DamiÁn Ortega: Do It Yourself
Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
100 Northern Avenue
Through January 18, 2010
OVER REPEATED VISITS TO THE DAMIÁN ORTEGA RETROSPECTIVE "DO IT YOURSELF" AT THE ICA, THIS OBSERVER ACQUIRED SOME OF THE MANY ATTITUDES HELPFUL IN SEEING WHAT MOVES ORTEGA'S PUCKISH, RESTLESS SPIRIT.
Whether prodded by the exclamation of a friend at my shoulder or the
posture of one of the ambient crowd, detached and thoughtful before a
conundrum that whispered to him personally, I gave rein to curiosities
I didn’t know I possessed, followed trails that others scented before me.
“Cosmic Thing,” owned by the San Francisco Museum of Art, is a
20-year-old, well used Volkswagen, barely refurbished in battleship
grey and suspended, piece by piece, in all its simplicity and complexity
from the ICA’s west gallery ceiling. Also suspended in the midst of
these parts are gesticulating observers who have probably never stood so close to a naked chassis, or stood under a driver’s seat in the privileged position of a mechanic hazarding a diagnosis.
Added to the universal fascination of bi-pedals with motion, and those
cunning contraptions that propel our motion, it turns out that the
Volkswagen is and has been a key player in Mexico City’s dynamic
growth. It was the chosen, easily repairable steed of Ortega as an
impecunious student of art, and still carries a significant number of
urbanites to their wide-flung, diverse occupations.
To someone like myself who dreams of planning a new Athens in my spare
moments, this humble buggy’s role as a gear in the machinery of Mexico City
appealed greatly. And for moments, I bonded with those drivers as we joined the rambunctious traffic of