Felix by Fernando Mastrangelo | 2008-2009
Mirror, cocaine | 17 feet x 15 feet x 44 inches
Felix by Fernando Mastrangelo (Detail)
Citizens of developed countries live largely estranged from the conditions that provide their most basic commodities – oil, sugar, coffee, iron, rice, corn, etc. – commodities which function as the underpinnings of complex economic markets. My work over the past two years has focused on the use of such materials as media which I use to create cultural objects that propose a narrative of commodity production and the invisible labor force behind it.
In my work Felix I am discussing the powerful secret economy of illegal drugs, from production to consumption, and the interesting antagonisms implicit in this trajectory. This piece deals with the specific case of cocaine, which epitomizes the socio-economic tension that I seek to depict in my work: from the margins of the undeveloped world, and through the toil of impoverished agricultural workers comes a drug whose chief connotation is luxury and expense.
While my work has a relatively direct social message, it eschews moralizing; emphasizing the more fundamental irony and aesthetic interest of the pairing of true and seeming opposites. The Colombian coca farmer bent in labor is both close and far to his well-heeled cocaine-using counterpart. It is ironic that the agent of the literal transformation of the coca plant into cocaine is the modest coca-farmer; he is both a powerful and degraded figure in the economic super-structure that translates natural objects into goods for consumption.