Pia Camil | Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, AZ

April 10 – September 19, 2021

More information on the exhibition

The Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson is pleased to announce an exhibition from noted artist Pia Camil, featuring new iterations of existing works and a site-specific commission. The three major artworks that make up the show investigate relationships of power, intimacy, and collectivity during the pandemic, within the space of an art museum and in the broader bi-national landscape.

Bara, Bara, Bara, a large-scale, site-specific textile installation first presented in 2017, hangs from the ceiling of MOCA’s Great Hall. The piece is composed of secondhand T-shirts produced in Latin America for retailers in the United States that ended up in bargain markets in Mexico, either through charity or waste. The shirts are sewn together into five sweeping tarps, each a different field of color. The installation’s title comes from the word barato, meaning cheap, an exclamation used by street vendors selling their goods. Bara speaks to complex economic relationships forced by American overconsumption, imbalanced trade policies, and exploitative labor markets. The artwork playfully demonstrates tactical and inventive individual responses in the face of hegemonic power, invoking thrift, fast fashion, and part-to-whole relationships.

For MOCA Tucson, Camil has conceived of Autonomous Space Rug, a massive new work which covers the floor below Bara with a patchwork of overstock carpet. Blanketing concrete, the piece creates an inviting space to sit, gather, and gaze up at the colorful T-shirt tarps. Overlaid onto the rug is a large, hand-painted diagram designed by the artist. The design simultaneously demarcates safe social-distancing parameters and offers an interpretable schematic inspired by decentralized methods of organization. Drawing from models such as the Bauhaus curriculum wheel, utopian garden cities of the late 1800s, and various cosmological structures, Camil synthesizes a floor plan that is open to multiple interpretations. Over the course of the exhibition, the artist and MOCA will invite the public to use the space for pandemic-conscious gathering, providing micro-grants to event proposals from local individuals or groups. Possible activations include performances, readings, meetings, panel discussions, exercise classes, workshops, and more.

The third artwork in Camil’s exhibition at MOCA involves another invitation to participate. AIR OUT YOUR DIRTY LAUNDRY is a new iteration of a flag sculpture originally developed in 2020 for the group exhibition unFlagging at Ballroom Marfa. The version of the piece at MOCA will be made by Tucsonans in the first few weeks of the exhibition’s life through an exchange: Participants are invited to bring in loved but outworn pieces of clothing or bedding and the story of their significance, and in return receive a giftcard to Bookmans (Arizona’s largest used bookstore) to continue the cycle of reuse and the generation of new stories. The resulting artwork is a collective laundry line made up of the jeans, sheets, socks, and shirts of participants, along with a looped audio track amplifying the stories attached to these intimate items. Instead of functioning like a traditional flag that singularly represents a large swath of people under the banner of nationality, region, or creed, this flag represents a multitude of individuals and memorializes their everyday, personal possessions. AIR OUT YOUR DIRTY LAUNDRY is created by participants, facilitated by the staff of the museum, and directed by the artist, and in this way inverts authorial power and insists on reciprocity. Both this work and Autonomous Space Rug make space for self-representation and expression, inviting audiences to engage with Camil’s artworks and ideas and to give them a life of their own.

The three works in Pia Camil’s exhibition at MOCA Tucson provoke questions about the forces that divide and unite us, playfully yet tenderly suturing unity from fragments. The artist uses everyday materials, excesses, and cast-offs to create opportunities for connection, demonstrating that interactions guided by openness, curiosity, and reciprocity can replace oppressive systems of power and re-define relationships through collective action. 

Pia Camil: Three Works is organized by Laura Copelin with installation support from Wylwyn Reyes and Wesley Creigh.

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