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Street Markets, Mexico City

--Tianguis at Tulyehualco Canal de Garay, Iztapalapa, Mexico City

This project examines the street markets of Mexico City as an aesthetic expression of working-class people. It is part of a larger study of Mexico City's urban morphologies and cultures. This larger project has already resulted in a piece exhibited in a juried art show, features in The Guardian and Vice Magazine, and a scholarly article in the International Journal of Architectural Research.

With their striking colors and circuitous forms, the street markets of Mexico City comprise a vital part of the everyday life and public culture of the metropolis. Known as tianguis, this mode of buying and selling goods dates at least to the period of Aztec rule, and has persisted for centuries through Spanish colonialism, republican independence, and revolution. While today they face multiple challenges, particularly from transformations in global supply chains, they remain a key link in the city's food system.

Through a combination of fieldwork and making images, the project considers the street markets as products of intensive, routine, and repeated negotiations over urban spatial affordances in a crowded metropolitan environment. Particular attention is given to the polychromatic visual form, not as some detached work of art, but as a collection of tiny signals of the labor, commerce, and social relations unfolding below.

For this essay I deployed a method of making that has enabled me to draw out relations of architectural form and urban spatial practice that hitherto remained obscure, while simultaneously honoring the aesthetic commitments of tianguis workers. To produce the images, I made very large screen captures of Google Earth tiles (5118 x 2784 pixels), which I then cropped and desaturated in Photoshop, rendering them as 20 x 24 inch black and white images. To restore the color to the tianguis, I built a new layer and applied the eraser tool at a very fine grain (5 pixels), which slowly exposed the brilliant colors in the original layer below. To date I have produced ten of these rendered compositions, showing markets in a wide range of communities.

In the end, the project reveals these polychromatic markets as emerging out of an assemblage aesthetic, each a variation on a theme grounded in the cumulative daily choices, desires, routines, and thickly woven collaborations of working-class people.

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