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Artist’s Talk: Mario García Torres

Je ne sais si c’en est la cause, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, and Some Reference Materials / MATRIX 227

February 22, 2009; 69 Minutes; Audio

Mario García Torres discusses Je ne sais si c’en est la cause, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger, and Some Reference Materials / MATRIX 227.

For his MATRIX exhibition, García Torres created a new work concerning the conceptual artist Daniel Buren, famous for his stripe paintings. As the story goes, Buren undertook a series of murals at the Grapetree Bay Hotel in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, at the invitation of one of the resort’s original owners. He made several works during a residency in 1960, and returned again in 1965 to complete a second set of mosaic murals. Occurring early in his career, and evincing important shifts in style, these works have taken on the status of lore within his oeuvre. Buren acknowledges that the remote location of the resort hotel provided the context for him to “virginize” himself, purging outside influences. Because of the remoteness and strangeness of the murals’ location, the discussion surrounding them is derived from documentation, by people who have likely never seen the work in person—not unlike other ephemeral or performative conceptual works whose position in history is anecdotally achieved.

García Torres narrates the history of the project through the reframing of fragments—objects culled during his research, a tropically inflected pop song composed of one of Buren’s letters, slideshows of the murals in situ, now in ruins. His project supplants certainty about the facts of the work’s existence, based on static documentation, with the complexity of a larger narrative, concerning the artist’s doubt and frustration in the making of the work and the aftermath as the hotel’s failure and the entropy of nature conspire in the murals’ eventual undoing. García Torres’s subjective documentary approach presents this work not as an isolated instance in Buren’s career, but as inextricably tied to questions about European influence in the Americas, and how the context of landscape and tourism informs these proto-conceptual works.