Mario García Torres. Je ne sais si c'en est la cause. 2009. Fifty-eight 35mm color slides, two vinyl LPs, Dimensions variable. Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy

“I have learned that looking for something in the wrong place or the wrong time leads to unsuspected discoveries.”

Mario García Torres mines art history—particularly informal and lesser-known histories surrounding Conceptual art. But, he is careful to stipulate, his research-based works remain sites of imaginative possibility. “When I managed to think I was having a discussion with a dead artist (for example), art became just what I needed: A space where anything was possible,” he said.1

In Je ne sais si c’en est la cause (I Don’t Know if This Is the Cause) (2009), García Torres follows the story of the French artist Daniel Buren, who, early in his artistic training, claimed he had been inspired by the Mexican muralists. In 1960 and 1965, Buren received a mural commission from the Grapetree Bay Hotel on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, where he created his first in situ works, incorporating pebbles, glass, and ceramics, as well as the vertical stripes for which he would become most known. When García Torres traveled to St. Croix in search of Buren’s murals, he found the hotel in a state of ruin, battered by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He photographed its remains, shown as slides alongside a black-and-white promotional photograph and his original music. His lyrics, and the work’s title, are drawn from a letter Buren wrote to his parents, expressing his disappointment with the Caribbean project:

Je suis toujours aussi mal installé.
Je ne sais si c’est la cause de,
mais depuis un mois
que je travaille sur un grande toile,
j’en ai fait au moins 20
les unes sur les autres
toutes plus dégueulasses
les unes que les autres.
Le résultat est nul.

I’m still just as badly settled.
I don’t know if this is the cause,
but for the month
that I worked on a large canvas,
I made at least 20
on top of each other,
each more disgusting
than the other.
The result is zero.

In ¿Alguna vez has visto la nieve caer? (Have You Ever Seen the Snow?) (2010), García Torres hunts for clues about another forgotten art historical episode, this time from the life of the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti. Between about 1971 and 1977, Boetti operated the One Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan. While there, Boetti worked with Afghan embroiderers to create his first Mappa, part of a series of tapestries meditating on the contrast between terrestrial forms and the artificial, geopolitical subdivisions imposed on them. Despite accounts that the hotel had been destroyed during the Soviet invasion of 1979, García Torres set out to locate the building, first via archival images and Google Maps. In the resulting slide projection, a voiceover reviews the images as if in an art history lecture, reconstructing Boetti’s story from “everything I have been able to observe in, and deduce from, a series of photographs from a place I have never been to.”2 Begun after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the research that led to ¿Alguna vez has visto la nieve caer? relies on rumors, “informants,” and fragments of information, revealing the projections, fictions, and contradictions involved in constructing a place—whether a tourist destination or the site of an invasion—from afar.

Like all of García Torres’s work, it tells one possible story among many, layered with footnotes of uncertainty and relativity, with the subtle suggestion that there is not one truth, but many.

Julia Detchon, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, 2024

Note: Opening quote is from Juan Gaitán, "Mario García Torres," Mousse no. 34 (2012), 169.

  1. Unpublished interview with the artist, by Madeline Murphy Turner, April 2020.

  2. Quoted from the artwork, 2:00.

Works

3 works online

Exhibitions

Publication

  • Chosen Memories: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift and Beyond Exhibition catalogue, Hardcover, 128 pages
Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].