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Risky Business: The Work of Joaquin Segura

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Gabriela Jáuregui

Joaquin Segura is Mexico City’s latest enfant terrible, the inheritor of what Antonio Calera-Grobet terms a ‘shock troop’ formed by ‘Yoshua Okón, Miguel Calderón, Gustavo Artigas or Artemio, who saw video-art and lived, documented or post-performed action as an unbeatable support for the scrutiny of violence as a leading theme and motif of contemporary art.’ Segura has also been called a cultural provocateur, a saboteur of the status quo, and a lo-tech hacker.

Segura is the poster-boy for a young generation that is culturally savvy and globally connected and which, for better or worse, calculates risk and its consequences much more consciously than the generations that came before. Segura, in particular, has both appropriated and questioned the effectiveness of art as a kind of sabotage, reminding the spectator that the crimes occurring around us every day are more easily forgotten than crimes recorded for the art gallery.

Gabriela Jáuregui (2010) extract from Risky Business: The Work of Joaquin Segura in Omega, show catalogue, Margaret Lawrence Gallery. Melbourne, Australia.

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Joaquin Segura’s natural habitat is what Hakim Bey called the Temporary Autonomous Zone, a punk rock anarchism littered with empty beer bottles and full ashtrays. In the TAZ, the permanent terrorism warned of by Lotringer and Virilio has been leavened by poetry, the hamstrung artist has remade himself as a saboteur of the first order and art as a criminal act.

Segura plays the role of the anthropological savage, employing the Mexican label as a temporary and expedient strategy for making art and fucking with culture. Individuals who repeatedly transgress the socially policed standards of cultural identity are inherently threatening to the authenticity and power of this entire ideological edifice. But within these transgressions, the potential for assimilation and neutralization is ever present. Possibly Segura’s work indicates a solipsistic miring in the practice of overdetermination from without. The perception of Mexicanness he plays with lines up with the most racist fantasies of gringo outsiders, but a feeling of complicitness often outweighs any evidence of critique.

Almost every review of Segura’s work refers to him as an enfant terrible, but this is a title he has outgrown. His rage is now cut with melancholy and deepened by maturity. To paraphrase revolutionary filmmaker Melvin van Peebles, Segura may be an asshole, but he’s not stupid. Segura’s art is like fireworks: a weapon, but one invented to cause aesthetic shock, and not intended for use in war.

Amy Marie Pederson (2012) extract from Empty Beer Bottles & Full Ashtrays: Joaquin Segura and the Aesthetics of Provocation. This text is an expanded version of the printed article Trials of a Heretic: Joaquin Segura featured in Artillery, vol. 7 no. 5, May-July 2013.

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Joaquin Segura is at once an anomaly in Mexico’s contemporary art scene at the same time as he is one of the most emblematic representatives of a larger shift toward a postnational identity among its youngest generation of artists.

If Mexico looks increasingly like a foreclosed home burning to the ground, Segura could likely be the one walking away, charred matchstick between thumb and forefinger and shit-eating grin on his face. His corrosive attacks on institutions, ideologies, and power reflect a deep general distrust of authority, increasingly evident within the work of younger Mexican artists.

Brett W. Schultz (2011) extract from Gonzo Strategies of Deceit: An Interview with Joaquin Segura in Continent, 1.2. p. 117-124

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El arte de la insolencia

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Guillermo Fadanelli

Imagino que los creadores de objetos de arte no esperan ser explicados, de lo contrario su inocencia nos movería a risa. En cambio, esperan que los relatos, cuentos o interpretaciones que se producen alrededor de su obra vuelvan más complejo y dinámico su propio quehacer. El arte es, en efecto, un medio de autocomprensión, pero esta comprensión no se halla completa sin la mirada del otro, sin su crítica e incluso sin el concurso o desaprobación del público.

Este breve preámbulo ubica de buena manera mi relación con las obras del joven artista mexicano Joaquín Segura. Si Joaquín ha permitido que la insolencia se vuelva expresión cotidiana de su trabajo es porque a simple vista da la impresión de que no tiene nada qué perder. En caso de crear una rebelión gestual sin más alcances que el de incomodar a los inocentes, no obtendrá ni la cárcel ni el verdadero desprecio. Si, por el contrario, sus expresiones son consideradas como los disparos de un artista maldito y dan en el blanco creando en el espectador una atmósfera de íntimo malestar, entonces obtendrá un papel que desempeñar en el confuso mundo del arte contemporáneo. Y, sin embargo, no creo que su propuesta o su hacer se agote en esta diatriba. Sus obras no parecen ser concebidas para agotarse en las consecuencias que provocan, ni buscan de manera premeditada una reacción específica (aunque esto suceda a menudo). En todo caso es más notorio su deseo por desnudar conceptos aparatosos como los de arte o poder y mostrarlos sin ningún tipo de elaboración determinada de antemano. Como si la inocencia naciera en el momento mismo de develar lo que todos sabemos. Burlarse de una celebridad artística o de un personaje famoso sin necesidad de construir una retórica en su contra no es abusar de los privilegios de una cómoda posición. Es todo lo opuesto a un día de campo: la posición de Joaquín no es cómoda en cuanto su obra es celebrada de manera desmesurada por quienes ven en él la encarnación del irredento clásico o, en contraparte, cuando es acusado de acudir una vez más a las manidas formas contestatarias de la vanguardia. Añado una más: la censura por parte de quienes toman su obra al pie de la letra. En medio de estas posiciones él continúa formando una colección de estampas del desconcierto. Ha tomado un atajo y una butaca desde la cual observa, no sin cierta sorna, los objetos que su cinismo va creando para consumo del público. Es como un auto espectador que se complace en realizar un atentado de la manera más sencilla posible.

Guillermo Fadanelli (2009) extract from El arte de la insolencia in Día Siete, no.487. p. 18-23.

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Arden Decker

In the summer of 2012, I sat down with three so-called agents provocateurs of contemporary Mexican art at the nonprofit, artist-run space SOMA in Mexico City. Yoshua Okón and Artemio have been engaging radical artistic strategies utilizing installation, sculpture, video, and performance since their careers began in the 1990s. Joaquin Segura has been exhibiting since the early 2000s; his body of work grows from preoccupations he shares with Artemio and Okón, such as violence, destruction, identity, and political/social revolution, but he has taken their generation as both point of influence and departure. In this excerpted interview, the artists discuss their generational differences, the implications of being a Mexican artist (if any), what it means to be inside or outside of the institution, and the role of spectacle in their work and the contemporary art world at large.

Arden Decker (2013) extract from For the Record: The Guacamole Show and Other Topics in Mexico Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990, show catalogue, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Fort Worth, Texas.

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