We were late and I was sweating. I had botched my own plan to arrive: my plan was to meet a friend at his house nearby, then walk together to Bikini Wax from there. I never told my friend that we would meet him at his house, however, and when we arrived there he was gone, on his way to Bikini Wax, hurrying because he thought he has going to be late. So we walked up Patriotismo, through Escandon, up to Benjamin Franklin—the avenue Bikini Wax is perched on, the avenue that divides upper-middle-class Escandon from bougie Condesa from lower-middle-class, sometimes slummy Tacubaya. There is an Oxxo down the street and a mediocre restaurant next door. One of my favorite vegetarians once told me they had great burgers there. I don’t believe him.
You enter Bikini Wax through an alley. The layout is famously bizarre: a one room ground floor with an enormous stairwell, a claustrophobic second floor with a kitchen that doubles as a main room and a narrow hallway that leads to apartment’s three bedrooms and the bathroom, which, like the apartment, is famously dirty. Exiting the kitchen/main room, there is a precarious spiral staircase that leads to an expansive roof, from which you can see a fair amount of the city at night. This show — “Object – Space – Behavior,” Isauro Huizar’s first solo show at Bikini Wax — was not at night.
On the ground floor, there was a toy organ. I appreciated it, not yet knowing that it wasn’t part of the show. We quickly took the stairs to the second floor, where Huizar’s work was, but nobody was there. We walked around for a second, noticing a sagging stack of freshly-done shrink-wrapped laundry in the main room—Bikini Wax’s usual exhibition room. In the near bedroom, a ring of books, stacked neatly according to their corresponding letter of the alphabet—As here, Ms there, no Xs or Ys—stood sentinel around the bed. In one of the far bedrooms, a tight oval of house plants barred entry; in the room across the hall, the only room without a bed, objects huddled in like colors against the far wall. The entire apartment was clean and orderly, the soft Sunday light calming what might otherwise have seemed lurid and manic into something that felt soft and generous.
We then took the steps to the roof, where everybody was. People were sitting in U, chatting. Our friend was there, sitting quietly behind an umbrella that was perched on a table in the middle of the U, vaguely shading an assortment of fruit, donuts, fruit juices, and fruit-flavored vodkas on the table, blocking one side of the U — the side my friend was on, where we sat — from the rest of it. In the corner nearest to us, a boy sat sullenly drinking one box of milk after the other. I wondered vaguely if this was a performance, and if it was part of the show. I thought about him vomiting. Isauro came over and offered us a donut. We accepted.
We stayed for quite a while, much longer than we usually stay at openings, chatting idly with people, meeting a dog, drinking fruity vodka drinks. People kept talking about the trash, that it was all squirreled away somewhere, that the apartment looked so much different without it. People were milling around, relaxing. Having the opening in the morning seemed to turn the usual opening routine on its head. I thought for a second about Pablo Helguera’s book Art Scenes: The Social Scripts of the Art World, wherein he dryly dissects the event of the art opening into a set of calcified roles, pervasive, unavoidable, and detrimental to the formation or circulation of new ideas—perhaps you’re the disruptive artist? the regulating academic?—and wondered if this shift of context perhaps allowed for a shift in sociality. Everything seemed friendly, nice, unforced. The few people trying to network seemed to have forgotten their cards. A woman across the umbrella from us regaled the people near her with stories of her life in the sort of lightly accented English specific to middle-aged women visiting Mexico. I thought, what a nice subtle gesture.
Was it? Look at that image of objects stacked against the wall: don’t they look a bit scared? If you were standing in that room, how would you feel? What would you do? What can you do? Huizar works as an interior designer, making commercial or domestic space more condusive to spending or living for its inhabitants; here, he uses interior design to make a series of domestic spaces unlivable. Or rather, while one could certainly live in one of these rooms, sleep in that bed surrounded by 20-odd stacks of watching books, or in the other room, disguised by a huddle of house plants, it would be a sort of living in which it would impossible to discount the presence of those objects.
Objects cast affects; this much we know well. Usually these affects are instrumentalized by design, interior or otherwise: a long table suggests a feeling of familiarity and comfort, a speed bump suggests an attitude of alertness and care. They also limit the field of possible action: in the restaurant with one long table, you feel discouraged from eating alone; in the street with the speed bump, you must slow down. In Protocol: How Controt Exists after Decentralization, Alexander Galloway describes the speedbump as the quintessential protocological object—an object that delimits a field of possible action.
Read in this way, “Object – Space – Behavior” was neither subtle nor nice. Rather, it is a violent intervention into domestic space, bringing the objects that normally disappear to the forefront, forcing us to reckon with them, to decide what to do now. Most people, including myself, just got the hell out of there and went upstairs. The new arrangement of the objects, as present—looming, watching, in a scrum, backed against the wall—created a space that didn’t necessarily feel like an art space but did absolutely feel like an object space. That room belongs to these books. How can we live in a domestic space that does not privilege humans? How do we reckon with our objects? What are our options? What field of possible action does the laundry cast?
Isauro Huizar (Culiacán, Sinaloa, México. 1985) Develops professional work in interior design focusing on commercial spaces.