Carlos Ginzburg

Structure of Tourist Attractions, Mexico


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Not on display

Carlos Ginzburg born 1946
Original title
Structure de l'Attraction Touristique, Mexico
189 photographs, gelatin silver prints on paper, mounted on 21 cardboard panels
Support, each: 1020 × 1220 mm
Lent by the Tate Americas Foundation, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2015
On long term loan


Structure of Tourist Attractions, Mexico 1980 is comprised of 189 gelatin silver print photographs mounted on twenty-one cardboard panels. Each of the photographs shows one of seven different well-known tourist sites in Mexico: the Mayan archaeological zone at Chichen Itza, the beach resort of Cancun, the Churches of San Miguel de Allende, the National Museum of Anthopology in Mexico City, the streets of San Miguel de Allende, the Latin American Tower in Mexico City and the Mercardo San Carmelito in Mexico City. The photographs are divided into panels of eight photographs each accompanied by a brief text panel, and for each site there are three panels, labelled ‘Sight’, ‘Marker’ and ‘Tourist’. Those panels labelled ‘Sight’ consist of general views of the location and are the most clearly descriptive; those labelled ‘Marker’ comprise photographs that focus on signage or labelling or else consist of a tourist guide placed in the site to perform the naming function; and those labelled ‘Tourist’ focus on the activity of crowds or visitors within the site, or in some cases feature Ginzburg himself posing with various ‘locals’ in a way that typifies touristic portraits, humorously adopting and performing the persona of the tourist.

Structure of Tourist Attractions, Mexico is part of a larger, extended series of work that the artist titled the Voyages of Ginzburg. This was an extended performance that deliberately blurred the boundaries between life and art. Lasting a decade, from 1972 to 1982, it involved the artist travelling to a variety of locations globally. In each place Ginzburg would make a series of photographs, some of which employ props while others feature the artist himself. The props would be sited by Ginzburg in a number of different locations or contexts within a particular locale, much as the markers are in Structure of Tourist Attractions, Mexico. In one group of works made in Asia, it is a mask of American President Jimmy Carter that is used as the prop or marker, sometimes placed in the site, sometimes worn by the artist himself or by others within the scene; in another it is a sign that reads ‘On-sight marker’. This wider series also revels in layers of irony and humour, as well as an underlying geopolitics of place, land, travel and tourism, as Ginzburg both enacts the role of tourist but also becomes the tourist. In addition, it reflects the long tradition of traveller-artists in Latin America. From the perspective of Latin American practice, the series relating to Mexico engages with the theme of travel in the region, and specifically in Mexico, that has been a focus for artists including Juan Downey, Robert Smithson, Leo Katz and Melanie Smith. In 1980 Pierre Restany, with whom Ginzburg had developed a close dialogue, published a book titled Les Voyages de Ginzburg in relation to this multi-part performance.

As an artist and theoretician Ginzburg has been associated most strongly with conceptualism in Latin America. Although he was born in La Plata, Argentina in 1946, he moved to Paris in 1972 and has lived there ever since. He was a member of the Argentine organisation Centro de Arte y Comunicación which used the post to distribute mailed exhibitions and staged shows about Argentine and international conceptual art. Within this context, and inspired by his elder contemporary Edgardo Antonio Vigo , a pioneer of Argentine conceptualism and mail art, Ginzburg’s practice developed a deep engagement with the mail system. He used the post office for conceptual art, sending ‘letter bombs’ and carried out performances over long periods of time in which he would address letters to himself and have them destroyed at post offices. Projects such as the Voyages of Ginzburg extend this concept of mail art so that it was the artist himself who travelled and not the letter.

Further reading
Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression 1960s–80s/South America/Europe, exhibition catalogue, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart 2009.

Tanya Barson
May 2015

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