all enters into a novel dialogue.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Exactly. Every show they do becomes an experience, which is something I was also searching for. To me, it’s not interesting to make exhibitions in a white cube anymore.


ALEPH MOLINARI — Was this the first time you produced a design object, when you created the monolithic Acapulco Chair?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — No, I had previously made another project that had a utilitarian function. It was a “speaker” I created with Margules, the hi-fi sound company. I created a speaker that had a work of art inside of it, a 24-hour track that only plays every leap year on the 29th of February. It is a work that you can only experience every four years, if you don’t miss it. So, the idea was to create an object that could be turned on and off, that could be an artwork and not an artwork. The speaker has a switch that you can switch to “work of art.” When you flip the switch back, it becomes a regular speaker.


ALEPH MOLINARI — It’s the switch between design and art.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes. And that was the first time that I was confronted with creating something that had to have a function and work for a number of years. It seems silly, but in art, you don’t think about that. I am pretty good at bringing mistakes and errors into my work. When MASA invited me, I was like, “How can I do something that actually works?” It didn’t seem easy for me to do that. So, I came up with the idea of carving a stone, doing the least possible to the stone, and assuming its nature. Part of my early work was about doing remakes. What does it mean to repeat a gesture, using the same form of the Acapulco chair but in marble? What does it mean to bring a gesture to a different time? At some point, I was interested in looking at designs in Mexico whose authorship is anonymous or obscure.


ALEPH MOLINARI — And yet the Acapulco chair, with its metal frame and colorful nylon cords, is everywhere in Mexico.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes, and everybody knows them.

When I decided to revisit the Acapulco chair, we found large stones and

carved the shape of the chair into each one. We only made a couple of them,

and they came out beautifully. When that piece was produced, it was an

amazing surprise because I had no idea how the form would be revealed

through the carving and sanding of the stone.

It almost happened by chance. My chair immediately became popular, and it was like, “Let’s do more.” Every time I visit the mines to look for stones, it’s about dreaming about what’s going to be revealed through that process.


ALEPH MOLINARI — In a very Neoplatonic way, where the form is found within the rock, and you have to extract it.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Exactly. Always with minimum intervention. It’s interesting when you accept the shapes that are already there, when you don’t try too much. What is your gesture? How much do you want to shape the world? In that sense, it’s enough to just carve the shape and nothing else.


ALEPH MOLINARI — You work with a wide variety of media. In some way, each of your works refers to history. The mechanism of your art practice is about reappropriating, about rewriting art history and inserting new perspectives, new narratives. What’s the starting point in choosing the unwritten or out-of-focus histories for your work?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — It’s very different when you make an object like the Acapulco Chair, or when you do a performance or a film. Most of the time, I start from specific personal interests. I can become obsessed with a story I heard, and it’s usually because it’s not a mainstream story, not one that is written in books. The stories can come through hearsay, rumor, or even gossip. A friend was joking the other day that we all belong to the same church, the church of art and the avant-garde.


ALEPH MOLINARI — You hear something, and it arouses your curiosity, and you want to pull the string.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes. You bump into someone, and they’re like, “Hey, did you know that Daniel Buren was in Mexico in the ’60s?” Most of the time, you find only a few details here and there, and you start putting them together. That research ends up in my desk drawer, until there’s a chance that it could become a project. I feel like I need to start by grabbing onto something. It feels strangely selfish to start something out of nothing.


ALEPH MOLINARI — But every work you make breaks the linearity of time, in a sense. It rewrites time. The artwork is a living organism that transcends time and space, and that can be reconfigured according to a new context.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — What you’re saying is interesting in relation to your first question because it’s precisely that distance, that faraway-ness, that creates the illusion and fantasy of transcending time. If I wanted to talk to a character who lived in a different time, how do I do that? I’m not going to be deterred because that person is dead. Those are the occasions when I try to make time and place into a malleable situation.


ALEPH MOLINARI — It’s almost quantic. In the sense that time bends.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Exactly. It’s quantic, but at the same time, it’s also a political act. I live far away in this town, but I’m not going to let that define my life.


ALEPH MOLINARI — Yes. I feel that, in many ways, you’ve become a character who dialogues with the history of art across time by inserting yourself into these narratives — because it’s your perspective of the truth or of a fiction that you’re creating.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes, I know that now. The question was how to create something that wasn’t meant to be the truth or wasn’t meant to be a mainstream story. What I ended up doing is telling everything through the first person. Everything is related to my experience of that story or history. Now, after 15 years, I realize that I have become some kind of character, even though I don’t know how truthful it is to myself.


ALEPH MOLINARI — A character who dialogues with the past and creates a new version of it.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes, absolutely. And it’s hard for me to understand who that person is.


ALEPH MOLINARI — I want to talk to you about technology because you have worked with augmented reality (AR). What aspects of technology interest you in relation to your work?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — I try to not predefine works through technology. I’m actually not a fan of technology. For a few years, I was using analog slides and recording music on tape. The slideshows were meant to create a cinematic space in which the narrative I was presenting could become fiction. I’m interested in things that are not set in stone, that do not pretend to involve you in them, to trap you. On the other, more radical side of it is augmented reality. I have now done two projects with AR. The first project I did was for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. We recorded at [Fundación] Casa Wabi. I wanted to have all my collaborators present in the work. Because I also work on some projects with scriptwriters and photographers and musicians, my work is not just my work — it’s the work of many people. It became a complicated task to include them all physically in the show. AR ended up being the answer to that problem. We photographed and scanned everyone in 3D and created avatars that were then installed within the AR installation. So, when you walked into the show at the Walker Art Center, if you had your device, you could see all my collaborators hanging out in the show.


ALEPH MOLINARI — I read something you said about how you think that works of art should be conceived of as a set of instructions. You can provide the parameters for the work to operate, and then you don’t even need to be there, and it’s extended through time. Have you ever thought about creating works with artificial intelligence?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes. In fact, just recently, I started to think that technology has now gone far enough for me to consider using AI. I’m increasingly interested in being less present and less dictatorial in the way that the work functions. Works of art are enriched by collaborators and people who think differently and who can question you every time. Little by little, that has led me to view every work as a script. These ideas come specifically from early conceptual art, and translating them into our contemporary lives is engaging to me. I’m obsessed with taking things further and further away from myself. How do I create one gesture, throw one line out, and see it develop by itself?


ALEPH MOLINARI — Why are your works not dated?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Well, that’s part of the reason for looking at history. Art historians think that ideas are chronological and that an artist makes a painting, and then another. I don’t think that’s true. It is certainly not true in my work. When you’re creating a body of work, you are always jumping back and forth and to the side. You can make a work today that comes from an idea that you had 15 years ago, and the next day, you do a work related to something that happened last week. The way a body of work is created is rhizomatic. That’s why I decided to stop dating my work. I would like to present a challenge for people viewing my work in the future and make them talk about the different connections that are created despite time.


ALEPH MOLINARI — It also breaks the art-historical notion of constantly relating a work of art to the happenings in an artist’s life, as if that was the precise moment when people create the work of art. Many artists return to other series.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Precisely. Or memory on one side, illusions on the other. They inform the past and the future, and they inform our present when you make a work of art.


ALEPH MOLINARI — What’s your next project?

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Right now, I’m working on an exhibition at [Museo Experimental] El Eco in Mexico City that will happen in September. I am proposing to take the space of an art show and call it a “talk show.” The idea is to include works of art, monologues, performances, conversations, a singing chorus, and prerecorded audience laughter. In a way, it’s an exhibition that is always changing and moving, where I become the host. It’s also a type of instruction, a short script where authorship gets questioned because the objects and performances that happen have a different status. I’ve been thinking a lot about authorship in television and series today, where authorship is industrialized, and it’s unclear who the author actually is.


ALEPH MOLINARI — So, it’s your dialogue with the history of art as a talk show host. You receive the artists as if they were celebrities — because a lot of artists and curators are now part of the celebrity culture.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes, absolutely. The idea is precisely that. To bring artists, and also performers and musicians, and make ambiguity through that. I hope I become a good Jay Leno.


ALEPH MOLINARI — That sounds super fun.

MARIO GARCÍA TORRES — Yes. I’m quite excited.


[Table of contents]

The 30YRS Issue #38 F/W 2022

Table of contents

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