The photo installation is less a statement than a visual realisation of a discursive network with multiple nodes, trains of thought and chains of association and while the actual photographs are from a relatively small area in Mexico, the issues raised seemed to implicate wider issues for many cultures.
Originally Capital Offence grew out of noticing that fences in the Oaxaca valleys were not infrequently made of sheets of printed metal originally intended to be made into cans containing various foodstuffs ranging from juices, coffee beans, chillies and tomatoes (the list also includes paint). For me the fences represent not only up-cycling but also positive and negative sides of the large-scale, processed food business and commodity futures – both legitimate, to protect supply with predictable prices as well as speculative. They were very often used to separate roads etc. from plots of land that were milpas: fields in which the traditional agricultural methods developed over the last six to eight thousand years are still in widespread use.This method involves growing maize in rows and planting squashes, beans and avocados in between or at the edges. The squash plants cover the ground with their leaves, making weed growth difficult and holding moisture in the soil and the beans use the long maize stalks to give them with the vertical support they need. They also supply the maize with much-needed nitrogen.
Furthermore, the fences also seemed to suggest more than just the interface between public space and private land, between subsistence farming and local agro-industry. They also called to mind the on-going clash between a millennium-long tradition of maize diversity––there are over eighty kinds each adapted to different climatic conditions in the region and even micro-climates––and the flood of cheap, standardised, (and subsidised) maize imports from the USA, in particular high fructose corn syrup which seems to have had such a devastating effect on obesity in Mexico. In other words, with the long-term implications of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which––in theory––allows the free passage of goods from Mexico to the USA while the fence erected along the Mexican/US border has the single function of preventing the free passage of people.
In the search for a way to widen the discourse––and its legibility––which is embedded in the photographs, I had the idea of bringing the on which they might hang into a transformative exchange. That led me to make use of wallpaper, the medium through which the Anglo-American middle classes stage their home space. Wallpaper incorporates emblems. This specific wallpaper has a flowery grid is formed by tomato flowers the prior stage to the fruit which has been a bone of contention between The US and Mexico. Tomato growers from the former demanded (and got) protection against the cheaper Mexican product. Against this background there are Campbell’s (tomato) soup cans, though the production label has been replaced by a share certificate. There is a box on which is printed NAFTA––soap (to wash away stains?), a vignette of a tropical paradise (which has a different meaning for a holidaymaker and or an accountant moving profits to the safety of off-shore havens), a US silver dollar (not valid for payment since its metal content is not what it purports to be, the Indian head on the piece has been appropriated from a pre-1909 one-cent piece which is still being produced in China), a ten-peso bank note with Emiliano Zapata front and rear (from a withdrawn series of bank notes that was later re-issued without the Zapata design – the Mexican federal government has lost the hegemony over the image of the Mexican revolutionary hero to the Zapatistas in Chiapas who publicly began their struggle for social and territorial autonomy on the day NAFTA came into effect) and, finally, a toy ‘camera’, made from a tin of juice, the producer having one of the largest corporate art collections in Latin America which turns the spotlight back onto the position of the artist within this complex network of relationships.