Pia Camil: Bara, Bara, Bara
- Neil Cooper
- 7 May 2019
Mexican artist's first UK solo show is an immersive installation featuring new and existing textile sculptures
Pia says relax. Mexican artist Pia Camil doesn't actually appropriate Frankie Goes to Hollywood's much-replicated Katherine Hamnett-styled 1980s slogan and design for life. Symbolically, however, such international lingua franca springs to mind upon stepping into Camil's monumental installation of sewn-together second-hand t-shirts that hang beside each other. Tramway's main space becomes a dormitory of giant hammocks, or tarpaulins providing shelter for dodgy market dealers flogging knock-off or bootlegged goods on the cheap. Beneath them, pairs of jeans are stuffed inside each other and piled up like cushions of disembodied cowboy mannequins collapsed around the campfire like double denim bean-bags.
Each hammock/tarpaulin is colour-coded, with the neck-holes of each t-shirt enabling viewers to pop their heads through to get a closer view of the stitching. At first glance, Camil's first UK solo show makes for interactive adventure playground fun before chilling out on the child-friendly mounds of jeans. Look again, however, and an indictment of how the rag trade crosses borders in a two-way traffic that keeps the customer satisfied, is unfurled.
Originally produced in Latin America by American retailers, the garments subsequently found their way back to the street markets in Mexico City, where the street vendors' cry, shortened from 'barato' – which translates as 'cheap' – gives the show its title. With all garments picked up second-hand from Las Torres Market Iztapalapa, slogans, advertorial, football team logos and souvenirs of sporting events with numbers on the back hang beneath the denim. This points to how the west was once won in a dressed-down jeans and t-shirt combo. Such not-so obscure objects of desire were eternal symbols of rock and roll rebellion, immortalised in images of Marlon Brando and James Dean and sold off to the eastern bloc like gold. The to-and-fro of the internationalist melting pot, inadvertently stirred up by such cultural crosswinds, may end up going for a song, but are, in Camil's world at least, priceless.
Tramway, Glasgow until Sun 23 Jun.