“[Our community is] one that constantly sabotages itself: the anticommunity of networked souls.” —John Kelsey, Next Level Spleen
There is no sentiment more omnipresent in the art world than that of dissatisfied skepticism. Today more than ever individuals exposed to the arts derive conclusions about the value of the work based on the context or network in which the art is presented.
The link provided on Preteen’s Twitter page describes Preteen Gallery as “a small contemporary art space in Mexico City.” In true “networked soul” fashion, I emailed Preteen, stating: “I would like to interview you: either ‘you,’ the actual person behind the feed, or ‘you’ as an online performer/entity.”
Gerardo Contreras, founder and director of Preteen, grew up in Ciudad Obregón and moved to Hermosillo to study architecture in his twenties. He founded Preteen in 2008 by transforming an unoccupied apartment space in Hermosillo he had under his possession. The name stems from its founder’s early memories of watching online pornography, in a time when there were no real restrictions on Internet content. In regards to his curatorial ideology, he cites Javier Peres’ Peres Projects and Maurizio Cattelan’s The Wrong Gallery as influences.
The workload Contreras has undertaken is certainly prohibitive of the severe drug habits his tweets imply. In a single month his schedule included opening Jaime Martinez’s Shyness is Nice Don’t Ask Me, curating I’m Too High to Deal with this Shit Right Now in Madrid, So Confused LOL in Belgrade and Derrida.pdf in Vienna.
Contreras convincingly performs the role of the curator as a force of nature—a nature that implies it allows the real-life connection that Kelsey fears will become extinct in our era of “hyperrelational decadence,” but a nature that also illustrates the unpredictability and fickleness that Kelsey expected.
It might appear that there are no limitations of political correctness in a conversation with Contreras, but that is certainly not the case. An endeavor to delve deeper into his process was cut short due to Contreras’s interpretation of pointed questions as indicative of my “Christian-American condescending gaze,” as he framed it, blatantly ignoring the fact that I am neither. Despite the honesty that characterizes his descriptions of his past drug experiences, hypothetical questions (ie. “Do you ever wish drugs weren’t important to you?”) offend him irrevocably.
Contreras employed a hyperconscious approach to respond to a request for further clarifications, resulting in his complete misinterpretation of the intended tone. In turn, he responded with a redundantly aggressive email that set the tone for our remaining interactions. Since I truly intended to learn as much as I could about his perspective and influences, I instantly apologized. My apology was genuine, and I once again reiterated my intention to construct his portrayal in utmost honesty. In theory, Contreras accepted this apology. In practice, the visceral responses he provided as clarifications indicated otherwise. The curator’s more-recent responses altered my stance towards the degree of the performative aspect of the Preteen Gallery tweets: both online entities thrive on belittling and disparaging others to accentuate their ‘superiority.’
In a passage that succinctly summarizes Contreras, Kelsey writes: “…we eventually arrived at the fully wireless, fully precarious, Adderall-enhanced, manic-depressive, post- or hyperrelational figure who is more networked than ever but who presently exhibits signs of panic and disgust with a speed of connection that we can no longer either choose or escape.”
A week prior to the scheduled publication of the interview I contacted the Preteen gallerista to inquire if there was any specific artwork he would like to see featured accompanying his interview. In a contemptuous email he demanded a written request from the publication’s editor towards him and the creators of the artwork he suggested. Upon concluding on the lesser quality of Contrera’s recommendations–mostly videos of people humming, praying and repeating the same phrase over and over again for three minutes–the editor proposed running the interview sans any accompanying art as ‘an interview with an eccentric.’ Briefly after I informed the curator on the lack of interest on behalf of the publication in featuring the art he recommended he ceased our social media rapport. Unfollowed and unfriended, I found myself blinded by Contreras’ erratic behavior once again when my editor informed me he contacted her–via Facebook; this networked soul likes to be more personable–to express his desire, for undisclosed reasons, to not have an interview of him published. “I would rather not give him the attention anyway,” the shrewd editor decided.
Though he might have panicked in this game of networks we indulged in, he cannot choose nor escape my reciprocal dissatisfied skepticism.
Poor Gerardo is lost in his performance, a performance that piques the audience’s interest and intrigues them to pursue a closer investigation. Just bear in mind: Contreras must be in control of the dialectic at all times.
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How do you think your geographic location impacts the general reception of Preteen Gallery?
GC: I was born and raised in Northern Mexico, but I started to move around when I was 16. I love Mexico City, that’s why I moved here and not because I’d stand out as any kind of provocateur. I actually don’t stand out, not many people in the local art scene know or care about Preteen.
I don’t mean to provoke, but I often do, just by saying what I say. I don’t sit down and calculate how I’m going to provoke conservative people in Mexico or elsewhere. The harshest criticism on my shows’ titles and texts comes from New York, actually.
I’m disconnected from the Mexican audience because they are not listening to me. I’m also a hermit and work-obsessed. I barely interact with the local scene because I’m always working on something. Plus, if I go out, I go out to get some ass and there is no ass at any art opening in this city, seriously.
What ties you closely to arcane and esoteric cultural trends in the US and New York?
GC: I’ve never been to New York. I grew up and lived very close to the border for a long time. I stopped going to the USA about three years ago. I never really liked going, I would only go for shopping. Then Amazon appears. So there’s no need to go to the US, you just shop online.
Who doesn’t have a fascination for American cultural trends? You don’t have to live in or close to the US. Hollywood movies were so important for so many people all over the world in the 20th Century; although they’re crappier than ever, they still matter a lot outside the US. Everybody’s watching those terrible American TV series and reality shows now. When it comes to film, I rarely like anything American and I stopped watching TV when I was about 14.
My current fascination with American mainstream pop culture is just a phase. I’m an audiophile, the kind that goes through phases. American popular music has been as important to me as to any other audiophile. Before my obsession with Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, I was obsessed with Betty Carter and Billie Holiday. Before that it was obscure punk, rare UK 80’s pop, and so on.
Do you manage the business side personally?
GC: There is a business side to Preteen Gallery but it’s not my main focus. And yes, I keep on managing it all by myself. There are no potential buyers for my shows in Mexico City; I did an extensive screening in 2011. And then, people visit galleries less and less. Most collectors buy art at fairs, which is intriguing to me, as fairs seem to be the worst context to experience art.
What happens is that my clients love the install shots so much; they don’t need to come to Mexico and visit the gallery. I sell art online to people outside of the country.
Please describe your curatorial process.
GC: My ideas, approach and methods are in constant change, so I don’t know if I can pin them down clearly. There is always a procedure and certain ideas behind a curatorial project. I’ve recently become more cerebral about every aspect of the shows. Many things that before were left to chance are now meditated a lot.
But then I don’t like the idea of any obvious and coherent connection between my thoughts and what I actually do, what happens when I mount a show. Think of a very complex diagram for which uncertainty and confusion are both the starting point and the final goal. I’m interested in derailment, altered mind states, randomness. Lately I’ve been thinking of creating systems that are redundant and self-cancelling. I like the idea of noise and feedback, accident: glitch.
I’ve been fantasizing a lot with self-generated exhibitions and curatorial texts. I’d like to write my own Dada engine that would generate a curatorial text with just one click; also, software that would generate an exhibition based on a diagram or a given set of rules. I think of Brian Eno’s “Discreet Music”.
Please explain your relationship with drugs.
GC: Drugs are very important to me, to my life as a whole. Drug use has played a significant part in the formation of my perspective on everything.
I am prescribed drugs that I need to function. I’m a madman and I need medication. So we have prescription drugs on one side, and street drugs on the other. Drug use did not precede my artistic tendencies.
I started being social when I started using drugs. MDMA at raves when I was 17 was crucial for my current social skills; it helped me talk to people and smile at people and care about people and kiss boys, all that.
Drugs use in general affects my professional standing because they allow me to function; now, I’m talking about prescription drugs.
Architecture school was at times meth-fueled, at times weed-fueled, or both. I was high all the time but making things also. Then I opened Preteen and I made 25 shows in the course of two years, while finishing architecture school.
If it comes down to prescription drugs, for me it’s either take them or be hospitalized, but then they’ll give me drugs at the hospital so I can go out and have a life. Illegal drugs now are just a plus. I don’t drink alcohol; it’s fattening and so bad for the skin.
Do you feel any sort of moral responsibility for romanticizing drugs through Preteen’s Twitter feed and the oeuvre you exhibit?
GC: I don’t feel any sort of moral responsibility when it comes to what I write and the shows I make. I never thought of romanticizing anything through my work. If it’s a tweet, it’s probably just something that came to mind, and that is it. Sometimes I think of drugs so I tweet about drugs.
I don’t know why, all these things are not a matter of any kind of responsibility. It’s all about a drive to make things. Sometimes I think it’s a drive to communicate and maybe then is when I stop and think: Let’s not communicate anything in particular with this, if this drive is to communicate let’s pervert it and do the opposite: let’s make nonsense, let’s throw bullshit.
Like the drive to fuck, it’s supposed to be some sort of reproductive, organic thing, which is boring and also a bit gross, so you do what’s truly hot: you fuck ass and you come inside.
Your current performances of drug use are an illusion. How likely is it that some of the artists are merely giving the appearance of drug use?
GC: Yes, most of my tweets are fiction. I’ve been tweeting a lot about some incredibly hot dude at the gym who is my workout buddy and we’re in the midst of a very intense bromance, and I think he has a girlfriend but he never mentions her and we just don’t care and we worship each other’s muscles.
None of this is true. There is not a single hot guy at the gym. Maybe I’m tweeting so much about him because I long for all that to happen? The same with drugs. I tweet about meth and opiates because there are none in this city.
There’s meth in northern-Mexico, not here. All the heroin goes to the US and pharmaceutical opiates are not available to people as they are in the USA. I want these things to be happening but the scenario is always more or less like this: I’m just very stressed and working a lot. No hot gym bro, no heroin, no meth, no love.
When I said I was interested in drug-fueled art it was because I knew it was drug-fueled and I knew which drugs were the fuel. That was a long time ago. Now I think it is—and maybe it’s always been—about my own experience of art under the influence of drugs and not so much about the artist’s drug use.
Do you actually like Cher?
GC: I love Cher’s tweets! I don’t make fun of her. She is fun. She’s a genius. I’m fascinated at this stage of her as a Twitter poet.
Will Mariah’s marriage last?
GC: I think Mariah’s marriage will last longer than expected because Nick Cannon is a fucking cool dad and a great husband and also, so hot. But marriage is all about eventual divorce, right? Who knows? Then you have the twins. Some couples forget about how lame being married is when they’re too busy taking care of babies. Whatever. Nick rules, I must insist.
Why do you think the general audience idolizes celebrity figures typically categorized as ‘divas?’
GC:I think men are boring, unless, of course they’re gay or at least ambiguous like James Dean then and, yes, bros like James Franco nowadays. But either way, when it comes to pop music and entertainment, who cares about some guy on stage?
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Elias is a generalist writer and an aspiring human being based on Avenue D.