In 2013, Theo Mercier moved from Paris to Mexico City, where he continues to live and work today. He found Mexico's open landscapes and complex history to be a revelation.
Stimulated by thoroughly unfamiliar surroundings and deeply inspired by Mexico's artistic and religious traditions, he began a new series of works called “Nowhere Bodies.” Immersing himself in his new home, Mercier explored Mexico's rich spiritual underpinnings, its imagery steeped in the mysteries of life, death, and the unknowable. He began sourcing objects rooted in the customs of the shaman, the healer, and the spirit guide. Touristic souvenirs and domestic detritus from local ruins were other sources of curiosity and influence which found their way into the new pieces.
Although each sculpture’s body language is fierce and confrontational, there is a visible fragility in the vertical structures. Each delicately stacked object has its own discrete history involving a combination of rotation, collapse and rebuild. The trunks and pedestals are constructed from a set of imposing wood carcasses from the ruins of a collapsed colonial house in Mexico City.
Mercier lathed these wood pieces the way a ceramicist works a slab of clay. His treatment of wood on a wheel is a natural springboard for Mercier’s additional use of ceramic works, most often created using traditional Oaxacan processes. The spectral smoke stains on the clay are traces of an underground firing process where the pieces are burned by wood fires in soil pits.
The digging and burying of the ceramics coupled with the re-erecting of the wood from the fallen home adds another dimension of vertical growth and resurrection to the circular motion inherent in the ceramic process. This merger of distinct processes reveals another layer of negotiation between natural and manmade, construction and demolition, domestic and external, fixed and mobile.
As Mercier continued to delve deeper into the cultural life and artistic heritage of Mexico City, he began to recognize their reflections in the cultural landscape of Los Angeles—but with one essential difference. Their viewpoints are mirrored but inverse, as South gazes North, and North looks South, and the border itself serves as the dividing line between staying and leaving, belonging and being a stranger, the familial and the new frontier. Mexico City's POV is the view of
the resident, the citizen, informed by centuries of unbroken tradition; LA's POV is that of the visitor, the immigrant, the exiled.
Out of this understanding grew a determination: the works initiated in Mexico City would need to travel to Los Angeles, where they would be assembled and completed. The in-progress works that were shipped to California arrived in a way you might receive a pre-fab house. Mercier was determined to create a platform where he could explore the intersections of each city’s individual
histories. In this regard, the sculptures function as collages as well as geographical constructions.
“Nowhere Bodies” is a series of totemic structures incorporating found objects, signifying survived histories reclaimed by touristic ventures. Mercier took this collection of cultural evidence to Los Angeles in an effort to create a dialogue between the two cities about their shared history and diverging cultural landscapes. In its irresistibly playful and sometimes deadpan execution, the
works embrace a gender ambiguity and meld the past and the future with the present—they are deeply inspired by place, but not site-specific. The personalities present in each sculpture have no compass, no origin, loaded histories and unforeseeable futures.
Nowhere bodies, lathed wood, censers, teeth, 2015