Antonio Vega Macotela (1979, Mexico City, Mexico) develops his projects through lengthy research and fieldwork processes, in dialogue with specific communities. His artistic practice is intimately related to these contexts, which are generally semi-closed systems, such as prisons or mines, where individuals work in a clandestine or precarious state. The outcome of these processes and the exchanges created between the groups depend on the strong bonds of trust and exchange that the artist develops. In Macotela's work, the conventional relationships of exploitation and subordination between the bodies and power of capital are subverted, proposing more humane and more equitable forms of production and interaction that are not based on money.
In 2016, Macotela started traveling the world with a group of hackers, forming a bond of trust and understanding with them. Out of this relationship came the work to be presented in the 34th Bienal, in which the artist relates the hacker's activities to those of the Q'aqchas, illegal miners active in Bolivia's Potosí region in the 18th century. Maintaining the distance of time, Macotela draws parallels between the power structures surrounding both contexts: on one side, the colonial system of Nova Espanha [New Spain] in Bolivia, on the other, present-day capitalism. Different technologies of control and domination were employed in both cases, generating inequality in terms of access to essential goods and information. The Q'aqchas were especially disruptive to the colonial system, as they organized themselves in diverse ethnic groups and worked on Catholic holidays. Like the Q'aqchas, the hackers operate within the system's loopholes, but instead of mining minerals, they extract information, the basic raw material of today's economy.
For this work, Macotela designed a series of fabric screens inspired by those brought to Nova Espanha from Asian countries, onto which mythological scenes were painted, in tune with the viceroyalty's power. The fabric tells a narrative inspired by the hidden stories of the Q'aqchas, who were exiled from official history. The fabrics were made using Jacquard looms, a machine that shares historical roots with the evolution of the digital image. Though at first glance the panels tell a fiction inspired in a carnaval’s story from the past shared by this band of miners, for those who know how to find it, they also hold contemporary information on relationships between the political systems of a number of Latin-American countries and big multinationals, encrypted in the texture of the fabric. For security reasons, the group of hackers who developed the information remain anonymous.
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).