Opening Reception – February 16th, 2012
In Realia Series: American Tourister, artist Juan Ortiz-Apuy has modified an original set of the iconic American Tourister travel suitcase to mechanically inflate and deflate as passersby traverse the sidewalk in front of the Whippersnapper Gallery. Connotative of the necessarily physical characteristic of mobility, Ortiz-Apuy’s suitcases explore the complex narratives surrounding the movement of people in a globalizing world. One in which borders are emphasized or de-emphasized where it suits the free flow of capital, where global markets usurp national identities, and where exclusion is enforced with palpable consequences; refusal, imprisonment, or violence.American Tourister speaks to the paradoxes behind globalization though the experience of travel. From the North American perspective imbued within these suitcases, travel is a luxury and the traveler a tourist. The tourist maintains their identity, transplanting their culture to new locations. Often at odds with this, is the migrant experience, in which the traveling body must forgo aspects of their identity as they assimilate into a foreign place and culture. It is therefore through the experience of the body that the significance of the borders, nations, economies and cultures come into relief.
In American Tourister we are confronted by this physicality, as each of the three suitcases seemingly inhale and exhale from within. In this sense, Ortiz- Apuy examines the movement of people through politicized spaces. A context in which bodies act as economic commodities; the tourist enjoys the economic right of way, whereas those who do not meet the priorities of the dominant systems are treated much like illicit goods – controlled, surveilled and marginalized.
Within the oeuvre of his practice, Ortiz-Apuy has presented a large body of sculptural and print based works that directly and viscerally probe language, culture and identity across geographies. This focus has been greatly informed by his personal experience of geographical and cultural relocation. A journey that has brought him North from a small town in Costa Rica, from Spanish to English, and from the so-called Developing World to the First World.
As in much of Ortiz-Apuy’s work, American Tourister makes an accusation of futility embedded within the critiques. There is a sense in which his work asks the viewer to answer existential challenges to the ideology of global political economy. American Tourister presents the viewer with the weary breaths of these iconic suitcases – reverberating between the security of their privilege and the anxiety of losing it. A paradoxical symptom of their position within an ever changing global context.
Juan Ortiz-Apuy was born in Tilaran, Costa Rica and now lives and works in Montreal. He has a BFA from Concordia University, Montreal (2008), a post-graduate diploma from the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland (2009) and a MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Halifax (2011).