The exhibition Artist Curator General information




life in the folds



I believe we are at a time when it is crucial to discuss freedom of thought if we want to live in a society in which different points of view can mingle and substantiate our understanding of equality and justice. From an artistic point of view, I’ve researched the way in which writing is encrypted by inventing a form of abstract typography as a strategy to preserve contents that would be silenced if they were in legible form. For the Mexican Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2017 I encoded the alphabet as a formal language, starting off with abstraction until I got to a level of figuration where communication can occur openly.

Life in the Folds is based on the title of a book by Henri Michaux. This title evokes an image that is about being between things: between the pages of a book or a newspaper, between countries and cultures, between opposed ideologies, between oneself and the other. This “being between” has been the focus of my artistic exploration: masks, whether taken literally or as visual language, placed like a membrane between conflicting contexts.

The installation consists of formally interrelated pieces that merge in a film. For the work, I used seventy-four flat, irregular shapes —cardboard cutouts— with which I made an alphabet that mutated into musical instruments, used to tell the story of a family of immigrants who were lynched: a story based on hundreds of cases that have taken place in Mexico over the last few decades.

In this piece, images of migration and lynching are metaphors of a generalized crisis that we need to discuss. On the one hand, migration is the consequence of current economic policies that have decimated entire communities or even regions. On the other, the murders that have taken place over the last decades, the recent executions carried out by citizens and private militias evince conditions of self-governance, where people administer justice subjectively, though in principle this is something the State should administer objectively.

Placing these metaphors in a national structure —paradoxically situated on a global platform— allows us to ask urgent questions that concern us on both a local and a global level. In view of the new nationalist movements’ opposition to globalization, at a time when most of a nation’s territory already has owners, what type of nationalism are we talking about?

- Carlos Amorales
March 29, 2017



The exhibition


Carlos Amorales has been interested in how images and words give form to reality and determine us. Thus, since de mid nineties, he has done a series of projects in which he questions the link between art and society in relation to language and subjectivity, forms of power, and institutional practices.

In continuity with previous research, Life in the folds of Amorales introduces a formal language that unfolds in a variety of media within the installation. The artist developed a series of compositions that transit from abstraction to an ilegible text, and this, to a phonetic language and to three-dimensional forms that emit music, to converge cinematographically in the story of the lynching of a migrant family.

The lynching is an extra-legal collective act in which the folk takes justice in their own hands. In today’s context, a lynching transcends the local specificity to manifest globally through the mediatic space. In Life in the folds, the image of the lynching turns into a metaphor of the global politic situation, where the weakening of the State has led to a society in which justice becomes popular execution. The Law, as the extra-lega justice, operate in the very roots of language, likewise they undermine the notion of truth and common good, exercised by justice. In this sense, the lynching is an archetype of irrational violence that works from other forms of language oblivious to the law, as rumor, gossip and lie. 

The installation takes borrowed its name from the eponymous novel of Henri Michaux, in which he treats diverse poetic means to deal with suffering in the immediate postwar period. The exhibition is originated from the series of paintings Geometric splendor, project accomplished in 2015, and that originated the abstract forms that are the seed of Life in the folds. It opens with a set of poems written in an encrypted alphabet created by the artist with abstract three-dimensional shapes. The texts displayed on seven tables, that formally refer us to paper sheets, imply a transition from the typographic to the phonetic. Each letter is a ceramic wind musical instrument, also known as ocarina that, when played, releases a specific sound for each letter. This coded language can be interpreted verbally, but can also be played as music. Around a thousand ocarinas establish a relation with an graphic musical score of 92 pages mounted on the walls of the pavilion. All these elements come together in the film The cursed village, which narrates the story of a migrant family that is lynched as they arrive to a foreign town. Where a puppeteer controls the characters of the story and a music ensemble playing the ocarinas, interprets the soundtrack, dialogues, and soundscape of the film.

Performative practice has been a constant aspect in the work of Carlos Amorales. In Life in the folds, the artist presents a performance that activates the elements of the installation. The work conjugates simultaneously theater, music and poetry. The ensemble Liminar will interpret the score for ocarinas and will showcase live music for the film. Simultaneously, two actors will give away a newspaper created by the artist and written with the encrypted alphabet, which contains critical essays on relevant Mexican current politics.

In Life in the folds a universe opens between image, figuration, speech, phoneme music and narrative. Formally consequent, the work risks ethic and esthetic categories understood as opposites: law before poetry, clarity before darkness, synthesis before narration, and figuration before abstraction. In this way, the work arises from the tension between the very concrete and the very abstract, it is here where a series of poetic images related to the places where we find life, appear; not in the middle of the pages but in the folds, in the cracks, and in the breaches, in the smallest things.







Geometric Splendor no. 8, 2015
Silkscreen on wooden panels
221 x 152 x 4 cm





Score for ocarinas (general group), 2016
Xerographic print on paper
21.5 x 28 cm




Ocarinas, Life in the folds, 2017
High temperature enameled ceramics
Variable dimensions







Puppets, Life in the folds, 2017
Spray paint on cardboard
40 x 50 cm






The cursed village, 2017
Film, black and white with sound
13 min. (still)






Carlos Amorales 1970 (Lives and works in Mexico City)



Multidisciplinary artist who explores the limits of language and translation systems to venture into the field of cultural experimentation. He uses graphic production as a tool to develop linguistic structures and alternative working models that allow new forms of interpretation and foster collectivity. In his projects, Amorales examines identity construction processes, proposes a constant re signification of forms present in his work, and provokes a clash between art and pop culture.

His research processes are complex; they are based in an ample repertoire of empirical methodologies to develop extensive projects that conjugate historical, cultural, and personal references. His practice expands to diverse media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, or collage; as well as performance, installation, animation, sound art, film, writing, among other non-traditional formats. 

He studied visual arts in the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, both in the city of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The most extensive researches in his work encompass Los Amorales (1996-2001), Liquid Archive (1999-2010), Nuevos Ricos (2004-2009), and a typographic exploration in junction with cinema (2013-present).

Among his numerous individual exhibitions we can mention: Black Cloud, Power Plant, (Toronto, 2015); El Esplendor Geométrico, Kurimanzutto (México, 2015), Germinal, Museo Tamayo (México, 2013); Nuevos Ricos, Kunsthalle Fridericianum (Kassel, 2010); Four Animations, Five Drawings and a Plague, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2008); Discarded Spider, Cincinnati Art Center (2008).

Some of his most outstanding collective exhibitions: Under the Same Sun. Art From Latin America Today, Guggenheim Museum (New York, 2014); New Perspectives in Latin American Art, MoMA (New York, 2007); Mexico City: An Exhibition About The Exchange Rate of Bodies and Values, MoMA PS1 (New York, 2002); and performances as Amorales vs. Amorales, Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris 2001), SF MoMA (San Francisco, 2003), and Tate Modern (London, 2003). Additionally he has participated in biennials like Manifesta 9 (Belgium, 2012), Bienal de la Habana (Cuba, 2015 y 2009), Performa (New York, 2007), Berlin Biennial (2001 y 2014), and the Venice Biennale (2003 y 2017).

His works are available in international collections such as Museo Tamayo and the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City: Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; among others.







Pablo León de la Barra 1972 (Lives and works in London and Rio de Janeiro)



León de la Barra is the Curator for Latin America at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and co-curator at MASP, Sao Paulo; from 2013 to 2016 he was the Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator, Latin America at the former institution. He was also Director of Casa França-Brasil, Rio de Janeiro during 2015-16. He has curated, among many exhibitions ‘Incidents of Mirror Travel in Yucatan and Elsewhere’ (2011) at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; ‘Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today’ (2014-16) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Museo Jumex in Mexico City and South London Gallery, London; ‘Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster / Temporama’ (2015) at MAM, Rio de Janeiro; ‘United States of Latin America’ (2015) co-curated with Jens Hoffmann at MOCAD in Detroit. León de la Barra was one of the curators of SITE Santa Fe Biennal 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico and founder and co-curator of the Bienal Tropical, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2011 and 2016).

He has written for various publications, participated in numerous international symposiums and conferences. In 2012 he was awarded the first Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Independent Curators International Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean in honor of Virginia Pérez-Ratton. León de la Barra is in the advisory boards of the Luis Barragán Foundation, Mexico City; the CIFO, Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami; Despacio, Costa Rica; and the Davidoff Art Initiative, Zurich. He holds a PhD in History and Theories from the Architectural Association, London.






General information


Open to the public:   May 13th to november 26th 2017
Visit hours:                10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Location:                   Venice, Arsenale, Sala de Armas, Tesa B

For more information about the 57th Venice Art Biennale:





Images courtesy of Estudio Amorales and kurimanzutto
Photo credits: Nicolas Mastracchio, Diego Pérez,  Abigail Enzaldo