New is the second in a trilogy of works that Vidokle made at the Salto del Agua metro station in Mexico City. Filmed and edited by Julieta Aranda with sound recorded by Cristian Manzutto, it documents the transformation of the façade of the station building during the summer of 2003, when the exterior was painted red. It is one of several works by the artist that explore ways in which the visual styles of modernism are employed to convey messages of social reform.
Salto del Agua was completed in 1968, a year in which Mexico City witnessed violent protests and became the focus of international media attention when Mexico became the first Latin American country to host the Olympic Games. Vidokle was interested in the contradictions that the building embodies through these associations, namely the persistence and failure of utopian ideals. New, and the two other works in the trilogy, consider the significance of this iconic local landmark, the legacy of its architecture, its relationship to the immediate environment and its role as a symbol of progress and change. While New records the process of altering the physical appearance of the building’s street frontage and by implication its public presence, the other two works explore the façade as an interface for different layered views of the city. The first, Salto del Agua 2002, is composed of close-up shots of the windows and their reflections, while the third, Optica 2005 – named after the sunglasses shop across the street – recreates the modular structure of the building with video filmed from each window screened within a grid of sixty television sets.
New takes the form of a video portrait, comprising over forty short clips that show the building in progressive stages of transformation from grey to red. Standing on a busy intersection in the centre of Mexico City, Salto del Agua is a high-rise, concrete tower block several stories higher than the surrounding architecture and distinguished by its geometric contours and neat, modular grid design. Vidokle arranged for the façade to be painted and filmed at regular intervals from across the street over a two week period. The work was undertaken in no particular order and sections of the concrete were painted one at a time. The footage is relayed as a quick succession of images making it possible to see a dramatic metamorphosis. Fragmentary clips of film are connected by dissolve editing and overlaid with a continuous soundtrack of ambient noise: passing cars and people on the street outside, and, from the midpoint in the film, the nearby sound of an alarm clock, an item being sold by one of the street vendors pitched in front of the building.
New is edited with titles and credits and was conceived as a video projection with sound that plays on a continuous loop. The artist has specified that the image should be projected onto a free standing screen wall, approximately two and half by three metres in size, which is positioned approximately half a metre away from the far wall of the gallery space. The image should be positioned at floor level. The walls should be grey, and the film should ideally be shown in a space with a concrete floor to mirror the pavement onscreen. There should be a simple bench provided for viewers. Vidokle frequently works in collaboration with other artists and curators to establish international platforms for discussion and debate. In 2006 he initiated a series of residencies and symposia as a ‘temporary school’ called unitednationsplaza in Berlin. He is the co-founder of e-flux, a New York based organisation that disseminates information about contemporary art activity internationally.
Brian Sholis (ed.), Anton Vidokle: Produce, Distribute, Discuss, Repeat, Berlin 2009.
‘Massimo Audiello: Anton Vidokle: Collaborations and Recent Work’, e-flux, 26 January 2004, http://www.e-flux.com/shows/view/1165, accessed 10 February 2010.
‘The Project, LA: Notes on Renewed Appropriationisms’, e-flux, 3 March 2004, http://www.e-flux.com/shows/view/1212, accessed 10 February 2010.