“Fool’s Romance / Books From Aeromoto” at the UT VAC

The interactivity of Aeromoto's installation seizes the spirit of collective action seen in the response to the Mexico City earthquake

The "Fool's Romance/Books From Aeromoto" exhibition at UT's Visual Arts Center feels like the mixture of two kinds of organized chaos: that of an adolescent bedroom and that of a marketplace. There are makeshift shelves and seating arrangements propped up by cinder blocks, scattered croppings of various potted green plants, brightly colored posters wallpapering entire walls, hammocks slung in a corner, and clusters of people shuffling through stacks of books and paper. The space is an extension of Mexico City venture Aeromoto, which describes itself as a public art library and community space.

The controlled chaos reminds me of striking first responder images recently coming out of Aeromoto's hometown following Mexico City's costly earthquake. Lines of people passing along buckets and chunks of concrete to clear rubble, an expanding wave of hands shooting up to signal the need for silence as responders listen for signs of life, another wave of extended hands passing along stretchers of the rescued. The camaraderie is of a kind with what Aeromoto aims to provide in Mexico City and in its transplanted space in Austin, what it describes as the pursuit of a "life of shared resources and tools for liberation."

The exhibition blends binaries like public and private, comfort and hardness. Stacks of pillows pile up around stacks of concrete bricks. Parts of the area are cordoned off, little spots of intimacy replicated in some of the abundance of reading material. A handmade birthday card written in Spanish and spritzed with perfume feels for a second like a revelatory secret only to be spoiled later by the instructions of a mini-installation asking participants to stick their nose into the books hanging from the ceiling and inhale. And this is all right to the point: The reimagination of public literary and artistic spaces takes specific aim at encroaching privatization.

Its playful, interactive approach in doing so reminds me of Yoko Ono's instruction paintings, which similarly broach the distance between the conceptual and the material. Her PAINTING FOR THE SKIES instructs: "Drill a hole in the sky. Cut out a paper the same size as the hole. Burn the paper. The sky should be pure blue." Compare that to the final sentence of a poster I took from the VAC, designed by Celia Shaheen: "When you're finished with a book, give it a new hiding place." A point of difference, though, is Shaheen's instructions (and others around the space) are accompanied with the necessary materials for completion. Moving from concept to reality is a struggle for anti-capitalist groups and projects at large, but "Fool's Romance/Books From Aeromoto" presents a chilled-out microcosm of the idealistic.

The show notes offer a definition: "Aeromoto is an airquake." A tremor in the air. Their opening in Austin arrived the evening before a powerful aftershock in Mexico City echoed the initial quake. Here and there, they offer a vision for (re)building that seizes the spirit of collective action seen in the recovery response and argues that zeal in sharing space and resources can be prompted by not only anguish and destruction but also by delight and creativity.

“Fool’s Romance/Books from Aeromoto”

UT Visual Arts Center, 23rd & Trinity
Through Dec. 9

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UT Visual Arts Center, Aeromoto, Yoko Ono, Celia Sheehan

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