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Issue 161

Questionnaire: Mario Garcia Torres

Q. What is art for? A. To keep our scepticism alive.

BY Mario Garcia Torres in Interviews | 05 MAR 14

Manuel Felguérez, Límite de una secuencia (A Sequence’s Limit), 1972, enamel on canvas, 1.3 × 1.5 m. Courtesy: the artist

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

I remember an artist’s talk at my local museum in Monclova, Mexico, many years ago. The room was full of ladies, and the artist – whose large geometric paintings and sculptures I had already seen – was talking on a stage. At some point, maestro Felguérez (back then artists were always referred to by their last names preceded by the word ‘maestro’; his first name is actually Manuel) started to talk about his La máquina estética (Aesthetic Machine) project from 1972. It consisted of a computer program that was fed with formal variables from his previous works in order to try and predict the kind of art he would make in the future. As I understood it then, Felguérez wanted to fast-forward his thinking process by several years. He made a number of paintings and sculptures dictated by the ideograms generated by the computer’s algorithms, only to later abandon them and return to a more temperamental sensibility. This was the first time I realized that an artist’s practice was complex, involving elements of chance as well as a rational and analytical logic. The whole world had changed when I saw his works again.

What was the first film you can remember watching?

It was definitely a Star Wars movie on the big screen; it must have been The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I have never seen it since, and have no clue what it is about. The first film I remember watching that really mattered to me was Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966). I recall watching it by myself late at night on TV, probably as a teenager. It was many years later that I discovered what it actually was.

If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?

I have a hard time living with objects. If I had to live with one piece of art, it would definitely be something that I wouldn’t need to take care of or carry around.

What music are you listening to?

The car is pretty much the only place I listen to music. The last CDs I burned are compilations I made of Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, and of King Krule. I also constantly listen to Nils Frahm.

What is your favourite title of an art work?

Oh, I have a list! Ceal Floyer’s Title Variable (2000); Christian Jankowski’s Above All I’m an Art Lover (2009); Ryan Gander’s A Portrait of the Artist Conceiving this Title (2010); Mircea Cantor’s I Shot This Image Because It Is Highly Suggestive Within a Specific Circle (2006); Roman Ondák’s My Summer Shoes Rest in Winter (2007); Hans-Peter Feldmann’s Pictures of Car Radios Taken While Good Music Was Playing (2004); Michael Snow’s Sshtoorrty (2005); Lee Lozano’s Clarification Piece (1969); Eduardo Costa’s A piece that is essentially the same as a piece by any one of the first conceptual artists, but dated two years before the original and signed by somebody else (1970); Maurizio Cattelan’s A Perfect Day (1999); John Cage’s A Year from Monday (1967); and Gilbert & George’s The Evening Before the Morning After (1972). From my own list of possible titles I might choose A Piece of Work (undated).

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

There are no images on my studio walls.

What should change?

Everything should and will change.

What should stay the same?


What do you wish you knew?

This morning I was reading John Cage’s lectures and writings in A Year from Monday. In the foreword, he explains that the title of the book came from a rendezvous that eight people agreed to have in Mexico 367 days after they had dinner in a restaurant on the Hudson River, near Newburgh. It must have been around 1962. I wish I knew who they were, and if they actually managed to meet. I also wish I knew how to speak French, and to know how the hell they do that twerk thing.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do? 

It would be great to be the guy making hand signals on third. The coach on third base, that is.

is an artist who lives in Mexico City. In 2010 he published A Few Questions Regarding the Hesitance at Choosing between Bringing a Bottle of Wine or a Bouquet of Flowers (dOCUMENTA(13)/Hatj