Poole, England, 1965; lives in Mexico City
Melanie Smith moved to Mexico City in 1989. Shortly after graduating in fine arts in her native England, she started to create works including video, photography, painting and installation that reveal an influence of art history, Mexican culture and her own condition of being a foreign. Her work reflects on the transposition of the Eurocentric concept of modernity to Latin America, mainly focused on Mexico. Smith relates formal characteristics of avant-garde artistic movements such as color research and geometry analysis to nature and colonial and postcolonial heritage. Research trips belong to the procedures the artist uses in her work, which led her to portray utopian projects such as the industrial center Fordlândia (2013), created by Henry Ford (1863–1947), aiming at processing latex in the Amazon. For the artist, the incompletion of the Latin-American process of modernization is seen as potentiality, not failure.
In Aztec Stadium. Malleable Deed, Smith creates a monument to Mexican modernity. Filmed at the most important stadium in the country, designed in 1968 by Pedro Ramirez Vazquez (1919–2013), an architect known for the designs of other modern buildings in Mexico City, the video is a subversive response to the official celebrations of the bicentennial of the country’s independence. Three thousand students from public schools create huge mosaics employing Mexico’s nationalist and folk imagery (such as an Aztec mask and the country’s flag) and from art history (such as Kazimir Malevich’s [1879–1935] celebrated painting Red Square, 1915) while messages are inserted on a screen (“the revolution will not be televised”). As they appear in the video, actions, texts and images are doomed to disintegration, invoking potential chaos and mass action.