For his first gallery exhibition in Belgium, Jordi COLOMER (°1962, Barcelona, Spain) presents new works: Avenida Ixtapaluca (Houses for Mexico), a film he has just shot in Mexico City, and a series of twelve photographs, Heroes (para Mexico). In addition, the video 2 Av., shot in a working-class housing estate near Lyon, is shown in the videobox. Interested in the pressure of urban development on human beings, Jordi Colomer has produced his latest work in this sprawling city which, with 19 million inhabitants, is the most populous in the world after Tokyo. Today, it continues to expand at a frenetic pace with the construction
of housing units, the "GEO houses", which are built identically to the two-storey house model.
Ixtapaluca is one such town, on the outskirts of Mexico City, which, under the pressure of "urbanistic realpolitik", is becoming a model of anonymity. In Colomer's video, the aerial shots resemble 3-D renderings and bear witness to the incessant proliferation. The camera movements gradually bring us closer to the street and the human scale, allowing for slight differentiations between dwellings. By following several inhabitants of an avenue in Ixtapaluca with his camera, Colomer incorporates a symbolic touch that is not devoid of humour.
The filmed action shows these characters walking down the street and passing around a piñata bearing the image of Buzz Lightyear, a character from the cartoon Toy Story (Pixar Studios, 1995). The piñata is a Mexican ritual object made of papier-mâché, in the shape of a human or animal, which is filled with sweets and toys. On the occasion of festive celebrations, the piñata is intended to be destroyed by children armed with a stick in order to recover the sweets hidden inside. A profane object brought back to Europe from China by Marco Polo, the piñata then took on a religious meaning that was exploited by the Spaniards during the conquest of Mexico. They adapted it to local traditions for evangelistic purposes. By striking the piñata, the participants in the ceremony marked the fight against demonic forces and the sweets symbolised the accession to goodness. Gradually, the piñata lost its religious meaning and became the game we know today. The figures they represent are now inspired by successful North American superheroes (Spiderman, Batman, Toy Story,...), but also and always by animals and characters from popular tradition. The piñata evokes the ambiguous relationship that tradition has with mass culture. This is clearly felt in the series of twelve photographs Heroes.
With affinities to Avenida Ixtapaluca, the video 2 Av. consists of a succession of still images extracted from a long tracking shot in the street n°2 of a working class housing estate in Roussillon. The camera records the succession of garden houses, all identical, just allowing a glimpse of the residents' facilities and uses. Against this uniform background, people appear fleetingly, performing ordinary gestures or playing music. 2 Av. transposes the model of the workers' housing estate, originally an employer's creation, then a site of popular sociability, into the modern context of mass urbanism: the repetitive horizontality suggests the suburban tower block, and the desire for autonomy of the house with a garden the petty-bourgeois ideal. The looped montage produces a narrative impasse, with small fictions barely sketched out, only to disappear immediately.