Modern Art Oxford presents ‘Upward Mobility’ a major new site-specific installation by Debora Delmar Corp. This is the adopted name of Mexican artist Débora Delmar, a name that was chosen after reflecting on capitalist lifestyles and aspirational aesthetics. Working with sculpture, video and installation, Debora Delmar Corp. explores the way in which our global consumer culture structures our very lives and routines. The artist creates complex assemblages that appropriate familiar branded goods and imagery, reconfiguring them in an attempt to deconstruct the visual language of the consumerist aesthetic.
Delmar creates an immersive environment – these works are fenced in by a series of kitchen counter tops and garden hedges, creating a maze-like effect which the viewer has to navigate to encounter a series of household appliances and objects from the artist’s native Mexico City – where the viewer becomes ‘viewer/consumer’ via a homogenised language merging that of art with corporate advertising.
Debora Delmar Corp. gave Artlyst a tour of her latest exhibition at Modern Art Oxford, on the eve of the artist’s opening Delmar discusses transformation, consumer culture, and orange juice.
“I always like to interact with the architecture, and other spaces of the institution, the ‘place where art is shown’, so I decided to create an entry [point for the exhibition] that mimics other public spaces like restaurants or other places you can walk around, [in the exhibition] you can see all these hedges, and vinyl prints which is part of the display, this creates ‘nature’, a pathway [for the viewer], and creates an atmosphere, I have cups in the entrance, and upstairs there is a juice bar where you can purchase orange juice. The cups are a preview of that, but there is also juice powder in them that I brought from Mexico, that you’ll see throughout the exhibition, transformed in different ways, and it’s been used to make sculptures, and used as powder itself, and used a liquid, a dying agent – and as a smell. I’m interested in a singular material having multiple uses, everything is multi-layered, it’s like a signifier, an object, finding different contexts in different countries, different environments. So this is like setting up the mood to go up to the exhibition, but it is also part of the exhibition.
Pop music and pop culture is so much part of the background, a shared culture that we have that’s everywhere, every store you go in they play, and play over and over again, so you can hear [instrumental pop music] but it will fade away now that we are in the ‘art space’ which is filled with ‘luxury objects’ – I’m doing a lot of research on how stores employ these elements of sound and smell – so I’ve used trees and the smell of bark, then we are at the first sculpture; a piece in two sections, I shaped the hedges – and this is based on Kim Kardashian – I shaped them in the body shapes of women, like a before-and-after: brunette, and platinum.
The huge banner of orange juice is ‘happy’, and beautiful – and an almost sexualised Image; orange juice is kind of suggestive and [as an image] is beautiful to look at, and creates this atmosphere – again, an atmosphere, a setting for the show. In front of the banner there are more hedge sculptures, with the work called ‘John’ – as I read an article that stated that there were more C.E.O’s called John than there were women C.E.O’s – so I gave all the sculptures that name and placed toupees on top. The hedge is a metaphor – and also perceived to be a very British thing – and a status symbol for Mexican middle classes – a shaped hedge – they are also a metaphor for growth, perhaps scaling up the [corporate] ladder.
Then we come to sculpture, installation, appropriated objects; and photo-prints on vinyl. There are plenty of elements and I really enjoyed playing with them. The counter tops in the work; I really wanted them to look bought from a store but they were actually produced here out of a material called Jesmonite, which is a mix of cement and plastic, and then there’s pigment; as I wanted this orange of the orange juice to be transformed; now it’s like a marble, a fake marble. They were painted this way in the mix to create this marble effect, and the other one I wanted to do like a Photoshop gradient, but also like a drink, like a Tequila Sunrise. On there own they are very beautiful, but I’m interested in creating new settings through the multi-layered elements throughout the show, and there’s many details – and I could explain every-single-thing but we would be talking forever. The counter tops are components, they are platforms, and become metaphors for social platforms, some of the components are hand made, there’s orange juice powder mixed into the soap bars. Things that I brought from Mexico I combined with things from here, either displayed as they are or transformed.
The objects in the assemblages are interacting with each other; like stock images that don’t make any sense, and are used to sell things [without context]. I’m also trying to create a path for people, it’s very much about directing the viewer, making them feel a certain way, walk a certain way – like in shopping malls or banks – video banks of moving adds follow you – you can stop and look at the screens in the piece but you don’t necessarily have to, they’re appropriated images, and a mix of photos that I’ve been taking while I’m here, the images that I’m taking with my phone.
The counter tops and the hedges are like television sets, and I decided to use hubcaps as something masculine, as the counter tops could be seen as female, so this is a way of engaging the male viewer. The hubcap is all about aesthetics – and status – so I decided to place them all around – and thinking about Google search, when searching an image, you get all the images of the thing you are looking for – and then suddenly there will be a really random image, So I’ve punctuated the space with objects, like the ‘Itsu’ bag, and there’s a piece of baby clothing that says ‘born to go to Oxford’ – the aspirational environment.
The other elements like beautiful glasses for example, also look like a Photoshopped thing, it might be something you’d expect, but there are notes of colour too, and I play a little bit with the composition – I’m very interested – besides the theory, and all the crazy layering thoughts – obviously I’m making art so there has to be aesthetic decisions.
With the banner of a celebrity getting out of an SUV drinking green juice – but also holding a Starbucks cup at the same time – it’s kind of hidden in the image, but I like that. The paparazzi photo is the new ad. These images seem casual but they’re planned, they are published for a reason; like a secret agenda to advertise objects like Ug boots, which is why there are Ugg boots, sculptures of Ugg boots, and sculptures of fake Ugg boots. So again it’s all about aspiration and wanting to belong to this culture, owning the object of desire… and finally we’re at the juice bar.”
Debora Delmar Corp. Upward Mobility – Modern Art Oxford – Until 17 May 2015
Words: Debora Delmar Corp. with Paul Black. Photo: P A Black © Artlyst 2015 all rights reserved