MEXICO CITY — “I’ll just keep on … till I get it right,” croons Tammy Wynette’s melancholy, droning voice to viewers as they enter Mexico City’s LABOR gallery, where a show titled after Ceal Floyer’s seminal sound work from 2005 is on view. Including sound, installation, video, photography, and painting, Till I Get It Right is rhythmic, with looping and repetitive pieces dating back to the 1970s alongside brand-new work commissioned for the show. Like a mixtape or a mash-up, the exhibition curated by Tim Goossens is a combination of elements repeated across time and/or space, suggesting self-reflective acceptance of the processes that define us or our work.
Wynette’s 1972 country hit, also titled “Til I Get It Right,” is about repeatedly falling in love, living through the pain, and accepting the imperfections of human existence. The original lyric says, “So I’ll just keep on falling in love, till I get it right.” Floyer’s choice to edit out the words “falling in love” leaves the phrase abstracted, barely discernible from the original yet open ended. In addition to the acceptance of trying and falling short, Floyer’s work asks: What are we trying to get right? How do we know what’s right?
As a contemporary artist, Floyer has more in common with Diplo or Skrillex than Wynette. She is a DJ who builds her work by appropriating and combining pieces of culture that already exist in the world; the use and editing of the country song speaks to her role as a remixer rather than an originator. The exhibition at LABOR is a sort of double appropriation, then, as it also showcases Goossens’s practice as a DJ, combining established and emerging artists with new and old work in one space. His selections suggest that success and failure are both fetishized as constructs of a capitalist regime which displaces them as unattainable — hypotheticals that exist only in the future and past. Till I Get It Right manages to be at once hopeful and melancholy, asking: Will we ever get it right?
In the main gallery space, a human-sized black orb is suspended in the air and drifts through the space. The piece by Edith Dekyndt, titled “Ground Control/Major Tom,” has a surreal presence: it looks heavy but floats freely. The reference to David Bowie’s 1969 “Space Oddity” furthers the idea that the show might be one big mixtape for overcoming heartache and alienation.
The orb floats up to the top of the gallery, within inches of the ceiling, and slowly descends again. Its movements are unpredictable. An apparent wink at our failure to control our own lives, its passage is affected drastically by a passing person or breath of air. The orb never rests. It moves silently through the space, like us, in constant pursuit. A metaphor and maybe an argument for the insistent change that shapes us, it blocks out the light falling on the walls. Ominous because of its size and color, it careens in and out of the viewer’s field of vision.
A looping video installation by Nicolas Provost shows a surfer forever dropping into the perfect wave — a never-ending leap of faith. The seamless loop creates an almost believable illustration of infinite achievement; the work embodies artificial perfection, dreams produced in studios and factories. At the same time, the video creates a paradise where dropping is the destination and process is the peak. The infinite moment of adrenaline suggests there is treasure in trying. While the phrase “Till I Get it Right” still implies the ideal of a destination — a particularly American obsession with individual progress and achievement — it also suggests the freedom to be exactly who we are.
Till I Get it Right continues at LABOR gallery (Gral. F. Ramírez 5, Daniel Garza, Miguel Hidalgo, 11830 Distriro Federal, Mexico City) through September 11.