Camilo Ontiveros: In the ring on view at the Museum of Latin American Art

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Camilo Ontiveros: In the ring on view at the Museum of Latin American Art
Camilo Ontiveros, American Boxing Association boxing training camp in Philippines, Shadow Boxing. Digital Screen Shot, 2009.

LONG BEACH, CA.- Camilo Ontiveros (Mexico, 1978) is a conceptual artist whose work has always reflected his interest in sociopolitical themes, especially those relevant to his own life, such as issues inherent to the city of Los Angeles: immigration, power relations, underground economies, recycling and the value of the objects in a consumerist society. In his most recent projects, the documentation of his investigations through the use of documents and videos has become the central, aesthetic and conceptual element of his work.

For MOLAA’s Project Room exhibition, Camilo Ontiveros: In the Ring, the artist once again proposes a broad investigation including videos, projections and photographs of Filipino and Mexican boxers. The blazing career of the Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in the last decade and his epic fights against Mexican boxers such as Erik “el terrible” Morales, Juan Manuel Márquez and Marco Antonio Barrera, have resulted in great interest by the mass media for matches between fighters from both countries. These matches have generated a relationship between the Mexican and Filipino public as well. In fact, the relationship between both countries is not new and is far from being a mere historical coincidence. They have a connection that spans more than two centuries that is significant in the cultural development of both Mexico and the Philippines, albeit one that is ignored by the majority of the inhabitants of both countries.

In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines and proclaimed the island as part of the Spanish empire, but it was not until 1565 with the arrival in Mexico of Miguel López de Legazpi that the first colonies were established. From that moment until 1821, the Philippines, due to their geographical distance from Spain and proximity to the American continent, were ruled by the Viceroy of New Spain in Mexico, which generated an important commercial and cultural relationship between both countries. The maritime route that Andrés de Urdaneta founded between the Philippines and Mexico turned into the main entry point for Asian products headed to America and Spain. Several ships sailed every year from Manila, known as the Naos of China, which transported merchandise to Acapulco. From there it went on to Mexico City then Veracruz and on to Europe. From 1565 to 1815, the Naos of China followed the same route, taking goods to Mexico, such as mangos and coconut palm trees , items that are now associated with Latin American culture, but which were unknown until then. The importance of the Naos of China for Mexico and the Philippines goes beyond the trade of silk, ivory or coconuts. Tagalog, for example, has more than a thousand words in Náhuatl, including words such as tianguis or Palenque, as well as thousands of words with Spanish roots. In addition, many of the inhabitants of the Mexican coast of Guerrero and Oaxaca have Filipino origins, showing how the exportation of goods also brought about the immigration of people and a cultural exchange that is evident in other arenas such as cuisine and religion.

Due to Spanish dominance, the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris signed in 1898 between Spain and the United States the Philippines came under U.S. domination and did not achieve independence until 1946; yet again, another coincidence that brings both countries closer, a complex relationship of domination by the United States.

In this exhibition, as in the rest of his works, Ontiveros provokes the viewer to look beyond. The central focus of the exhibition is a boxing ring from which we are confronted with a wall in which Filipino and Mexican boxers train or fight each other. To the side, a projection with a mirror makes the viewer a participant in a training session in Mindanao. Camilo Ontiveros shows us that two centuries after the last ship sailed the Manila-Acapulco route, Mexico and the Philippines have found each other again, through a third country ( the United States) that generates the relationship between them by staging million dollar boxing matches that create significant economic profit . In Camilo Ontiveros: In the Ring, the artist focuses on the intersection of two cultures but far from mystifying the encounter, he proposes the possibility of repeating the colonial relationship of the past.

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