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Betsabeé Romero
Cars & Traces

Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, sep 2010 - febrero 2011

In her work, Betsabeé Romero (b. 1963, Mexico City) responds to developments in the world around her, like Latin America’s huge flood of migrants, the drug problem, damage to the environment and the disappearance of traditional crafts and customs. In exploring local issues she also reflects on larger, global processes such as the connection between past and present, the interplay and mutual influence between cultures, as well as the interconnected processes of conservation, loss and transformation. These themes are coloured by the city in which she lives: Mexico City. Romero often uses cars and car parts as the medium and subject of her work. This is motivated less by a fascination for cars or car models, than by the symbolic importance of the car as phenomenon. It represents hope and happiness, speed and progress, also inclusion and exclusion, serious accidents and catastrophic environmental pollution. For Romero, its wide ranging significance makes the car and its parts an ideal medium in which to communicate the themes that interest her on different levels. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication entitled Betsabeé Romero, Cars & Traces, produced by KIT Publishers.

Ojivas de la memoria (The Arches of Memory), 2010

In Ojivas de la memoria, Romero uses an array of colour, light and shade, form and counter-form to reflect on the dynamic of cultural interplay. She combines the traditional craft of Mexican paper cutting with Dutch Delft blue pottery. Although they seem typically Mexican and Dutch, both crafts originated in China. Each came to Holland and Mexico respectively by convoluted routes, and both are therefore hybrid products. Today, lots of the crafts in the world specially finest porcelain like Delft in Holland and Limoges in France (because its global market), need to be produced in Chine, coming back to the origin and doing a circle of a pirate world.

Serigrafía sobre papel picado de colores
100 mt. de diam.

Scars on Archaeological Skin, 2010


In this installation, two tyres carve tracks in a line of cocaine and poppy. The pattern is based on motifs on pre-Colombian roller stamps in the Tropenmuseum collection. In this work, Romero comments on Latin America’s drug problem. The skin in the title is a metaphor for the city. Just as the skin has to absorb a barrage of external blows, so too cities, countries and cultures. And just as the skin deals with change by constantly renewing itself, so cultures survive by continually transforming. Yet scars may also form. For example, through excessive violence, such as vicious drug wars which seem to permanently debase the established culture’s norms and values, or to wipe them away completely.



2 cilindrical seals
2 tires carved
55 cms. diametre x 18 cms.



Proyecto realizado para el Tropenmuseum .

En este proyecto retomé dos conceptos muy diferentes de tatuaje, el Europeo que como vehículo cultural llegó con los marinos y piratas y que en esta instalación
Fue realizado y apoyado con toda su experiencia y conocimiento por uno de los grandes tatuadores del mundo Henk Shiffmacher Hanky Panky que con su familia y alumnos de la escuela de Arte de Amsterdam se unieron para colaborar con mi proyecto que partía en otro sentido del análisis de varios retratos de miembros de la Mara Salvatrucha que han sido fotografiados para diferentes publicaciones.

Porqué los maras?
Su piel como un texto histórico,
reflejo del paisaje de prisión y muerte que nos ha inundado
guerra entre gobiernos y cárteles que pelean mediáticamente por el control de las plazas
guerra que se enfrenta con la piel de muchos maras
que con su piel completamente tatuada van dejando rastro y memorial
de una escritura usada escudo, como prisión en si misma.
Piel Identitaria hecha de números, letras, cruces, nombres, torres y cadenas, reconocida y perseguida internacionalmente.
Piel que carga todas las muertes como cicatrices Metafora de las heridas de un país donde todas esas muertes son el tatuaje de un territorio marcado con muerte y violencia.
Texto y epitafio hecha con sangre De este ejército masivo de rechazados que sólo cuentan con su propia piel para luchar, morir para al final ser enterrados con esa larga caligrafía del dolor.

Mezquita Urbana (Urban Mosque), 2007

In Mezquita Urbana, Romero borrows motifs from the famous mosque of Cordoba. The repetition of curved forms recalls the rhythm of the arches in the mosque. Mezquita de Cordoba was built by the Moors before being adapted by the Christians and turned into a cathedral: it features a distinct synthesis of Islamic and Christian styles. Romero comments that this highlight of Spanish architecture shows how material culture enables a profound exchange between societies. In contrast to the political world, in which everyday realities seem to make it impossible to bridge the cultural divide.



Half tires carved with Golden leave
85 and 65 cms diametre tires

Rabbit on the Moon, 2009

Ostensibly designed to provide speed and progress, Romero brings these mass-produced tyres to a halt in Rabbit on the Moon. These bus tyres are part of a huge pre-Columbian cylindrical seal: a juxtaposition of the mass-produced and the handmade, speed versus crawl. Romero’s motif stems from Aztec cosmology in which the rabbit symbolises a particular direction of the compass and is also associated with the moon. Viewed from Mexico, the patches on the moon resemble a rabbit. Aztec legends tell of the rabbit that was put on the moon by the supreme deity, the Feathered Serpent, as a reward for its noble deeds. Romero finds the symbolism of the rabbit circling the earth each day fascinating.

Broken Landscape, 2010

A traditional Dutch landscape on two Mexican subway tyres. Romero combines power and robustness with fragility and delicacy. This work, which she made especially for the exhibition, was inspired by a walk though Amsterdam’s city centre. There she saw the houses that have subsided as a result of the tunnel being dug for the North-South underground line. In Broken Landscape she reflects on the construction of subways in Amsterdam and Mexico City: in both cases, groundwater levels created huge problems. In reflecting on these local situations she criticises the constant desire of people for more and faster, and the negative impact of the thundering march of progress on the landscape.

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