Tramway presents the first solo exhibition in Scotland by Mexico City-based artist Pia Camil. This immersive installation hosts new and existing textile sculptures which visitors are invited to inhabit and activate.
Drawing inspiration from urban forms and mechanisms of exchange, in particular her relationship to Mexico City where she lives and works, Camil’s immense sculptural installations are comprised of t-shirts and jeans acquired from the street markets of Iztapalapa in Mexico City. Camil deconstructs the t-shirts and then sews them together, creating large stretches of fabric reflecting the markets which are housed under patchwork awnings of stretched tarpaulin. The billowing, suspended installation Bara, Bara, Bara draws its name from the pulsating cry of street vendors in Mexico City. Shortened from barato (cheap), the exclamation is aimed to draw customers attention to a wide variety of low-cost goods on sale.
The T-shirts and jeans which comprise the works on display were originally produced in Latin America, sold to retailers and organisations in the United States, and then illicitly found their way back to the bargain markets of Mexico City. By utilising them in her work Camil brings attention to contemporary trade routes through which commodities and bodies move, and the inequities of global commerce that define daily life in Mexico City.
Creating a patchwork of slogans, aspirational, commercial and political, the T-shirts also act as repositories of cultural information forming a snapshot of collective consciousness. Collaged together the diverse and polarized statements and imagery people choose to emblazon on their bodies offers a telling reflection of the social and political allegiances and binaries that define our contemporary moment.
The installation Bara, Bara, Bara is a participatory artwork and visitors can walk beneath it and poke their heads through the openings of the T-shirts, a nod to previous iterations of the works, many of which have formed part of the artist’s large scale public performances. Resonating within a rich history of radical Latin American women artists, Camil’s Bara, Bara, Bara formally draws inspiration from Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s seminal 1968 performance Divisor. In Pape’s work participants walked through the city connected by an enormous piece of white fabric, defying the then Brazilian military dictatorship’s infamous Institutional Act 5, which banned public protest and gatherings. Camil’s work similarly illustrates the tension between the identity of the individual versus that of the collective.
The exhibition also includes a new commission of discarded jeans sewn together, creating intimate and informal seating areas within the gallery. These works create a form of exchange with the viewer, their own bodies becoming an integral part of the work.