A Taxi Moving to the Edge of Disaster
In the way of a vehicle with eclectic interests, we try to avoid pot holes, obstacles and barriers that can be domineering visions, the access to become a part of the art world and the intense marketing of the artists who have more financial support and who are more powerful than others. Borders have become blurry and every country, some less than others, face up to the difficulties to promote education, cultivation and culture. Hence, artists are relegated to a level where they can’t manage to make their voice sound or find an escape route. We seek to analyse and leave a trace of our days, and in order to achieve it we have to move our focus toward the creation of every country, like is reflected in this issue in our trips to Australia and Chine. It is Taxi’s mission, but also its demand, to contribute in this sense to take the best of international arts to the Mexican and international public, promoting the best Mexican artists all around the world. (Taxi Art Magazine, Issue Nr. 1)
What you have just read in the above paragraph is Guadalajara based bilingual (Spanish and English) art magazine Taxi‘s statement of purpose, which was included in its first published issue. By all intents, one would find this as a very honorable task that the editors have set for themselves: here we include the recognized need to address and tackle power structures and their links with financial circuits criss-crossing the artworld, the intention to provide a platform from which emerging Mexican artists with less visibility can make their voice heard locally and internationally, and a horizontal, trans-national approach which would transpass borders, connect cultures, and offer the means for emancipation. That in the same critical pot the magazine also offers space for advertisement for brands of alcohol, holidays in exotic resorts and … art fairs is something that one could, eventually overlook: in the end, Taxi is not the first nor the last one to do it, and, one would self-deceitfully say, nothing is manageable without a bit of compromise with capitalist advertisement.
However, since its first issue things have evolved in a very unhappy direction. The magazine not only offered space for advertisement, but its editors-in-chief had the idea of creating a subscription-based system, in which the subscribers would pay in advance for future issues that would be sent to them by post. For more than four months now, ArtLeaks has received numerous complaints from people who paid in advance but were “forgotten.”
In translation: “I’m still waiting for my magazine, for 2 months I was told that it will come as soon as possible and nothing; and there was no way to speak to you as no contact number exists … such a poor ethic. If all you wanted through these subscriptions were the money, it is maddening that you pose as entrepreneurs and cheat while you steal from people … I wonder to how many more people you did the same … thank you for your attention and service” – writes one subscriber, while many others echo complains referring to the fact that not only they had not received what they paid for, but also that there is in fact no way to contact somebody responsible for this situation, which proves little respect from the staff of the magazine towards its readers. A large part of those who are complaining have subscribed ever since November 2011, when Taxi was present at the Guadalajara book fair.
But, as we investigated these claims, we discovered that not only Taxi‘s readers are treated badly, but also most of the employees of the magazine, which since the beginning of 2012 have been virtually working for free. Taxi‘s bold sentences with which we started this report hide, in reality, an editorial structure in which those in the top who own the material resources use their power to constantly lie, committing to fake promises of paying in due time the wages of the workers, and finding pitiful reasons to break them. Here we will concretely nominate Mr. Ignacio Orozco Espinoza, who is the President and CEO of the magazine. We have received an email correspondence between him and members of the staff who throughout the first half of 2012 have continuously and eventually even desperately asked to be paid the due amount of money.
“Why aren’t you answering to me? I have no money, I need you to pay what you owe to me” reads one of a multiplicity of messages which points to the meager state of ruthless labor exploitation. Indeed, for most of the workers at Taxi, this salary represents the only way of covering their living expenses. In this situation, Mr. Orozco, for whom “bad conscience” and “bad faith” are concepts he has probably never heard of, found little trouble in issuing cheques that could not be cashed in, one of the reasons he provided being that … he is out of money.
We could give Mr. Orozco the benefit of doubt if we didn’t know that Taxi had a booth in the Guadalajara Book fair in 2011 and at Zona Maco – the art fair in Mexico City in 2012 where it even managed to sell pretty well. Still, one would say, in times of financial crisis such as these, sales might not provide enough to cover expenses. But we will need to dismiss this claim soon, as we have found out that Mr. Orozco is also the owner of the Plataforma Galeria (as can be seen here), a commercial gallery which is sometimes advertised in the pages of Taxi and is assumed as its twin-sister project. We read from the gallery’s website that
PLATAFORMA es un espacio de discusión y promoción de arte contemporáneo a nivel nacional e internacional. Nuestro fin principal es generar los elementos conceptuales que nos permitan adquirir, desarrollar y sustentar un perfil que refleje el valor intrínseco del desarrollo cultural, la historia y la visión de un contexto particular. Plataforma también aspira a posicionarse dentro del mercado del arte, por lo que se han implementado una serie de estrategias que se concatenan desde un proyecto general: Promotora Arte. Con el fin de impactar desde distintos ámbitos, se cuenta con un proyecto hermano de promoción del arte contemporáneo, la revista Taxi Around the Art. Ambos proyectos están destinados a generar nuevos vínculos entre el coleccionismo, la comunidad artística y el público en general en aras de participar de un dialogo global y multidisciplinario.
PLATAFORMA is a space for the discussion and promotion of contemporary art nationally and internationally. Our aim is to generate the conceptual elements that allow us to acquire, develop and sustain a profile that reflects the intrinsic value of cultural development, history and vision of a particular context. Plataforma also aims to position itself on the art market, so we have implemented a number of strategies that are concatenated from a general project: Promotora Arte. In order to have an impact from different areas, there is a sister project to promote contemporary art, the magazine Taxi Around the Art. Both projects are aimed at generating new links between the collectors, the art community and the general public in order to participate in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary dialogue.
Indeed, Plataforma strives to position itself on the artmarket and addresses collectors, as it has managed to be present at Scope Miami in 2011, at the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City in 2011 and 2012, and at Arco Madrid in 2012 the latter with a project by artist Edgar Cobian. We are very confident that the amount invested in renting spaces in these fairs would have paid not only for the due salaries, but it would have provided some peace of mind concerning the future for the workers at Taxi!
In 2011, Plataforma mounted Monterrey-based artist Rubén Gutierrez’s exhibition entitled “Moving the Nation to the Edge of Disaster”. As someone wrote on the blog of the Taxi art magazine, “Ruben’s work exposes humorously the idea of a fatal destiny, playing with the concept of being-toward-dead as a parody. It may be his Mexican roots insisting on mocking death, or it is simply the artist trying to reveal the mysteries of what comes after the end.” But in the context of what has been described, we believe that there is little humor left in the idea of a fatal destiny: it is the fatal destiny of an art magazine which lost all honesty and credibility when facing both its designated audience and its staff, an art magazine becoming a ghost Taxi moving towards the edge of disaster!
Below you can consult the original complaints (in Spanish) brought to the owner of Taxi Magazine by subscribers and his staff
Many thanks to Vlad Morariu for reporting on this case.