Rants about art and culture across borders in a post colonial era.
Friday, August 29, 2008
1992, 5 min. 13 sec.
"Manejar bajo (to drive low) is for the pride. And despacio (slow) is because we want to be seen”.
Crazy George from the "Viejitos" car club.
Technology can have applications other than material, practical ones. For the Lowrider community, linguistics and aesthetics play a more important role than transportation. They fix their cars in the most incredible, excessive, baroque way ever imagined. Metal flake illustrated paint jobs, gold plated engines and brakes, velvet upholstery, disco lights, video systems and deafening stereos are some of the features that transform Chevies and other makes into shrines to be admired on the streets. Hydraulic systems are used to make the cars jump and dance and the beds of the trucks spin at more than 70 miles per hour. The car symbolizes the Californian way of life. Lowriders slow the freeways disrupting their efficient, pragmatic purpose, transforming them into a playground and meeting place.
This early nineties video is the first I did about the subject. It doesn't pretend to coldly document this phenomenon but rather functions in a visually seductive way like the machines themselves using images, video technology and effects of dubious taste. The music composed by Xavier Alvarez is an electroacoustic piece that samples Perez Prado (the king of Mambo). Here again new technologies create rhythms and sounds that deal with the notion of "avant garde" and tradition at the same time. "You lower your car for the pride and if you drive too fast, people won't be able to check it out" says Crazy George from the Viejitos car club. These "rides" constitute an effort to be noticed in a society that doesn't want to see the people that ride them. I hope the video conveys the overwhelming experience of the Dyonisian "beauty" that escapes any notion of rationality and at the same time hints at some of the problems it raises.
Ruben Ortiz-Torres was born in Mexico City in 1964. Educated within the utopian models of republican Spanish anarchism soon confronted the tragedies and cultural clashes of post colonial third world. After giving up the dream of playing baseball in the major leagues he decided to study art. He went first to the oldest and one of the most academic art schools of the Americas (the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City) and later to one of the newest and more experimental (Calarts in Valencia CA). After enduring Mexico City's earthquake and pollution he moved to LA with a Fullbright grant to survive riots, fires, floods, more earthquakes, and proposition 187. During all this he has been able to produce artwork in the form of paintings, photographs, objects, installations, videos, and films. He is part of the permanent Faculty of the University of California in San Diego. He has participated in several international exhibitions and film festivals. His work is in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid Spain and others.