Program Type: 
Yoshua Okón: 2007–2010
October 30, 2010 - February 06, 2011
Upstairs Galleries


Yoshua Okón's video installations are built on improvisational narratives created by the artist and his collaborators, mostly non-actors willing to participate in a game of social chance that may easily spiral out of control. Centered around emotionally charged expressions of power and contemplations of fear, death, sex and nationhood, these works provoke viewers to consider questions of social conduct and the behavior of individuals within systems of social restraint. Okón further challenges viewers to question their own attitudes towards power, ethics and prejudice, particularly as they relate to class and race. Maintaining a belief that humanity holds within its grasp a complex web of fears and desires, Okón places psychological violence on the stage with absurdity and humor. The rather serious antics that unfold yield to audience reactions of shock or disbelief, while at the same time providing a space to laugh at one's own frailties. Okón's works are both performative and interactive, in that they are not complete without the participation and complicity of the audience as they react to what they experience on screen.

Among the works included in the exhibition are Bocanegra (2005-2007), in which Okón collaborated with a group of Nazi enthusiasts who dressed up in vintage uniforms and were recorded in a variety of orchestrated situations; Canned Laughter (2009), a simulation of a maquiladora (a factory on the northern border of Mexico) that "cans laughter," juxtaposing the spontaneity of emotion with the grim realities of contemporary industry; House Meister (2008), in which a man comes out of a mouse-hole-like opening in the wall and crawls on the ground hissing and growling; Hipnostasis (2009), a collaboration with Raymond Pettibon which explores the subculture of old hippies and beach bums from Venice Beach; and Rusos Blancos (White Russians) (2008), a collaboration involving a family and residents of a remote desert area in California who rehearse performances for invited spectators.

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  • Audience Roundtable
    Oct 30, 2010 1:00pm – 3:00pm
    FREE w/ gallery admission

    Artists from the exhibitions Audience as Subject, Part 1: Medium and Yoshua Okón: 2007 — 2010 discuss the role of the audience in their work. The relationship between the artists and the collective viewing body they imagine is considered, as well as questions around group dynamics, individuated vs. group identity, and what is revealed by portraying audience reactions separated from the object of attention or implicated by the performance on view.

    Participants: Leonor Caraballo, Danica Dakic, Abou Farman, Yoshua Okón, Adrian Paci, and Shizu Saldamando

  • Yoshua Okón: 2007-2010
    October 29, 2010 – February 6, 2011
    Upstairs Galleries
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Related Programs

October 30, 2010 - February 6, 2011
Downstairs Galleries

Audience as Subject is a two-part exhibition that reverses the role of the audience from that of spectator to subject, exposing the dramatic mechanisms underlying public gatherings of people.

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Curator Statement

To achieve an immediacy of purpose, Mexico City–based artist, Yoshua Okón, creates his video installations in or near the locale where they are initially exhibited, setting up a direct correlation between the everyday world of particular sociological subsets and the exhibition. For Yoshua Okón: 2007–2010, we present five projects that are collaborative efforts between the artist and members of unique communities in Mexico, California and Germany. These works feature improvisational narratives that compel viewers to consider questions of societal conduct within the context of the authoritative nation–state and personal behaviour within those systems of social restraint. As each scene plays out, the hidden beliefs and behaviours of both the participants and the audience are revealed through their subsequent reactions. In each situation, psychological violence shares the stage with absurdity and humor, provoking reactions of shock and laughter, often simultaneously. When thinking about these works in relation to the Big Idea ENCOUNTER: Engaging the social context, we especially consider how Okón places pressure on viewers to interrogate their own attitudes towards power, ethics, and prejudice in regard to class, status, and marginality.

— Betti–Sue Hertz, Director of Visual Arts
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Artist Bio

Yoshua Okón was born in Mexico City and currently lives and works in Mexico City and Los Angeles. While his primary medium is video, Okón considers himself a performance artist, as his work documents invented scenarios created for the camera in collaboration with invited participants. Interested in the tension between artificiality and the hyper-reality, Okón’s work reveals the dissolution of the boundaries between public and private, external and internal that occurs once the camera is turned on. In 1994, Okón and Miguel Calderon founded the internationally acclaimed “La Panadería,” a vibrant, non-profit, artist-run space in Mexico City that has become a model throughout Latin America.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
The San Francisco Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Koret Foundation
Adobe Foundation Fund

YBCA Exhibitions 10–11 is made possible in part by:
Meridee Moore and Kevin King, CEC ArtsLink and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Le Meridian
Free First Tuesdays
Underwritten by Directors Forum Members