Phantom Sightings

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Filmmaker Jim Mendiola and media artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres have collaborated on several projects since 2001—almost inevitably, given their mutual interests. Though Mendiola lives in Los Angeles, he focuses his creative activities primarily on his native Texas, and especially on his hometown of San Antonio. A recurring theme and strategy throughout his films and his critical writing for journalism and radio is the cross-pollination of visual culture and popular music. Ortiz-Torres is similarly engaged with the dynamics and results of cross-cultural hybridization. Both are engrossed in issues of cultural mythologizing, and de- and re-mythologizing as traditional cultural boundaries shift and blur. Their first collaboration was in 2001 when they were artists-in-residence at the nonprofit organization Artpace San Antonio. Their project featured a life-sized wax statue of British heavy-metal musician Ozzy Osbourne; whenever a viewer approached, a motion detector caused the statue to urinate against the wall—just as the real Osbourne had done at the Alamo almost a decade earlier, causing scandal and outrage at the desecration of the historic site. Accompanying this bit of theatrical installation was a collection of photocopied newspaper clippings chronicling preposterous—yet true—events in the latter-day history of the Alamo, as when a Saudi sheikh attempted to purchase the shrine as a gift for his son. In 2003 Mendiola and Ortiz-Torres again teamed to create The Mapping of the Mascot Genome, a series of digitally manipulated videos in which baseball players and fans are transmuted with team mascots, yielding such oddities as Ballapeño, a half- human/half-jalapeño alien being. Their Phantom Sightings project is conceived puckishly as an "anti-chronology"— a sort of alternative timeline to mainstream American histories vis-à-vis Mexico, Mexican American cultural and economic interchange, and the influence of Chicanos on pop culture (and vice versa) in the United States. The timeline documents these phenomena through its astutely researched text and an anthology of visual cases- in-point drawn from historic archives, product design, advertising, movies, and print and electronic media. The evidence presented is sometimes jarring, often humorously strange, and always revelatory of how pervasive the intermixing truly is—as if the cultures-at-large are likewise engaged in collaboration. 214 JIM MENDIOLA AND RUBÉN ORTIZ-TORRES Rubén Ortiz-Torres and Jim Mendiola, Fountain/Ozzy Visits the Alamo, 2001, wax figure, human hair, copper tubing, electric pump, 72 x 25 x 25 in., collection of Teofilio Cohen and Gabriel de la Mora, Mexico City

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