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<nettime> Hans Ulrich Obrist: Conversation with Minerva Cuevas
geert lovink on Tue, 24 Jul 2001 20:00:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Hans Ulrich Obrist: Conversation with Minerva Cuevas

from: "Hans Ulrich Obrist" <HUO {AT} compuserve.com>
sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2001 7:56 AM

Conversation between Hans Ulrich Obrist and Minerva Cuevas at the first
event of the  project "Information/Misinformation" part of the 24th Graphic
Biennial in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Hans: To begin with the beginning: I wanted to ask you if you
can tell us a little bit about your activities before you founded
your own corporation , and how  this transition happened from you working
as an individual artist to your founding of Mejor Vida Corporation...
And then also about the name of the company, if you could tell a little bit
about it?.

Minerva: Well, the project Mejor Vida Corp. takes the structure of a
corporation it's divided in products, services, campaigns, etc. it has its
own web site and office. Since the beginning of my career I have used
electronic media to produce installations, video and photography works for
galleries and museums. I have always been interested in social issues but
that was not reflected in the work. MVC is the place where this interest and
my practice
as an artist are fussed.

Hans: What for you is the meaning of intervening in the art world?
Does it still meet the art world, what 's the function for you of the art

Minerva: I don't believe the gallery space is outside the "real" world, the
gallery and the museum are cultural institutions with their own politics as
well, and you can try to use and interfere their structures. I work with the
museums because it means you will target an specific audience. I feel Mejor
Vida Corp. is a parasite project that uses the museum because of its
production facilities and public presence, so far that's one way the
corporation can be massive, in that sense the net has been a very powerful
communication tool.

Hans:  So that means actually that the museum is a little bit like the key
that opens the doors?

Minerva: Umm... no.  It's only one of the tools, the internet or public
interventions are also one of the mediums to reach all kinds of audience.

Hans: And the aim is to reach as big an audience as possible?

Minerva: And to make that people question every day issues, for example, the
campaign targeting the National Lottery in Mexico, this lotto game "Melate"
is so popular for its huge prizes that you forget it is to finance public
assistance, so it's like asking new questions about common things.

Hans: How do you see the future of politics? What is the political dimension
of the Mejor Vida Corporation?

Minerva: Yes, I think of the Corporation as a political actor as well as an
art project. I have been following these manifestations since the beginning.
I met the people organizing "June 18th", the first of this global
demonstrations, I found very interesting the idea of building an
international network of people questioning capitalism as a system.
Now that I am staying for some months in London I was there for May Day, in
general I think demonstrations do not work as they should, they have to lead
to something else because there is a lot of misinformation around them, and
we are not having the expected results most of the time. An interesting
thing is to notice how the police is already being trained for the riots and
how the security services don't have a clear idea of  how well is the people
organized or how big is the movement, most of the time the info they spread
is quite alarmist. In London there were around 3,000 demonstrators in Oxford
Circus, and 6,000 policemen to contain them for 7 hours, people was just
waiting to be released.

Hans: So what could in this sense, not replace the demonstration, but could
go beyond the demonstration, what could inject more information, how would
you imagine another medium , a TRANSDEMONSTRATION?

Minerva: I think that's the reason why we are interested in media and a wide
range of tools like the internet, or printed matter like "Ne Pas Plier" in
France. They distribute stickers, banners or postcards at demonstrations,
and they help in that sense to spread information, it's very good work, they
are involved in education as well, they work with children, they print a
newspaper, those can be valid ways. I think we have to approach activism as
a way of life, some kind of simple popular rational ethics... why is it so
difficult?! I think collectives have a short life period in general, so at
the end it has to be a series of very personal decisions in daily life.

Hans: I see your practice as a permanent oscillation which goes beyond

Minerva: An oscillation...?

8.- Hans: An oscillation,  yes... you are not saying you intervene only in a
political context, but you intervene in different context, in the art
context, you intervene in the...

Minerva: Yes, i think it is valid to enter the art context and do something
there using the structure of the museum or gallery. I understand the
project as social activism tough.

Hans You said in your lecture that the works is also about
testing how far you can go. Have there been moments in your work where
you have tested how far you can go, and you encountered limits?
This leads us to a whole other range questions about your unrealized
projects or sets of projects?

Minerva: Yes, for example in the exhibition at the Tamayo Museum, where you
first saw the project, I asked them to give free entrance to the public
while the MVC exhibition was there but that was not possible. They said that
even if I found a sponsor to give all the money of the entrances they could
not do that because it was impossible to have that kind of autorization from
the National Institute of Fine Arts. I agreed because we were going to give
student ID cards anyway, as part of the exhibition, and the people with a
student ID can enter for free, sometimes you have to decide in those terms.
It is contradictory that  museums ask for money if their aim is to promote
culture, why ask for money? They only make visiting cultural institutions a
thing of status: people that will have access to a museum because they can
afford it and the people that won't.

Hans: Raymond Hains and Richard Hamilton  that also came to my mind a couple
of times when I thought about your distortion of logos, you know the way how
you use logos, and then kind of shift them, and I wonder if Richard Hamilton
or Raymond Hains are artists you have been interested in, or what would be
other art practices, political art practices, from older generations, or
previous generations that you have been influenced by.

Minerva: Well, not really. I started working on this project without any
references. It's a very instinctive reaction to the context in Mexico. It's
common, for example, that one of the artists that is linked to my work is
Cildo Meireles with the coca-cola bottles or money paper, but I find that he
has a very different approach to social issues, I don't think there is such
thing as "political art". I think about the MVC project in terms of social
activism, but I am using mediums and institutions from the art context. One
thing is use elements from a specific social context to produce an art piece
and another one to make a project useful in social terms.

11.- Hans: If the art references are less of interest, can you tell me how
do you collaborate with other practitioners?

Minerva: I tend to work more with technicians, with engineers, sociologists,
than with other artists. For me it's very strange that in Mexico there are
not other projects in this direction, Mexico is a socially intense country.
And that's why in part I think that demonstrations are not going to work
anymore, in Mexico you have demonstrations everyday, and you get used to
them, sometimes they succeed on specific demands but they don't have a
positive impact in the most part of the population though, at the end people
only complains about the traffic jams and then, most of the time you have
reporters that do not understand the situation talking about the
demonstrators as stubborn people.

12.- Hans: When I was in Mexico last July for one week doing research, I
found that for many artists working there similar to extreme urban
conditions in Asia, the city plays an obviously very important role: The
city as a medium, the city as a laboratory. You mentioned this building
which  is very symbolic early skyscraper where your office is located, and
maybe it would be interesting if you could tell as a little  more about this
quite strategic injection of your office into the city.

Minerva: I do not agree with you when you say that the city in general is a
big influence on mexican artists, I really don't think so. My impression is
that nowadays mexican artists are interested in producing art for
international shows... very clean stuff with contemporary codes. I have
lived all my life in Mexico City, and, of course, it has to have a
repercussion in my work, I mentioned the office at the Latinamerican Tower
as part of the whole strategy behind this corporate image and as a way to
target different audiences. I think that the first year I had the office I
didn't invite any art curator there, it was only the people that were going
into the building, and then I started having exhibitions with the project,
first outside of Mexico, and then the artists and curators in Mexico were
interested in the work and
started going to the office, but that was a secondary side of this project.
I believe that if you are interested in Mexico as the context of your work
you have to be interested in the population as an audience.

13.- Hans: And you feel the art world doesn't do this enough?

Minerva: No, as I said before, it's not the same to take some elements of
the city to produce a piece of art than work with the city in social terms.


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