Thanks to Débora Delmar, green smoothies have finally been canonised. Working under the pseudonym Debora Delmar Corp., the Mexican-born/New York-educated artist critically examines and subverts the aesthetics and modes of communication behind today’s political landscape of late capitalism. The languages of advertising, celebrity culture and consumerism intertwine in a curious universe of images, material desires and bodily anxieties. They are alluring and humorous, but never forget the political critique motivating these appropriations.
The platinum blonde artist dedicates herself fully to the study of consumer culture, even in terms of her own mode of distribution: omnipresent, she operates online and offline through a variety of mediums from Prezi presentations to virtual credit cards; from juice bars to mixed media sculpture. In “Upward Mobility” at Modern Art Oxford–her first solo show in the United Kingdom–Delmar explores the aesthetics of class aspiration, as seen in Mexico, globally and on the internet. Sleek caught up with Debora before the opening of “Upward Mobility”.
Debora Delmar Corporation functions as both the body and the maker of your work. How did the name come to be?
I changed my name when I was in New York, responding to being at a school that looked totally like a business. We had Google across the street, and a super-consumerist culture was all around us. I was also thinking about artists like Jeff Koons and Warhol and how the artist is always turned into a brand–even Frida Kahlo’s face: it’s what people know, and her as a brand is visible everywhere. I was thinking about art as a product–a luxury commodity–and the artist as as a luxury brand. At first, I started doing fake advertisements. I created my logo and was playing around with all these ideas from marketing, but I was doing all these things that were immaterial. I later became interested in working with objects, making sculptures and installations.
Has removing yourself from your practice by forming Debora Delmar Corporation given you any kind of freedom?
I feel like it makes me more comfortable, as it separates my personal name and my work. I don’t want my practice to be about me; the work is really about my perspective on specific issues. I don’t want it to be super personal, or from one point of view. I don’t think my personality or the way I look is important in my practice.
You have distributed work through so many different channels. Is exploring these many channels important for you?
Yes, I love doing that. It keeps me active. I’m very “of our time” in the sense that I cannot focus: I have to always have my phone and my computer. Facebook is basically my studio! But I also love transforming images into actual objects. I like to experiment with these two different forms of communication.
It’s impossible to talk about class-struggle in the same way as you could or would in the 20th century. How does class manifest itself in the 21st century?
Today, we not only aspire to wealth in terms of diamonds and “bling”, but also in terms of larger ideas of DIY, yoga, organic living–the branding is towards something non-materialistic. It’s multi-level now, and simultaneous.
Tell me about your new show at Modern Art Oxford.
The title of the show is “Upward Mobility”. I’ve been thinking about objects and images that represent the idea of “a good life” and help you climb the ladder of society to a higher position: In Mexico, people wear fake Abercrombie & Fitch and UGG boots; they go to Starbucks or Olive Garden thinking that it’s “nice” or “fancy”, while in the US, these retailers would be considered horrible and tacky. I brought certain elements from Mexico and integrated them in into the context of the show.
I have also thought a lot about the place where I’ll be showing in the UK–I was very inspired by the British gardens. I was thinking about hedges: shaped hedges seen in middle-class suburbia as a signifier of “a good family” or “a good life”. There are certain things in the UK that are very weird to me, but people here are so used to them and consider them normal. You become numb to the meanings of these aesthetics and objects.
Interview by Jeppe Ugelvig
“Upward Mobility” by Debora Delmar Corporation is on at Modern Art Oxford until 17 May 2015.
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